Sent: Wednesday, October 20, 1999
Subject: I disagree with you...
Hi There Doc,
It's been awhile but I'm the guy who had an E Mail which you titled "Abused Judge" last summer. I looked
over your response to me the other day and I found an interesting
question. I referred to my abusive spouse as a "bad person". In
your response you stated that abusers aren't "bad people".
I really hate to judge others, (no
pun intended), but I am slowly finding myself disagreeing with that
opinion. Now from a purely clinical point of view, I'm sure a psychiatrist
can justify and explain even the most abhorrent behavior without passing judgment.
And I'm not trying to insinuate that the truly sad and unfortunate
childhood of most of these people doesn't merit at least some level of understanding
if not outright pity. But in my line of work I come face to face with just
this moral question on a regular basis. What I have come to believe is
that the actions of abusive and criminal persons actually answer the
questions that you seem loathe to answer. Namely, can people who
perpetrate horrible actions be considered "bad people". After 12
years with an abusive wife and numerous years in the criminal justice
system I feel quite qualified to engage in this debate. In order to
explore this question we must decide whether there is such a creature as a
"bad person". My belief is that the basic foundation of a
civilized society is the respect for person and property. Therefore, any
person who consistently, intentionally, and recklessly violates these
principles with malice and aforethought, I consider a "bad
person". OK. Now at least we have a working
The first question is about responsibility. Are we all responsible for our
actions and more importantly THE RESULTS AND CONSEQUENCES OF OUR ACTIONS!!
I say yes. Me too! I believe that as humans,
we can choose our actions but we cannot choose the consequences of our
actions. When we CHOOSE!! to abuse others, that means we intentionally
inflict pain. In abusive situations the results are always intense mental
anguish and hurt for the victim and often their families and children.
It's also frequently intense pain and anguish for the very children of the
abuser. If we accept the premise that the abuser is responsible for their
actions and the results. Then clearly that falls into the category of a
"Bad Person". OK.
Secondly, the abusers world is based solely upon caring for their own
emotional. Usually, and quite often intentionally, to the detriment of
others. Especially those closest to them. This self centered attitude,
regardless of its origin, consistently produces mental pain and anguish
for the victim. Again this places the responsibility of that pain on the
Lastly and I believe most damning to the abuser, is the fact that these
people often appear to get pleasure and even draw their inner power from
the pain they inflict. This pain appears to be the visible indicator to an
abuser that they are in control. They often do such things as laugh when
their victim is brought to tears by their abuse. Yes.
Now don't misinterpret this letter to convey the position that I don't
recognize the terrible emotional environments which the abusers have
usually suffered through as children to produce their emotional state. But
I do believe that someone needs to stand up and say. "I'm not a
psychiatrist, I don't give a damn about their past, this world produces
good people and bad ones whether we like it or not. It always has and
always will." Somewhere, society has to draw the line and say
this is out of bounds. Sometime we have to see life from the eye of the
victim. Rapists blame their victims for "being too seductive",
killers blame innocent bystanders who get hit by a stray bullet by saying
"he shouldn't have been there". I say, "think about it for
25 to life and maybe you'll get a better understanding of their point of
Abusers are full of inner tension
and pain. And as cruel as this sounds, I think they are their own judges.
Their self destructive actions ultimately produces their sentence for
their abuse. Yes. There is no inner peace.
And I have no pity for them. I have learned to understand and
overcome in many ways the abuse in my life. I am still with her so I can
insure that my daughter not be scarred for life by her twisted delusional
attitude. And thankfully I have been quite successful to date. But she
knows I don't love her and I know it hurts. I don't think she knows I
actually despise her but I have no reason to tell her that. But my
understanding of abuse is quite different from yours. I agree with you on
virtually every position I've seen you take.... Except one 8-)
I love your website and everything you stand for. I hope you know that
your saving peoples lives, both literally and figuratively I'm sure. Keep
up the good work. I just thought I'd give you another point of view.
Peace and Love, G......
And I thank you for
your point of view. I do not think however that we disagree. Semantics
plays a large part in miscommunication. Which is why most shrink-types,
myself included, are loath to use value-laden words such as
means all sorts of different things to different people. However, you
defined your use of the word "bad" above. According to your
criteria, I agree with you, though I would prefer you make up a word -
maybe "dab" - to lessen the semantics overflow.
you bring up, as usual. I don't know where to draw the line or if there is
a line to draw. In my experience, most abusers inflict pain as a byproduct
of doing what they feel they have to do to meet their own aims. Most are
so into their own experience at this point, they have no clue they are
hurting another, or see the pain they inflict as inconsequential given the
great pain they feel has been inflicted on them (when the partner has
refused to be controlled and do what they want done for them). Coo coo?
Others seem to intentionally
inflict pain, almost as a punishment to pay back wrongs that they feel
have been done to them.
And the related
variable you highlighted: some abusers truly seem to enjoy the pain they
intentionally or unintentionally inflict on other, whether they are aware
of this enjoyment or not, admit it or not (the satisfied smile on their
face gives them away).
Where does one draw
the line between the intentional infliction of pain and inadvertent
infliction of pain as a byproduct of trying to meet one's own twisted
needs? Where does enjoyment of inflicted pain fit in? I don't know. Does
it matter? Certainly not for the victim. It does matter for the clinician
who treats abusers. I find myself wondering about this stuff quite a bit.
I also know I would not want to be involved with it in my personal life -
in any way, shape or form! Which is essentially what your definition
of "Bad" clarifies: "I don't care whether you are
doing it on purpose or not, whether or not you are deriving pleasure from
it or not, bottom line is you are hurting me".
The only place I am
not sure where we stand is my position on personal responsibility: I see
it as the victim's job to stop being a victim and not to allow
abuse. I see it as the abuser's job to stop being an abuser and not
to allow themselves to abuse. My position stems from my personal belief
that we answer ultimately only to ourselves and our Maker and we have
control only over ourselves.
Where are you on this?
Warmest regards, Dr. Irene