Posts Tagged: Christian Narcissism

When the Narcissist Fools the Counselor

A few years ago, I was a member of a counseling association for Christian therapists and pastors. This association supported its members with continuing education, scholarly research and ethical guidelines for good practice. I went to a few of the national events and conferences and usually left smarter and more motivated.

One year, however, I got a flyer for an upcoming conference with the name of a plenary speaker from my area. He was wildly popular, and had written many books. Though this talented speaker had a large following, I knew a different side of him. A side of him only seen behind closed doors. I had worked with people who knew him to  be manipulative, abrasive and famously controlling. My clients and colleagues described him as someone who created a climate of fear through verbal abuse, arrogant bullying, and narcissistic control. I would think, “Note to self, avoid this bozo at all costs!”

So, when I saw his name and face on the pamphlet as a plenary speaker for my beloved Christian counseling organization, I was shocked. How could a counseling organization promote him? How could they invite a wolf into the sheep fold? Why couldn’t they see past his polished persona and see the wake of relational wreckage he left trailing behind him? I trusted this organization, and was baffled by their decision to invite him to speak at their conference. I thought to myself, “out of all the people in the Christian community, it should be the counselors who can see through narcissism. It should be the counselors who recognize abusers when we see them. Why are they drinking his kool-aid?”

confused me

I was prompted to write them a letter expressing my concern, but talked myself out of it. I thought to myself, “why would they listen to me? I’m a no-name,” and “if that’s the direction they are going, then good riddance to bad rubbish!” I’m sorry I talked myself out of it. Neither was a healthy or loving way to respond. Instead of communicating my concern, I just didn’t renew my membership that year. Kind of passive- aggressive, I know.

amy's coffee

I should have written that letter, if only for the bragging rights of later being able to say, “I told you so!” Because, about a year later that popular speaker was sent packing and was relieved from his position. He was also found to have participated in plagiarism and unethical use of donated funds. The victims of his financial and spiritual abuse came out publicly about their experiences, and the guy lost all credibility.

Why is this important to you? Well, if you’re living with a Narcissist, and you feel like you’re going crazy, and even the marriage counselor doesn’t see why you’re so upset- I get it. If your narcissist looks great from the outside- good dad, good Christian, good provider, good guy- then you may think no one will believe the pain you experience behind closed doors. Unfortunately well-meaning Christians, pastors, counselors, even whole organizations, can get hood-winkled, Bamboozled, and Cully-gulled by all the charming flim-flam.

oh brother doggy

Narcissistic people can be very convincing when they want something. They can shine the light on their good side so brightly, that it blinds everyone from seeing their bad side. When this happens, the spouse of the narcissist ends up feeling worse than before. The spouse may say, “I finally got him/her to go to counseling, and now he/she got the counselor to side against me. No one sees how she/he really is at home!”

What to do if Your Counselor or Pastor is Fooled:

Don’t chicken out like I did. Be brave and say what you need to say. It’s important for you to do the following:

  1. Address this trickery during your counseling session. The counselor cannot know what they do not know, so it is up to you address your frustrations. 
  2. Don’t wait for the pastor or counselor to rescue you, side with you, or confront your partner. Only you can do your work.
  3. Bring specific actions that you consider to be hostile, controlling, abusive, mean spirited, badgering or manipulative to the session, and talk about them with the counselor. Point out the kind of behavior that is unacceptable to you.
  4. Be honest about what is happening at home, and how you want help confronting these unacceptable behaviors.  

No, your narcissist will not like this, and may deny, cast blame or even retaliate. However, it is important for you to shed light on your relationship and get the support from professionals that seek to live in that light. If the counselor is still hesitant to recognize the destructiveness present in the marriage, then it may be time to find a new counselor. I would recommend a counselor who has experience treating issues related to domestic violence, co-dependence, and narcissism.


The Christian Who Acts Like a Narcissist (Or is it the Narcissist Who Acts Like a Christian?)

Hello to all the Relationship Savvy Christmas Elves, Cookie Baking Mamas, and Snow Shovelers! The next two posts will be about the dynamics of narcissism in the Christian home.

People have been asking me lately, “Why are you writing on Narcissism and abuse? Because you’re married to a narcissist?” No, you don’t have to read between the lines in my case. Mr. Dashing is pretty much that, dashing, good-natured and all together foxy.
The reason I write on narcissism in relationships, is because, professionally, I recognize the need is great. The consequences of living with narcissistic toxicity, especially in the name of the Christian Faith is destructive and harmful to the entire family. The fact the bible is used to justify abuse of others grieves me deeply.Even more heartbreaking is that some victims see their Christian duty to endure the abuse in the name of marital submissiveness.

I have experienced and witnessed the chill of sociopathic cruelty, the shame of a putdown, the fear of grown-man-rage, and the smothering grip of an-out-of-his-mind control freak- from men who called themselves Christians. When dark things come into the light, they lose their power. That’s why I write on narcissism in relationships.
Not to say that that narcissistic Christian men don’t have immensely good qualities: evangelizing, sacrificial generosity, service, devotion to the faith and many more. Churches have been built on the narcissistic personality. Religions have been built on the narcissistic personality. Presidents have been voted into office on the narcissistic personality. My purpose isn’t to write about the epidemic of narcissism in our culture, or to lament its affects in the Christian Church, the economy or the government.

My Purpose

My purpose is to examine narcissistic toxicity in close relationships- primarily in the home- and to offer a different, more hopeful path. Christianity and the teachings of Christ have been more than just instructional to my family and my heart. My faith has been an anchor in the storm, a light to my path, and a call to humility. When practiced with love and grace, true emotional intimacy in families can flourish because of the safety and strength that is present. However, when the bible is used to force hierarchies, to enforce harsh rules, to excuse controlling and demeaning behavior and to legitimize inequality in the home, the Christian faith is no better than atheism, and possibly even more damaging.

Next week, we will explore what it looks like and feels like to be in a home or relationship where Christianity is used by the Narcissist to control and manipulate submission.

My “Relationship Savvy” blog gives you tips, advice, and flippin’ fantastic feel-goods to help with your most difficult relationship challenges.

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