High demand religions often teach us to deny ourselves and spent our lives in the service of others. While service because we’re passionate about a cause and care about making the world a better place can be a beautiful part of expressing our humanity, when coupled with the idea that we’re not allowed to have our own needs and desires it can become something maladaptive.
One of the maladaptive ways we might try to meet our needs for validation, acceptance, and security in this kind of environment is through communal narcissism. This kind of narcissism is primarily concerned with serving our own personal needs for validation, acceptance, and praise through serving others. The communal narcissist hopes that others will view them as superior because of how empathic, compassionate, self sacrificing, and service oriented they are.
While this might sound like a “good” kind of narcissism, it usually comes at a high cost for those that are closest to them: their family, co-volunteers, employees, or even their friends. These people who interact with the communal narcissist behind closed doors may be neglected, ignored, harshly criticized, or even the targets of rage or abuse.
Gochen E. Gebauer, Constantine Sedikides, Bas Verplanken, Gregory R. Maio (2012). Communal narcissism. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 2012 Nov;103(5):854-78. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/22889074/
Ziyan Yang, Constantine Sedikides, Ruolei Gu, Yu L. L. Luo, Yuqi Wang, Ying Yang, Mingzheng Wu, Huajian Cai (2018). Communal narcissism: Social decisions and neurophysiological reactions. Journal of Research in Personality, Vol 68, 64-73. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0092656618301491
Durvasula, R. [Dr. Ramani]. (2020, May 28). Communal Narcissists: Everything you need to know
. YouTube. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aF8fiHTbGtY
Grande, T. [Dr. Todd Grande]. (2020, Mar 17). 10 Signs of Communal Narcissism
. YouTube. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bymqKLv6jGA
Carter, L. [Surviving Narcissism]. (2020, Nov 9). The Communal Narcissist: “Trust Me, I’m Really On Your Side”
Johnson, E.B. (2021, May 26). All the communal narcissists that have disrupted your life. Medium.com. https://medium.com/practical-growth/all-the-communal-narcissists-that-have-disrupted-your-life-a2763d506089
Streep, P. (2016, May 24). The communal narcissist: Another wolf wearing a sheep outfit. PsychologyToday.com. https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/tech-support/201605/the-communal-narcissist-another-wolf-wearing-sheep-outfit
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