NPD vs. BPD: they are not the same thing!

BPD-Awareness

Articles like this one make me want to rage. The author, Doug Bartholomew, a licensed social worker, believes that people with Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) are pretty much the same as people with Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD). He even goes so far as to say BPD’s, along with NPDs, fit the criteria for M. Scott Peck’s “People of the Lie.”

Wait just one second. Peck’s People of the Lie don’t even include all narcissists–his definition describes those with Antisocial Personality Disorder and malignant narcissism (there’s a huge difference even between MN’s and garden variety narcissists–a malignant narcissist has ill will toward others and decided antisocial traits while a “benign” narcissist isn’t necessarily ill-intentioned but is just self centered and doesn’t care about your feelings). Peck never said all manipulative people (people with one of the four Cluster B personality disorders) were by nature evil, but evil people is what his book is about.

At the same time I understand where Bartholomew is coming from. On the surface, people with BPD can be manipulative and even resort to some of the same unpleasant tactics and mind-games (gaslighting, etc.) that narcissists like to play. They can appear to lack empathy, because they get so caught up in their own drama that they can literally forget that others exist. They can be demanding, high maintenance and prone to irrational rages (just like narcs) but are far more likely than narcs to turn their rage inward and become self-destructive or even suicidal.

Narcissism Clinic.
Not much to do with this article, but I couldn’t resist.

Borderlines also usually regret their acting-out and selfish or manipulative behaviors when the crisis has passed or their bad behavior is called out to them. They may be self-centered and impulsive but are not lacking remorse or the ability to feel shame and guilt. The problem with Borderlines is they tend to act as they feel at the moment without thinking things through. They can get so caught up in their own fear of abandonment that they almost literally forget that you have feelings too. However, after the fact Borderlines usually will feel remorseful and ashamed of their behavior, and on top of that, realize that their offputting behavior may cause others to do what they fear the most–abandon them.

Bartholomew also states that all Cluster B disorders are characterized by a lack of empathy:

The overwhelmingly most commonly mentioned behavior or trait associated with all the Cluster B Personality Disorders is a lack of empathy or compassion. They seem unmoved by the effect their behavior has on their loved ones other than what is necessary to keep their loved ones engaged and around. It is as if they were tone deaf or color blind to the feelings and experiences of others.

While it’s true that people with NPD and ASPD are characterized by a lack of empathy, I disagree that this is true of people with BPD. I think this is a gross overgeneralization.

Borderlines can feel empathy, but due to their impulsiveness and fear of abandonment, they can act in selfish, defensive, and manipulative ways that may hurt others (but they hurt themselves even more so). However, unlike malignant narcissists and people with ASPD, Borderlines do not set out to hurt others and they do care how others feel. Unfortunately their good judgment is clouded by their disorder which makes it difficult or impossible for them to regulate their emotions. That’s why they act so impulsively and often fail to think things through before they act out. It’s also why their relationships tend to be stormy and short-lived.

BPD_cartoon

A person with BPD does not wear a mask or have a “false self” like someone with NPD–but their fear of abandonment can cause them to knowingly or unknowingly push others away. Their ambivalence in relationships can be very confusing to others–they can seem to adore you one moment, and then hate you the next. They can seem needy and rejecting by turns. When others grow tired of this crazymaking and confusing “I hate you, don’t leave me” behavior and finally leave them, the Borderline genuinely doesn’t understand what they have done to drive the other person away, and so they become even more fearful of being abandoned. Their behavior is maladaptive because it tends to cause the very thing they are trying so desperately to avoid.

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We are just burning toasters.

A much better description of the similarities and differences between Borderlines and Narcissists can be found in “Borderline vs. Narcissistic Personality Disorder: How Are They Different?” from the Clearview Women’s Center’s website.

While the two disorders, both being part of the Cluster B group of personality disorders, do have overlapping symptoms and are often confused with each other and/or misdiagnosed as the other disorder (with males being far more likely to be diagnosed with NPD and females with BPD), this author, unlike Bartholomew, understands that both the motives and mechanics of the disorders are quite distinct from each other:

[…]both BPD and NPD deal with conflict in a way that is unhealthy to themselves and those around them. It’s the expression of the anger that results from the conflict that is different.

In her article “Blame-Storms and Rage Attacks,” Randi Kreger, co-author of Walking on Eggshells, points out the difference in how those with BPD and NPD express anger. While those with Borderline Personality Disorder may fly into a rage and push people away, they will often calm down, feel shame for their reaction, and promise never to do it again.

“Unless they’re in treatment, the underlying issues don’t go away. Some conventional [borderlines] do not get angry at all, but hold it in or express it inwardly through self-harm,” says Kreger.

“The anger of narcissists, on the other hand, can be more demeaning,” she continues. “Their criticism evolves from their conviction that others don’t meet their lofty standards — or worse, aren’t letting them get their own way.”

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Malignant narcissism and the supernatural: a connection?

demon

WARNING: This is a dark and highly disturbing topic for many people. If discussions about evil entities, the demonic or the supernatural bothers you, I suggest not reading this blog post to avoid being triggered.

I’ve discussed the subject of evil and narcissism before, but today a commenter called Truthteller brought up this subject again in the comments section of another blog post (I can’t find his or her blog if they even have one).

A good question.
Truthteller was wondering if disorders like malignant narcissism and/or multiple personality disorder (MPD) have a possible supernatural explanation, such as an evil or alien entity taking up residence inside a person. This commenter suggested that severe abuse during childhood, which can cause both MPD (a splintering of the original personality into two or more subpersonalities) and NPD (dissociative as well because the true self is shut off or obscured by an elaborate system of false personalities or masks) can make the child vulnerable to an outside entity taking up residence within them.

Now before you write me off as a BSC, superstitious, tinfoil hat-wearing, Bible thumping nutcase, let me explain that while I do consider myself a Christian, I am not particularly religious (though I am spiritual) nor have I ever been that superstitious and I’m pretty skeptical about supernatural things. In fact, I think most “supernatural” events probably have a scientific explanation that hasn’t been discovered yet.

For example, imagine a serf living in the year 1100, during the Middle Ages. Now imagine a time traveler from 2014 appears and shows the medieval serf his Smartphone. (Okay, I know time travel isn’t possible right now, if it ever is, but just suspend your disbelief here for a minute).

smartphoneinspace

What would the serf think? Would they understand anything about the technology that went into making that Smartphone? Of course not. They would probably run away screaming that the thing was demonic, a supernatural device from Hell that contained evil spirits. Because that would be the only way they could explain the glowing moving images and words scrolling on a screen. If we see a ghost today, it could actually be a ghost, or it could be a hologram of some sort, a cross-section of a 4 or more-dimensional being, or simply an aggregation of energy concentrated in one place. We really don’t know.

That being said, I also don’t dispute the possibility that there may be evil spirits or even an entity called Satan. No one has proven these entities exist, but no one’s disproven them either. There is at least one respected psychiatrist in the field of NPD and psychopathy (Dr. M. Scott Peck) who believes that certain individuals without empathy or a conscience, who take pleasure in hurting others (today we call them malignant narcissists or psychopaths) are in fact evil.

I absolutely believe there are evil people in the world, but is their evil due to Satan or other malignant entities overtaking their minds at some point (possibly due to a choice they made which I’ll explain later in this post), or is their “evil” simply a manifestation of a badly wired brain dominated by the predatory, reptilian, lower brain instead of the mammalian human brain that has the capacity for love and empathy?

A snake doesn’t care about its fellow snakes or even its offspring. It feels no love. It attacks with no remorse and has no feelings of guilt if its prey dies from its bite. It abandons its young after they’re born to fend for themselves. This is normal behavior for a snake, but a snake isn’t evil because it’s just a reptile, a less evolved creature than we are. If a human acts like a snake though, then that person is evil because we’re supposed to have a brain that has the capacity to feel empathy and love.

snake

MPD vs. NPD.
In the case of the person with MPD, I don’t believe malignant entities have anything to do with their disorder, for several reasons. Although people with MPD appear to be “possessed” by more than one personality, they are really just facets of the same personality. A person with MPD was almost without exception severely abused during early childhood, and to protect the “waking self” from further pain, their original personality shattered into fragments, or subpersonalities of the original.

A good therapist who specializes in MPD can help the patient bring the “personalities” back together, usually by working primarily with the dominant personality, which is usually cooperative and the most mentally healthy of them all. It is also the only one of the personalities that is aware of all the others. One by one, the dominant personality (or sometimes using hypnosis) will “bring out” the other personalities for the therapist to work with. Eventually, through the cooperation of all the personalities, the person can become whole again. While there may be unpleasant or immature personalities, they are not necessarily evil. Another reason I don’t think MPD has anything to do with outside entities is because the person with the disorder wants to get well. They usually seek therapy on their own due to blackouts and other odd things such as doing something and not remembering doing it.

Malignant narcissism and psychopathy is a different story. Although also most likely caused by severe abuse combined with a genetic predisposition, the person is nearly always unaware of their original, true self which has been obscured so deeply by their elaborate layers of masks that it may as well not even exist. It’s very difficult if not impossible to access the true self in a malignant narcissist. It exists but the false self is a lie, and lies are inherently evil. This is why they are the “People of the Lie.”

The genesis of psychopathy.
Why are some people evil and what made them that way? No one really knows. I don’t think in real life there are any “bad seeds” and those we know of are usually fictional characters. Some people probably do possess a gene for the malignant form of narcissism or psychopathy, but even so, with loving parenting that teaches the child right from wrong at an early age, I think most children can still learn to be good people and those lessons will override the genetic predisposition. Perhaps they’ll still be narcissists but of the benign variety instead.

Severely abusing or neglecting a child who already possesses the gene will likely cause that child to become a psychopath or malignant narcissist. At this point in time, there is no known cure once the disorder has become ingrained in the personality. If any treatment is to work, it must be done in early childhood, when the personality is still forming.

Possession and Exorcism.
I don’t think people with these disorders are actually possessed by demons, but if demons or malignant entities exist, these people may be highly influenced by them or walk on the side of darkness. That would explain my MN ex’s fascination with the occult, Satanic symbolism, and his liking for dark music like death metal. Being open to darkness, malignant narcissists and psychopaths are vulnerable to malignant entities taking up residence inside them, and for someone who is already a psychopath, the possession would be total and even exorcism would not work and would probably kill them.

ouijaboard

Non-evil people could be possessed too, usually by dabbling in the occult or the like, but for them, the possession is “imperfect,” according to M. Scott Peck. Because the entity isn’t aligned perfectly with the person’s soul, there is still good in the person and when an exorcism is performed, the good can overcome the evil entity (with God’s help). An exorcism performed on an imperfectly possessed, non-evil individual is more likely to be successful than it would be on a psychopath whose possession, if it exists at all, would be total.

M. Scott Peck also believes that exorcism does not have to be done by a priest or minister. It can be successfully performed by a psychiatrist or psychologist who is well trained in the ritual, and at the same time has a strong faith in God.

How a good person can become evil.
I mentioned earlier the concept of choice. I think there are some people who are predisposed genetically to psychopathy and aren’t necessarily evil, but there comes a turning point during which they choose darkness over light. This is usually a decision they make, a “deal with the devil” so to speak. This is the point at which they can cross the line over into evil and once they do so, there is no turning back.

I’ve used this example before, but I’ll use it again because it’s such a good one. In “People of the Lie,” Peck talks about a man who was in all respects a good man, a family man who loved his wife and children. But the man had a terrible problem: he suffered from severe panic attacks when crossing a certain bridge on his way home from work every day. The panic attacks were so debilitating that the man, even though he didn’t believe in the devil, made a deal with the devil anyway. He told the devil that if he could get over the bridge without suffering a panic attack, then he would allow the devil to allow something to happen to his beloved son.

Nothing happened to the man’s son, but the man felt terribly guilty about making such a deal, even though he still didn’t believe the devil existed, so he confessed his sin to Dr. Peck. It was explained to the man that he did the right thing; if he hadn’t felt remorse over making such a deal, even though he didn’t believe in the devil, that he would have crossed the line over into evil.

fearofbridge

The same thing happens during war when soldiers are forced to kill innocent people and commit other acts of atrocity that go against their morals. Those who aren’t predisposed to psychopathy and are forced to undertake such evil actions, suffer from PTSD and can even experience a psychotic break. However, there are veterans who, already predisposed to psychopathy, became evil after committing such acts during wartime. They return from war seeming to have lost any empathy or ability to love they once had. Here too, a line was crossed, even if it was not really their own choice. Once that line is crossed the person can never return to goodness because they have, in effect, “sold their soul,” and possibly been possessed by malignant outside entities who make sure they keep walking on the side of darkness.

It’s in their eyes.
I have noticed something odd in the eyes of malignant narcissists. The first time I saw it was when I was about five or six, when my mother flew into a narcissistic rage over something or other, probably my acting “spooky” (withdrawn and lost in my Aspie world) which seemed to enrage her more than anything else. When I looked into her face, I noticed with horror that her eyes were solid black like the eyes of aliens or demons, and her sneer was so full of pure hate that I had nightmares for weeks. I remember having dreams about this demon-mother, and waking up screaming. She’d rush into the room and it was like waking up from one nightmare into another, an inescapable loop of nightmares I couldn’t awaken from, because all I could see even when awake were those solid black eyes and hateful sneer. Even when she was smiling or hugging me. This lasted for several months, but I knew then what she was, and I also knew that she knew I knew. And that made her hate me even more.

Evil black female zombie eyes.

I saw the same black eyes once when my MN ex was in one of his narcissistic drunken rages.
Also, I have seen actual people who have very opaque, cold and hard eyes without a hint of humanity or warmth in them. Here is a photo of a person I do not know but her face is one of the most frightening I’ve ever seen and it’s because of those eyes. I have no doubt this woman is as evil as she looks. I sure wouldn’t want to meet her in person!

unknownwoman

My father (a low spectrum but weak and benign narcissist who is not insane or deluded) told me about the time he spoke to Michael (who I was still married to at the time) on the phone and noticed his voice sounded different. The way he explained it, it was gutteral and inhuman like a demon’s voice. I never heard this voice myself, but on a visceral, gut level I believed my father was telling me the truth. I was spooked out of my mind.

After the divorce my father sent me a copy of “People of the Lie.” He told me he never believed in the devil or evil people until he read this book and realized it described my ex to a tee. Funny that he didn’t recognize my mother in that book, because she’s even more malignant than my ex. But he’s an enabler when it comes to MN women, and always seems to be in thrall to them. But that book changed my life because after reading it I finally recognized both my ex and my mother for what they actually were, and that was the catalyst that led to No Contact.

A person I know in the narcissistic abuse community says that the soul of a malignant narcissist or psychopath has been seared. I think that’s a very good description of what has happened to them. Can a seared soul be saved? I have no clue…

In conclusion, let me remind you that I’m not a tinfoil hat wearing conspiracy theorist or a Bible-thumping fundamentalist nutcase. I have no proof that any of this is valid (unless you count the opaque black eyes I’ve saw in both my mother and ex). But because a supernatural component hasn’t been disproven either, there’s a possibility that much more is involved in psychopathic behavior and malignant narcissism than mere mental illness or a brain dysfunction. Some of this even makes sense on a gut instinct level. In any case, Truthteller raised an interesting issue and I wanted to explore it further even if you think it’s nuttier than a Payday bar.

Please share your thoughts.

Could “reparenting” actually cure a narcissist?

depression

Almost all professionals who deal with narcissists and psychopaths insist they cannot be cured, but say that Cognitive-Behavioral therapy can help “train” them to act in more prosocial ways. Of course, this isn’t going to work unless there’s something to be gained for the narcissist in doing so. Most won’t even enter therapy. Cognitive-behavioral therapy isn’t a cure though and does nothing to address the underlying problem or access the “true self” which even the narcissist has obscured from their consciousness with their elaborate series of masks.

I was thinking about a much more intense form of therapy, that would be costly and difficult, and takes into account several different methods of treatment, that may actually be able to cure narcissism. This therapy would take place in several stages:

Stage One: The Narcissistic Crisis/Narcissistic Injury
I was skimming through Vaknin’s book and toward the end he has a chapter about curing a narcissist. He believes these incorrigible people can actually be cured (which of course begs the question, why isn’t he cured? Or is he?) However, in order to be open to being cured they must have undergone a “narcissistic crisis” or “narcissistic injury”–that is, his or her sources of narcissistic supply must have been removed (such as after a divorce or the death of their primary source of narcissistic supply, loss of a career, financial ruin, incarceration, what have you).

In a state like this, without anything to prop them up or continually affirm their “greatness,” a narcissist will usually sink into a deep depression, and will do ANYTHING to make themselves feel better, even voluntarily entering therapy.

The tricky part would be identifying the depressed patient as a narcissist, but there should be enough signs in the way they talk about the glory of their “former life” and they will still lack remorse and empathy and blame others for their sorry condition rather than themselves. So identifying a severely depressed narcissist shouldn’t be too difficult for a trained professional.

The therapist cannot, under any circumstances, give the narcissist any sources of narcissistic supply or affirm them in any way, or give them any sympathy, at least not at first. In other words, they cannot mirror them. That will just make the narcissist feel good enough that their masks will go back up and they may think they’re “cured” and leave.

Stage Two: “Cold Therapy:” Deny the narcissist any narcissistic supply!
In order to force the narcissist to face what’s inside, it’s important the therapist does not affirm or mirror the narcissist. Instead, the therapist should stay nearly silent at first and make sure the narcissist is forced to confront his own emptiness. This will be extremely painful to them. They may leave, but if the narcissist is desperate enough he will probably stay. However, he will likely become angry at the therapist (transference) and rage. Still, the therapist must not show any reaction. When even their rage fails to elicit a response, the narcissist has no choice but to regress to the infant he really is.

Stage Three: Catharsis/”Remothering”
This would be a breakthrough point, and the point at which some real therapy could possibly be done. Becoming an infant will turn the narcissist into a blubbering, sobbing, needy, vulnerable mess. And this is where I can begin to see why in “People of the Lie,” M. Scott Peck, in his chapter about “Charlene” (a narcissist who entered therapy voluntarily because of her inability to maintain a relationship), wanted her to become vulnerable and baby-like so he could become her surrogate “mother” and give her the maternal nurturing she never had as a child. This might have worked too, had Charlene been ripped of all her sources of narcissistic supply and been undergoing a narcissistic crisis. Dr. Peck’s mistake was affirming her too much in the beginning of therapy and engaging her fantasies. By the time he realized his mistake, it was too late.

At the time I read Dr. Peck’s thoughts about how he should have “mothered” Charlene and held her in his arms (in a nonsexual way), I thought it sounded very odd and even unethical. But knowing more about narcissism than I did when I read that book, and more about why they’re the way they are, I can understand why Dr. Peck’s wish to “mother” Charlene may have worked. But not only did Peck start out all wrong, Charlene was not depressed enough to be open to such a technique.

So a vulnerable narcissist stripped of all their elaborate defense mechanisms, reduced to a dependent infant, is going to be going through an emotional catharsis as the true self (which was arrested in infancy and is still an infant) begins to emerge. They are going to be in unbearable terror and pain. A good (and very strong) therapist can offer maternal support through holding the patient during catharsis, stroking them in a nonsexual manner, but still must not tell them anything they want to hear, such as how they’re not a bad person, how they don’t deserve their pain, and the like. The therapist must remain quiet and let the patient go through the catharsis and only offer support by their mere presence.

smashingmirror

Stage Four: Retraining and Internalizing the Conscience
I’ve elaborated a lot on what Vaknin says about curing a narcissist in this post, and I’m going to elaborate even further. Because the narcissist, while rendered virtually harmless at this point in therapy, still doesn’t have a conscience. They would still go right back to their old ways if they stop therapy now or their circumstances suddenly improve. Psychologically, they are infants and an infant has no conscience: they must be taught by their parents and caregivers the difference between right and wrong.

So after a few sessions of this cathartic crisis (however long it lasts–by its nature it will eventually exhaust itself), I would propose something like the sort of treatment that was given to 6 year old Beth Thomas in the documentary “Child of Rage,” who at first wanted to kill her parents and brother and who tortured animals, but was cured of incipient psychopathy early enough that she was still able to develop a conscience and become an adult with normal levels of empathy and no desire to hurt anyone.

The narcissistic patient, if at all possible, should be in a setting, such as a hospital or residential treatment setting, where they are closely monitored and supervised by trained professionals. Any good behavior is to be rewarded, any bad behavior punished. Any privileges at all would have to be earned. Just like a small child, reward and punishment will train their brain to develop a conscience. This is basically the same thing as the cognitive-behavioral therapy currently used on narcissists, but it cannot cure a narcissist who hasn’t first been broken down by a narcissistic crisis and catharsis, because all their masks are still on. A narcissist who has been through the process of crisis and catharsis has lost their masks, and therefore cognitive-behavioral retraining would become internalized rather than just a “positive” mask they can wear to make them more bearable to others.

Disclaimer:
I am in no way a professional (though I did major in psychology in college). I’m certainly not qualified to propose new methods of treatment, but this process I’ve described isn’t one I made up: it’s basically a combination of Vaknin’s proposed method of breaking down all the narcissist’s defenses so they become infantile (with a little M. Scott Peck thrown in), followed up with cognitive-behavioral techniques for retraining the patient’s conscience in a highly supervised setting.

It would be a difficult and expensive therapy at the very least, but I really think it could work. Of course, it also requires the narcissist to voluntarily enter therapy, which means they would have to have suffered a grave loss that threw them into deep depression in the first place (the narcissistic injury or crisis).

I’d be interested to hear your thoughts.

Book Review: People of the Lie: The Hope for Healing Human Evil, by M. Scott Peck, MD

peopleofthelie

When “People of the Lie” was first published in 1983, the word “evil” wasn’t in the popular lexicon. We were still a nation experimenting with various alternative lifestyles and there was still a lot of philosophical holdover from the “do your own thing” mindset of the 1960s. The religious right, primarily the Moral Majority had been influencing things for several years by this time (hence why Reagan was popular enough to get elected in 1980), but their power was still mainly under the radar and it just wasn’t PC to talk about things like “evil” with its medieval religious connotations. Even today, the word isn’t exactly politically correct, although it’s been bandied about a lot more in recent years, from the religious right to political pundits on both sides of the political spectrum. In addition, comments on social media such as Youtube, Facebook and Twitter often turn into religious arguments and the word “evil” is tossed about like confetti at a parade. Hence the word has lost some of its original power and Dark Ages overtones, but has become more acceptable in public discourse.

At the time of its publication, “People of the Lie” was a groundbreaking work by a respected psychiatrist who was no newcomer to the world of self help books, and it was the first comprehensive book written about what is now recognized by most people as the malignant narcissist, or person with severe narcissistic personality disorder. (People with Antisocial Personality Disorder, while more often criminals than those with NPD, are actually less “evil” due to the fact they actually cannot tell the difference between right and wrong, while a MN can, but doesn’t give a rat’s ass how they hurt others). It’s still a popular book today, and has passed the test of time due to its readability and fascinating case histories of “evil people” (more on this in a minute) and somehow manages to convey a scholarly feel without becoming dry, unreadable, or overly religious.

The book isn’t perfect. The subtitle “the Hope for Healing Human Evil” is a bit misleading, as there’s very little about actually curing the character disorders associated with it, and Dr. Peck frequently mentions how “hopeless” a task it is, given that malignant narcissists really cannot ever change. In one of the central case histories, the story of “Charlene,” Peck continually talks about his frustration in treating her as his patient and his inability to change her, and finally regrets not having “nurtured her like a parent,” actually saying he should have “taken her on his lap and stroked her like an infant,” (wtf?!) This comes off as really creepy and unethical, not to mention possibly illegal. As for Charlene, whether she’s actually evil isn’t too clear, as she never does anything much worse than simply being incredibly annoying. She’s clearly infatuated with Dr. Peck and unable to handle it; she shows stalking behaviors and likes to “play” with him but never does anything worse than just be annoying (indeed, this is how some MN’s who are not criminals break down their “marks” so who knows?) Her reaction to him could be simple transference of a patient to a therapist with nothing really evil about it at all. Peck’s countertransference toward Charlene in some ways seems more pathological than Charlene’s irritating behavior.

Several other cases describe disturbed and unhealthily codependent people (like the weak and dependent Harley dominated by his mean wife Sarah–these two actually seem quite happy in their unholy symbiosis). Sarah may or may not be “evil,” but clearly has narcissistic and sadistic traits and loves to torment poor Harley, who whines to Dr. Peck but seems to do little else to stop it. Peck speculates that a weak or pathologically dependent person like Harley, who can be so easily dominated, may be a bit evil themselves, which is why they “collude” with their abuser in the first place. There may be some validity to this claim, but I certainly don’t believe all abused people are colluding with their abuser or “asking for it.” That’s just blaming the victim, something that’s become increasingly common today.

I think (and others seem to agree on this) the most evil people in the book are the parents who gave their depressed son his older brother’s suicide weapon (THE gun, not just a gun like it) for his birthday. WTF?!? Anyone who would do such a thing to their own child is seriously deranged.

The cases, while all riveting and drawing you in like mini novels (or bad soaps?), don’t really give the reader a clear view of what evil actually is, and certainly not how it should be addressed. Dr. Peck seems at a loss as to what to do, and his last chapter on exorcism is a little over the top although fascinating to read. Peck believes exorcism can be performed effectively by psychiatrists who are well couched in the techniques (basically a classic rite as was seen in the 1973 movie The Exorcist) who also have a strong relationship to God (not necessarily of the born again Christian variety) and a strong enough character to resist the actions and manipulations of evil spirits or demons as they begin to resist the exorcism.

One of the best chapters of the book was the chapter on group evil (describing in the Mai Lai massacres in Vietnam during the ’60s. Peck explains how a group of people, not necessarily at all evil themselves, can be drawn into performing heinous crimes as a group. This is a well known theory–crowds will often behave in ways individuals within that crowd never would, especially if coerced by narcissistic or evil leaders. This is exactly what happened in Germany and Europe under Hitler in WW2 and probably what happened with Mai Lai as well.

I’ve had my copy of POTL for many years, and have read it or parts of it many times over. I still find it useful and was able to identify my mother as an evil person based on what I read. For all its faults, POTL is a must read for anyone interested in malignant narcissism or involved with a person with this character disorder, even if just for its historical perspective on this disorder that has become increasingly prevalent in the pathologically narcissistic and compassion-deficient modern world we are living in today.

Peck is himself a born again Christian, and even though there are definite religious overtones in POTL, he doesn’t bash you over the head with his beliefs, or overwhelm the reader with biblical references. I respect Peck’s religious beliefs, as I respect all religious beliefs, and although I may not agree with all of them and the book comes off at times a bit judgmental, I appreciate the fact he retains primarily the psychiatric and scientific, rather than the religious, perspective in this book. It’s a fascinating way to look at the problem of evil, which I definitely believe exists and is a powerful force, even though I’m not sure it’s driven by an entity called “Satan,” evil spirits, or just a manifestation of the primitive reptilian brain of those who are missing the higher parts of the brain that allow them to develop a conscience and true feelings of love for their fellow humans.

“People of the Lie” is much better than Peck’s later work on the subject of human evil, “Glimpses of the Devil,” his 2005 expansion on the subject, which goes into greater detail on the two exorcisms Peck performed and described briefly in POTL, but has far more blatant Christian overtones and is frankly a creepy and disturbing read and not as comprehensive and scientific as POTL. Still worth a read if you’re into that sort of thing.

Click here to purchase “People of the Lie” from Amazon.