Phil's Philosophy

Mind Meanderings of an Alchemist

Tag: Narcissism

Narcissism of Eating Disorder Sufferers

People suffering from eating disorders, mostly young women, have in common that they all are dissatisfied with their bodily appearance; they feel themselves to be too fat and have a overriding desire to be “thin”. They are ashamed of themselves with the way they look and as a consequence feel inferior and suffer from low self-esteem. They transmute this sense of guilt and shame into an ultimately pathological motivation to lose weight, in a rather desperate and tragic attempt to gain approval and acceptance.

This motivation — rooted in a potent but self-destructive admixture of shame, inferiority and selfishness coupled with a craving for admiration — is what they have in common with that of the classic narcissist. Both the narcissist and the ED sufferer are bound together in an history of being shamed, either by parents or by peers or by others,  for either their unfortunate misdeeds, or their very existence itself. It should come as little surprise that…

…studies have also found that people with bulimia or anorexia are often highly narcissistic and tend to:

  • Have an inability to soothe oneself.
  • Have an inability to empathize with others.
  • Have a need for admiration.
  • Be hypersensitive to criticism or defeat. Source

But there is a difference between the two. While the narcissist seeks to identify himself with a self-salutary inflated self-image, the EDS on the other hand pursues a self-image that is extremely deflated and humble. Whereas the narcissist wishes to be praised for his boldness and grandiosity, the ED sufferer seems to like nothing better than to be as minimally obtrusive and intrusive as possible. Whereas the narcissist projects once suffered shame outwardly onto others, by casting scorn and encouraging awe and envy for his “supreme” self-image, the ED sufferer holds on to that festering shame by keeping on projecting it inwardly. In short, the mentality of the narcissist is that of the sadist and the ED sufferer that of the masochist.

Psychiatry – How the Mentally ill Treat the Mentally ill

“If you’ve never picked up DSM-IV™, we strongly recommend that you do so. You’ll find yourself in it. You’ll find your friends and associates in it. You’ll find your family members in it. Indeed, you’ll find everyone in it. In other words, from the point of view of psychiatry, everyone has a “mental disorder.” For psychiatry, there is no such thing as mental health, only degrees of pathology!”
C.S.Hyatt – psychologist and author of The Psychopath’s Bible

“The ostensible validity of the DSM is reinforced by psychiatry’s claim that mental illnesses are brain diseases—a claim supposedly based on recent discoveries in neuroscience, made possible by imaging techniques for diagnosis and pharmacological agents for treatment. This is not true. There are no objective diagnostic tests to confirm or disconfirm the diagnosis of depression; the diagnosis can and must be made solely on the basis of the patient’s appearance and behavior and the reports of others about his behavior.”
Thomas Szasz, social critic and a psychiatrist critical of psychiatry

With the DSM, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, growing ever more voluminous with every new edition, the probability that any arbitrary person can be diagnosed as having one or more psychiatric disorders, is growing ever larger. Indeed, assuming Hyatt ‘s quote mentioned up above is about right, if it were up to the army of shrinks at large, it is unlikely that any person qualifies to be considered perfectly free from mental illness, disorder and deviation. It is exceptionally unlikely in fact, to be able to satisfy the ever narrowing psychiatric norm that constitutes soundness of mind, i.e. their idea of it of course. Any diagnosed deviants are at once to be brought into the sanctum of psychiatric normalcy through medication and therapy — of whatever form, morally acceptable or not (e.g. barbaric electroshock treatments). To the psychiatrist, it is highly verboten to be a “deviant of mind”.

In a narcissistic context, psychiatry only “loves” those mental health states which mirror its own specific mental health ideal or norm, its own progressively narrow definition of soundness of mind. This inherent narcissistic attitude is of course highly ironic as psychiatry should precisely be preoccupied with the combat of general psychopathology, including narcissism, rather than fall prey to its sway itself. Nonetheless it is exceedingly hard to deny that the current obsession of psychiatry with twisting and turning collective mental health to make it conform to its own proverbial mirror image is anything else but narcissistic.

But it doesn’t end with narcissism. Psychiatry is mentally ill in yet another way, albeit one closely related to narcissism. This other type of psychopathology is revealed when one realizes that psychiatry basically is a lucrative business enterprise. And like any other ambitious type of business, psychiatry too is highly driven by the profit motive. In fact, profit is not only far more important than helping the patient, it is business-wise patently unethical to go ahead and actually cure a patient, as a cured patient translates into a lost customer. As such, psychiatry is mainly interested in the “expedient” practice of combating or mitigating symptoms rather than offer real cures. In addition, it has succumbed to adopt the commercially obvious strategy of market expansion through expansion of the spectrum of possible mental disorders; this of course is reflected by the DSM getting more corpulent as the next edition replaces the previous one.

And so, by putting profit way ahead of the welfare of the patient combined with its commercially dictated tenacity to retain patients (read: customers), the second type of psychopathology that psychiatry is troubled by, unveils itself: psychopathy.

The psychiatric clinic is therefore a place of doubtful morals and efficacy where deemed psychiatric deviants are to be treated via a mental health profession that paradoxically itself is plagued by at least two, albeit strongly related, forms of rather serious psychiatric deviancy.

In so many sobering words, psychiatry itself is seriously and alarmingly mentally ill.

Small wonder then, that I am not the first to observe its crooked morals:

“What do you do when you don’t know what to do? No wonder there are more suicides among psychiatrists than in any other profession.”
Psychiatrist R. D. Laing, Wisdom, Madness, and Folly, p. 126

“Much of today’s psychiatric science is based on wish, myth, and politics…”
Loren Mosher, M.D., Former Chief of the Center for Studies of Schizophrenia, The National Institute of Mental Health

“A psychiatrist is a man who has studied medicine, which he does not practice, but practices psychology, which he has not studied.”
Dr. Harriet Babcock, former Chief Psychologist, Bellevue Hospital

“The field of mental health is highly subjective, capricious, and dominated by whims, mythologies, and public relations. In many ways it is a pop culture with endless fads but with no real substance.”
Dr. Walter Fisher, Assistant Superintendent, Elgin State Hospital

Disclaimer: I am not claiming that psychiatry as a whole is incapable of helping people, nor am I denying the existence of psychiatrists whose integrity can be said to not be spoiled by the selfish profit motive. If I did, I would perpetrate an unwarranted act of over-generalization, if for no other reason than that I simply do not know all the living psychiatrists on a personal well-enough basis to bolster said claim. The intent of this entry was merely to point out the hypocritical and injurious absurdity that has become definitional to the practice of psychiatry and that therefore extra caution needs to be taken before resorted to for help.

This post may be regarded as a follow-up to an earlier entry I did on the nefarious character of psychiatry.

Anatomy of Narcissism v1.0 (i) – What and How

Page 1
Motivation
What is Narcissism?
Definition of Narcissistic Personality Disorder
Deriving Characteristics from the Tale
Fatal and delusional self-absorption
Unresponsive to love
Sees people as objects
Only accepts actions that mirror his will
Narcissism and Idolatry
Shrine-Metaphor
How is Narcissism Brought Into Existence?
The Soothing- versus the Shaming Inner Parent
Construction of the Self-image
Page 2
Narcissism versus Sadism
Seven Deadly Sins of Narcissism
1.Shamelessness 2.Magical Thinking 3.Arrogance 4.Envy 5.Entitlement 6.Exploitation 7.Bad Boundaries
Narcissism versus Necrophilia
Worship of Technique
New Character Types
Page 3
Narcissism versus Addiction
Narcissus the Addict
Definition: Narcissistic Audience
The Addiction of the Narcissist
The “Malignant Self-Love” Misnomer
The Love-Hate Relationship with his Audience
Volatile and Schizoid
Narcissistic Rage
References

Motivation

This is a report of my present understanding of the psychopathology known as narcissism. It’s an ongoing investigation as to what makes the narcissist tick. Feel free to share your insights with me, either as comments or by private communication. I might just absorb them into a new version.

What is Narcissism?

Although there are many different definitions of pathological narcissism or Narcissistic Personality Disorder floating around on the web, since it is a standard work of reference in the field of psychiatry and in spite my reservations to accepting it as the only and ultimate authority (read: “bible”) on psychiatric illnesses and disorders, I will nonetheless opt for the definition as stated in the DSM-IV:

Definition of Narcissistic Personality Disorder

DSM-IV-TR 301.81

The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders fourth edition, DSM IV-TR, a widely used manual for diagnosing mental disorders, defines narcissistic personality disorder (in Axis II Cluster B) as:[1]

A pervasive pattern of grandiosity(in fantasy or behavior), need for admiration, and lack of empathy, beginning by early adulthood and present in a variety of contexts, as indicated by five (or more) of the following:

  1. Has a grandiose sense of self-importance (e.g., exaggerates achievements and talents, expects to be recognized as superior without commensurate achievements)
  2. Is preoccupied with fantasies of unlimited success, power, brilliance, beauty, or ideal love
  3. Believes that he or she is “special” and unique and can only be understood by, or should associate with, other special or high-status people (or institutions)
  4. Requires excessive admiration
  5. Has a sense of entitlement, i.e., unreasonable expectations of especially favorable treatment or automatic compliance with his or her expectations
  6. Is interpersonally exploitative, i.e., takes advantage of others to achieve his or her own ends
  7. Lacks empathy: is unwilling to recognize or identify with the feelings and needs of others
  8. Is often envious of others or believes others are envious of him or her
  9. Shows arrogant, haughty behaviors or attitudes
  10. Often mild to moderate paranoia, that others are out to do him in.
  11. Predominant “name dropper” boasting or suggestion association with people or affiliations of importance.

It is also a requirement of DSM-IV that a diagnosis of any specific personality disorder also satisfies a set of general personality disorder criteria.Wikipedia

John William Waterhouse – Echo and Narcissus

Deriving Characteristics from the Tale

The origin of narcissism traces back to Freud, who derived inspiration from the Greek Myth surrounding Narcissus, a pathologically self-absorbed young man. Since Narcissus proved to be unwilling to return the love other people had for him, “the gods” punished him by making him fall in love with his own reflection in a pool; thus he could learn to feel what it was like to love without being returned affection. Tragically, Narcissus became so much in sway of his mesmerizing self-image that he died of self-neglect.

Here is a rendition of a key excerpt of the tale:

One day whilst out enjoying the sunshine Narcissus came upon a pool of water. As he gazed into it he caught a glimpse of what he thought was a beautiful water spirit. He did not recognise his own reflection and was immediately enamoured. Narcissus bent down his head to kiss the vision. As he did so the reflection mimicked his actions. Taking this as a sign of reciprocation Narcissus reached into the pool to draw the water spirit to him. The water displaced and the vision was gone. He panicked, where had his love gone? When the water became calm the water spirit returned. “Why, beautiful being, do you shun me? Surely my face is not one to repel you. The nymphs love me, and you yourself look not indifferent upon me. When I stretch forth my arms you do the same; and you smile upon me and answer my beckonings with the like.” Again he reached out and again his love disappeared. Frightened to touch the water Narcissus lay still by the pool gazing in to the eyes of his vision.

He cried in frustration. As he did so Echo also cried. He did not move, he did not eat or drink, he only suffered. As he pined he became gaunt loosing his beauty. The nymphs that loved him pleaded with him to come away from the pool. As they did so Echo also pleaded with him. He was transfixed; he wanted to stay there forever. Narcissus like Echo died with grief. His body disappeared and where his body once lay a flower grew in it’s place. The nymphs mourned his death and as they mourned Echo also mourned. Source

Salvador Dalí – Metamorphosis of Narcissus

The prime characteristics of narcissism that we may derive from the meaning of the tale are:

Fatal and delusional self-absorption:
The narcissist is hopelessly infatuated with a perception of himself (footnote 1) that is not grounded in actuality. Narcissus falls in love with a shallow representation that exhaustively resembles a shallow and flattering representation of himself (his own mirror image), an image of himself that conveniently ignores the gloomy truth that the inner being of narcissus is nowhere near as praiseworthy as his appealing exterior. Indeed, since he is incapable of loving any other being his character must be like that of constantly disapproving kind, critical of everything and everyone. Thus it can safely be assumed that his unseen interior, his character, is rooted in fear rather than love. By being susceptible to be mesmerized by the mere exterior of a being that perfectly mirrors himself, Narcissus proves to favor an effectively inflated and idealized representation of himself as the darkness of his ugly interior is conveniently ignored against the brightness of his beautiful exterior. In addition, he demonstrates the shallow nature of his interests, including those of the romantic kind, in other beings.

The tragedy of the narcissist is that reverence to what is nothing more than an illusion ultimately leads to his own demise. Or, as self-confessed self-aware narcissist Sam Vaknin puts it, he commits “the ultimate narcissistic act: self-destruction in the service of self-aggrandizement.”

Unresponsive to love:
The narcissist is handicapped at being at want to return the love people show to have for him; his self-absorbed and disapproving nature makes him blind to the affection from other people and make him incapable of reciprocating. He suffers from what Erich Fromm calls “impotence of the heart,” i.e. he is incapable of making people love him and instead seeks to control and manipulate them.

Sees people as objects:
The narcissist is only satisfied when things go according to plan, his plan of course. If not, he is displeased. As such, his relentless insistence on perfection, makes him too anxious to leave room for loving people. Consequently, he lacks empathy and has no genuine respect for people, as empathy and respect both have to have a basis of love for one’s fellow human being. And therefore he is unable to appreciate the personhood of people. He rather views them as objects, preferably extensions of his own will.

Only accepts actions that mirror his will:
Yet another main defining characteristic of the narcissist, a deeper meaning that can be deduced from this tale is that he only loves that which perfectly mimics his own ideal course of action. In the context of the tale, Narcissus only loves that which perfectly mirrors his own preferences. In other words, he is extremely picky and accepts and approves (“loves”) something on the condition that it is perfectly conformal to his own will.

But this, by definition, is conditional love that we’re talking about then. One may rightfully wonder: can this kind of love that the narcissist professes also be regarded as genuine love?

Suppose your boss is an N and you do your utmost best to gain his approval. But, due to his obsession with insistence on perfection, the narcissist does not nod in approval that quickly. So here you are, working your butt off trying to please someone who’s extremely critical and demanding and thus exceedingly hard to please. Most of the time, the narcissist will cause you to feel miserable for delivering, what he considers, below standard work. Perhaps every so often, when you somehow miraculously manage to meet all the stringent conditions imposed by the narcissist, you may earn his gratitude. And so by being extremely demanding, he sets the tone of an anxious and tense working atmosphere. The narcissist, figuratively speaking, radiates anxiety and tension to his employees and the rare event of you succeeding to do gain the favor of the boss is likely to flood your brain with feelings of relief and pleasure. It is thus very much like a drug addict finally getting his fix after a long period of forced abstinence. The druggie also experiences relief washing over him as the withdrawal symptoms are yet again dismissed to the background. The appropriateness of the analogy with the drug addict serves as a confirmation that the kind of love the narcissist dispenses, conditional love, in a practical sense equals addiction.

In general, this is a recurring theme for any kind of relationship with a narcissist. By his very demanding nature and his stinginess to show “love” — the narcissist, wittingly or unwittingly, works to make addicts of the people who end up in a relationship with him.

But the narcissist not only makes addicts, he is one himself too. I will expand on the link between narcissism and addiction, in section Narcissism versus Addiction.

Frans D.J. Francken – The Idolatry of Solomon

Narcissism and Idolatry

The word idolatry comes (by haplology) from the Greek word εἰδωλολατρία eidololatria parasynthetically from εἰδωλολάτρης from εἴδωλον eidolon, “image” or “figure”, and λάτρις latris, “worshipper”[4] or λατρεύειν latreuein, “to worship” from λάτρον latron “payment”. Wikipedia

Hence, idolatry simply means image-worship.

wor·ship

1. reverent honor and homage paid to god or a sacred personage, or to any object regarded as sacred.
2. n.a.
3. n.a.
4. the object of adoring reverence or regard. freedictionary

I further suggest that the practice of worship presupposes a state of submissiveness to the entity of worship.

Hence idolatry is the practice of submissively paying homage to- or revering the image; regarded as sacred and hence perfect, incontestable and beyond criticism.

Narcissism is about submitting to- and revering a presumed sacred image of the self; it is worship of an (inflated, distorted, idealized, etc.) image of the self, or worship of a self-image, or self-image worship, which is: self-idolatry.

The following metaphor captures the essence of the narcissist.

Shrine of St Valentine

Shrine-Metaphor

The narcissist may be imagined as the host to his own proverbial mobile shrine. Picture in the center of the shrine a huge portrait of the narcissist in which his most flattering features are embellished and distorted in a grandiose manner so as to inspire both awe and envy.

People in the his social environment (his audience) are invited to enter the shrine and instead of paying a regular cash entrance fee, they pay by worshiping the portrait. As such, the portrait is maintained in proper condition as it would otherwise quickly wither away and fall apart together with its host whose very reason for existence hinges on its welfare.

“Narcissism appears realistically to represent the best way of coping with the tensions and anxieties of modern life, and the prevailing social conditions therefore tend to bring out narcissistic traits that are present, in varying degrees, in everyone. These conditions have also transformed the family, which in turn shapes the underlying structure of personality. A society that fears it has no future is not likely to give much attention to the needs of the next generation, and the ever-present sense of historical discontinuity — the blight of our society — falls with particularly devastating effect on the family. The modern parent’s attempt to make children feel loved and wanted does not conceal an underlying coolness — the remoteness of those who have little to pass on to the next generation and who in any case give priority to their own right to self-fulfillment. The combination of emotional detachment with attempts to convince a child of his favored position in the family is a good prescription for a narcissistic personality structure.” (Lasch; p.50)

How is Narcissism Brought Into Existence?

What motivates the narcissist to devote one’s life to the construction and maintenance of a fantastic and lofty self-image? To answer this question we need to examine the human childhood. This section is largely inspired by Sandy Hotchkiss’ book on narcissism called Why is it Always About You? The Seven Deadly Sins of Narcissism. Especially chapter 8, Childhood Narcissism and the Birth of Me served as a source of information.

When we are toddlers we enter into a developmental stage what Freud called Primary Narcissism. This is a normal form of infantile narcissism in which we unwittingly view our caregivers as inseparable extensions to our own being. At our beck and call, our primary caregiver (usually the mother) fulfills our needs much like servants tending to the call of their master. In a narcissistic sense they more-or-less loyally mirror our needs and so there’s no incentive yet for us to perceive them as being separate and distinct from ourselves.

We need their symbiotic attachment in order to derive a necessary level of confidence to go and set out on our wobbly legs to explore the environment. Call it the mommy-takes-us-by-the-hand stage of development, if you will. This protective narcissistic proverbial bubble gives us a certain sense of invincibility, a much needed attitude in order to confront an environment that is filled with potential danger and as such is quite threatening to, what is in actual fact, a very vulnerable toddler.

The child derives comfort and support from a securely attached mother, who assists him in coping with the intense joy and excitement as well as the frustration of being small and vulnerable in an expanding toddler world. The attachment of the child to the mother equips him to be able to cope with the stress-burden belonging to the exploratory behavior committed with a disproportional zest that is characteristic of infantile narcissism.

The function of the attached mother therefore is to help regulate her child’s moods and emotions to, on the one hand, dampen over-excitement as well as distress, and, on the other hand, not pamper the child too much so that it also learns to cope with a bit of tension and agitation. This two-staged practicing period (happening around 10-12 and 16-18 months of age) is essential for the development of a separate sense of Self, and is the time during which the part of the brain that regulates emotion, is hardwired for life.

In the course of the practicing period, the role of the mother will shift from being a playmate/nursemaid to a more prohibitive “no-no” role. When mother gives the toddler a “cold shower” act of socialization for doing something “bad”, an initial mood of elation is likely to give way to what are called “low arousal states”, resembling a toddler version of somberness or even mild depression. But this is a normal development nonetheless, and this training-phase helps the mind of the toddler to learn to conserve energy and to inhibit excessive emotion. By moving in and out of these low arousal states, the child learns to depress intense or unpleasant feelings with ever less assistance from Mommy Dearest. This helps him to develop psychological autonomy.

The Soothing- versus the Shaming Inner Parent

The goal of socialization is to stimulate the child to try and live in harmony with the rest of the world. In order to do this, undesirable behavior needs to be restrained and discouraged as much as possible. The designated tool of persuasion for giving up pleasure for an undesirable act, is the powerful emotion of shame.

Hotchkiss writes:

“For the child, the first experience of shame is a betrayal of the illusion of perfect union with Mother that has persisted up to this point. Her beloved face now may radiate shame, extinguishing joy and exuberance in an instant. Instead of being pumped up by Mother, the child now feels deflated, even injured. This is an essential and instructive wound, however, which teaches the child that Mother is not only separate but different, and that his place in the world will not always be on top of the mountain.” (Hotchkiss; p.41)

Fig 1. The toddler (“Me”) is being shamed for doing something bad. Right before being shamed he “imagined” himself to be omnipotent, in a infantile kind of way of course. This is because his infantile mind is unable to see the separateness between himself (the valiant “Knight”) and his powerful primary caregiver (“Mom”, the “Queen”). The act of shaming serves to burst that bubble of normal infantile narcissism and promotes the development of the more realistically grounded individual. This is called the separation-individuation process.

The shaming experience helps to pop the bubble of the toddler’s infantile form of narcissism: the “omnipotent” toddler-version of a self-indulgent and relatively recklessly exploratory bravado-attitude (see Fig.1) that seems to correspond most closely with Freud’s idea of the ID. Since unmitigated shame may result in lasting psychological damage however, it is of the utmost importance that the wound be inflicted gently.

After the mother has shamed the child, a soothing follow-up response (“soft-looks, warm touches and kind words”) is necessary in order to help the toddler deal with his shaming experience in a healthy manner. The cycle: initial elation for doing something that is considered bad, followed by the mother socializing the child through shaming and the ensuing recovery — constitutes a positive learning experience which fosters the development of a healthy Self.

This recovery part is crucial for the toddler to learn that hurt feelings can be mended again and that the caregiver can be trusted. Emotionally, the young child needs compassionate help in managing emotions and protection from overwhelming feelings until his brain matures sufficiently for him to be able to do this on his own. Small doses of shame followed by soothing, help the child gently and responsibly deflate his infantile narcissism towards the development of a more realistic sense of Self. As he progresses through the practicing period, the toddler becomes more and more independent from the caregiving mother. This is called the separation-individuation process.

In the words of Hotchkiss:

“The first two or three years of life are the age of narcissism when the child’s underdeveloped Self and lack of awareness of the otherness of others are normal. Grandiosity, omnipotence, magical thinking, shame-sensitivity, and a lack of interpersonal boundaries come with the package. We are meant to outgrow this stage, but we need the help of parents who can tolerate and love us while we get through to the other side. We need them to hold the boundaries that we don’t yet see, to recognize who we really are and can be, to help us manage shame and contain rage, and to teach us to live in a world of others. When that doesn’t happen, we can become stuck in childhood narcissism. Failure to complete the separation-individuation process is what leads to a narcissistic personality.” [emphasis mine] (Hotchkiss; p. 45)

When a child has been shamed but lacks a loving and forgiving follow-up, it is left with a festering psychological wound. The failure to mitigate shame leaves the toddler inclined to interpret the behavior as being unforgivably shameful. This may be traumatic for the child–the first narcissistic injury if you will, and lack of mitigation reinforces the immoral severity of the shameful act. Although it should be understood that the experienced degree of the trauma also depends on the capacity of the child to sustain disciplinary action. If the child has a rather fragile and vulnerable psyche then it is only reasonable to expect that the impact of the trauma is more severe than a child who possesses a more robust psychological constitution. In the former case the soothing part is more important than with the latter.

The toddler registers the emotionality of the shaming mother — shaming facial expression, agitated voice and embarrassed mannerisms — deep into his memory through his senses. I suspect that this perception of a shaming caregiver (or caregivers) gives rise to the formation of a sort of internally projected mental presence of the shaming parent; one that is reinforced with every recurrence of an unsoothed shaming experience. Call it the emergence of the shaming inner parent if you will.

Hotchkiss also suggests the coming into existence of such an inner authoritarian presence:

“The child’s normal narcissistic rages, which intensify during the power struggles of age eighteen to thirty months — those ‘terrible twos’– require ‘optimal frustration’ that is neither overly humiliating nor threatening to the child’s emerging sense of Self. When children encounter instead a rageful, contemptuous, or teasing parent during these moments of intense arousal, the image of the parent’s face is stored in the developing brain and called up at times of future stress to whip them into an aggressive frenzy. Furthermore, the failure of parental attunement during this crucial phase can interfere with the development of brain functions that inhibit aggressive behavior, leaving children with lifelong difficulties controlling aggressive impulses.” [emphasis mine] (Hotchkiss; p.21)

Without our faculty of mimicry it would be impossible to assimilate cultural elements, e.g. karate techniques, and propagate them from person to person. Pictured is a karate class in Okinawa with the Shuri Castle at the background.

Indeed, one should not forget that our learning potential crucially relies on our ability to mimic. By virtue of imitating our parents, and later our peers, we absorb the cultural environment around us like a proverbial sponge. One might call this process, that never needn’t be complete, adaptation to the local cultural climate. More than our self-reliance craving egos perhaps like to admit, our lives — especially our childhoods, when the need and potential for learning is the greatest — revolve around the activity of copying each-other activities, behavior and later opinions. In general, the propagation of culture would be impossible if it weren’t for the existence of our faculty of mimicry, which in turn relies on a strong innate capacity to, in great detail, register and assimilate sensory expressions of other people; facial expressions of our parents at first, and vocal chord sounds later on when our minds have developed sufficiently to enable us to learn our native tongue. Indeed, it would be impossible to learn something as profoundly elementary as language without our faculty of mimicry, which vitally relies on a capacity to accurately duplicate the speech sounds made by the people in our environment in general and our parents in particular. To put it succinctly and generally, we are beings of imitation.

Therefore it is plausible to assert that, even more so given its developmental significance, we do strongly register the emotionality of the shaming parent. Later in life, any experience that may be considered shaming is likely to be met with the wrath of this shaming inner parent, which is just a form of internally generated- and directed form of punishment. The child thus has been saddled with the mental burden of an inherently condemnatory and disapproving inner mental judge, a punisher. In terms of Freud’s ID, ego and Superego Structural Model, it seems justified to suggest that this prohibitively natured inner parent most closely corresponds with the Superego.

Fig 2. The nature of soothing is constructive and restorative whereas that of shaming is destructive; its precise function is to destroy the motivation for the activity or behavior which the caregiver deems to be not allowable. When soothing is applied after an act of shaming, its role is to help the child recover from the negative impact of shaming. Soothing is an act of love, shaming without soothing is an act of selfishness and fear. Soothing works to liberate, shaming without soothing works to control and suppress. Soothed shame does not obstruct the development of genuine self-love whereas unsoothed shame does; it fosters self-resentment, self-hatred, malignant self-love and self-sadism/masochism (self-shaming) or plain sadism when shaming is directed outwardly unto others through (retributive) displacement.

Therefore when the toddler has never enjoyed shame-mitigating follow-ups, a soothing inner parent has never been given chance to develop in tandem with the shaming inner parent. The subjection to shame is therefore an extra painful experience. Whereas the character of the shaming inner parent is punitive and destructive, that of the soothing inner parent is constructive and restorative. In addition, the shaming inner parent functions to control behavior, whereas the soothing inner parent works to unburden or mentally liberate the child after it has been disciplined. It is presumed to be self-evident that in order to warrant the mental health of the child, the presence of a soothing inner parent is indispensable (see Fig.2).

Fig. 3. Upper part: If shaming is applied without soothing, the unmitigated destructive effect of shaming may encourage the toddler to learn to start viewing other people as liabilities, as if they are out to punish him. Bottom part: If shaming is applied with soothing, the corrosive effect of shaming is contained and there is no cause for the toddler to learn to grow wary of other people.

If the toddler is shamed without soothing, the seeds are planted in his mind for viewing other people as being out to hurt him (see Fig. 3). By its destructive character, shaming is an act of hostility and if the subsequent soothing part remains lacking and the more he is exposed to shaming the more likely the toddler will come to harbor negative perceptions of other people, potential punishers if you will. He therefore is more or less forced to view other people with caution and even as liabilities. The seeds of mistrust have been planted, and prepare him to receive people defensively (, aggressively). Even those who show genuine affection toward him are reinterpreted as ones who still may have nefarious ulterior motives of secretly wanting “to do him in,” and so never really can be trusted. The narcissist-in-the-making thus is severely handicapped at being able to imagine that other people view him in a loving and amiable way. I will address this issue again in section The Love-Hate Relationship with his Audience.

As a way to prevent future recurrence of having to feel raw unmitigated shame, the mind of the toddler is urged to develop his own means to compensate and dampen the reception of the mentally corrosive shame. Another way of putting it, is that he is forced to learn how to deal with his rudely deflated narcissistic bubble. You could say that the child is plunged into a psychological crisis marked by a need for improvisation and a sense of selfish emergency.

The child’s strategy of choice consists of walling off these intolerable, raw and unadulterated feelings using several crude ego-defensive mechanisms. Whenever shame threatens to seep into his life again, he learns to seek refuge behind a protective barrier of denial, coldness and rage. Alternatively, the shame may be outwardly projected, away from the vulnerable Self. Someone else is blamed instead, so that the child does not have to deal with it himself. It is an attempt to redirect persecuting eyes away from oneself onto others, thus bypassing the painful need to admit one’s error and to adjust oneself. If and when it has become impossible to deny that the cause for blame is not to be found in other people as much as it is in oneself, the blame-game called projection may however foster the development of self-hatred if the capacity to forgive oneself is absent.

In other words, to deal with shame without parental soothing, the child retracts into a (self-)deceptive world of make-belief, acting (histrionics/theatrics) and insincerity (lying).

Referring to the apparent shamelessness of the narcissist, Hotchkiss comments:

“More typically, the shamelessness of the Narcissist comes across as cool indifference or even amorality. We sense that these people are emotionally shallow, and we may think of them as thick-skinned, sure of themselves, and aloof. Then, all of a sudden, they may surprise us by reacting to some minor incident or social slight. When shaming sneaks past the barriers, these ‘shameless’ ones are unmasked for what they really are – supremely shame-sensitive. That is when we see a flash of hurt, usually followed by rage and blame. When the stink of shame has penetrated their walls, they fumigate with a vengeance.” (Hotchkiss; p. 6)

I suggest that this unhealthy and improvised reaction to shame, rooted in a lack of parental loving concern for the growing child, is to be regarded as the psychological basis for the coming into being of the grandiose and fictional self-image.

“The N I write about probably never did a thing, unless there was something in it for him. He simply did not bother. He started from a position of weakness, in that he had a huge inferiority complex, but the pretentiousness of his facade gave the impression of enormous self-confidence.” NPDQuotes

Construction of the Self-image

Unsoothed ossified shame, the first narcissistic wound(s) rudely deflating the child’s narcissism, is likely to arouse sentiments of inferiority with respect to people who do not seem to burdened by the same fate as he is. Consequently, the child may start to become envious of supposedly normal people. The very presence of these “normal” people, whose proverbial grass always seems to be greener than his own, then turn out to be painful reminders of how he could have ended up himself. He could have been one of them, hadn’t he suffered a damaging blow to his vulnerable psyche. And by becoming distraught he may start to resent their very existence. And so starts to view them as a liability, a menace, undesirable. Depending on the strength and resilience of his mental health, or better: lack thereof, he may even go so far as to blame them for causing him to feel envious, and making him feel miserable. (footnote 2)

Fig. 4. After having sustained sudden deflation of his narcissism, the toddler is left psychologically wounded. He feels inferior as compared to his peers and may be, or may fear to become, the target of shaming (scorn, ridicule and condemnation). This leaves him feeling miserable and so feelings of envy towards his peers, whom he holds in relatively high esteem, kick in.

As a way of dealing with the burdensome feelings of envy (see Fig.4), his mind comes up with a resolution. He starts looking for reasons to justify disqualification of the people he envies. The apparent underlying motive being that people who are not worthy are automatically not worthy to be envied. And so he may go ahead and condemn the perceived mediocrity of their lives, or at least certain visible aspects of it. However, tragically, the act of condemning their lives, forces him into a position at which he no longer can afford to try and become one of them himself. He cannot become that which he already has chewed up and spat out. It would make him not just a hypocrite, he would now have to stoop low in order to become one of them.

Note that this condemnatory attitude falls right in line with the mind of the narcissist in spe burdened with the condemnatory natured shaming inner parent. Just as he has been persecuted, he may derive some sense of gratification though engaging in persecution himself. Also note the inherent destructive nature of this type of broadly retributive behavior is. The act of shaming is a destructive act. It serves to destroy the specific motivation for doing that which has been flagged by the parent as being prohibited. And so when shaming is not compensated through soothing, parents may inadvertently encourage the character of their child to be formed with an appetite for destruction. Especially when the child is the subject of scorn coming from peers, for personality traits that he beliefs are caused by that of which he is ashamed, he may likewise develop an appreciation for scorn when he can find personality weak spots in other people. The matter then becomes a sort of retribution and, I believe, lies at the basis for sadism.

Returning to our narcissist-in-the-making, by condemning mediocrity, normalcy, he must strive for something superior; something bigger, bolder and better. And so his mind starts to seek out the justifying conditions for embracing a perception of the self which, in a grandiose manner, trumps those of the “normal” people. See it as a pathological way of wanting to get even, a kind of revenge. And as he works to see to the construction of his superior self-image, ideally, the necessity for envy is numbed.

Indeed, by being driven by a desire for vengeance, he is likely to be motivated to set out and reverse the subject- and object roles of envy. Rather than the subject, he now will strive to see himself becoming the object (target) of envy (see Fig. 5). In the narcissist’s mind, the time has now come for the normal people to become envious of him; or more accurately, to become envious of his intimidating and super-sized self-image.

In addition, the grounds for his burdensome sense of shame can be avoided as they belong to a part of him that has been tucked away and blotted out by a lofty and irreproachable new version of himself, embodied by his self-image. The act of identification with his fantastical self-image can be understood to be an attempt at psychological dissociation from his real but tainted self.

Supporting this generative route through envy, I suspect that the shaming inner parent may also be instrumental in bringing about his superior self-image. The character of this inner shaming parent — fortified perhaps by later mental impressions of shaming inner peers working in tandem with the already resident shaming inner parent, forming a shaming inner presence — is decidedly negative and prohibitive and may be an incentive for the ego to revolt through generating a challenging and self-indulging representation of himself. The inflationary defiance of the emerging self-image thus may be understood as a coping strategy of the ego intending to offset the deflationary damage done by the shaming inner presence.

Fig.5. The purpose of the grandiose self-image is to inverse the envy/scorn roles. If he can manage to persuade his peers (and himself) that he really is the very antithesis of the worm he feels himself to be, he may now become the subject of envy. If and when that happens he has a reason to put other people down and gain some sense of vindication.

Footnote 1 I refer to the narcissist as being masculine but this does not mean that I therefore believe that no feminine narcissists exist. I just prefer to keep notation simple and brief and so I choose to use “him” instead of the more proper but lengthier “him or her” or the confusing but likewise proper “them”. As it turns out, most narcissists are males anyway.

Footnote 2 Let me be clear though that I am not at all suggesting that anyone person who has experienced some sort of trauma earlier in life, by necessity, ends up becoming a narcissist. I suspect that many or even most people are quite capable of handling trauma, provided they have a resilient enough mental health, trauma coping power if you will, and are supported by loving and caring family members and/or close friends. The more defective the underlying mental constitution is and the more the support of family and/or friends is lacking, then the greater I’d regard the likelihood for traumas left unresolved, which may then promote the formation of narcissistic tendencies.

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Introducing Three Degrees of Evil

“The only good is knowledge and the only evil is ignorance.” ~ Socrates

Good versus Evil

A typical setting where good and evil are all too familiar household concepts is offered by religion: God versus the devil, believers versus heretics … . But it does not end there. As the above quote demonstrates, the Greek sages apparently did not shy away from using it either.

So how generally applicable are the terms good and evil?

Good, virtuousness or righteousness versus evil, viciousness or unrighteousness are two diametrically opposed qualifiers used for morally judging an action committed by some intelligently- and willfully operating agent (e.g. a human being, or “God”). To say that some act is good is to voice approval and encouragement of that act, whereas to say that some act is evil, voices disapproval and condemnation. The judgment labels good and evil can however be affixed relative to some moral framework deemed applicable. For example, some religiously defined moral frameworks consider it good to stone women to death as a proper punishment for adultery or even rape. Some systems of morality consider is good to persecute entire peoples that that system deems undesirable at best and detrimental at worst. Likewise some moral systems consider it evil to allow women to enjoy equal rights as men, whereas other moral standards generally considers it good that women are allowed equal rights and equal status relative to men. In other words, what is consider good for some moral standards may very well be considered evil in others, and vice versa.

This article is not about moral relativism however. I believe that treating one’s fellow human being disrespectfully and harmfully constitutes universal evil whereas treating them with kindness and respect constitutes universal good. In order to have universal applicability, a universal morality must incorporate the service to universal human rights, rights that are to be upheld irrespective of race, creed, gender, political preference, sexual orientation, income bracket etc. This means that a universal moral standard necessarily has to be independent of any and all of the existing and possibly competing moral standards, whether they be religious or secular.

This article is about identifying three distinct classes or degrees of evil, judged according to a universal moral standard.

Chemtrails – the practice of spraying toxic chemicals over us, yet not even having the decency of calling it rain.

Can Nature be Evil?

Just a quick note on the causative agents of evil. I am implicitly referring to evil perpetrated by human agents. But more generally, I could have referred to evil being perpetrated by intelligent agents, not necessarily human. It is important to recognise that evil can only be committed by intelligent agents. The idea that evil can be committed by natural agents is fallacious.

“Cloud seeding” – a weather modification technique.

Can natural disasters be called evil? No. It is meaningless to ascribe evil to their causes unless there’s an intelligent agent behind their expression. It’s quite well-known that today the weather can be technologically modified and it’s been widely speculated that HAARP installations may trigger earthquakes and tsunamis. And then there’s another controversial phenomenon known as chemtrails, in which military aircraft release a multitude of poisonous chemicals in order to supposedly modify the weather and supposedly offset the effects of Global Warming. In these instances, whenever there’s an intelligent operator behind artificially induced “natural” disasters or acts of “weather modification” that inflict harm or cause material damage, the operators behind them can indeed be held culpable and their actions are to be branded as evil.

Lightnings are not evil…

But when these disasters are entirely natural, it makes no sense to attribute evil to them. For example, when a lightning strikes your neighbor dead, you cannot sue the cloud or clouds “responsible” for issuing that fatal lightning. When an earthquake hits and claims scores of lives and does untold damage you cannot hold the involved tectonic plates responsible for any sustained losses.

Likewise when someone dies by a gunshot-wound, you cannot hold the death-precipitating bullet responsible. You cannot even pin the sustained death on the gun that fired it. No, it’s the person who willfully aimed and fired the gun who you should be looking for. Bullets don’t have the will or power to kill people, guns don’t have the will or power to kill people. No, it’s people who have the will and power to kill people. Bullets, guns, cannons, poisons, etc. are only the means to carry out acts of killing. The killer, or perpetrator of evil in general, is never a thing, or nature, it’s always an intelligent agent, intentionally acting to either inflict harm or to assist another agent in doing so.

Hitler at a Neuremberg rally.

Does Evil Equate to Ignorance?

Does evil simply equate to ignorance as Socrates would have us believe when he uttered the phrase mentioned up above?

I for one, do not think so. To argue against Socrates, let’s focus on the “only evil is ignorance” part. Consider mentally challenged people: mongoloids, retards, imbeciles, and the like. Surely they can be regarded as being ignorant. Would Socrates then regard these people to also be evil people?

Consider next the following thought experiment. Say a leader with great political skills arrives on the scene and manages to become the head of a powerful nation or empire. Unfortunately however, he also turns out to be a very authoritative and ruthless leader, holding sway over his people with a rod of iron. After a period of successful rulership, it so happens that the mental health of the leader starts to deteriorate. But since the people, including the staff, are too afraid to intervene and seize control through a coup d’état, they grudgingly but cowardly allow the leader to deteriorate into a sure state of mental retardation. And because of his newly gained mental deficit, his ability to make rational and just decisions is of course severely compromised. An unavoidable consequence is that under his now troubled command a lot of poor decisions are made and because of it a lot of his people die and suffer. So here now we have a leader who is both ignorant (because of the infirmity of his mental condition) but who nevertheless, also retains the capacity to act with (political) power.

Is it proper to call ignorance, while lacking the power to act, evil? I don’t think so. Ignorance combined with a complete denial of the power to act, as exemplified by a mute and paraplegic mongoloid, equates to practical harmlessness and so it would be improper to attribute evil to them. Moreover, to persecute certain people considered evil, when they actually do harm to no-one, is itself an act of injustice. Indeed it is an evil act. Think for example of the grave violations of human rights that transpired in Nazi Germany when the mentally infirm were subjected to so-called mercy killings (“euthanasia”) under scientifically bogus eugenics programs.

Therefore it is proper to only speak of evil if and only if ignorance is coupled with the power to act.

But even then, not all harmful acts could deservingly be called evil. It is the nature of intention that is also a determinant. If an act is motivated by a deliberate intention to cause harm, then the act clearly and rightfully can be called evil. If there is no such intention but indeed harm is unintentionally or accidentally inflicted, it would not be righteous to attribute evil to what then proves to be but an unfortunate act of misadventure.

H. L. Mencken, American writer.

“It is a sin to believe evil of others, but it is seldom a mistake.” ~ H. L. Mencken
“Everyone who is not understanding that man produces evil as a bee produces honey must be blind or wrong in his head.” ~ William Golding
“Good can imagine Evil, but Evil cannot imagine Good.” ~ W. H. Auden, A Certain World

Three Degrees of Evil

I hope to have demonstrated that the equation of evil to ignorance is not justified, yielding at best an inadequate definition. A proper definition of evil has to incorporate intention as well as the power to act.

Keeping in mind the preceding considerations, I suggest the following three-pronged definition of evil.

Nazi soldier shooting a woman and child.

“We are each our own devil, and we make this world our hell.” ~ Oscar Wilde

1.Evil by Intent

An individual or organisation commits first degree evil, if that individual or organisation intentionally inflicts harm to another individual or organisation.

Examples: murder; theft; deliberately promulgating falsehoods; persecution of people, e.g. eugenics; hurtful discrimination on the sole basis of race, gender, income bracket, etc.; war; voluntary support of governments or companies that are responsible for first degree evil.

It may be fortuitous to distinguish between various orders of severity, as first degree evil committed by children by and large is not as severe as that committed by adults. Moreover, the severity of a genocide blots out that of one single murder, although of course any single life should never be undervalued. So one could introduce three sub-degrees: junior, senior and major. Where the junior sub-degree refers to evil committed that has no lasting or traumatic effects on the victims, e.g. kids harassing other kids. The senior sub-degree designates the act of inflicting of traumatic evil on 1 to 10 people, e.g. rape of a woman or murder of a person. One speaks of major 1st degree evil when more than 10 people are traumatised one way or another, e.g. a genocide or war.

The Franciscan Order supported the Catholic Ustashe regime and insofar as they were unwitting of the crimes perpetrated by the Ustashes they were guilty of committing 2nd degree evil. Surrounded by monks, in the middle stands Ante Pavelic, leader of the brutal Croatian Ustashes.

“It is always good men who do the most harm in the world.” ~ Henry Brooks Adam

2.Evil by Unwitting Complicity

An individual or organisation commits second degree evil, if that individual or organisation supports another individual or organisation committing first degree evil in such a way that the former is not aware the latter does so.

Examples: unwitting officials/bureaucrats of governments engaged in committing first degree evil; unwitting employees of companies that are more-or-less secretly engaged in committing first degree evil.

Letting people starve to death is an example of 3rd degree evil.

“He who does not punish evil, commands it to be done.” ~ Leonardo Da Vinci
“All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing.” ~ Edmund Burke

3.Evil by Apathetic Witnessing

An individual or organisation commits third degree evil, if that individual or organisation is a witness to an act of first or second degree evil but chooses to not intervene.

Examples: bystanders witnessing people suffer and/or die (through rape, murder, starvation etc.) and choose to walk away without coming to rescue in whatever way available, e.g. by calling the police or provide food and shelter; witnessing corporate crime/corruption and choose to not report it to the authorities.

“Fear is the only true enemy, born of ignorance and the parent of anger and hate.” ~ Edward Albert

What Causes Evil?

To finish up, I want to briefly meditate on the underlying causes of evil. In other words:

Why do people intentionally hurt other people?

Apart from probably a relatively few honest and self-aware psychopaths and sadomasochists who do recognise that what they are doing to their fellow human beings can, in fact, justly be branded as evil, I suspect that people for the most part do not realise that their actions may be classified as such, at least not as immoral or unjust evil. People who see themselves as victims or potential victims may relatively easily manage to rationalise away their acts of aggression, acts that can be called evil by objective standards, by reinterpreting them as acts of revenge or even self-defence. As such they likely regard their hurtful actions as morally sound (“good”) rather than morally unsound (“evil”).

Nonetheless, people do need to be properly motivated in order to commit evil, as attempting to inflict harm on other people generally does not come without risk or cost. After all, people who are attacked may put up a resistive fight and strike back as they fend for themselves. And so the would-be perpetrator of evil, realising that he may get hurt due to his act of aggression, must be properly motivated to deal with any possible adversity. The ideal motivator for promulgating an assault on a fellow human being is plain and unadulterated fear, i.e. fear for getting hurt or sustain suffering in general. If you fear that your would-be victim is itching to strike you too, you may consider it in your best interest to strike preemptively. If fears run high enough, e.g. most notably fear for one’s own survival, the discouragement to attack for fear of being hurt or worse may be overridden by the seemingly understandable decision to strike the “enemy” before he strikes you.

Indeed, it is in a cultural atmosphere of fear that evil thrives best. When people live in fear–fellow human beings, especially strangers–are not rarely regarded as a liability and a threat. Therefore, acts that by objective standards can be regarded as evil, may through the eyes of fear be reinterpreted as justified acts of self-defence. When society is plunged into a collective state of fear and the people are trained to be in awe of their leadership, the local totalitarian establishment, it is likely considered a great honor to be given an opportunity to rise within the hierarchical ranks of that establishment, even if it’s in name and status rather than promotion of position or rank. It is in a face of fear and shame that evil atrocities, such as honour killings following the bringing of familial disgrace, find relatively easy expression.

Death by stoning, an exceedingly inhumane form of capital punishment.

Honour killings, e.g. the backward custom of persecuting rape victims, are considered justified if the victim is regarded to be a libelous member of the family (typically deemed a “whore”) who then are deserving of death after supposedly bringing shame to the family with her supposed penchant for fornication or generally violating familial code of honour. The occurrence of honour killings demonstrate that the perceived status of the family is valued higher than the lives of its (female) members. Risking acts of condemnation from the community, whether likely or not–the patriarchal head of the family proves to be more concerned with the fear of bringing shame to the family, than he is concerned for the well-being of the people he is supposed to look after.

This strange and de facto anti-human attitude is akin to narcissism–malignant self-love, in which the narcissist is pathologically obsessed with his own mirror-reflection, a mere image- or surrogate derivative of the self. And rather than tending to matters of importance, substance rather than image, the narcissist prefers to ignorantly wither away as he caters to inconsequential superficiality. Likewise the patriarch is also blindly focused on merely defending the name (image) of the family–something that compared to safeguarding the well-being of his family members, should also be deemed inconsequential. By holding the name of the family in higher regard than the well-being of the family members, the head of the family can be said to have a narcissistic mentality.

Only a culture in the grip of a suffocating fear for social disapproval could possibly foster such phenomena of detrimental self-delusion. If society were loving in character then the fear for social condemnation by one’s neighbours and peers would be redundant; there would be no risk for bringing shame to the family and honour killings could be regarded to not only have no purpose, they could be recognised for the real affronts to civil and humane conduct they really are. Indeed, an ambiance of love nurtures a relaxed social environment with a natural abundance of tolerance, a desire for understanding and willingness to forgive. The heads of family could then recognise the virtue of being able to care for all family members rather than vindictively persecute the ones who supposedly bring shame to the family.

The Roman Testudo (“diamondback turtle”) formation is symbolic for the act of trading individuality for group-identity in order to increase chances of survival in the face of (imminent) danger….

In the face of imminent danger it is generally considered a good strategy to sacrifice one’s individuality for gaining a group-identity in a bid to ideally enjoy increased survival prospects relative to the more vulnerable “loners.” A consequence however is a revocation of responsibility for one’s actions. When you are part of a military unit for example, the unit commander assumes responsibility for all the members of the unit. You are simply to obey his orders. It is under such responsibility-neglecting circumstances that a whole new class of evil atrocities finds way of expression. By having the possibility to basically switch-off your conscience as you merely follows orders or just do your job, you are in a position to commit acts that you would normally prevent yourself from doing.

In 1971 the psychologist Philip Zimbardo based an experiment around the following question: What happens when you put good people in an evil place? Does humanity win over evil, or does evil triumph? The results were shocking as it was shown that normal or “good” people can easily act in an evil manner. Another related psychological test was conducted by Stanley Milgram, who wanted to find out if normal people could be brought to administering lethal shocks to strangers. As was the case with Zimbardo’s experiment, the results were again unpleasantly surprising as it turned out that the majority of people were in fact capable of doing so, as long as they were relieved of having to answer for their sadistic actions.

Other ways of promoting the expression of evil is to degrade or even dehumanise human beings, who are deemed undesirable or inimical, as inferior or subhuman (e.g. “untermensch”) beings. Indeed, an effective technique to motivate one group of people to kill another group of people lies in the success of convincing members of the former group that members of the latter group are not even human but virtual animals. After all, it’s generally considered no big deal to kill a filthy swine, a disease-carrying rat or a pesky roach. See my article Five Steps to Tyranny for more on this.

Why do people fail to come to the rescue of other people who are in need of help?

Fear also lies at the heart of answering this question. I will just leave it by saying that people unfortunately are too cowardly and/or too self-absorbed to be willing to help people-in-need, even when they able to. Under some circumstances, when in general the cost of helping is estimated to be higher than the benefit gained by the receiver of help, it is understandable that people prefer to either walk away or go look for more able potential rescuers. But other than those exceptional circumstances, there is little excuse for able people to refuse to help out.

As to the reasons for the reluctance of people to help other people, cowardice is just another form of fear and selfishness can also be viewed as fueled by fear, namely the underlying fear that other people end up with more goodies than you will and the ensuing animosity for people elicits a fear to socially connect with people. This is what narcissism is all about, in which people are extremely self-absorbed not necessarily because they think so highly of their own external appearance but because they are too afraid to intimately, rather than superficially, connect with other people. Cowardice convinces a person that the perceived cost/risk of helping out is too high, whereas selfishness fails to provide the necessary sympathetic connection between the person and people in need. Needless to say, both factors may reinforce one another–in fact, as they are they both grounded in fear, they often do.

We can thus see that both ignorance and fear lie at the heart of the promulgation of evil. In order to overcome evil, we must first recognise that indeed ignorance and fear are its root causes. Until the moment that we manage to do so, we have no way of preventing or even mitigating its expression.

“For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.” 2 Timothy 1:7

“The love of money is the root of all evil.” Perhaps this so-called “the love of money” is best to be reinterpreted not as a love but a fear, namely the fear of not having enough (with respect to greedy peers). As such, the “love of money” is in reality a false love. It’s the kind of “love” that lies at the heart of addiction, in which a successful monetary gain is like a “fix” that may, at best, only give temporary relief amidst a backdrop of perpetual anxiety.