As previously discussed, Frank Buchman was talented at gathering followers and converts, but what did he do once he had them? He treated them with an intoxicating, debilitating mixture of love bombing and verbal abuse, gentleness and unruly anger, promises of salvation and constant reminders that they were weak, sinful, and insane without the Group. Cult leaders are domestic abusers not content with a mere one household to rule and terrorize.
Cult leaders are also narcissistic. I don’t mean simple vanity or a healthy self image, but rather the fractured, contradictory mind of someone with narcissistic personality disorder. Diagnostic criteria includes grandiose thinking, fantasies of perfection, entitlement, envy, dampened or absent empathy, and exploitative manner in interpersonal relationships.
Narcissists brag about themselves, and exaggerate their achievements, because their own self image is so broken. They can only see themselves as the best person or the worst, never an average mix of good and bad. When a narcissist is not receiving praise, adoration, and worship – collectively called “narcissistic supply”, they are plunged into despair and self-hatred. Frank took out negative feelings about himself on his followers. The following statements come from a devoted Buchmanite, who saw Frank as a leader and mentor.
But Buchman, now as always, was unpredictable. He shook with rage one day because a cook had once again produced tough meat. The next day he appeared at the kitchen door holding a tiny wild flower for her. ‘Here you are,’ he said. ‘This is “self-heal”.’
On the Tail of a Comet: The Life of Frank Buchman, Garth Lean, pages 294-295.
“There is a gigantic, Olympian quality in F’s wrath that is something to be experienced to be believed. It certainly produces change.”
On the Tail of a Comet: The Life of Frank Buchman, Garth Lean, page 292.
Sometimes, not infrequently as time went on, Buchman used to shout at his colleagues. Austin points out that people do sometimes have such tough hides of self-esteem or hypocrisy that it may be the only way to get through, yet admits that ‘Frank, especially when in pain, was too violent in his rebuke’.”
On the Tail of a Comet: The Life of Frank Buchman, Garth Lean, page 470
Up next: how Buchman courted the rich and famous