Several years ago, I read Scott Peck’s book People of the Lie. I had suffered from a particularly painful experience that involved another person who absolutely seemed to have no empathy at all. Without empathy, there can be no conscience, and without conscience, evil can easily occur because people who cannot feel for others never see their own behaviors–in regard to those others. It has been 25 years since I read the book, but if I am not mistaken, excessive narcissism is essentially the phenomenon that Peck addressed in People of the Lie. The book opened my eyes.

In this absorbing and equally inspiring companion volume to his classic trilogy—The Road Less Traveled, Further Along the Road Less Traveled, and The Road Less Traveled and Beyond—Dr. M. Scott Peck brilliantly probes into the essence of human evil. – Amazon

Since that time, I have had encounters with other similar people, and it would seem that the people of the lie are sociopaths and/or narcissists. I believe that all of us are a bit narcissistic. That is how we survive. Narcissism can occur at various levels, however–but at an extreme, the narcissist becomes a sociopath.

Being Successful Is Not the Same As Being Correct

Because many of the most successful and powerful people among us–the corporate demigods–are severe narcissists, the lines become fuzzy. Too often, we correlate being successful with being correct.

Narcissists Are Masters of Deception

Another confusing detail is that when it is to a narcissist’s advantage, he/she can be relentlessly charming. That is the narcissist’s most powerful weapon. Since other people seem to love the narcissist, we begin to doubt ourselves and not the narcissist. Keep in mind that the narcissist is charming. Perhaps in the narcissist’s mind, the other person was worth charming and you are not.

Narcissists Deceive Themselves

Perhaps the most frustrating thing about a narcissist is that he/she is absolutely unaware of any of his/her wrongdoing. Like an alcoholic, if a person cannot see a problem, the problem cannot be fixed. There simply is no reasoning with a narcissist about any way that you feel you have been wrongedor even misunderstood.

Narcissists React Violently to Criticism

In my experience, confronting a narcissist about how he/she has hurt you is an effort in futility. A narcissist, who cannot tolerate criticism at all, is only enragedby confrontation.

Narcissists Are Vindictive

And then there’s hell to pay.

For more information about narcissism, the following article from Psychology Today is helpful:

The following are some of the narcissists’ traits mentioned in Psychology Today:

1. Are highly reactive to criticism. Or anything they assume or interpret as negatively evaluating their personality or performance….

2. Has low  self-esteem [but seems to be overly self-assured] This facet of their psyche is complicated, because superficially their self-regard would appear to be higher and more assured than just about anyone else’s. Additionally, given their customary “drivenness,” it’s not uncommon for them to rise to positions of power and influence, as well as amass a fortune (and see here my post “Narcissism: Why It’s So Rampant in Politics”).  But if we examine what’s beneath the surface of such elevated social, political, or economic stature—or their accomplishments generally—what typically can be inferred is a degree of insecurity vastly beyond anything they might be willing to avow. ..

3. Can be inordinately self-righteous and defensive. Needing so much to protect their overblown but fragile ego, their ever-vigilant defense system can be extraordinarily easy to set off. …

4. React to contrary viewpoints with anger or rage. [I am adding this: But because they are masters of deception and vindictive as well, that rage may not be obvious to others. Like a ticking time bomb, it may be hidden–out of sight, but still threatening]. …

5. Project onto others qualities, traits, and behaviors they can’t—or won’t—accept in themselves.

6. Unconsciously viewing others as “extensions” of themselves, they regard them as existing primarily to serve their own needs—just as they routinely put their needs before everyone else’s….

In closing, if I did not see myself in at least part of the above list, I would be the very worst person of the lie.  I absolutely do have some of the very unattractive qualities named above, and I continuously appraise myself and buffet myself–seeking to keep potential problems in check. Therein is the distinction, and I believe my own saving grace: I DO recognize some of my own negative behaviors.  A severe narcissist does not.  Have you met the Queen of Denial? She is probably a narcissist.

©Jacki Kellum October 8, 2015