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Katy

Narcissism and theology (CC)

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I have no problem with establishing healthy boundaries to avoid being manipulated, but this thread is about theology and how mental health fits into that. When the founding documents of the Abrahamic religions were written, mental health wasn't considered a biological property. It was a matter of the will, a detached, dualist force that guides the body, mind and soul. We know better now, so how does theology keep up?

 

If we can pinpoint a mental health problem to an actual biological issue that doesn't negate the underlying theology that creation (soul + nature/biology) is fallen.  Nature was part of the curse handed down in Genesis, which includes the biology of man as well as our minds and every other part of the body.  It doesn't prohibit or negate trying to fix a problem.

 

Perhaps "back then" these things were attributed to the spiritual (demon possession or some such), but it wasn't necessarily considered an act of will that one could simply overcome on their own, and it wasn't an isolated phenomenon attributable only to Abrahamic religious documents.

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I have no problem with establishing healthy boundaries to avoid being manipulated, but this thread is about theology and how mental health fits into that.

 

What are healthy boundaries though?

 

I know what this thread is in part about, but I think this can extend beyond that to really pertain to anyone who deals with this.  I have no religious beliefs that tell me how to behave, but I do care about how I behave.  I just don't see any way I can deal with some of my family members other than staying completely away.

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If we can pinpoint a mental health problem to an actual biological issue that doesn't negate the underlying theology that creation (soul + nature/biology) is fallen.  Nature was part of the curse handed down in Genesis, which includes the biology of man as well as our minds and every other part of the body.  It doesn't prohibit or negate trying to fix a problem.

 

Perhaps "back then" these things were attributed to the spiritual (demon possession or some such), but it wasn't necessarily considered an act of will that one could simply overcome on their own, and it wasn't an isolated phenomenon attributable only to Abrahamic religious documents.

 

Regardless of what people thought when these documents were written, we know more about human behavior than the writers of these thousands of years old texts. We know more than we knew 100 years ago. We have no evidence of a "soul" or soul like element to humans, with the exception of a kind of poetic, philosophical concept that reflects idea that we have a "self" distinct from our physical bodies (definitions may vary). We know for example, that personality isn't influenced by the position of the stars in the heavens, or the sincere prayers uttered by the mother, but by a combination of neurological make up and environmental factors. Speculations about "fallen creation" are irrelevant with regard to understanding human behavior in any reliable, accurate way.

 

It seems to me that the moment a xian feels justified to stop sympathizing with a difficult person, then their god has washed his hands of them as well. There's a very clear correlation between the individual's opinion and the understood theology of the bible. The OP, and any xian really, can no doubt find a theology that is compatible with their own opinion, one that justifies their feelings, regardless of whether or not their actions are interpreted by others to be moral or ethical.

 

From the outside this looks an awful lot like throwing away, or "casting off" difficult people. I wonder how the church avoids that, if the church avoids that, and whether or not they should. Individually, I can understand drawing up boundaries and limiting or eliminating one's time with a difficult person. But if everyone in a church community does that, then the church has essentially turned out a person who may or may not be able to comply with social expectations. Interestingly enough, the rationalization is that they aren't trying hard enough, they aren't really a xian and so don't count, or they are trying to be difficult and people shouldn't fall for their tricks. It's always their fault, in other words, and the church community has no obligation to wrestle with this problem because the responsibility lies directly on the difficult person, whom we've established is in many ways a victim themselves. And I think it is a problem, especially as we are learning to identify more and more behaviors as being part of a pattern of dysfunction and disability. What does this say about a church that turns people away? But how does a church include people who are toxic? Is that even appropriate? I don't know. It's a difficult question. I've never encountered an answer to it, but this question has caught my attention, surely. 

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 I just don't see any way I can deal with some of my family members other than staying completely away.

 

I think that sometimes that's the only way to have a healthy boundary.  

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Admittedly, I know nothing about NPD, but I am familiar enough with other mental health challenges to know the bar isn't set at being able to handle a situation socially appropriately, but being able to handle situations socially appropriately consistently. You might think of it like watching a toddler grow up. She may have the ability to sit still in church for an hour, but that doesn't mean she can sit still hour after hour all day long in various environments. Maybe that's a bad example, as mental illness isn't like maturity, but it's the inability to translate a skill across many venues that I'm trying to get at here. In other words, just because you see someone acting polite in one aspect doesn't mean they can hold it together in others. Any parent of a special needs child who has been told the problem is at home because Jr simply doesn't act like reported at school will know how this works. 

 

 

I think it is a very good example. I was trying to think how to word that all yesterday!

 

 

 

 

The difficult with this kind of disorder is not, or not just, with deciding to be nice or be a jerk and follow through.  It's with understanding how to think about those things.  Either behavior is probably manipulative, or it lacks real understanding of ones own place in the world, or lacks understanding of other people's motivations. 

 

So the individual might treat one person as if they could do nothing wrong, and another like they could do nothing right, but both would be coming out of the same kind of tendency to see others only in terms of ones own ego.

 

It's not always just their own ego. If you're closely related, such as a partner, ex-partner or child, they don't really see you as a separate person to them. You are an outsourced piece of them. If you've ever had anyone joke "well your knee can't hurt, coz I can't feel it" it's like that. At least that is my experience. 

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Regardless of what people thought when these documents were written, we know more about human behavior than the writers of these thousands of years old texts. We know more than we knew 100 years ago. We have no evidence of a "soul" or soul like element to humans, with the exception of a kind of poetic, philosophical concept that reflects idea that we have a "self" distinct from our physical bodies (definitions may vary). We know for example, that personality isn't influenced by the position of the stars in the heavens, or the sincere prayers uttered by the mother, but by a combination of neurological make up and environmental factors. Speculations about "fallen creation" are irrelevant with regard to understanding human behavior in any reliable, accurate way.

 

It seems to me that the moment a xian feels justified to stop sympathizing with a difficult person, then their god has washed his hands of them as well. There's a very clear correlation between the individual's opinion and the understood theology of the bible. The OP, and any xian really, can no doubt find a theology that is compatible with their own opinion, one that justifies their feelings, regardless of whether or not their actions are interpreted by others to be moral or ethical.

 

From the outside this looks an awful lot like throwing away, or "casting off" difficult people. I wonder how the church avoids that, if the church avoids that, and whether or not they should. Individually, I can understand drawing up boundaries and limiting or eliminating one's time with a difficult person. But if everyone in a church community does that, then the church has essentially turned out a person who may or may not be able to comply with social expectations. Interestingly enough, the rationalization is that they aren't trying hard enough, they aren't really a xian and so don't count, or they are trying to be difficult and people shouldn't fall for their tricks. It's always their fault, in other words, and the church community has no obligation to wrestle with this problem because the responsibility lies directly on the difficult person, whom we've established is in many ways a victim themselves. And I think it is a problem, especially as we are learning to identify more and more behaviors as being part of a pattern of dysfunction and disability. What does this say about a church that turns people away? But how does a church include people who are toxic? Is that even appropriate? I don't know. It's a difficult question. I've never encountered an answer to it, but this question has caught my attention, surely. 

 

I guess I would argue that anyone, of any religion, philosophy or any belief system ultimately justifies their behavior and actions by it (or maybe the other way around, depending on the sitution).  To me, that's part of being human, but does not negate the existence of an absolute standard which says certain behaviors are either right or wrong.

 

I also don't think creation being fallen is irrelevant.  It is (for me) the basis of "why" biology goes wrong, why people get sick, why people are mean to each other, why things sometimes suck, and ultimately why people die.  It is philosophical and theological, but there are scientific explanations for each of those things as well.  When I look around, at NPD, grief, cancer, what or other issues, I see things that are wrong with the world.  But the belief that there is a "cause" or "reason" that things have gone wrong does not preclude me from studying the science of it or trying to fix it via medicinal or other means.  Rather, it is an overarching, general philosophy/theology.  It's two different types of answers to the same question.  One is a philosophical discussion, one is a study of medicine and biology.  Why are people mentally ill?  Some people are mentally ill because their brain doesn't make enough of chemical X.  Why are people mentally ill?  Because we live in a fallen world.  They are two different discussions, but as a Christian I don't think the second answer means we can't study the science behind the actual machinations of the brain to try to improve broken biology.

 

In general, in my church, any type of church discipline for hurting other members (using adultery as an example, maybe the person who commits it is NPD, maybe they aren't) is used with the idea that said person would be restored to the church.  If someone is continually abusing someone, however, they will generally be excommunicated and the church would (or should) be standing up for the abused/betrayed.  In my church, restoration of an adulterer to the church does not mean that a divorce wouldn't occur or that the church wouldn't advocate strongly for the betrayed spouse and children caught in the middle.  It would mean different things in different situations.

 

I've never been in a church where the elders didn't wrestle with the problem of people who were caught in a hard place -- where they continually asked the church for aid in some way while it also appeared to some that they were taking advantage of generosity.  It is a tough place for leadership to be -- they do need to render aid, but also need to protect the congregation.  I don't envy being in that position, honestly.

 

Sorry, I've addressed your points in a non-linear fashion, hopefully it's clear which parts of your post I'm responding to.

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What are healthy boundaries though?

 

I know what this thread is in part about, but I think this can extend beyond that to really pertain to anyone who deals with this.  I have no religious beliefs that tell me how to behave, but I do care about how I behave.  I just don't see any way I can deal with some of my family members other than staying completely away.

 

I don't disagree with you, I'm only talking about how this decision influences one's theological beliefs. 

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I guess I would argue that anyone, of any religion, philosophy or any belief system ultimately justifies their behavior and actions by it (or maybe the other way around, depending on the sitution).  To me, that's part of being human, but does not negate the existence of an absolute standard which says certain behaviors are either right or wrong.

 

I agree with your argument that anyone, of any religion, philosophy or any belief system ultimately justifies their own behavior and actions by it. I would add that communities and societies with a shared belief tend to modify those belief systems in order to be compatible with moral codes that evolve as new information comes in. We can see that our nation does not abide by the same religious beliefs it did in Colonial days when women would be arrested for wearing trousers, attempting to vote, or own land. I would also argue that does not negate the existence of an absolute standard, but it does reveal the lack of any absolute standard, or at least any means by which an absolute standard could be reliably identified. 
 

I also don't think creation being fallen is irrelevant.  It is (for me) the basis of "why" biology goes wrong, why people get sick, why people are mean to each other, why things sometimes suck, and ultimately why people die.  It is philosophical and theological, but there are scientific explanations for each of those things as well.  When I look around, at NPD, grief, cancer, what or other issues, I see things that are wrong with the world.  But the belief that there is a "cause" or "reason" that things have gone wrong does not preclude me from studying the science of it or trying to fix it via medicinal or other means.  Rather, it is an overarching, general philosophy/theology.  It's two different types of answers to the same question.  One is a philosophical discussion, one is a study of medicine and biology.  Why are people mentally ill?  Some people are mentally ill because their brain doesn't make enough of chemical X.  Why are people mentally ill?  Because we live in a fallen world.  They are two different discussions, but as a Christian I don't think the second answer means we can't study the science behind the actual machinations of the brain to try to improve broken biology.

 

It's irrelevant to the study of human behavior, neurology, and biology in general. Regardless of how sincere your personal beliefs are, regardless of how often your experiences seem to confirm those beliefs, there exists no evidence credible enough to plug into any equation for this purpose. Additionally, the explanations we have work elegantly and reliably without any supernatural elements involved. They are simply superfluous at best.

 

The thing about theology is that it changes tune with new information, and mental health is the latest new information to really rock the theological boat. Xians have, for the most part, given up on imposing theological answers to explain adverse weather patterns, tsunamis, droughts, and the like. Similarly, xians have abandoned the theological argument that cutting out your eye as an appropriate response to a problem with overwhelming sexual temptation. It's more difficult to find a xian support slavery today than two hundred years ago. The church has to keep up with information if it's going to maintain a member base.

 

Arguably, the millennials falling away from the religion of their parents in record number is in direct response to the church's slow trudge towards progressing towards a moral code that considers new information, and its insistence on maintaining antiquated explanations and expectations even as they are considered offensive and hurtful to innocent people. Sure, philosophical and religious discussions always accompany modern interpretation of new information, but increasingly, it's dismissed as being hostile towards people in favor of maintaining an outmoded belief promoted by conventional theology. I think this thread is an interesting example of such a discussion.

 

You say the two explanations are compatible, but we're finding people no longer agree. Further, I think there is no evidence for such a claim. It is one accepted in faith only, as science and religion are competing methods of understanding the world. I think that would be an interesting thread topic if this strays too far off topic. 

 

In general, in my church, any type of church discipline for hurting other members (using adultery as an example, maybe the person who commits it is NPD, maybe they aren't) is used with the idea that said person would be restored to the church.  If someone is continually abusing someone, however, they will generally be excommunicated and the church would (or should) be standing up for the abused/betrayed.  In my church, restoration of an adulterer to the church does not mean that a divorce wouldn't occur or that the church wouldn't advocate strongly for the betrayed spouse and children caught in the middle.  It would mean different things in different situations.

 

I've never been in a church where the elders didn't wrestle with the problem of people who were caught in a hard place -- where they continually asked the church for aid in some way while it also appeared to some that they were taking advantage of generosity.  It is a tough place for leadership to be -- they do need to render aid, but also need to protect the congregation.  I don't envy being in that position, honestly.

 

It makes sense to me to excommunicate a person who causes pain and suffering. I think Sparkly has a great point - sometimes the only appropriate thing to do is avoid the person who constantly causes pain and suffering of others. 

 

But what does that mean for churches? Do they abandon socially difficult people? Is that the expectation? Parents with special needs children take them to church, and I suspect everyone assumes that time, education, and maturity will help the child grow to the point where they won't be disruptive in service. It's one thing to ignore a baby crying, or a child fussing, or even an older child fussing when we know they'll likely grow out of it. I think people ignore them because we know they can't always control their responses to their emotions. What's striking me as being problematic is that we're learning that people with hidden mental challenges are similarly incapable of always controlling their responses to their emotions. So...the child is inconvenient but tolerable because he can't always help it, but the adult is guilty of being "bad," even when we know they can't always help it? 

 

But how does a church ensure a safe place for people who need a safe people to gather to recharge their own batteries if unsafe people are not kept separate? 

 

I honestly don't know. 

 

Theologically speaking, an omniscient god would have this all figured out, but society is just now learning there's a problem. 

 

It's an interesting problem.

 

Sorry, I've addressed your points in a non-linear fashion, hopefully it's clear which parts of your post I'm responding to.

 

It's all good. :-)

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It's irrelevant to the study of human behavior, neurology, and biology in general. Regardless of how sincere your personal beliefs are, regardless of how often your experiences seem to confirm those beliefs, there exists no evidence credible enough to plug into any equation for this purpose. Additionally, the explanations we have work elegantly and reliably without any supernatural elements involved. They are simply superfluous at best.

 

 

 

It may be for you, but for me it actually informs how I respond and what any of it actually means in the long term.  For me, there is no purpose beyond chemical functions of the brain without a standard to apply to those functions.  If all of it is just brain chemistry (matter reacting to other matter which started at some indeterminate point in the past) then I can't resolve any of the behaviors to bad or good or anywhere in between.  It's just chemistry and physics.  How could it be anything more?  How could it be anything other than a simple chain of events that I have no control over?

 

 

 

The thing about theology is that it changes tune with new information, and mental health is the latest new information to really rock the theological boat. Xians have, for the most part, given up on imposing theological answers to explain adverse weather patterns, tsunamis, droughts, and the like. Similarly, xians have abandoned the theological argument that cutting out your eye as an appropriate response to a problem with overwhelming sexual temptation. It's more difficult to find a xian support slavery today than two hundred years ago. The church has to keep up with information if it's going to maintain a member base.

 

 

Well, yes, we know understand more than we did 1000 years ago about the physics and chemistry of water, mental health, and weather. But again, you're conflating theology and science.  Science tells us how a tsunami forms using physics.  But where did physics come from and why does it matter how a wave changes any given landscape?  Theology/philosophy tells us the answer to the problem of suffering and evil when matter is rearranged on the earth in a way that physically or mentally causes us pain.  Why does it matter, in the long run, if my matter is rearranged in a such a way that, for example, my brain no longer functions?  Most people see death as, um, less than ideal.  It causes grief and suffering.  But, in the long run, it's simply a rearrangement of what my matter is currently doing. A tsunami, brain waves, decomposing plant matter are all just matter rearranging themselves according to chemistry and physics.  And we can study the hows of this and try to change these things to ameliorate some of the suffering, but science leaves nothing for us in terms of what is "good", "bad", "acceptable", "elegant", "horrible", etc.  Only philosophy, theology, and some sort of moral standard can attribute abstract concepts to scientific phenomena.

 

And to your second point referencing Matthew 5, I don't think it follows from your previous sentence (I mean I think you're onto another subject), and I don't know why you think Christians have abandoned the argument that sin is serious enough to get rid of a body part in order to avoid it.  It's a metaphor, and quite graphic, to illustrate a point.  Usually these days it is likened to cutting off one's internet to avoid the temptation of porn, but it's still very much preached on and applied by many people I know.

 

As for slavery, I would argue that people have come around to the perspective that all men are created equal in the image of God and have value as humans, rather than the other way around.  Slavery is evil precisely because it ignores that point.

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Theologically speaking, an omniscient god would have this all figured out, but society is just now learning there's a problem. 

 

 

 

I've been very fortunate to be a part of churches where all of the "socially difficult" people are cared for to the best of the church's ability, with care and advocacy also given to the victims of any abuse first and foremost.

I would argue that God has and will redeem all things through Jesus Christ.  That is the solution, and it is "figured out".

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Agreed. My MIL was NPD. Clearly, although never diagnosed. But she was miserable all the time. She couldn't seem to figure out that her own behavior was what made her miserable, and what alienated everyone from her. She loved her sons, but drove them away with broken behavior. Or at least, I think she love din the only way she could...which didn't look like love much of the time. But she certainly wasn't happy. She died lonely and miserable.

I remember my mum once sobbing to me after yet another argument shed had with a friend, she said 'I'm almost starting to wonder if I'm the problem!' I nearly bit my tongue off trying to keep quiet- I would have just made myself a target...

She's not a happy person, but in a sick way she's only happy when she's not.

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This is what I wonder as well, especially when the golden child is never subjected to the same poor treatment. I have a difficult time understanding how it can be an illness when the person seems to have control over whom she/he inflicts her/his craziness.

Exactly, my mum hid it from my husband for 10 years. Only then did he see what she did to me (and I accurately predicted her every move) and realise that I wasn't exaggerating. My sister has never been subjected either. Once she came close, and my sister rang me in tears thinking that mum had lost her mind, that episode was tip of the iceberg to what I'd experienced...

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I think of my family members with personality disorders as having something akin to rabies. I don't consider the illness their fault. There is little I can do to make them better. I feel badly for them, but I can't allow them opportunity to "bite" me or my children.

 

Their relationship with God is none of my business or concern.  Now, I do think we have a responsibility to speak up about these people's behaviors when it is impacting the innocent, and particularly when they are using the guise of God's work to carry out evil. I'm thinking about recent revelations about Bill Gothard, and, on the progressive side, the whole Tony Jones debacle. However, there are also situations among my friends and family where narcissists and those with BPD are hurting people, and I will speak out there too.

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It may be for you

 

No, for any field of science pertaining to human or animal behavior, neurology, or biology in general. If you have evidence of a "soul" or the condition of "fallenness," please share. If you have a standard definition that can be agreed upon by all xians, not to mention the scientific community, I'd be interested in hearing it. 

 

but for me it actually informs how I respond and what any of it actually means in the long term.  For me, there is no purpose beyond chemical functions of the brain without a standard to apply to those functions.  If all of it is just brain chemistry (matter reacting to other matter which started at some indeterminate point in the past) then I can't resolve any of the behaviors to bad or good or anywhere in between.  It's just chemistry and physics.  How could it be anything more?  How could it be anything other than a simple chain of events that I have no control over?

 

So because you can't resolve it, there must be a "fallen creation"? Do you think science as a methodology is capable of exploring these questions and details?

 

But again, you're conflating theology and science....

 

I am not conflating them. I very specifically said they are opposing methods of trying to understand the world. Your next comments illustrates a confusion about what the scientific method does, how it functions, how information derived from it is used. You also mistake assumptions as facts, assumptions that are not agreed upon by other religions, not even agreed upon within the xian religion. Then you share your personal moral code and how your bible interpretation is used to justify it. As interesting as it may be, it's not a fact. As an opinion, it isn't even shared by all xians throughout time and across the globe. I don't mind responding more, but that's way off topic. If you want to start a new thread, I'll respond there.

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It's not always just their own ego. If you're closely related, such as a partner, ex-partner or child, they don't really see you as a separate person to them. You are an outsourced piece of them. If you've ever had anyone joke "well your knee can't hurt, coz I can't feel it" it's like that. At least that is my experience.

Yep.

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NPD involves chronic abuse. Hiding that, taking it to PMs only, only serves the abusers.

 

We are not at risk of hurting anyone's feelings in this thread b/c N don't ever believe that they have NPD. They are probably nodding along or calling us all whiners. That is part of it.

 

Maybe I'm wrong, but the damage I've seen is so devastating...it's worth talking about.

Amen. People need to know and understand how narcissists work. Narcissists are on the level of psychopaths to me. They ruin lives and leave emotional scars that last for years. Silence enables them because people spend years trying to be peaceful with people who are completely and utterly disinterested in being peaceful. I do not believe they have a conscience. They will do whatever it takes to cope with what is broken within them. I refuse to even consider a narcissist's feelings any more because that is how you get abused again.

 

Frankly, we don't talk about them enough. And no one that actually fits the clinical definition of a narcissist believes they are a narcissist, so the odds of offending are low.

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 If you're closely related, such as a partner, ex-partner or child, they don't really see you as a separate person to them. You are an outsourced piece of them.  

 

That is an excellent way to articulate that phenomenon.

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I am not conflating them. I very specifically said they are opposing methods of trying to understand the world. Your next comments illustrates a confusion about what the scientific method does, how it functions, how information derived from it is used.

 

 

 

You continue to apply scientific "evidence" to a theological viewpoint.  From my perspective that is conflation.  Science cannot make moral judgements, nor even lead us to moral judgements.  Matter, on its own, is amoral.  Scientific findings tell us what is going on.  It cannot tell us if it is good or bad.  Science and physical matter cannot point to a moral conclusion without some outside standard applied to it.  But, they are not opposing.  Science telling me how to fix something is broken is decidedly good.  Of course, I must appeal to something outside of science to define good, or to define broken even.

 

 

I'm not confused, but I do believe you misunderstand what I'm saying, either deliberately or honestly I'm not sure.

 

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Amen. People need to know and understand how narcissists work. Narcissists are on the level of psychopaths to me. They ruin lives and leave emotional scars that last for years. Silence enables them because people spend years trying to be peaceful with people who are completely and utterly disinterested in being peaceful. I do not believe they have a conscience. They will do whatever it takes to cope with what is broken within them. I refuse to even consider a narcissist's feelings any more because that is how you get abused again.

 

Frankly, we don't talk about them enough. And no one that actually fits the clinical definition of a narcissist believes they are a narcissist, so the odds of offending are low.

 

I've been very grateful for the discussions of narcissim on this forum.  it was truly and epiphany moment.  I worked hard to forgive this woman and let go of the hurt while she was alive - and 20 years after she blessed her family by finally dying - I was still trying to let go of, and repair, the damage she did. (I was probably the LEAST affected in my family!)  being led to understanding what npd/bpd was, and the roles assigned .. . everything finally made sense!  and I wasn't crazy.

 

and while I say she could come and beg forgiveness and grovel at my feet and I wouldn't care - it's not because of any animosity - it's becasue the damage was so great, and I've spent so many years trying to repair the damage she did.  her remorse - would be irrelevant.  the damage is real and in the now. more than a quarter century after the pathetic excuse of a human being died.

 

I recently read a blog on npd, and the woman writing the blog has had a number of accusations against herself that said she is narcisstic, becasue she writes a blog.  I loved her response.  Her "narcissim" won't give anyone ptsd.

 

'cause they don't have to be present, it's pavlov's dogs with human beings.

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Exactly, my mum hid it from my husband for 10 years. Only then did he see what she did to me (and I accurately predicted her every move) and realise that I wasn't exaggerating. My sister has never been subjected either. Once she came close, and my sister rang me in tears thinking that mum had lost her mind, that episode was tip of the iceberg to what I'd experienced...

 

 

My dh thought I was just being over sensitive. for 10 years. . . . (his mother has behaviors in common, but no one who knows her well takes her seriously) she hated being around him (she was trying to undermined my marriage within a WEEK of our wedding), and the behaviors are usually so darn subtle.   I honestly don't remember what she did - it was so ordinary for her.  when I told him (I'd reached the point that at least I could pass the bean dip while I was fuming),  it was like seeing something he never had supposed.  "I take it back, she's as bad as you say".

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You continue to apply scientific "evidence" to a theological viewpoint.  From my perspective that is conflation.  Science cannot make moral judgements, nor even lead us to moral judgements.  Matter, on its own, is amoral.  Scientific findings tell us what is going on.  It cannot tell us if it is good or bad.  Science and physical matter cannot point to a moral conclusion without some outside standard applied to it.  But, they are not opposing.  Science telling me how to fix something is broken is decidedly good.  Of course, I must appeal to something outside of science to define good, or to define broken even.

 

 

I'm not confused, but I do believe you misunderstand what I'm saying, either deliberately or honestly I'm not sure.

 

No. I have never tried to apply evidence to theology. That doesn't exist. I continue to say the two (science and religion) are separate. Always. They are not cooperative. 

 

There is no instance in which religion and science have separately and independently come up with the same information. In fact, there if there is information that has ever been confirmed to be accurate that has ever come from a religious revelation, please share. Please be specific. 

 

 

ETA: I think I understand now. Are you suggesting science tells us what's going on and religion tells us what to do about it? 

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I've been very grateful for the discussions of narcissim on this forum.  it was truly and epiphany moment.  I worked hard to forgive this woman and let go of the hurt while she was alive - and 20 years after she blessed her family by finally dying - I was still trying to let go of, and repair, the damage she did. (I was probably the LEAST affected in my family!)  being led to understanding what npd/bpd was, and the roles assigned .. . everything finally made sense!  and I wasn't crazy.

 

and while I say she could come and beg forgiveness and grovel at my feet and I wouldn't care - it's not because of any animosity - it's becasue the damage was so great, and I've spent so many years trying to repair the damage she did.  her remorse - would be irrelevant.  the damage is real and in the now. more than a quarter century after the pathetic excuse of a human being died.

 

I recently read a blog on npd, and the woman writing the blog has had a number of accusations against herself that said she is narcisstic, becasue she writes a blog.  I loved her response.  Her "narcissim" won't give anyone ptsd.

 

'cause they don't have to be present, it's pavlov's dogs with human beings.

 

I completely understand where you're coming from. We just, as in the last few months, cut ties with my truly NPD ILs. At this point they could be magically cured and beg forgiveness and I would feel nothing. I'm not capable of feeling sympathetic emotion where they are concerned. The things that keep popping out of my kids' mouths horrify me...I had no idea the extent of what they inflicted on the kids, mostly the girls. :( 

 

It takes people talking to expose and nullify abusers. I have really benefitted from the people here that have been honest about what it's like to deal with truly narcissistic people. 

 

I'm debating finding a therapist. I'm having anxiety issues and some symptoms of ptsd. I've been watching some of spartanlifecoach's videos on dealing with narcissistic abuse and so much more is making sense.

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I think it is a very good example. I was trying to think how to word that all yesterday!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It's not always just their own ego. If you're closely related, such as a partner, ex-partner or child, they don't really see you as a separate person to them. You are an outsourced piece of them. If you've ever had anyone joke "well your knee can't hurt, coz I can't feel it" it's like that. At least that is my experience. 

 

I would call that seeing them in light of their own ego - essentially those other people are ego-extensions.

 

Kind of like Cersei on GOT.  She figures she loves all these people (her kids, her brother), but really they are just extensions of herself..

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Anyway - the idea that Abrahamic religions see this as a seperate mind/body thing is untrue - its a particular charachteristic of Abrahamic religions that they don't separate the material world from the spiritual world, or the mind from the body - although they do preserve those distinctions.  It's something that separates them for example from many ancient religions or modern eastern religions, and even a lot of new age thinking.  Nor does it mean that things like mental illness were thought in the ancient or medieval world to be simply under the control of people's will.  That's just - well, just not true. 

 

It would be more true, though not complete, to say that because they have the capacity to undermine a person's will or even render it completely ineffective, they were seen as disordered or evil physical states - a kind of attack on our humanity.  That is, the evil or disorder was conceived as largely having its origins outside the individual, so while it could affect people's mental or moral state, not necessarily something they were culpable for.  THough they did believe there were things people could do to open themselves to evil influences of those kinds, or possibly protect themselves, which would be something people were actually be culpable for.  Some were pretty sensible, while other seem superstitious.

 

I think that is significantly related to the OP question and some of the difficulty people who deal with people who suffer illnesses can have.  A few people have mentioned the frustration of dealing with people who on the one hand seem to have something wrong with their thought processes, and on the other hand to seem to be making choices, or doing things that make their situation worse.  THis can be the case sometimes with other illnesses as well but it is most noticible I think with mental disorders.  I think the answer is that there is indeed something of these illnesses that is out of our control and objective, where we are victims and not perpetrators.  But - there are times when we put ourselves in positions which make us vulnerable, or embrace something because it satisfies us in some way.  We can have habits of life and thought that make us vulnerable, or protect us.  And we really do suffer all kinds of consequences, not just physical but spiritual, from things we do that are out of our control. 

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I've been very grateful for the discussions of narcissim on this forum.  it was truly and epiphany moment.  I worked hard to forgive this woman and let go of the hurt while she was alive - and 20 years after she blessed her family by finally dying - I was still trying to let go of, and repair, the damage she did. (I was probably the LEAST affected in my family!)  being led to understanding what npd/bpd was, and the roles assigned .. . everything finally made sense!  and I wasn't crazy.

 

 

 

I recently read a blog on npd, and the woman writing the blog has had a number of accusations against herself that said she is narcisstic, becasue she writes a blog.  I loved her response.  Her "narcissim" won't give anyone ptsd.

 

'cause they don't have to be present, it's pavlov's dogs with human beings.

 

Love that quote. We've had a friend say, "Well I'm narcissistic, too," and by that, the friend means garden-variety type of self-centeredness. (This is said in discussions about the narcissistic person who inflicted so much damage on us.) We have been trying to convey that this is an extraordinary difference in degree between whatever narcissism friend has (and it doesn't show at all) and the Narcissist. This is a good way to put it. 

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It's not always just their own ego. If you're closely related, such as a partner, ex-partner or child, they don't really see you as a separate person to them. You are an outsourced piece of them. If you've ever had anyone joke "well your knee can't hurt, coz I can't feel it" it's like that. At least that is my experience. 

 

 

This.  Add to this a religious element, and WATCH OUT!!!

 

You can't express displeasure with _______ b/c I'm a Man of God, and by Man of God he means he's some sort of god-king much like ancient Pharoahs, only they would outright reject that idea...even though if you dig into what they mean, they describe a deity just a step under God Himself.

 

 

Deeper than that , the wife and children of a religious NPD must exude "godliness" at all times b/c they are not persons, they are a representation of HIS spiritual health (nevermind the affairs and the bruises).  Enter the Patriarchal Movement.

 

Maybe this is why I'm so drawn to Charlotte Mason's philosophy that begins with "Children are born persons."  We swim amidst some dangerous waters, and if my kids remember nothing else, I want them to remember that everyone is born their own person.

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Love that quote. We've had a friend say, "Well I'm narcissistic, too," and by that, the friend means garden-variety type of self-centeredness. (This is said in discussions about the narcissistic person who inflicted so much damage on us.) We have been trying to convey that this is an extraordinary difference in degree between whatever narcissism friend has (and it doesn't show at all) and the Narcissist. This is a good way to put it. 

 

 

It actually makes me sick to see/hear "narcissist(ic)" used so casually.

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It actually makes me sick to see/hear "narcissist(ic)" used so casually.

 

It's a completely appropriate use of the term.  The word narcissist has been around a lot longer than NPD has been a diagnosis, and its been used very generally to mean self-absorbed.

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It actually makes me sick to see/hear "narcissist(ic)" used so casually.

 

there are alot of people who don't know what it really means.  (and the writer of the blog post I cited did not consider herself truely narcisstic.  she was repsonding to her critics.)

 

there are a lot of words I think people don't know what they really mean.  e.g. the number of people who made an honest mistake (but were wrong) - and say/are told "they lied".  um no - lying requires intent.

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This.  Add to this a religious element, and WATCH OUT!!!

 

You can't express displeasure with _______ b/c I'm a Man of God, and by Man of God he means he's some sort of god-king much like ancient Pharoahs, only they would outright reject that idea...even though if you dig into what they mean, they describe a deity just a step under God Himself.

 

 

Deeper than that , the wife and children of a religious NPD must exude "godliness" at all times b/c they are not persons, they are a representation of HIS spiritual health (nevermind the affairs and the bruises).  Enter the Patriarchal Movement.

 

Maybe this is why I'm so drawn to Charlotte Mason's philosophy that begins with "Children are born persons."  We swim amidst some dangerous waters, and if my kids remember nothing else, I want them to remember that everyone is born their own person.

 

my grandmother didn't attend church during my lifetime. but she often used "you'd better do what I say or god will d4mn you." 

 

since when is that up to you? 

 

I honestly understand why people who come from that want nothing to do with religion.  I still marvel that I came from her influence, and am a religious person with a strong faith.  but then, I rejected her 'god of death h3ll fire brimstone etc.' and embraced a God of love.  my mother and I had sporadic conversations and she always respected me. I could tell, she liked the idea of what I believed - but she was afraid because of that with which she'd been raised (and poor choices she'd made).  I cherish that our last converstaion (I didn't know it would be our last) was expressing my belief that God loved her.

 

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Anyway - the idea that Abrahamic religions see this as a seperate mind/body thing is untrue

 

Not at all. The idea of a dual nature of mind/body encourages such practices as prayer and fasting to the benefit of the body. The idea of a dual nature of mind/body encourages such dogmatic pronouncements as being "born again," and the "mind" surviving death. Many xians believe in angels, a kind of mind that is generally devoid of a physical body. Catholic and Orthodox xians believe Saints are alive and and well and intervene on behalf of those who pray, Mary being the most prolific and popular of the saints. Teresa of Calcutta being the most recent [catholic] example of such a "mind" or "spirit" that survived bodily death, supposedly incurring miracles on behalf of faithful Catholics. Indeed, the question, "where will you go after you die" presumes a separation between mind/spirit/soul and body. 

 

It would be more true, though not complete, to say that because they have the capacity to undermine a person's will or even render it completely ineffective, they were seen as disordered or evil physical states - a kind of attack on our humanity. 

 

What is "they"

 

THough they did believe there were things people could do to open themselves to evil influences of those kinds, or possibly protect themselves, which would be something people were actually be culpable for.  Some were pretty sensible, while other seem superstitious.

 

Can you give an example of a sensible "they" that attacks a person such as to undermine their will, or even render it completely ineffective?

 

And can you define "will" in this context? 

 

And we really do suffer all kinds of consequences, not just physical but spiritual, from things we do that are out of our control. 

 

Can you share an example of a spiritual consequence that is out of one's control? And can you explain how one might reliably discern a spiritual consequence from a non-spiritual consequence?

 

 

ETA: I think the idea of the "will" (or more specifically, "free will") and mental health are a real stumbling block for churches. Like you say, there are lots of skills that people may simply never acquire, skills that could lessen the negative effects of their impulses. Many people don't have the opportunity to recognize these skills, much less work on them. The idea that a person could simply pull themselves up by their proverbial boot straps is a time-honored, conventional expectation in church and society in general, but we're learning it's not always that simple. Some, through hard work and constant attention, can learn how to navigate the social world in an appropriate way. Most don't have that opportunity, as it is currently extraordinarily costly and time consuming, and for many mental health challenges, unsuccessful regardless of the time and effort put in. So then"will," at the very least, requires a lot of external help that isn't easy to come by. There are so many external influences that make a profound difference, it's almost like there are many potential people inside, but only one gets the prize of being recognized and interacting with the world.

 

How does the church, in general, deal with this? Does it say, "You can access god's grace, but you can't come to our functions because you're presence is damaging"? "Don't call us, we'll call you. Good luck and god bless"? Because that's how it sounds from here, but honestly, I can't imagine another way. How does a church community protect the safety, mental, emotional, and physical, if a member is a constant threat to people?

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NPD, Iike BPD exists. It also is thrown around a lot these days and IMO far too casually. These things are not mutually exclusive.

 

My maternal grandmother was a sociopathic criminal who beat my mother into two lifelong disabilities. Were that but 1/2 or even a 1/20th of her crimes and cruelty. I know from criminally crazy.

 

She most certainly has some sort of personality disorder. I can't even claim to love her. But I also can't claim she wasn't human or never suffered. Of course she suffered. And of course she is responsible for the abuse she metted out on my mother and so many others. These things are not mutually exclusive.

 

I can't even count the number of times I changed my phone number before it was easy to block calls. To say that I've stayed away from her is an understatement.

 

I don't think however people need to be applying this label to any random jackass at work or person who acts in a negative and selfish way. I've seen a lot of that recently and it gives me pause. It seems I can't go a day in which I interact with other adults outside of my family without someone telling me that someone, often multiple someones, in their life is NPD.

 

It recalls the era of BPD being applied to women right and left. That was rooted in sexism. This is rooted in a need to explain. But maybe sometimes the explaination is that from time to time people are jerks and on any day, that might be any one of us having a bad day and feeling jerky.

 

(This is not to say that there aren't people with NPD who are less criminally proficient or harder to spot than someone like my lovely grandmother- I get that. Still I reject the idea that there is a runaway increase in NPD. Again, the whole not mutually exclusive thing.)

I agree.

 

I know exactly one person who is very likely NPD (undiagnosed, of course). Now, I knew more in my former life as a therapist, but that's different. In real life, I know plenty of jerks, but only one NPD.

 

As testament to the nature of NPD, this individual went to therapy due to their personal suffering and immediately had the therapist dragging all the close family members in for sessions because they were "causing" the NPD's distress. Talk about a therapist being snowed (very common with NPD). It was fascinating to watch (I am well-removed from this person's life, so I was not part of this therapy.).

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Not at all. The idea of a dual nature of mind/body encourages such practices as prayer and fasting to the benefit of the body. The idea of a dual nature of mind/body encourages such dogmatic pronouncements as being "born again," and the "mind" surviving death. Many xians believe in angels, a kind of mind that is generally devoid of a physical body. Catholic and Orthodox xians believe Saints are alive and and well and intervene on behalf of those who pray, Mary being the most prolific and popular of the saints. Teresa of Calcutta being the most recent [catholic] example of such a "mind" or "spirit" that survived bodily death, supposedly incurring miracles on behalf of faithful Catholics. Indeed, the question, "where will you go after you die" presumes a separation between mind/spirit/soul and body. 

 

No, this is quite distorted.  Bluegoat is entirely right in saying, "Anyway - the idea that Abrahamic religions see this as a seperate mind/body thing is untrue."

 

Prayer and fasting benefit the whole person, mind AND body.

Angels have physical locatedness and physical power.

Jesus rose bodily from the dead, and ascended bodily into Heaven, where He continues to be both God and Man.  

 

The ecumenical creeds proclaim our belief in 'the Resurrection of the body' specifically and affirmatively.  In context of the times in which they were written, this is in direct opposition to the Greco/Gnostic belief in separation between the soul and body, and in the superiority of the soul over the body.  

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How does a church community protect the safety, mental, emotional, and physical, if a member is a constant threat to people?

 

Maybe a strange question, but do you believe this is a unique problem to church communities?

 

How does any community deal with accepting the "socially difficult" while also protecting others?

 

Love is often a complicated thing and means different things based on different scenarios.  There are whole books and volumes written by secular and religious alike about how to love difficult people.

 

In my church, the answer to your question is sometimes individual visits from pastors or elders.  No one is written off without extensive effort by the session to resolve issues.  I know of at least one specific occasion where a pastor has risked personal safety to visit and comfort someone who may have been a danger.  I'm sure there are more situations like that I haven't been privy to in churches I've attended.  I've also seen members dis-enrolled because they repeatedly committed abuses against other members and/or their family and were clearly not repentant about any of it. And, in my denomination, it's not an individual decision, but there's a board of elders who are under the oversight of an even larger body.

 

More generally the answer is: they do the best they can under difficult circumstances in accordance with their faith.  Just like you would in a similar situation, although probably with a different set guidelines to go by.

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I agree.

 

I know exactly one person who is very likely NPD (undiagnosed, of course). Now, I knew more in my former life as a therapist, but that's different. In real life, I know plenty of jerks, but only one NPD.

 

As testament to the nature of NPD, this individual went to therapy due to their personal suffering and immediately had the therapist dragging all the close family members in for sessions because they were "causing" the NPD's distress. Talk about a therapist being snowed (very common with NPD). It was fascinating to watch (I am well-removed from this person's life, so I was not part of this therapy.).

 

happens too much.  years ago I watched a movie with candace bergen. it was based on a true story movie .. the husband had been locked up by the state for being dangerous.  the therapist was charmed and snowed by him and gave him daypasses to leave the state hospital.  he then murdered his wife.

 

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Not at all. The idea of a dual nature of mind/body encourages such practices as prayer and fasting to the benefit of the body. The idea of a dual nature of mind/body encourages such dogmatic pronouncements as being "born again," and the "mind" surviving death. Many xians believe in angels, a kind of mind that is generally devoid of a physical body. Catholic and Orthodox xians believe Saints are alive and and well and intervene on behalf of those who pray, Mary being the most prolific and popular of the saints. Teresa of Calcutta being the most recent [catholic] example of such a "mind" or "spirit" that survived bodily death, supposedly incurring miracles on behalf of faithful Catholics. Indeed, the question, "where will you go after you die" presumes a separation between mind/spirit/soul and body. 

 

 

What is "they"

 

 

Can you give an example of a sensible "they" that attacks a person such as to undermine their will, or even render it completely ineffective?

 

And can you define "will" in this context? 

 

 

Can you share an example of a spiritual consequence that is out of one's control? And can you explain how one might reliably discern a spiritual consequence from a non-spiritual consequence?

 

 

ETA: I think the idea of the "will" (or more specifically, "free will") and mental health are a real stumbling block for churches. Like you say, there are lots of skills that people may simply never acquire, skills that could lessen the negative effects of their impulses. Many people don't have the opportunity to recognize these skills, much less work on them. The idea that a person could simply pull themselves up by their proverbial boot straps is a time-honored, conventional expectation in church and society in general, but we're learning it's not always that simple. Some, through hard work and constant attention, can learn how to navigate the social world in an appropriate way. Most don't have that opportunity, as it is currently extraordinarily costly and time consuming, and for many mental health challenges, unsuccessful regardless of the time and effort put in. So then"will," at the very least, requires a lot of external help that isn't easy to come by. There are so many external influences that make a profound difference, it's almost like there are many potential people inside, but only one gets the prize of being recognized and interacting with the world.

 

How does the church, in general, deal with this? Does it say, "You can access god's grace, but you can't come to our functions because you're presence is damaging"? "Don't call us, we'll call you. Good luck and god bless"? Because that's how it sounds from here, but honestly, I can't imagine another way. How does a church community protect the safety, mental, emotional, and physical, if a member is a constant threat to people?

 

You need to read up on your theology.  Fasting, prayer and almsgiving, and similar practices, all operate in Christianity on the basis that mind and body are linked - when you fast it is not only to have some effect on the body, not even the primary reason - it is because that has an effect on the mind and/or spirit.

 

And although its a common error, Heaven isn't considered the final destination in the afterlife precisely because it doesn't include the body.  Humans are a spirit/body being and both parts are required for them to be whole (and analogously the same is true of other material beings, all have form and matter, there is no such thing as matter without form.)  Angels are generally considered to be spiritual only, but that is because that is the kind of being they are, not because they are missing something.(That is, according to this view, there can be form without matter.)  THis is different from dualist religions that believe that matter is not really part of who and what we are, that in fact matter is a prison for a spirit or form that would properly speaking be free of it.  Thought systems like that typically have quite a different attitude toward matter, and its common for them to practice extreme indulgence or extreme asceticism.

 

The they is general - disease, genetic, other people, life-circumstances, malignant spiritual beings - these things may or may not be entirely discrete, which is part of the point.  An example of a spiritual consequence - I grew up with a girl who came from very bad family circumstances which resulted in her, at a young age, being trafficked as a prostitute.  Eventually she got out of it and made a life for herself.  Whatever degree of culpability she had for her situation over the years, it was certainly in the main outside of her control.  It also impacted how she sees other people, her ability to form relationships, her sense of security and ability to trust, her ability to be a mother.  Ultimately all of that baggage will affect her child as well. 

 

That is, in essence, what Christianity calls ancestral or original sin - we all come into a broken world, we all are damaged, we all require healing, we all love imperfectly as a result.  This includes not only things we choose, but things we did not choose that come from others, or even the inanimate or larger biological world.   

 

The will is generally considered the ability to make a decision or judgement and carry it out.  If I decide I should start an exercise program, my will is what allows me to do that when I would rather be eating cake.

 

Within the Christian traditions there have been a few - maybe three major - ways of looking at this.  None of them have quite the simplistic putt yourself up by the boot-straps approach you suggest - I can't think of one which claims that is always possible, that is considered one of the primary outcomes of the fall.  Indeed among the Protestant traditions the teaching is generally that it is not possible at all to pull oneself up by one's bootstraps. 

 

I can only speak with some detail about what you might call a historical/orthodox approach that you would find in Catholicism, Anglicanism, Orthodoxy, and Lutheranism, and some of the related groups.  It tends to treat such problems as different versions of the same thing, be it a physical or mental disease or injury, a problem of circumstance, or whatever.  Even willed evil acts are understood as a kind of disordered way to achieve the good. There is a fairly considerable body of practices designed specifically to address these kinds of problems over time - both tools to bring some healing or progress, or to manage when they don't.  So - traditional tools like self-examination, practicing thankfulness, and reconciliation with others and ourselves and God, reminders of the corporate and universal nature of the community and our relation to it, as well as practices like fasting or almsgiving.

 

As far as dealing with individuals that cause problems - I guess that depends a lot on circumstances.  It's certainly something that individual leaders have to deal with quite a lot, and as in individual relationships, it can be done badly.  The only answer I think is probably to act reflectively, and with the best interests of the individual, in mind.

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Maybe a strange question, but do you believe this is a unique problem to church communities?

 

How does any community deal with accepting the "socially difficult" while also protecting others?

 

Love is often a complicated thing and means different things based on different scenarios.  There are whole books and volumes written by secular and religious alike about how to love difficult people.

 

In my church, the answer to your question is sometimes individual visits from pastors or elders.  No one is written off without extensive effort by the session to resolve issues.  I know of at least one specific occasion where a pastor has risked personal safety to visit and comfort someone who may have been a danger.  I'm sure there are more situations like that I haven't been privy to in churches I've attended.  I've also seen members dis-enrolled because they repeatedly committed abuses against other members and/or their family and were clearly not repentant about any of it. And, in my denomination, it's not an individual decision, but there's a board of elders who are under the oversight of an even larger body.

 

More generally the answer is: they do the best they can under difficult circumstances in accordance with their faith.  Just like you would in a similar situation, although probably with a different set guidelines to go by.

 

Yes, I think that is a common approach. My parish tends to always have some people who can be a little disconcerting because of its location, and generally they just participate as they are able.  There was one man who for a time was banned and had a court order to stay away - he was mentally ill but had become violent. Since then he's become more controlled - I assume he's back on his meds - and he attends sporadically.  I think that really, very manipulative people are often the most difficult to deal with.  I have a relative who has some sort of personality disorder - possibly related to some old addiction issues - she's not a user now but it left her rather peculiar.  She's been asked not to attend at a number of Catholic parishes, because she is a shit-disturber of the worst sort.  It's hard to know what to do with people like that.

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As testament to the nature of NPD, this individual went to therapy due to their personal suffering and immediately had the therapist dragging all the close family members in for sessions because they were "causing" the NPD's distress. Talk about a therapist being snowed (very common with NPD). It was fascinating to watch (I am well-removed from this person's life, so I was not part of this therapy.).

 

The one book I read about narcissists had a chapter on doing therapy with a narc and their family. Apparently narcissist induced trauma can be cured with further focused trauma to the victims! 

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 Talk about a therapist being snowed (very common with NPD). 

 

Wanna talk about how much fun it is when those therapists do legal work?

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No, this is quite distorted.  Bluegoat is entirely right in saying, "Anyway - the idea that Abrahamic religions see this as a seperate mind/body thing is untrue."

 

Prayer and fasting benefit the whole person, mind AND body.

Angels have physical locatedness and physical power.

Jesus rose bodily from the dead, and ascended bodily into Heaven, where He continues to be both God and Man.  

 

The ecumenical creeds proclaim our belief in 'the Resurrection of the body' specifically and affirmatively.  In context of the times in which they were written, this is in direct opposition to the Greco/Gnostic belief in separation between the soul and body, and in the superiority of the soul over the body.  

 

Prayer and fasting are understood to benefit the whole person because in some way, the mind/spirit/soul has an influence on the body. If they are not separated, they are one united thing. What then differentiates the mind that prays from say, the stomach gurgling? If it's simply the process of a biological function, then is the soul similarly a function biology? 

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It's a completely appropriate use of the term.  The word narcissist has been around a lot longer than NPD has been a diagnosis, and its been used very generally to mean self-absorbed.

 

 

Obviously.  I know that.  BUT.  It makes me feel ill, because my personal experience with narcissism has been so much more malignant than casual self-absorption.  It's not something that I can take or hear lightly.  This is my personal feeling.

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Maybe a strange question, but do you believe this is a unique problem to church communities?

 

How does any community deal with accepting the "socially difficult" while also protecting others?

 

Love is often a complicated thing and means different things based on different scenarios.  There are whole books and volumes written by secular and religious alike about how to love difficult people.

 

In my church, the answer to your question is sometimes individual visits from pastors or elders.  No one is written off without extensive effort by the session to resolve issues.  I know of at least one specific occasion where a pastor has risked personal safety to visit and comfort someone who may have been a danger.  I'm sure there are more situations like that I haven't been privy to in churches I've attended.  I've also seen members dis-enrolled because they repeatedly committed abuses against other members and/or their family and were clearly not repentant about any of it. And, in my denomination, it's not an individual decision, but there's a board of elders who are under the oversight of an even larger body.

 

More generally the answer is: they do the best they can under difficult circumstances in accordance with their faith.  Just like you would in a similar situation, although probably with a different set guidelines to go by.

 

No, but churches are predicated on certain assumptions being true. One such assumption is the existence of an element in human behavior called "sin." This has been a major focus of inappropriate behavior for most of xianity. It turns out, "sin" is completely unprepared to address mental health challenges, and we're learning these challenges are not as uncommon as once thought. 

 

Ideally, by referring to information. Schools now recognize and address autism as a neurological issue rather than behavioral. This is one example.

 

Understood. There are also books written about UFOs, so we know people writing about things they believe in doesn't necessarily translate to information. But sometimes they do. I take your point, ultimately. 

 

I think the idea that a person with a mental health challenge is unrepentant about their inappropriate behavior is part of the challenge as I see it. If we recognize the possibility that people with genuine NPD are incapable of recognizing their offenses (and comment after comment here attest to this idea), then how can they be expected to repent? It reminds me of the Seinfeld episode where a friend is going through the 12 steps of AA and George is waiting for his apology. The friend, when confronted, finally confesses that he doesn't feel any need to apologize because he was in the right all the time, that in fact, George's head would have stretched out his nice cashmere sweater. Silly episode, but the idea is the same - if a "sinner" is incapable of knowing the need to repent, indeed incapable of recognizing "sin," are they culpable for not repenting? Are they, theologically speaking, incapable of receiving god's grace if they cannot repent in the first place? That's not to say they should be given a pass, but if repentance is a necessary part of salvation (whatever that looks like to each xian), are those incapable of repentance guilty and incapable of meeting the conditions of salvation (ie, repentance, which goes hand in hand with belief)?

 

I understand doing the best one can, but theologically speaking, the church is the bride of the christ. It should be prepared for attending the needs of her community. Clearly, not only is it just now learning, but for the last umpteen centuries, it's been as ignorant as unchurched people with regard to recognizing what makes people behave the way in which they do. 

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No, but churches are predicated on certain assumptions being true. One such assumption is the existence of an element in human behavior called "sin."

Sin is not 'an element in human behavior'.  But I think you already know that.

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No, but churches are predicated on certain assumptions being true. One such assumption is the existence of an element in human behavior called "sin." This has been a major focus of inappropriate behavior for most of xianity. It turns out, "sin" is completely unprepared to address mental health challenges, and we're learning these challenges are not as uncommon as once thought. 

 

Or maybe, our interpretation of sin is unprepared.

 

Ideally, by referring to information. Schools now recognize and address autism as a neurological issue rather than behavioral. This is one example.

 

Understood. There are also books written about UFOs, so we know people writing about things they believe in doesn't necessarily translate to information. But sometimes they do. I take your point, ultimately. 

 

I think the idea that a person with a mental health challenge is unrepentant about their inappropriate behavior is part of the challenge as I see it.

 

Exactly.  How can we possibly know what we do not know?  This holds true for most human conditions/beliefs, as far as I can tell.  

 

If we recognize the possibility that people with genuine NPD are incapable of recognizing their offenses (and comment after comment here attest to this idea), then how can they be expected to repent? It reminds me of the Seinfeld episode where a friend is going through the 12 steps of AA and George is waiting for his apology. The friend, when confronted, finally confesses that he doesn't feel any need to apologize because he was in the right all the time, that in fact, George's head would have stretched out his nice cashmere sweater. Silly episode, but the idea is the same - if a "sinner" is incapable of knowing the need to repent, indeed incapable of recognizing "sin," are they culpable for not repenting? Are they, theologically speaking, incapable of receiving god's grace if they cannot repent in the first place? That's not to say they should be given a pass, but if repentance is a necessary part of salvation (whatever that looks like to each xian), are those incapable of repentance guilty and incapable of meeting the conditions of salvation (ie, repentance, which goes hand in hand with belief)?

 

I understand doing the best one can, but theologically speaking, the church is the bride of the christ. It should be prepared for attending the needs of her community. Clearly, not only is it just now learning, but for the last umpteen centuries, it's been as ignorant as unchurched people with regard to recognizing what makes people behave the way in which they do. 

 

Science has come a long way in helping people understand mental illness.  Both the churched and the unchurched benefit from this.

 

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Obviously.  I know that.  BUT.  It makes me feel ill, because my personal experience with narcissism has been so much more malignant than casual self-absorption.  It's not something that I can take or hear lightly.  This is my personal feeling.

 

yeah.  like the blog poster said ""my" 'narcissicm'  won't give you ptsd . . . . ." the casual users of the term, don't know what it's like to have a "loved one" cough-cough - give you ptsd.

 

 

eta: remembering the day some teenager with very loving parents, commented she was 'abused' because her parents said no to her. . . . . thunk.

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Clearly, not only is it just now learning, but for the last umpteen centuries, it's been as ignorant as unchurched people with regard to recognizing what makes people behave the way in which they do.

I don't understand. Are you saying Christians in particular should have a more advanced knowledge of brain chemistry than the rest of humanity? That is a new and original beef against the church I've not heard before.

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You need to read up on your theology.  

 

Anyone who speaks to various xians will quickly learn that one theology may be politely (or not) dismissed by another faithful believer. There is no one, unified xianity, but rather many, many xianitites, identified by virtue of communities, which changes according to geography and time. If someone can provide me with the Once and For All Really Right Theology, I'll read up on it. I don't mean to sound as flippant as that does, but really, this advice is logically and practically poor. Ultimately it relies on a No True Scotsman defense of the xian religion, and logical fallacies must be dismissed as being, well, useless. 

 

Fasting, prayer and almsgiving, and similar practices, all operate in Christianity on the basis that mind and body are linked - when you fast it is not only to have some effect on the body, not even the primary reason - it is because that has an effect on the mind and/or spirit.

 

Linked, but not the same thing. They are, ultimately, separate components within the individual. If my arm gets gangrene, dies, and falls off, the essence of who I am is in no danger of immortal damnation, according to any theology I know of anyway. However, if my soul were to reject the god of my faith, the god of the RCC, then I've committed a "moral sin," the kind that essentially ends the "life" giving grace in my soul. Only through the sacraments of reconciliation and the eucharist can I be in communication with the church, according to what I'd learned and believed. Dying in that state means I'm cut off from any hope of salvation. The idea of "no salvation outside the church" has modified over the years to include in modern times those outside the RCC who, through no fault of their own, deny the "real truth" because they've been led to believe erroneous things. If they were to find out the truth and would pledge allegiance to Jesus (conveniently available through the process of purgatory), one may hope they can obtain salvation. Someone like me is lost forever for I have committed the unpardonable sin. There is no christ, there is no god, there is no spirit, holy or otherwise, and I make this declaration of my own free accord. My soul is in perilous danger, according to the faith I once held, but this is not so if my body is damaged. God doesn't reside in my arm, after all. 

 

The point being, you said it is untrue the Abrahamic religions do not see the mind/body thing as separate. I maintain they are believed to be separate, even as they are linked and influential towards one another. I should say I'm speaking from the experience of a former xian, and can't speak about Judaism or Islam with this regard, but if memory serves correct, it's similar enough to move on. 

 

And although its a common error, Heaven isn't considered the final destination in the afterlife precisely because it doesn't include the body.  Humans are a spirit/body being and both parts are required for them to be whole (and analogously the same is true of other material beings, all have form and matter, there is no such thing as matter without form.)  Angels are generally considered to be spiritual only, but that is because that is the kind of being they are, not because they are missing something.(That is, according to this view, there can be form without matter.)  THis is different from dualist religions that believe that matter is not really part of who and what we are, that in fact matter is a prison for a spirit or form that would properly speaking be free of it.  Thought systems like that typically have quite a different attitude toward matter, and its common for them to practice extreme indulgence or extreme asceticism.

 

I'm not suggesting xianity is like the bold, only that when the founding documents of the Abrahamic religions were written, mental health wasn't considered a biological property. It was a matter of the will, a separate, [i won't use the word "dualist" anymore] force that guides the body, mind and soul. For example, the "will" decides what to say, not the tongue. 

 

My question is, now that the church knows better, how does theology keep up?

 

The they is general - disease, genetic, other people, life-circumstances, malignant spiritual beings - these things may or may not be entirely discrete, which is part of the point.  An example of a spiritual consequence - I grew up with a girl who came from very bad family circumstances which resulted in her, at a young age, being trafficked as a prostitute.  Eventually she got out of it and made a life for herself.  Whatever degree of culpability she had for her situation over the years, it was certainly in the main outside of her control.  It also impacted how she sees other people, her ability to form relationships, her sense of security and ability to trust, her ability to be a mother.  Ultimately all of that baggage will affect her child as well. 

 

Your example isn't one of a spiritual consequence. All these things, finding liberty from prostitution, interpreting other people's actions and intentions, forming relationships, and developing a sense of security, among other things, are all explainable without appealing to a spirit element of any kind. 

 

The will is generally considered the ability to make a decision or judgement and carry it out.  If I decide I should start an exercise program, my will is what allows me to do that when I would rather be eating cake.

 
This ability is separate from the physical body, in that the arms and legs don't decide to start an exercise program. However, we now understand this ability to develop intent, to make and carry out decisions come from a biological source. No brain = no decisions. My question is, now that xian community is starting to recognize that some behaviors previously understood to be "sin" are caused by biological impulses beyond the ability of some to override, how does it incorporate this new knowledge into the theology of salvation? Can someone with NPD be "saved" from eternal damnation (whatever that may be)?
 
I maintain that theology evolves to keep up with an ever evolving moral code collectively determined by society in general, influence in no small part to new information. Just as knowledge of the theory of evolution changed the theology of original or ancestral sin by changing the understanding of the story of Adam and Eve, and intimate knowledge of people from other cultures and religions have inspired a more universalistic theology in xendom, new theories of human behavior will inspire the church to change its theology regarding the conditions for obtaining salvation. As the concept of the "will" undergoes changes to accommodate new information, the church will have to change its understanding of "sin" and subsequently, damnation/salvation. 

 

Within the Christian traditions there have been a few - maybe three major - ways of looking at this.  None of them have quite the simplistic putt yourself up by the boot-straps approach you suggest - I can't think of one which claims that is always possible, that is considered one of the primary outcomes of the fall.  Indeed among the Protestant traditions the teaching is generally that it is not possible at all to pull oneself up by one's bootstraps. 

 

Agreed. From what I've experienced, it is generally assumed that one can pull up their bootstraps just enough to have faith. The rest of the story depends on one's religious community. 

 

I can only speak with some detail about what you might call a historical/orthodox approach that you would find in Catholicism, Anglicanism, Orthodoxy, and Lutheranism, and some of the related groups.  It tends to treat such problems as different versions of the same thing, be it a physical or mental disease or injury, a problem of circumstance, or whatever.  Even willed evil acts are understood as a kind of disordered way to achieve the good. There is a fairly considerable body of practices designed specifically to address these kinds of problems over time - both tools to bring some healing or progress, or to manage when they don't.  So - traditional tools like self-examination, practicing thankfulness, and reconciliation with others and ourselves and God, reminders of the corporate and universal nature of the community and our relation to it, as well as practices like fasting or almsgiving.

 
Interestingly, exorcism, physically painful penances, expensive indulgences, and torture are no longer favored by church authority as they once were. This illustrates the changing moral code of the religious community. Mentally ill people are no longer subject to exorcism (at least, not in the same measure, as there are still children who die from xian exorcism). Additionally, we see this same evolution in the secular community. Mentally ill people are no longer thrown into Bedlam like institutions as there exist measurable treatments in cases once thought to be lost. Secular medicine doesn't have an answer to mental health challenges [yet], so I'm not taking this anywhere. Just observing. But secular medicine relies on the observation, collection, analysis, and review of objective data, not ancient texts to reveal information, so I think there is hope in that direction where the other direction simply follows along, changing just enough to maintain a survivable membership base. 

 

As far as dealing with individuals that cause problems - I guess that depends a lot on circumstances.  It's certainly something that individual leaders have to deal with quite a lot, and as in individual relationships, it can be done badly.  The only answer I think is probably to act reflectively, and with the best interests of the individual, in mind.

 

So for the church, a body that believes an individual may be subject to an eternity of pain and suffering that makes mental health challenges look like child's play in comparison, it would seem there is a desperate need to figure out whether or not a person with NPD can be "saved" from an eternity of damnation. You remind us of an expectation of bodily resurrection, and that's a reminder of the idea that the physical body would undergo eternal punishment - all day and night physical and mental torture that puts any modern, newsworthy terrorist group to shame. For eternity. It seems to be of utmost importance for the church to figure this out, in the best interests of the individual. 

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Or maybe, our interpretation of sin is unprepared.

 

How do you know what claims of your faith you can trust if something as basic as "sin" can be misunderstood and misrepresented? 

 

Exactly.  How can we possibly know what we do not know? 

 
By asking questions and exploring the answers in a systematic, objective way that works to eliminate superfluous variables and personal bias. 
 

Science has come a long way in helping people understand mental illness.  Both the churched and the unchurched benefit from this.

 

Agreed.

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I don't understand. Are you saying Christians in particular should have a more advanced knowledge of brain chemistry than the rest of humanity? That is a new and original beef against the church I've not heard before.

 

Not quite. Brain chemistry tells us more about the human condition than any ancient, religious texts. If these ancient religious texts were accurate about the human condition, it wouldn't be so far off the mark with regard to mental health issues. 

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