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Understanding Monsters

Updated: Sep 6, 2022

Would it surprise you to know that monsters are actually a part of human nature, including yours and mine?

A defining characteristic of a monster is its greater care power than for people, and using its powers to satisfy selfish interests for domination, superiority, greed, and pleasure. These are people (and yes, corporations) unconcerned with harming others as long as they can satisfy their cravings. The worst monsters are those who actually derive pleasure from the suffering of others. These are dangerous people who provoke our reactions of great fear and hate.

Monstrous people are either born or made. Born monsters are those who (for biological reasons) lack the humanizing influences of empathy or conscience. Clinicians most often diagnose these pathological personalities as malignant narcissists, sociopaths, and psychopaths. Made monsters are those who become warped as a consequence of unbearable suffering. Extreme experiences of horror, trauma, abuse, neglect, betrayal, abandonment, threat of death, shame, or humiliation can cause scarring changes to a person’s brain chemistry. Most people who suffer these fates don’t become monsters, but some react by becoming obsessed with power. They adopt an amplified mindset of the best defense is a good offense. These people would rather be scary than scared, threatening than threatened, abusive than abused, and kill than be killed.

We all have the potential for monsterhood. Our kernels of monstrosity may be small and unrecognized, but trauma can provoke one’s dormant monster to rise up from the depths of the psyche, just like Godzilla rose from the depths of the sea (in response to the radiation of a nuclear assault). This is pathological aggression born from toxic agony.

Different monsters are fueled by different types of power. It could be hostile jealousy (the “green eyed-monster”), hatred, vengeance, egotism, greed, or lust. We all possess these dark impulses in some measure, but in monsters they become predominant and go unrestrained by fear, guilt, shame, empathy, or conscience. Such people need to be avoided, escaped, imprisoned, sometimes even killed. Certain made monsters can be rehabilitated or even healed, but unfortunately there is little hope for changing a born monster.

How we cope with monsters in our midst is influenced by how we understand them. Demonizing these people is a failure of understanding that can lead to a holy war mindset that can actually add more fuel to the fires of conflict. A fuller understanding of monsters allows us to humanize and contend with them in more humane ways (the ability to do so understandably depending on how much harm a victim has suffered). Recognizing that monsters are sick and/or damaged people can protect us from becoming mired in feelings of hostility. Cancer is an even more dangerous and deadly pathology that we treat aggressively, but we don’t demonize it. We battle cancer, but without adding unnecessary hatred to the mix.

Monsterhood is a part of human nature that is tragic for both monsters and their victims. Sadly, they are fellow human beings whose severe pathologies are no fault of their own. Like any other catastrophic illness or injury, it’s a misfortune that could strike any of us. They still need to be managed forcefully but, as we do, we are better off humanizing them for the sake of preserving our own humanity.

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