narcissism, power, and staying awake.

I hope you all made it through Thanksgiving okay. I know for many it was likely to be a rough ride, with the reality of family and friends’ who-voted-for-who. We avoided the topic in certain settings, overrun by all 5 kids home for 3 days and knowing it wouldn’t lead to anything productive.

I’ll admit, I’ve been in a bit of a fog since November 8th and have bizarre out-of-the-blue moments where I look at my husband or kids while we’re driving and keep repeating, “Donald-freaking-Trump is going to be the president of the USA. OMG. The President of the USA.” Yes, it’s mockable but true; I was one of those white liberal privileged people who really didn’t think it would actually happen. It is like an alternative reality.

But it is true. Donald Trump is going to be the US president, and he’s appointing a whole bunch of people to positions of power in our country that are terrifying.

My Facebook feed is filled with a mix of reactions, and I am glad for a wide variety of friendships, that relationship supersedes our voting preferences and theological beliefs. But just because other people are okay with what happened, hopeful even, I don’t have to go along or accept it or “make nice” or “wait and see” or blindly “just give him a chance.”

I strongly believe that’s what happens when we’re dealing with narcissists–people get snowed.

People in relationship with narcissists can start to believe they are actually the ones who are too angry, too volatile, too _______ and need to change. People start to get desensitized to the crazy and begin to let it go, thinking it’s too big of a battle to fight. People become  intoxicated by words and hearing what they want to hear.

I’ve written about narcissism more than a few times because in my opinion it’s one of the premier problems with “the church.” The church is one of the safest havens for narcissists on the planet because unfortunately, on the whole, people are addicted to charisma, strength, power, and sure-ness, and narcissists are awesome at delivering that. I hate to say it, but it feels true–people love being sheep and keep mistaking wolves for shepherds. It makes me think of John 10 and the reality that for many Christians the voice of the stranger is actually the most familiar voice we know so we keep following it.

Honestly, Donald Trump just magnified this whole narcissism phenomenon in a more clear way.  Knowing that 81% of white evangelicals voted for him, and 58% of all Christians did, too, emphasizes this point.

Narcissists usually win.

I have seen many of them lose battles along the way, but they rise again and again and again.

In fact, it has felt crazy to me, watching what people will tolerate, ignore, pretend-didn’t-happen, numb themselves out to, rationalize, justify, and a whole host of other protection mechanisms that keep narcissists on the ascent.

Right now, before I write about healing and community and Jesus and Advent and many other non-Donald-Trump-y things, I really just needed to remind myself–and others reading here–of a few things about narcissists as we enter into these interesting, challenging days with one as our president.

1. Narcissists make you feel crazy. I know that in non-violent communication, supposedly, no one can make you feel anything. But seriously, in relationship with full-blown narcissists, it’s a different story. During this election cycle, I can’t tell you the number of times where I couldn’t believe what I was seeing and hearing and yet support for him continued to grow. What was I missing? Am I the crazy one? No, we’re not the crazy one! Narcissists make people feel crazy. Even when they make others feel right at home.

2. They surround themselves with Yes men (and yes, they’re usually men, but not always, ha ha). Narcissists boot out those who challenge them. They mock them, ostracize them, scapegoat them.  They build a bubble of followers who keep the whole cycle going. We all watched as Donald Trump tromped on anyone who challenged him, and now we’re watching his Yes men receive their rewards.

3. They tell people what they want to hear. This is one of the hardest things for me about the rise of narcissist pastors and abusive narcissist men who have been married to many amazing women I personally know. They say all the right words to the right people to gain the right support.  It makes people on the periphery doubt their doubt.  “Maybe he’s not that bad.” “I just can’t seem him doing that.” “He is misunderstood.”  I have heard all of these in the past few weeks related to Donald Trump as well.

4. They only care about themselves, their survival, their welfare, their egos.  Yep, it’s strong language. “Only” might seem too negative and not fair, but please, go back to #1. Don’t let yourself get hypnotized by their fairy dust. They do not look out for you. They look out for themselves first and foremost and will step on anyone who doesn’t feed them along the way.

I could add many more but I’ll stop there.

Please, if you haven’t already, read up on the reality of full-blown narcissists for the days and months to come. If you’ve had a faith shift, chances are you’ve probably followed one along the way. If you’ve been married to one, oh, my heart is with you in the PTSD associated with what this election likely stirred up.

And if you are being told to give this newly-risen-to-power one a chance, be careful.

Power begets power.

And this kind of power doesn’t care about you or the people you love and care about.

This is going to be a long ride, and we must stay awake.

That’s the best way we can fight against narcissism–stay awake and refuse to believe them, follow them, or submit ourselves to them. 

I personally believe that is actually the most “Christian” thing we can do.

Kathy Escobar

Kathy Escobar is dedicated to creating safe and brave spaces for transformation and healing in real life, online, and outside. She co-pastors at The Refuge, a hub for healing community, social action, and creative collaboration in North Denver, co-directs #communityheals, a non-profit organization dedicated to making spaces for transformation accessible for all, and is the author of Practicing: Changing Yourself to Change the World, Faith Shift: Finding Your Way Forward When Everything You Believe is Coming Apart and several other books.


  • Thank you Kathy, I have been posting things early on about the narcissism. Called my representatives knowing full well that they too are probably narcissists. A mutual friend of ours sent me this link. I appreciate your suggestion to “stay awake and refuse to believe them, follow them, or submit ourselves to them. ” It is a struggle because it is a weary battle. My husband who shares my concerns worries about me speaking out too much and getting in trouble. I told him if that is the battlefield where I must fall ;so be it. If we keep allowing the expectations we have for whoever is in office to be so low to start with; if we continue to allow excuses to be made for them so that any achievement looks like something; we need to go ahead and engrave the trophy that says “thanks for participating”. I want to chock the wheels before this runaway bus gets going any faster. I hope this is a time when many will find their voice and use it – write, call, refuse to fade silently into the growing darkness.

    • thanks so much, pamela, for taking time to share. i love that last line and i am so with you. i have seen many start to find their voice and hoping they will keep on using it and more and more begin, too. yes, we must “refuse to fade silently not the growing darkness.” glad you find your way here today.

  • Kathy, this is excellent. I wrongly thought Americans would identify a narcissist when they saw one, and more importantly, would know the evil they unleash. They did not, and there will be a price to pay.

  • I feel as though you read my mind. And I was one of those women previously married to a narcissist. Writing a book right now on PTSD. Only those of us who have been caught in the NPD web and managed to escape with what was left of our sanity can understand the threat of Trump, the pattern and power of Trump. It’s like watching a giant cult form a line behind a mentally imbalanced leader with a Messiah complex. They are all marching in lock-step toward a vat of poisoned Kool-Aid — and I feel powerless to stop them. But I can’t live with myself if I don’t at least try.

    • thank you so much for taking time to share and look forward to hearing more about your book! so needed! that is a great line: “marching in lock-step toward a vat of poisoned kool-aid”! and yeah, in so many ways we are powerless to stop them but i am with you, we must try to at least help others consider it and do everything we can to show up. peace from colorado.

  • Yes. The people he is appointing to powerful positions are indeed terrifying. Check out their records on human rights, race issues, LGBTQ issues, who should be benefiting from the increased profitability of large businesses, who should receive 99% + of proposed tax cuts and so many other issues. These people are for themselves, not the other 99%, who they feel should be kept under their thumbs. Deport these people, imprison those people, take away the health insurance of those other people, but increase the value of our portfolios by hundreds of billions of $$$. What part of any of that looks like Jesus? All so we can get a SCOTUS that we’re being told will throw out abortion and gay marriage. BTW, what was the composition of the SCOTUS that allowed abortion in the first place? The SCOTUS that ruled against the challenge to Roe vs. Wade? Someone has hoodwinked someone here. Empty promises. Just an updated version of “forty acres and a mule.” Say what you need to say to get elected, then do what you want. But no one is really going to get their forty acres and a mule. A few will get mansions and private jets, but the rest of us will get chump change.


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