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28 April 2013 @ 02:23 am
Religious fundamentalism as Narcissistic personality disorder  

In my previous post I linked narcissism and religious fundamentalism. Some of you may think that is going too far but I really don't think so. Religious conservatism gives the narcissisticly disordered person a safe place to go where their pathological behavior appears normal and is, in fact, viewed positively. One could even argue that joining fundamentalist religious groups is a successful coping strategy for narcissistic people. If we compare the symptoms of Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD) to the traits of religious fundamentalism/conservatism we see a striking overlap. Do notice here that I am using religious fundamentalism and religious conservatism almost interchangeably since fundamentalism is a severe form of religious conservatism.

Below I shall list the generally agreed upon traits of Narcissistic Personality Disorder. I will then show how those traits manifest in religious fundamentalism/conservatism using current and historical examples from various religious as they apply, if they apply, and then take score.

As you will see, religious fundamentalists/conservatives display 61% of the traits of Narcissistic Personality Disorder just through the expression of their religion.

So here we go:


  • Vulnerability to shame and humiliation rather than guilt.

    Give themselves a pass on guilt since they are righteous and doing everything in the name of God. Are highly susceptible to shaming by other believes when found to be sinning. Within the religion shame and humiliation is often used in conjunction with criticism of members' incorrect behaviors.



  • Reacting to criticism with anger / Hypersensitivity to any perceived insults, real or imagined; resulting in outbursts of narcissistic rage.

    A religious conservative's response to opposing viewpoints is often quite vehement: even sometimes to the point of physically attacking the non-believers. The all to familiar vehement lashing out of the “righteously indignant” religious conservative. Any
    perceived opposition or threat to their beliefs shake the foundations of their worldview and elicit powerful ego defense responses. The devout are not open to discussion or compromise. They cannot concede an inch when confronted and will only dig in deeper and attack more strongly.




  • Exploiting others

    Religion, especially conservative religion, is a control structure where those at the top hold undue sway and influence over those on the bottom. It is no coincidence that religion and politics are so closely intertwined among conservatives.




  • Exaggerating own importance or self-worth. Value themselves as inherently better than others.

    Claiming
    an exclusive connection to God and Truth, that your group is special to God and that everybody else is wrong but you: that's exaggerating your own importance. God likes us best, we are going to heaven, we are righteous.



  • Belittling or disparaging others in an attempt to validate their own self-worth

    All the non-believers are sinner and evil doers, they reject the truth and are an abomination and are going to hell.



  • Imagining unrealistic fantasies of success, beauty, power, intelligence, or romance

    The belief that they are righteous and assured of going to heaven and being with god and the angels.




  • Requiring constant attention and positive reinforcement from others

    Constantly going to church and being reinforced in their beliefs, stroking and being stroked by their compatriots at Sunday School, Sunday Service, Sunday Evening Service, Wednesday Evening Service, Church Socials, Retreats, Church Picnics, Mission Trips, Deacons' Meetings, etc., every day of the week year round.




  • Becoming jealous easily / being envious of others



  • Hard-hearted / disregarding the feelings of others / appearing unemotional

    By considering their beliefs inviolate and normative for all others, they reject the possibility of morality outside their system of beliefs, are hard-hearted to those outside their fold, and trammel the rights and feeling of others, as in the gay marriage issue, for example.



  • Lacking empathy / Inability to view the world from the perspective of other people

    Quite literally cannot comprehend a different perspective or point of view. They often either ignore conflicting data and viewpoints as false unreality, or just fail to perceive them altogether. Therefore cannot empathize with others.



  • Being obsessed with self

    What they think is all that matters, since they are right.



  • Problems distinguishing the self from others

    Believe their rules and beliefs are normative for all and apply universally to everybody. Therefore everybody everybody's worldview is an extension of theirs and everybody sees the world through their same lens.




  • Pursuing mainly selfish goals



  • Trouble keeping healthy relationships



  • Setting goals that are unrealistic



  • Wanting "the best" of everything



  • Views tend to be contrary to reality.

    Age of Earth, Earth rotates around Sun, literalistic interpretation of the Bible, etc.



  • Views tend to be most exaggerated in the agentic domain, relative to the communion domain.



  • Are selfish when faced with resource scarcity.



  • Are oriented towards success.



  • An obvious self-focus in interpersonal exchanges



  • A lack of psychological awareness

    Unquestioning, blind believing and following. Lack of introspection and examination of beliefs and motivations.



  • Flattery towards people who admire and affirm them



  • Detesting those who do not admire them

    Anybody opposed to the religious conservative is a sinner and an abomination to god.




  • Bragging (subtly but persistently) and exaggerating their achievements



  • Claiming to be an "expert" at many things



  • Denial of remorse and gratitude



  • Narcissists see themselves as perfect, using cognitive distortion and illusion known as magical thinking.

    Use double-think and rationalization to make their reality and religious intgerpretation fit the world.



  • Use projection to dump shame onto others.

    Dump shame and sin onto the non-believers.



  • Sense of entitlement. Unreasonable expectations of particularly favorable treatment and automatic compliance. Expecting others to go along with their ideas and plans.

    Since they have the Truth, and their beliefs and worldview and morals are normative, they are surprised, outraged, and unable to understand when others don't agree with them. They expect the law of the land to correspond to their religious teachings. They are entitled to God's special favor and are going to heaven.



  • Believing that you can associate only with equally special people

    Affiliating only with members of their church/religion. Only participate in church activities. Actively avoid associating with the wrong sorts of people or going into the wrong establishments/parts of town.



  • Behaving in an arrogant or haughty manner

    Very often perceived this way by those outside of their religion



  • Fantasizing about power, success and attractiveness



  • Exaggerating achievements or talents



  • Expecting constant praise and admiration

    Since they are righteous they are deserving of praise and admiration. They spend all their time in their echo-chamber where they receive constant self-congratulation, and are surprised and offended and bewildered if found in a situation where they don't.



  • Believing that others are jealous of you

    Anybody opposing your religion/beliefs, as in the culture wars, are actually just lashing out out of jealousy



  • Setting unrealistic goals



  • Having a fragile self-esteem. Underneath all this behavior often lies a fragile self-esteem. They have trouble handling anything that may be perceived as criticism. They may be easily hurt and rejected. They may have a sense of secret shame and humiliation. And in order to make themselves feel better, they may react with rage, or contempt, or efforts to belittle the other person to make themselves appear better.

    Sooth their low self-esteem with the tonic of religiosity and by telling themselves God loves them better than others, and by surrounding themselves with other believers to provide narcissistic supply.


Total score: 22 of 38 = 61%



Following are the source lists from which the aggregated list was made:


DSM-IV-TR


  • Reacting to criticism with anger, shame, or humiliation


  • Taking advantage of others to reach own goals


  • Exaggerating own importance, achievements, and talents


  • Imagining unrealistic fantasies of success, beauty, power, intelligence, or romance


  • Requiring constant attention and positive reinforcement from others


  • Becoming jealous easily


  • Lacking empathy and disregarding the feelings of others


  • Being obsessed with self


  • Pursuing mainly selfish goals


  • Trouble keeping healthy relationships


  • Becoming easily hurt and rejected


  • Setting goals that are unrealistic


  • Wanting "the best" of everything


  • Appearing unemotional


  • An elevated sense of self-worth, valuing themselves as inherently better than others


  • Belittling or disparaging others in an attempt to validate their own self-worth


Campbell and Foster 2007 literature review


  • Think they are better than others. Perceive themselves to be unique and special people.


  • Views tend to be contrary to reality.


  • Views tend to be most exaggerated in the agentic domain, relative to the communion domain.


  • Are selfish when faced with resource scarcity.


  • Are oriented towards success.


David Thomas's 2012 book on narcissism


  • An obvious self-focus in interpersonal exchanges


  • Problems in sustaining satisfying relationships


  • A lack of psychological awareness


  • Difficulty with empathy


  • Problems distinguishing the self from others


  • Hypersensitivity to any perceived insults, real or imagined; resulting in outbursts of narcissistic rage.


  • Vulnerability to shame rather than guilt


  • Haughty body language


  • Flattery towards people who admire and affirm them


  • Detesting those who do not admire them


  • Using other people without considering the cost of doing so


  • Pretending to be more important than they really are


  • Bragging (subtly but persistently) and exaggerating their achievements


  • Claiming to be an "expert" at many things


  • Inability to view the world from the perspective of other people


  • Denial of remorse and gratitude


Hotchkiss and Masterson (2003) “seven deadly sins of narcissism”


  • Shamelessness: Shame is the feeling that lurks beneath all unhealthy narcissism, and the inability to process shame in healthy ways.


  • Magical Thinking: Narcissists see themselves as perfect, using cognitive distortion and illusion known as magical thinking. They also use projection to dump shame onto others.


  • Arrogance: A narcissist who is feeling deflated may reinflate by diminishing, debasing, or degrading somebody else.


  • Envy: A narcissist may secure a sense of superiority in the face of another person's ability by using contempt to minimize the other person.


  • Entitlement: Narcissists hold unreasonable expectations of particularly favorable treatment and automatic compliance because they consider themselves special. Failure to comply is considered an attack on their superiority. Defiance of their will is a narcissistic injury that can trigger narcissistic rage.


  • Exploitation: Can take many forms but always involves the exploitation of others without regard for their feelings or interests. Often the other is in a subservient position where resistance would be difficult or even impossible. Sometimes the subservience is not so much real as assumed.


  • Bad Boundaries: Narcissists do not recognize that they have boundaries and that others are separate and are not extensions of themselves. Others either exist to meet their needs or may as well not exist at all. Those who provide narcissistic supply to the narcissist are treated as if they are part of the narcissist and are expected to live up to those expectations.


Mayo Clinic:


  • Having an exaggerated sense of self-importance


  • Being preoccupied with fantasies about success, power or beauty


  • Believing that you are special or that you are better than others


  • Believing that you can associate only with equally special people


  • Requiring constant admiration


  • Having a sense of entitlement


  • Taking advantage of others


  • Having an inability to recognize needs and feelings of others


  • Being envious of others


  • Behaving in an arrogant or haughty manner


  • Fantasizing about power, success and attractiveness


  • Exaggerating your achievements or talents


  • Expecting constant praise and admiration


  • Expecting others to go along with your ideas and plans


  • Expressing disdain for those you feel are inferior


  • Believing that others are jealous of you


  • Trouble keeping healthy relationships


  • Setting unrealistic goals


  • Having a fragile self-esteem. Underneath all this behavior often lies a fragile self-esteem. They have trouble handling anything that may be perceived as criticism. They may be easily hurt and rejected. They may have a sense of secret shame and humiliation. And in order to make themselves feel better, they may react with rage, or contempt, or efforts to belittle the other person to make themselves appear better.


  • Appearing as tough-minded or unemotional


 
 
 
( 9 comments — Leave a comment )
(Anonymous) on August 2nd, 2013 09:52 pm (UTC)
I was exposed to this type of personality in a male and it took a couple of years to figure him out after he would display the type of behavior you describe. This article is very informing. Thank you.
(Anonymous) on November 30th, 2013 11:55 pm (UTC)
I'm in a relationship with a conservative Christian with fundamentalist leanings, who likely has NPD. While I can see some truth in the above journal entry, readers might be interested in knowing that this person's mother is Roman Catholic, fairly liberal in her world view (accepting of homosexuality) and is also highly Narcissistic. The mother is haughty, believes herself to be better than others, believes her children are superior, is very controlling, believes her association with Catholicism (the only "true" church) elevates her status, is manipulative, keeps many "secrets" and distorts the truth. I could go on and on but enough said....
(Anonymous) on April 7th, 2014 02:47 pm (UTC)
Nice article! I have been a lot of years in a Calvinistic religious culture in the Netherlands and, after I went away from it, a friend of mine did tell me about narcissism.
He told me what you have written in this article. My experience with a lot of fundamentalistic Calvinistic people are as described above. To avoid disagreement: not everyone, belonging to the Calvinistic religious system, is a narcissist. Anyway...I have met too much people, who do act, according to my experience, as described in some of the points above. Many thanks.
(Anonymous) on April 7th, 2014 02:49 pm (UTC)
Sorry. In my post of some minutes ago 'My experience' must have been 'My experiences'.
(Anonymous) on May 17th, 2014 12:26 am (UTC)
It's my family! I just made the link in my mind and then found your article. My parents both have strong narcissistic traits and are religious to the point of fanaticism. One interesting point as the child of a family like this: my sister and I are both atheists. Because children of narcissists are belittled, shamed, and treated without empathy and the narcissistic parent acts as if they speak for god, children in these families experience god as terrifying and impossible to please. I feel physically ill when I enter a church.
(Anonymous) on May 25th, 2014 01:49 am (UTC)
You just described my ex- husband. Religious, leader, always puts self in a position to lead, teach and receive accolades and praise. Image is primary motivation. Wow. No wonder he's my EX.
(Anonymous) on July 13th, 2014 09:27 am (UTC)
NPD/RELIGION
My older sister, 66, has been torturing me forever! She is a very fanatical Catholic. I cannot discuss anything with her without being put down, told I'm wrong, stupid, etc., etc. I am done with it. From now on I will stand up for myself. I love her, but if she chooses to keep me out of her life in any way, well...That will be her choice. Thank you for helping me to understand this on a much deeper level.
Mare
(Anonymous) on August 5th, 2014 11:58 am (UTC)
Re: NPD/RELIGION
My elder brother is 66, never married,but has kept a good woman hanging on for years in the hope of marriage- she praises him, he stole the inheritance from his two brothers both of which have families and serious medical problems. The criteria for NPD fits like a glove. I am a clinical therapist and always knew he was very odd but until he stole our inheritance (a long story of deceit and defenses) I then discovered how utterly dysfunctional my brother is. I can assure you that no environment or belief system assures an absence of narcissism within it. I ultimately had to sever ties with him in order to maintain sanity. Of course, according to him, I leave the family of my own choice it having nothing to do with his impossible to deal with hyper dysfunction. A narcissist is often the cruelest of personality disorders because they continue to give their junk over and over where as a psycho or socio hits hard and often only once. A narcissist is a cunning deceitful individual totally lacking insight into their destructive nature. I believe, and this is odd, he is giving his brothers money to support a recently split fundamentalist church in his name. The more space I put between this brother and my family- the better off we are. Never expect a narcissist to admit an error no matter how grievous and obvious the error is. Yes, Christian fundamentalist can be narcissistic and very bad ones at that..
(Anonymous) on August 21st, 2014 04:37 pm (UTC)
Like a glove
This describes my mother to a tee! I'm beyond myself and don't know what to do. She continually harasses me and my husband but I cannot break contact because she has now sucked my 17 year old into her web. Any advice on how to deal with her?
( 9 comments — Leave a comment )