Do you view your abuser(s) as evil or sick?

I know without a doubt that his dad was a sociopathic pedophile so there is a clear “cause”. So he was “set up” by his dad to fail.

I think it's important for us to also consider that we live in a society where, at least on the surface, we are able to make choices and thus, it is important that we give legally competent humans appropriate agency. This question is one that has been at the forefront of my healing for the last sixteen years - how responsible am I for my behavior (overall - am I actually legally competent now, and was I always legally competent then?) how responsible were my abusers for their behavior (my trafficker grew up surrounded by hard drugs and sexual violence, and gang violence) and if we are responsible: what does that mean, and what should happen as a result?

Much like your father, I was "set up" to fail. The appetitive aggression that frames my neurology was purposefully introduced to my psyche with the aid of mind-altering drugs like crack, PCP and marijuana from a very young age. I was expected to torture, sexually abuse, and even kill other people and if I failed to do so I would be violently punished, or others would be harmed even worse in front of me. I was trained the way a soldier is trained to break down the bonds between myself and other humans, and to "dehumanize" others, viewing them only as tools to make my abusers profit.

Yet, as much as we can put the blame on them, I continued to behave violently without their influence. I have tortured others and dehumanized others simply because that is the skillset I had to get my needs met.

I've found a semi-satisfactory answer within the realm of restorative justice. Restorative justice is important because it is not about retribution or revenge, but about the practical realities of coexistence. Restorative justice is what gives my victims the ability to confront me and put my actions into a healing context for themselves. That self-policing community of ex sex-offenders is a great example. They found something that works for them, that genuinely reduces recidivism, and keeps them relatively safe (from others and one another).

In many ways I conduct myself similarly by only socializing with other neurodivergent people. No matter what I have done, I have also demonstrated a capacity for remorse and growth, and as long as honor my special needs socially, I am generally a peaceful enough individual to coexist with others. With all of this being said, though, the onus should never be on a person's victim to rehabilitate them. That is something that should be left to the professionals that voluntarily choose to engage with abusive humans in as safe a manner as they can.
 
A monster who made choices of his own free will.
His decision to torture and kill were his and only his.
He wasn't under any duress or fear from someone else
He did it for entertainment
There are no fancy excuses or psychobabble for his behavior.
Was he insane? probably
Did something happen to him that caused it? maybe
Was he just born evil? Probably

Does any of that excuse his behavior and his choices?
Nope.
 
made choices of his own free will.
This is what makes someone evil, when they make the choices willfully. I don’t think anyone is born evil. I think evil is a label given to people who choose to behave in ways that are not acceptable by society.

In fact, the “legal insanity” defense is used to disprove that the person had free will.

Was he insane? probably
I think not. That takes away his agency.
it is important that we give legally competent humans appropriate agency. T
Yes. I wonder if for me the times when I want to call my dad mentally ill or conditioned to fail, are when small parts want to believe that inside of him was a human who wanted and tried to do right by his daughter but the forces against him were too strong.

But that’s a fantasy as much as the evil monster alien is a fantasy.

He is the person who made those decisions. He has no formal diagnosis but evidence of NPD. Most if not all pedophiles meet criteria for NPD. But I don’t think my dad is a pedophile because he only sexually abused me and probably my mom, as far as I know.

But I’m tripping myself up now.

I think I’m getting back I to the grey area which is good, I think. Not totally evil, not totally mentally ill, definitely selfish.

What you said Weemie is thought provoking. It kind of sounds like you forgive everyone. Because you see the beast inside you so you can’t “other” your abusers. If you give them agency that gives you agency as well, which is positive. And if you see how you were conditioned you can allow that they were as well. But you can leave them to the professionals.

things were not her fault. She was abusive to me and others
I think this is important and relevant to Weemie’s point of holding agency.
the performers of evil deeds are sick.
Then you agree with Nietzsche! 😄
 
What you said Weemie is thought provoking. It kind of sounds like you forgive everyone. Because you see the beast inside you so you can’t “other” your abusers. If you give them agency that gives you agency as well, which is positive. And if you see how you were conditioned you can allow that they were as well. But you can leave them to the professionals.

I suppose it depends on your definition of forgiveness. I can't absolve them of their actions any more than I can be absolved, but I can understand what drove them (and myself) to behave that way and I can elect not to judge them beyond identifying their actions as morally wrong. The more I understand what leads people to committing atrocities the easier it is to put my experiences into appropriate context.

People are often confused that I forgive my mom (who's neglect caused me to develop RAD) but I was not able to do so fully (to the extent that I no longer harbor negative emotions toward her) until she took accountability for her behavior and until I could see evidence that she had changed.

I've known kids who were forced to kill and rape their own parents and who had no home left to go to, who wound up on crack on the streets as refugees. It goes to show that I have a lot to be grateful for that I still have a positive relationship with my mom and that we can have honest discussions about the past. She had untreated post-partum psychosis for six or seven years and that influenced how she treated me. She hasn't been violent toward me since I was a little kid.

Whereas I have been violent even as an adult. So things are very rarely black-and-white. I think I would be able to participate in a restorative process with my abusers if they were able to demonstrate a commitment to peaceful conduct and reparation. I often wonder about their capacity to even exist in society alongside people without harming them, given that their idea of fun is torturing young children sexually. My acceptance of others is predicated on their ability to convey a net positive benefit to society.

Otherwise they should be imprisoned for the safety of others, regardless of my personal feelings toward them. For myself the best way I can exist in a restorative way is to use my own self-knowledge to help educate others on why people abuse and why people are violent. Often times this can help with a victim's peace process by learning to assign responsibility where it belongs: on the abuser. And it allows others to see what remorse actually looks like that is not manipulative.
 
definition of forgiveness.
Yeah this word is sticky, especially since it’s wrapped up in religious ideology and the dehumanizing quality of pathos. To forgive someone the forgiver becomes god-like, looking down on the offender with the beacon of mercy. It’s common these days for people to say, “I forgive for myself not for them, because I can’t hold onto that anger.” So the whole idea is a bit inhumane, in a way, because the goal is to reify the separation and hierarchy. And I’m not getting that from you.

It sounds like you are saying you’re human, they’re human, and humans behave in human ways—that compulsive violence and the will to power are all too human qualities which don’t surprise you. People who don’t behave like that have repressed those human qualities and are capable of having them. And you prefer to relate to people who have sublimated their human drives toward violent power and demonstrate a motivation to participate in social progress. However labeling someone as morally wrong is not useful from your perspective. Did I interpret your position correctly?

I like that way of thinking because it feels very “clean” but it also seems like it would take a ton of recovery and grief to get to that point. If the grief hasn’t happened then that position seems more like emotional numbing through logic. Which is the allure of philosophy sometimes!
 
It sounds like you are saying you’re human, they’re human, and humans behave in human ways—that compulsive violence and the will to power are all too human qualities which don’t surprise you. People who don’t behave like that have repressed those human qualities and are capable of having them. And you prefer to relate to people who have sublimated their human drives toward violent power and demonstrate a motivation to participate in social progress. However labeling someone as morally wrong is not useful from your perspective. Did I interpret your position correctly?

Mostly, yes. I do think there is some value to labeling actions as moral or immoral since that is the basis of conducting one's self reasonably - that is, what is morally correct should align to the path of least harm and most wellbeing. However, I do think that when we look at people who engage in immoral behavior, there is a reflex to completely dissociate them from ordinary humanity, which I think is not beneficial in the long-run. Many human beings behave immorally, and if our society is to progress, we need to learn to coexist with those people (either by encouraging them to behave morally, or by removing their capacity to harm others).

I spent a long time living in a world where morality was equivalent to strength, and those who were strongest, got to do whatever they wanted first. For me, there was benefit to unlearning this and attempting to rehabilitate because it improved my relationships with others and provided personal meaning to my life. There is, I believe, an innate need to separate ourselves from people who commit atrocities when evolutionarily speaking, the ability to hurt other people can be a tool of survival - and this is a tool of survival that is proliferated all throughout the animal kingdom, including the animals that we are descended from.

That is to say, you never know what you are capable of until you are placed in a situation where you may need to commit an action you would otherwise find morally unpalatable in order to survive. I am not a rapist by nature, but I have raped in order to survive and to ensure the survival of others. It is not comfortable to know that you are capable of rape, and murder, and torture, and theft. I find it difficult to have discussions with people who say they could never do X, Y and Z, because those discussions never feel honest to me. Having stripped back my "veneer of humanity," it has become important to my healing to recognize that I am human, and that I was human then, too.

My therapist likens my past behavior to that which is instinctive and animalistic - the absolute need to survive at all costs, and that this is what enabled me to dehumanize the people around me, to propel them forward through the situations we were enduring together, whether or not they would have otherwise chosen to do so (as opposed to letting themselves die, killing themselves, or attempting to physically overtake the situation). In this, I deprived them of agency - regardless of whether you view my actions as "legitimate" rape or "legitimate" torture, I did make that decision for them.

Untangling this in a civilized way, using logic and language, is exceedingly difficult. I didn't begin to truly feel the weight and grief of my experiences until I was 29 (I am now 31). I was hospitalized several times, and almost committed suicide once. Before that I had no emotional input at all, and actually did not feel that much of a sensation of remorse, either. I viewed it as a rational, though regrettable action. Nowadays I understand that it was only as rational as the situation, which was not rational at all.
 
Evil and sick aren't absolutes with some kind of mathematical definitiveness to me. They're descriptive, like nasty, horrible, gruesome and calculating.

If I describe my abuser as evil (which would be a rare moment of clarity, I think!), I'm really just describing him in a similar way to if I was saying he was nasty or horrible.

That's not the way that a philosopher like Nietzsche is using the word. It's doesn't have the clarity of the biblical evil of the devil, or fairy tales where the evil stepmother is evil in an absolute way, with no redeeming qualities.

As a separate matter, free will is about choices. We have the ability to choose. Just like we have the ability to learn. Neurologically, that's plasticity. That's a real thing I can sink my teeth into. The ability to make choices is dynamic (I'll take the soy latte, rather than the chai tea; I won't hurt that innocent child) and this is influenced by more things than our mental health or the chemistry of our brains at birth or our genetic makeup.

Where do my values come from? They sure as shit weren't inherited from my parents, and they've changed over time with my unique life experience. They're what tend to influence my decisions most, and they're all me. Uniquely me. Things I can use my frontal lobe to think about in a reasoned way which distinguishes me from lifeforms like plants. Values, and the consequent choices I make- I'm responsible for those.

Our choices are impacted by a lot of things, and mental health is one of them. Whether a person is morally culpable, or punishable, because of diminished capacity, isn't nearly as simple as most people think. It's not the case that Mental Illness = Diminished Capacity. Being a psychopath doesn't give anyone a free pass - just like ptsd doesn't.

If someone is in the throws of a psychotic episode and burns their house down, there's culpability issues there to consider, sure. But confusing psychology and legal concepts and philosophical concepts and applying these concepts to our abuser as though they have nice clean, mathematically precise lines? That isn't reality. I don't doubt for a second that my abuser was a great dad to his kids - that's a good quality I can recognise in a person that I might still consider a "sick, evil bastard".

Because he was to me. But then, his dynamic with me doesn't exist in the kind of theoretical vacuum that philosophers have the luxury of conjuring.

That leaves it messy. But that's okay, that's what life tends to be like.
 
FWIW, I know nothing, but agree most with @Sideways above. I prefer to think of it as "F'cked up", and leave the judgement and explanation to those who know what I don't. Kind of creeps me out when I think deeply on it, tbh.

It is my understanding, or perhaps rather I feel, that great good or the opposite (whether it's called evil or not) is capable for every one of us. I can say I have surprised myself a couple of times at what I've considered I would have thought "I didn't have in me'. But there is context, environment, you name it. But I think one can find both choices, or capacties, in everyone.

If most of us can recognize what a loving thought or action feels like, perhaps a definition of evil might include entire disregard for others, the lack of conscience or actual enjoyment of causing destruction, pain, discord, division +/or death. Something destroying versus caring. But when I look at what I am indifferent to (or who, who is suffering), or examine what my lifestyle may cause others in suffering, I am still a link in a chain, once I am aware. Sometimes the worst evil is thinking a person isn't, when any one can choose it. Nonetheless being on the receiving end of evil actions whether personal or en mass still destroys.

I think with some exceptions most or at least many people do have an ability to choose something, or to 'not choose'. Unless they also have lost touch with reality (distorted choices).

I hope however you choose to define it, is the least uncomfortable and most healing for you @OliveJewel .
 
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Mostly, yes. I do think there is some value to labeling actions as moral or immoral since that is the basis of conducting one's self reasonably - that is, what is morally correct should align to the path of least harm and most wellbeing. However, I do think that when we look at people who engage in immoral behavior, there is a reflex to completely dissociate them from ordinary humanity, which I think is not beneficial in the long-run. Many human beings behave immorally, and if our society is to progress, we need to learn to coexist with those people (either by encouraging them to behave morally, or by removing their capacity to harm others).
I like this perspective and agree. It sounds very humanistic and reasonable, even if difficult, particularly when one is wounded.
There is, I believe, an innate need to separate ourselves from people who commit atrocities when evolutionarily speaking, the ability to hurt other people can be a tool of survival - and this is a tool of survival
Yes, an ancient tool. I think there is an ancient survival mechanism of separating people who commit atrocities from the social group. I think in very old days even someone who accidentally killed someone would have been socially ejected for survival reasons and a narrative developed as to why they had done that. Today we allow for accidental harm without ejecting someone socially.
therapist likens my past behavior to that which is instinctive and animalistic - the absolute need to survive
Is this a helpful perspective for you now? I’m thinking that in this thread our discussion is leading toward the idea that some of the worst human behaviors are not separate from the human experience—however that is probably not digestible for a person in recovery until they get to a certain point of stability, support, and integration, because there is a need, a drive, to first separate from the abuse life.
Untangling this in a civilized way, using logic and language, is exceedingly difficult.
Yes!!
If I describe my abuser as evil (which would be a rare moment of clarity, I think!), I'm really just describing him in a similar way to if I was saying he was nasty or horrible.

That's not the way that a philosopher like Nietzsche is using the word. It's doesn't have the clarity of the biblical evil
Good point. Like saying someone is crazy or sick might not be meant in a clinical sense, but can still be helpful for separating from them.
We have the ability to choose. Just like we have the ability to learn. Neurologically, that's plasticity. That's a real thing I can sink my teeth into. The ability to make choices is dynamic
This makes sense to me. I think understanding agency is a tricky concept in recovery which often requires multiple passes and go-rounds.
Where do my values come from? They sure as shit weren't inherited from my parents, and they've changed over time with my unique life experience.
I very much like this perspective, it gets at the idea of the individual, which is connected to agency, and also, I think, developing self confidence and self trust.
It's not the case that Mental Illness = Diminished Capacity. Being a psychopath doesn't give anyone a free pass
I agree. There is a YouTube channel called SBSK where the creator interviews people with various diagnoses and disability categories. He interviewed a young man diagnosed with psychopathy and the man talked about how difficult it was for him to interact socially but he was willing to put in the work because the consequences of not doing so carried the potential for devastating his own life.
nice clean, mathematically precise lines? That isn't reality.
Yes. Getting comfortable with the grey. I think that’s such a big part of recovery and of facing distortions and black and white core beliefs.

Sometimes the worst evil is thinking a person isn't, when any one can choose it.
Well said. I agree that some of the worst people hide under a halo and have a whole choir of supporters.
Nietzsche makes it sound like all sick people are destined to commit evil deeds and repeat his/herstory.
I didn’t know that! I’m just starting to learn about him. He wrote a book called “Beyond Good and Evil” and my impression is that he would not use the term evil to describe someone’s deeds. I do think he was a fan of destiny though. But I think he talked about accepting one’s life and not feeling regret because you wouldn’t be who you are without everything that happened, so kind of like radical acceptance. And being aware of the various drives that are present in all humans, he called them wills I think, so that you can choose how to engage with them in the moment. I think he talked about repressing the wills in order to be in society. These are my naive impressions. I am open to anyone’s learning on his perspective—I am aware that he is interpreted in a wide manner, maybe because of the way he wrote, through metaphors, myth, aphorisms, etc, like a story-teller of history and languages, is what I noticed based on my limited exposure.
 
Oh I'm sorry @OliveJewel I wasn't clear, though that is often trueI I meant the moment I forget to look inside myself, +/or to recognize I might, or could, or would perhaps do the same thing is when I might be in trouble.

I think sometimes it's a good thing if you can't understand why someone, in this case your father, did what they did.

I think too it can be tempting to try to control too much, but starting small at letting go of some things and choosing others helps. And you can always update your perspective.

It really kind of boggles the mind how complex the brain and heart are.
 
Do you view your primary abuser(s) as evil, mentally ill, both, or something else?

I was listening to a philosophy podcast today about Nietzsche’s view on free will. He basically didn’t think it existed, took a more deterministic approach, but said that it was a useful concept for describing our experience of reality.

Without free will, he didn’t believe that criminals were evil, they were just a product of a series of unfortunate events and their actions were an outcome of that, similar to some of the more liberal views on criminals—that people are a product of their environment and don’t have as much agency as conservatives say we have.

Nietzsche’s view on punishment was that the purpose wasn’t for something that someone did in the past but rather to prevent things that might happen in the future.

When I was first processing my abuse (which was repressed in my mind for four decades) I could only see my primary abuser as evil. This was the only helpful view. Then later as I progressed in my recovery I had fantasies of retribution, of justice, murdering him to remove him from the Earth. But of course I realized that I couldn’t remove him from my mind.

I’m still no contact. People on here helped me realize that it wasn’t the individual acts that he did but the overall person. Overall he was someone that I don’t want in my life.

I don’t want evil people on my life. But I also don’t want mentally ill people in my life if I don’t have to. But do I have more tolerance for mentally ill people than for evil people?

The ideas of evil and free will mean that a person has a choice. This is the crux. This is what people on here and in real life have said to me. They say things like, “He was an adult. Adults don’t do that to children. Would you do that to a child? He made the choice.”

This makes it hard for people who were abused as children by other children. Or people who were abused by people with diagnosed mental illnesses. Once I heard a story about a woman who was sexually assaulted by an orangutan. It happened at a rescue facility. She did not have any PTSD because humans don’t view animals as being capable of free will. She didn’t think she was targeted. In the old days animals and even objects could be put on trial (for example there are cases in which a cart was put on trial as a witch for turning over and killing someone, and a circus elephant was hanged in the early 20th century for stampeding.).

Part of me doesn’t accept that criminals have no free will or that abusers have no free will. It hurts parts of me who need that idea to feel okay. Because I don’t want to talk to my dad ever again. If he were simply mentally ill would he deserve to be ostracized for the rest of his life? He only deserves that if he had free will and made a choice?

However, could I view him as mentally ill and still maintain no contact with him? As a way to protect myself? There are lots of mentally ill people in my city and in my neighborhood. I don’t talk to them, I avoid them. I’m not a social worker, I’m not trained in behavioral health. I see those mentally ill people as people I need to be careful around and protect myself from being hurt by. I have been Threatened by mentally ill people. It might not be directed at me personally but it would still hurt and it still frightens me.

I am rambling as I explore this concept. My conclusion for me is that maybe my primary abuser can be viewed as mentally ill and I still maintain no contact with him. Does it help my emotional health to view him as ill? Maybe.
My Dads behavior made no sense to me. I still can’t get inside his head. I look at his education (and my mothers too), his parents, background, etc. There are so many unanswered questions.

Re: Philosophers, you might like Michel Foucault.

My Dads behavior made no sense to me. I still can’t get inside his head. I look at his education (and my mothers too), his parents, background, etc. There are so many unanswered questions.

Re: Philosophers, you might like Michel Foucault.
Mental illness is just a label, albeit a spectrum, of behaviors. I think the issue is power. Some people are marginalized because they are labeled as mentally ill. It makes it that much more difficult for the person to become empowered and to get healthy.

Mental illness is just a label, albeit a spectrum, of behaviors. I think the issue is power. Some people are marginalized because they are labeled as mentally ill. It makes it that much more difficult for the person to become empowered and to get healthy.
Labeling an abuser as NPD doesn’t change anything, I.e., their behavior. They’ll never get treatment or go into therapy. Why should they, they’re OK with the status quo. There’s no incentive for them to change.
 
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