When Good People Do Bad?

This afternoon l was watching an episode of The Alienist which to the unknowing is/was a psychological thriller drama series about alienists. To the novice alienists were those classed as either a psychiatrist or psychologist during the years of the early to mid 1800’s. [1830 – 1870]. The term psychiatrist soon became more popular and in common use in the later 1800’s and was attached to those specialising in treating those with mental alienation or what we know as today as poor quality mental health.

There was a line in this episode that basically asked ‘What compels man to do evil?’ and you may also recall that the other day l wrote in Afternoon Strollings .. this ..

Everyone is capable of the foulest of deeds, if you can write it you can do it, sometimes it is just requiring the right trigger point, the right or wrong prod, but you may write of murder, you can do murder, but you don’t that’s the difference.

… and Terry a friend of mine emailed me after reading that post and asked me if l actually believed that? I replied with, “Yes l do – if we can imagine it – we can do it – what we can do to people is terrible, we personally don’t – but others might do that and more without control”.

But there is nothing beyond our imaginations that if the conditions were right and we were experiencing enough problematic trigger points we might just implode or explode and run on a wild rampage.

He informed that he didn’t think he ever could do such a thing … he would not even write such foulness in a creative story, that he had no imagination that could create such horrors? I will not deny that l was a little baffled by his response – to say that a person cannot imagine foul deeds in today’s world, l find a little shocking. But maybe that’s just me.

He then asked me this …

“Why do otherwise good people do bad things?

What are the possible trigger points that could make good people go bad?

…. but as a teaser l also add this in …

Can you as a creative writer imagine foul deeds with ease?”

You don’t need to answer all the questions – so worry not – answer those you do feel comfortable with.

Personally, I enjoy writing dark creative fiction – although l haven’t written any for a long time, about the sins of people, the evil doings of murderers and l allow myself and my imagination to run wild – l think it’s healthy to exercise your dark corners … below are a few of mine from years ago.

Murther Most FoulChasing The Dragon
Scare TacticsRemains of the Day – The Complete Poem

Let me know below – thanks.

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40 thoughts on “When Good People Do Bad?

        1. Hahaha, oh my your darkness hides well though doesn’t it? Deep in the corners, the shadows – only occasionally peeking out.

          Talking of which when is the killer within likely to venture out again?

        2. In between getting the short story you know I wrote into a bigger format. I started a short story from the eye of the victim. Hit a rock at the moment but finding getting to have the study to myself is getting to be more hassle than I like

  1. In defense of my family or friends, I believe I can do anything. Generally speaking though, I can’t imagine myself torturing or purposely harming anyone. It would hurt *me* too much. Being an Empath prevents willful harm. Even accidental harm hurt me.
    I’m not much of a fiction writer either.πŸ€·πŸΌβ€β™€οΈ I’ve tried and my brain vapor locks.

  2. I don’t write fiction so that part doesn’t apply to me. I have written about foul deeds but unfortunately they were fact. I know that I am certainly capable of murder – I have a button that you could push that will easily lead me there – but aside from the time someone took the fireplace poker out of my hands before it reached the person’s skull, the other times the white fog lifted in time for me to stop myself from doing more damage than I had already done.

    1. I think if the conditions are right most people whether they like it or not could kill, failing that and the conditions were against them, they might get killed themselves.

  3. I think it’s very easy to predict how we would or would not act in certain situations, but those predictions don’t mean all that much. Even on the receiving end of awful actions, people might predict they would fight back or what have you, but that all goes out the window if they’re actually in the middle of it.

  4. People can do the worst things, either happily sadistically or triggered from fear for themselves or others. Anyone is capable of it, no matter what they say. Certainly as a writer I can imagine awful things. I might not write them all though… I feel we have a responsibility not to trigger others. What if we wrote about something vile and someone decided it would be a good idea to try it?

  5. I can and do write fictional accounts of people doing bad deeds but not gruesome and gory murders. Though I have seen a lot of that on screen. But am I capable of doing something so vile? Maybe if any of my kids were threatened!

  6. What gets me is when authors claim they never think or feel the things they write. For me, I’m more like you: if I write about it then I have imagined it.

    1. Hey Chel, very much so – we can imagine a lot and more so in today’s world – when we have films that try and achieve more to shock viewers and audiences, our imaginations as writers can afford to lean further into the darkness and it does.

  7. I believe you are absolutely correct. Good people can do bad when pushed hard enough…its happened. And certainly thoughts of murder or torture can swirl around in your head without being put to the test.

    1. Very much so. I have no deliberated intention of ever committing murder most foul. But my life is somewhat humdrum and l am not having to fight for survival – but all that could and can change in the blink of an eye and it is then that your imagination of the horrors people can do to others might become a reality of your own. The thing is we never know what our darkness can do, and more so if we lose control.

      Years ago, l had a very serious mental breakdown – l was and became my biggest enemy – the dark imaginative horrors of self injury l performed upon myself daily – in order to stay awake, to stay sane.

      So we can do things maybe not to others but certainly and most assuredly to ourselves when we are not ourselves – it can be quite scary.

      1. Absolutely. We have no idea of how we would respond when sufficiently challenged. I grew up with a very violent stepfather who regularly beat my mother. Many years after I’d left home, married and had a daughter, my husband and I went out one night for a film and dinner. When we got back to my mother’s house I could hear him screaming abuse as we drove up to the house. I was out the car before it was stationary. My only concern was for my daughter. Thankfully fast asleep in a back room with the door closed. My mother lifted her blouse to show me how he had beaten her with a belt. At that moment he stepped up and attempted to justify his abuse. I went ballistic. I am not strong, but I punched his face do hard he fell back against the wall and started sinking to the floor. Enraged I grabbed him by the throat and lifted him up the wall off his feet. I was a lot shorter than him. It was only the intervention of my husband that stopped me from doing serious bodily harm…I’ve never hit anyone since, but you can rest assured, if anyone harmed or tried to harm my daughter or grandson, I will most likely have the same response. We can, if pushed, commit murder. And that has nothing to do with personality…
        As for self-harm, yes, I know what you mean….thankfully those days are long behind me now.

        1. Yes, l completely understand that all too well too .

          I grew up in a war zone with my parents constantly at each other’s throats. My father was a bully of the zealot kind, he was mentally cruel and physically cruel. He was a wife beater and a son beater. I was terrified of him and l am not by nature an aggressive man … but, there are limits and boundaries… as you know.

          One day not long before l left home, he just wouldn’t stop berating my mother – my mother was no angel – but she didn’t need this – my father changed the very nature of my mother – he went to strike her face and l stopped him, l pushed him back, he fell down the stairs and hit his face against the bannister which cracked his nose. He started to bleed profusely after that and then went wild with rage ………. l stood my ground and my eyes must have told a different story because l knew in my heart l had broken, l was now ready to kill him for the years of torment.

          In my mind, l saw myself beating him to a bloodied pulp – he must have seen this – because – he just cursed and walked away – good job, because l would have killed him.

          I moved out the family home when l was 18, 2 weeks after that incident.

        2. Oh gosh. How terrifying for you. I often wonder why some people grow up to be a bully and resort to physical and mental abuse. What you said about he changed the nature of your mother….that’s really profound and strikes a chord with me….my mother’s nature too was changed. Weirdly I also left home at a very young age, 17….
          I’m glad you escaped.

        3. My father was brutally bullied as a youngster by his mother who was devout in her religious belief. Combined with the fact that he was on the autism spectrum and he was considered very weird by his parents and siblings.

          When he was naughty, his mother packed him under the stairs with no dinner and he would stay there till morning.

          He grew up hating women and saw them for three things only – sex, housework and cooking – he maintained he loved women – but he didn’t they were all witches and cows.

          My father, simply never broke the cruelty cycle.

        4. Wow, that’s awful. I guess when you grow up with hatred, that’s all you know. How sad for him, for your mother and for you. The long-term impact of childhood abuse should never be underestimated. It can be a vicious cycle and sometimes people hate who they are, but don’t have the tools to change, and so they visit their fury on those closest to them. Its so harsh.

        5. My Mother was a Salvation Army girl, who was very naive to many things and had lived in foster homes for most of her younger years. when she married my father she had high expectaions of love but soon realised who he was when it was too late. she wanted to be a loving wife and mother and he didn’t really want children.

          His violence changed her innocence to bitterness and even though he has been dead for two years and they have been divorced for thirty, she changed, her entire demeanour changed because of his brutality.

  8. Blimey!! I just read Remains of the Day. Nog sure what to make of that, except to say, you have an incredible imagination….and I won’t be dining with you any time soon 🀣🀣🀣

  9. This isn’t a question just about individual behavior. How did ordinary Germans flock to the NAZI agenda in the 1930s — and the Erzatz death squads were composed of ordinary Germans — or the modern American GOP embrace an analogous agenda? I forget the reference, but there was a controversial German dissertation thesis on this topic published some years ago. Ordinary people in a group are capable of extraordinary evil.

    1. This is very true indeed Vic – ordinary folk can do extraordinary things – ordinary folks can so onto others extraordinary horrible things also.

      We have seen that more recently in many places .. the acts of so called good people – singular and plural moments and movements of heinousness and appalling behaviours.

  10. Hello Rory! I enjoyed your post. I have always been drawn to darker fiction in my writing. With strong female characters who always kick ass. I seem to like a lot of knife or gun kills up close and personal appears to be my ladies weapons of choice. Or poison. Want to be in there to see the realization hit their eyes as that last bit of life fades. You may think that I have spent a lot of time thinking on this but I am quite okay with my dark written side. It saves me jail time in the real world. πŸ™‚

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