Friday, May 8, 2009

DSM IV Axis II - The Church's Dirty Little Secret Part IX -Narcissistic Personality Disorder Part II

While Narcissistic Personality Disorder is less common than some of the others I’ve mentioned (only 1%), these people often seek highly visible or leadership roles. At first impression—with their appearance of confidence and knowledge—they look like good leaders. But once in a leadership role, he or she (and most NPDs are male) can have a very rocky tenure. (Saul may have had NPD) The reason is, that while the NPD person seems to function on a higher social plane than everyone else, inside they are very insecure. If anyone challenges them,(like David) they can become very angry very quickly. While they assume that everyone is jealous of them, they too are very jealous of competitors.

The fundamental problem is the NPD person has a very, very inflated view of themselves. Some theories believed that this was learned by excesses praise or over-evaluation by parents. But there are some cases that seem to be related to being a victim of childhood abuse. Like most serious mental disorders, genetics may play an important role as well.

They also see other people as inferior, socially and intellectually. They have a strange lack of empathy. If someone is diagnosed with cancer, the NPD will quickly pass it off as they didn’t take of themselves so in a way, they deserves it. They also will not hesitate to use other people for their own gain, even to the other person’s detriment.

The NPD individual seeks to have connections to important people and exaggerates the few connections that he does have. They feel that they must have the best car, house, clothes and belong to the best clubs. If they are not lucky enough to have used their great confidence to land a good paying job then they will live above their means.

The NPD within the Church

As I mentioned, this person is usually male. Since the incidence is only about 1%, a church of 400 people would expect to have 3-4. But those 3-4 men will be move visible than their few numbers represent. They are often have important roles as the Pastor (but won’t stay and one church for very long due to their difficulty getting along with people) or other church leadership roles. If not in church leadership, they often seek roles of high social status . . . to help support their inflated self-esteem. This could mean that they are a doctor, lawyer or college profession.

In the vestibule, the NPD person will have the tendency to dominate conversations. Sometimes the NPD personality will take on Christian characteristics. Rather than thinking that they are from a bluer blood than others, they will see themselves as far more spiritual than others. They will have the tendency to harshly judge others, and say cutting things (spiritual put downs) at every chance. However, they seem themselves on such a high plane, that the rules (even Biblical rules) don’t seem to apply to them. They can be very critical of men who have confessed to being involved with porn, but be having an extramarital affair themselves and not see the connection. In their psyche, they feel that they deserve the affair.

If the NPD achieves the role of pastor, and the church’s “pastor search committee” is duped by their over-the-top persona, they will only be at the church for a few years due to their inability to get along. They see themselves as so far above everyone else, they will see all other ideas, but their own, as stupid. This puts them in constant conflict with oversight boards such as the elders.

These people will have a small (or sometimes large) crowd of groupies, who have been hoodwinked by their over-confidence. These devotees will follow their glorious leader to the bitter end. Many cult leaders suffered from NPD. Many church splits come at the helm of a NPD pastor, with his groupies following him to start a new church, even though his arrogance destroyed the last one.

I will try to tell a true to life story next posting, about someone with NPD.


Anonymous said...

The Bible School I went to was ran by a man with NPD. He still has many of the people there fooled. The force of his personal charisma covers over the crimes he gets caught comitting.

My husband's behavior has often been NPD-like, but only sometimes. It's like it comes in waves. So I shrugged off the NPD possibility until one of his therapists told me that they suspected it, and that NPD can, indeed, some in waves (whether it's connected to his bipolar mania or not, or *is* his bipolar mania, I don't know)...

NPD is flat-out SCARY when it is connected with a "godly leader" persona. You are in a Christian environment, so you are naturally more trusting...and it's even worse if it's a more fundamentalist environment, where you are expected to be a "good Christian" and follow your spiritual authorities...and a bigger woe to you if you are a woman in that environment and taught to submit totally to this person or you are sinning against God.

There were many varieties of spousal abuse I experienced, but by far the worst of them all was the spiritual abuse that came as I submitted to a NPD or NPD-like personality.

As I began to come out of the mind-control and all that went with it, as I began to see God in a much different light, etc, I remember when I told my husband (excitedly, then, as I was still under the illusion that it all was totally accidental) that I'd had him in the place of Christ, that God had shown me that the view was blocked, that I'd been idolatrous, and how free and joyful I felt once I took him down from that pedestal.

The look on his face was horrible. I remember watching his face change... He was fuming with anger, and I took a few steps back, in shock. "I don't understand... Aren't you happy, too...? You didn't want to be in Christ's place, did you...?" His response was that he did, that every man wants to be there, that if I thought God wanted me to move him, then fine (though I was probably deceived about it), but that I needed to back off and give him some time to grieve the loss of his former status.

I remember not knowing what to think... It was all so very very horrible.

MJ said...

I think this is one of the reason that I wanted to bring up this topic. Most of these people with these disorders are masters at manipulation. In a Christian context, that is usually a spiritual manipulation. The victim can be left feeling guilty all the time. It is tough.

I think it is liberating to know that it is a mental illness (when it is a mental illness). Then you know that when they tell you that YOU have come up short over and over, failing God and him/her . . . you can know that it is the mental illness speaking.

I am working on the next posting about NPD. I may or may not continue this thread . . . don't want to beat the dead horse to death.