Many people seek help in the form of courses, teachers, or “gurus” in order to find peace and healing. Thanks to the internet, these courses and teachers are abundantly available. Unfortunately, some people seek out sacred healing and knowledge, only to end up using it with ill intentions. Those who abuse this wisdom with no regard for others around them are Spiritual Narcissists.
What is Spiritual Narcissism?
A Spiritual Narcissist may take a course, read some books, or have a profound spiritual experience. Of course, all of these are valid avenues for learning. However, instead of using these tools to heal, a Spiritual Narcissist uses them as a way to inflate their self-worth. The education they seek only serves to stroke their own ego. This is an issue because the ego feeds our desire to remain exactly as we are, problematic behaviors and all. The ego stops us from realizing our true selves. Indulging the ego sets us on a path toward more suffering and separation from others.
A defining attribute of a Spiritual Narcissist is someone acting as if all of the knowledge they’ve gained and experiences they’ve had makes them better than other people. They might look down on others and decide they aren't as “evolved” as they are. This type of person might insist that you follow their path, teachers, or methods, as their way is the “right” way. Of course we all know that everyone’s journey is unique. But in convincing people around them that their path is the best path serves to inflate their ego even more. As I’ve discussed here, that’s the driving force behind the Spiritual Narcissist's motives.
Unfortunately, Spiritual Narcissists can find themselves in positions of power where they take advantage of vulnerable people searching for truth and healing. They might do emotionally damaging things such as gaslighting the people around them and downplaying the pain of others. When they’re asked to confront their own faults, they insist that people aren’t “spiritual enough” to understand their behavior
How Does Someone Become A Spiritual Narcissist?
Even someone with the best intentions can become a Spiritual Narcissist. Along their journey, people gain knowledge, experience and hopefully growth. However, for some, gaining this experience creates a sense of “spiritual superiority” to those who are not on the same pursuits. Eventually, people seek out these experiences and use them as a way to elevate the ego as opposed to quieting or separating from it. Thus, the spiritual narcissist is born.
Generally speaking, embarking on a spiritual journey involves becoming more humble, and committing to being a “forever student” of life’s lessons. Our practices are meant to deepen our connection with the divine and with the people around us. We’re meant to feel, do, and be better. However, using your journey as an excuse to bolster or inflate your self-worth can carry you in the opposite direction.
It’s important to analyze “why” you’ve started your spiritual pursuits. Is it to heal? To help others? To find ways to make the world better? Or is it something you’re doing to make yourself the next big Guru or to look better in front of your peers?
It’s easy to believe that Spiritual Narcissism is something that you won’t fall into (that’s the ego talking!) It’s necessary to consistently check your own motives, thoughts and energy to insure you’re on the correct path. Simply being honest with yourself mindful can prevent you from falling into the trap of Spiritual Narcissism.
Traits to look out for
As mentioned previously, one red flag of a Spiritual Narcissist is someone who insists they have “all the answers''. They believe they know everything there is to know about spiritual practices and will attempt to try to convince you of that as well. If anyone ever tries to convince you that your path to healing and discovery is “wrong” while making their path seem “better”, run in the opposite direction! We should all be open and receptive to suggestions. But ultimately your path is chosen by you and you alone.
A Spiritual Narcissist will make sure you know how “good” and “virtuous” they are. If you consistently hear someone bragging about all the amazing work they’re doing, it’s fair to reason that they’re doing that amazing work in order to make themselves look good. We help others for the sake of helping. Not to show off to our friends or to make an engaging Instagram post.
The most dangerous form of a Spiritual Narcissist is the type of person who uses their power and influence in a way that harms others. They attach themselves to people who are vulnerable and seeking help. They manipulate people during their time of need. If you call out a Spiritual Narcissist on their bad behavior, they’ll try to make you feel crazy for even questioning them. Instead of looking inward, they’ll go on the defensive and insinuate that you’re clearly not “spiritual enough” to understand them.
Spiritual Narcissists are really good at excusing their bad behavior with spiritual excuses. If they’re always late, they might say “Time is a construct. I’m on my own schedule.” If they make you feel uncomfortable and push past your boundaries, they’re “Just trying to help you evolve.”
Dealing with a Spiritual Narcissist
If you believe you’ve found yourself in the presence of a Spiritual Narcissist, the best thing to do would be to remove yourself from the situation entirely. No one should ever (ever!) make you feel uncomfortable in any shape way or form. Even if someone’s the top paid spiritual Guru out there, if you feel intuitively that something’s wrong, listen to that feeling and get yourself away from them.