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August 10, 2020

Narcissism: Unraveling the Link between Trump, Trauma & Cult Mentality.

*Editor’s Note: Elephant Journal articles represent the personal views of the authors, and cannot possibly reflect Elephant Journal as a whole. Disagree with an Op-Ed or opinion? We’re happy to share your experience here.

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Why are so many “spiritual” people so taken with Donald Trump?

This question is pertinent to new-age spiritualists, as well as Christian fundamentalists.

What is it about some forms of religiosity that forge alliances with narcissists?

It’s not a mystery. It’s called a trauma bond

I do not toss the term “narcissist” around lightly, as it is a neurosis that is rooted in the pain of unmet needs.

We need a skillful caregiver to model empathy, and to mirror a state of positive regard for ourselves and others as an inoculation for narcissism. If the caregiver is incapable of providing that due to stress, addiction, or their own lack of emotional maturity, normal childhood selfishness can harden into narcissistic dysfunction.

Psychology Today says, “Avoid parenting styles linked to developing narcissist personality, such as neglecting, indulgent (spoiling with privilege and possessions, and promoting entitled attitudes) and cold, overcontrolling authoritarian methods which insist on perfection, winning, and toughness from a child.”

Empathy and narcissism are emotional functions that relate to how we get our needs met. What we intuit about our environment—interdependence versus isolationism—will determine what emotions we include in our spectrum, what is permissible, and what is verboten.

Uncomfortable feelings like anger, despair, and fear that have nowhere to go—if we are forced to live with a person who is hurting us, or is incapable of meeting our needs—will get edited from our reality.

One of the most common spiritual bypasses for uncomfortable experiences is “just be grateful.”

To a child, this makes sense. We have to make do with what we can get. And we have to bond to whatever is available to survive. Stifling uncomfortable feelings, which we have no support to deal with, is a part of that survival strategy. In cases with kidnappers and their victims, it is known as Stockholm Syndrome.

We can become so effective with this strategy that not only will we convince ourselves that we like it—we will stand up for the abuser.

Unwavering gratitude that is incapable of taking in the totality of another being is indicative of a psychological trauma response called “fawning.” When we are in this state, we seek to please the perpetrator and gain their favor. We edit our discomfort about what they are doing, in order to maintain the bond, and, most importantly—as we get older, and do not actually need them to survive—avoid our own pain.

Donald Trump promised to Make America great again! That awakened a childlike hope, a yearning for a nostalgic, simpler time (not to mention a tolerance for xenophobia) in many. 

This quote from The Atlantic sums up his nature:

“The fact that he is devoid of any moral sensibilities or admirable human qualities—self-discipline, compassion, empathy, responsibility, courage, honesty, loyalty, prudence, temperance, a desire for justice—means he has no internal moral check; the question: Is this the right thing to do? never enters his mind.”

What Trump does serves his image of himself, and so those who have not dealt with their own narcissistic wounds also find themselves serving his image.

So, what is the narcissistic wound? It is a massive blindspot that affects us as individuals and as a collective.

The elevation of the martyr archetype as the highest moral standard achievable keeps people fawning—seeking approval, looking for salvation, dissociated from their own internal guidance—and forever looking to a patriarchal figure for redemption. 

This is not to say that women cannot be narcissists, but the wound itself is rooted in our severance from our primal intelligence, our own inherent goodness, the goodness of the earth, and our partnerships with life and each other. 

Narcissists are incapable of true partnership—they, under the influence of these wounds, are raping, torturing, and in a thousand ways slowly murdering God’s wife, and our own precious connection to the natural world, and our inherent nature. 

To fully take in the behaviors of a so-called savior requires people to take a hard look at their own pain, and that is a process that both spiritually and socially is unacceptable and, more importantly, unsupported.

It is not only in the political arena that we see this practiced. Many people inclined toward this cult mentality are, in effect, spiritual children. 

The reliance on the need to only take in what is perceived as positive or permissible in the eyes of their God causes them to also edit out uncomfortable feelings and adhere to undeveloped beliefs (and sometimes conspiracy theories) that allow them to perpetuate a state of emotional and cultural ignorance. If their version of God, their leader, or the news sources who spin these savior narratives say it’s true, it must be. Critical thinking is highly discouraged by these factions, but must be exercised to confront narcissism.

The modus operandi of the positivity culture—just be grateful, stay high vibe, this is God’s will, he’s chosen, we’re special—keeps people stuck in a reactive, trance-driven, fawning mode. People who are blinded by their own hurt—who cannot recognize their own narcissistic wounding—will project, attack, and confabulate reality in order to maintain their protective trance.

For many, it is easier to believe in conspiracy theories than it is to face their own dissociated pain, or to deal with the discomfort of abandonment and neglect and all the subsequent strategies that arise around it. They must see themselves as good and righteous, and so must their chosen leader be.

People who are entranced by a narcissist simply cannot see the destructive qualities that are so blatantly obvious to others; that savior, lightworker complex is too strong.

As someone who grew up around a narcissist, who grew up in spiritual communities my whole life, I have been watching these patterns play out for years. I have committed my own life force to not only healing and addressing this wound in myself, but to providing the necessary information, perspectives, and stability for others to do the same. 

We need to see it in ourselves, address it in our relationships, and confront it in the world at large. And it is a massive, pervasive, and destructive pattern.

The gift of a narcissist is that they show us where we need boundaries. They point out our own wounds. If we are courageous enough to look and respond to their behaviors with consequences to their actions, and a demand for respect and accountability, they show us how to grow up.

They remind us that we must have healthy self-interest and be motivated to care for and protect ourselves and others.

We are not children of God—we are not children at all. We are adults, and we have a sacred duty to partner with life. Please do not betray that trust by choosing to ally yourselves with people who are immature, devoid of empathy, and incapable of partnership.

Life needs us.

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