How does a benign group morph into an abusive high-demand cult? What are the factors at play? Sam Vaknin, an admitted narcissist himself, describes how a narcissistic leader shapes the character of his group.
Mr. Vaknin proposes that a narcissist, having failed to impress the world with his greatness, withdraws into a “Pathological Narcissistic Space”. Vaunting his superior knowledge and uniqueness, and painting himself as the heroic victim of mistreatment, he draws unsuspecting admirers around him.
His story of tragic victimization rallies support and sets the stage for an “us versus them” mentality in the group. His own withdrawal from society becomes an “exclusionary shared psychosis”. The outside world is an enemy. Members must cut off contact with family and former friends. He sets up rules to regulate information from the outside.
The narcissist cannot tolerate criticism or disagreement of any kind. Members of his group can become suspected enemies if they exhibit autonomy or independent thought. If someone leaves his group he panics that they will betray information about him that will not be approved in the outside world.
He demands complete loyalty, agreement, admiration and awe. One of the main functions of his group (his narcissistic space) is to provide this constant narcissistic supply. He expects to be served and waited on. He has no concept of personal boundaries, and makes free use of everyone’s money and assets.
The narcissist demands complete obedience and exerts almost complete control over those within his narcissistic space. He alone determines the rights and obligations of his disciples. He defines right and wrong, he dictates what is to be pursued and what is to be avoided. He is a micro-manager of the minutest details of behavior.
In addition to the “exclusionary shared psychosis”, Mr. Vaknin proposes an “inclusionary shared psychosis”. He says, “The narcissist’s cult is ‘missionary’…always on the lookout for new recruits.” This idea sheds light on the extreme emphasis on witnessing in Bible-based groups like the Geftakys Assembly. The narcissist’s need for constant replenishing and enlarging of his narcissistic supply pushes evangelistic efforts beyond what is described in the Bible.
[Mr. Vaknin also posts an article on “Jesus Christ – Narcissist” on the page, which we are not recommending, of course.]