Anyone can fall under the spell of a highly skilled covert narcissist. This is what happened to me. I became very interested in the meditation process and wanted to learn about it directly after reading a number of books on the subject. I did the research and discovered that there was a highly trained meditation teacher who was recommended as one of the best in her field. I read about her credentials and years of experience. She offered weekly group meditations for a fair fee.
I met Debra and was very impressed by her depth of knowledge, her deep attention to the needs of each student, her kind, empathic manner and excellent teaching skills.
Debra had been meditating for decades and developed a strong consistent practice. In class she gave each student her complete attention. I learned a great deal from her about the mediation process. Several years later I returned to participate in another meditation group. This time I noticed that Debra and everything about her organization had changed. The class rates had skyrocketed. Debra was very short with the participants. She was more concerned about signing up individuals for meditation teacher training than she was with giving a good class. Debra was frenetic---on a high about all of her success. Unlike the earlier experience, I could hear her counting the money she would be making through her surrogate teachers who were on a very low salary and the exorbitant price of her teacher training that had tripled in two years. The meditation teacher training had been cut down to six weeks and the price was in the thousands. The number of hours Debra spent with her students was greatly reduced. Most of the learning was done at home so that Debra could have a number of trainings going on simultaneously.
Debra was restless. I got a strong feeling that she was just going through the motions in teaching her classes. Out of class she now spoke about her material possessions--new clothing she had purchased, trips she had taken, properties that she was buying. It was as if Debra had become a different person in the two years since I had seen her. I had no interest in using her as a meditation teacher.
I had believed that Debra was genuine and empathic and disinterested in accumulating large sums of money at the expense of her students. Debra was now quite grandiose--she had adoring followers who ran behind her like baby ducklings. The prices of her classes were outrageously high. Her charge for personal one on one session was astronomical. Her manner now was brisk, her attention span short and her capacity to listen to the problems of those who had come to learn and become calmer and more centered was non-existent. Debra is a late blooming narcissist.which is unusual. I remembered her background, growing up in a family of many siblings who had very little from their work weary parents. There was no money. The family scraped around to get just the necessities. Debra never bonded with her mother or her father. She had a maternally deprived childhood and an absent father. In the middle of the pack of children Debra didn't shine as a young child. After she left home she began to train in meditation and discovered this was her calling. However, she never dealt with the external or internal deprivations inside of herself. When she began to reach professional success, she changed into a seeker of material things and having an image of a spiritual teacher rather than being one.
I had met the false self covert narcissist on a lifelong spiritual quest. I believed she was genuine. This was the elaborate convincing seamless mask that she wore. That's how convincing these narcissists can be. From a two year distance I could now perceive that I was meeting the real Debra---a narcissistic personality, obsessed with making money, buying clothes, having a coterie of students falling on her every word and move.
This was an invaluable experience that taught me that regardless of your training or perceptions of the moment, that you can be fooled by the narcissist's pseudo spirituality, fake empathy and inverted humility that is part of the external image of piety and spirituality.
Never blame yourself for not recognizing a skilled narcissist. Learn from you experience and continue to move forward. To learn about the narcissistic personality in-depth, visit my website:thenarcissistinyourlife.com
Linda Martinez-Lewi, Ph.D.
Telephone Consultation: International