M.Scott Peck and Sam Vaknin disagree on whether narcissists are evil.
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 an evil person? Is the person with the need to control others evil?
According to M. Scott Peck, M.D, psychiatrist and author of The People of The Lie, the answer is yes.
According to Peck, most of us view a situation 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; we do eventually 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.
Stopping The Narcissist and Concept of Evil
If you have ever lived in quiet desperation fearing the release of rage from the narcissist, then decided to stop the abuse, you have been the victim of a campaign designed to destroy you. It is as systematic and well thought out as that of any battle plan of 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 does not see that indifference is not simple. The results of indifference, callousness and carelessness are 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.
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 question 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
Children and Evil
(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 but doing so can be enormously frightening. It means that some must do battle with a destructive psychological (not supernatural) force.
The ones most in need of help are those that choose or must stay with a narcissist, or 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 the narcissist’s world view and 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 what 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 and fall into a coma like sleep for hours.
Evil leaves its mark 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, 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 can leave and they are changed – stronger, wounded, wiser, educated in the techniques of disengaging and mindfulness. A journey, deep and dangerous has been made by those who have been companions with “the people of the lie.”
Do you need to talk more about the narcissist in your life? Having trouble with your divorce? Need to reclaim control away from your narcissist? Visit our page of consultations and books to discover your options.