ENTITLEMENT AND THE ABUSE OF POWER
If you were not able to read my post from a few weeks ago on my home page I am going to put it on this site to give context to my previous posts. It is doubtlessly true that both Bill’s and the church leaders’ inability to embrace the sin of abusing these women is due to the narcissistic elements of the church’s structure. Narcissists view life in binary ways, where they are either all right or all wrong. The greys of personal brokenness cannot be acknowledged because they expose the self to the judgement of critics. So they will irrationally metaphorically “kill” the victims in order to diminish the legitimacy of their accusations. The outer bubble of perfection can be poked in such a way that the self would collapse if sins “flaws”are acknowledged and repented of. So here is my assessment of the organizationql context of how I see Willow responding to this whole situation
I will give this caveat. This is my conclusion based on my observation and experience.This is long so bear with me.
In light of so many public revelations of indiscretions by individuals with a position of power in the recent months, I have summarized my thoughts on the subject.
As a systems oriented psychologist, I am fascinated by the way that organizations get constructed. This is true whether it be a family, an organization, or a church. I am particularly aware of the systemic elements in organizations that are constructed around the vision of a narcissistically impaired individual. Here is a summary of issues in this kind of organization.
The common factor in all of the cases of abuse of women, whether it is Bill Cosby or church leaders, is the concept of entitlement and the abuse of power. This attitudinal assumption is embedded in a narcissistic component of a successful person’s personality. Narcissism is a characteristic of personality that is best understood by the development of a sense of one’s specialness. Narcissism can develop as a result of two major developmental influences. One is an environment that elevates a child to a place of unwavering status where they are unconditionally valued and deserving only of positive responses. The other path is the one where narcissistic traits develop as a defense mechanism to protect the child when they are the object of shame producing parental figures, who demand perfection and get angry when it is not pursued.
Narcissistic qualities are a double-edged sword. On the one hand, it is often essential for a person to believe that they have what it takes to create success. These persons believe that they have a certain specialness that gives them a confidence to take risks and to gather people around them who get on board with the special vision of this kind of leader. The other edge of the sword is the fact that leaders with a narcissistic aspect to their personality contain a shadow component that is the seed of their own destruction.
Narcissistically Driven Leaders (NDL) tend to encase their lives and their organizations in a cloak of their own pathology. They see themselves as special and they believe that their creation, whether it is a church, an organization, or a career, must reflect the perfection of their own need to project this kind of image. Their force of personality generates high levels of control in the service of perfectly creating a vision of success. This kind of leader gathers around them those who get enamored by the success of the NDL and want to be an attendant to his successful vision. Think the Emperor who wore no clothes.
NDLs create organizations around their own pathology. Since the NDL has some deep shadow need to be special, often to prove their worth to a demanding parent, they drive an organization to reflect that specialness and push for results-oriented outcomes. They are often insensitive to the process of an organization, the organic interplay of complex human interaction, where empathy is critical, but rather drive others to adopt and implement their vision. The organization becomes the clothes of the Emperor, and they must look good. This is not a collaborative process, but rather one dependent on those willing to obey and cooperate with the vision of the leader. Narcissistic leaders generate a culture of fear, where failure is unacceptable, and the standards of the leader must be the standards of the attendants. Speed of the leader, speed of the team.
As the leader’s vision grows and becomes special and “successful”, the NDL starts to develope an insidious sense of entitlement. This is particularly problematic when the vision and the organization is the church. Where the NDL may start out idealistically and focused on the mission of their vision as being about God’s work, over time this line may get blurred. When the church gets big and has all the trappings of success, a subtle shift of ownership may occur. Since the NDL has driven the organization in his or her image, a sense of personal ownership may develop. “I did this, I sacrificed, I am the critical factor in this success, I had to drive this vision and get people to stay with the goals, I have worked tirelessly, etc.”
And so I am entitled. I can do what meets my needs and can contain any consequences. The NDL creates an insular environment where containment of any flaws or fluctuations from the intended vision get dealt with in a way that does not come to public awareness. NDLs may operate on the assumption that the “People owe me, are employed by me, have been chosen and groomed by me, etc”. And so, I can do what I desire with impunity. No one would believe anyone who challenged my behavior when it is inappropriate because I have blinded people to my flaws by creating an aura of my own perfection and success. Success can be the greatest deflector from inherent flaws in the NDL and the organizations that they construct. If someone criticizes an NDL, the leader deflects back on the critic by nuking their character in some way. Kill the messenger. Since the NDL often has a fragile core, structured around shame, they must overprotect their image, and cannot embrace the grey areas of their own imperfection. They may express rage due to an underlying threat to their very sense of self.
It is interesting that NDLs often self-destruct near the finish line of their lives or careers. That is because it takes years of building the edifice of their own success, and then, emboldened by their accomplishments they act on the fatal process of entitled behavior that begins to be revealed. After a while, the entitlement-based indiscretions or bruising of others start to seep out in ways that can no longer be contained. The container, either the NDL or his/her organization, cannot for long control the inevitable process that the fatal flaws will eventually crack the walls. And years of abuse then get revealed, either sexually or in the management of personnel within the organization. And their kingdoms collapse. They then are exposed in the most painfully shameful ways.
And for NDL men, the most common factor that brings them down is their tendency to play out their entitlement in the arena of sex and sexualizing women. Think King David. And NDLs do not surround themselves with true Nathans who speak into their blind spots. As part of the pathological selection process, the NDL surrounds himself/herself with those ultimately selected by the NDL who are so enmeshed with the NDL and the grandeur of their vision, that they have no platform of critical detachment. And so, sadly, without the purifying presence of those who can check the unhealthy management by the NDL of the organization, the house of cards eventually deconstructs. And it must because, particularly in the church, there can be no other foundation but Christ. The ultimate hope is that when these organizations begin to be revealed in their pathology, they can reconstruct, retain some of the good the organization has created, and fashion a culture that is more transparent and participatory.