Revised and Updated on December 16, 2010 and June 24, 2011
In my long post – which was my reason for starting this blog – I wrote about my former friend “H”, a woman who was very controlling throughout our friendship and downright abusive during the final few years our friendship.
Several times since I ended the friendship I’ve considered exposing her to the leaders of my former — her ongoing — spiritual community. I’m sure they actually know already, but it’s good to have hard evidence of “assessments” (one of H’s favorite words).
For many women (and men), especially victims of Narcissism, exposing their abuser is a complex and tricky issue. This extends all the way to pressing charges in the instance of an actual crime taking place.
We’re taught to be forgiving, keep our mouth shut, endure our burden. We are literally taught to be martyrs because “that is what good people/good women do.” This applies to people who aren’t religious as well as those who are. It’s part of our cultural norm and identity.
I’ve thought a lot about the exposure issue since starting this blog, which is also when I formally ended that destructive friendship with “H,” after having Little Contact since the fall of 2008. From the age of approximately 23, H and I both had been very involved with an esoteric spiritual community (since about 1974-75). One of the main teachings of that religious philosophy directed us to “overlook the fault of another” or to “hide or cover the fault of another.”
Now generally speaking, that is all well and good on a committed spiritual path when people are behaving fairly well with a few occasional human blips. But what do we do when we’re part of a large spiritual community? What do we do when we are serious students of any method of connecting with God (or the Divine, or Sacred, or The Force), whether it be through traditional religion in a church, or a metaphysical or esoteric path or method?
What do we do when we realize that our spiritual brother or sister is actually crossing the line of acceptable behavior and is abusing us?
Do we turn the other cheek?
Turning the other cheek doesn’t mean turning it so we can be slapped again “because that’s what a good Christian (or a good person in general) does.” That’s a common interpretation of one of the main teachers of Jesus. It’s a martyr trip and it’s unproductive. It’s very injurious to our emotional well-being.
Turning the other cheek actually means to “turn away from evil” (ignoring it and putting one’s attention on something else). Jesus mostly turned away from evil, while occasionally tackling evil head-on. We must learn to turn away from evil: walk away, ignore, avoid it. In this case, evil means Abuse from an Abuser.
Do we “deal with it on the inner plane” as taught by many esoteric methods (including the one in which I was a student)? Sorry, but that just isn’t effective with a Narcissist.
Dealing with abuse “on the inner plane” doesn’t always work. The “inner plane” means using meditation, prayer, silent forgiveness, positive thoughts, etc., without discussing it outwardly with anyone. We always used to say that in my former community: “Deal with it on the inners.” My spiritual friends and I used to say that all the time: “just deal with it on the inners.”
I shudder to think how many opportunities for effective communication and true healing were lost by taking that approach. It only worked part of the time.
Bolder and more obvious measures must often be used. That is one reason why I’m still considering exposing my abuser, because she holds herself out as a wise spiritual teacher with the next-to-highest level of initiation within her spiritual community (my former one). She carefully manages her behavior around those she wants to impress (the long term and esteemed members of the community), while abusing those from whom she gets her Narcissistic Supply (me and at least one other person I know of: “B” who is mentioned in the story linked at the beginning of this post).
Mr. Hyde shows himself to the Victim, while Dr. Jekyll is carefully reserved for his Enablers and those whom the Narcissist wants to impress or whom the Narcissist needs in some way, a way that the Narcissist believes he or she cannot do without.
Exposing an abuser is very tricky, and it often carries negative consequences. I’ve already cut ties with many people. And because of FLEAS I’ve lost the respect of many of those same people. Therefore, in the end it doesn’t really matter anymore what I decide to do about the former friend (“H”).
Holding silence allows one to retain power and be the bigger person. I’ve done that with respect to H for several years.
Exposing is done when we want clarity, justice and to protect potential victims.
We must carefully consider whether the process of exposing our abuser is worth it to us and to those we wish to protect or warn about the abuser. (We are our brother’s keeper only to a point.)
That is why I am still undecided about exposing H.
The kicker is that the blow-back usually hits the accuser, not the abuser. And that opens a big can of worms, as many of we abused have already discovered. People just don’t want to listen, nor do they want to believe us, mostly because they see little or no evidence. (Mr. Hyde knows he must be careful and selective!) People don’t feel it is their place to be judgmental. They also like the abuser and don’t want to believe that he or she has a really dark side.
Last but not least, people certainly don’t want to become a target themselves, in case it is true. I have a feeling that people believe the victim more often than they admit, but don’t want to get involved or become vulnerable.
Many people who are deeply religious — or even just spiritually oriented — actually believe that if you blow the whistle on someone who’s been abusing you, you deserve to be punished because you’re not being nice or spiritual, or forgiving, or “Christian-like.” They think you’re over-reacting, and that you’re being judgmental, rude, inappropriate, etc. And especially, they don’t trust you anymore because if you blow the whistle with respect to someone else, they wonder if they can trust you and it makes them wary of you.
Not least, if you expose a parent or a leader in the church or community, you aren’t honoring your parents — as the Bible directs us to do. Then you’re being a “bad Christian” or a “bad child” or a “Bad Seed” which my mother called me more than once. (That movie “The Bad Seed” came out when I was 5 years old… how utterly convenient for my N mother! It was about a child killer, a psychopath. I have never, and would never, call either of my children a Bad Seed.)
Indeed, while I was a student on a spiritual path in the formal sense, I felt guilty whenever I would think about going No Contact with my mother. It was exactly what I needed to do, but I believed that as a spiritual person, a cradle Christian, a then-dervish, I wasn’t supposed to do that. I was supposed to meet verbal violence and over manipulation with respect and forbearance instead of running for the hills, which is what I should have done.
I always tried to forgive my mother, overlook her faults, work around her, avoid her, fight to the death with her, whatever came up at any given time. It was because I was taking the Christian approach of my childhood, and the dervish approach of my young and middle adulthood. I knew nothing else. The precepts (both real and imagined) of these communities were all I had ever known.
Unfortunately, a frequent result of exposing and being doubted is that we become even more outraged than before, because people don’t believe us and/or they judge us for talking about it.
That’s dangerous territory in our healing process.
Instead of the focus being shifted onto the abuser, people start looking at us and “what we must have done to deserve such treatment,” even if we’ve done nothing wrong. And if we have FLEAS, which we usually do, people conclude that we deserved what we got and dismiss us.
Therefore, exposing our abuser can be temporarily satisfying, but it can bring even more challenges than we’re already dealing with.
We need to strategize how we approach the exposure should we decide to actually do it. We learn to control our attitude and behavior, we establish (or re-establish) healthy relationships with those who have been brainwashed about us, we let information out a little at a time at appropriate times, etc. Whatever works, because like many abused people I/we want the absolute truth of the situation, and we want justice.
Some may call it revenge. I call it justice.
I heartily agree with and recommend the following articles:
Narcissistic Spiritual Gurus by Linda Martinez-Lewi, PhD
Narcissism and the Web of Illusion by Rev. Kaleah LaRoche
Spiritual Narcissism by Rev. Melody Heart
All three articles deal with Narcissism in the metaphysical spiritual world, a world of which I was a part for many years. While I was very fortunate to have an excellent guide in my early student years, a few years later, and most recently a couple of years ago, I came into contact with many Highly Narcissistic people — both spiritual leaders and those who were aspiring to become spiritual leaders. In addition there were many borderline type personalities and hangers-on at the periphery of the community.