Out From Under the Umbrella

playing in the rain

Fixers and Fiends

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In the last several posts I’ve discussed narcissism/psychopathy and codependence.  There is a distinct relationship between the two.  A codependent either by nature or by nurture doesn’t know where s/he ends and another begins.  They don’t recognize boundaries.

Codependents also seek out security.  They find individuals who are or appear to be confident, positive, and self-assured very attractive.  With an air of superiority, grandiose visions, and elevated an elevated estimate of self-importance narcissists fit the bill.  Narcissists crave admiration and codependents want someone to admire and look up to.

Narcissists can’t handle their superiority or their authority being challenged (sound like any preachers you know?).  They need relationships with individuals who are ready and willing to be and remain subservient to them.  Codependents find it difficult to make their own decisions, for whatever reasons (nature or nurture) so they commonly defer to the narcissist.  This plays to the narcissists ego and makes him/her feel important.

Over time the codependent takes on the defensive characteristics and survival behaviors of the narcissist so that the narcissism is extended beyond themselves.  If the narcissist experiences some kind of “injury”, like having their authority challenged, having their superiority questioned, a codependent will go to battle to defend their amour by any means necessary including lying, among other insidious behaviors, to “protect” them.  Anything that angers the “leader” also angers the “follower”.  Eventually the codependent feels they cannot live without or survive without the narcissist.  They are their world.  That is a lot of power for an individual to wield. And s/he knows how to use it.  Anywhere outside of religion that is called exactly what it is – a sickness.  In any religion besides your own that would be called a cult.

This would explain why people feel a need, not just to defend their god, but attack anyone who would dare to question him.  And, according to the religion, would feel justified in doing so, calling it righteous anger.  Because god has received some perceived injury to his ego or reputation his people go on the defensive and vile behavior is the result. All of this, mind you, under the guise of love.  The codependent is convinced this is what love is and what love does. What kind of god needs defending or protection?  If he is so great and so mighty and so strong why would his ego be hurt at all by a few questions?  But the problem is his followers don’t know where they end and god begins.  Any assertion that he might not be all he’s claimed to be is a personal affront to them.

It is also why people, like me, feel or felt we could trounce on the personal boundaries of others.  We think we can see so plainly what someone else needs to “fix” them, because god told us so, that we bulldoze right over them.  They’re swimming along perfectly fine, but because they decide not to follow one or more of god’s rules we decide they need to be saved.   We look at them and see them as drowning.  So we dive in, tell them their drowning, and try our damnedest to drag them to shore.  All the while they’re looking at us like we have three heads, kicking against us, while both go under.  Looking like lunatics people, in defense of their chosen deity, hold signs up in protest of homosexuality and abortion and burn Qurans.  It’s why Rick Santorum thinks he should be able to tell women that they cannot take birth control.

Most of us, some more than others, have experienced this backlash from the codependents of the pastor/leadership of their church lord when we voiced our questions or had the nerve to question the Bible or the audacity to challenge church leadership.  Even if we didn’t leave the faith entirely, but just decided on a more progressive, friendly form of the faith we have been maligned.  Family, friends, neighbors either were angry and retaliated in defense of whatever the perceived injury occurred, or they tried to guilt us into staying, or they tried to rescue us, or they shunned us.

This is a god who supposedly created the heavens and the earth, by whatever means.  This is a god who supposedly controls the universe.  And yet he also orchestrates the most ridiculous of scenarios so that we, his beloved, get to serve him(sometimes in evil ways like killing entire nations of people), then tell him how wonderful he is for allowing us the opportunity, praise him all the day long, and go to bed feeling worthless.  We behave in completely unethical  and sometimes criminal ways and feel completely justified in doing so because we have based our ideas of right or wrong on a literal, inerrant reading of scripture.

The only way to break free from this illness of codependence is to somehow, pardon the pun, miraculously discover that that god doesn’t exist and even if he did he wouldn’t need us to slay people in his name.

Thank the gods I’m recovering.

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48 thoughts on “Fixers and Fiends

  1. Well said. Vengeance is mine, saith the Lord. 🙂

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  2. I agree with you. That God doesn’t exist. Thank gods! I think you give a great analysis of the typical fundamentalist’s relationship with their God.

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  3. As I ponder – a question or two comes to mind: If God is a narcissist, are his followers a mix of narcissists and codependents? Does a healthy balanced follower of God exist?

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    • A healthy relationship would be interdependent. One where both parties are mutually responsible and accountable to one another. God doesn’t exist in this form. He is the ultimate authority and not subject to questioning or criticism nor is he responsible to answer to his followers. Since we can’t hear God, we have to decrypt the code by looking at clues left in the Bible, with other followers, and through prayer. Does that sound healthy? I’m not sure that there can be healthy, balanced “followers” of any philosophy. Please don’t misunderstand what I’m saying. Certainly one could subscribe to a philosophy and be healthy. That is if they are allowed to disagree with the philosophy, pick and choose which parts of it they want to follow and dismiss the parts with which they disagree. In other words, think for themselves. It becomes dangerous when no dissenting opinions can be voiced.

      Yes, there probably is a mix of narcissists and codependents within God’s followers, though to what degree I’m not certain. Is that pastor who got angry and retaliatory toward a congregant who disagreed with him a narcissist? Maybe. Probably. A lot of fundamentalist pastors feel they’ve been appointed by god to be in authority over the church. Why did they seek out this role? Most likely because they enjoy the power(though they’d probably not admit that and, in fact, would most likely deny it.) Where else could they lord over and control such a large group of people? Without the “word of god” backing them up who would even listen?

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      • It just seems like such a complicated mess doesn’t it.

        I really appreciate this discussion D’Ma. It’s helping me peel another layer to my onion.

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      • There really is so much more I could say about this. A lot of this thought process came about because I had to deal with a real life, flesh and blood, narcissist. I had to peel back the layers to my onion(I’m still peeling). Suddenly I realized I was codependent in my relationship with God and religion.

        I got to thinking that a healthy relationship as a “follower” of God might look an awful lot like moderate/progressive Christianity or, what you and I would have referred to as, cafeteria Christianity. I would have questioned their actual born-again status if they could feel free to pick and choose which parts they wanted to believe and which parts they didn’t. While I still don’t quite get the how in believing part of scripture, but not all of it, I applaud them for having the gumption to realize parts of their religion, at least, were questionable and/or downright despicable.

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  4. The narcissist-codependent dyad describes so many dimensions of fundamentalist Christianity: the relationship between Yahweh and Israel in the Bible, the relationship between domineering pastors and their flocks in some churches, and the relationship between husband and wife in particularly toxic examples of “male headship.”

    I always wondered why so many fundamentalist Christians I’ve met have no concept of boundaries. Thanks to your post, I understand a little better now.

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    • There is so much more that could have been written on this subject. When scripture is interpreted literally it give explicit instructions for this dynamic. Always setting someone up to be the authority and someone else to be the servant. It sad that so many, including myself, confused this kind of relationship with love.

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  5. “Is that pastor who got angry and retaliatory toward a congregant who disagreed with him a narcissist? Maybe. Probably.”

    I think what’s so frustrating and hard to untangle, is that since childhood, I’ve been instructed to trust these men. The assumption is that they are closer to God and more moral than your average human. And this assumption just feeds their narcissism.

    And the comment about boundaries is so true…I still struggle to understand proper boundaries and that I don’t have to throw myself under the bus anymore.

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  6. Another way to describe believers are Right Wing Authoritarians and Social Dominators.

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  7. Fabulous post! I love the way you’ve contrasted co-dependency and narcissism, and how you’ve showed the two feed each other so well.

    Oh my gosh, no wonder church feels like a nut house. It’s a bunch of co-dependents following /being guided by narcissists.

    I was severely co-dependent when I was a Christian. Today, I consider myself a mild-codependent. But… you know why? Fighting co-dependency is making me lonely. Every time I start to overly worry about a person, or feel like controlling them, or feel like getting too involved in their lives, I walk away. I’m afraid that if I become too close, I will go on a fully co-dependent mode. Isn’t that sad?

    It’s like being a lonely alcoholic, because if you go to the pub to meet people, you’ll drink again.

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    • I was pretty co-dependent as a Christian, myself. To some degree it’s healthy to be dependent on others. Where we, you and I, must make a distinction is here:

      “Every time I start to overly worry about a person, or feel like controlling them, or feel like getting too involved in their lives, I walk away. I’m afraid that if I become too close, I will go on a fully co-dependent mode.”

      Why do we feel the need to control someone else? Are they not okay just like they are? If they truly have a problem, and one that you can help with – on your own terms, that isn’t co-dependence. If we can’t have friendships with imperfect people without trying to “fix” them we’ve got a problem. On the other hand we have to decide how much we will allow their imperfection to affect our lives. Setting boundaries is for ourselves, for our own protection – not to fix them. It’s up to them to decide if they have a problem and whether they want to fix it. Sometimes that does me walking away. I’ve found it’s best to let them make that decision as well. If you tell someone your boundary and they continue to violate it, that means their desire for (fill in the blank) is more important than your relationship. Then it’s their decision. Case closed.

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    • At least that’s how I’m attempting to approach it.

      *I am not a psychologist. Although I did stay at a Holiday Inn Express once.

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  8. What I’m enjoying about this series is how much it’s putting into words how … well, for lack of a better word, creepy I find conservative Christianity. It’s like you’re hitting everything that was in my subconscious.

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    • You know, I think we were creeped out by some things we should have been creeped out by. But we dismissed it and forged ahead because we were entranced by this thought of God. The concept of God is ingrained into most of us from the time we’re born. Not specifically this concept of God, but God in general. When we began reading the Bible at face value, not taking into consideration genre, audience, intent, we were naturally uneasy about the implications. As conservative, fundamentalist Christians that’s how we were taught to read it. Because the Holy Spirit has preserved the Word, we believed we were the intended audience. God’s word, the same yesterday, today and forever. It was meant for us just as it was written. So we tried to obey. Pretty messed up stuff, that.

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  9. Reblogged this on Out From Under the Umbrella and commented:

    “Mirror, mirror on the wall..who’s the fairest of them all?” The Queen from Snow White

    Believers are a reflection of their god. They only differ in what they believe to be true about that god.

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  10. Really interesting series of posts. I can relate a lot of what you say to Christians I’ve known, particularly the narcissistic preachers. Do you think the narcissism is reinforced by the power trip? Or perhaps it’s just a separate chemical bonus.

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    • I had originally thought that people with narcissism sought out fundamentalist religions because they validate their desires and give them an outlet to exploit. So my thinking was that narcissism was reinforced by fundamentalist beliefs and teachings, knowing that they were ‘special’ and having that validated. After some discussion with Victoria about traumatic brain injuries and religious experiences I’m not sure. It’s possibly a combination of both. Sort of like Pinkagendist’s mention of compensatory narcissism, the end result is the same and in-distinguishable. Maybe religion “flips the narcissist” switch in some people, and maybe others come into religion with their narcissism.

      Power trips are very intoxicating, so it’s probably not an either/or but a combination of both.

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      • I think I’d really enjoy being a narcissistic cult leader. Telling people what to do and then being all humble and reflective about things, then telling them what to do again. A get a wee mini surge just thinking about it. Imagine, you’re right all the time because otherwise the divine creator of things wouldn’t have put you in charge … 🙂

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    • “Do you think the narcissism is reinforced by the power trip?”

      I have a 15 Volume set of books called “The Anti-Nicene Fathers”. These are the writings of the Early Church Fathers from about 150 CE to the Council of Nicea . Throughout their works, one of the major themes is to “Honor the Bishop” as you would Christ. And to take direction from the Bishop , only.

      Clement of Rome writes, “He that honors the bishop shall be honored of God But he that doeth any thing without his knowledge ministers unto the devil

      I think it is evident Church Leaders were on a “Power Trip” from the beginning .

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      • “I have a 15 Volume set of books called “The Anti-Nicene Fathers”” – ouch! I can almost smell them. That is really interesting though, and reminds me of some things I was reading about the Catholic Church recently. It must be difficult to control yourself when the god God has hand-picked you to lead people.

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      • Hey, aren’t you in Hawaii? Or are you home already?

        Yikes! One might have figured, though.

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      • Yes Ruth, I am still in Maui until next Thursday. My 2 daughters and their families are leaving tomorrow and I know they will be kicking and screaming all the way to the airport. It was so nice to have them here for my birthday.

        I had some free time and had to sign on to see what was going on in the blogosphere . LOL

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  11. Praise Velle’s Velles doesn’t exist. That still doesn’t explain where my car keys go every second day.

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  12. Could this explain why some of the god believers find no contradiction in killing stoning someone for adultery since their god is going to punish them either way, making the punishment begin sooner ain’t really bad?

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    • I think that because they believe their god told them to do the stoning they believe it’s a righteous act instead of an atrocity. It explains why they take on the characteristics of their god and carry out what they believe to be his orders without abandon. It explains why believers repeat the oft recited ‘God is good’ without reservation or exception. No matter what god commands, does, or wants can be bad, so neither can carrying them out. It explains the governments of nations feel empowered to outlaw homosexuality. It explains why the pew-sitters feel free to tell homosexuals they’re bad sinny sinners and atheists they are without reason.

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      • Makes sense.
        I oft see the phrase love the sinner but not the sin or something to that effect and then the trope of the bible and homosexuality and added to the list I have seen prostitution. One thing I know is hardly no one/ state makes a prohibition before a crime is committed. This being the case, good old YHWH was quite late in issuing his warning against prostitution or is it one of those instances where omniscience was not involved?

        Once a person believes god is good regardless of whatever they can observe, they must create a scapegoat, in this case they have created demons and evil spirits.

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        • It’s seems old YHWH was late in most of his admonishments. The only one he got out in front of was the forbidden fruit.

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          • Which tells how much he cared about fruits 😀
            Was it a necessary admonishment?

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          • Hehe….god only knows, mak.

            I also meant to add that the reason the average pew-sitter feels so free to tell others how they should be living without reservation, whether it be prostitution, homosexuality, or disbelief is because they believe that god’s rules apply to everyone equally – believer or not. Because their god hates these things, so do they. They forget where their beliefs and themselves end and other people begin. They feel free to trounce over other people’s boundaries without a second thought. Other people’s boundaries are their very freedoms which believers see no problem infringing upon.

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          • This must be the result of seeing themselves as messengers of god, doing god’s work here on earth. Strange people, believers are!

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          • Try convincing a crazy person they’re crazy….

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          • Well, I tried with a drunk person it didn’t work

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          • Ooh…good analogy. It’s impossible to convince an addict that they’re an addict. It’s something they have to see for themselves. Thank Odin I’ve seen the light!

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          • I tell you. I don’t know who to thank for the light, but whoever it is, am grateful.

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        • Oh, and that whole ‘hate the sin love the sinner’ thing; that rarely, if ever, actually plays itself out in a good way. People behave in the most hateful of ways and call it love. I’m of the opinion that their concept of love is completely distorted by their belief system.

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          • Either love means a different thing when applied to religion or whatever they purport to do is only known to them.

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          • While they may do these things under the guise of ‘tough love’ they clearly do not understand what that means. ‘Tough love’ is tough because it hurts the giver as much or more than it does the receiver. Truth be known, I think a lot of believers get a sadistic pleasure out telling everyone else how bad they are. That is not ‘tough love’.

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          • The same pleasure they get from telling non believers they will be in hell. I think this people don’t think so much about what they profess

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