Creating an environment that is “us vs them” is fine for a sports team, but when that starts showing up in organizations and family systems, you are entering the category of narcissism in the leadership.

Evidence of this in organizations and families can be seen with those that have left the system. Are they welcome to stay in relationships with those that still remain? Are they shamed or shunned for leaving? Do they become the “them” that is now the competition/enemy?

Narcissists thrive by creating binds that keep people loyal to them. Threats (implicit or explicit) to the future success of those that leave, character assasination, and disparaging remarks about those that have left create emotional binds for those on the inside. The bind is this: Expose the unethical or immoral behavior and get a target painted on your back.

Leaving these leaders, systems, or cultures is anything but easy. To leave means that the employee or family member risks being ostracized, or living into the promised reality that the culture said would happen to those on the “outside.” “You won’t be able to make it on your own.” “We made you what you are.”

The really seductive narcissists will name and celebrate the good things about people in ways that they’ve never felt before. It feels so affirming and accepting. Unfortunately when one ceases to be any use for the narcissist, they are ignored which often leaves a massive emotional hole. To be known and celebrated like never before is now gone and in it’s place is as cold as the good feelings were warm.

Leaving a narcissistic culture or leader takes a lot of character, strength, and courage. It usually does not go well at first. Triggering the narcissists shame is what everyone is afraid of, so the culture continues to protect him/her from their shame. The culture will laugh at his jokes that are inappropriate, learn to rage at those that the narcissist hates, and will generally do anything to not be the object of the narcissists ire.

When someone leaves, it arouses and exposes the narcissists shame. A narcissist fundamentally cannot bear their shame, and thus they will typically go on the offensive to not feel “left, abandoned.” The one leaving will usually receive the brunt of the narcissist’s shame by way of projection. This is why it’s so important to leave with the help of friends, family (if they are not the narcissist), and an experienced guide.



Narcissism is a word that is thrown around a lot, especially in attempts to describe certain world leaders currently in office. Despite how common of a term it is, it’s difficult to know, with certainty, that someone we are in a relationship with is a narcissist.

To a certain extent, we are all narcissistic in nature. We care about our image more than anyone else. We spend more time thinking about ourselves than anyone else. We automatically look for ourselves in a picture. We’re concerned with #1. But that’s not really a definition of narcissism.

Narcissists are charming, perhaps even seductive (not just sexually seductive). They bend the rules to their liking, and break the ones they think are stupid. They find others to do their dirty work, or to clean up the messes they have made. You know you’re in relationship with a narcissist when a vacuum is felt when they leave the room, or when there is a feeling of chaos that only abates when the “leader” is in the room speaking about said chaos. Relationally, they are like a black hole. They absorb all the energy and light around them, and it’s difficult for someone to escape.

Narcissists charm others by making them feel amazingly special, included, an insider, and a part of the group. But as soon as you’re a threat to leave, abandon them, or disrupt their control, they will turn on you. As special as you felt when you were on the inside, you will feel equally as hated and condemned when you are on the outside.

It’s difficult to leave narcissistic cultures, and people. It often takes a lot of guidance, help, and support to do so without getting harmed in the process. Unfortunately, many are married to, work for, follow, or have a parent that is a narcissist.

Don’t go it alone. Get help to find a safe way through the minefield.