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Narcissism and the Mystery of Human Evil

In Greek mythology, the character of Narcissus falls in love with his own reflection in a pool of water. He does not fall in love with his true self, but with a reflection or a once removed distortion of his true self. 

Like Narcissus, we all prefer the more flattering image we project than the reality of who we are. We engage in fake formalities because it is a harmless and necessary feature of an efficient social life. 

We are all, to some extent, dependent on the perception of others and we subconsciously manipulate those perceptions in order to secure some admiration. Image crafting is part of how we acquire a sense of self. And there is nothing phony or evil about that. 

However, when a fake image becomes a dominant and permanent feature of one’s personality, then we are not dealing with a healthy social persona anymore, but with a pathological and malignant condition known as narcissism. 

What is Narcissism?

Narcissism is a personality disorder characterized by a lack of empathy, a grandiose sense of self, a belief that you are superior to others, and an insatiable need to be admired. 

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In his best-selling book, People of the Lie, the late psychiatrist Scott Peck proposed that narcissists are not only evil but that they should be diagnosed accordingly. He is not the only one who made this unconventional diagnostic leap.

The social psychologist Eric Fromm, who was the first to coin the term ‘malignant narcissist,’ describes it as being a “severe mental sickness” representing “the quintessence of evil.”

What is Evil?

According to our many cultural motifs, evil has no power except through the extortion of energy from others. The bad energy we feel when we are around certain people is the sensation of having our own energies depleted.  The metaphor of a vampire is an accurate one.   

 Hollywood has mastered the depiction of evil through its many metaphorical devices.  But more importantly, Hollywood itself actually provides us with the quintessential analogy to the understanding of all evil. 

This because, the life of someone with a personality disorder is nothing more than a projection, like a film on a screen.  And we are the spectators who are totally unaware that the characters and the plot are all a lie; A lie that entirely depends on our psychological cooperation, or to use a Hollywood term, our willing ‘suspension of disbelief.’ 

 It is important to understand that evil cannot exist independently of human perception and relies exclusively on our participation. In other words, evil is man-made. It is the smoke, the screen and the mirrors which we can shatter simply by going backstage and demystifying all its cheap little special effects.

Narcissism and the Mystery of Human Evil - About Islam
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