Spiritual Narcissism: When Empowerment Is Out Balance

Submitted by an Anonymous Guest Contributor

We all have choices to make in our lives and we all have different life experiences, pasts, families, and environments which raised us in our formative years and that continue to influence our decisions. Very few have learned to trust their intuition first before reaching out to others for answers. And depending on where one looks for answers, rarely will they find a full integrity teacher whose wisdom illuminates the path of living. “What is the difference between a true teacher who has value to bring forth from their tested knowledge or earned wisdom and a guru-type who preys on the weakness and ignorance of others to abuse and manipulate for personal gain?” There are ways to identify spiritual narcissism and step back from its negative influence and consequences.

How to identify spiritual narcissism?

At what point in our life have we sold out on ourselves for a quick fix to our spiritual angst or relationship woes, or even made that impulse purchase based on high-level promises for low-level effort? Does this sound familiar? Can you sense that there is an inner desire for the answer to be an easy one? A true desire to hear someone else tell you what the answer is? If any of this sounds familiar, please know you are not alone. Through my own exploration and thousands of conversations with other human beings, it seems this is a fairly common way of thinking and being. It is through following this thread of inquiry that I am still learning about myself and the choices I have made, where I have given my power away in the past or am still tempted to do so today.

How self-doubt can lead to manipulation

As part of a spiritual community for nearly a decade, it was often discussed that spiritual narcissism existed in “those other people”, the ones who obviously were deceiving themselves and others. In our community, however, we felt empowered and privileged. It was as if we had won some sort of cosmic lottery to happen upon a certain thread of teachings that spoke to our hearts and began to turn us inside out from the get-go.

Transforming ourselves was the key to our inner work. Yet, it was also about coming together, working together and building a lasting legacy through the guidance of our spiritual teacher. He was gentle, poetic, regal and had a fatherly energy that could make even grown men weep. It was instilled in us that he had a much stronger connection to God than any of us students as he had been on “the path” much longer. It was his destiny to lead us to our enlightened state in a very specific and psychological way and only he held the key. Clearly, it was our fortune to have happened to have found this opportunity.

Looking at spiritual narcissism and away

Through the years we grew into a buzzing group of highly educated global citizens with the purpose of working for our spiritual illumination. We were empowered and blossoming, at least, we were in our own minds. It was not until a series of devastating events occurred that the façade of the false paradise we had been living in began to wear down. Even then, the spiritual yearning of which we had devoted our lives kept most of us entwined for much longer than could be considered healthy.

One deception after another and the walls of the lie began to crumble. It is when the collapse of the “mission” becomes imminent that a spiritual narcissist reveals him/herself.

When a collective false-reality begins to fall apart, the narcissist deflects responsibility and points to someone else in the community as a scapegoat to take the fall. At that pivotal moment, the other community members can either, realize what is really happening and use it as a means to escape, breaking the “spell” that the charismatic leader once had or choose to join in blaming the scapegoat in order to justify the continuation of the lie for themselves.

This is where it gets interesting and spiritual narcissism reveals all of its dark consequences. Who is truly empowered in a spiritual community when there is a false prophet or spiritual narcissist leading the pack? No one. Clearly, only the leader who is not empowered through his or her own inner work and exploration depends on the praise and hazy attachment of their followers to provide them with vitality, vision, blood, sweat and tears.

Embracing a renewed spirit on the path to empowerment

How does one empower themselves in these situations? The only true way is to liberate oneself from the false ropes of security and the chains of shattered dreams where one has given their entire power of thought and identity over to a person or group without realizing it.

Has this happened to you? It is more common than you might think.

Have you ever felt your soul slowly dying because you can’t express yourself to your boss or an overt co-worker? How about the sinking feeling when you love your partner but secretly know you aren’t receiving the respect you deserve as a human being? When do you give your power away? Have you lost days to drugs, alcohol or social media? Take some time to consider all these questions. Reflect on those relationships and habits where you lose time for no apparent reason when your time is more precious than gold. This could happen in part with a spiritual teacher, intimate relationship or any vice where we lose our independence and self-control.

A few questions to ask yourself along the way

This is when we come to the question, is there another way? Is there a way to explore spirituality without falling for the next guru-trap or self-destructive vice? Perhaps there are other ways that begin within you.

It is a process to begin hand in hand with yourself. Take some time to analyze your deepest emotions and ask yourself:

Do I feel the freedom to express myself as I am?

Do I suffer from comparing myself to others in my community because they are more “enlightened” than I am?

Am I paying a fortune to find God?

Do I exclude myself from others because they are less evolved or “low vibe”?

Do I belong to an exclusive group that has answers that aren’t available to others?

Am I thinking for myself or do I need to ask permission to live, act or date as I want?

Is there a central leader to whom I am devoted that is a human being with “special powers”?

Do I need to drink to feel social?

Am I afraid of what will happen if I don’t act out my desires?

Does life seem boring without my self-destructive behaviors?

Am I afraid of the unknown?

Do I tend to do it “by myself”?

Am I able to ask for help when I need it?

Do I solely depend on psychoactive substances for the answers to my problems?

How are my relationships?

These are several provocative questions, I know. Through self-inquiry, worlds are revealed and once we know something, you will find that it is difficult to un-know. Maybe this conversation provokes more questions than it provides answers, and maybe that is just the point: to question behaviors and habits in order to re-establish our empowerment and step away from spiritual narcissism.

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