It’s Narcissist Friday!
Singer’s Six Conditions for Thought Control (Cults in our Midst, 1995)
3. Systematically create a sense of powerlessness in the person. This is accomplished by getting members away from the normal social support group for a period of time and into an environment where the majority of people are already group members. The members serve as models of the attitudes and behaviors of the group and speak an in-group language.
I remember the first time I saw a three-legged ladder. It looked like a regular stepladder, but it had only three legs. I asked about it and was told that a three-legged ladder was the most stable of all stepladders. “Three points make a plane,” the man said. I understood. But that third leg didn’t seem very strong. Apparently that’s why four-legged ladders are more popular. People find it hard to believe that one additional leg would be enough.
But that one person in your life was the real support you needed. Or maybe it was the one small group of friends. You knew you could count on them. They would have your back. You laughed together. You cried together. They were closer than family. And you needed them.
Now that person or that group are gone. What happened? That one person, that one group, would have saved you from the narcissist. But he/she convinced you to ignore their advice. He turned your heart away from them. He had to.
You probably remember it happening. Maybe she warned you about him. Maybe they were concerned about your new group. But when they expressed their concerns, you shut them out. That’s what the narcissistic organization said would happen. You can’t trust them, you were told. You can’t listen to them. You have new friends, friends who think like you, friends you can trust. At least that’s what they said.
Maybe you were told those old support people would just hurt you. You learned to be suspicious of their motives. You forced yourself to react against their words and acts of kindness. Even though it broke your heart, you pushed them away because “it was for the best.” But it wasn’t best. Not even good.
Isolation, separation from the support structure, takes away the opportunity to stand against compromise and brokenness. Most of us have someone who will speak truth to us. Most of us have someone who will stand with us ready to pull us away from danger. The narcissist and the narcissistic organization will want to separate us from those people. Exposing the evil, the control and manipulation, is the job of our support structure. Subtly and slowly or loudly and dramatically, we have to be separated/isolated so the narcissist can do his/her/its work.
Suppose you climbed a tall three-legged ladder. Then that third leg was threatened in some way. Or maybe someone told you that it was not to be trusted. It will fail, they said. What would you do? You want to be safe. You would probably listen and come down. Maybe you wouldn’t use that ladder, no matter how safe it really was. After all, just think of what could happen if you fell. No, better to be safe.
In much the same way, narcissists nibble at our confidence, particularly in the people who have always been there for us. By causing us to question, they open us to alternatives, their alternatives. New friends. New community. New support. But all designed to control you and get you to conform. It’s part of the manipulation. It has happened to many.
So, don’t be surprised when you realize that you cut off some good people, folks who cared and maybe even tried to help. They warned you because they cared. They didn’t want to see you get hurt.
Now what? Can you go back to them? You may have been part of their support network, and you hurt them. Understand if they are hesitant. Understand if they seem suspicious. You can apologize, but you may have to leave it at that. The best case would be if you could restore your relationships with friends and family, made wiser now because of the pain. The worst case is that you have lost their support for good. If you tell them you were wrong and should have listened, at least you have done what you can to bring restoration. They have a right to their pain, too.
One of the most heinous parts of narcissistic relationships is how they destroy good things, particularly the community and support victims once had. But understand that you are not the first, nor the only, this has happened to. Many wise and careful people have been led astray by the deceptive words of manipulative people and groups. So many, in fact, that the book of Proverbs talks about them.
An ungodly man digs up evil, and it is on his lips like a burning fire.
A perverse man sows strife, and a whisperer separates the best of friends.
A violent man entices his neighbor, and leads him in a way that is not good.
He winks his eye to devise perverse things; he purses his lips and brings about evil.
Proverbs 16:27-30 (NKJV)
And one of the things we are specifically told that the Lord hates:
A false witness who speaks lies, and one who sows discord among brethren.
Proverbs 6:19 (NKJV)