The relationship between narcissism and evil is often on the table for discussion in my field of work. We all have our own vision of what “evil” looks like; it is often imagined as a dark, scary looking, demonic looking individual or “non-person” who has the power to take human life, torture and hurt people without a conscience.
According to Scott Peck, author of “People of the Lie,” there is no psychological term for what he considers the “disease” of “evil.” Peck asks the question “ is evil a disease?” His only purpose for wanting to put “evil” in a disease category is so that science would study it. Peck talks about how “evil” is more the department of the church then psychology. The best psychological term Peck could come up with for “evil” was “Malignant Narcissism.”
Keep in mind the word “Narcissism” in itself includes a personality trait that we all have to some degree, and this includes children who typically pass through a narcissistic stage on their way to maturity. People can be narcissistic without being a malignant narcissist. Some of us need to develop more “narcissism,” which would include healthy self-love and confidence.
Malignant Narcissism is in a category of its own. It has nothing to do with healthy self-love or confidence. It is pure selfishness, complete lack of compassion and empathy, and deriving pleasure in seeing others suffer. These are qualities that cause an individual with malignant narcissism to be a destructive force in the lives of those who love them.
Peck concludes that evil is a destructive force in the Universe, where the opposite force, “love,” is a creative force. Evil spelled backwards is “live.” It lacks “liveliness.” There is death and destruction, if not actually, at least symbolically with the force of “evil.”
People who are close to those who are “evil” usually experience a depletion of their life force. It is as if the malignant narcissistic force is also a highly vampiric force and plugs into the energy of others to sustain them. They also easily sacrifice others to maintain their own narcissistic self-image. Peck gives several examples in “People of the Lie” of clients who were either “Evil” or had “evil” parents or partners, or were bordering becoming evil as a way to avoid their own pain. It is a very enlightening book and a recommended read.
Evil is a strong term and many people are uncomfortable using it as a way of referring to a loved one. It can be very difficult to see someone close to us as being evil. It is difficult to realise we have been living with evil or have had our life force hijacked by it. We often have images of a red horned devil or white eyed monster who want to kill us.
The majority of “evil” people don’t literally kill the physical body. They work to kill the soul, the essence of a person. Many of my clients who have been in relationships with narcissists describe themselves as a shell of the person they used to be. They have lost their energy, their soul, their creativity and passion for life. They even lose their will to live. It is not uncommon that people who commit suicide are victims of malignant narcissists. Not only do they lose their will to live, but there just isn’t enough knowledge in the Psychology profession of the depth of damage that is done by someone who has malignant narcissism. Psychology learns the definition of narcissistic personality disorder and even how to diagnose it in others, but they don’t learn the connection between narcissistic personality disorder and evil.
There is a psychological/spiritual connection that is not often studied or understood. We often think that the person who is “suffering” a disorder is the one who is “suffering.” People with NPD don’t themselves suffer. They inflict suffering upon others and often gain a great deal of pleasure doing so. Now this is evil.
Your garden variety narcissist may be a little full of himself. Have a big ego, be on the selfish side and overly concerned with the image presented to others. He may do damage through his ignorance and through being oblivious, but he doesn’t gain any pleasure from inflicting pain on others. These kinds of people can do damage however, because there can still be a lack of empathy and ability to walk a mile in another’s shoes. Would I define a milder form of narcissism as evil? Well it depends.
One needs to evaluate evil in terms of the qualities of destructiveness, lack of ability to feel and give authentic love, and the damage a person does to the psyche of another.
Peck tells us that the primary quality behind evil is deception. Evil people present a false front to the world and hide behind the image they present. Often the image is of a hardworking, good looking, well dressed, clean, successful and even caring individual. We don’t often glimpse behind the façade to see the vacancy of the soul within the person. It is all smoke and mirrors, lies and false fronts. As I said earlier, a malignant narcissist will easily sacrifice a “loved one” in order to preserve the false front they are so vested in holding up. If that “front” is threatened to be exposed, they will throw the threat under a bus and walk away without conscience.
Peck tells us, from his research, that evil can be hard to spot, even by the person who is being affected by it. When evil walks around looking “normal” we never see it for what it is. If evil was easy to spot in others, it would have no power in the world. It is through the deception that evil has power.
If evil itself has an intention, what would it be? I imagine it would be to get loving hearts to hate, to be angry, to be confused, and to get sidetracked from any kind of positive mission they may have previously been aligned with.
In my experience with narcissistic abuse, most people who are forced to go “no contact” or “limited contact” with a narcissist are very angry, hateful, confused and lost. Not only have they lost most of their life force energy, they have separated from their own “goodness.” This is done when the victim of evil becomes lost in darkness as a result of the vampirism and deception. I help my clients to come to terms with their feelings, because suppressing our “dark emotions” prevents us from healing. We have to find healthy ways to express our pain, our rage, our anger and feelings of injustice and eventually get back to the “love.”
When we love someone who is “evil” we often put our hearts in the hands of someone who will not only break them, but continue to trample on them over and over again. The more “evil” can torture a once loving heart, the less its ability to love. Mission accomplished.
In some ways, I suppose my mission in life is to be a warrior for the heart, to help people remember their own ability to love, beginning with loving the Self. If we can start with offering ourselves kindness, compassion, care and support, we can rebuild our life force and our hearts. We don’t want to let evil “win” by separating us from our own ability to love and be kind to others.
As a counsellor for narcissistic abuse victims, I have seen some pretty angry and hostile victims who, because they are hurting, feel justified in hurting others. They often avoid responsibility and because they see themselves as “victims” they feel justified in their careless behaviour.
We have to ask ourselves, at what point does a victim of evil begin to cross the line to becoming evil themselves? At what point do victims of malignant narcissism become narcissistic themselves? It is entirely possible. Children of narcissists will usually become either Co-dependent or narcissistic. One child may model their parent’s narcissism where another sibling will oppose it and Co-dependently try to extract love where there is none. The sibling who becomes narcissistic, gives up on ever getting love and settles for power instead.
If you were to evaluate the war of good versus evil happening on our planet, wouldn’t it make sense that if evil people were successful at creating more evil people, evil would grow in the world and the mission of evil would gain power?
What if evil was actually a force that possessed people who were vulnerable in some way? What if evil were a force that separated people from their own goodness?
If we truly wanted to heal, and bring more love to the world, we have to start by not only bringing more love to ourselves, but learn how to approach the abuse we have suffered with love rather than fear.
It is fear that takes root in the hearts and minds of man, that gives the evil force an “in.” Fear of annihilation may cause one to try and annihilate others. Fear of not being “good enough” may cause a person to try and make others feel inferior. Fear of being hurt may cause a person to hurt others. Fear of being exposed may cause one to paint others in a bad light. Fear of losing control over one’s environment may cause him/her to manipulate and control others.
The opposite of love is not hate, it is fear! So when you have two choices, love or fear, make the conscious choice to align with love rather than fear. It is a lot of work to bring love to a dark situation.
Peck tells us that the antidote for evil is not hatred, or war, but love. We need to learn to love thy enemy. That doesn’t mean to live with or have that person in our lives, but to cut the psychic cords of attachment to the evil doer by loving oneself enough to break away, and find a way to love the other, from a distance. Instead of wishing for the demise of our enemy, we could pray for their healing; that they see the light. We don’t have to be attached to what actually happens with this person. We are not praying for their healing so that we can have a great partner, or great parents. We pray as a way of releasing ourselves from our own hatred and anger towards that person. When we hold on to hatred and anger towards another person, it becomes a psychic cord, keeping us tied to that person.
Loving in the face of the worse cruelty and carelessness at the hands of our enemy is to set us free, not the enemy. Our enemies must suffer the karmic consequences of their own behaviour. What we put out into the world will come back to us tenfold. This is why we don’t want to put more hatred into the world. It doesn’t mean that initially we won’t feel hatred. We very well may, and this is okay. It is not the feeling itself that is the problem. It is the holding on of the feeling that causes long term issues. Suppressing our feelings is even worse because we end up acting out subconsciously that which we are harbouring within. We must be willing to allow those painful emotions to come to the surface, deal with them, and release them. The ultimate goal is to return to love.
Narcissistic abuse can be one of the most soul damaging experiences. Most people who have experienced this would agree this kind of abuse has been the most painful thing in their lives. The question becomes “how do I survive this?”
In this episode of Pandora’s Box, Kaleah talks in depth about the spiritual aspects of healing, the distorted ego, the higher self and narcissistic society.
You can listen to the podcast on Pandora’s Box Radio and download it below:
One of the most difficult situations I encounter in my work counselling people who have been involved with a narcissist is when there are children involved. If you have children with a narcissist, it can feel you are in a prison for the rest of your days. Your own imprisonment is one thing, but what about the children? You can go “low contact,” no energy, but your kids don’t have a choice. The court systems decide how much time your kids spend with their narcissistic parent. The court systems also don’t recognise narcissistic personality disorder as something that is damaging to children.
There are two typical scenario’s I run into with children of a narcissistic parent. One is the children love their narcissistic parent and the non-narcissist is terrified the children will be manipulated and turned against them. The second scenario is the children are terrified of their narcissistic parent and don’t want to go for their visitations. There are other scenarios too, where the narcissistic parent has no interest in his/her children and the non-narcissist wants them to be more involved. This is actually the scenario that most parents in the other situations could only hope for.
The most difficult situation to deal with is the one where the children don’t want to go and look to their non-narcissistic parent to protect them. The children often experience physical illness, anxiety and they may do poorly in school.
It seems nobody really listens to the concerned parent or the children, because now there is so much emphasis on parental rights to visitation, especially for the Father. These are the situations where my codependent rescuer wants to come out and build refuge camps in select area’s out of the Country. I want to say “take your children and get them across the border where our laws can’t force your children to be abused.” But even in these situations a letter from the narcissistic parent is often required in order to take the children out of the Country.
It is ironic that if one parent physically neglects or abuses his/her children and the other parent doesn’t do anything to protect the children, both parents are punished for the crime of abuse. The courts do recognise that it is the parent’s duty to protect that child, but the abuse has to be of the extreme, obvious variety. Once again narcissistic abuse isn’t recognised because the narcissist is so covert in the way they abuse.
One of the saddest situations I have ever come across was when a young woman got pregnant by a narcissistic man who tried to force her to have an abortion. She left him and said she was going to have her baby and he didn’t need to be involved. She didn’t hear from him until her baby was a few months old, and then he showed back up and sued for custody. He didn’t get full custody but he was awarded 50% custody and the young mother was forced to turn her infant child, who was still breast feeding, over to this monster, half of every week.
When the baby returned home, she was so stressed that she would cry for days before she settled back down. The narcissistic Father really had no interest in the child. He was simply punishing the Mother for having the child; for going against his wishes. He knew the thing that would hurt the Mother the most was to take her child from her. He likely felt that the Mother chose the child over him so he was going to punish both Mother and child. This is the sick, twisted psyche of a narcissist. There is no concern for anyone but his own selfish needs. In this case, the need to “get even.”
The courts often see couples fighting over custody and visitation and sum up a parents concern as petty. But with narcissistic parents, the issues are anything but petty; they are seriously damaging to the child, and the non-narcissistic parent has no right or ability to protect the child.
Although this scenario is most often a narcissistic father and a mother who is deeply concerned for her child, it does also happen the other way around.
This is the part of the article where I am supposed to give solutions, but unfortunately there aren’t a lot of solutions in such a case. A parent must protect his or her child to the best of his or her ability to do so.
Some Mother’s I’ve talked to won’t leave their narcissistic spouse because they know if they do, the narcissistic father will have access to the child alone, without her protection. In a case like this, she chooses to sacrifice herself and her needs for the children’s protection. But in some cases, the Mother is so stressed out and even ill, as a result of being with the narcissist that she knows, intuitively that she won’t survive living with him any longer. It is better that she is alive and available to her children then dead, which would leave her children no other option then to be with the narcissistic parent full time.
It’s a tough decision for any parent to make and nobody can make this decision for you. The best I can offer in a situation like this is support and some major lessons in boundaries.
Understanding that the narcissists motivation is not usually to have a loving, caring relationship with his children. His, or her motivation is to use the children as narcissistic supply or to punish the other parent by exercising his/her power and control. Most narcissists have pretty bad parenting themselves and with their lack of ability to reflect and grow beyond their parent’s issues, they normally just continue the pattern with their own children, which can easily breed more narcissists.
A non-narcissistic parent’s worst nightmare, is that their child will become a narcissist, and this does happen. Narcissists breed narcissists. But the child will have a much better chance of being healthy if they have at least one healthy and loving parent. So, if you are a parent in this kind of situation, your role is to get as healthy as you possibly can. This means taking good care of yourself, and your children, and learning healthy boundaries. You need to learn really good communication skills to communicate openly and honestly with your children. Remember that narcissism grows in the darkness. It is a web of lies and deception. You have to stop living the lie yourself and be as open with your kids as you can.
The rules, “don’t talk negatively about the other parent” don’t apply in this case. It is important, when the child is old enough to understand, to educate your children about mental illness and personality disorders. Don’t just say “your father is mentally ill,” because they won’t understand this, and this is likely what the narcissistic parent will say about you. The best thing you can do is encourage open, honest communication with your children, so they know they can talk to you about how they are feeling. Let the children know their feelings matter and they are important.
Listen to their feelings about the time spent with their narcissistic parent and learn to put your own emotions aside so you can be there for your children. For example, if the narcissistic father has a new girlfriend and has introduced her to the kids, you will certainly have feelings about this, and your feelings are important, but now is not the time to express your feelings. If you become “reactive,” every time your children spring a new issue or situation on you, regarding their father, your children will begin to develop protective measures and stop telling you about things, because they don’t want to upset you. In this case the children are learning how to be codependent. They become protectors of “your” feelings.
Your feelings need to be dealt with in therapy, a support group or a close friend who doesn’t mind listening. Your children are not your sounding board for your issues with their father. But you are their sounding board, so you have to work to get yourself strong and learn to put your emotions aside until you are in the right environment to deal with them. Journaling is really great, because it gives you an immediate outlet for your emotions.
If there are signs of abuse with the narcissistic parent, document everything, including what the children tell you, their mental and emotional state, physical symptoms and other symptoms. If the narcissistic parent is obviously being abusive to the children, don’t make them go. Document, exactly why you refused the visitation. Talk to your local police and an attorney about what is going on and get their input. Find out if the police will enforce visitation if you are witnessing verbal and/or emotional abuse.
Find out from your attorney how the courts are likely to view the situation. Many parents tell me their attorney tell them they have to encourage the visitation even if they suspect abuse. There is something seriously wrong with this picture. If your child is screaming bloody murder when their narcissistic parent comes for a visit, you might want to video tape your child (find a stealth way to do this) and deny the visit. The courts may not allow for the video, but you can take it to child protective services, your local abuse shelters, and get your community involved.
Of course all young children have separation anxiety. If you leave your child at daycare, they may scream for a while and then settle back down. You have to be able to determine what kind of scream this is. You have the right to ask the court for supervised visitation until it can be determined how the children are being treated. The court may not grant supervised visitation, but you can continue to ask.
Court business is very expensive. Especially if you have a narcissistic parent who has access to the funds to keep dragging you back to court on a continual basis, just because he or she can. You may not have access to such funds, which puts you at a disadvantage. You will have to ask your attorney if he/she can ask the judge that the narcissistic parent to cover all court cost, every time he/she takes you back to court. Once again it is a crap shoot, what the judge will do, but you have to try.
If you have family or someone you can live with that lives in the same state but much further away from the narcissist parent, you may want to consider moving. You can ask your attorney to present your move in such a way that you can’t afford to live where you are because of the lack of child support or finances and until there is fair compensation for you and the kids, you need to move. Usually moving in the same state is not a major issue. There are laws about moving across state lines and big laws about moving across Country borders.
Research your state to find out what the laws are. Become educated. If you live much further, visitation will be much more difficult for the narcissistic parent. Seeing the kids may involve long drives and the narcissistic parent may elect to keep those drives to a minimum. If you have parents or family in another state, you can always present that case as well. Sometimes permission is granted. It depends on the case.
There are also state laws that allow the child, at a certain age, usually around thirteen, to make their own decision about where they want to live and most often the child has the right to refuse visitation with a parent. Find out about your state law. Your teenage children may “opt out” of the visitation arrangement if their narcissistic parent is abusive. Some teenagers will “opt out” without the law giving them permission. They get busy with their lives and tell their parent “I’m not coming because….”
I only suggest moving out of the area if you are in financial straights and/or the narcissistic parent is truly abusive to the children. Some narcissistic parents can be “okay” parents. They may spoil them and do a lot of fun things with them. Although you may fear the children would rather be with their Disneyland parent then you, it is not the best reason to move, especially if the children want to spend time with their “other parent.” The best you can do in a situation like this is to keep a stable, loving and nurturing home. Children are known to migrate to the most stable parent, both emotionally and financially. So work on being that stable parent.
You can never go back and “not have children” with the narcissist, so it won’t do you any good to waste your energy wishing things were different. It is better to spend your energy trying to make the most of a bad situation. Nurture yourself, develop your inner strength, develop your ability to support your family, and be that loving, nurturing presence for your children. Get support! Don’t feel you have to do this alone.
Remember the burden of healthy parenting falls on your shoulders. Learn everything you can about how to be a healthy parent and keep working on your own health and emotional well-being. This is the most important thing you can do for your family.
It is such a theme, I see in my work and even in my personal life with people who are unable to face the truth about something in their lives, normally something about themselves they don’t want to look at.
We all have a self-protective mechanism and most people don’t like constructive criticism. We don’t like to hear negative things about ourselves, our behaviour, or actions. To have such things brought to our attention shows us where our blind spots are. It is much easier to see the toothpick in our neighbours eye then the plank in our own. Because when we focus on the imperfections of others, it takes the attention off ourselves and we get to feel superior, better than and even faultless.
Although we see this coping mechanism frequently in society, it is most prevalent in people with personality disorders. Personality disordered people are highly sensitive to criticism and can’t fathom the possibility they might be wrong. Narcissists, for example, are known for never being wrong about anything and never being able to take responsibility for their actions or behaviours. They are serial blamers, projecting their own issues onto others and then blaming and even punishing others for “what they did wrong.” This leaves the person being blamed, baffled, questioning and often even doubting themselves. I often hear from clients, “he always accuses me of doing exactly what he is doing.”
It is common with difficult personalities they will stir up trouble and cause drama but accuse others of always creating drama and stirring up trouble. The person being accused, once again, is baffled because they know their own heart and intentions. They may be peace loving people who do everything within their power to “get alone” with their accuser, and still find themselves sitting in the blame/punishment chair.
The reason people, personality disordered or otherwise resort to projection and blame, is they are blind to the truth. The truth is too big for them to swallow. It hurts too much to feel. The truth causes such discomfort in them that they avoid it at all cost.
In my life I have been accused of causing drama by someone who was constantly stirring up trouble. I have been accused of being in denial, by someone who was in denial. I was accused of being a narcissist by someone who was behaving narcissistically. It is a crazy making dynamic, to say the least. But if someone is not ready or willing to face the truth, there is nothing we, the accused, can do about it. We have to be willing to be the “blamed” and walk away from our accuser, who will not listen to reason. The “blamer” is usually not interested in conflict resolution or healing with the person they are accusing. They are interested in having a scapegoat to take the blame for their unresolved issues. So, any attempt on the person being blamed, to resolve the issue, is met with disdain and likely more accusations.
The blamers often perceive themselves as victims. People are always doing them wrong. The deeper truth is they are always doing other people wrong but can’t see it or take responsibility for it. Their need to be seen “as good” is so strong they need to get everyone they can to side with them and recognise them as “the victim” in any given situation. The real victim is often treated very badly not only by the accuser but the accusers “minions” who have been fed a pack of lies at the victim’s expense.
Sometimes the truth is a hard pill to swallow, but it really does set us free in the end. When we face the truth in our own lives, we live in integrity and are much more pleasant people to be around. Those who are constantly living a lie, spend their life energy defending that lie or trying to keep their stories straight. In the end, it can be a very lonely life, not that the liars don’t have people around them, but they are constantly manipulating the people around them to see things the way they need them to see things. Their relationships are not built on truth, but on lies and manipulation. They live in fear of being found out or exposed.
When we are willing to take responsibility for what is ours to take responsibility for, we build bridges rather than burn them. We build trust with people rather than destroy trust. We foster love and acceptance rather than hatred and rejection.
Although personality disordered people are never likely to face the truth of their own destruction, those with more self-awareness can embrace truth as a way to turn their lives around. They can reflect on their own core wounds and fears, and be willing to admit when they are wrong. Accountability is the ultimate bridge between self and others.
Teal Swan made an excellent video on the topic of Relationship Addiction. She brings in science of how mice, when given intermittent reinforcement in the form of pellets, they become crazy obsessed, camping out at the pellet dispenser, pushing the button, trying to get a pellet. When a pellet is dished out intermittently, the mouse amps up the obsessive behaviour. But if the pellets were given consistently in the beginning and then suddenly stop, the mouse is likely to move on to something else, likely deducting that the source had run dry.
In narcissistic relationships there is normally a ton of reinforcement in the beginning and then the reinforcement slowly becomes intermittent, creating an addiction in the person who is holding out for the attention, affection and love from the narcissist. I would highly recommend watching this video for anyone who suffers love addiction or addiction to a narcissist.