How Can a Group Accept and Even Defend a Member in the Group with Despicable Behavior?

As many of you know as a body language expert I write and speak to my corporate clients about honesty, integrity, and credibility as well as deception, narcissism, and psychopathology. 

I have a chapter in my forthcoming book about how other people respond to “dark triad” behaviors like Malignant Narcissism and it struck me that most people don't understand how a group can they tolerate someone. they know has done great harm. How can it happen? In group narcissism, we see an unquestioning loyalty and admiration for the group and an intense fervor in the persecution of any person who questions the authority of the overarching ideals of the group. The group will do anything to ignore any bad behavior of their fellow narcissists, give him a pass and then another pass, normalize unhealthy behaviors bullying, abusive and dangerous behavior. They will defend one of their own kind, for fear of losing the group. They will even attack any innocent person or persons who threaten the group status quo. The group is their breath, their life, their sustenance, their "supply." In the presence of other narcissists, who reflect back “like” behaviors they don't see their dark selves. In the group, they are whole and belong. They may see damage in others, yet it only serves to make them feel superior. And in fact, their very acceptance of the dark damage in their fellow tribe members may make them think they are good people! They don’t consider the fact that in a healthy group dark damage behavior are called out as unacceptable. 

Fromm explains, “[an] individual narcissist, who is out on his own, comparing himself to normal people may see he lacks a moral core unless he is mentally very sick, he may have at least some doubts about his image. But, if he joins a group that has other narcissists, he has none, since his narcissism is shared by the majority” (ibid., p.204). They feed each other giving each other narcissistic supply. If they lose members, they will seek out new supply, some just like them, or "Empaths" (honest trusting people) the group can use and abuse. Narcissists love the "supply" being in a group gives them. " works as protection and amplification of their own narcissism.” One would expect the narcissist to be ‘above’ such social conformity, but this group represents a “stepping up.” of his pathology. It is also gratifying to the weak and untalented narcissist since he becomes a giant by belonging to the group."

"The group members are often mistaken for nice fellows, who are socially mature and respectful towards other people. Nothing could be further from the truth. It is a chimera. Such people are only providing for their own narcissism by way of reflection in the group. Scratch on the surface, and a nasty intolerance appears.” (They will gossip about and stab members in the back) 

Many psychologists tend to view the social group as an ideal for the individual to attain. What is true is that a healthy group filled with loving honest caring people is the ideal. But, as you know, marriage is an ideal as well and there are unhealthy abusive marriages, in which an abusive spouse may brag about his great marriage He gains social status from being in marriage that is not what it seems. In the same way there are group members, who brag about their group membership that are in toxic groups, pathological version of bonding called group narcissism. 

So if you have read this far, you may get a greater understanding of why some political party members may cling to their group memberships, some church or teams or clubs may do anything to protect the group even if it means or protecting a member known abusing women and known pedophiles.  So, what can you do?

Think of your tribe first. Are you speaking well of or badly about others behind their backs? Does your group allow constant complaining? Is their complaining without positive action that creates positive change? Is their anger mongering, shouting, shutting people down, bullying, gossiping, name calling, sexual discrimination, judging? Do members talk badly about others behind their back? What do you think is ok? What are you accepting?

Patti Wood, MA - The Body Language Expert. For more body language insights go to her website at Check out Patti's website for her new book "SNAP, Making the Most of First Impressions, Body Language and Charisma" at