“Nothing is easier than to denounce the evildoer; nothing is more difficult than to understand him.”
― Fyodor Dostoyevsky
According to Merriam-Webster dictionary the definition of evil is something “morally reprehensible; sinful, wicked.
Evil, I suppose, is in the eye of the beholder. Do evil people really believe they are evil? I don’t think so in many cases.
“Most of the bad guys in the real world don't know that they are bad guys. You don't get a flashing warning sign that you're about to damn yourself. It sneaks up on you when you aren't looking.”
― Jim Butcher
Paul J. Zak, a neuroeconomist, and author of the article, “Why Some People Are Evil”, theorizes that oxytocin, a molecule in the brain, is responsible. Oxytocin is a hormone secreted in the hypothalamus of the brain and acts as a neuromodulator. This hormone has often been referred to as the love hormone because it is released by men and women during orgasm and is in high amounts in lactating women. But oxytocin is also responsible for boosting trust and empathy. Zak says the higher your level of oxytocin, the higher your happiness level.
Zak’s experiments showed that 95% of the thousands of people studied released oxytocin after receiving a positive social signal, such as having someone trust you with their money, being touched, or watching an emotional movie.
So what does that say about the five percent that failed to release oxytocin? Many of these people exhibited psychopathic behavior showing deception and diminished empathy. High stress levels also inhibit oxytocin release and may temporarily cause a person to show psychopathic behaviors. Alternatively, spikes in oxytocin levels elicit empathy and a willingness to help others.
“It was important, Dumbledore said, to fight, and fight again, and keep fighting, for only then could evil be kept at bay, though never quite eradicated. . . .”
― J.K. Rowling, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince
There are many theories and articles suggesting some people can be labeled evil due to their human experience. Let’s take Adolf Hitler for example. There are a myriad of reasons attributed to Hitler’s rise, or descent, into evil, from being abused as a child, to a perception that a Jew wronged him as a young man, to being exposed to others, during his early adulthood, with racial and prejudice views. There are other notorious criminals that fall into this category of evil, with traces of mental and social issues during childhood, such as The Boston Strangler and Ted Bundy, both labeled sexual psychopaths.
What does this have to do with my upcoming book, Order of Fear? The villain, Vivian Tenney, (stay tuned for an upcoming blog all about Vivian) is pure evil. She had a mentally abusive childhood. Vivian was raised to believe power is the ultimate prize and empathy for others only gets in the way. One could postulate that she was innocently brainwashed to believe this or take a more scientific approach and attribute her evilness to a lack of a particular brain hormone and/or the psychological effects of being brought up in a dysfunctional environment. In any case, I think Vivian would have a lot in common with some of the most evil criminals in history.
Vivian and her brand of evil battles good when she targets Marissa and Justin for revenge against offenses she perceives they’ve committed in the soon to be released, Order of Fear.
“When I despair, I remember that all through history the way of truth and love have always won. There have been tyrants and murderers, and for a time, they can seem invincible, but in the end, they always fall. Think of it--always.”