Tag Archives: definition of narcissism

Narcissistic Religion

It’s Narcissist Friday!     

Perhaps the ultimate expression of the narcissistic message is what we could call “narcissistic religion.” Narcissistic individuals are usually such because of choices made in early life. Narcissistic organizations come about because of narcissists or people with narcissistic values. Narcissistic churches may simply be led by narcissists and suffer the same dynamics as other organizations. But a narcissistic religion reaches deeper than any of these and has more power.

You see, exclusivity is just part of religion. It simply means that we believe our way is different. It means that people on the outside are not of us. Call it elitism or separatism or whatever, but it sets people apart and helps us to feel connected. It might be doctrine, or style, or location, but something allows the followers to think of themselves as in and others as out. Some people don’t like the idea, but we have many relationships (family, nationality, clubs and organizations, work) that share the same kind of exclusivity or separation. This is normal and not necessarily evil.

Exclusivity is part of marketing. Our brand is better than that of the competition. Our store or organization will meet customers’ needs better. If you come here, you don’t have to go there. Brand rivalry is actually something we enjoy, and one could argue that we benefit from it as well. We have favorite restaurants and grocers and drug stores and churches. We see nothing wrong with that type of categorization.

So, separatism and exclusivity do not define narcissistic religion. Depersonalization is the key to narcissism on every level. It is one thing to believe your faith is better than others. For most people, that simply means that we try to bring others into the truth. It is quite another thing to believe that those outside your faith are non-persons. Even favoritism, preferring one group of people over another, is understandable and normal. But believing that those who disagree or are not “in” are of no value as persons, that’s evil.

Depersonalization is a cumbersome word. There is a better word, but few people would equate the two. To strip a man or woman or child of all that gives independent value, to deny someone the intrinsic worth that comes with being human and alive, is to take away personhood, to depersonalize. And to depersonalize is to hate.

Throughout history, there have been times when certain people were not seen as human or persons. With almost casual cruelty some people have killed others or stripped them of what was needed to survive. They have taken away land or freedom or possessions or children without regard to the pain and suffering they cause. Beings without personhood have no rights, and those who mistreat them do so with neither regret nor consequence. This is depersonalization. This is hate.

We usually think of hate as connected to anger. Love, we say, can turn to hate because of an offense. Under the influence of anger all kinds of cruelty have been committed. Anger is accepted as a type of insanity in some legal cases. It is the offender who has become less a person, rather than the victim. Seeing the victim as an outlet for anger or as the cause of anger is a symptom of being irrational. That, of course, is hate, but hate can also be cold and calculated. The leaders who initiate the extermination of a people group and the servants who carry out the task reveal something more than anger; their detached brutality allows them to commit atrocities without apology. Perhaps even hatred is too small a word.

There are religions in the world that routinely and callously kill anyone not of their faith. Some consider the death of outsiders to be a cleansing process. Those outsiders are not people. Removal of them simply makes way for those who are people. Seeing others from this perspective is narcissistic.

But civilization almost universally marks murder as something not good for society. Murderers are tried and punished, even if they argue religious principles. In most cultures, wanton annihilation is not practiced. What is more likely, is narcissistic religion that allows the marginalization of certain people. Ignoring some, using some, abandoning some. From the story of the Good Samaritan to the stories from the streets today, religious people have been able to walk past needs and pain of marginalized others while thinking of themselves as clean and superior. There is no welcome in certain churches for some people. There is no concern for those on the outside.

The narcissistic message, at its core, says:

“You are not real to me. You do not exist except as you interact with me. Your value hinges on how you affect me.”

Narcissistic religion creeps into certain churches and is preached from certain pulpits. Outsiders are not welcome, not trusted, not important. Truth is found only with “us.” Value comes only to those who belong to us. Others threaten those who belong. They must be pushed away, whether family or friends or neighbors. Members are called to isolation, separation from the world and its people.

Narcissism twists truth. It breeds hate and breaks relationships.

The Bible does present a call to separation from the world, but from the ideas and values of the world, rather than the people. In fact, James wrote:

Pure and undefiled religion before God and the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their trouble, and to keep oneself unspotted from the world. James 1:27

Caring for those with needs, even if they are not part of your church or faith, is what is asked of us. The love that God has for all the people must be reflected in the hearts of true believers. It is possible to love and still not adopt the philosophies of the world. Those who are the most serious about their faith, their own relationship with their Lord, should be the most loving.

Perhaps the most potent form of depersonalization in religion is when some are seen as categorically unclean. When we consider someone unclean we are able to accept pushing that person away in spite of need or pain. To marginalize a group or a sufferer so that you don’t get “defiled” by association has nothing to do with Christian faith. Preachers who promote anger in their people, under the guise of separation, actually spread hate. Whenever a certain group, even unbelievers, is marginalized as unimportant or unclean, hate wins. Shunning the unclean was an active part of the religious culture, and it certainly can be found among us today.

Even here, where we talk freely about the evil of narcissism and the cruelty of those called narcissists, we cannot dismiss the narcissist by categorizing him/her as unworthy or unclean. We may have to maintain distance. We may not be able to offer what they need. But we desire the change that will make a difference in their lives—for their sake. Our pain might be remembered and our anger might be fresh, but we believe narcissists are still people, people Jesus loves. They may even have become our enemies—and Jesus still tells us to love them. Maintaining boundaries and avoiding entanglements is not hate.

We are not defiled by other people. The only thing that has ever defiled us is the evil in our own hearts, and that has been cleansed by Jesus. We are free to care for and love even those who don’t agree with us. We defeat narcissism by caring, rather than agreeing.  Taking the time to listen because you value the other person.  Valuing their ideas and opinions because they are real people who matter.  Ministering to their needs even when you disagree with their ideas or goals.  These are the acts of love we receive and give in Jesus.  

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How about a Christmas idea? 

I haven’t advertised the Walk with Me book for a while, so this seems like a good time.  

I have copied an excerpt below, and here are the links for purchasing:

“Take a walk with me.  Let me show you a reality you may not have expected.  Prepare yourself to experience something new, something that will lift your heart. Life is not barren or regimented, especially in relationship with the Lord.  You know what your heart needs.  You need a friend.  You need someone who truly cares about you.  Wouldn’t it be great to know someone who is good and right, but not uptight and judgmental?  Someone who will understand you and your dreams and not put you down?  You need to meet the real Jesus.

I want to show you a Jesus who laughs, who loves children, who wants you to succeed.  This is the Jesus of the Bible.  This is the Jesus who went to the cross with joy—because He knew it was the way to you.  This is the Jesus who doesn’t think of sin when He sees you.  God in human flesh, come to set His people free.

I want to teach you about grace.  Not “book grace” or “theological grace,” but the grace found in a Person who can do anything and has done everything you and I will ever need.  You see, I have come to understand that the love of God toward us is so great it could not be expressed strongly enough in words or ideas.  The love of God became a Person.  The deepest mystery of our faith is the amazing fact that the Lord God Almighty took on humanity and gave Himself for us.  There is no story that touches the sensitive area of the heart like the true story of the love of God for us.  Your heart needs a real connection with the real and living God.  Jesus is God’s grace for your heart!”      (Excerpt from pp.3-4 of Walk with Me by David Orrison)

Now, for those who have read this far, I have a quiet announcement: the new book “When Narcissism Comes to Church” is complete and almost through final editing.  I hope to have it listed with Amazon before the end of the year!

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Sides

It’s Narcissist Friday!     

When you disagree with a narcissist, you might be surprised at the level of conflict that comes. You may experience the rage of the narcissist as he/she proceeds to disparage your intelligence or destroy your reputation. You may experience the cold disdain of the narcissist as you are pushed away. Or you may find that you are suddenly on the “other side.”

Narcissists create “sides.” You are either for them or against them. But it won’t be quite so overt in most cases. Most of the time, you won’t see the narcissist as the center. Instead, you will see the conflict. People who used to be friends find themselves pitted against each other. Family members gang up on siblings or others. Church members disagree on how things should be done and find that lines are drawn between opinions.

Sometimes, too often, as a marriage breaks up so do friendships. Are you for him or for her? You aren’t supposed to love both of them. You have to choose. And, if you don’t choose, both sides might reject you. And, if the marriage doesn’t break up, the friends still feel separated.

I have seen this in churches. Something that seems like a minor disagreement becomes a church-splitting fight. A marriage might be in trouble and sides have to be chosen. A pastor is struggling: who is with him and who is against him? New leadership is being chosen, and the decision whether to accept the new leader depends on which side he associates with.

And, in the background, feeding the struggle, is the narcissist. Like a high-pitched irritating whine, the narcissist whispers, comments, lies, and divides. He/she may not be seen, but the influence will be felt. Little nudges here and there, to both sides, and the narcissist keeps everyone off kilter and easy to control.

Firefighters, cancer doctors, engineers, sociologists, therapists,and many more professionals have an underlying purpose: to search out the source of the problem. If you smell gas, someone has to find the leak. If your water is polluted, someone has to find the corruption. If you are ill, someone has to seek the infection. If your church or family is in conflict, there may well be someone who is stirring the anger.

Cast out the scoffer, and contention will leave; Yes, strife and reproach will cease. Proverbs 22:10

I have known churches that split because a narcissist subtly pushed everyone to take a side. People who didn’t want to take sides often just left. By the time the dust settled, not many remained. I have known families whose gossip and conspiracies cut so deep. Businesses can be destroyed, organizations can crumble, even good marriages can be split when narcissists work to create sides.

And here’s the most bizarre thing: you might think that the narcissist always wants his side to win, but the narcissist might not even have a side. He just wants the upheaval, the turmoil. In the midst of all the fighting, he will position himself to win—apart from either side. He will come in to be the savior, to pick up the pieces, to solve the problem. However he does it, he will gain from the division.

I have long suspected that the rising political strife in our nation is the result of constant pushing from the media. Who profits when we are divided? Those who control the information. Where did you hear the latest political thing that made you angry? Like the arms dealers who sell to both sides, there are businesses that prosper when others are hurting. When we remember that there are people and groups in this world who benefit from our division, maybe we can stop a little of our fighting.

In your family, in your group, in your church—is there division? Is it hard to pin down the specific disagreement? You may want to look for a cause, someone who is whispering.

Scripture warns against those who “cause strife between brothers.” In fact, Proverbs says that is one of the things the Lord hates. But churches, business, families, and marriages have been split because of someone who began to spread words of division and hate.

So, what do we do? Stop listening to the grumbling and nibbling. Be very aware of those who stand to benefit from strife and anger. Never underestimate the effect of a few words of comparison or criticism. Try not to play that game.

I have learned that no one wins in these battles, except those who like them and want them to happen. Instead, a lot of people get hurt. And the narcissist goes merrily on his way.

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Re-victimized

It’s Narcissist Friday!     

We have all seen videos where someone gets out of trouble only to fall back into it again. Maybe you have experienced this. You get your car unstuck, drive a little way, then get stuck again. You pick yourself up after a fall on the ice and then slip and fall again. Sometimes this is presented as comedy. Sometimes it is tragic.

It becomes tragic when people are truly hurt. It isn’t funny to suffer narcissistic abuse. It is tragic to fall back into it again. Some victims tell of marrying one narcissist after another. Some were victimized again without marriage. Some went from narcissistic parents to narcissistic spouses. And, no, it isn’t funny.

When people don’t understand what happened in a relationship, they just might find another abuser waiting. The needs of the heart have not gone away, so the person remains vulnerable to deceivers. It still feels good to be flattered, to have someone listen, to feel protected. In fact, the need might be stronger after the first abuse. So, I always counsel people to wait and find strength in being alone before jumping into another relationship.

But there are other forms of re-victimization. It might not be an abuser who lies in wait. It might be a church, or a teacher, or a way of thinking. Victims can fall prey to whatever makes them feel safer. Sometimes abuse victims connect with organizations that purposely provide triggers so that people stay afraid and submissive. Healthy people may not need the help the group gives, so keeping them unhealthy furthers the purposes of the group.

And your own anger can bring that bondage again. I have written about anger before. I think anger is a God-given emotion that has a specific and important purpose in our lives. Yet, anger can bind us and move us to build unhealthy walls around ourselves. It can also cloud our perspective so that we push away people who can help us and embrace those who use us.

Being victimized is both humiliating and frightening. No one wants it to happen again. Healthy people learn healthy boundaries and a true self-perspective. We are not what the narcissist said we were, and we are not going to yield our thinking to someone who says those things again. That’s good. But there are other reactions that are not so good.

Hating all men or women because of what one did; embracing a narrow and judgmental religious doctrine with the belief that others are evil; constantly expecting negative criticisms; choosing to believe every sad story that sounds a little like yours, even when all the evidence is to the contrary—these are characteristics of a person who has been victimized again, this time by their own thinking. Black and white, no option, all or none thinking is almost always wrong and unhealthy.

I read blogs and articles on abuse. Some of them are so angry and judgmental. The writers appear to re-trigger themselves as they write. I know they trigger others. But it isn’t right to do that just for “likes” or reader numbers. I know that “misery loves company,” but no one should want to cause misery for others. Find a way to health for yourself.

When you leave a relationship where you were victimized, be aware of the dangers. Take life slowly. Don’t open yourself to others quickly, those who are sincere will be patient. And be careful even of your own thinking. Find a good counselor who will help you sort out the needs that opened you to the abuser and remember: if you don’t get a good counselor, find another. You can make that decision.

And listen: if you opened yourself to an abuser again, maybe the same abuser again, don’t beat yourself. It happens. You are not stupid or gullible. You just have the same need to be loved and valued, and that person used that need in you. Go to Jesus and let Him love you. Lift up your chin and begin to heal again. Ask yourself what boundaries you relaxed and put them up again. Don’t dwell on the failure, focus on the future and being healthy. Keep going. You are loved!

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The Ultimate Narcissist?

It’s Narcissist Friday!     

Last week I mentioned someone had suggested that God is the ultimate narcissist. I don’t know what kind of relationship this person has with God, but I would so strongly disagree. The writer was glad God was benevolent, because He would make a dangerous antagonist. Yeah, I can see that.

The problem here is this idea that narcissism can be a good thing. Our culture seems to have a hard time labeling anything as evil. We have books that glorify depersonalization and abuse, suggesting that victims could enjoy it. We make movies about murderers and portray the killer as likable and his action as justifiable. We try so hard not to judge that we forget there are things that are just wrong. Evil does exist in our world… and it hurts people.

I would say by definition God is not a narcissist. But by action as well. God created us for relationship. I know there are those who think our only purpose is to sing His praises, but that’s really not the point. In the presence of His love, we can’t help but sing His praises. When we understand the path we were on and the cost of our salvation, we sing because we are filled with joy and thanks.

Any depersonalization I suffered in my life was the result of my own sin and the sin of the world around me. It was God who chose to love me and reach out to me. He initiated the relationship we now have. He paid the price that makes our relationship possible. I didn’t even know I needed it. I just knew I needed something. And, even now, I give Him little of value.

Today, after knowing Him for so long, I still depend on Him moment by moment. I do nothing good on my own, nothing that increases His life. In fact, the little I understand of Him is so far from reality that any image I might worship would be an insult to Him. No, God is not using me to build His image or even to better His life or kingdom in any way.

You see, the narcissist has hidden himself in a safe place while he promotes a false image. He wants the rest of us to think of him as powerful and superior. God reveals Himself in love for us, and we cannot begin to know the reality of His goodness or power. I wouldn’t say that God is humble, but He often is not loud. He is patient and waits for us to desire Him.

There is a narcissist in the Bible story, one whose only desire is to be in God’s place. He is willing to consume and destroy to get what he wants, and he doesn’t care who suffers along the way. The anger, hatred, and abuse of narcissism find their highest point in him.

But God loves us. He sacrificed and worked on our behalf. He wooed us and welcomed us when we could offer Him nothing. And His desire is to be in loving relationship with us forever.

That is not narcissism.


Please pray for those who will struggle with narcissistic relationships over the holiday. Some families are broken, some wish they could break away, others just hurt. Maybe one of the things you are thankful for is your freedom from the narcissist. Yes, the memories still hurt, but they are memories. And, yes, we grieve for what could have been, but it is a wonderful blessing to be apart from it today.
So, think of those who are right in the middle of it over the next week. Pray for them. If that’s you, just know we love you and are praying for you.

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The Benevolent Narcissist

It’s Narcissist Friday!     

After last week’s post, I began to think about responses. I could hear people thinking, “Well maybe he’s a narcissist, but he/she really cares about our country/state/district.” A phrase popped into my mind at that point and I did what I often do, I googled it. Sure enough, there’s a lot of discussion about “benevolent narcissism.”

A benevolent narcissist.

Just doesn’t sound right, somehow. Sounds like an oxymoron.

I read something recently where the writer suggested that God is the ultimate narcissist. After all, this person said, God thinks that everything is about Him. He takes care of us because He is benevolent. If He were malevolent, like many narcissists, he thought, then God would be very dangerous. Okay. More later. (Next week.)

Can a narcissist be benevolent? Let’s ask a different question first. Can he/she do things that benefit you? Of course! In fact, one of the reasons narcissists get by with so much is because their actions benefit more than just themselves.

I can think of two ways a narcissist’s goals and actions might benefit you and me. First, as the narcissist woos people into relationship, he/she is quite willing to create benefits. Narcissists are often influential. They can help you make that sale, get that job, gain that privilege. Your desires and goals can be greatly helped by the narcissist. Yes, you might end up owing him/her, but you got what you needed. And, yes, he/she will think you are now a servant, but you still got what you needed.

Second, the goals of the narcissist are not necessarily evil, they are just self-serving. That means the goals of the narcissist might be the same as yours, at least for a while. Your boss might want the store to look good so that he gets promoted. At the same time, you might get promoted. Your husband buys a nice car so that others will see him as successful, and you get to enjoy the car as well. As the narcissist rises, sometimes others rise with him/her.

Let’s say you have an illness. The doctor has wanted to try a new procedure so he can write a paper on it. He tries the procedure on you and it works. You have received a benefit. You are cured. The doctor writes his paper citing your case and gets accolades from the medical community. If you had died or your suffering was extended, he would have written about that and maybe changed tactics on the next case.

In other words, not everything a narcissist does will hurt you. Sometimes the narcissist will benefit you. But that does not make him benevolent. He has no intention to benefit you as a person. His only goal is self-promotion. If you happen to benefit at the same time, he doesn’t care. If it takes benefit to you to get what he wants, he will do that. Again, he really won’t care. As easily as he benefits you, he can hurt you.

A “benevolent dictator” is still just a dictator. He may want the people to love him, and he may seek to accomplish that by doing good things for them, but he may still persecute certain people or require certain restrictions without regard to how that will cause harm to some. Many of the German people considered Hitler to be benevolent. Those who were born Jews or handicapped or who dared to disagree found him to be something else.

Of course, narcissistic methods make the benefits a little less acceptable. If you own stock in a company, you might benefit when the CEO fires a large number of older employees. If you want to sell your house, you might benefit from a real estate agent who stretches the truth to get the sale. The goal isn’t wrong, even if the methods are not what you would do.

Is it benevolent when others are hurt in the process of benefiting you? Not really. We would not call someone benevolent who made others suffer even if we gained at the same time. So it could be beneficial without being benevolent. That’s an important distinction.

Benevolence is a matter of the will, or the volition. The words are connected. When someone chooses to do good for you, that’s benevolence. When someone chooses to do evil to you, that’s malevolence. The point is the volition. The narcissist does not really choose to do good for you. He chooses to do good for himself, and part of the cost is the benefit to you.

Benevolence and narcissism really cannot be connected as “benevolent narcissism.” To do so is to ignore the depersonalization of the narcissistic relationship. Others don’t matter as the narcissist strives to bless himself.

If the narcissist is driving in the same direction as you are walking and stops to offer you a ride, don’t get too excited. He may expect you to help pay for the gas.

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Let’s Talk about Politics

It’s Narcissist Friday!     

When we were kids, we wore tall rubber boots almost all spring. That way we didn’t get our shoes wet when we jumped into puddles. Mud, slime, puddles, these were all fair game, and fun, for us. And sometimes, out in the barnyard, well let’s just say it wasn’t mud we jumped in.

I think I am about to do the same thing with this post.

You might want to put your boots on.

One of my earliest memories is standing up in the back seat of the car (yep, did it and lived!) and listening to my mom and dad discuss the upcoming election. I said that I would vote for one of the names I heard them mention. It must have been the wrong one. Honestly, I don’t remember what I said, but I remember my dad’s answer. In his usual blunt voice, he said, “What in %#@& do you know about it?”

And that’s when I learned that it isn’t particularly safe to talk about politics.

It is worse today, but it has been bad for a long time. American politics has always been somewhat volatile. Politicians shot each other and beat each other with their canes. They called each other names, paid for votes, and lied about many things to get elected. We deceive ourselves if we think that American politics used to be tame and gentle.

But the common person experienced little of this. There was no evening news. Newspapers came to most homes only long after they were published. So, most people didn’t worry about Jefferson accusing Washington of treason or Lincoln being compared to a baboon. Don’t get me wrong, the common person of American history was neither illiterate nor uninvolved, it’s just that news traveled slowly and so did opinions.

Not so today. Now we know everything about people involved in politics. At least we think we do. We hear a lot more than the truth. Now we have so much information, but we don’t know what to believe. We are left to form opinions based on what side of the aisle we prefer. And a surprising number of people judge and hate based on whatever they have heard.

So what do we know? I always try to step back to what I know when I am faced with a puzzling choice or an uncomfortable position. What do we know?

  1. We know that anyone who enters politics, especially in higher levels, will face serious and often vicious opposition. There will be accusations, threats, lies, and intense scrutiny.
  2. We know that political positions are viewed as leadership and that people in those positions are often considered superior. You may notice that we refer to them as leaders, rather than representatives. We also elect them on a popularity basis, suggesting that only superior people will be chosen.
  3. We know that narcissists love that kind of position and challenge. For the opportunity to stand in front of everyone and receive applause and servitude, the narcissist will endure almost anything. The feeling of power in higher politics must be almost overwhelming.
  4. We know that narcissists are probably the only kind of people who could endure and navigate the gauntlet of public opinion today. Most of us would rather crawl into a hole for the rest of our lives than have everyone express their opinions on how we look or talk or act. Imagine that everything you say is recorded and criticized and publicized and twisted. Imagine that you can’t go out to eat, drive a car, go to a game or movie, or do anything in public without bodyguards and paparazzi. I know I would hate it, but narcissists would love it. It would be the ultimate in attention and influence.
  5. We know that it takes a great deal of money and popularity to accomplish anything in politics today. The old days of party manipulating are almost gone. Now, candidates must be actors and orators and heroes to the people. Party favorites have far less advantage than they used to. Regular people might as well not apply.

So, yes, politicians and narcissism go together. Always? In every case? I suppose not, but more than we would like to admit. How could you be a politician today if you didn’t want the limelight? How could you do it if you were afraid of what people think or say? How could you do it if you didn’t control a significant number of people around you? How could you accomplish anything if you actually said and did what you meant? The ability to lie, to entice, to promise without worrying about fulfilling, to gather people to you and push others away without concern or regret: these are all far easier for narcissists than for the rest of us.

I guess what I am trying to say is that we should not be surprised to learn that people in politics are narcissistic. Whether they are actually narcissists or not isn’t really ours to decide, but it would seem to take the strongest and most convincing just to survive. If someone says that a politician on my side of the aisle is a narcissist, I might not like it, but I have to admit that it is probably true. It does seem to me that the realm of politics has become so nasty that it at least smells a lot like narcissism.

Now, if politics has become a narcissistic game, we have to be extra careful. Narcissists will pit people against each other to accomplish their goals. Narcissists will tell convincing lies to separate us and control us. Those who have lived through narcissistic relationships should recognize the same tactics and effects in our society today. We are being manipulated. There are people who benefit from our anger and division.

So, what do we do? Stop playing their game! Don’t believe everything you hear, even from your own side. Don’t let political things separate you from your friends and family members. We have different opinions and different approaches to solving problems. Sometimes that puts us on different political sides. That has been okay in the past, and it should be okay in the future. We can still be friends. Believe it or not, there are more important things than politics.

Yes, there are some issues that are pretty important, important enough to divide friends, I suppose. But have you ever noticed that those issues don’t get solved by politicians? The ones who run on those issues never quite get anything done with them. We still have war, poverty, racism, drugs, abortion, unrest in the Middle East, abuse, high taxes, pollution, and almost all the rest. Nothing has changed for several decades, in spite of changes in the White House.

I have to be honest. I am firmly on one side of the political spectrum. I think it matters that you vote and who you vote for. I even get sucked into the rhetoric once in a while. But I don’t ever want to think less of another person for disagreeing with me. Not only could I be wrong, at least once in a while, but there may be more than one solution for a problem. It is more important that we remain friends and continue to talk with each other. Politicians will never solve the real problems the world faces. People who listen and care, they are the real problem-solvers.

If you have found yourself caught in the narcissists’ game, step back. Don’t feel bad. They are very good at what they do. But, as you step back, think about others. Maybe they have been caught up just like you were. Maybe they have something to say that you should listen to.

And, if you are a Christian, remind yourself that you are not of this world anymore. This is not your home. You care about all the people in it, but you have a Savior who is not a politician. You have a Lord who loves you and loves even those who disagree with you. That love is what the world needs—and will never find from the narcissists.

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As always, I appreciate your comments.  Your experiences and insights make this community work.  However, please keep your comments on this post to the general topic.  We don’t need to hear accusations against any certain politician.  I know I stepped into it, but we don’t need to smear it around.  

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Gotcha!

 

It’s Narcissist Friday!     

I just ran across an article on cults that connected so well to our discussion that I had to call it to your attention. The link to the article is below, but the author basically asks how people can become so dependent and so deceived as to kill themselves or give away all their money or live their lives in service as part of a cult. Cult groups often ask extreme sacrifices from their members, sacrifices that normal people simply would not give.

This is not a scientific article, but it has some good talking points. The author suggests that there are four “techniques” cults use to connect with and manipulate members. As you read through them, they will look very familiar.

First, cults choose their victims. Certain people are targeted. People with certain needs, certain weaknesses or struggles.

Second, cults “love-bomb” their victims, pouring out attention and flattery and acts of kindness. These actions coincide with the needs experienced by the prospective recruits. For example, young people with family struggles will find a welcoming family atmosphere in the cult.

Third, cults isolate their victims. We have all heard of these “training centers” way out in the rural areas. Keeping the recruits separated from family and friends, from life as they used to know it, ties the victims to the cult. Their whole world becomes the cult.

Finally, cults control their victims by subjecting them alternately to “terror and love.” They cultivate just enough fear to create a need for support, then provide the support within the cult. The victim cannot leave because of the isolation and because the cult is seen as the only answer, even though the cult is also the source of the fear.

None of this is particularly new or insightful, except that it is an amazing parallel to the way narcissists cultivate relationships. Targeting, love-bombing, isolating, controlling. Those who have suffered intimate relationships with narcissists will recognize the tactics. So will those who have been in narcissistic friendships. Even in jobs or churches, we see a similar process.

I know it’s hard to think that narcissists target their victims. That sounds so evil. But think of it more as a natural thing for the narcissist. He/she knows instinctively who will be responsive. I think narcissists recognize weaknesses and openings we don’t even know we have. It doesn’t have to be much, just enough to make the attempt worthwhile.

And, of course, we know that narcissists love-bomb. At the beginning of a relationship, the narcissist can be the best listener, the most caring and helpful friend, the one who makes us feel so good. They know how to flatter, promise, and make life worth living.

We have talked about how the narcissist isolates. Sometimes it is harsh and uncaring, but often it sounds reasonable. You have to move away for his job. You have to change churches, communities, jobs, or friends. Things are too busy. It’s too expensive. He/she doesn’t feel well enough to visit. There are so many excuses and reasons that isolation just seems to happen.

I think, if I were to write the article, I would not use control as the fourth step. Control is the ultimate goal. Terror and love—creating dependency through confused emotions—that’s the fourth step. It leads to or produces a controllable subject. “Terror and love.” That describes many narcissistic relationships. Don’t make the narcissist angry, but when things are good they are so very good. Back and forth, never quite sure, the victim stays just off-balance enough to become more and more dependent.

So, why is there such a connection between narcissists and cults? Why would they use the same steps? Obviously, part of the answer is that they have the same goals. The victim/recruit has something the abuser wants. In order to get it, and remain in control of it, certain steps must be taken to break down the resolve or boundaries of the prospect.

I use the word, prospect, intentionally. You see, these are simply negative expressions of common marketing techniques. Think of how you have been led to purchase something you probably didn’t need. Someone connected with a weakness or desire in you. Advertisers direct their words or pictures to certain groups of people. Something caught your eye, made you hungry, connected with a longing, solved a problem. Then the game started.

Your interest or desire was piqued. Then, you were bombarded with positive connections to either the salesman or the product. Salesmen have long been known for their flattery. Products promise fulfillment and good feelings.

What happened next? Often a salesman would take you off to the side, away from family or friends to sell to you. Or he would look directly into your eyes, ignoring the people with you, causing you to focus only on him. Isolating from the wisdom and support of others is a normal part of sales. One of the primary reasons online marketing is so effective, one that is rarely acknowledged, is the isolation. If you walk into the store, you are probably with someone who can question your desire to buy something. If you are on Amazon, you are probably alone.

Finally, the primary push to the sale is the comparison between the negative of your failure to buy and the positive of your purchase. In other words, you have to make the decision today because the price will go up tomorrow, but you will be so happy if you decide to buy. Or you will regret walking away and enjoy purchasing. Terror and love.

And what is the goal? You have something the salesperson wants. Probably money, but sometimes just a sale. If everything works well, the salesman can sell you the product, the service or protection plan, and maybe even get you to sign up for the company credit card. He gets commission or points for everything.

Narcissists are marketers. You have something they want. They have to make you want what they offer. Teach your children and grandchildren how to withstand simple marketing techniques and they will be stronger against the narcissist. If you see or feel the process happening, step away. Understanding how it’s done is a good part of keeping yourself safe.

 

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https://bigthink.com/culture-religion/four-cult-recruitment-techniques?rebelltitem=5#rebelltitem5

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