The Confusion of Abuse: More Thoughts on the Fog

UPDATE Sept 2021: I have come to believe that Jeff Crippen does not practise what he preaches. He vilely persecuted an abuse victim and spiritually abused many other people in the Tillamook congregation. Go here to read the evidence. Jeff has not gone to the people that he spiritually and emotionally abused. He has not apologised to them, let alone asked for their forgiveness.


[September 5, 2022: There have been some changes made to this post. For more information, read the Editors’ notes at the bottom of the post. Editors.]

(Romans 1:24-25  ESV)  (24) Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves,  (25) because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen.

Well, I am still working my way through M. Scott Peck’s book, People of the Lie. Certainly the Christian reader will find areas of disagreement with Peck, such as his acceptance of some classic Freudian theories, but nevertheless I am finding the book profitable. There are excellent insights into the nature of evil which are certainly beneficial to victims of abuse. Abusers are, indeed, people of the lie.

Wherever there is evil, there’s a lie around….  Evil always has something to do with lies.

That is the kind of statement Peck makes that victims of abusers come to understand perhaps better than anyone else. Where there is evil, there is deception, fog, and confusion. Confusion that is rather amazing, as a matter of fact. This is why victims should not feel stupid or shameful just because it may have taken them years to sort the thing out. Peck, a trained psychiatrist, tells of cases he has had that required years of therapy sessions before he realized that he was dealing with a person who was — evil. Evil clouds itself in a lie.

One of the traits of a narcissistic person who is characterized by a mentality of entitlement can be chaos. This, coupled with the lies, adds even more confusion to those who have to deal with such people. Chaos can often masquerade as mere absent-mindedness, but in the case of many abusers it is really the product of total self-absorption. This is not harmless daydreaming. No, sin is a lover of self, and in the abuser, self-love finds its full fruition. This self-absorption causes the person to be wrapped up in his or her own little existence, giving no concern to the existence of others — or even to the physical world around them. One example Peck gives is that of a woman who regularly got lost when driving from point A to point B, though she was a very intelligent person. He finally sorted it out. She was so wrapped up in her self that she was not about to observe street signs or other directions. Not out of some kind of absent-mindedness, but because she was the chief being in her universe.

These kinds of people create a sphere of chaos around them. They are dangerous to work with. They misplace and lose things. They trash their possessions without a thought. And, worst of all, they trash the people who are close to them. All because their obsession with themselves results in no care or empathy for others.

As I heard it put so well recently, evil people are not mistaken. They are malevolent. We will be their victims until we begin to understand these things.

[September 5, 2022: Editors’ notes:

—For some comments made prior to September 5, 2022 that quoted from the post, the text in the comment that was quoted from the post might no longer be an exact match.
—For some comments made prior to September 5, 2022 that quoted from the post, the text in the comment that was quoted from the post might no longer be found in the post.
If you would like to compare the text in the comments made prior to September 5, 2022 that quoted from the post to the post as it is now (September 5, 2022), click here [Internet Archive link] for the most recent Internet Archive copy of the post.]

17 thoughts on “The Confusion of Abuse: More Thoughts on the Fog”

  1. Oh boy, do I know this! The chaos that masquerades as mere absent-mindedness. And if you add to the mix some prescribed drugs that affect cognition, like opiate pain killers, then you have the masquerade squared or cubed. You could spend eternity trying to follow the loose ends back to their source, in an attempt to find out what is really the cause of the forgetfulness, without it ever occurring to you that the absent-mindedness is because the person is purely selfish and self-absorbed.

  2. Yep – in my case I spent years trying to understand the chaos. In my case, the chaos is compounded by autism / Asperger’s — which he would never admit was part of him until he needed it as another excuse. I could never figure out why someone with autism / Asperger’s would be so disorganized, be so unable to follow schedules and rules. I now believe that it’s fine with him to live like that because it serves him with control (being the only one who knows what the schedule is, for example), and also with a means to get someone else to take care of things for him.

    For a long time I was afraid to leave because I didn’t want to leave him because of a disability, even if he refused to acknowledge it and deal with it. I kept thinking that was the cause of our problems, and that if he could just understand the differences on how we perceive the world and work on understanding each other better, things would be fine. Besides, how evil must I be to leave someone with so many struggles? Why can’t I just love him for who he is?

    I now understand that he has no desire to understand me any more than he needs to do so to control me, to get me to do things for him, and to satisfy his needs. Being wired differently does not mean that he cannot connect to another person (yes, it might make it more difficult) but there must be a desire to connect. I see that desire in other people with autism / Asperger’s, and I know it’s possible, and well worth the difficulty it poses.

    It’s hard, because autism / Asperger’s makes it difficult to get outside your own world. So where is the line drawn between a difference in thinking and something that’s intentionally aimed to produce a result? (Even if it’s subconsciously intentional – is that possible?!) I give myself more headaches trying to figure it out.

    1. The autism connection is a new one for me and I know virtually nothing about it. That is why Peck’s mention of the essence of autism being that of existing in one’s own world was striking to me. Your situation sounds like a complicated one for sure but I suppose that in the end you have sorted it out properly. You will never unravel all of the chaos because it only leads to discovery of more chaos. Seems to me that the in the end we just have to deal with the fact that such a person has no desire for healthy, other-oriented relationships and we must depart from them when we can. Victim or active perpetrator? To a large degree it doesn’t really matter. One day the Lord will sort all of that out, but in the meantime we don’t do anyone any good by letting ourselves be destroyed by such a person.

  3. I cannot believe I stumbled upon this particular post today.

    I am nearly finished reading Dr Peck’s book “People of the Lie” and have several times thought of writing you for your thoughts. It was a book given to me by my father – who stumbled upon the book at a yard sale. He read it and 30 pp [pages] in paused because (as he put it) “a bell went off in his brain, like a doorbell, alerting him that this book was about someone we both knew: my exh.” He immediately started the book over and began underlining key sentences / phrases that were important to him. He said it was the first time all our conversations and my exh’s behaviors began to be seen in the full light of what they were: my exh was evil.

    I could’ve cried, shouted for joy, danced and hugged my dad – all at the same time. I’m fairly certain I sat there beaming as my dad recounted line after line from the book like a victim advocate and trained professional. I’m weepy now as I praise God for answered prayer – my only one – that Truth would be revealed.

    My father has since ordered another of Dr Peck’s work: “A Road Less Traveled” to read next.

    I have greatly enjoyed Dr Peck’s work: “People of the Lie” and his analysis of evil. I find it to be very similar to your work, Dr Simon’s work and Bancroft’s work. Indeed, it was of no surprise to find his name in the bibliographies (not Bancroft). His analysis of group evil and the danger of specialization was eye-opening. I have learned much from his work.

    I suppose if I find any flaw in his work – or at least a lingering question in the back of my mind – it would be this: Dr Peck seems to indicate that cohabitating [with] evil cannot coexist without the one tainting the other. In other words, all the married couples he interviewed – he puts square blame on BOTH. He doesn’t seem to allow the possibility that one spouse could be evil and the other pure. He seems to say that if one spouse is evil – the the other is guilty by association and will, eventually, become evil, too – by degrees. Even if trapped (and I forget the clinical word he used here), he holds culpable the “trapped” spouse. I’m having a hard time with this – unless I’m reading this incorrectly. What was your take on his stance?

    So glad (and pleasantly surprised) to have found this post today. Jesus is good. All the time.

    1. I would have a hard time accepting that too, Charis.
      Especially since many of us married our spouces not knowing that they possessed evil intentions to exploit us for their gain.
      We thought they were as pure-intentioned as ourselves going into the marriage.
      Many of us were then gaslighted by our abusers to doubt our own perceptions and ideas as things went on, and this too was intentional.
      So for Dr Peck to want to hold both parties culpable, does seem like sin leveling that does not fit the true senerio.
      This is probably where our Christian discernment comes in and gives us the clarity to see the real problem and its roots.

      This is a war involving spiritual evil, setting itself against “The People of the Truth.”
      (God’s people)
      Maybe Dr. Peck, and his belief system don’t embrace the spiritual aspect that we see as Christians..

    2. UPDATE Sept 2021: I have come to believe that Jeff Crippen does not practise what he preaches. He vilely persecuted an abuse victim and spiritually abused many other people in the Tillamook congregation. Go here to read the evidence. Jeff has not gone to the people that he spiritually and emotionally abused. He has not apologised to them, let alone asked for their forgiveness.


      Dr Peck seems to indicate that cohabitating [with] evil cannot coexist without the one tainting the other. In other words, all the married couples he interviewed – he puts square blame on BOTH. He doesn’t seem to allow the possibility that one spouse could be evil and the other pure. He seems to say that if one spouse is evil – the the other is guilty by association and will, eventually, become evil, too – by degrees. Even if trapped (and I forget the clinical word he used here), he holds culpable the “trapped” spouse. I’m having a hard time with this – unless I’m reading this incorrectly. What was your take on his stance?

      Thanks for this question, Charis. It is many years since I read People of the Lie, and I don’t have a copy myself. I’ll re-read it, now you have asked that question. In the meantime, maybe Jeff or other readers can offer their thoughts.

      As I recall, People of the Lie didn’t address spousal abuse. It certainly had at least one case study of a married couple who were very evil towards their child. If Scott Peck has been ‘blind’ to spousal abuse, that is interesting, given how well he has discerned other kinds of evil. Maybe no victim of spouse abuse had the courage to disclose to him, because they were still living with the abuser and feared the abuser’s retaliation.

      BTW, I wouldn’t recommend The Road Less Travelled. It encourages spirituality, but Scott Peck’s approach to spirituality would (IMO) align more with liberal Christianity than evangelical Christianity.

      1. So, I do have a copy of the book. Here is the section I was referring to. By the way, “being in thrall” or “thralldom” was the clinical expression Dr Peck used to refer to couples when one partner is under the influence of the other’s evil and “refuses” by way of laziness and lack of courage to leave the relationship. I apologize for its length. I hope the reference is helpful in the course of this discussion. I do agree with Barbara that – other than this section – I found his discourse, analysis, description, reflection and discernment of evil to be very powerful. So this particular section is confusing to me. I’ve put my comments / thoughts in parentheses throughout.

        Sarah & Hartley ref pp 117-120

        Perhaps the most interesting aspect of this case is not Sarah’s evil but Harley’s relationship to it. Hartley was in thrall to Sarah. [The theme of thralldom is not infrequent in fairy tales and myths in which princes and princesses and other beings have become captive to the evil power of some wicked witch or demon. Like other myths concerning evil, these need further study. But unlike the hero in such myths, I was not able to rescue Hartley from his slavery.] It was a willing thralldom. He had voluntarily sold his soul into Sarah’s keeping. Why?

        At one point during the session I had told Hartley that he was “just about the most passive man I’ve ever met.” A passive person means an inactive person — a taker instead of a giver, a follower instead of a leader, a receiver instead of a doer. I could have used a number of other words: “dependent,” “infantile,” “lazy”. Hartley was monumentally lazy. His relationship with Sarah was that of an infant clinging to its mother. He would not even come into my office alone, much less take the risk or exert the energy to think independently for himself. (My note: could not these be forms of resistance or PTSD or fear? and why wouldn’t such a psychiatrist pick up on this?)

        Why Hartley was so extremely lazy we do not know for certain. Sarah’s comment that his mother was an alcoholic and his father as weak as he suggest he came from a family in which his parents probably served as lazy role models and he probably failed to receive adequate fulfillment of his infantile needs. (My note: why is Dr Peck lending such credence to the historical summary of an abuser regarding her spouse? The title, after all, is “People of the Lie.” How does he know she isn’t spinning a yarn here? Don’t they all?) We can postulate that by the time he met Sarah he was already a profoundly lazy person, a child in adult’s clothing who was unconsciously seeking the strong mother he had never had to take care of him. (My note: unsubstantiated and built upon what may very well be lies told by the abusive spouse) Sarah fit the bill perfectly, just as he undoubtedly met her requirements for a potential slave. Once the relationship was established, it became a vicious cycle, naturally intensifying the sickness of each. Her domination further encouraged his submissiveness, and his weakness further nourished her desire for power over someone. (My note: minimization and co-dependency.)

        So Hartley was not simply an unwilling victim of Sarah’s evil. This is important, because the case exemplifies a general rule: 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. (My note: WHAT?!) We shall see this principle in action once again in the next-to-last chapter when we consider the phenomenon of group evil and how vast numbers may so easily participate with each other in the most atrocious behavior. (My note: in short – peer pressure redefined. it is his theory above restated that those who don’t lead – follow and those who follow become lazy, hesitant to question authority and by default, follow orders and ask question later (or not) thus committing evil by chain of command and en masse.)

        For the moment, however, we are concerned with the smallest of groups — the single couple — and how two people participate in evil. The case of Hartley and Sarah was introduced, in part, by the observation that it seemed impossible to tell which partner of an evil couple was the evil one. (My note: so….his assumption is that the couple is evil and that they both participate in it. My heart is breaking.)….I doubt 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. I suspect, therefore, that one or the other [of Bobby’s parents] was the more dominant in their mutual evil, and I believe [the same was true of Mr. and Mrs. R. In every evil couple,] if we could examine them closely enough, I imagine we would find one partner at least slightly in thrall to the other, in the same manner as Hartley was in thrall to Sarah, albeit hardly to the same degree.

        [If the reader feels Hartley and Sarah’s relationship was a bizarre one, I agree.] I chose [it] (Hartley and Sarah’s relationship) precisely because they were the “sickest” couple of this type I have seen in the years of my practice of psychiatry. Bizarre though it was, the type of relationship it illustrates is quite common. (My note: now I’m confused. Bizarre and sickest couple he’s ever seen….but it’s common?) The phenomenon of thralldom in marriage is not rare. Those readers who are psychiatrists will have seen in their everyday practice dozens of such cases. And I suspect that general readers will, on reflection, also be able to recognize this type of marriage among at least some of their acquaintances.

        Evil was defined as 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. We scapegoat not the strong but the weak. For the evil to so misuse their power, they must have the power to use in the first place. They must have some kind of dominion over their victims. The most common relationship of dominion is that of parent over child. Children are weak, defenseless, and trapped in relation to their parents. They are born in thrall to their parents. It is no wonder, then, that the majority of the victims of evil [,such as Bobby and Roger,] are children. They are simply not free or powerful enough to escape. (My note: you see where he is heading with this, right?)

        For adults to be victims of evil, they too must be powerless to escape. They may be powerless when a gun is held to their head, as when the Jews were herded into the gas chambers or when the inhabitants of MyLai were lined up to be shot. Or they may be powerless by virtue of their own failure of courage. (My note: he did NOT just call us all cowards, did he? Good grief.) Unlike the Jews or the inhabitants of MyLai and unlike children, Hartley was physically free to escape. 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. (My note: shame on those victims who don’t leave….why, they are just lazy and childish! I cannot believe he said that. We are all enablers with “guilty” stamped on our foreheads if we don’t walk out the door the moment we realize we’ve married an evil spouse? Did I miss something?) Whenever adults not at gunpoint become victims of evil it is because they have — one way or another — made Hartley’s bargain. (My note: if we each waited until there was a gun held to our head – the bargain would be much different although the lines in the sand much clearer….and so would the danger, the risk, and the hesitation to flee. Somehow he has missed this. How?) [Emphasis original.]

        [September 6, 2022: We added in brackets the parts of the book People of the Lie omitted in Charis’ quote to keep the pages quoted in context. Editors.]

      2. Thank you, Charis! I will look at this quote when I get a bit more time. I very much appreciate you putting it here, and inserting your own thoughts in parentheses. 🙂

  4. Thank you, Barb and Jeff, for [this], and the other posters. I agree with you, Barb, in your observations and I too read the book years ago. It was one of those things that God used to prepare me so that when he finally opened my eyes to people without a conscience, I was somewhat aware that other people acknowledged that evil existed in human form.

    The fog and confusion were hard for me to dispel in my life because of all the many “diagnosis’s” evil ones are given (that keep our eyes off the evil) plus that we are trained up by the church and psychology to think there’s a cure for everything or that we need to do more. I had checked the book out of the library and hadn’t realized the deep spiritual nature of it until I started reading it, and I had to take it back the next day. I’ve shared with you some of the demonic experiences I’ve had over the years while we were overseas and this book activated the demonic in our home. (I am very sensitive to this aspect of life now and I am much quicker to discern its appearance and get rid of what triggers it.) But I do remember that Peck included both spouses in the blame and this also kept me from seeing the truth longer than it should have.

    And I agree with you too, Jeff, about Freud. There’s an entire thread on a website devoted to why some people think Freud and his daughter, Anna, were psychopaths. The father of psychoanalysis-how sweet! That we’ve bought this huge lie and had it forced down our throats for decades–all created in the mind of a psychopath! Who knows for sure but Anna was described by a son as cold and unloving and we know Freud was wrong and I would add dangerous in many of his beliefs. How he treated women–I’m clearly not a fan of his.

    The story from this book that stands out in my mind is the one where Peck had a female patient for years and was unable to make any headway in treatment until one day he asked her if she thought she was possessed. She was actually RELIEVED that he had thought of this and she went on to describe how it had happened (a book she was given when she was young if I remember correctly). I think this was one of the exorcisms that he assisted with but one thing she said that has stuck with me is that she believed there was more than one demon inside her and that one of them was lower ranking and “kept down” by the other(s), and that she actually felt sorry for it. This was my first introduction into the hierarchy of the spiritual world. I hadn’t even thought in those terms but the Bible talks about this in Matthew 12:45 and in Luke 11:26.

    Thank you again for addressing all these issues and not shying away from them. For people like me who want to know God’s pure truth even if it goes against what I WANT to believe, I need to be able to “talk” about this stuff. God already knows all about it and He can handle it. Did I mention that I love Him? So much!

  5. I read People of the Lie when I was buried deep in the fog. The key thing I learned – and had seen – was the difference between Evil and evil.

    Not much, perhaps, but a beginning….

    1. Thanks for giving me food for thought on my dissolving marriage of about 20 years. I have always known our partnership was unusual but in the last few years realised it has been full of disrespect including threats, verbal abuse and endless passive aggression. I want to believe my spouse is a good man and just a poor husband. One of the first ‘assumptions’ on meeting was as the son of a vicar he had a core of reasonable values even if he was not a religious man. I find it almost terrifying to think I have brought up kids in this unloving and uncaring partnership. Thankfully my partner travelled and I brought the kids up like a single mum until they were teenagers. His autism spectrum diagnosis [ASD] explains and affirms my recollection of his lack of parenting skills.

      My focus in the last few years has been on my kids’ understanding of good and unreasonable behaviour as my husband’s depression and lockdown has kept us together. One of the biggest challenges to me is to tell my kids in private that their father’s behaviour is regularly unreasonable and offensive, but more importantly unacceptable, irresponsible and generally selfish. With lockdown we are all together, thankfully in a reasonable-sized house.

      I am going off to read the book you mention by Peck. I am arguing with myself on the rights and wrongs of splitting a family even with an abusive depressed ASD father.

      [Husband’s diagnosis airbrushed to the more general term “autism spectrum disorder,” to protect the commenter’s identity. Years and number of kids airbrushed. Paragraph breaks added for readability. — Eds.]

      1. Dear sister, thank you for commenting. 🙂

        You wrote:

        I am arguing with myself on the rights and wrongs of splitting a family even with an abusive depressed ASD father.

        I encourage you to remind yourself that your husband’s attitudes and behaviour have been destructive to the family for years. Therefore, if you decide to leave, the guilt for ‘splitting the family’ can and should be sheeted home to him. That’s how God would see it. The world may not see it that way. Your husband will definitely not see it that way! But you can keep reminding yourself that you are not to blame and it is not your fault: your husband’s conduct has been in effect pushing you away for years.

        I think you might find these links helpful:

        For my children’s sake, it is better to leave?

        Domestic Abuse, Asperger’s and Autism — is there a connection?

        Story by a woman whose partner had Autism Spectrum Disorder

        What is abuse? How can I identify an abuser?

        What about divorce?

        Is my abuser’s mental illness causing him to be abusive?

      2. For those who are not from Australia…. 🙂 Copying (from an explanation Barb used on another post) a brief explanation of the “sheeted home” phrase Barb used in her comment:

        Sheeted home is an idiom that is commonly used in Australia and the UK.

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