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.

Yes Virginia…evil people really do exist. Don’t think–run!

evilpeople

Those of us in an active relationship with a psychopath usually either don’t see or choose to ignore how purely evil these characters are–and that they are set out to destroy the relationship, the victimized person, and even the children if there are any involved. Many times a victim feels like they can’t leave, especially if they don’t have financial resources (which is often the case when a person is enmeshed with a psychopath, who may have made any funds impossible to access), a supportive family to help them escape, or there are children involved.

Like most women (and men) enmeshed in a marriage or relationship with a psychopath, I waited far too long to leave my abuser. My son, although scapegoated by his father through most of his childhood, escaped relatively unscathed (although he has some anger and self esteem issues), but my daughter is another story. She was deeply damaged by her father’s manipulations and by having to play the role of his junior “flying monkey” and participate in his triangulation and gaslighting games when she was just a child and young teenager, not to mention being introduced to things a youngster should not have to deal with: drugs, alcohol, family violence (and even possible sexual abuse, though this has never been proven). She’s taken on a few of his narcissistic traits (she’s good at manipulation and isn’t always honest), although narcissism is to some extent genetic and her symptoms don’t seem to be too severe. She is also bipolar and suffers from C-PTSD, as I do.

For many years, I didn’t even see that he was an abuser. He wasn’t usually physically violent (except when drinking); his method of abuse was much more subtle–and more diabolical than that. I didn’t know what hit me and like most abused spouses, learned to blame myself and came to believe the discord was MY problem, because I “overreacted to everything” and was “crazy and unstable.” Having to spend time in a mental facility in the late 1990s was “proof” that I was the one with the mental problems–and in fact I did have serious mental problems, but they were brought on by my mind being played like a violin by a very evil man. He was a virtuoso crazymaker.

buddha

Other people saw how evil he was and couldn’t understand why I couldn’t see it too. I remember a friend of mine from work came over once with another friend when Michael was home, and while he was pleasant enough to them, neither of these friends ever wanted to come to my home again. When I asked Holly (one of the friends) why not, she said, “I don’t like your husband and neither does Teresa. He gave us the creeps, there’s just something not very nice about him.”

Parents of two of my daughter’s friends had met Michael, and would not allow their children to come to my home because of him. Oh, he was always on his best behavior with adult visitors, but one of the mothers told me, “he seems perfectly polite, but I just don’t feel comfortable around him and don’t want my daughter around him. I’m very sorry.”

I saw the evil in him on one occasion while we were still married–and what I saw scared the shit out of me. It was one night when he was very drunk, we had been fighting all night and ended it by having sex. The sex was rough and angry though, and suddenly I looked up and saw a totally expressionless face. There was no love there, just pure hatred. I could feel the hate emanating from him. But worse than that was his eyes. Normally a steely gray-blue, they had turned solid black, very similar to the solid black eyes demons in horror movies have. I know I wasn’t imagining this–what I was seeing was what he really was but kept hidden. No, not a demon, but something worse–a person with no self, a person who had sold his soul or never had one. There was nothing there, and nothingness is what evil actually is. That’s why malignant narcissists and psychopaths need to wear masks, to cover up what isn’t there.

Michael knew I had seen it, and knew I knew, because he immediately ended the intimacy, pulled on his clothes, and left the house, but not before giving me the most hateful sneer I had ever seen.

jesus

My father had talked to him one night during one of our many fights. Now my father has never been a particularly religious man and never believed in Satan or hell, so he didn’t say anything about this to me at the time, but years later, after Michael and I separated, he confessed that night he had heard Michael speaking in a low, gutteral, demonic voice. It scared him so much he decided to read M. Scott Peck’s book,”People of the Lie,” and after he was done he sent me the book. I was riveted by the book and also shocked and scared to death. That was the first time I began to realize that I had been dealing with a malignant narcissist who was dead set on destroying me and my children and almost succeeded.

People outside the relationship–casual friends, mothers of my children’s friends, and my father had all seen immediately what he was, but because I was enmeshed and had young children, I couldn’t see it–or refused to. It gives me chills to this day to think I spent 28 years in the presence of pure evil, but that’s what it was. I’m lucky to be alive today and even luckier that I didn’t completely lose my soul. My children are lucky too, although my poor daughter is the most deeply damaged by him and may never fully recover.

If you are in a relationship and others are wary or uncomfortable around them and can’t explain why, or you see the countenance of pure hatred and evil that I did (and also the solid black eyes), run away as fast as you can. If there are kids, take them with you. You may think you can’t, but even if you don’t have a supportive family or are financially unable to find another place to live, most towns and cities have services and even shelters for abused women and their children. The shelter I stayed at with my kids was very nice, and the counselors were wonderful (I went back though). If you are a man, it may be more difficult to find this kind of help, and you might have to dig a little deeper or even move to another area to find services, but they do exist. Take advantage of the government programs that still exist–food stamps, Medicaid for the kids, in some communities even housing vouchers. Churches and other charitable organizations have limited funds, but may be able to provide some food, help with bills, or other services. Seek counseling–many communities have free or low cost mental health services for abused parents and their children. Don’t worry that you have to move out of that big house you bought together, or that your kids will be without their father (or mother). This is life or death–don’t think about what you’ll be losing because at the end of the day, it won’t be much. Just get the hell out.

lincoln

Waking up from the nightmare

Woman Looking at Reflection

So after 28 years of narcissistic abuse I finally felt free. Before, even though there were periods where we hadn’t lived together, I never felt completely free of Michael’s toxic influence. But my daughter Molly and I were quite literally survivors and both of us had psychic wounds that ran deep and would take years to heal, if they could ever be healed at all.

My job (which I still have) doesn’t provide health insurance so I couldn’t afford to pay for a trauma therapist, but I started reading everything I could about NPD and PTSD/C-PTSD (the type of PTSD that’s associated with abuse). Molly still didn’t want to go to therapy but was still getting her meds for Bipolar and she was in a fairly stable relationship and was no longer getting into trouble the way she used to. She was also beginning to understand why I did some of the things I did and acted the way I had, and I learned she too had a lot of anger toward Michael.

But things were not perfect between us either and we did continue to argue from time to time, and when she was angry, she liked to bring up the fact I had given up custody of her to DSS even though at other times she says she understood it was the only thing I could do at the time and it did save her life. So I don’t let those occasional attacks bother me too much. I know it’s manipulation. Sometimes I think she may have NPD herself, but she does have a conscience and empathy so more likely she just has narcissistic traits which are common people with Borderline PD.

So in March I had to go to court and testify against Michael in order to obtain a permanent restraining order (the one that was issued at the magistrate was good for only 1 month). I was working with an organization that helps abused women and their families, and they counseled me on what to say in court. It was ridiculous I had to jump through all these hoops just to obtain a piece of paper to keep a man I wasn’t married to anyway away from me and my property, but it was what it was.

I knew I had a good case and no reason to be worried but I was still terrified of having to face him in court. Michael is very glib and has a lot of charm when he wants something. He can make himself sound like a victim and make the other person sound like the devil himself. He managed to be surviving pretty well in the men’s shelter, although he told Molly when he saw her how much he hated it and wanted to come back. He also made her go buy him things, which she would do. She felt guilty and caught in the middle between the two of us. It wasn’t fair to her.

Ethan came to visit in early March (on his way from Illinois to his new apartment in Florida–he graduated college in January and is is seeking work in film editing or something related). He wanted to make sure Michael was not going to show up. I assured him he wouldn’t. We had a fantastic time, but he said when he tried to call his father, Michael didn’t want to see him. For some reason he thinks Ethan was the one who convince me to kick him out of the house. No matter how much he’s told Ethan had nothing to do with it, he still blames him for brainwashing me. Huh? Talk about blame-shifting.

I had to write everything I wanted to say in court because I knew my mind would go blank when I had to get up at the stand and talk about why the restraining order should be extended. The big day was in mid-March. Several other cases were heard first and I avoided looking behind me because I knew he was there. I could feel his eyes burning holes into my neck. Finally I was called to the stand and presented my case. I didn’t cry (because it’s really hard for me to cry anymore) but I was trembling and my voice was shaking from fear. The judge had to keep asking me to speak up. I studied her expression but it gave nothing away.

writing

Michael was called up after me and gave a ridiculous story about how Molly had hit him first and he gave her a black eye in self defense (which is total BS because he didn’t have one mark on him). He gave some other lame
“reasons” why he needed to move back but since he really didn’t have a good reason, they didn’t fly with the judge. In fact, he was almost laughable and seeing the manipulation from more of a distance now, he seemed so transparent. Although I hated him, I almost felt sorry for him.

I won my case and the restraining order was extended for one year. The counselor from the women’s organization that had been working with me gave me a validating hug. I went home feeling lighter than I had in a long, long time.

Michael wasn’t done with me yet, but since I was no longer supplying his narcissistic goodies, his attempts at revenge were rather lame. He did things like trashing me on Facebook, saying what a horrible wife and mother I was and how he wished he never met me. He threatened suicide over and over again. I was kind of embarrassed for him, but because of it I stopped using Facebook, which I wasn’t using much anymore anyway because my mother and other family members had found me there (even though I had changed my first name a little to throw them off).

I had to adjust to my new life. For several months I just tried to take things easy, not get involved in too many new things. I read a lot of books, mostly about NPD, malignant narcissism and personality disorders in general. I read a lot of other books too, and started researching all these disorders online and reading a lot of blogs and forums.

I started making glass, mirror and ceramic suncatchers on weekends and have tried to sell some of them. Mostly I just make them for pleasure though. They also make great gifts. I have several of them on my porch and I love watching the way they catch the light and send colored prisms everywhere.

suncatcher10

But writing has always been the one thing I know I’m best at, yet somehow I couldn’t bring myself to write anything beyond a forum post. It just seemed like too much work, and I was afraid I’d forgotten how. I feared I was no longer as smart as I used to be. I didn’t realize at first these numb and dumb feelings were symptomatic of C-PTSD. I knew if I ever did write again it would be to tell my story, but I had no idea where to begin. It all just seemed overwhelming. I thought about blogging but I was afraid it would be complicated and technical, and I still didn’t know what to write about or where to begin.

I re-read M. Scott Peck’s book “People of the Lie,” which I have reviewed in this blog, and realized Michael was not just narcissistic, but was truly evil. Despite it’s medieval connotations, I believe evil and evil people really do exist, and I was very lucky that I survived and both children survived. While most evil people don’t usually murder (they want to maintain their benign appearance), they are murderous and often drive others to suicide or self-destruction. They lie about everything.

I joined a gym and got back in shape. My job is also physical and that keeps me in shape too. I started liking what I saw in the mirror again. I also started meditating, something I started back in the ’90s and then stopped.

About a month ago I revisited the idea of blogging, inspired by some blogs I had seen by other survivors through my readings. On a whim I decided to start one. There’s been no looking back. At first it was meant to be self-therapy, a sort of online journaling, but now it’s turning into so much more and a few people have even said they feel inspired and it’s helping them too. And that makes me feel good. It makes me feel like I still have a purpose in this world and am not just marking time until I die. I want to think that everything that happened to me happened for a reason and that something good can come out of this.

I still have a long way to go, and as soon as I can I want to start seeing a trauma therapist. In the meantime life isn’t unbearable anymore. It’s getting better.

About a month ago Michael was kicked out of the apartment an organization called OctoberRoad was providing for its mental patients. My daughter allowed him to live in her car. He left the windows open during a rainstorm one night and the car was nearly destroyed. She took the car keys away and she hasn’t heard from Michael since, which is very odd, since he would call her up to 10 times a day to demand things.

She has no idea where he is. We think he may have killed himself. She wouldn’t have been notified because she had his wallet in her car and there’d be no way anyone could identify him.

Michael was having his mail sent to the house, which I did allow. After three previous rejections, Michael’s SSI finally came through — and that includes several years of back payments, so he is getting a check for about $30K.

If he is dead, how ironic that it happened just as he finally had a means to be independent and no longer had anyone he could use and abuse. Maybe that was the only reason he stuck around so long–as long as he could use up and destroy others. With that opportunity taken away, and with no real self to fall back on, there was no longer any reason for him to live. Or maybe he was finally forced to look in the mirror and all he could see was an endless black void, and that was just too much to handle. What he has been reduced to is just a shell of what he used to be, but was there ever really anything there?

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.