Have you ever had anyone plot to kill you, try to drive you to suicide through bullying or plan your financial ruin? It’s hard not to take those things personally. It certainly feels personal.
The attack is maliciously planned, often executed over years or even decades. They observe you for your reactions so they can tweak the plan specifically to elicit the most pain.
Deceit lays the foundation for the plan. They lead you to believe that they have your best interests at heart. You might even believe that the malicious person actually loves you and you return that love with a passion. So in the end, the betrayal itself is a horrific revelation.
Most traumatizing of all is the knowledge that you did nothing to deserve the malicious attack. You are innocent of anything that could have created such loathing. This was not reciprocal violence, it was unexpected enmity. This inexplicable malice leaves you feeling unprotected. How can you protect yourself from what you don’t understand? Shame is the feeling of being exposed and powerless. You feel slimed.
In response to shame, you might feel like hiding yourself and cutting yourself off from humanity. Conversely, in bypassed shame, which is a denial of shame, you feel angry and violated. You may feel the need to lash out and enact revenge.
Your trust is damaged, your confidence eroded. Shame takes away your power but vengeance restores it, so you want revenge. Until you get revenge you can’t feel complete again because you haven’t been compensated for your loss. That was the psychopath’s plan.
The real target was always your soul. The psychopath projects his evil on to you. He transfers those feelings of shame, anger, powerlessness, vengeance and rage on to his victim. An encounter with evil is an encounter with shame and shame is contagious. The psychopath was trying to turn you into him. Like the mythical vampire, those he bites become vengeful like him.
It is this understanding that begins to open the door to freedom from evil: Evil seeks to contaminate.
I was discussing with someone whether psychopaths have shame. She asserted that it doesn’t matter what they feel it only matters how they behave because that is what affects us. Yes, evil is evil, but can our understanding of what motivates evil also change our reaction to it? Once you look behind the veil and understand that the motive for attacking is an attempt to regulate their own dysfunctional emotions, you realize it’s not really about you at all. It no longer feels so much like a narcissistic injury.
Compassion and Empathy Instead of Shame.
The psychopath wants you to feel what he feels. This new perspective changes everything. It opens the door to compassion, despite the grievous harm intended. Compassion is not about forgiveness toward the unrepentant psychopath, nor does it absolve responsibility for his behavior. Instead, compassion detaches us from an ego-centric perspective. Once we stop looking at ourselves and our injury, shame begins to dissolve. Your loss of trust left a hole. Understanding and compassion fills that hole.
It comes in stages. There are some days when we feel more compassionate than others. Some days, compassion itself is painful, because understanding why evil exists doesn’t make it any less repugnant. All it does is help us take it less personally. Then the rage and the anger dissipate. On bad days, when we are feeling less powerful and most affected by evil in the world, anger comes back. Compassion helps to put it back into perspective.
Jesus, dying on the cross, asked God to “forgive them for they know not what they do.” He understood that He was scapegoated not to appease a vengeful god, but to appease a shamed and vengeful community.
In Girardian Theory, Jesus died an innocent victim to unveil the scapegoat mechanism. Girard tells us that the scapegoat mechanism has to be hidden for it to work. That’s how evil always works, through lies and denial. It has to do it’s dirty work from the inside. It’s a sabotage.
When we open ourselves up to understanding how evil works and what motivates a malicious psychopath, we begin to take away the power of evil. That’s why I care what motivates them. I may not be able to change the psychopath, but through knowledge and the compassion that comes from knowledge, I can change how evil affects me. I can unveil the hidden mechanism and take away its power, the power of sabotage.