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The Narcissistic Father

During a session yesterday, I was shocked when Jeff told me that his former pastor and friend was charging him for their “sessions,” calling to tell Jeff when he needed a session, and going so far as to ask Jeff to pay off his credit cards. It seemed unethical, and a betrayal of trust.

This got me thinking about relationship dynamics, and what happens when the person who’s supposed to be the one giving — in a kind of parental role, so to speak — becomes the needy (and exploitative) one. It stirred up thoughts about Jeff’s aged father who’s been calling him 10-20 times per day. It’s become clear to me that during Jeff’s childhood, his father was a highly anxious man who relied upon his children to help manage that anxiety. Jeff talks repeatedly about the pressure he felt growing up to become a lawyer as his father had wanted to do, and his feeling that he wouldn’t be loved if he didn’t do so. Yet Jeff always insists that he “for some reason” misinterpreted reality and came to the mistaken view that he wasn’t lovable.

5 Comments to
The Narcissistic Father

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  1. I found myself pulled into your story but am confused about the two issues. This client has a friend who calls him and then charges him money for their calls — and that just “seems” unethical? My red flags are jumping off a cliff here. This is not just unethical but illegal. As in, Jeff needs to be considering legal action. At a minimum, he needs to stop all contact with this pastor, since Jeff appears to not have safe self-boundaries. Jeff also needs to report this pastor to whatever religious body is naming him a “pastor.” I myself have gone through ordination training, and this is a serious breach of ethics. The governing body of his religious denomination would want to know about this.I’m concerned far less about how this situation intersects with Jeff’s history and emotional processing of his father than I am with the fact Jeff appears to be actively being abused and taken advantage of. You may be the only person in position to help Jeff make his current abuse stop.

    • Thanks for the useful advice. I have already encouraged him and he has agreed to discontinue these sessions. I will pass along your information about contacting the governing body of his religious denomination.

  2. I also have a father, who I have come to believe is narcissistic. About six months ago, his behaviour became difficult enough that I had to break contact for a while. I have seen him three times since then, always with my Mum, or a friend present, and still feel uncomfortable with the idea of spending time with him alone. At the moment, I feel it would be inevitable that at some point he would become aggressive, pushy and intimidating in his behaviour. He does this “with only my best interests in mind”, and often while quoting scripture out of context at me, or trying to use guilt trips and sometimes blatant lies to manipulate me.

    Understanding the narcissistic profile more has actually helped me. It makes it easier to separate him from his behaviour at times- and to appreciate his intent (to an extent), even if he is behaving like an expletive deleted! It also helps me to be able to set my own boundaries and limits, and to know how much to let go of, as symptoms, and when to take a step back. I have learned to understand that he will not alter his behaviour unless he sees it as in his interests, because he cannot understand anyone else’s point of view, or comprehend that there may be another way to view the world, and so cannot understand that there could possibly could wrong with his behaviour. I know that to him, just being me is wrong. I have always had to deal with a sense of not being good enough. It’s really hard trying to learn that it is ok, and to overcome self-defeating behaviour, which comes from a an early established fear of achieving things only to find myself the subject of intense criticism and pressure. I thought I would share, as there must be others with similar experiences, who like me, were drawn to the title of the post as a result. I wonder whether some brands of evangelical Christianity is more attractive to people like this, especially with the cathartic nature of some of the more exhuberant styles of worship providing an outlet for repressed emotions. My dad seems pretty horrified that I ended up an anglican(episcopal)…

    • This is very useful. It got me wondering about the charismatic nature of certain evangelical ministers, and whether this “charisma” is actually kind of narcissism.

  3. A pastor (who is also a friend? the article is unclear) charging for pastoral therapy (or at least expecting a donation) doesn’t bump me. Therapists charge for therapy. This is service above and beyond. If the pastor were to do a divorce mediation, would not s/he be compensated?Calling the congregant and saying “you need a session” seems more problematic.The credit card thing, I’m not tracking. Is the issue that the pastor is giving Jeff advice? Or that the pastor wants the credit cards paid off so that Jeff can charge his sessions?I have come to believe that the three things most unsaid that ought to be said a ton more are “Thank you,” “I love you,” and “Forgive me.” It’s hard to see an issue with too much gratitude expressed.


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