Friday, October 26, 2007

Dancing with the Devil

Yesterday morning I decided to thumb through M. Scott Peck, M.D,'s book, "People of the Lie". It has been more than a couple years since I read his book. A recent comment in an email from one of the readers of my blog made me think it was time for me to refresh my memory on what Peck covers in his book. My eye quickly lighted upon Peck's assertion that adults do not accidentally end up in close relationships with evil people. He uses the term "willing thralldom" and contrasts it with the plight of children who, through no choice of their own, are enslaved to evil parents.

Peck relates his experience with a very disturbed (and disturbing) couple -- Sarah and Hartley. In the context of this story he states:
"We do not become partners to evil by accident. As adults we are not forced by fate to become trapped by an evil power, we set the trap ourselves." pg. 118
Referring to Hartley:

"Theoretically he could have just walked away from Sarah. But he had bound himself to her by chains of laziness and dependency, and though titularly an adult, he had settled for the child's impotence. Whenever adults not at gunpoint become victims of evil it is because they have--one way or another--make Hartley's bargain." pg. 119-120

The bargain was to settle into a type of slavery because his moral laziness and dependency was a larger part of his character than not.

"He entered into a submissive relationship with evil precisely because he was partially evil himself." (footnote pg. 118)
I'm using Peck to reiterate my previous theme: moral laziness puts us on the path to evil. You can not walk on the evil path without becoming, at least in part, evil yourself.

Once we are adults we are no longer helpless as we were as children. This is true for adults: to the extent you've compromised with evil; to the extent you've entered into a truce with evil -- that that extent you yourself are evil. Some part of you is comfortable and "at home" with the evil you've accepted, excused or compromised with.

Contrary to popular theory on relationships that "opposites attract", the reality is "like attracts like". The saying "water seeks its own level" is a recognition of this observable truth. The attraction is not due to a perfect outward likeness that is visually evident and obvious. It is an attraction based on symbiosis. In some way there is a fit. There is a relationship between two (or more) people which is mutually beneficial, or perceived on some level by them as being mutually beneficial.

It is not always possible for someone outside a relationship to know how the two parties are mutually benefiting from the relationship. Outwardly we may conclude we are seeing two opposites. We have to avoid this kind of simplistic acceptance of outward appearances when we observe a relationship between adults who have chosen to be together and who hang together tenaciously. One person may appear to be evil and the other "in thralldom" to the partner's evil. We must accept the reality they are both evil though likely not equally so.

If you, as an adult, try to make yourself believe you must remain in a relationship with someone you know is evil you must ask yourself the question: in what way have I made a deal with the devil? In what way have I compromised my integrity and taken the easy route morally so that I can co-exist with evil? No adult stays "in thralldom" to evil except by a choice of the will. You can wiggle, argue and poo-poo this statement, but it still remains true.

It is observable all throughout human society: we gravitate toward those who are like us. There is a natural tendency for people to associate based on ethnicity, religion, race, educational level, families, etc. Why can we not see that humanity chooses to associate with those who are morally similar?

We see this played out all the time with teenagers. Teens are old enough to figure out a way to do what they want to do. You can guide, shape and shelter your children, but when they reach a certain age they will choose their peers based on their hidden inner life. A kid can look like he is outwardly conforming to expectations, but the real test of the teen character is what associations he chooses because teens have reached an age where they are largely responsible for their choices in friendships. Many parents will refuse to believe that Johnny has fallen in with a "bad crowd" because he chose to. They assume that Johnny was a good boy right up until he was somehow corrupted by some bad kids. The truth is that Johnny felt a resonance with the "bad crowd". Some part of him was attracted to their badness. You have not been privy to Johnny's inner landscape. His private thoughts and fantasies. His desires only heretofore checked by lack of opportunity.

Not all teens pick evil associations. We see many teens choosing good friends. Friends who take their education seriously, who obey their parents, who submit to the rules of parents and school, who choose not to have sex. Just as it is no accident that Johnny picked the bad crowd, the teens who pick good friends did not do so accidentally. They deserve credit for the good choices just as Johnny deserves blame for picking bad friends.

You need to correctly analyze the relationships you are in and the relationships you see around you as it relates to the narcissist. You need to recognize that adults choose their associations. They remain in close association with evil when they themselves have compromised themselves morally. When we let life just carry us along and pretend that we are in a bad relationship because of some vagary of fate we have a sign that we've taken the lazy course. Moral laziness is the path to destruction.

It can be argued that the greatest failing of the evil is their absolute refusal to recognize their own evil. We may be basically decent people with grave moral failings which could be classified as evil because they have damaged ourselves and others. But we distinguish ourselves from the character disordered and evil personalities by being willing to introspect and identify our moral failings, acknowledge those moral failings, make restitution for our bad acts and to turn resolutely from our bad ways. Truly evil people will never allow themselves to see themselves as evil. They will scapegoat all their evil onto someone else to falsely maintain a sense of purity and perfection. When we refuse to scapegoat our bad acts onto someone or something outside ourselves; when we are willing to acknowledge to ourselves that we've compromised with evil; when we resolutely turn from doing the evil we've practiced in the past-- then we can clearly differentiate ourselves from those who are evil.

Don't make excuses for yourself or for others for staying in close relationship with evil people. Recognize the dynamic of symbiosis that is occurring. Unless an adult is physically being held hostage, that adult has a choice as to whether or not to stay in association with an evil character. Knowing this to be true, do not attempt to "rescue" someone who is dancing in lock-step with a narcissist. They must be avoided along with the narcissist because they are morally compromised. Whether due to laziness, psychological dependence, greed, shared power...adults stay in relationship with evil people because they choose to. They feel they have something to gain by the association. Acknowledge to yourself this reality and live accordingly.

Just because someone else has chosen to dance with the devil it doesn't justify you doing the same. Take responsibility for the choices that keep you locked in a tango with evil people. You have no one to blame but yourself if after realizing you're dancing with evil you choose to remain where you are. Once you are willing to own the fact that your own choices have put you where you are, you are much more likely to start making different choices. Remember:
"As adults we are not forced by fate to become trapped by an evil power, we set the trap ourselves..."


Anonymous said...

I am new to the Narcissists Suck blog....but desperately grateful for it. My cousin and I have been comparing notes on our mothers (forbidden, of course...) and were lead to this blogsite after some website research. Thankyouthankyouthankyou! And no coincedence that we both dragged out Peck's "People of the Lie" last week! Carry on in the Light and Courage you have! kroseloree

Stormchild said...


"It is observable all throughout human society: we gravitate toward those who are like us. There is a natural tendency for people to associate based on ethnicity, religion, race, educational level, families, etc. Why can we not see that humanity chooses to associate with those who are morally similar?"


Thank you for a timely - and much needed - reminder.

Cassandra said...

Awesome post! I thought of this saying attributed to Ben Franklin:

"Any society that would give up a little liberty to gain a little security will deserve neither and lose both."

life's little ironies said...

Thank you for the thoughts on Scott M Peck's book. This book is at the root of my issue with my sister. 25 years ago I gave my sister this book to read thinking it would help her with my father. She rocked my world because she saw my mother in it when I did not. She was light years ahead of me on that truth.

She was 19 years old and had moved into our dining room after dropping to 96 pounds (she is 5 10"). Turns out mom watched her starve herself for 3+ months and did nothing. The only thing she did do was call me when someone outside the family expressed concern.

She lived with my then boyfriend now husband and I for several months, regained the weight, got into therapy, started looking for a job and an apartment. We talked and decided to do an "intervention" with my mother. I know, I know, but I thought if we both confronted her a light bulb would go off or something.

The intervention went about as well as you can expect. It was the angriest I have ever seen mom and very disturbing. My sister promptly caved, told mom everything was my idea (esp any implication that mom was not perfect) and moved back in. She is over 40 now and still "in thrall" to the point that she was involved in my mothers recent attempt to gain access to my daughter.

This leads to my current dilemma, I am concerned that I may need to change therapists after 2 years.

My therapist's take on my sister and on the issue of forgiveness feels very wrong to me. She is genuinely disturbed that I don't believe you can forgive someone who hasn't asked to be forgiven. She also does not believe that hanging around with evil rubs off. I do.

My therapist believes forgiveness is something that you extend regardless of the actions of the other party. To me that screams doormat. My sister has never acknowledged any wrong doing much less offered an apology. How can I forgive someone who has not made any overture in that direction?

I think my therapist is trying to get me to see that my family has little power over me anymore unless I choose to give it to them which I understand but I really do believe that these are people you cannot afford to EVER turn your back on and I am not sure she really gets that. I would appreciate any thoughts or comments

Anna Valerious said...

My therapist believes forgiveness is something that you extend regardless of the actions of the other party. To me that screams doormat.

It is absolutely a philosophy that makes people into doormats. You are right. Your therapist is morally idiotic.

I think my therapist is trying to get me to see that my family has little power over me anymore unless I choose to give it to them

This line of reasoning is not reality-based. It is COMMON, but that doesn't make it sensible or right. I completely reject the whole line of thought that asserts that by not forgiving a crime in progress that it means I've given my power over to someone else. Quite the opposite is the case! Forgiving the unrepentant is an exercise in futility at best.

I assume you've read my posts on forgiveness? The word I use to describe where the peace can come from is acceptance. Acceptance of what IS. Acceptance of reality. Perhaps you can make your stupid therapist read some of my posts on this topic. Frankly, I would be shopping for a new therapist. This person is too stupid morally to be giving you sound advice. Therapists with a well-calibrated moral compass are the exception and not the rule. They don't teach moral principles in psych school. If anything, much of what they do learn goes against moral truth. They go to psych school and come out moral imbeciles.


Obviously, I believe that evil rubs off. This is not something therapists as a rule are prepared to accept. They can barely ever get themselves to acknowledge that "evil" is a valid concept let alone that hanging out with evil can make YOU evil. Hang onto what you know to be true. Don't let some "professional" talk you out of your conviction. Remember this: when we start talking about 'evil' we are entering the spiritual realm. Psychology has tried to usurp the spiritual from the rules and wisdom of the ages that resides in religion. More specifically, Christianity. It was Freud's intention to do away with religion. Psychology is the new priesthood. Psychology has provided explanations for human evil that excuse evil...and have therefore done away with the concept. This is why most of psychology and its practitioners are unequipped to help people like you who need instruction on spiritual realities. Like how to deal with EVIL.

I'm with your hunch...find a new therapist. This one doesn't have enough breadth of experience or of mind to understand what you're up against with your sister and family. Protect yourself and your own family. You already have plenty of evidence these people are a "clear and present danger" to you and yours. Forgiveness isn't the issue here. Self-defense is.

~Melissa said...

I have now been reading post after post on this blog for a few hours, and always with a smile. Thank you for this blog, it's one of the best that I've had the great pleasure of finding!

Reading up on how to cope with N's helps me when I'm frustrated with the one that hurts my son (his father, the bully, and his father's family - a toxic combination of N's and Peacemakers).

Anyway, this particular post reminded me of a quote I heard within the past few years that had a serious impact on me and relates:

"You are the average of the 5 people you spend the most time with". -(unknown)

WDB said...


I am an adult child of an alcoholic Narcissist and co dependent (and depressed) mother. I found myself twice in a relationship with a Narcissist,.... i know, i know... Only to see the abuse when I saw the way my oldest (3) child was treated by her mother. As I did not want my children to grow up in the same situation as I did and for my own health I left (my life in a nutshell)...
My relationships were my own choices, I felt comfortable in those relationships as I was the scapegoat and the abuse I knew from growing up continued,.. I had no idea.
I have created, as far as I am able to do so, a different healthy household and manipulation free environment. So I have been together with some kind of Evil almost 45 years, does this mean I am Evil? I have been Evil to myself that is true but I do not see myself as Evil. Or am I lost in translation.. (I am Dutch)