NARCISSISM NOTES #12–Trajectories of Transformation, Ch. 8: “Healing Ourselves, Healing the Church.”


Narcissism Notes share my interactions with material Chuck DeGroat presents in When Narcissism Comes To Church: Healing Your Community from Emotional and Spiritual Abuse.

This chapter presents a unique challenge: How do you do justice in just one chapter to the immense issues involved in the healing process when people and organizations have been traumatized by narcissistic abusers of word, deed, and power? There are entire books dealing with that.

And yet, I feel Chuck has done a credible job in that Herculean task to lift up healing with a framework that makes sense for both personal and organizational transformation. His use of the Exodus journey as a metaphor provides a meaningful touchstone for reflecting on the ups and downs of recovery. And his use of three people’s narratives — Paul, Stacy, and Heather — periodically throughout the chapter interweaves how individuals and institutions influence each other in both wounding and healing.

For this chapter, things went in a different direction as far as sharing my thoughts on Chuck’s material. A number of quotes struck me, and I decided to feature them, with a small amount of commentary. After the initial quote “slide,” the rest are numbered in the lower left-hand corner, and those numbers appear at the end of the subheads.

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The Journey Toward Jesus (8-1, 8-2)

The Exodus narrative gives us many parallels to consider between a physical and spiritual change of location. Think of the concept framework for journeying — starting point, ending point/goal, GPS, landscapes, barriers along the way, times of rest, perhaps long periods of ennui instead of energy and enthusiasm.

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Parallel Processes for Individuals and Institutions (8-3, 8-4)

In the big picture of abuse, individuals and institutions are often interconnected, and there is much we can learn if we see similarities in their processes of trajectory change and transformation. This gives us some of the motivation behind studying systems, to see how various elements in a situation interact, affect one another, help or hinder a positive change process. (Sidenote: In one of his videos about narcissism, Chuck DeGroat recommended the works of Peter Senge for understanding systems, mental models, and paradigm shifts.)

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What is “the Real Work” in Healing? (8-5, 8-6, 8-7)

Just as toxins (organic poisons) corrode an institution’s infrastructure and bend it to false purposes, so trauma reshapes an individual’s being and identity, hijacking him or her into an orbit that tethers them to their abusers. To reclaim freedom requires breaking out of the orbit around their abusers, flushing out those corrosive and parasitic elements that abusers have infused into the system, and setting out on a reimagined and reset trajectory.

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Key to Healthy Recovery: It’s a “Who,” Not Just a “What” (8-8)

Chuck notes, “I’ve rarely seen a healthy recovery happen without a wise guide accompanying and leading it” (page 144). He applies it to both individuals and institutions. In one case he describes, the church hired an organizational consultant to pilot the recovery process:

Phase 1, a season of truth-telling.

Phase 2, reimagine corporate sense of call, mission, and identity.

Phase 3, internal leadership team return to their main role as consultancy phases out.

Who knows … once we have undergone deep transformation ourselves from trauma that was inflicted upon us, perhaps we may sense a calling to become a wise guide to people and/or organizations that are starting on their own healing journey.

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Some Final Thoughts

I prefer print books over eBooks, because I practically destroy a good book with writing all over the margins, and underlining, sometimes even color-coding with highlighters. It helps me concentrate, and to code important things I run across.

Chapter 8 on “Healing Ourselves, Healing the Church,” is one I marked up extensively. In looking back through those pages while working on this post, I realized I had circled a lot of words. A closer inspection showed most were action verbs and other highly descriptive terms.

As a do-it-yourself exercise, note words that stand out to you in this chapter, especially those related to the process of recovery and what “resilience” looks like. Here is a sampling of words I circled and/or underlined:

Resilience: empowerment – confidence – restructure – steward – grieved – reimagined – vision – articulated – identified – trust – courage.

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