The Spiritual Narcissist is an odd concept. It’s one that really shouldn’t exist.
If you’re on a spiritual path, you’re expected to have compassion for those around you. It brings up images of being at one with yourself and doing the best you can for others. The last thing you’d associate it with is an out-of-control ego.
But when you get on the path, you bring all your baggage with you. It doesn’t just cease to exist. In fact, spirituality has the power to enhance your bad qualities just as much as it does your good ones.
The spiritual narcissist is very real.
They’re not monsters, and you don’t need to fear them. But it does help to be aware that they are out there because they will take advantage of you if you allow them.
They want nothing more than to feed off your attention.
It could be that you’ve already come across one in the past, or you may even be acquainted with one right now. But just to be clear, being a narcissist isn’t to be confused with having a sense of charisma. We can all be a little full of ourselves sometimes. It’s natural.
A real narcissist wreaks emotional turmoil wherever they go.
Let’s take a closer look….
What is Spiritual Narcissism, and Why is it So Dangerous?
In short, spiritual narcissism is the misuse of knowledge to manipulate others. And it works just the same as other forms of the condition. The intention is always to get you to defer to that person’s position of authority. It’s a tool of suppression disguised as wisdom.
What makes this type so insidious is the way they gain your consent. The lure of bettering yourself draws you in. These narcissists prey on the weak and vulnerable and have an uncanny ability to pick up on your needs, fears, and frustrations.
The difference between your typical narcissist is like night and day. The spiritual variety are far more calculating. What you might also refer to as covert or introverted types. And they’re hard to spot because there’s always an element of truth to what they say.
That’s what makes a spiritual narcissist so dangerous. It isn’t just their charm but their intelligence. They’re predatory. If they see an opening in your boundaries, they’ll exploit it. They target people who are lost or in need and weave themselves into your life, creating codependency that’s hard to escape.
As we’ve mentioned, there are several types of spiritual narcissists. They can be regular people like yourself or be in a position of power. But then, there are also three main sub-types you can use to describe the behaviours you might encounter. They are:
The Grandiose Narcissist
The grandiose type is your typical narcissist. They’re direct, extroverted, and often larger than life. You can see them coming a mile away. But they still find their way into spiritual groups. They’re vocal and won’t be shy about sharing their views with others. Once they learn something, it becomes their truth. And they have to share that truth with everyone they meet. They won’t just try and convince you that theirs is the best way. They’ll insist it’s the only way.
The Covert Narcissist
Your covert narcissist will be the kind who has designs on power. They’re not blind to their intentions, and they know what they want. But they’re also not stupid. They realise they have to play the game and are all too aware of how they’ll be perceived if they act unspiritual. Some may be naturally more withdrawn. But others might adopt a persona that’s more appropriate for their surroundings. Their intentions remain the same, though. It is always about how much attention they can receive from those around them.
The Communal Narcissist
The communal narcissist is the hardest to call out. Because on the surface, they appear to be so kind. They’re similar to the covert type; you may even find some who display both traits. Their drama is centred on the attention of being in service to others. They perform good deeds. But it’s not for the benefit of others. It’s a form of PR. It’s used as a platform to demonstrate how kind and benevolent they are toward those who are less fortunate.
How to Spot a Spiritual Narcissist
The spiritual narcissist will use all manner of tricks to keep you within their spell. Their number one goal is to have a constant stream of attention, and they’ll go about this by creating a co-dependent relationship. They want you to need them just as much as they need you so they can have complete and total access to your energy.
They’ll begin by trying to isolate you from friends and family. No one you hang around with will be worthy of your presence. They’ll present themselves as your saviour, and as if they’re coming to your rescue. In truth, they’re creating a hostage situation in which you can’t share yourself with others.
For them to get away with this type of behaviour, there must be some give and take. In fact, that’s how all narcissists get away with stringing people along the way they do. You’ll receive love and attention, and things will seem idyllic. But it’ll all be withdrawn instantly, leaving you desperately trying to regain favour. This is the classic act of all narcissists. The push and pull that keeps you attached.
The way a spiritual narcissist withdraws is slightly different. If the connection you have is founded on a shared interest in personal development, they’ll use that to highlight your flaws. You’ll constantly have to prove yourself. They’ll create a divide that you have to bridge. A test of your worthiness.
Possibly the worst thing you can experience, though, is spiritual gaslighting. In short, the narcissist will project their worst flaws onto you and say you have the problem. They’ll claim you need to work on your spirituality. It can leave you shell-shocked and in utter disbelief. They’ll use tactics such as claiming you have a lack of self-awareness or aren’t surrendering. They’ll continually use your spirituality as a weapon against you.
Spiritual Narcissism and the False Guru Complex
You need to become aware of how you’re giving your energy away. You only have so much. And if you don’t have proper boundaries, you’re leaving yourself open to abuse. If you do come across a guru that’s asking for your blind faith, you need to run.
You’ll most likely see these figures within religious groups. But they can also appear in more intimate settings. Yoga and meditation circles are not immune from this type of character. And because of that, you can let your guard down and get pulled in without realising.
The cycle of abuse often begins with the promise of higher knowledge. But the price always involves giving your power away. And judgment for not doing so is one of the biggest weapons a narcissist will use to keep you in line. They prey on your need for acceptance.
But these figures can be alluring. They have an aura about them and a real magnetic presence. You’re drawn to them. Because there’s no denying, they do have something special going on. They’re gifted and speak a modicum of truth. But ultimately, they abuse their position.
They’ll think nothing of bending rules to fit their agenda. All they care about is how they can attain more power over you and others to feed their ego. A current example of this is the tantric teachers who coerce female students to have sex with them ‘because it’s necessary for their development.’ It’s nothing more than exploitation.
The fake guru will do everything to build you up and swear loyalty to them. They’ll use tactics such as love bombing -showering you with praise. You’ll be so gifted, unique and different from all the rest… They’ll use a raft of spiritual jargon intended to create reverence. But it’s all smoke and mirrors.
6 Painful Signs You’ve Been the Victim of Spiritual Narcissism
If you aren’t sure whether you’ve been the subject of abuse, here are some tell-tale signs:
- You’ve been encouraged to drop your boundaries to make yourself vulnerable. This is often a tactic used to manipulate you by playing on your emotions.
- You’ve been belittled for still being in your ego or not being enlightened when you veer away from the narrative of the narcissist.
- You’ve been accused of being judgmental, unhelpful, or disruptive when you question the teachings of the group leader.
- You’ve been told you won’t be a part of the group anymore unless you conform to rules, such as speaking and acting a certain way, along with other lifestyle choices.
- You’ve not been allowed to act from a place of personal authenticity and are expected to become part of a hive-mind mentality.
- Your ideas are dismissed as you’re told you haven’t yet reached the required level of understanding.
How to Heal from Spiritual Narcissistic Abuse
How you heal from spiritual narcissism begins like any other abuse. You first get yourself to a place of safety. And that means having a hard cut-off. You can’t do this by half measures. You need to get away and stay away. Then, you can start processing what’s happened to you.
It can be hard leaving those situations. How these people operate means, they’ll always try to lure you back in. But you need to hold firm. How easily you can do this will depend on how emotionally invested you are within your environment.
For example, if you came to a group setting as a form of support, letting go can leave you feeling isolated. It could be the same issue you were trying to fix. And now you’re being forced to confront it all over again. Sometimes, there can be comfort in the familiar – even if it doesn’t serve you.
But that’s how you were taken into the cycle of abuse. You weren’t taking responsibility for yourself. To become truly liberated, you need to look within. The love you’re seeking has always been inside; all you have to do is acknowledge it. You can’t rely on others for your long-term happiness.
That’s the trap those predatory figures lay, and it’s how they can gain such a cult-like following. They prey on your needs, feeding you just enough to keep you asking for more. You’re left clambering for the next big thing. But when you get there, nothing ever changes. All your actions take place within a vacuum.
If you want to find true healing from spiritual abuse, you need distance. I’ve mentioned it previously. But that’s because it’s so important in recovering from narcissistic abuse. You need to let go. To look within and acknowledge the parts of yourself that need love. But more importantly, you need to fulfil those needs for yourself.
If you don’t, you’ll repeat the same cycle over and over again. Many people who fall victim to narcissists do so more than once. And that’s because they haven’t addressed their core issues. You get away from the abuse. But nothing’s changed within. You haven’t grown.
Don’t let yourself be fooled more than you already have. Get away from the crap. But make sure you do the inner work. Use your introspection and hindsight to discover where you’ve given your power away and focus on strengthening that part of your being.
No one should live rent-free in your headspace.