Although I've pretty much stopped caring so much about Mormonism lately, I do still like to read about it. I hang out on RfM on occasion, mostly because I find exMormons an entertaining bunch. This week, I happened to read Confessions of a Sociopath, a book written by a self described Mormon "sociopath", who really came across to me as more of a narcissist. Today, I read an interesting thread on RfM about people who grew up LDS and were raised by narcissistic parents.
While I'm not sure what the statistics are regarding Mormonism and narcissism, I will say that my husband's ex wife is a narcissist who was highly attracted to Mormonism. It really suited her agenda to appear respectable. It also gave her some powerful tools with which she could use to control other people.
We haven't been in touch with Ex in a long time, but I do know that she was very impressed by the outward appearance of Mormons. She really took to its message that members were somehow special and set apart from ordinary people. Even as they got the familiar message that they weren't good enough from church members and authorities, the members were also told that they were valiant and evolved. They lived by "high standards". They were sold a bill of goods that seemed amazing on the surface. Dig deeper, though, and you find a system that is rife with abuse.
Members are asked to do more, give more, and keep putting out the right image for others to emulate. The pressure can be intense, especially for young people who are still living with their parents and don't have any other choice.
My husband's ex wife reportedly decided to become LDS, in part, because she had a friend who was Mormon. But also, she happened to spot what she saw as a "perfect family" eating dinner in a restaurant once. They all prayed before the meal and seemed so clean cut, wholesome, and attractive. She supposedly found out they were LDS and that inspired her to want to be like them. She was responding to a "glowing" image they put out.
Bill has told me that his ex wife grew up in an abusive home. Her parents adopted her, then got divorced. Her mother married another man, coincidentally a man whose first name is the same as her current husband's first name. Her stepfather was portrayed as her dad until she was seven years old, though he was abusive to her. It was only at that point that ex found out who her real adoptive father was-- a man who was somewhat "better" than her stepfather was. Ex's real adoptive dad was in the Merchant Marine and often away at sea. She rarely saw him. Meanwhile, her mother had biological children with ex's abusive stepfather. Ex's stepfather didn't treat his bio kids the abusive way he treated her. Ex grew up feeling like crap.
Later, ex married young so she could escape her controlling mother, who had by then divorced her abusive stepfather. She wasn't in love with her first husband, but he did provide her with a means of getting out on her own. She had her first child with her first ex. One day, Ex's first husband, who was stationed in Germany, happened to run into Bill on an aircraft heading to the States from Germany. Bill was also living in Germany at the time. Ex, Bill, and first husband had all gone to high school together. Bill was single, a very nice guy, and had low self esteem. Ex saw a prime opportunity to up her status and marry an officer. She ditched her enlisted husband and went after Bill who, God help him, was blindsided by her tactics. She swept him off his feet, then dumped him in a pile once she had him where she wanted him.
Toward the end of their marriage, Ex decided to become a Mormon. She pressured Bill into also becoming a Mormon. Bill went along with it because, on the surface, it seemed like a very healthy, wholesome, family oriented belief system. He dove into it head first. It was attractive to him for many reasons. There was a strong emphasis on a chain of command. As a military guy, this was familiar to Bill. A person could climb up in the ranks. He was kept busy, so there was no time to think about the crappy marriage. Members, at first, gave him a lot of positive regard. The regard waned when Bill and his ex were entrenched. When the divorce came, it fell apart completely. They weren't upholding the image. Moreover, Ex had told a lot of people that Bill was abusing her and had a porn addiction (a lie).
When their marriage fell apart and it became very clear that Bill wouldn't be coming back to her as she suspected he would, she married her third husband, who converted to Mormonism for her. My husband watched as his daughters became radicalized Mormons. His former stepson had been very much into the church, but then abandoned it. We haven't seen or talked to ex stepson since 2009, when we busted him in a big lie as he was trying to manipulate and screw over Bill for money. I would not be surprised if he's gone back to the church and managed to get his wife to convert (if she hasn't yet dumped him). I think ex stepson is also narcissistic and the church is a good place for narcissists to find victims. Indeed, the church rewards narcissism. I think Bill's younger daughter is also narcissistic.
When I met Bill, he was still a practicing Mormon. He told me he knew the church was true. He never once tried to convert me, which I appreciated. But when I met him, I was convinced that he was a believer. As time went on, the trappings of Mormonism fell away. He began to see it for what it really is... a huge lie. He became much happier as a result.
Yesterday, Bill came home from Tanzania. He had a lot of stories to tell about his week. One tale he told me was about a co-worker whom he believes has narcissistic tendencies. Bill described the guy to me and compared him to his ex wife and a former boss who took him to Iraq for six hellish months. Bill said he instantly caught on to the guy's schtick. However, unlike before, when he would feel pressured to bend to the narcissist's will and would feel guilty for not doing their bidding, Bill found the strength and confidence to say no to the narcissist. He told me about this with a smile, obviously very pleased with himself.
As Bill continued to tell me about his co-worker and how he'd stood up to him, he got a little teary. He remembered the day, early in our marriage, when we were riding in our car through Tennessee. He was describing life with his ex wife. I said to him that it sounded to me like he was a victim of domestic violence and spousal abuse. He was horrified by that suggestion, but realized I was right.
Later, when he went to Iraq, he had a boss who reminded him very much of his ex wife. When he'd call me from the war zone and tell me about what it was like to work with that guy, I knew he was having a hard time. Imagine being in a war zone with someone who enjoys playing mind games and gets his jollies from abusing his subordinates. Bill was specifically chosen for that assignment by the narcissistic boss. Why? Because he was an easy target. My guess is that the boss figured Bill would give him the most bang for his buck.
The narcissistic boss didn't realize that Bill was married to someone who wasn't going to be impressed by him. I didn't have a problem telling the guy not to get my husband killed. I spoke to him in a way that he was not used to, especially from a mere spouse.... especially from a mere woman. Bill told me that he paid for my comment, though I am also certain that it wasn't lost on the boss that if he did get my husband killed through being negligent, he would pay for it. While I generally don't threaten people and am not a threatening person, Bill's boss was just enough of a narcissist to realize that I might be brave enough to screw with him. So he took care of Bill, but made him pay for it.
Most narcissists are weak people trying to appear strong. They are usually hiding deep seated flaws that they don't want other people to discover about them. So they paint themselves with an image that is only skin deep. Scratch the surface, and you find a lot of ugliness. I think the same could be said about Mormonism and other "fringe" religions. Hell, it could even be said about any belief system. I don't consider Catholicism to be a fringe religion, but I do think a lot of people have been damaged by it.
Anyway... it's Valentine's Day and I should be pontificating about love. Bill brought me a lovely pair of tanzanite earrings. I was going to wear a red dress on our date tonight, but I guess I'll wear blue instead. It's good to have him home and I'm glad to hear that he experienced some growth this week in dealing with the latest narcissist in his life.