How to Recognize a Narcissist

Radhia Gleis
13 min readMar 1, 2022

by Radhia Gleis

I spent twenty-five years of my adult life in a cult, under the influence of a narcissistic sociopath. You may suspect your spouse, family member, or boss is a narcissist; or you may have niggling doubts about your spiritual or political leaders and find yourself in a complicated set of circumstances, wondering why and how you got involved or how to untangle yourself from the narcissist’s web of deceit and control. You are far from alone.

The following are lightly edited excerpts from my newly released book, The Followers: “Holy Hell” and the Disciples of Narcissistic Leaders; How My Years in a Notorious Cult Parallel Today’s Cultural Mania. This is a story about 150 men and women insulated within our own small, clandestine community. We called ourselves the Buddha-field. One member, Will Allen, even made a movie about us, called Holy Hell. After twenty-some years it came to light that the teacher was sexually abusing many of the members. What a surprise! It’s a tale as old as civilization: Narcissistic leader turns community of idealistic followers into a cult.

It took me years to recognize and escape the psychological prison of cult life. In the writing of this book, I set out on a journey to explore these questions: How could I have believed this guy? How could I have made the moral compromises I did, and for so long? How…