A Therapist’s Guide on Jehovah’s Witnesses

by JW Support.

This section is designed to assist a therapist whose client reveals having current or past involvement with Jehovah’s Witnesses. A common complaint from former Jehovah’s Witnesses seeking professional assistance is that their religious experience was downplayed and not understood. This article covers the most important factors to be aware of in order to offer constructive guidance. 

To be most effective, a therapist should have an understanding of:

  • Whether Jehovah’s Witnesses are a cult
  • Certain key doctrine that influences their emotional and mental state
  • The client’s current involvement and feelings toward the religion 

The religious organization behind Jehovah’s Witnesses is the Watch Tower Society. Whilst it is not necessary to have a comprehensive understanding of Watchtower doctrine, there are certain teachings and practices that shape the way Jehovah’s Witnesses view themselves and the world around them. Without being aware of these, advice offered is likely to be met with resistance. 

Are Jehovah’s Witnesses a Cult?

Jehovah’s Witnesses get labelled across the spectrum from benign religious group to harmful cult. Since there are millions of members, people usually find it difficult to accept they could compare to a small esoteric cult. They are best known for the visibility of their preaching work, which is considered little more than an annoyance. 

The term cult is misleading, due to its’ range of meanings. The primary meaning of cult encompasses all religious groups, yet in common usage it has come to evoke the image of a small commune following an eccentric leader. The Oxford dictionary definition of cult is as follows:

Regardless of the type of group a follower belongs to, they will never accept that it is a cult in any negative sense of the word. For this reason, is it un-beneficial to refer to Jehovah’s Witnesses as a cult to a client.   

What is important is the level of control a group has over members. Researchers generally classify a group as harmful if is exerts excessive levels of control, or coercive persuasion. Groundbreaking work in this field was done by Robert Lifton, who outlined 8 criteria high control groups systematically use to control members.[1] Jehovah’s Witnesses are subjected to all 8 of these criteria. 

Watchtower leaders, the Governing Body, enforce total acceptance of their belief structure as being from Jehovah God, with strict sanctions for any followers that do not comply. Disfellowshipping and strict shunning of noncompliant members is the clearest indicator that Jehovah’s Witnesses are subjected to and manipulated by excessive levels of control. You will find that current shunning, or the fear of being shunned, features prominently in your discussions with Jehovah’s Witness clients. 

Key Beliefs and Practices

Jehovah’s Witnesses are Christian, and strictly follow Watchtower interpretation of the Bible as God’s infallible word. A core difference with most Christians is that they do not accept Jesus as God, or part of a Trinity. Jehovah is considered Almighty God. Jesus is a lesser creation of God, through still admired as their ruler.  

There are a few core teachings and practices to be aware of in order to understand the depths of influence Watchtower teachings have.

  • Never Dying – Jehovah’s Witnesses do not expect to ever die. The primary teaching since its 1800’s inception has been that “very soon” Jehovah will destroy billions of people, with Jehovah’s Witnesses alone surviving to live forever on this planet. 
  • Sex – Sexual guilt is prominent. Sex is only acceptable between married hetrosexuals. Hence homosexuality is strongly condemned. Masturbation is considered unclean and a common source of guilt. 
  • Headship arrangement – Men are considered the head of women. This can lead to the extremes, from male guilt for not living up to expectations of headship, to dominance and domestic violence against wives.
  • Child abuse – Whilst condemned, known child abusers have systematically gone unreported to the authorities, leading to an epedemic of abused children raised in the religion.  
  • Disfellowshipping and Shunning – Failing to abide by Watchtower rules and doctrine can lead to being disfellowshipped. This is a common practice, with around 1% of Jehovah’s Witnesses being disfellowshipped every year. This results in strict shunning. All active followers, including family members, are forbidden from contact with the individual. This extends for the remainder of the persons’ life if they do not repent and return to the religion. Being shunned by family members has exceptionally destructive consequences, including drug addiction and suicide.
  • Higher education is discouraged.
  • Blood transfusions are strictly forbidden. It has been estimated that every year more Jehovah’s Witnesses die refusing blood than died in Jonestown.
  • Forbidden practices – Jehovah’s Witnesses are not allowed to engage in a long list of celebrations and practices. This includes not celebrating Christmas, Easter and Birthdays, not being engaged in politics or voting and not engaging in smoking, illegal drugs, drunkeness or premarital sex. 

A good place to start understanding Jehovah’s Witnesses is the 15 minute video Growing up a Jehovah’s Witness. This describes how children are expected to remain separate from their worldly peers, preach each weekend, not celebrate birthdays and Christmas, are discouraged from higher education, and encouraged to devote their lives to growing the religion. They expect that they will never die. Armageddon is imminent, resulting in the destruction of billions of non-witnesses. This has been going on for over a century, resulting in many Jehovah’s Witnesses struggling with a lack of funds for retirement, and the confusing disappointment of why the end still has not arrived. An understanding of these few key points will go a long way to being able to effectively assist anyone that has been involved with Jehovah’s Witnesses.

Jehovah’s Witnesses undergo an incredible amount of indoctrination. They are expected to attend religious meetings or preaching several times a week, and on the other days studying Watchtower publications. Reading alternative viewpoints, particularly from “apostate” sources is discouraged. For this reason, the Watchtower belief system is strongly influential, and remains so long after Jehovah’s Witnesses leave, even for those that may claim to no longer believe it is “the truth.” They may retain distrust of “worldly people” (anyone not one of Jehovah’s Witnesses), feel guilt for engaging in standard celebrations and behaviour, and retain a strong fear of being killed by Jehovah at Armageddon. 
This instilled fear and guilt is very difficult to overcome, yet important in assisting the individual understanding how it is not the truth and the superstitions that may be controlling them. It may be manifest by a reluctance to embrace life outside the religion, or the other extreme of engaging in seemingly juvenile and destructive behaviour. 
Shunning has a devastating effect. Many that no longer believe it is the “truth” continue to remain part of the religion out of fear of being shunned. This leads to feelings of being trapped, living a lie, wasting their life, self-loathing and depression. Those that leave never get over being shunned. To be shunned by family is incomprehensible, and a disfellowshipped Jehovah’s Witness will never stop hoping that one day their family may speak to them again, which prevents them ever feeling completely whole or content. Any attempted contact will be met with silence, or a message that they are dead to them, a disappointment, a disgrace, and overcome by Satan. The message will end with words to the effect, “You chose this situation. We still love you, but we love Jehovah more.”
Never tell a former Jehovah’s Witness to be the better person and initiate contact. This is not a family squabble that can be solved if one member swallows their pride and reaches out to reinitiate the relationship. This is a strictly imposed religious sanction that your client has no control over. It is common that therapists do not understand the magnitude of the disfellowshipping arrangement, and by indicating that your client can change the situation will only hurt them more, and make them question whether you are qualified to assist them. 
Four Primary Categories
If a client mentions involvement with Jehovah’s Witnesses, it is critical to determine which of four primary categories they fall into, as this affects the current issues they face and how they respond to your advice. Determining this will influence how you can most effectively be of assistance. 
Try to identify if they are an:
Active believer
Active non-believer
Inactive believer
Inactive non-believer
The more strongly they believe, the harder it will be to have them accept any helpful advice that does not align with their belief system. The more active they are, the more they stand to lose if they slow down in their religious activity. 
Does your client still believe Jehovah’s Witnesses are the truth? This will affect whether they are struggling with guilt, and how open they are to accept your advice and act upon it. How involved is your client as one of Jehovah’s Witnesses? This will influence whether they are struggling with the fear of leaving or loneliness. 
These considerations are in addition to the specific reason they sought your help. For example, they may have sought therapy for marital problems, addiction or depression. It may well be possible to assist without any regard to their religious background. However, problems and acceptable solutions are likely to be intertwined at least to some extent with where they fit on the quadrant of belief and activeness. 
Non-believer
The easiest to assist are those in the non-believer category. 
Inactive Non-believer
The inactive non-believer is likely struggling from the loss of family, and Cognitive Behavioral Therapy can help cope mentally with negative thoughts. If they have not done research or reached out to other former members, directing them to websites and forums can help clear up any lingering doubts and issues they may not have been aware are affecting them. 
The Inactive Non-believer will usually be struggling with coping with loss of family, difficulty making friends, and trust issues that affect their ability to find a partner. There is also the loss of a belief system that is hard to replace. This can lead to depression, suicidal inclinations and addictions.

Jehovah’s Witnesses have the majority of their boundaries dictated to them. This is under the guise that all Watchtower rules are from Jehovah, and deviation will result in punishment. Upon leaving and losing a belief in Watchtower rules, Jehovah’s Witnesses will often regress, even as older adults, to behaviour common amongst youth, trying to establish their own boundaries. 

The biggest complaint from inactive non-believers is that therapists dismiss any suggestion that Watchtower teachings are harmful. When the patient describes Jehovah’s Witnesses as a cult, they are often left feeling like they are overreacting, and told by therapists the religion is not that bad, unaware of how controlling and unrealistic the teachings are. Whilst a therapist should not raise the claim that Jehovah’s Witnesses are a cult, they can examine with a client their basis for using that label. 

Worse is the lack of recognition of Watchtower’s policy on disfellowshipping and shunning. Many therapists refuse to believe that Jehovah’s Witness parents are absolutely forbidden from speaking with disfellowshipped adult children, or visa versa, in all but the rarest of occasions. Disfellowshipped Jehovah’s Witnesses are regularly told to, “be the better person, and make the first move in re-establishing contact with your family.” It has nothing to do with your patient, the religion dictates that those that leave the religion must be shunned unless they return. 

“Really, what your beloved family member needs to see is your resolute stance to put Jehovah above everything else – including the family bond. … Do not look for excuses to associate with a disfellowshipped family member, for example, through e-mail.” Watchtower 2013 Jan 15 p.16

The inactive non-believer needs to trust you and feel acceptance. They need to learn how to make friends and new interests. This can only be done by learning that most people are not bad, but also how to identify the few that are so as not to be taken advantage of. 

Active Non-believer

The active non-believer has probably been researching and may even verbalise that they are trapped in a cult. A common term is PIMO – physically in, mentally out. They don’t believe, but feel unable to leave the religion because of what they stand to lose. A youth may fear being evicted from home and never being able to speak to their parents again, possibly living on the street if they have no source of income. A married Jehovah’s Witness will fear being honest about their feelings will result in divorce, and potentially losing contact with their children, who will be told to consider the apostate parent as dangerous and controlled by Satan. These people are not delusional, sadly their fears are completely realistic and being played out daily. The best option is again CBT to teach them how to cope with what they are going through, and being put in touch with forums and former members who can advise on how to leave strategically with the least loss, and provide a support group.  

Believers

For believers, standard tools may be able to assist with the issue they have approached you about. However, if you identify that Watchtower teachings are the root of their issues, any negativity towards the religion will not be tolerated and likely lead them to chose another therapist or cease help altogether. Jehovah’s Witnesses are warned to be wary about anyone that does not belong to the religion, referred to as “worldly people.” This includes professional therapists. If one of Jehovah’s Witnesses seek out professional help, particularly at the recommendation of a doctor, they will be cautious and untrusting and wary of guidance in conflict with their beliefs or critical of the organisation.

Active Believer 

Religion is the elephant in the room. You cannot ignore the religion, otherwise you are not going to be addressing what is likely to be at the heart of their issues. Yet drawing the patient out regarding any negative effects resulting from their religious background is likely to be met with opposition. Keeping positive about Jehovah’s Witnesses is important in order to not scare them away. Jehovah’s Witnesses are trained to expect that Satan is attacking their faith from all angles, and any negative comments on your part will be seen as such an attack and likely raise a barrier between you, and even lead to the patient not returning.

Concentrate foremost on the reason they have met with out, and standard advice. Only if the time seems appropriate, try to uncover how their religious background is of relevant influence, without appearing to attack Jehovah’s Witnesses.

 Try the following approaches.

Ask them outright what they like and what they find difficult about being one of Jehovah’s Witnesses. Try to have them pinpoint why they think it is the truth, and anything that may be affecting their faith. It is not your position to convince them whether their religion is the truth or not, but to get them being able to identify the good and bad aspects as a platform from which to dwell upon.

Positively discuss what they can do to be happier with their life, including religious activity. Discussing what is required to be happier is not the end goal, but an ice breaker to uncovering the true issues. Is the person down because they feel guilty about not doing enough, are their parents disappointed with them, or are they disappointed with a lack of spirituality in their husband or children? This can open up conversations on how to find happiness within, not needing others for their own happiness. Such conversations may lead the person to uncovering what is core to their illness. Maybe they will realise the religion itself is directly the cause of issues they face. On the other hand, the religion may not be core to their problems, or they may not contemplate leaving to be an option, and you will be able to help them find greater levels of happiness and contentment within the religion. 

Bring up similar religions, such as Mormons and Scientologists. They are similar in providing the joy of strong community bonds and assistance with issues such as addiction. On the other hand, these religious groups also believe they are different from everyone else (worldly people), impose the fear of shunning, and use the guilt of having doubts and never doing enough. If you discuss how that can affect their members, you can impart good lessons without seeming to attack your client’s religion. 

Inactive Believer

The inactive believer is the one that potentially can gain the most from therapy. An inactive believer carries the full weight of guilt of the organization’s teachings, a fear of the world, the loss of association with members of the religion, and feelings of being worthy of imminent death at Armageddon. 

It may seem that the easy solution to their problems is helping them recognize the religion does not teach the truth, and the damage it has caused. However, convincing them it is not the truth is difficult, and also unlikely to be legal or ethical. A therapist will be limited in offering standard guidance on understanding past experiences that may be the cause of current issues, and how to handle them.  

The struggle for the inactive believer is the Watchtower concept that it is not possible to have a relationship with God without being an active part of the Watchtower organization. Jehovah’s Witness struggle to separate God from the Organization, and leaving the religion equates to leaving Jehovah. For those fearful that leaving the religion has destroyed their relationship with God, it helps to stress that they can still worship Jehovah and have a relationship with him if they leave. 

Key assistance to an Inactive Believer is putting in the effort to determining whether Jehovah’s Witnesses are the truth or not. If they think it is the truth, and struggle with feelings of worthlessness or depression for not being involved, maybe they should go back. Help them overcome the reason they are inactive, such as addiction to some forbidden practice, so they have the option of returning. 

Before they return, explain to them the importance of researching the religion from all angles before making such a change. There is a lot of online information that they can refer to. They will resist, saying alternative viewpoints about Jehovah’s Witnesses are apostate lies. Remind them that they will know what is a lie. Before any major purchase, it is good to not only read the organization’s marketing information, but also reviews from users, good and bad, for a rounded and informed opinion. A key skill in life is learning to identify what is accurate and what is not. 

Further Information

Footnotes

[1]  Dr. Robert J. Lifton’s Eight Criteria for Thought Reform, Lifton, 1989 edition.

  1. Milieu Control. This involves the control of information and communication both within the environment and, ultimately, within the individual, resulting in a significant degree of isolation from society at large.
  2. Mystical Manipulation. The manipulation of experiences that appears spontaneous but is, in fact, planned and orchestrated by the group or its leaders in order to demonstrate divine authority, spiritual advancement, or some exceptional talent or insight that sets the leader and/or group apart from humanity, and that allows reinterpretation of historical events, scripture, and other experiences. Coincidences and happenstance oddities are interpreted as omens or prophecies.
  3. Demand for Purity. The world is viewed as black and white and the members are constantly exhorted to conform to the ideology of the group and strive for perfection. The induction of guilt and/or shame is a powerful control device used here.
  4. Confession. Sins, as defined by the group, are to be confessed either to a personal monitor or publicly to the group. There is no confidentiality; members’ “sins,” “attitudes,” and “faults” are discussed and exploited by the leaders.
  5. Sacred Science. The group’s doctrine or ideology is considered to be the ultimate Truth, beyond all questioning or dispute. Truth is not to be found outside the group. The leader, as the spokesperson for God or for all humanity, is likewise above criticism.
  6. Loading the Language. The group interprets or uses words and phrases in new ways so that often the outside world does not understand. This jargon consists of thought-terminating clichés, which serve to alter members’ thought processes to conform to the group’s way of thinking.
  7. Doctrine over person. Members’ personal experiences are subordinated to the sacred science and any contrary experiences must be denied or reinterpreted to fit the ideology of the group.
  8. Dispensing of existence. The group has the prerogative to decide who has the right to exist and who does not. This is usually not literal but means that those in the outside world are not saved, unenlightened, unconscious and they must be converted to the group’s ideology. If they do not join the group or are critical of the group, then they must be rejected by the members. Thus, the outside world loses all credibility. In conjunction, should any member leave the group, he or she must be rejected also.

JW Support

False Accusations, Scapegoats and the Power of Words.

Image – Youtube

By Gary Drevitch

Being publically accused of a crime one did not commit is torture, and once the information is out there, trying to defend yourself, clear your name, fight suspicion, and tolerate disdain makes for a horrible predicament.

People with little information can form strong opinions and take unwarranted retaliatory action from expulsion from the clan to spreading the false word. In Jane Eyre, the cruel headmaster tells the girls to let no one be her friend, take her hand, or comfort her. You get the sense that this is the worst punishment for Jane, worse than the head blow or the lack of bread.

If accusations are not true, a person is in a situation similar to being bullied. Even if one is rich, successful, famous, or “has it all,” the psychological devastation can be ruinous. If you are not believed, if you cannot fight back with the true story, if now you are distrusted and under scrutiny, the sense of helplessness is overwhelming. People with inner vulnerabilities are easy targets. Others sense the fragility and find it thrilling to gang up or attack. Having a scapegoat can help a group form a strong bond and find meaning in what could be otherwise empty lives.

Freud said that the pain of the ego is the worse kind of pain. Kids who are scapegoated with words that cause unbearable humiliation sometimes commit suicide. A supervisor in analytic school told me that kids who are tortured with words are often more traumatized than those who have been physically abused.

It is widely known that people with certain kinds of pathology are brilliant at looking like victims when they are actually perpetrators. They can ruin the life of an innocent person. You can see this on Law and Order, learn it in Psych 101, or just intuit it instinctively.

When you hear a story, consider the narrator. Who is this person? Why is she telling this story when she is? What feelings does she convey when she tells it? If there was true victimization, then the wish to retaliate is utterly understandable. You as the listener may feel like crying too. But what if the true story is not as it seems? You might feel a strange lack of empathy. Sometimes people dramatize. Some people lie or feel so injured for rational or irrational reasons that they come to believe their own distortions. There are those who are at peace when they lie and those who toss, turn, and torture themselves about doing so. In short, some people lie and some do not.

You might wonder, as you listen, if this person is truly seeking wellness, self-protection, or justice, or if the goal is simply to destroy someone else? If a person is lying to hurt someone else, it is a highly aggressive act and the accuser needs help. Such choices do not foster a healthy existence with generous, loving relationships.

Read more here – Psychology Today

What is a Narcissistic Family?

What is a Narcissistic Family?

‘In simple terms, a narcissistic family is one in which the needs of the parents are the focus and the children are expected in various ways to meet those needs. The healthy family model is turned on its head to support the parents rather than foster the children’s development.

As in other kinds of dysfunctional families, there is abuse and corresponding denial of the abuse. There is also secrecy, neglect, unrealistic expectations, an impoverishment of empathy, disrespect for boundaries, and ongoing conflict.

*Unspoken Rules in the Narcissistic Family*

Narcissistic homes have unspoken rules of engagement that dictate interactions among family members:

1. Acceptance Is Conditional

To gain acceptance, children must comply with the family narrative and value system. Expressions of difference are rejected and pathologized.

2. Submission Is Required

Everyone is expected to submit to the dominant narcissist’s authority, no matter how ignorant, arbitrary, cruel, or destructive it is.

3. Someone Must Be Blamed for Problems

When something bad happens, from a lost job to a spilled glass of milk, someone must be blamed for it. Typically there is a family scapegoat who is made to bear the main burden of the family’s problems, frustration, and unhappiness, as well as the dominant narcissist’s projected self-loathing.

4. Vulnerability Is Dangerous

Mistakes, accidents, and weaknesses, even ones you take responsibility for, are cause for shaming treatment that can persist for years.

5. You Must Take Sides

Just as there is always blame and shame, there are always sides, and if you are not on the dominant narcissist’s side you are wrong. Children often feel forced to choose between parents, siblings, and other family members.

6. There Is Never Enough Love and Respect to Go Around

Renewable resources in healthy families, love and respect are limited to the narcissist and whomever else is deemed worthy, usually a favored “golden” child. Respect for one person means disrespect for another.

7. Feelings Are Wrong

The feelings that make us human, help us connect and get our needs met, and protect us from harm are selfish and must be repressed. Only the narcissist has free rein to express feelings, have emotional reactions, and make demands.

8. Competition, Not Cooperation, Rules the Day

One-upmanship, favoritism, and constant comparison create a harshly competitive environment that undermines trust and breeds hostility and betrayal.

9. Appearances Are More Important Than Substance

Even if everyone is suffering, they must smile for the family photo.

10. Rage Is Normalized

Everyone is expected to swallow and endure the dominant narcissist’s irrational, explosive, and perhaps also violent rage. This may be magnified by other forms of mental illness and/or addiction.

11. Denial Is Rampant

To sustain the dominant narcissist’s control over the family, there is denial of:

  • Abusive incidents
  • The continual atmosphere of fear
  • The ongoing mistreatment of the scapegoat
  • Routine forms of neglect

12. There Is No Safety

Although the scapegoat is targeted with the most abuse, everyone is on hyperalert because no one is safe from blame and rage.

Adapted from The Narcissist in Your Life: Recognizing the Patterns and Learning to Break Free, by Julie L. Hall, Hachette Books.’

Sea Sanctuary

Mother’s Day – Estranged Adult Children

Mother’s Day, and special days: Triggering pain for mothers of estranged adult children

by Sheri McGregor, M.A.

Here it comes again—Mother’s Day in the United States and in Canada. Mothers of estranged adult children in the U.K. have already seen Mother’s Day come and go. Soon, mothers in Canada and in the States will be on the other side of the holiday too—until next year, when it rolls around all over again.

Hang in there. Mother’s Day won’t stop coming just because we’re estranged. And having spoken with thousands of parents who’ve been cut off by adult children, the reality is that the situation may not be ending for you anytime soon either. That’s why it’s so important for you to adapt.

What can you do?

Since starting this site, I’ve written a few articles about getting through Mother’s Day when adult children are estranged. You’ll find in them practical advice and concrete tips. You’ll also find comments from mothers of estranged adult children who share their experiences, and acknowledge the emotional pain. In this article, we’ll focus on Mother’s Day from an emotional triggers perspective.

Mother’s Day when adult children are estranged: Avoiding extra hurt

Mother’s Day, like any time when we’re particularly reminded of an estranged adult child and the relationship we used to share, can trigger an onslaught of feelings. While it’s helpful to acknowledge the pain, it’s also easy to slip into a looping circle of thoughts that bring us down. Everyone else is having fun, and I’m sitting home alone. What did I do to deserve this? This is so embarrassing. Nobody understands.

Each of us has our own personal version of woeful thoughts. And scrolling through Facebook with its stream of happy family shots might fuel the feelings behind them. Protect yourself if you need to.  Just as social media can push emotional buttons, going to a brunch on Mother’s Day when you’ll be surrounded by families also might not be helpful either. Do you have other adult children or family who want to take you out? Remember, this is your day. You get to choose! Take care of yourself.

Coping Mindfully

What else might make you feel sad or lonely? Make a few notes of what will hurt or help–and then be proactive. Mother’s Day when your adult children are estranged is similar to other times that are particularly hurtful because they remind you of loss, stress, or grief. In my book, Done With The Crying: Help and Healing for Mothers of Estranged Adult Children, in one story, Julia misses her only son. They were very close, and in the early mornings, he used to call her daily to chat. Julia had come to expect those calls. So after the estrangement, she would stare at the silent phone. Time gaped, and she felt horribly alone and sad.

Before her son walked away from the family, Julia’s mornings revolved around those calls. Their chat sessions had become part of her routine. They connected her to her son, and to the life they shared. But post-estrangement, Julia learned to adapt. Using one of the tools in the first chapter of the book, the first step toward her healing was to alter her routine. Looking at her phone each morning, wishing it would ring, only reminded her of what she’d lost.

Emotional hiccups

Just as mornings were particularly difficult for Julia, Mother’s Day can prick up the feelings of loneliness and rejection that are common with estrangement from adult children. For some it’s a particular song. Others might be bothered by a particular sporting event, or other recreation. Even if you don’t realize why, you might find yourself overeating, grousing at the cat, or having troublesome dreams. The feelings or behavior may be related to emotions triggered by a holiday like Mother’s Day, or another personally significant day.

While I’m past the pain of estrangement, certain places and activities do remind me of my estranged adult child. Eating strawberries makes me think of him—he’d choose them over any sugary dessert. And a nearby street never fails to remind me of him. Memories are attached to those things, so it’s natural the mind connects them to someone who was once so much a part of my life.

Does that mean I’m sad? Not anymore. I’ve come to think of those triggered memories as hiccups. Like some of the other mothers whose stories are shared in my book, I’ve worked through the pain, and moved beyond it. Recognizing those triggers, and then taking action to make new routines can help.

Stepping forward: Be good to yourself

There’s no set schedule to moving beyond emotional pain. There are only steps, big or little, that move you forward. Whatever you do, don’t get down on yourself. Acknowledge your feelings so you can deal with them. Remember the utter shock you felt when your son or daughter first cut you off? Don’t think of triggered emotions as setbacks. They’re aftershocks—a normal occurrence that relieves pressure. Pat yourself on the back for accepting where you are right now, and for recognizing that in coping mindfully like Julia, you’re healing. Think: Forward. I’m adapting. I’m moving on.

Take Action

Like Julia and other mothers whose stories of estrangement from adult children are shared in Done With The Crying: Help and Healing for Mothers of Estranged Adult Children, you too can heal. Mother’s Day doesn’t have to be a bad trigger day. You too can be Done With The Crying.

Rejected Parents

The B.I.T.E Model – Characteristics of a Cult.

Here is Steven Hassan’s B.I.T.E. model, a checklist for the characteristics of a cult. As well as religious organization’s this behaviour can be present in many groups situations, families, working life and friendships.

The Evolution of the BITE Model – Steven Hassan

There are three components to Festinger’s theory – control of behaviour, thoughts, and emotions. Each can be affected by the other two. By manipulating three elements cults gain control over a person’s identity. Through working with former cult members, a fourth important component is identified – control of information. When that is controlled as the amount a person can receive limit capacity for independent thought. These four factors are easily remembered as BITE Behaviour, Information, Thoughts, Emotions.

The Bite Model

Behaviour Control

Regulation of individuals physical reality

Where, how and with who the member lives and associates.

What clothes, colours, hairstyles the person wears.

What food the person eats, drinks, adopts and rejects.

How much sleep the person is able to have.

Financial dependence.

Little or no time spent on leisure, entertainment, and vacations.

 

Major time commitment required for indoctrination sessions and group rituals.

Ask permission for major decisions.

Need to report thoughts, feelings, and activities to superiors.

Rewards and punishments (behaviour modification techniques, positive and negative)

Individualism discouraged ‘group think’ prevails.

Rigid rules and regulations.

 

Information Control

Use of deception.

Deliberately holding back information.

Distorting information to make it more acceptable.

Outright lying.

 

Access to non-cult sources of information minimized or discouraged.

Books, articles, magazines, TV, radio.

Critical Information.

Former members.

Keep members so busy they do not have time to think and check things out.

 

Compartmentalization of information – outsider vs insider doctrines.

Information is not freely accessible.

Information varies at different levels and missions within pyramid.

 

Spying on other members is encouraged.

Pairing up with ‘buddy’ system to monitor and control.

Reporting deviant thoughts, feelings, and actions to leadership.

Individual behaviour monitored by whole group.

Leadership decides who needs to know what and when.

 

Extensive use of cult generated information and propaganda.

Newsletters, magazines, journals, audio tapes, video tapes and other media.

Misquotations, statements taken out of context from non-cult sources.

 

Unethical use of confession.

Information about ‘sins’ used to abolish identity boundaries.

Past sins used to manipulate and control, no forgiveness or absolution.

 

Need for obedience and dependency.

Thought Control

Need to internalize the groups doctrine as ‘truth’,

Adopting the groups ‘map of reality’ as Reality.

Black and white thinking.

Good vs Evil.

Us vs Them.

 

Use of loaded language (thought terminating cliches) words are the tools we use to think with. Those special words constrict rather than expand understanding and can even stop thoughts altogether. They function to reduce complexities of experience into trite, platitudinous ‘buzz words’.

Only good and proper thoughts are encouraged.

Use of hypnotic techniques to induce altered mental states.

Manipulation of memories and implantation of false memories.

 

Use of thought stopping techniques which shut down ‘reality testing’ by stopping negative thoughts and allowing only good thoughts.

Denial, rationalization, justification, wishful thinking.

Chanting.

Meditating.

Praying.

Speaking in tongues.

Singing or humming.

 

Rejection of rational analysis, critical thinking, constructive criticism. No critical questions about leaders, doctrine or policies seen as legitimate.

No alternative belief system viewed as legitimate, good or useful.

 

Emotional Control

Manipulate and narrow the range of a persons feelings.

Make the person feel that if there are any problems its always their fault, never the leaders or groups.

Excessive use of guilt.

Identity guilt.

Who you are (not living up to potential)

Your family

Your past

Your affiliations

Your thoughts, feelings, actions

Social guilt

Historical guilt

 

Excessive use of fear

Fear of thinking independently

Fear of the outside world

Fear of enemies

Fear of losing ones salvation

Fear of leaving the group or being shunned

Fear of disapproval

 

Extremes of emotional highs and lows

Ritual and often public confessions of sins

 

Phobia indoctrination inculcating irrational fears about ever leaving the group or questioning leaders authority. The person under mind control cannot visualize a positive fulfilled future without being in the group.

No happiness or fulfilment outside of the group.

Terrible consequences will take place if you leave, hell, demon possession, incurable diseases, accidents, suicide, insanity, 10,000 reincarnations etc.

Shunning of leave takers, fear of being rejected by peers, friends and family.

Never a legitimate reason to leave. From the groups perspective people who leave are weak, undisciplined, unspiritual, worldly, brainwashed by family or a counsellor, or seduced by money, sex or ‘rock and roll’.

It is important to understand that the Destructive Mind Control can be determined when the overall effect of the four components promote dependency and obedience to some leader or cause. It is not necessary for every single item on the list to be present. Mind control cult members can live in their own apartments, have nine to five jobs, married with children, and still be unable to think for themselves and act independently.

(This was taken from a book entitled: Releasing The Bonds – Empowering People to Think for Themselves by Steven Hassan).

Religious Trauma Syndrome

Religious Trauma Syndrome
by Marlene Winell
Religious Trauma Syndrome is the condition experienced by people who are struggling with leaving an authoritarian, dogmatic religion and coping with the damage of indoctrination. They may be going through the shattering of a personally meaningful faith and/or breaking away from a controlling community and lifestyle. RTS is a function of both the chronic abuses of harmful religion and the impact of severing one’s connection with one’s faith. It can be compared to a combination of PTSD and Complex PTSD (C-PTSD). This is a summary followed by a series of three articles which were published in Cognitive Behaviour Therapy Today.
Religious Trauma Syndrome has a very recognizable set of symptoms, a definitive set of causes, and a debilitating cycle of abuse. There are ways to stop the abuse and recover.
Symptoms of Religious Trauma Syndrome:
• Cognitive: Confusion, poor critical thinking ability, negative beliefs about self-ability & self-worth, black & white thinking, perfectionism, difficulty with decision-making
• Emotional: Depression, anxiety, anger, grief, loneliness, difficulty with pleasure, loss of meaning
• Social: Loss of social network, family rupture, social awkwardness, sexual difficulty, behind schedule on developmental tasks
• Cultural: Unfamiliarity with secular world; “fish out of water” feelings, difficulty belonging, information gaps (e.g. evolution, modern art, music)
Causes of Religious Trauma Syndrome:
Authoritarianism coupled with toxic theology which is received and reinforced at church, school, and home results in:
• Suppression of normal child development – cognitive, social, emotional, moral stages are arrested
• Damage to normal thinking and feeling abilities -information is limited and controlled; dysfunctional beliefs taught; independent thinking condemned; feelings condemned
• External locus of control – knowledge is revealed, not discovered; hierarchy of authority enforced; self not a reliable or good source
• Physical and sexual abuse – patriarchal power; unhealthy sexual views; punishment used as for discipline
Cycle of Abuse
The doctrines of original sin and eternal damnation cause the most psychological distress by creating the ultimate double bind. You are guilty and responsible, and face eternal punishment. Yet you have no ability to do anything about it. (These are teachings of fundamentalist Christianity; however other authoritarian religions have equally toxic doctrines.)
You must conform to a mental test of “believing” in an external, unseen source for salvation, and maintain this state of belief until death. You cannot ever stop sinning altogether, so you must continue to confess and be forgiven, hoping that you have met the criteria despite complete lack of feedback about whether you will actually make it to heaven.
Salvation is not a free gift after all.
For the sincere believer, this results in an unending cycle of shame and relief.
Stopping the Cycle
You can stop the cycle of abuse, but leaving the faith is a “mixed blessing.” Letting go of the need to conform is a huge relief. There is a sense of freedom, excitement about information and new experiences, new-found self-respect, integrity, and the sense of an emerging identity.
There are huge challenges as well. The psychological damage does not go away overnight. In fact, because the phobia indoctrination in young childhood is so powerful, the fear of hell can last a lifetime despite rational analysis. Likewise the damage to self-esteem and basic self-trust can be crippling. This is why there are so many thousands of walking wounded – people who have left fundamentalist religion and are living with Religious Trauma Syndrome.
Mistaken Identity
Religious Trauma Syndrome mimics the symptoms of many other disorders –
post-traumatic stress disorder
clinical depression
anxiety disorders
bipolar disorder
obsessive compulsive disorder
borderline personality disorder
eating disorders
social disorders
marital and sexual dysfunctions
suicide
drug and alcohol abuse
extreme antisocial behavior, including homicide
There are many extreme cases, including child abuse of all kinds, suicide, rape, and murder. Not as extreme but also tragic are all the people who are struggling to make sense of life after losing their whole basis of reality. None of the previously named diagnoses quite tells the story, and many who try to get help from the mental health profession cannot find a therapist who understands.
What’s the problem?
We have in our society an assumption that religion is for the most part benign or good for you. Therapists, like others, expect that if you stop believing, you just quit going to church, putting it in the same category as not believing in Santa Claus. Some people also consider religious beliefs childish, so you just grow out of them, simple as that. Therapists often don’t understand fundamentalism, and they even recommend spiritual practices as part of therapy. In general, people who have not survived an authoritarian fundamentalist indoctrination do not realize what a complete mind-rape it really is.
In the United States, we also treasure our bill of rights, our freedom of speech, freedom of assembly, and freedom of religion. This makes it extremely difficult to address a debilitating disorder like RTS without threatening the majority of Americans. Raising questions about toxic beliefs and abusive practices in religion seems to be violating a taboo. No one wants to be pointing fingers for fear of tampering with our precious freedoms.
But this is the problem. Sanitizing religion makes it all the more insidious when it is toxic. For example, small children are biologically dependent on their adult caretakers; built into their survival mechanisms is a need to trust authority just to stay alive. Religious teachings take hold easily in their underdeveloped brains while the adults conveniently keep control. This continues generation after generation, as the religious meme complex reproduces itself, and masses of believers learn to value self-loathing and fear apocalypse.
There is hope
Awareness is growing about the dangers of religious indoctrination. There are more and more websites to support the growing number of people leaving harmful religion. Slowly, services are growing to help people with RTS heal and grow, including Journey Free. We are discovering the means by which people can understand what they have been through and take steps to become healthy, happy human beings.

How Narcissists use Projection to Manipulate,

Psychology Explains How Narcissists Use Projection To Manipulate
PSYCHOLOGY EXPLAINS HOW NARCISSISTS USE PROJECTION TO MANIPULATE
Narcissistic Personality Disorder

Narcissists have no real self-awareness to speak of. Indeed, their very sense of value is derived from how others perceive them. As a rule, narcissists are unable to recognize their shortcomings and failures, instead choosing to cast the blame – no matter the merits of such – onto someone else. It’s called projection – a default defense mechanism of the narcissist.

In this article, we’re going to define narcissism, projection, and how those with narcissistic tendencies use projection in order to achieve their aims. As you will read, narcissists are experts at manipulation. To this end, we’ll discuss how you can spot the narcissist, along with proactive things you can do to avoid becoming a victim of narcissistic manipulation.

WHAT IS PROJECTION?

In the field of psychology, projection – or psychological projection – is the denial of subconscious impulses by the human ego. For instance, someone accusing their partner of cheating when they’re actually the one engaging in the scandalous act is projecting. A jealous co-worker who accuses everyone else in the office of being jealous is projecting; secretly, they’re jealous of just about everyone with a modicum of success. And so on.

While common among the narcissistic, projecting is something that we all do to varying degrees. We usually project onto others when we have uncomfortable, sometimes disturbing, emotions, and thoughts about ourselves. The father of psychoanalysis, Sigmund Freud, believed that we project things onto others when we don’t want to burden ourselves with our perceived flaws or feelings of inferiority.

In other words, we want others to be the vehicles for our insecurities. We don’t want to deal with them anymore.

The thing is: while we all project, we don’t make a habit out of it. Most of us wouldn’t use projection to make someone feel inferior. We certainly wouldn’t employ projection as a means of coercion. Because, well, you’re not a narcissist (we don’t think.)

Speaking of which, let’s discuss narcissistic personality disorder in a tad more detail.

THE STORY OF NARCISSUS (THE OG NARCISSIST)

The ancient Greeks and Romans promulgated a myth about a young lad a wee too obsessed with his image. The story goes that Narcissus was a handsome guy who rejected all female comers.  In fact, Narcissus rejected all of those who loved him, leading some of those he loved to take their own lives as a last effort to show Narcissus their devotion and love.

None of this moved the vain young man, however, which led the Goddess Nemesis to punish Narcissus for his callousness. The story ends with Narcissus getting a glimpse of himself in a lake, which reflected back an image showing him in the prime of his beauty. Narcissus fell in love with his own image, eventually realizing that nothing could love him as much as he could love himself. Nemesis takes his own life shortly after this realization.

NARCISSISTIC PERSONALITY DISORDER

In the late 1800s, psychologists decided that the vain Narcissus was an apt representation of some of their clients. A sexologist by the name of Havelock Ellis coined the term “narcissus-like” to describe his patients engaging in excessive masturbation.

In 1911, an Austrian psychiatrist by the name of Otto Rank published the first academic paper proposing narcissism as a potential psychological disorder. Rank described narcissism in the context of excessive self-admiration and vanity. Three years later, Freud published the paper On Narcissism: An Introduction.

“…a personality disorder with a long-term pattern of abnormal behavior characterized by exaggerated feelings of self-importance, excessive need for admiration, and a lack of empathy.”

Clinical treatment of NPD is not well-studied but is thought to be difficult – as those with NPD are unable to see their condition as a problem. NPD occurs more often in males, affects roughly one percent of the population, and is far more common in younger people than older.

The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Health Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-5) – the diagnostic literature published by the American Psychological Association (APA) – lists ten recognized symptoms of NPD:https://imasdk.googleapis.com/js/core/bridge3.432.0_en.html#goog_154395631000:00 of 09:01Volume 90%This video will resume in 4 seconds 

  1. A sense of grandiosity
  2. Expecting superior treatment from others
  3. Exploiting others for personal gain without feelings of guilt
  4. An inability to understand the thoughts and feelings of others
  5. Strong feelings of envy towards others
  6. Constantly engaging in the bullying, belittling, and demeaning of others
  7. A sense of entitlement and the need to be treated special
  8. The need to be perceived as superior and unique
  9. Obsession over desired traits such as attractiveness, intelligence, power, and success
  10. The need to be constant admiration from other people
NARCISSISTS + PROJECTION = MANIPULATION

“When the [narcissistic] individual is in the superior position, defending against shame, the grandiose self aligns with the inner critic and devalues others through projection.” – Darlene Lancer, JD, LMFT (source)

HERE’S HOW NARCISSISTS USE PROJECTION TO MANIPULATE YOU (AND WHAT TO DO ABOUT IT):
1. THEY “CALL YOU OUT”

Perhaps the most straightforward way to project is to call someone out. When a narcissist calls you out, you can bet they’re doing so for one of two reasons: (a) to get you to do something, (b) to attack you, or both. Guilt-tripping is among the most common methods narcissists use. If that doesn’t work, they may get frustrated and verbally attack you.

What to do: In any case, don’t take the bait. Recognize the behavior for what it is: a shameless, insulting attempt to manipulate your thoughts and feelings. You have something they want – don’t give it to them!

2. THEY MIMIC

While narcissists have the emotional depth of a puddle, they’re smart enough (many are highly intelligent) to know that emotionality matters to people. For this reason, narcissists will often mimic the emotional behaviors that they see elsewhere to convince someone of their genuine nature.

For the narcissist, the problem with this tactic is that mimicry goes against the grain of innate human behavior. Assuming that they’re not some CIA-trained spy, the entire façade will become apparent sooner or later.

What to do: Be observant. Someone’s core personality will always make itself known. You just have to keep your eyes and ears open.

3. THEY USE CHARACTER ASSASSINATION

If you’ve ever been the victim of character assassination, then you may know the far-reaching effects. Targeting someone’s character is the ultimate “go for the jugular” act. When a narcissist engages in character assassination, it’s often out of vengeance, or for the purpose of winning people over for some reason.

What to do: The most important thing here is not to panic. Most have pretty good sense when it comes to getting a feel for someone’s character. For this reason, we’re naturally cautious when someone verbally attacks another’s person. If these things are occurring in a work environment, it may be necessary to speak with your manager, human resources, or the legal department.

4. THEY PLAY THE VICTIM

Narcissists love to play the victim. At first, anyway. Why? Because they realize that most of us have some kind of sensitive core. We don’t like to see other people suffer. We want to help alleviate that suffering. Narcissists are all too eager to take advantage of this near-universal human trait. For this reason, the narcissist will project a “Woe is me” demeanor as well.

Some less-intelligent narcissists make the critical error of playing the victim to one person. If this is the case, it’s much easier to see through the charade.

What to do: It’s important to remain observant and keep your ear to the ground. If you’re particularly sensitive (e.g., an empath), make sure that you’re offering your assistance only to people you know well.

3. THEY SHAPE SHIFT

When a narcissist feels that they’ve got the victim where they want, they’ll quickly drop the act. They do so because they’re confident that the victim will offer little if any resistance. Indeed, this is often the last opportunity that the potential – or, by this point, possibly real – the victim will have to minimize the damage.

If you catch onto the shape-shifting, don’t expect the narcissist to go quietly into the night. Remember, narcissists are experts in the art of manipulation – and they may still be able to flummox you just enough that you’ll keep them around.

FINAL BIT OF ADVICE ON DEALING WITH NARCISSISTS

At this juncture, it is critical that you not hesitate to “end it.” Unless that person has some undiagnosed mental health disorder, there’s just no rational explanation for displaying extremes along the personality spectrum. Particularly if you’re being hurt in the interim.

Power of Positivity

Estranged Families and Christmas

Christmas is the hardest time of year for those estranged from close family

Image – CBS

With Christmas just around the corner, many will be finalising plans to see their families over the festive period. Yet for others, family relationships are challenging, distant and a source of pain. In some cases, relationships break down entirely leaving people estranged from close relatives.

Results from a new online survey of people estranged from family members conducted with the charity Stand Alone, has shown how difficult Christmas can be. The survey was completed by 807 people who identified as being estranged from a parent, sibling or an adult child.

Almost all identified the holiday season as the most challenging time of year, describing feelings of loneliness, isolation and sadness. These feelings and experiences are in direct contrast to the idealised images of happy families around the dinner table that feature in Christmas advertising and the media at this time of year. One respondent said:

Everyone always says ‘what family plans do you have for holidays?’ and look at you funny when you say none. It’s hard to explain to people why you don’t want to be with your own parents.

Two-thirds of the respondents felt there was a stigma about family estrangement. They described feeling judged or blamed – and feeling that estrangement was a taboo subject about which there is little understanding or acknowledgement.

No two estranged relationships looked alike. Yet common factors often led to estrangement, such as having mismatched expectations about family roles and relationships, clashes in personality and values, and emotional abuse.

Estrangement was found to be more complex than simply a lack of contact or communication between family members. Although most of the respondents who were estranged from a parent, sibling or an adult child had no contact whatsoever with this individual, approximately 25% had contact that was minimal in nature. These results are similar to those of Australian social worker Kylie Aglias, who has distinguished between family members who have no contact at all (physical estrangement) and those whose contact is infrequent, perfunctory, and often uncomfortable (emotional estrangement).

We also found that estranged relationships change over time and that cycles in and out of estrangement are common. Of those who said they wished that their estranged relationship was different, most wanted a relationship that was more loving, warm and emotionally close.

What can be done to help?

When it came to getting support, respondents said those friends and support services which offered them emotional and practical support and took the time to listen to them and show them understanding were the most helpful. They found it unhelpful when they felt friends or counsellors dismissed them or when they felt they had been judged and blamed for the estrangement.

It would be wrong to assume that all those experiencing estrangement wish for there to be reconciliation in the future. Feelings about the future of estranged relationships were varied. Of those who were estranged from a mother or father, most felt that there would never be a functional relationship between them in the future. Yet for those who were estranged from an adult son or daughter, most felt that there could be a functional relationship in the future or were unsure of the future direction of the relationship.

Four out of five respondents also reported that there had been a positive outcome from their experience of estrangement. These included feeling more free and independent, feeling happier and less stressed, and having gained a greater insight or understanding of themselves and relationships more broadly.

By listening to the hidden voices of people who are estranged from close relatives, we can begin to move beyond assumptions about what families could or should look like and begin conversations about families and family relationships as they really are.

The Conversation.com

Coping with Grief at Christmas

How to cope with grief at Christmas

Image – Harley Therapy

We know that facing Christmas alone, or whilst grieving, can be a daunting prospect. This year it is going to be harder than ever. Whether you were bereaved in 2020 or many years before, ongoing Covid restrictions mean it is going to be difficult for many of us to be with the people we would most want to see. The virus is adding an extra layer of anxiety to the planning for so many people. It is going to be more important than ever to try and look after yourself and work out the best ways to cope.

Here are some practical ways to cope with the loss of a loved one over Christmas.

1. Consider different ways of celebrating
One of the things that can help can be to spend some time trying to work out, well in advance, which arrangements will best suit your needs and the needs of others who share your loss. Some bereaved people find that they do not wish to celebrate Christmas at all, whilst some find that simply maintaining their routine and celebrating as normal is the best tribute they can pay their loved one. It may feel important to make a special effort to remember the person who has died. This can be as simple as ‘speaking’ to the person, silently or out loud, or it may involve visiting their grave, or a place that was special to them. These can be things that we do alone, or with friends or family. You may have photos or particular memories which you treasure; sharing these with others may be something that brings you together.
2. Accept that others may have different ways of mourning
We know that people remember and mourn in different ways. Conflict within a family can sometimes arise when we have expectations of how others should grieve, so try to be sensitive to others’ needs, and to talk openly about what will be best for you.
3. Try to maintain a routine

The Christmas period may mean that your normal routine is disrupted, and this can make it easier to forget to look after yourself. Trying to keep to regular patterns of sleeping and eating are small things that can make a difference. Seeing friends or family, or volunteering for the day, can all help.

4. Go easy on the drink

It’s tempting to drink more on festive occasions, and it can feel like a drink might help numb any difficult feelings. But it’s important to remember that using alcohol to escape the pain of loss provides only very temporary relief. If you find you’re relying heavily on drinking alcohol, consider taking some drink free days. You can also find advice from Drink Aware on how to reduce your alcohol consumption.

5. Remember the happy times

Even many years after someone dies Christmas can be a difficult, intensely emotional time when we need to look after ourselves and those around us. But as time passes, special occasions like Christmas can help us remember happy memories of good times shared in the past.

6. Skip the Christmas films

It can be tough when you are bombarded by images of people enjoying happy family times. If it’s getting too much, consider taking a break from the Christmas TV and social media and maybe take a walk or get some fresh air in any way you can.

7. Talk to someone

If you’re struggling to deal with the grieving process over Christmas, you can message a trained grief counsellor on this website or the link below.

Cruse.Org

What Causes Children to Become Narcissists

Psychologists explain.

Image – Learning Mind

Many people believe narcissists aren’t born that way. Psychologists aren’t sure the exact cause but think children become this way due to their environment. We have a more in-depth look into what causes children to become narcissists.

WHAT IS NARCISSISTIC PERSONALITY DISORDER?

Let’s look at the clinical definition of Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD). This is a diagnosed mental health condition, not just a term to toss around lightly.

Mental health professionals look for signs like the following: arrogance, chronic attention-seeking, manipulation, entitlement, fascination for wealth and power, and hate for criticism.

Narcissistic Personality Disorder is hard to diagnose in children or teenagers. At younger ages, humans are always growing and changing. The personality traits of a narcissist usually worsen with age.

So just because a person feels the need always to be right or is selfish, those actions do not mean that they have a mental illness, necessarily.

THE STUDY OF NARCISSISM IN CHILDREN

There was a study in Psychological and Cognitive Sciences done by the University of Amsterdam on narcissism in children. This study helped figure out the levels of children’s self-esteem due to parental involvement. The researchers concluded that narcissism was predicted more by parental overvaluation than by the lack of parental warmth.

PSYCHOLOGISTS’ VIEW OF WHAT TRIGGERS NARCISSISM IN CHILDREN

Psychologists do agree parental behavior is a contribution to developing a narcissistic child. This doesn’t mean all narcissists are created by their parents. We’ll also examine some people are just born with that personality. Some psychologists believe children are more likely to show these traits when parents throw praise on them. Others think they show these traits because they don’t shower them with love and affection. We’ll dive into both of these views.

NEED FOR APPROVAL

There are a few things that can cause children to become narcissistic. It’s normal for children to want their parents’ approval and their attention. Sometimes when a child cannot get that attention because the family is very competitive and only values high achievement, the child gets left behind. Sometimes the child only feels loved when they win. If they don’t get recognition for second place, they feel like a disappointment.

If a child grows up in a narcissistic family, they only see these values. They set up a lifelong pattern of chasing happiness. Other times the child feels defeated as they’re told over and over again that they aren’t good enough. They decide to love themselves and make the world like them since their parents don’t show them enough love.

Sometimes they go as far as to do outlandish things because they crave attention. When they don’t get approval, they push the bar further and further until someone has to “see” them and approve them. It becomes a vicious cycle.

2 – STRIVING TO BE PERFECT

When children believe they are only loved and praised when they “win,” they start to feel insecure. They think they’re only valued when they are unique. The child begins to try to be “perfect” to be seen. They strive for perfection to prove they don’t have flaws. The parent continues to put them down when they don’t get all A’s or score goals in a game.

If the child isn’t good enough in their eyes, they are set in a hypothetical corner of the room. The problem with this is the child loses touch with themselves. They don’t even know who they are at the root. They spend their time trying to perfect every activity instead of concentrating on their development as a person. A child should be able to be imperfect at times.

They cannot always score the winning goal. If a parent doesn’t tell them it’s okay to miss a goal, they’ll feel defeated at all times.

PARENTS WHO MAKE KIDS THE CENTER OF THE UNIVERSE

Many parents make their children the center of their universe. This doesn’t mean the child will suddenly become a narcissist. Toddlers go through a stage that many call “The Terrible Twos.” If a toddler is neglected through this stage, they sometimes leave the stage without completing it. This scenario may sound like a dream to a parent, but it’s a negative thing.

They will mature into adults with this same perception of the world. During this stage, they should realize there are other people in their world. They understand they need other people, but they want to be independent. This is just a normal stage. Young children need boundaries.

If they aren’t allowed to fail and know their limits, they grow up without any expectations. They learn these limits by throwing tantrums, screaming, manipulating, and making up emotions. If they don’t learn any of these things, they might become narcissists. They expect the world does revolve around them, and they should get what they want.

The scary part is that this toddler then becomes an adult having a tantrum. They think they deserve attention.

PARENTS HEAP ON TOO MUCH PRAISE

Many parents overly praise their children. It’s the world of participation trophies we live in. You can work with your child to ensure they don’t go down this path.

As a parent, you have to help them realize they are going to fail. It’s okay to fail. Teach them empathy and kindness to others. Show them with your actions. Set boundaries for them daily. There are a million different “rules” on parenting in the world. Some say you praise too much. Some say you don’t praise enough.

The most important thing is to work with your child, so they understand you love them, but you have to set boundaries for them as well.

PARENTAL MIRROR IMAGE

Many times narcissists as children learn from their parents. When the parents treat the child as if they are perfect, the child starts to believe it. Praise is lovely to a child, but praising their every move can be detrimental to their development. When the parent shows narcissistic tendencies, the child might start to act the same way.

NATURE VS. NURTURE

Some children are born with a tendency to fell less emotional empathy than others. By nature, they are simply not as empathetic as other people. They don’t feel much emotion. This doesn’t mean they are a narcissist. It just means they don’t have this emotion as much as others.

They see the parent showing off, living like the rules don’t matter, and treating people with disrespect. Children often mirror what they see in their parents. They start to do these same things without realizing it.

Nurture is a learned habit. If narcissists have a mental illness of this sort, they usually are taught relationships aren’t as meaningful. They see people as objects at times because it is learned. They were born with the ability to love, yet don’t feel it because they aren’t shown enough love. Note that this does not mean that every child who isn’t nurtured with love will become a narcissist.

NOTICING NARCISSISTIC TRAITS IN CHILDREN

It’s important to watch out for ways the child shows narcissistic tendencies.

  • When they start to act entitled, it’s time to step in and show them who’s boss.
  • They also may become aggressive.
  • When they don’t get their way, watch out. Many times the worst parts of a narcissist will show when they are threatened. Their ego is their protection.
  • Once you push it, they sometimes crumble under stress.
  • They do not like it when their self-esteem is damaged. When they feel failure, they often lash out.
THE TOUGH TRUTH

It can be tough to see these traits in children. Narcissists don’t seem contrary to the exterior. They act how you think they should. A person might seem to have all of the right intentions but always has an angle.

They often deflect blame onto anyone around them. Furthermore, they charm you with their angelic actions, only to later show their true selves. Children and teenagers often show all sorts of these traits just because of their age. They might not have a mental health issue but are just everyday kids. It’s important to watch them closely over time to see if their personality changes in a positive way.

HELP FOR A NARCISSISTIC CHILD

The problem with narcissistic people is that there is no cure for their behavior. If it’s changed and worked within childhood, they can hopefully let the other positive parts of their personality shine. They have to want to change. Adults must work with children that have these tendencies to protect their future social relationships. Many claim it’s almost impossible for them to have intimate relationships because they see affection as a means to an end.

FINAL THOUGHTS ON WHY CHILDREN GROW UP TO BECOME NARCISSISTS

Overall, a narcissistic child can change if they get intervention at a young age. Changing an adult’s perspective is much harder. Children grow and learn by those that guide them through life. It’s great to praise their strange artwork, but only if you do it to an extent. There’s a balance between neglecting your children and overpraising them.

Narcissists create an unfavorable environment for anyone in their path. Therefore, it’s essential to work with children to ensure their future is positive and healthy.

Power of Positivity