Spiritual Narcissistic Abuse
Randi Fine, Author
Mark shares his Close Encounter:
I’ve been married to an intelligent, beautiful woman for seventeen years and we have three wonderful children, ages eleven, thirteen and fifteen.
My wife and two younger kids go to church every Sunday. My oldest son and I do not. I am not of the Christian faith, therefore have never gone. My son used to go to church with his mother when he was younger, but now he is in sports leagues on Sundays and I take him to his practices and games. His mother is not happy about that.
My wife is a devoted but very controlling mother. She’s a controlling wife too, but I’ve learned that I can keep the peace by doing things her way. For years we fought about me not going to church with her to “make the family look good.” I have had to put up with the silent treatment every Sunday for the last fourteen years.
Every Saturday, she reads me passages from her Bible or whatever Christian book she reads to try to make me feel bad. She tells me that I am ruining my chance of ever getting into heaven; that it is my fault that we will not be spending eternity together. I don’t buy any of it. It makes her furious that she can’t make me do what she wants me to do. She’s been able to manipulate me into changing many things about myself, but I refuse to budge on this one.
I can handle what she does to me, but not what she’s been doing to our oldest son. He was always her favorite child; he could do no wrong until he started having a mind of his own. When he told her he wanted to start playing sports on Sundays instead of going to church, her entire attitude toward him changed. Since then she constantly picks on him. I have to keep building him up when she’s not around to keep him from getting down on himself.
His mother tells him that he is not and has never been a good athlete so he should stop wasting his time—the time God has specifically set aside for prayer. She tells him that if he keeps doing what he’s doing he will end up in hell with Satan. I’ve asked her to stop saying that to him, but then her face turns red and she rages at me. She tells me that I’m going to hell with him and that we deserve each other.
I have never heard you discuss this topic on your show. Would you please do one and let me know when it will be on so I can listen? Thanks.
People find great comfort in spirituality and religion. It gives structure and meaning to their lives. In difficult times faith provides a soft, safe place to land.
Faith is personal and different for each of us. We each develop it in our own way and in our own time. No one has the right to judge others for their beliefs or lack of them.
Narcissists don’t care about the rights of others. They only care about taking control of others’ lives and will stoop to any level in that pursuit.
One control method used by some narcissists, but not often talked about, is known as spiritual abuse. As is true with other cunning abuse tactics, those who experience spiritual abuse may not even realize what is happening to them.
Spiritual abuse attacks people at the place where they are most vulnerable, the heart of the very thing that gives them ease. The faith and hope that lifts them up and gives their life meaning is viciously snuffed out and replaced by fear, guilt, and shame.
Those who follow religion, live in accordance to the doctrines of their faith. Because of the way these doctrines are written, much of the teachings found within them are open for interpretation. That is a loophole narcissistic opportunists may see and use to their advantage.
Rather than using scripture as the positive teaching tool for which it is intended, spiritually abusing narcissists manipulate the interpretations or take words out of context and then twist them to scare their victims into compliance. Some cite the words of Jesus, the Torah, Muhammad, Krishna, Buddha, Allah, etc. to give credence to their claims.
Spiritual abusers are believable because they act under the pretense of being men of God. They can be so convincing in their misrepresentation of religious teachings that victims fear the spiritual repercussions of non-compliance.
With all the other methods of abuse at their disposal, one might wonder why narcissists would resort to using spiritual abuse.
To believers, there is none as powerful as their God. Whether or not the narcissist truly has faith, he does believe he is superior, perhaps even God-like. Religion gives him the perfect platform on which to rule others.
Spiritual abuse allows the narcissist to:
- Live out his fantasies of omnipotence
- Speak for God or whatever Supreme Being he worships
- Prove his righteousness
- Demonstrate superiority over victims
- Show that God or the Supreme Being he worships is on his side
- Become the focus of a victim’s worship
Spiritual abusers masquerade as people of faith to fool others in ways that further their self-centered agenda of controlling them. They may use spiritual abuse as a way to:
- Back up and enforce demands
- Enforce marital “entitlement”
- Instill guilt, fear, and shame in victims who don’t comply
- Prove they are right
- Put their victims down through the ridiculing of their beliefs
- Justify their abusive behavior
- Demand forgiveness
- Control victims by denying their right to practice their religions
- Control victims by forcing them to go against their beliefs
- Control victims by forcing them to practice a faith they don’t believe in
- Control victims by forcing them to raise children in a faith they don’t believe in
Because the nature of the abuse is spiritual, it is very difficult to identify. The fact that it is yet another manipulation often goes unnoticed. This is tragic for victims who once relied on their faith to survive their oppressive life. What used to be a source of safety, comfort and solace become a source of anxiety, fear, and worry.
If you recognize yourself as being or having been spiritually abused, consider the following:
- Recognize that the purpose of faith is to elevate you, not bring you down
- Practice your faith in ways that your abuser does not know about
- Listen to what your heart tells you, not what your abuser tells you
- Ask yourself if what you are being told makes sense. Challenge it. Search for the truth.
- Take your guidance only from a spiritual source, not from a false prophet
- Seek the support of a trusted member of your spiritual or religious community
- Tell others what is happening to you; get your feelings out
- Reconfirm for yourself the principles of your faith that you love
- See the setback as an opportunity to learn more about and strengthen your faith
- Weigh the options of staying with someone who hurts you this way
If your abuser believes he in any way speaks for a Supreme Being or is equally omnipotent, you are surely dealing with a mentally unbalanced person. It is time to reevaluate your situation. You are not emotionally safe.