NARCISSISM NOTES #13–Trajectories of Transformation, Chapter 9: “Transformation for Narcissists (Is Possible).”

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

Can abusive people change? If so, how–and how much? Chapter 9 deals with hard theological and therapeutic questions like these. My notes on this final chapter lay out Chuck’s case for possibilities of change as stratified according to the spectrum of narcissism (detailed in Chapter 2), indicators of openness to change, and who is likely or not to pursue transformation.

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

Introduction

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. Continue reading

NARCISSISM NOTES #11–Systems and Narcissism, Ch. 7: “The Gaslight Is On: Spiritual and Emotional Abuse.”

Introduction

Narcissism Notes share my interactions with material Chuck DeGroat presents in When Narcissism Comes To Church: Healing Your Community from Emotional and Spiritual Abuse. Here are six things that came out of my thinking about the two chapters in which Chuck dealt with dynamics in systems dominated by narcissism–the first three items from Chapter 6 and the last three from Chapter 7.

  1. The whole system gets poisoned/tainted.
  2. Systemic narcissism manifests with two different “faces.”
  3. We can composite deeper insight from viewing sick systems from different angles.
  4. People in self-serving systems try to make you think you’re the sane ones by joining and staying, but the crazy ones if you won’t stay compliant and want to leave.
  5. What we’ve called “gaslighting” is actually a range of toxic tactics.
  6. Important reasons for understanding narcissistic/toxic systems before attempting to start up or transition to a healthy system.

Let’s dive in and see what’s what … Continue reading

NARCISSISM NOTES #10–Systems and Narcissism, Ch. 6: “Understanding Narcissistic Systems.”

Introduction

Narcissism Notes share my interactions with material Chuck DeGroat presents in When Narcissism Comes To Church: Healing Your Community from Emotional and Spiritual Abuse. Here are six things that came out of my thinking about the two chapters in which Chuck dealt with dynamics in systems dominated by narcissism — the first three items from Chapter 6 and the last three from Chapter 7.

  1. The whole system gets poisoned/tainted.
  2. Systemic narcissism manifests with two different “faces.”
  3. We can composite deeper insight from viewing sick systems from different angles.
  4. People in self-serving systems try to make you think you’re the sane ones by joining and staying, but the crazy ones if you won’t stay compliant and want to leave.
  5. What we’ve called “gaslighting” is actually a range of toxic tactics.
  6. Important reasons for understanding narcissistic/toxic systems before attempting to start up or transition to a healthy system.

Let’s dive in and see what’s what … Continue reading

NARCISSISM NOTES #9–My Book Review for *When Narcissism Comes To Church* by Chuck DeGroat

BOOK REVIEW

When Narcissism Comes To Church: Healing Your Community From Emotional and Spiritual Abuse, by Chuck DeGroat (InterVarsity Press; release date March 17, 2020).

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Best broadband introduction I’ve found for all parties affected to identify and deal with abuse.

As a young Christian in college, I survived a brutal, three-year church split that fractured our church into four fragments. I had to decide whether Christianity was a crock and I should discard it, or if something had gone terribly wrong along the way in this church. I was driven to make sense of the horrific treatment I’d seen and the resulting confusion and emotional trauma I’d experienced:

  • How could supposedly Bible-believing Christians do such cruel things to one another?
  • Did the leaders teach and/or live some right things, but in a wrong way?
  • There were no justifications for what happened—but were there other explanations?

There weren’t any books on spiritual abuse recovery back in the 1970s. When Narcissism Comes To Church by Chuck DeGroat is the book I wish I’d had, to help me understand how I’d been susceptible to getting sucked into such a toxic system in the first place, how to interpret the crazy-making tactics of the abusive pastor and his band of enablers who took over the church, how to heal, and how to support the few friends I had left who’d gotten mixed up in that mess.

Like many abuse survivors, I didn’t want what happened to me to happen to others. So, I was always watching for resources on any/all forms of abuse. Eventually I felt led to find or develop ministry resources myself. Since 2007, I’ve invested myself in research writing on subjects related to abusive individuals and the institutions they create or co-opt, recovery and ongoing resilience for survivors, and practical solutions for intervening in and preventing systemic abuse.

On that basis, I can say with confidence that When Narcissism Comes To Church serves as a centerpiece resource for [1] abuse survivors and their personal support/advocacy networks; [2] personal equippers and social change agents (counselors, teachers, writers, activists, social entrepreneurs); and [3] leaders in established churches, plants, and non-profits.

Chuck DeGroat—who has experience and expertise in all three of these groups himself—integrates principles, practices, and personal stories in a masterful way that moves us forward, yet always using personable and accessible language. He introduces a comprehensive range of essential concept frameworks and solution skills that these audiences likely already know they need. He also embeds clues to advanced principles and practices they might not otherwise realize for years that they require in order to go deeper.

I’m thankful for the compassion and wisdom Chuck DeGroat puts on every page. He’s gifted us with a guidebook to personal healing from emotional and spiritual abuse. But his book also gives all parties affected a common vocabulary for the challenging conversations we must be having about individual recovery and support, and institutional rehabilitation and health. This is why, in a time of reckoning on abuse in our congregations and communities, I believe When Narcissism Comes To Church is destined to become a timeless, standard resource.

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NARCISSISM NOTES #8–Book Review Links for *When Narcissism Comes To Church* by Chuck DeGroat

BOOK REVIEW LINKS RESOURCE LIST

When Narcissism Comes To Church: Healing Your Community From Emotional and Spiritual Abuse, by Chuck DeGroat (InterVarsity Press; release date March 17, 2020).

I’m still processing my own review, which I plan to post around the official book release date. But if your interest has been piqued, you’ll find many reviews already available online — both official Endorsement Reviews and reader reviews. More will be available on/after the launch date of March 17th, as some sales sources do not post reader reviews until the official release date.

From being on Chuck DeGroat‘s launch team, I know a broad range of people are dedicating themselves to reading and reviewing his book. These include both men and women, from multiple generations, with personal and professional backgrounds that may include being a: pastor, church staff member, abuse survivor or family member, therapist-counselor-clinician, spiritual formation director, teacher, professor, leadership trainer, church planter, researcher, blogger, and/or book author.

Check out their reviews — the composite of these many perspectives provides a significant sense of how exceptionally relevant for all kinds of disciples that When Narcissism Comes To Church is!

And feel free to share this post or repost any of the information/links from the list below.

P.S. Still time to pre-order from InterVarsity Press or your favorite bookstore.

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NARCISSISM NOTES #7–Pastors and Narcissism, Chapter 5: “The Inner Life of a Narcissistic Pastor.”

Introduction

Narcissism Notes share my interactions with material Chuck DeGroat presents in When Narcissism Comes To Church: Healing Your Community from Emotional and Spiritual Abuse. Here are four things that especially intrigued me in the two chapters Chuck wrote about narcissism and pastors:

  1. Attesting to the Accuracy of Chuck DeGroat’s Narcissism Indicator Lists
  2. The Reality of “Fauxnerability”
  3. Behavior Points, Patterns, and Drivers: The Importance of Seeing All Three Elements
  4. How Embracing Paradoxes Like Sinner/Saint and Light/Shadow, Serves to Amplify Hope.

Typically, when I start writing a blog post about a topic, I have no idea how long it will turn out. I can’t project what twists and turns it might take or what I may learn along the way. Or whether I can make my own reflections clear and accessible to my readers. That last part can prove particularly challenging.

And in fact, I had a difficult time getting down on virtual paper my thoughts about Chapter 5. It’s not an isolated chapter that describes what goes on in the heart and mind of someone who is narcissistic. It seems to be in the middle of the book for good reasons, and I needed to take that into account.

In the bigger picture of Chuck’s book, Chapter 5 looks to be a set-up to link into how a toxic pastor grows an abusive organizational system (key topics in chapters 6 and 7) and then the huge issue of whether pathological pastors can undergo healing, transformative processes — and if so, how (key topic in chapter 9).

So I guess it makes sense that it was harder to crack through the surface of this chapter’s material, and see how it fits into the larger scheme of things in identifying narcissism and and dealing with narcissistic pastors. I hope I’m not imposing some kind of complications or sophistication that weren’t actually there. Anyway, I hope I’ve made my thoughts relatively clear so you can decide for yourself. Continue reading

NARCISSISM NOTES #6–Pastors and Narcissism, Ch. 4: “Characteristics of the Narcissistic Pastor.”

Introduction

Narcissism Notes share my interactions with material Chuck DeGroat presents in When Narcissism Comes To Church: Healing Your Community from Emotional and Spiritual Abuse. Here are four things that especially intrigued me in the two chapters Chuck wrote about narcissism and pastors, two points from each chapter.

  1. Attesting to the Accuracy of Chuck DeGroat’s Narcissism Indicator List
  2. The Reality of “Fauxnerability”
  3. Behavior Points, Patterns, and Drivers: The Importance of Seeing All Three Elements
  4. How Embracing Paradoxes Like Sinner/Saint and Light/Shadow, Serves to Amplify Hope

NOTE: March 17th — St. Patrick’s Day — is the official launch date for Chuck’s book. Still time to pre-order at InterVarsity Press site or your favorite bookstore! Continue reading

NARCISSISM NOTES #5–Basics About Narcissism, Chapter 3: “The Nine Faces of Narcissism.”

Introduction

Narcissism Notes share my interactions with material Chuck DeGroat presents in When Narcissism Comes To Church: Healing Your Community from Emotional and Spiritual Abuse. Here are four things that especially intrigued me in Chapter 3 on “The Nine Faces of Narcissism” that I thought might also be of interest to abuse survivors, advocates, and church/ministry leaders:

  1. Chuck DeGroat’s Hybrid Framework for Identifying and Dealing with Narcissism
  2. Paradoxical, Paradigm-Shifting Creativity: A Theologian-Practitioner Can Do Novel Synthesis
  3. Who is My “Pool”? Identity, Reflections, and Deflections
  4. Thoughts on “The Nine Faces of Narcissism” and the Kinds of Cultures We are Drawn Toward

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NARCISSISM NOTES #4–Basics About Narcissism, Chapter 2: “Understanding Narcissism.”

Introduction

It’s not my intention in this series to summarize every chapter. Instead, I want to share a few things that strike me as things I’m learning and/or that I believe will be helpful for abuse survivors, advocates, and church/ministry leaders to consider.

So, Narcissism Notes are my interactions with material Chuck DeGroat presents in When Narcissism Comes To Church: Healing Your Community from Emotional and Spiritual Abuse. I don’t have a set number of reflections for each post. Chuck’s material in Chapter 2 on “Understanding Narcissism” led me into three thought-chains that I think could prove helpful to other readers:

  1. Narcissus and the Power of Storying
  2. Narcissism as a “Human Universal” — Mythology, History, Psychology, Anthropology, Theology
  3. The Spectrum of Narcissism, “Excuseology,” and Avoiding the Temptation to Label

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