Evil is Complicated

candles

The other day, during my presentation to an audience of medical professionals, one of the doctors asked a good question. “Many of these victims eventually become abusers, so what do we do when they start abusing others? How do we treat them when they are no longer a victim but a perpetrator?” I didn’t have an answer for his question. It is true that many victims of childhood violence will turn that trauma on others if they don’t get help. It is easy to focus on our victimhood. We have been wronged horribly and we deserve to be heard. As a matter of a fact, I believe most people spend a lot of their time focused on how they have been wronged. But there is another side to us. There is the angry, raging person who is fed up with this world. There is a criminal.

As Maleficent stated in the recent movie, there is evil in this world. But it isn’t what we think. It isn’t who we think. It isn’t just the lurking pedophile in the bushes or the father that rapes his daughter every night. The evil in this world resides in all of us. This is why it is so easy to judge others who we consider evil. We judge it because we recognize it. We judge it because we know it. It isn’t that we don’t understand the evil. We don’t understand how that other evil person wasn’t able to hide their evil from the world in the way that we do. They were too weak. They were too careless. They made mistakes and didn’t contain their evil. We are better than them because our evil is hidden from the world. We keep it locked deep inside ourselves. If it does come out, it only comes out when there are no witnesses.

But that’s the problem. Our evil lives in the darkness. And it thrives in darkness. If we do not shine a light on our evil, it will live forever. It is in evil’s embrace and acceptance that it crumbles. It is in the light that our evil stops running our lives.

My evil runs deep because my betrayal has run deep. With each betrayal, a piece of my heart was taken, banished to some distant place where it could wait to be found. The problem was it could not be found with love alone. I had to embrace my evil, the part of me that wants revenge, the part of me who would be willing to fight my betrayers to the death, in order to find the love that was lost so long ago. And it is not easy to face. It is not easy to face that inner murderer, that inner revenge-plotter, that inner part that doesn’t care about right or wrong or the feelings of others.

But as I face the evil in the world, the evil that resides in me, small parts of my heart, seemingly lost forever, begin to find their way home. As I admit that I am capable of the worst, I find the parts of me that are capable of the best. It is as though I am piecing together a puzzle, but in this case, the puzzle is me.
So the evil in me becomes part of a much greater whole, no longer an uncontrollable darkness below the mask used for everyday life. It is accepted as a part of who I am, which means it no longer needs to take over, to act out to prove its worth, its existence.

The shame dies when we stop hiding all the parts we can’t face.

So, I embrace the evil that resides in me. I embrace this part of me that stems from the years of torturous betrayal to a child that deserved none of it. I allow that part of me to exist without shame, without ridicule, without feeling unworthy of being human, because in reality, it is what makes me human. And I won’t deny that I am human.

As my heart rebuilds and my shame lessens, my self-acceptance grows for all parts of me. The evil inside me can rest because it is no longer suppressed. And I can rest because I am no longer hiding anything.
And the generational cycles of trauma, which feed off of denial and shame, can start to unravel.

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16 thoughts on “Evil is Complicated

  1. This is so profoundly insightful and true. To embrace our darkness is one of the most difficult things to do, but it is so essential for freeing ourself from it. Thanks for sharing.

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  2. People commit evil acts because they adopt an attitude of entitlement–they feel they have the right to harm others–which can happen for many reasons. Or they harm others because they lose the capacity to care. There is no cognitive or emotional capacity left to consider others. The person’s own needs are too consuming. Or they lose the ability to control their impulses. I think we need to leave behind the idea that we help victims because they are good and punish perpetrators because they are bad and begin to embrace the idea that we help people because they need help. Perpetrators need to learn self-control or to regulate emotions so that there is space to consider others, or they need to help in confronting their own pain so that they can begin to see the pain of others without simply turning away from the pain that threatens to activate their own. They need practice and encouragement in seeing other viewpoints. They need help managing the world-crashing-in of understanding they are not superior to others and don’t have more rights. We need to help both victims and perpetrators. When we don’t help victims, they continue to suffer. When we don’t help perpetrators, they cause more suffering to others. We need to be less moralistic and both more pragmatic and more compassionate.

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  3. Thank you for this post. I also love the comment about helping others because they need help. People don’t attack when they are feeling right with themselves and world around them. Wounded and tormented people perpetrate crimes against others. Their crimes are a maladaptive call for help or love.

    I’ve done a lot of shadow work with myself where I was confronted with evil. As I embraced my shadow self, my spiritual & creative doors opened up and my healing really picked up speed. I found there was more gold than anything else in the dark recesses of my mind. The darkness was with me from my childhood trauma. It needed to be acknowledged, accepted and released – not judged and pushed back down. As a result of embracing whatever I’ve found within me and processing it, I have peace today and I’m so grateful for that.

    I agree with Elizabeth and recommend facing the darkness within as part of the journey of healing our hearts.

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  4. My healing too really sped up when I was able to sit with and be with my anger parts.

    Yet I really disagree with that doctors words that many victims become abusers. I take offense to the idea that I would be an abuser because I was abused. Yet it is, I think, a common idea in society, that the abused are more likely to abuse.

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    • For me, I believe that abusers were likely abused, but not that the abused will likely become abusers. I think that we all hold these evil parts within ourselves even though we would clearly never act on them. And when we recognize, even accept that, we can heal and integrate those parts. Just my thoughts.

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  5. First , as always your piece strikes a chord in me. I have never commented before so please bear with me. For me, this is just me and my feelings, I have a hard time saying that I have the same thing in me that my abusers have in them. I use the word ” evil” very sparingly so that it has the proper weight, tone and attention grabbing that it should. I am also a survivor of family controlled child sex trafficking. I was stolen from my biological mother and ” placed for adoption” when I was not yet crawling. My abuse started the very first day they got me.i was nine months old. I get all of what all of you are saying. I am working on my anger and my dark side. I would love to hurt my abusers sometimes. Most times, these days, though I realize that I would never be able to inflict on them a portion of what they did to me. Mostly because that took 25 years and honestly I don ‘t want to spend five more minutes in their presence. I feel- and here is my point, that just because we ,as survivors who want to and can imagine what we would do to our abusers to get back at them- that does NOT make us evil. If anything I think that what that makes us is human. I do have the capability to hurt others and I fully acknowledge that, but my abusers -and I venture to guess most of your( readers/ survivors) abusers -take our naturally dark parts to a different plane of existence. As twisted and sick as I know I could get if I decided to go there, i don’t come close to their level of insanity. I just had an aha! Maybe this is what I am struggling to say. Here it is… I think that the difference between me and those who all consider evil is that they act out and perpetrate that evil and I do not. For me that is the difference between humans who naturally have a dark side but would never actually hurt a child, for example and those who are abusers. I think that we all have the potential of being evil but we are not actually evil because we have some level of self control, whatever it may be, that stops us from unleashing that beast. So, how about letting ourselves off the hook. Enough said. I hope I have not offended or stepped on anyone’s toes. Be well, all you fellow survivors!

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    • Thank you for commenting. You are exactly right. The difference is in our behavior. We may hold the anger and the rage, but we choose not to act it out. And that makes us different. My point in that we must acknowledge that side of us for the healing to happen.

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