The other day, during my presentation to an audience of medical professionals, one of the doctors asked a good question. “Many of these victims eventually become abusers, so what do we do when they start abusing others? How do we treat them when they are no longer a victim but a perpetrator?” I didn’t have an answer for his question. It is true that many victims of childhood violence will turn that trauma on others if they don’t get help. It is easy to focus on our victimhood. We have been wronged horribly and we deserve to be heard. As a matter of a fact, I believe most people spend a lot of their time focused on how they have been wronged. But there is another side to us. There is the angry, raging person who is fed up with this world. There is a criminal.

As Maleficent stated in the recent movie, there is evil in this world. But it isn’t what we think. It isn’t who we think. It isn’t just the lurking pedophile in the bushes or the father that rapes his daughter every night. The evil in this world resides in all of us. This is why it is so easy to judge others who we consider evil. We judge it because we recognize it. We judge it because we know it. It isn’t that we don’t understand the evil. We don’t understand how that other evil person wasn’t able to hide their evil from the world in the way that we do. They were too weak. They were too careless. They made mistakes and didn’t contain their evil. We are better than them because our evil is hidden from the world. We keep it locked deep inside ourselves. If it does come out, it only comes out when there are no witnesses.

But that’s the problem. Our evil lives in the darkness. And it thrives in darkness. If we do not shine a light on our evil, it will live forever. It is in evil’s embrace and acceptance that it crumbles. It is in the light that our evil stops running our lives.

My evil runs deep because my betrayal has run deep. With each betrayal, a piece of my heart was taken, banished to some distant place where it could wait to be found. The problem was it could not be found with love alone. I had to embrace my evil, the part of me that wants revenge, the part of me who would be willing to fight my betrayers to the death, in order to find the love that was lost so long ago. And it is not easy to face. It is not easy to face that inner murderer, that inner revenge-plotter, that inner part that doesn’t care about right or wrong or the feelings of others.

But as I face the evil in the world, the evil that resides in me, small parts of my heart, seemingly lost forever, begin to find their way home. As I admit that I am capable of the worst, I find the parts of me that are capable of the best. It is as though I am piecing together a puzzle, but in this case, the puzzle is me.

So the evil in me becomes part of a much greater whole, no longer an uncontrollable darkness below the mask used for everyday life. It is accepted as a part of who I am, which means it no longer needs to take over, to act out to prove its worth, its existence.

The shame dies when we stop hiding all the parts we can’t face.

So, I embrace the evil that resides in me. I embrace this part of me that stems from the years of torturous betrayal to a child that deserved none of it. I allow that part of me to exist without shame, without ridicule, without feeling unworthy of being human, because in reality, it is what makes me human. And I won’t deny that I am human.

As my heart rebuilds and my shame lessens, my self-acceptance grows for all parts of me. The evil inside me can rest because it is no longer suppressed. And I can rest because I am no longer hiding anything.

And the generational cycles of trauma, which feed off of denial and shame, can start to unravel.