Life with a Narcissist: Your Own Personal Mini-Cult

For those that are not living a life with a narcissistic parent or spouse, comparing them to that of a cult leader may seem absurd. But if one understands what makes up the personality of a cult leader, they will be able to see a duplication of characteristics in a narcissistic parent or spouse. Hopefully, after seeing the similarities, they will be able to avoid becoming a victim, or will be able to help a victim obtain freedom.
Please understand that for ease of writing, the Narcissist is referred to in the male context. Even though it is more common for the Narcissist to be of the male persuasion, it is just as easy to have female Narcissists, especially at a place of employment or in the family unit.

First of all, we all know that a cult is basically a devotion to a particular person or thing. We usually think of religious cults, but there are many types. Some can be positive, but more often than not, they end up being destructive. An extreme example is the well-known cult in Waco, Texas.

Cults also come in less recognizable forms, such as polygamist communities or groups that use a subtle form of mind control. These are found on college campuses and within communities, with college students and elderly people the easiest victims. Many times, the ability to detect a cult is quite difficult. The cult is generally not discovered until an explosive event takes place. Cults are breeding grounds for physical abuse as well as emotional.

Basically, cult leaders are Narcissists who have failed at their mini-cult life, and usually are high-achievers or someone famous. To outsiders, they often appear very charismatic, continually attracting people into their circle, which gives them the ability to promote their beliefs. To those within the cult, they are usually described as authoritarian. One must beware when going against a narcissistic leader, because they are not able to handle criticism or any amount of disagreement. The charismatic person that the abused was originally attracted to evaporates, and suddenly they are facing a monster. The traits of this type of person fit the narcissistic spouse/parent as well.

Just as a cult leader is the controller of their world, so are Narcissists controllers of their mini-cult: the family unit. The mini-cult is just as difficult to detect as a community cult. Just as an explosive event causes the discovery of a community cult, generally it is the isolation of the Narcissist’s victims from friends and family that brings the mini-cult to light. Divorce is also a common event that will allow others to learn about the actual life of the family members.

There is a well-developed system of hierarchy within the cult. T he leader is obviously at the top. Next may be certain male members. There may be a ranking among the “wives” of the leader. Within a family, there is also a system of hierarchy. The wife will not be equal with her husband. In extreme cases, the wife will not reside in what would be the obvious place right below the husband. The Narcissist may favor his sons over his wife and daughters, for example, giving them more respect and control. If the son is of the same type of person, this may actually cause the son to also have control of the wife and daughters, but in a lesser amount. This type of hierarchy will most assuredly create a new Narcissist.

The cult leader will continually want more power and wealth. They will quietly acquire wealth while the members of their community barely live on enough to survive and are required to turn over all their “worldly goods” to the leader. In the mini-cult, the Narcissist may move quickly up the ladder into a high power of position, while the wife is encouraged to stop working, becoming totally dependant on the husband. This is critical to the Narcissist in order to gain control.

The Narcissist will often use money to control the wife, such as reminding her that it is HIS money, that they do not share what he makes, and that she is no better than a maid. He will also make sure he has access to all bank accounts. This includes the accounts that he sets up for his children when they start working. He may allow the children to work, so that things look “normal”, but he will monitor all their finances.

Those who become the victims of a cult lose all contact with the outside world. Any form of contact with those who do not belong in their world is examined for possible violation of the cult leader’s desires. In the family unit, the husband will monitor all forms of communication. He does this thru access to phone records, reading other family members’ mail, and will make sure that they know all the passwords for emails, etc. Privacy is non-existent.

Just as the cult leader will not respect the boundaries of the other members, the Narcissist will not respect boundaries of the family. These boundaries could be related to privacy in the bathroom or bedroom, or the boundaries that develop because of a divorce. The only way boundaries brought about by a divorce will be respected is if the ex-spouse obtains a protection order. Even that may not stop them entirely, because the Narcissist will find loopholes that will allow them to have some form of contact with the ex-spouse, especially if children are still in the picture. They will use their own children, their new spouse, or friends of the ex to find out information that can be used against their current focus of attention.

A cult leader has the ability to manage many people. He will continually change his demands and needs to keep everyone beneath him guessing. This keeps the victims unable to predict his reactions. The cult leader also determines what rights the members below him can have, as well as what they are required to do to help maintain this demented community. Any of these things can change at a moment’s notice.

In a mini-cult, the Narcissist will determine what the wife is responsible for. He will determine what freedoms she is permitted to have, and how often. These freedoms will gradually be reduced over time. He makes it extremely difficult for the wife to enjoy what freedoms she has, causing the wife to seek out these freedoms less often, finally giving them up almost totally. His final goal is complete control and isolation. Narcissists will control the tiniest of details of every part of their family unit, whether it is chores, jobs, behaviors, activities, or education. They will have very specific rules. If these rules are not followed to the letter, the non-conformer will be punished.

If members of either world go against the rules, show independence, or fail to perform as demanded, both the cult leader and Narcissist will most definitely punish the non-conformist. They take great joy in handing out punishments, which often are not proportionate to the misdeed. They make it almost impossible for the victim to not make mistakes. What they do not realize is that at some point, the victim of their control may reach a point that they realize that they will not accept this type of treatment any longer. This is especially true of children who reach the age of discretion.

Narcissists will continue to bring up past transgressions, especially if the result of these transgressions is a complete severing of ties with a past mini-cult member. Generally, the Narcissist will not be able to face their part in the event. As time goes on, they will completely forget certain parts that they cannot face, or they will make the transgressor the person the owner of the misdeed. It is almost impossible to get them to remember or admit to their actions.

Trying to escape a cult takes will-power and a lot of time after to de-program what was put into one’s head. If there was a lot of physical abuse involved as well, the recovery period is an even longer, more difficult time. If the victim still has some contact with the Narcissist, usually in the form of shared custody, healing will not really be able to fully begin until the last child is no longer in contact with the controlling parent. Complete separation is the only way to survive and heal.

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