Spiritual Narcissistic Abuse

Image of hand holding Bible with quote about spiritual abuse.

Spiritual Narcissistic Abuse

Manipulation Through the Fear of Spiritual/Religious Non-Compliance

Written by Randi Fine

Narcissistic Abuse Awareness and Guidance with Randi Fine

One control method used by some narcissists, but not often talked about, is known as spiritual narcissistic abuse. As is true with other cunning abuse tactics, those who experience spiritual narcissistic abuse may not even realize what is happening to them.

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.

Narcissistic 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 narcissistic 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 narcissistic 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.

This is copyrighted material. May only be shared with permission and proper attribution.

Randi Fine is the author of the groundbreaking book Close Encounters of the Worst Kind: The Narcissistic Abuse Survivor’s Guide to Healing, the most comprehensive, most well researched, and most up-to-date book on this subject. In addition to helping survivors recognize their abuse and heal from it, this book teaches mental health professionals how to recognize and properly treat the associated abuse syndrome. She is also the author of Cliffedge Road: A Memoir, the first and only book to characterize the life-long progression of complications caused by narcissistic child abuse.

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