AA is a Cult, part 30

People with detrimental levels of narcissism do not actually love themselves at all. The grandiosity, self aggrandizing, and claims to superiority all mask an intensely painful hatred of the self. If such a person is not the very greatest human who ever was, by process of elimination in a dualistic mindset, they must be the very worst. No one hates themselves quite like a narcissistic person. 

My sympathy for Bill Wilson, founder of Alcoholics Anonymous, is curtailed by the choices he made from that self loathing. He projected his attributes on others, then labeled those traits “shortcomings” and those others “unmanageable” and “insane”. Bill W. used alcoholics as whipping boys and scapegoats, to be burdened with the sins he could not atone for. 

Those “wet brained” “stupid drunks” were the “crazy” ones. He was living a “spiritual” “God-ordered” life. In my estimation, Bill W. shunted the parts of himself he hated onto the people he claimed to be helping, and abused them as the core of him believed he deserved to be abused. His feelings of shame and responsibility were absolved, without requiring real growth or change. 

Many of the traits Bill attributes to alcoholism are actually markers of unhealthy narcissism. Arrogance, pride, stubbornness, and a tendency toward grandiose thinking were all described by him as alcoholic traits. So were all his other vices. Bill W. cast himself as the model hero and villain, savior and wretch. This kind of rapid dualism is characteristic of people with narcissistic personalities. 

In a cult setting, this process of remaking members in the leader’s self image is called cloning. It involves both convincing members they are the worst humans to ever exist – that they must confess and atone their “defects of character”for the rest of their lives – and that they are special, unique, called upon for a sacred quest. The only ones who can save another alcoholic from drinking. AA members are encouraged to think of themselves and each other in the same conflicting way Bill W. did. 

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