Friday, October 25, 2013

My Experience With a Church-Mouse Covert Narcissist

I was already well aware of narcissistic people in religious settings. In the United States, it's estimated that one 1 of every 25 people suffers from full blown narcissistic personality disorder. So you can expect to find a few of them in church.

Since I spend a fair amount of time in church, I had run into a classical narcissist. She was really easy to spot. For instance, she couldn't stop talking. Her mouth ran constantly. Much of what came out of it gossip and backbiting. (This type of behavior is a big red flag.) She was gregarious and extremely confident, as narcissists tend to be. She was also drowning in debt, because of her reckless spending.

In addition, she had mood swings. She would suddenly lash out at whomever was around, for no apparent reason.

I also met a man who was classic NPD. He behaved extremely arrogantly and he said obnoxious things. His words and actions were designed to sting. Plus, he had to run everything. If someone else started a project, he'd co-opt it and present it as his own.

For some reason, my family was having great difficulty at church. I realized these folks had obvious personality issues, and I assumed this was why.

So I was blind-sided when I discovered the true source of the trouble. It wasn't either of these individuals I just described, although the man had certainly gotten involved. Instead, as it turned out, the instigator was a church-mouse "closet narcissist."

During the drama, she pretended to be my friend. Little did I know that she was working hard behind the scenes. The truth was apparent only in hindsight. I left our place of worship. But my problems followed me. That's when it finally dawned upon me that I had a sower-of-discord in my midst.

Rooting out this phony friendship has brought peace.

That's why I believe covert narcissists are highly destructive. Oftentimes they are female. They're the last person you'd expect to be plotting to undermine you. They're often called "closet narcissists," but I think it's time to bring this behavior out of the closet and into the light of day.

In retrospect, I could have prevented these shenanigans if I had known what to look for.

One giveaway would have been poor anger regulation. A brief, but intense, emotional storm would bubble to the surface and then disappear. There were also a few verbal slings I disregarded.

One was right after we met. She had asked me to watch her three children while she was in the hospital delivering number four. I thought it was odd she entrusted her most prized possessions to someone she didn't know well. Wasn't anyone else willing to do this? (It turns out she wasn't speaking to her mother-in-law.)

The day she came to pick up her three oldest, she let me know that God would severely punish anyone who "didn't have all the children He intended them to have." I found this a curious thing to say to someone who has just two children, when she doesn't know my circumstances.

Another time, I was babysitting her children, whom were badly behaved. I tried to distract them with a Catholic video. She became angry because they didn't get a chance to play with my children.

This is one relationship I should have ended before it started.

Flickr photo by The Holy Hand Grenade

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