Let me try to explain something you might not know: narcissists love inciting gullible people to hurt others on their behalf, and they’re good at it.
It’s one of the most predictable behaviors for a narcissistic person. It’s one of the most baffling forms of abuse they commit. Many of us have been the victims of that abuse, and it’s such a confusing experience we might still be unable to articulate what happened. It can look a number of ways:
–A narcissistic mother grooms a few of her children as the favorites, spoils them and wouldn’t harm them, but she’s picked out one child as the scapegoat. She says over and over again that the scapegoat child is a problem child who ruined her life. The other children take her hint and start bullying and abusing the scapegoat.
–The scapegoat eventually grows up and goes no-contact with the family, so the narcissistic mother turns to the extended family, the aunts and grandparents, and repeats her sob story. The extended family believe it and do everything in their power to bring the scapegoat child “home” to take her punishment. They honestly think they’re doing the right thing.
–A relatively smart, popular child at school surrounds himself with less smart peers who want to be popular. He spreads rumors about an unpopular child, and the other children believe him. They bully and humiliate the child for what they think he did.
–A teacher picks out a child he doesn’t like in a classroom full of impressionable children. He starts blaming that child for everything that goes wrong in the classroom. He does this several times; eventually, he tells the whole class they all have to stay in at recess and clean the classroom themselves because of a mess that the scapegoat student made. The other children resent the scapegoat for this and start bullying him.
–A lady with a pious reputation befriends the new pastor who is young and fresh out of seminary; she gets on his good side by doing a lot of volunteer work and having the pastor over for dinner when he’s lonely. The pastor relies on her for advice because he doesn’t know anyone and feels a little helpless. The lady then starts gossiping to the pastor about people or families she doesn’t like. The pastor, thinking he’s protecting the parish, starts doing everything he can to exclude and embarrass those families. When the families leave the parish, the abusive lady and the pastor both decide it’s because they weren’t good Christians to begin with.
–A group of people join an “intentional community,” not realizing it’s really a cult. The cult leader manipulates the people in the community by making them rely on him as the only one who can interpret the Bible. The people remain in the cult because they’ve been groomed to feel that they’ll go to hell if they don’t. Once in awhile, to keep everyone on their toes, he directs his followers to abuse a member of the cult who has shown any independence, and they do so so that they themselves won’t become the next victim.
You can probably think of some other examples.
And yes, I’m bringing this up because of the impeachment. This is an example of what happens when an entire country ends up under the sway of a narcissist. Donald Trump is far from the only narcissist to ever become president, but he’s surely the most blatant case we’ve seen. He surrounded himself with stupid people who would be his yes-men. He said just what it took to manipulate gullible people who want an authority figure, people like the traditionalist Catholics and the white Evangelicals and the Q Anon crowd, into thinking he was their leader. He scapegoated others as enemies of those people. And they believed him. They did all kinds of violent things in the days leading up to January 6th in order to please and defend him. People like me who have been abused by narcissists before recognized what was happening and tried to warn others there would be more violence, but we weren’t listened to. People thought we were overreacting. And then on January 6th, Trump’s followers staged a coup attempt and murdered six people. They injured many more, physically and emotionally. And the more footage we watch of those attacks, the more we realize it could have been so much worse. They wanted to massacre the United States Congress, to shoot Nancy Pelosi in the head and to lynch Mike Pence. They did it because they were groomed to do it by a narcissist.
That’s why Trump is being held responsible in the impeachment proceedings today. I don’t think he’ll be convicted by the Senate, because so many of the senators are followers he groomed. But he really did do what they’re saying he did.
It doesn’t mean that the people who actually took part in the riot and committed those murders aren’t responsible for what they did. They are. So are abusive family members, gullible pastors, cult members and kids who bully at school. We are all responsible when we cooperate with evil. We are all responsible to be savvy about the authority figures we listen to and the way we treat those we’ve been told are our enemies. But these actions were all incited by a narcissist who knew just what to say to the people he duped. They wouldn’t have happened without his manipulation. In a very real way, he pulled the trigger. His followers consented to be the gun, but he pulled the trigger.
If anyone can’t understand why we’re holding Trump responsible today, that’s the reason. He did what narcissists do, and he got people killed because of it.
That’s what narcissists do.
Image via Pixabay
Mary Pezzulo is the author of Meditations on the Way of the Cross and Stumbling into Grace: How We Meet God in Tiny Works of Mercy.
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