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M.Scott Peck and Sam Vaknin disagree on the whether narcissists are evil.

By Ann Bradley

No one wants to talk about it. But if they do, the talk is of Hitler, torturers, child rapists.

Is it evil to belittle, denigrate, scapegoat, and make fun of someone until they are demoralized, subjugated, and  traumatized? Is the verbal and emotional abuser who keeps his victim in suspense and fear with pounding heart and nightmares an evil person? Is the person with the need to control others an evil person?

According to M. Scott Peck, M.D, psychiatrist and author of the best selling book on evil, The People of the Lie, the answer is yes.

According to Peck, most of us view a situation first in light of how we are affected by it and only as an afterthought do we stop to consider how it might affect others involved. But we do, eventually, usually, consider the viewpoint of the other.

                Not so those who are evil. Theirs is a brand of narcissism so
                total that they seem to lack this capacity for empathy....
                We can see then, that their narcissism makes the evil dangerous
                not only because it motivates them to scapegoat others, but
                also because it deprives them of the restraint that results from
                empathy and respect for others....The evil need victims to sacrifice
                to their narcissism, their narcissism permits them to ignore the
                humanity of their victims as well. ..The blindness of the narcissist
                to others can extend beyond a lack of empathy; narcissists
                may not "see" others at all.

If you have ever lived in quiet desperation fearing the release of  rage from the Pandora's Box of the narcissist, then decided to stop the abuse, you have been the victim of a campaign designed to destroy you. It is as systematic, calculated and well thought out as that of any battle plan in any war.

Sam Vaknin disagrees:

    As opposed to what Scott Peck says, narcissists are not evil - they
    lack the intention to cause harm. They are simply indifferent, callous and careless in their conduct and in their treatment of their fellow humans.
I read this and recognize the narcissism in the words. Because Sam is a narcissist, he can say "simply indifferent". Sam, unlike others, does not see that indifference is never simple.  The results of indifference, callousness and carelessness are hugely awful, destructive and malignant. In a talk he gave at the White House, Elie Wiesel, concentration camp survivor and philosopher, says that from anger and hatred we can often make a difference, but to be indifferent is evil.

Vaknin presents more on narcissism and evil in this insightful essay
Using the argument that, by definition, evil people have no choice in their actions (even if it harms them, they will choose the morally wrong act) Vaknin argues that narcissists will act with malevolence only if it benefits them, but not if they are harmed. Does this prove narcissists are not evil? or does it show us they are smarter? or maybe we cannot partition evil into "partly evil" as we cannot be 'very unique' or 'a little pregnant.'? Vaknin addresses this in a brilliant question, which is at the crux of this discussion: are the words good and evil, used as opposites, appropriate for describing behavior of a narcissist? Or is there a continuum and we do not have a rich enough diversity of language to describe the moral condition of the narcissist?  It would not be the first time language has acted as barrier to thought.

Scott Peck describes for us the characteristics of the personality disorder that encompasses evil:

  • consistent destructive scapegoating, often subtle
  • excessive, usually covert intolerance to criticism
  • pronounced concern with public image, denial of vengeful motives
  • intellectual deviousness with likelihood of mild schizoid disturbance
    of thing at times of stress
 The most vulnerable of the victims of the evil: the children.
(the child living in the midst of evil) can emotionally survive only by a massive fortification of its psyche. While....essential for survival through childhood, they distort and compromise its life as an adult....Children of evil parents enter adulthood with very significant psychiatric disturbances. To come to terms with evil in one's parentage is perhaps the most difficult and painful psychological task a human being can be called on to face. Most fail and remain its victims. Those who succeed in developing the necessary searing vision are those who can name it.  "To come to terms" means to "arrive at the name."
Evil then must be named. Doing so can be enormously frightening. It means that some of us must do battle with a force that wants to destroy us.

The ones in most need of help and support are those that choose or must stay with a narcissist, and those that divorce them. Divorce a narcissist and you will find every characteristic magnified and enlarged. Divorce a narcissist with a narcissistic lawyer and you are the victim of a reign of terror. It does not have to be divorce, it could be any lawsuit or other such campaign. It is the opposition, the challenge to their narcissist's world view, the need to control that unleashes the campaign to destroy.

There were no examples in Dr. Peck's book that appeared  to be as evil as that I have seen. I have seen evil that has torn a child from normality, taken the voice of the child so he could not speak and impaled such jolts of evil that the child would awake in terror screaming. "They're throwing javelins at me, oh, the pain, the pain" and clutch his heart and chest in agony. He would then fall into a coma like sleep for hours.

Evil leaves its mark on us at the cellular level. There is a physiology to evil. Cells are imprinted at the moment  terror engulfs us.  Brain cells are destroyed by stress and facing evil is neverending stress.  The body never leaves flight or fight mode.  Children silently suffer the slings and arrows of the narcissistic  parent who is unable to care. What happens to the child is of no concern to the  narcissist. For he must prevail no matter the cost. The child as collateral damage is unimportant. Winning is everything.

Can you survive the evil and the abuse? Yes, though it won't be easy. Stay with the narcissist and you may be damaged. Some choose this, others remain. Some can leave. They are the lucky ones. Changed, but stronger. Wounded, but wiser. Educated in the techniques of disengaging and mindfulness. These are the survivors who can turn the pain into pathways for strength, determination, and finally accept themselves as functioning human beings without the burden of evil on their psyche. A journey, deep and dangerous  has been made by those of us who have been companions with "the people of the lie."

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