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Emancipate Your Mind: 078: The Superior Saint: Communal Narcissism at Church

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.

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.

Durvasula, R. [Dr. Ramani]. (2020, May 28). Communal Narcissists: Everything you need to know

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Grande, T. [Dr. Todd Grande]. (2020, Mar 17). 10 Signs of Communal Narcissism

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Carter, L. [Surviving Narcissism]. (2020, Nov 9). The Communal Narcissist: “Trust Me, I’m Really On Your Side”

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Johnson, E.B. (2021, May 26). All the communal narcissists that have disrupted your life.

Streep, P. (2016, May 24). The communal narcissist: Another wolf wearing a sheep outfit.

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2 thoughts on “Emancipate Your Mind: 078: The Superior Saint: Communal Narcissism at Church”

  1. Hey teri II’ve been listening to your podcast lately. Fairly new to this subject. You mentioned a general authority talking about Missionaries leaving their missions early. Do you have a link or any information as to who where and when that talk was given? Thank you so much have a great day

    1. Here’s a link to the audio from Elder Holland’s latest talk with missionaries at the Provo MTC at the beginning of August where he says, “I hope there’s no one within the sound of my voice who wants to go home. That just comes to me. It makes me wonder whether there’s someone here who does want to go home. Because that wasn’t even remotely in my mind. I don’t know who you are, and I don’t know how seriously you’re entertaining the thought. But don’t you ever go home. Don’t you dare leave this place. Not for God’s sake. Not for the church’s sake. Not for President Hinckley’s sake. Somehow I think they can probably handle it.

      But don’t you dare leave here…for your sake. I have lived on and off, in my General Authority life, I have come in contact around the world with missionaries who did not see their mission through. I’m not talking about medical releases or emergencies or tragedies. I’m talking about somebody who just said, “I don’t like doing this – it’s too hard and I’m going home, and let my mother take care of me.”

      I have met those people around the world. And if there is a more sorrowful, if there is a more anguished, and in a sense, if you promise not to misunderstand me, if there is, in a sense, a more pitiable group in all the world — I do not know who it is.

      Now, that’s strong language. That’s really strong language. But I told you before. My mission means everything to me. I would. I would wrestle you to the floor. I would. I’d pull the curtains down. I’d get chains. I don’t know, is there something around here that we can tie people with? I don’t see anything to tie people with! I’d rip the chords off the television camera to keep you here.

      Not for our sake. Not for, you know. You think one little missionary in 58,000, you know, that isn’t going to bring the church to its knees.

      But it’s going to ruin your life if you don’t do the best thing you ever had a chance to do. However hard it is. And however hard it may yet be.”

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