Looking Evil in the Eye: Pretense

In my series of posts regarding aspects of evil found in our culture, I want to add this post due to its relevance to our current cultural and political makeup. I’m using the word “makeup “on purpose. Beyond it denoting a milieu or environment the word also connotes the topic of this post ~ pretense.

In his book People of the Lie:  The Hope for Healing Human Evil, Dr. M. Scott Peck writes in the chapter titled “The Encounter with Evil in Everyday Life” that

 “The issue of naming (evil) is a theme of this work. It has already been touched on in diverse instances: science has failed to name evil as a subject for scrutiny; the name evil does not appear in the psychiatric lexicon; we have been reluctant to label specific individuals with the name evil; in their presence, therefore, we may experience a nameless dread or revulsion; yet the naming of evil is not without danger.

To name something correctly gives us a certain amount of power over it. Through its name we identify it.  We are powerless over a disease until we can accurately name it…The treatment begins with its diagnosis.  But is evil an illness? Many would not consider it so.  There are a number of reasons why one might be reluctant to classify evil as a disease.  Some are emotional. For instance, we are accustomed to feel pity and sympathy for those who are ill, but the emotions that evil invoke in us are anger and disgust, if not actual hate…

Beyond our emotional reactions, there are three rational reasons that make us hesitate to regard evil as an illness…I shall nonetheless take the position that evil should indeed be regarded as a mental illness.”

Dr. Peck goes on to discuss the three reasons. I will use summary quotes.

 “The first holds that people should not be considered ill unless they are suffering pain or disability – that there is no such thing as an illness without suffering….it is characteristic of the evil that, in their narcissism, they believe that there is nothing wrong with them, that they are psychologically perfect human specimens…For we realize that their inability to define themselves as ill in the face of overwhelming evidence to the contrary is actually part of the illness itself…The use of the concept of emotional suffering to define disease is also faulty in several other respects. As I noted in The Road Less Traveled, it is often the most spiritually healthy and advanced among us who are called on to suffer in ways more agonizing than anything experienced by the more ordinary.  Great leaders, when wise and well, are likely to endure degrees of anguish unknown to the common man. Conversely, it is the unwillingness to suffer emotional pain that usually lies at the root of emotional illness.  Those who fully experience depression, doubt, confusion and despair may be infinitely more healthy than those who are generally certain, complacent and self satisfied.  The denial of suffering is, in fact, a better definition of illness than its acceptance.

The evil deny the suffering of their guilt – the painful awareness of their sin, inadequacy and imperfection – by casting their pain onto others through projection and scapegoating.  They themselves may not suffer, but those around them do.  They cause suffering.  The evil create for those under their dominion a miniature sick society.”…

 Finally, who is to say what the evil suffer? It is consistently true that the evil do not appear to suffer deeply.  Because they cannot admit to weakness or imperfection in themselves, they must appear this way.  They must appear to themselves to be continually on top of things, continually in command.  Their narcissism demands it…

Think of the psychic energy required for the continued maintenance of the pretense so characteristic of the evil!…”

“I said that there are two other reasons one might hesitate to label evil as an illness…One is the notion that someone who is ill must be a victim….One way or another, to some extent, all these people (the evil) and a host of others victimize themselves. Their motives, failures and choices are deeply and intimately involved in the creation of their injuries and diseases….

The final argument against labeling evil an illness is the belief that evil is a seemingly untreatable condition…It is the central proposition of this book that evil can and should be subjected to scientific scrutiny…It would, I believe, be quite appropriate to classify evil people as constituting a specific variant of the narcissistic personality disorder.”

Dr. Peck goes on to describe this variant of personality disorder:

“In addition to the abrogation of responsibility that characterizes all personality disorders, this one would specifically be distinguished by:

(a)    consistent destructive, scapegoating behavior, which may often be quite subtle.

(b)    excessive, albeit usually covert, intolerance to criticism and other forms of narcissistic injury.

(c)    Pronounced concern with a public injury and self-image of respectability, contributing to a stability of life-style but also to pretentiousness and denial of hateful feelings or vengeful motives.

(d)   Intellectual deviousness, with an increased likelihood of a mild schizophrenic-like disturbance of thinking at time of stress.

But there is another vital reason to correctly name evil:  the healing of its victims.”

(all emphasis -bold type- mine) 

*****************

 Over the course of some sixty years I have encountered some distinctly evil people.  The common characteristic of their personality is the veneer of pretense with which they surround their lives.  Perhaps, instead of the word “veneer” the word “mirror” would better convey the 360 degree reflection of themselves they so desire.

In their mind’s eye they see themselves in a grandiose role, a self-assessed worthy role (remember Shakespeare’s Macbeth and Lady Macbeth?). To support their ‘self-thesis’ the pretentious will seek out others who will regard them in the same way ~ a Super Pac to fund a super ego (the three witches met Macbeth; his ego chose to ‘believe’ their words). Pretentious people will demand to be seen in their ‘light’ only. You become to them only a speck in their shadow.

Those, of course, who can rightly see what every one else can see will disagree. And, if they make any statement contrary to the ‘fairy tale’ narrative imposed they will be called deniers and ignorant or worse. 

Today our nation has a President who fits all of the above characteristics of pretense. God help us.

Jesus said, “If the light in you is darkness how great is that darkness.”

Jesus’ perfect love can cast out fear…and evil.

~~~~~

I liken the characteristic of pretense to the walls of Jericho:   The huge stone walls of Jericho looked invincible. Yet, after seven days of marching around the façade with God’s presence (the Ark) in the lead and with ram’s horns blowing on the seventh day, the walls fell down; the city of Jericho became indefensible. My how the mighty façades have fallen over the years.

Homosexuality’s True Colors

Don’t believe the soft sell propaganda you see on TV about homosexuality.  Homosexuality is all about protecting the individual’s narcissism. Homosexuals do not care about anyone but themselves. But don’t take my word for this.  Watch the video.  What you’ll see is indicative of the homosexual community at large and it’s not much different from the skin heads who also spew hate and those who bully others.

The Age of Outrage: Incensed Sensibilities

  

In terms of human nature I do not know that our world is much different from all the worlds of centuries past. Human nature appears to be a constant. But I do see that today because of the enormous reach of instant electronic media we are at any given moment enjoined to take offense at anything perceived to be an attack on the rosy perception we have of ourselves and our world.  We will even take offense for others whose shoes we are not wearing. The general response to any perceived threat to the safety net, our egos, is often to tweet ourselves and others with word-packets of rage. Misery loves communication. Just ask Obama.

Obama has an #attackwatch Twitter website (attackwatch.com) set up by his campaign people to gather reports about attacks on Obama’s record.  The site invites you to snitch on your neighbor in order to intercept smears to Obama’s mirrors.

Today, for the most part, narcissism is the ‘I-cad’ battery behind the hardware and software of every electronic gadget purchased for personal communication. And once powered up, every gadget is attuned to the mirror on the wall affixing our image clearly in cyberspace. The  “human” part of the gadget’s human machine interface (HMI) is easily prone to having its ego front and center where it will stand ready and waiting for an offense, for its sensibilities to be stirred to anger. It may take only one indirect affront to reach the tipping point. When that happens, outrage will then be projected onto everyone around us causing human interface disconnects go viral.

As the word “outrage” suggests, we do not keep our offended selves to ourselves.  We blast the horn loudly. We rise up on our hind legs and make a fierce growling sound in direction of the perceived offender. We lash out. We strike. We mock and jeer. We demonstrate, we march and we riot. We “flash” our rancor into vigilantism and mob action. We jump the shark with self-righteous responses, pummeling others with our heavy-handed diatribes. Cooler heads do not prevail. Instead, hot heads storm the gates of decency and respect. Our egos deem that the “other” has not been fair or there has not been adequate homage to our feelings. We text ourselves and to others ‘We deserve better”.

 So, in this Age of Outrage with it electronically vaunted egos and its absence of meekness and personal contentment, with all of its rants and its plethora of pretense and aborted conversations and with the death of civility lying everywhere around you you end up getting exactly what you deserve – more of yourself.

“All of civility depends on being able to contain the rage of individuals.”
Joshua Lederberg, American Molecular Biologist

“Treat others the way you want to be treated.” Jesus

*****

AttackWatch Update:

“By contrast, Reagan and both Bushes dealt with attacks either with good humor in the former case or by ignoring them in the latter. One criticism of President George W. Bush is that he ignored attacks a little too much, allowing some of the accusations to take hold without a response. “

Source:  http://news.yahoo.com/attack-watch-snitch-focus-internet-fun-195600841.html

Pretense, Part 1: A Look at Evil, Pretense and Suffering

In his book People of the Lie:  The Hope for Healing Human Evil, Dr. M. Scott Peck writes in the chapter The Encounter with Evil in Everyday Life that

 “The issue of naming (evil) is a theme of this work. It has already been touched on in diverse instances: science has failed to name evil as a subject for scrutiny; the name evil does not appear in the psychiatric lexicon; we have been reluctant to label specific individuals with the name evil; in their presence, therefore, we may experience a nameless dread or revulsion; yet the naming of evil is not without danger.

To name something correctly gives us a certain amount of power over it. Through its name we identify it.  We are powerless over a disease until we can accurately name it…The treatment begins with its diagnosis.  But is evil an illness? Many would not consider it so.  There are a number of reasons why one might be reluctant to classify evil as a disease.  Some are emotional. For instance, we are accustomed to feel pity and sympathy for those who are ill, but the emotions that evil invoke in us are anger and disgust, if not actual hate…

Beyond our emotional reactions, there are three rational reasons that make us hesitate to regard evil as an illness…I shall nonetheless take the position that evil should indeed be regarded as a mental illness.”

Dr. Peck goes on to discuss the three reasons. I will use summary quotes.

 “The first holds that people should not be considered ill unless they are suffering pain or disability – that there is no such thing as an illness without suffering….it is characteristic of the evil that, in their narcissism, they believe that there is nothing wrong with them, that they are psychologically perfect human specimens…For we realize that their inability to define themselves as ill in the face of overwhelming evidence to the contrary is actually part of the illness itself…The use of the concept of emotional suffering to define disease is also faulty in several other respects. As I noted in The Road Less Traveled, it is often the most spiritually healthy and advanced among us who are called on to suffer in ways more agonizing than anything experienced by the more ordinary.  Great leaders, when wise and well, are likely to endure degrees of anguish unknown to the common man. Conversely, it is the unwillingness to suffer emotional pain that usually lies at the root of emotional illness.  Those who fully experience depression, doubt, confusion and despair may be infinitely more healthy than those who are generally certain, complacent and self satisfied.  The denial of suffering is, in fact, a better definition of illness than its acceptance.

The evil deny the suffering of their guilt – the painful awareness of their sin, inadequacy and imperfection – by casting their pain onto others through projection and scapegoating.  They themselves may not suffer, but those around them do.  They cause suffering.  The evil create for those under their dominion a miniature sick society.”…

 Finally, who is to say what the evil suffer? It is consistently true that the evil do not appear to suffer deeply.  Because they cannot admit to weakness or imperfection in themselves, they must appear this way.  They must appear to themselves to be continually on top of things, continually in command.  Their narcissism demands it…

Think of the psychic energy required for the continued maintenance of the pretense so characteristic of the evil!…”

“I said that there are two other reasons one might hesitate to label evil as an illness…One is the notion that someone who is ill must be a victim….One way or another, to some extent, all these people (the evil) and a host of others victimize themselves. Their motives, failures and choices are deeply and intimately involved in the creation of their injuries and diseases….

The final argument against labeling evil an illness is the belief that evil is a seemingly untreatable condition…It is the central proposition of this book that evil can and should be subjected to scientific scrutiny…It would, I believe, be quite appropriate to classify evil people as constituting a specific variant of the narcissistic personality disorder.”

Dr. Peck goes on to describe this variant of personality disorder:

“In addition to the abrogation of responsibility that characterizes all personality disorders, this one would specifically be distinguished by:

(a)    consistent destructive, scapegoating behavior, which may often be quite subtle.

(b)    excessive, albeit usually covert, intolerance to criticism and other forms of narcissistic injury.

(c)    Pronounced concern with a public injury and self-image of respectability, contributing to a stability of life-style but also to pretentiousness and denial of hateful feelings or vengeful motives.

(d)   Intellectual deviousness, with an increased likelihood of a mild schizophrenic-like disturbance of thinking at time of stress.

But there is another vital reason to correctly name evil:  the healing of its victims.”

 *****************

 I have encountered some distinctly evil people during my life.  The common characteristic of their personality is the veneer of pretense with which they surround their lives.  They see themselves in a role, a grandiose, high-minded role.  There is nothing within themselves or outside themselves that will keep them from holding that image up before themselves or others. They will deny, blame and ignore what every one else can clearly see.  Their motivation, as Dr. Peck describes in the above chapter, is fear. 

Jesus said, “If the light in you is darkness how great is that darkness.”

Jesus’ perfect love can cast out fear…and evil.

American Thinker: Obama’s Malignant Narcissism

American Thinker: Obama’s Malignant Narcissism.

Naming Evil

From The People of the Lie: The Hope for Healing Human Evil, a look at malignant narcissism as described by Dr. M. Scott Peck

Malignant Narcissism:

Refusal to acknowledge sin
Self image of perfection
Excessive intolerance of criticism
Scapegoating
Disguise and pretense
Intellectual Deviousness
Greed
Unsubmitted will
Coercion and control of others
Lack of Empathy
Symbiotic relationships
Evil in families

Refusal to acknowledge sin

It is necessary that we first draw the distinction between evil and ordinary sin. It is not their sins per se that characterize evil people…The central defect of the evil is not the sin but the refusal to acknowledge it.(page 69)
If evil people cannot be defined by the illegality of their deeds or the magnitude of their sins, then how are we to define them? The answer is by the consistency of their sins. While usually subtle, their destructiveness is remarkably consistent. This is because those who have “crossed over the line” are characterized by their absolute refusal to tolerate the sense of their own sinfulness.(page 71)
The evil hate the light–the light of goodness that shows them up, the light of scrutiny that exposes them, the light of truth that penetrates their deception.(page 179) Rather than blissfully lacking a sense of morality, like the sociopath, they are continually engaged in sweeping the evidence of their evil under the rug of their own consciousness.(page 76)
The poor in spirit do not commit evil. Evil is not committed by people who feel uncertain about their righteousness, who question their own motives, who worry about betraying themselves. The evil in this world is committed by the spiritual fat cats, by the Pharisees of our own day, the self-righteous who think they are without sin because they are unwilling to suffer the discomfort of significant self-examination.
Unpleasant though it may be, the sense of personal sin is precisely that which keeps our sin from getting out of hand. It is quite painful at times, but it is a very great blessing because it is our one and only effective safeguard against our own proclivity for evil. (pages 71-72)

Self Image of Perfection

Utterly dedicated to preserving their self-image of perfection, [the evil] are unceasingly engaged in the effort to maintain the appearance of moral purity. They worry about this a great deal. They are acutely sensitive to social norms and what others might think of them. Outwardly [they] seem to live lives that are above reproach. The words “image.” “appearance,” and “outwardly” are crucial to understanding the morality of the evil.(page 75)

Excessive intolerance of criticism

In Martin Buber’s words, the malignantly narcissistic insist upon “affirmation independent of all findings.” (page 80) Self-criticism is a call to personality change…The evil are pathologically attached to the status quo of their personalities, which in their narcissism they consciously regard as perfect. I think it is quite possible that the evil may perceive even a small degree of change in their beloved selves as representing total annihilation. (page 74 )

Scapegoating

[Evil is] the use of power to destroy the spiritual growth of others for the purpose of defending and preserving the integrity of our own sick selves. In short, it is scapegoating. A predominant characteristic…of the behavior of those I call evil is scapegoating. Because in their hearts they consider themselves above reproach, they must lash out at any one who does reproach them. They sacrifice others to preserve their self-image of perfection. (page 73)
Since the evil, deep down, feel themselves to be faultless, it is inevitable that when they are in conflict with the world they will invariably perceive the conflict as the world’s fault. Since they must deny their own badness, they must perceive others as bad.
They project their own evil onto the world. They never think of themselves as evil; on the other hand, they consequently see much evil in others…Evil, then, is most often committed in order to scapegoat, and the people I label as evil are chronic scapegoaters….The evil attack others instead of facing their own failures. (pages 73-74)

Disguise and pretense

While they seem to lack any motivation to be good, they intensely desire to appear good. Their “goodness” is all on a level of pretense. It is, in effect, a lie. That is why they are the “people of the lie”. The wickedness of the evil is not committed directly, but indirectly as a part of this cover-up process. (page 76)
Those who are evil are masters of disguise; they are not apt to wittingly disclose their true colors–either to others or to themselves. (page 104) Because they are such experts at disguise, it is seldom possible to pinpoint the maliciousness of the evil. The disguise is usually impenetrable (page 76)….Naturally, since it is designed to hide its opposite, the pretense chosen by the evil is most commonly the pretense of love. (page 106)

Intellectual deviousness

[A] reaction that the evil frequently engender in us is confusion. Describing an encounter with an evil person, one woman wrote, it was “as if I’d suddenly lost my ability to think”….This reaction is quite appropriate. Lies confuse. The evil are “the people of the lie”, deceiving others as they also build layer upon layer of self-deception.
I know now that one of the characteristics of evil is its desire to confuse. (page 179)

Greed

[The evil] are, in my experience, remarkably greedy people. Thus, they are cheap. (page 72)

Unsubmitted will

If the central defect of the evil is not one of conscience, then where does it reside? The essential psychological problem of human evil, I believe is a particular variety of narcissism….The particular brand of narcissism that characterizes evil people seems to be one that particularly afflicts the will. (page 80 )
Malignant narcissism is characterized by an unsubmitted will. All adults who are mentally healthy submit themselves one way or another to something higher than themselves, be it God or truth or love or some other ideal….They believe in what is true rather than what they would like to be true.
In summary, to a greater or lesser degree, all mentally healthy individuals submit themselves to the demands of their own conscience. Not so the evil, however….They are men and women of obviously strong will, determined to have their own way. (page 78) Such people literally live “in a world of their own” in which the self reigns supreme. (page 162)

Coercion and control of others

[Evil is] the exercise of political power–that is, the imposition of one’s will upon others by overt or covert coercion–in order to avoid…spiritual growth…Because their willfulness is so extraordinary–and always accompanied by a lust for power–I suspect that the evil are more likely than most to politically aggrandize themselves…..There is a remarkable power in the manner in which they attempt to control others. (page 78)
[In describing one of his patients, Peck says] Charlene’s desire to make a conquest of me….to utterly control our relationship, knew no bounds. It seemed to be a desire for power purely for its own sake. (page 176) She wanted the reigns in her hands every moment. (page 158)

Lack of empathy

Theirs is a brand of narcissism so total that they seem to lack, in whole or in part, the capacity for empathy…Their narcissism makes the evil dangerous not only because it motivates them to scapegoat others but also because it deprives them of the restraint that results from empathy and respect for others.
In addition to the fact that the evil need victims to sacrifice to their narcissism, their narcissism permits them to ignore the humanity of their victims as well….The blindness of the narcissist to others can extend even beyond a lack of empathy; narcissists may not “see” others at all.
There are boundaries to the individual soul. And in our dealings with each other we generally respect these boundaries. It is characteristic of–and prerequisite for–mental health both that our own ego boundaries should be clear and that we should clearly recognize the boundaries of others. We must know where we end and others begin. )pages 136-137)

Symbiotic relationship

Another form of devastation that narcissistic intrusiveness can create is the symbiotic relationship. “Symbiosis”–as we use the term in psychiatry–is not a mutually beneficial state of interdependence. Instead it refers to a mutually parasitic and destructive coupling. In the symbiotic relationship neither partner will separate from the other even though it would obviously be beneficial to each if they could. (page 137)
I doubt that it is possible for two utterly evil people to live together in the close quarters of a sustained marriage. They would be too destructive for the necessary cooperation….In every evil couple, if we could examine them closely enough, I image we would find one partner at least slightly in thrall to the other. (page 119) For adults to be the victims of evil, they too must be powerless to escape….They may be powerless by virtue of their own failure of courage….bound by chains of laziness and dependency. (pages 119-120)

Evil in families

It is my experience that evil seems to run in families. (page 80) If evil were easy to recognize, identify and manage, there would be no need for this book. But the fact of the matter is that it is the most difficult of all things with which to cope. (page 130) [Evil] will contaminate or otherwise destroy a person who remains too long in its presence. (page 65)
The evil deny the suffering of their guilt–the painful awareness of their sin, inadequacy, and imperfection–by casting their pain onto the other through projection and scapegoating. They themselves may not suffer, but those around them do. The evil cause suffering. The evil create for those under their dominion a miniature sick society. (page 123-124)
It happens then, that the children of evil parents enter adulthood with very significant psychiatric disturbances. ….It is doubtful that some can be wholly healed of their scars from having had to live in close quarters with evil without correctly naming the source of their problems.
To come to terms with evil in one’s parentage is perhaps the most difficult and painful psychological task a human being can be called on to face. Most fail and so remain its victims. Those who fully succeed in developing the necessary searing vision are those who are able to name it. (page 130)