Being “evil”…

A couple of months ago, I agreed with Allison that it was time to focus on my disordered eating… Little did I realise, that by agreeing to talk about my eating, it would open the floodgates to my past. Almost as if the agreement was an acknowledgement, or the permission needed, to really start addressing what happened to me…

I’m still trying to comprehend what I’m learning… and it’s not that what I’m sharing in session is necessarily new information, but it’s from a different perspective… I’m not sure how to describe it, other than that there is an emotional connection to those events… That seems like a simple line to read/write… but it’s not… I’ve been left at the end of sessions reeling from the emotional impact of what I’ve just realised…

Some of the realisations are heartbreaking… like discovering that part of the reason I doubt my abuse, is because the different abuse survivor biographies that I have read in an attempt to understand what I experienced, described certain abusive events in a similar way… but, that wasn’t how I experienced them… The literature talked about “fearing death” during the event and provided enough detail that there is horror for the reader; but, it didn’t capture my experience… I wished for death… my body shook, no matter how well I managed to stop the tears, I couldn’t stop my body shaking… There was such confusion over the disconnect between what I read and what I experienced, that I took it as a sign that what I experienced didn’t really happen. I realise that if anyone attempted to publish a book with the details of an abusive event from a visceral perspective, that it wouldn’t be published… no one would be able to read it… the trauma involved in the act of reading the details would be too much…

One of the realisations that I’m really struggling to make sense of, is what it means for me to be evil. I was told from a young age that I was evil for making my abusers do these things to me… so young, that the word became part of my identity… I saw myself as being evil in the same way that I had blonde hair… But, whereas I could see and understand what having blonde hair meant, I couldn’t understand what it meant to be evil, other than it was really bad…

Throughout my childhood, I became more familiar with what being evil meant… Adolf Hitler, Attila the Hun, Genghis Khan, Pol Pot… were all examples that I learned about at school. I’m still struggling to comprehend what that meant to my young mind, but I seemed to link the idea of being evil to the ability to “make” other people do bad things… This makes sense, from the perspective that I was “making” the abusers do things, seemingly against their will… I know it doesn’t cover so many other areas of logic, but I was young and trying to make sense of the world around me…

When the rather warped religious messages that I was taught about evil are added to the mix, a huge source of confusion is created… I now wonder if this is part of the reason that I slowly withdrew from people over time… Why I can’t touch anything that is clean, new, or “perfect”… Why I need to have a clean house… I know it’s not a simple cause/effect relationship, and that there is a myriad of factors which influence my actions; but, are these attempts to combat the dirty evilness that is considered to be within me?

In many ways, I see how I’ve attempted to reject the evil label from my identity, and that I don’t really see it as “fitting” with my identity as a whole… But, the label has been a part of me for so long, that it feels like it will be there forever… A part of me strongly identifies with the concept of being evil, and wears the label like a badge of honour…

This conflict seems to be driving so many of my actions and reactions within the context of my disordered eating… the need to rid my body of the evil… the problem is, I’m trying to rid my body of something that is considered to be part of my identity…

Now playing: Taylor Swift feat. The Civil Wars – Safe & Sound


14 thoughts on “Being “evil”…

  1. Am sorry that I’m so stuck for words just now. Want to let you know though that I can relate so much to what you’ve written in this post.
    Think it’s incredibly brave of you to be acknowledging the damage the “evil”label has done to you. Hope, one day you will be able to rid yourself of it.

    • Hi brokenbutbeingrepaired,

      I *really* like the meaning behind your name… “being repaired” 🙂

      Thank you for your comment and support, as I was really worried how this post would read to others… the concept of me being evil is surrounded by so much shame… I’m really sorry that you relate to the post, as it means you’re also suffering in similar ways, and I don’t wish that on anyone…

      Please keep working on your repairs…
      Take care,

      • For some reason I only just saw your reply to my comment, so sorry for it having taken me so long to get back to you.
        You`re right, “evil” as just a word holds a huge amount of shame…..before tackling the personal histories that go with it, which is the massive challenge that appears you`re taking on.

        Take care..sending hugs your way if they`re wanted. ❤

        • Hi,

          Please don’t feel as if there is a requirement to respond… but, I’m really glad you did 🙂

          There is so much shame regarding the word “evil” in the context that is described here… it comes with so many connotations and meanings, yet is placed on such a young child… so wrong… I can see that as the slightly detached adult… But still, living it, being told it, is such a different story… you feel the weight of the word… you believe it with every part of your being…

          One step at a time…

          Take care and with safe hugs, if wanted…

  2. CG,

    I’m so happy to see you writing again! Your work is always amazing, and includes positive and transcendent pieces like the very hopeful “Perfection” (March 2, 2013), to go along with many which express tremendous pain, as does this post. You communicate in an astounding, eloquent and touching way as a writer, as many of your readers will attest … and so many have benefitted from it and have repeatedly attested to that, as well! I want to apologize in advance for the length of my comment … I hope you and your readers will forgive me. I’m sure I’m known now as the quirky friend and therapist who just seems to keep writing …

    Firstly, I’m so sorry about the pain … where the newer work seems to be irreversibly leading you. I’m so deeply sorry … by now, I know that the progressive emotional connection to events of your life is going to hurt … lots. However, I’m 100% convinced that you will need to do that to further your own healing, and I so hope to be around to celebrate the results of that! But, while I’m completely behind the healing, and want that for you, I’m again so very sorry about that hurting. 😦

    I want to comment about a few of your realizations, and I hope that’s ok. Firstly, I have heard before about your searching through the experiences of others, at times through published literature, for comparison or validation of your own experiences. I do get and really appreciate the understanding you’ve come to about survivor biographies, that they at times didn’t capture your experience … not because your experience wasn’t valid or didn’t happen (which was a painful and untrue earlier take from the readings), but because it might not be possible to include all of the experience in such a published piece. I think that is true, but I would like to pose another possibility, one that simply links to the severity of your felt experience. You never seemed to ask whether the truth was that you were SO overwhelmed, in SUCH deep pain and experiencing something SO intolerable which was at the same time impossible to escape from, that your only imagined escape was, in fact, to die? To finally, *this* time, be relieved of your misery in the only way that seemed possible, to be killed by your abuser? CG … this makes great sense to me … and it only makes me more enraged at your abusers and any others who stood by. The few times I’ve heard on this topic from you, I thought to myself, this is not an invalidation, but rather, an *indictment* of the horror of the repetitive and intolerable experience to which you were subjected. To wish to be finally killed off is a sentiment perversely and tragically unnatural, in someone so young.

    As for the topic of your post, “Being evil” … I am so heartened that you are finally working to counter and question this. My response here arguably will be comprised simply of a rant, a caring one on your behalf. I know you’ve heard this all before … the thing is, you thought it never applied to you.

    You started out as a little girl. No little girl or boy is “evil”, “too dirty”, a “slut”, or a “whore”; nearly none of us can do the exercise of observing a very young child and apply those labels to that child. I know that you cannot, either. However, you were systematically taught that about yourself. As you said, you were so very young. And the conditioning, what you were told in conjunction with the abuse, was sufficiently repeated to reinforce that self concept. The literature and our clinical knowledge tells us that it is all too common for sexual abusers to force abuse upon children, and then to tell the child they caused it, are now or were “filthy” and “evil” and now have to keep it a secret, when in fact, they had no choice about it. They were tricked, coerced, overwhelmed, brow-beated, overpowered, forced, and even threatened with violence or death to themselves or their loved ones, where deemed “necessary”. Abusers build reasons for the child to keep the abuse within them; the shame and “bad” can make it highly unlikely or impossible to tell, and the threat levels of various consequences are too high, according to the thinking produced. The grooming, coercion and threats by abusers are insidious. And this leaves a tragic legacy of sometimes seemingly hopeless, deep damage to the self concept of the child. This legacy so often produces a follow-on of years and years of darkness, self-injury, repetition of traumas, dysphoria, hopelessness, etc.

    There is also a legacy of never having the power of consent for things. You were never given or offered that power in your life, which stands squarely against the assertion that you were “evil”. How could you have “caused” abusers to do evil things to you, when you had no ability to consent, were an innocent child with the measure of purity, innocence and joy that comes with that, were taught to be obedient because that’s what children “have to do”, had a natural, inherent drive against being hurt, and no power in the encounter with older, stronger and adult abusers? CG, I can imagine some parts of you arguing that “consent” was not necessary … that it was an inherent filthiness and evil which “caused” it. With all due respect to those parts, that is not true. It is the responsibility of that person in power not to take advantage and harm the more vulnerable. ALWAYS. You were found and taken away by very, very, very bad people. The evil was completely upon and in them themselves, not upon or within a young girl who was tricked, coerced and taken advantage of. As time went, such people learned to find you, because you had been so well prepared to receive the evil of what abusers wish to do to others. Those people probe for the lack of ability to consent in others, and they run with it.

    Finally, the “Evil as a part of your identity” question is so very interesting, and so very frightening, as it is a terrible, terrible weight you were made to carry, and at such a young age. As for what to do with that, I very much hope you will go gently as you move forward. You’ve pointed out that you’ve possibly been after a solution of sorts within disordered eating patterns, and these are undoubtedly not healthy for you from multiple vantage points. I think we know that getting rid of the “evil” and ridding yourself of that “identity” in that way can entail irreversible damage and death, if and where it entails destruction of the body. I wonder if it may sometimes *seem* true that the evil identity is so very much embodied in some of your parts, that as long as they are with you, you will not escape that identity? We know that being “rid of” parts is not the answer: asking them to “leave” is something you were once upon a time “asked” to do by an irresponsible therapist who didn’t understand the self annihilating qualities of such a request . Perhaps it is not so much a process of losing parts, as it is one of helping parts struggle to understand notions including those I’ve tried to sketchily outline above, such as they’re not evil but the abusers were? I can definitely understand how looking at losing something that defined us would shake things up hugely, would be entertaining losing part of an identity. But given my thesis that “being” evil was illusory, it is my great hope that you can change your relationship with the concept, and with the concept as or within an “identity”. I of course don’t know how the process will proceed for you … it’s most fitting course is to be discovered within you. However, if I visualize a scenario in which you have the additional liberty of consent and personal responsibility of choice and decision, I imagine you would really shine in how you integrate these aspects of your past experience and these concepts, within a current identity and life flow built of your own choosing and initiative, and supported by the people you choose.

    Best to you, my friend … and thank you again for posting, for all of us. 🙂

    • Hi Michael,

      Thank you…

      In many ways I’m lost for words beyond that gratitude… In other ways, there’s a huge debate and need to refute what you’ve said… It all becomes very confusing, as it’s questioning what is considered part of me… I’ve always been “evil”… it is what I am, and what I will always be… But yet, there are so many things that I do which show that I’m not evil… I’m not sure, but it’s like I need to hold onto that label, or else there seems no reason for what happened to me, and doesn’t there have to be a reason?

      Again, thank you…
      Take care,

      • Hi CG,

        I mostly want to just say you’re welcome … of course. You’re gratitude when someone cares is really very tangible, and I think that’s yet another one of those things that shows you’re not truly evil. But I understand about the huge debate and the need to refute what I said. The main topic of your post, evil as an identity, makes that questioning nearly a “given”. I think that, as RL perhaps in ways suggested, it may be worthwhile to find ways to integrate that powerfully held belief, to hold it in continuing discussion about its meaning or how it fits in your life going forward. Or perhaps finding ways to welcome to the table the voices within that believe in the identity and wear it as a badge of honour, so that more cooperation, collaboration, respect, acceptance and support might prevail. These experiences and beliefs are now yours, and the choice is yours and yours alone, what to do with them and how to carry them.

        Additionally however, I think a big question posed in your reply is, “If I wasn’t and am not evil, does that mean there was no reason for what happened to me?” Of course, my immediate thought is, “of course there was a reason: you were taken and abused when you were young and held less power, by warped and cowardly individuals who were themselves a version of evil!” These are the people whom those who are close to you and love you really wish they could have stopped, or have fantasies about hurting. So the follow-on question is, why is the evil of the perpetrator not considered as the reason? Why does the reason have to rest with you? If it *must* rest with you, then I would argue that Innocence and Vulnerability as chief identity qualities in yourself as a child (qualities which all children hold) are the much more likely culprits, as abusers of children often seek to possess and violate that innocence and vulnerability. But alas, I’ve talked myself in a circle, because those qualities are *far* from “causal”! No … all children have these, need these, and not all children are abused (although sickening numbers are). The onus is upon the one(s) truly in power, the older, stronger, or adult, to choose to hurt/violate or not … to make a choice to take a vulnerable child and subject them to abuse and potentially a lifetime of confusion and pain. *That*, my friend(s) … is evil.

        Please take care, my friend. I love that you are writing again.

        • Hi Michael,

          It was interesting to read your comments about the potential purpose or reasoning behind part of me identifying with “evil” as an identity… concepts such as it being a form of protection came to mind… Something that I will explore further…

          As a detached adult, I see the wisdom and understand what you are saying about the evil of the abusers… and, I couldn’t agree more… But, as a lived experience, it’s a different thing… The blame and shame is incredible… Something that I have been slowly exploring over time, and trying to unravel…

          Again, thank you…
          Take care,

  3. CG,

    What Michael said. *nods in agreement*

    I hurt for you and I hurt with you. I’m so sorry for what happened to you.

    I won’t suggest you deny or reject the “evil” identity pushed on you. It’s been with you a lifetime. It’s yours to understand however you want. But, perhaps you can redefine “evil.” I’m envisioning this “evil” as a boulder crushing you. But, what if we lift you up from beneath this “evil” boulder, so you can stand on it. You can own it. You can define it however you want.

    I’m thinking of the word “good.” What does “good” mean? If I said I ate a “good” dinner, what does that mean? Was it healthy? Was it tasty? It may have been healthy, but not tasty or vice versa. Either way it was a “good” dinner. What if I tell you that my teacher was a “good” teacher? Do I mean she never gave homework and allowed open-book tests? Or, do I mean she demanded a lot from her students and was always available for questions? Depending on what sort of student I am, either scenario could mean “good.”

    Right now, your abusers are defining “evil” for you. They hurt you and said it was your fault because you were “evil.” That would lead any child to think “evil” was something bad! And, later you learned about nasty people like Hitler and understood these people to be “evil.” But, what if “evil” is just a potential. Is a bee “evil?” Bees do the hole pollinating thing and everyone in the world thinks bees are wonderful -except for a person deathly allergic to bees. To that person, bees are “evil.” Is a machete “evil?” People living in rain forests use machetes to clear overgrown brush and to cut crops like sugar cane. Other people choose to use it as a weapon to hurt people.

    Like bees and machetes, little children have to potential to be used for evil or to be allowed to be the wonderful little being they were born to be… to be loved and protected and allowed to blossom.

    This probably sounds like a whole bunch of nonsense. But, I’m hoping some small bit of it will help you shift your perspective regarding that “evil” label those pathetic abusers left you with. Because I don’t see you as a “bad” sort of “evil” at all. I see you as a wonderful and kind friend. There’s nothing bad “evil” about that!

    One other little play on words I’ll mention. Up in one of the northern states in the U.S. (I can’t remember if it’s Massachusetts or Rhode Island) people go around saying using the word “wicked” all the time. Now, where I’m from, “wicked” means that something is bad or negative. But, these folks have turned the word into meaning good, amazing, awesome. “Wow, that’s so wicked!” means “Wow, that’s so awesome!” (I know… they’re a bit odd up in the northeast! lol)

    To me, you are pollinating-flower-blossoming-bee, rainforest-clearing-sugar-cane-cutting machete, totally wicked awesome! If your abusers saw you as allergy-inducing-bee, weapon-machete, bad-sort-of wicked, well that their own warped problem!

    I’m sorry. I think I’m starting to cease making any sense at all. But I care about you bunches!

    Take care,

  4. It’s nice to be reading your writing again. Hang in there. Just because you experienced it differently than other people decribe, does not negate that it happened. I think most of us survivors doubt what we remember. Memory is such a very tricky thing, particularly around traumatic events, in which the brain is creative enough to employ defense mechanisms, and most especially because we were shamed, hurt, blamed, and ultimately called liars if we dared speak out about the things we endured. Then there’s denial as we get older and more distant… we convince ourselves that it seems so far fetched, or because it feels like we watched it happen to someone else (not trying to be cute there) it really didn’t happen to us at all.

    • Hi Cerridwyn,

      Thank you… it felt necessary to write this, and I’m glad I had the outlet to do it…

      I agree… doubt and denial are such huge issues, and so difficult to work through. It’s so easy to second guess everything, and in some contexts questioning can be helpful… But, in others, those questions can be hurtful and destructive…

      I really identify with your last sentence about it seeming like it happened to someone else… It adds another layer of confusion and feeds the doubts…

      Thank you for your support and understanding… I really appreciate it.

      Please take care,

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