There is something evil in all people

Essence of evilThe dark factor of personality

Nothing fascinates people as much as evil. It is omnipresent and threatens everyone, it is tempting with a sweet poison that hardly anyone can fight off in the long term. Every society, every religion, every culture has to deal with the dark side of human existence. What is the evil? How does society deal with him? Why is some evil so obvious, while it is barely perceived in other places and in a different form?

Munich, "Museum Five Continents". A splendid building on Maximilianstrasse, the history of which goes back a long way. Founded in 1862 as the first ethnological museum in Germany with the name "Royal Ethnographic Collection", it now has one of the largest ethnographic collections in Germany: the ethnologists have collected 160,000 objects from non-European cultures, 135,000 photographs and a specialist library of more than 100,000 volumes. High halls, slightly subdued light, nowhere narrow - a pleasant atmosphere. Dr. Stefan Eisenhofer, curator of the "Africa and North America" ​​department, leads through the Africa collection this morning, shows large figures, small masks and finally stops in front of a showcase with a strange object about 50 centimeters long and 20 centimeters high.

"This is a power figure, for a long time referred to as a nail fetish in Europe and the western world, a double-headed dog into which metal nails and metal parts were driven. This double-headed dog looks into the world of the The living, that is, into our world on this side, with the other head into the world of the dead, the dead, the ancestors, that is, into the world beyond. "

For a long time, ethnologists thought that the people of the Congo saw the nail dog as a servant of the devil, "a figure who can bring evil upon individuals, families, and even entire tribes.

Indigenous peoples know the double-headed and ambiguous

"Ultimately, however, from the local point of view in the Congo region it is more complex and complicated. In these figures, forces, powerful forces, are bundled, and these forces are not good or bad per se, but simply effective. The harmful or the useful only emerges through the context and the intention, the intention of the ritual specialist who liberates and directs the forces that are bound in the figure. "

Many cultures know the double-headed, ambiguous. The goddess Kali, translated "The Black", is responsible for death and destruction as well as for renewal in Hinduism. If Kali shows her gentle side, she is called Durga. It is similar in Bali: there the good - symbolized by the figure Barong - fights against the evil witch Rangda. Sometimes the good has advantages, sometimes the bad, there is never a winner, good and bad are balanced and are two sides of the same coin. Somewhat comparable to the black nail dog from the Congo, which also does not give anyone the final victory.

"It is actually a gray area, a matter of negotiation, and it tends to be that what benefits the community, the family, the community, the local chapters, the village is, yes, not necessarily called good or bad, but rather beneficial , serving the community, promoting fertility, while the other aspects are just the destructive. "

What is good, beneficial and fruitful is beneficial to the community; evil and destructive harm it. An idea that runs like a red thread through the world of ideas of many indigenous peoples. Good is a harmonious society, bad if something disturbs the harmony. Robbery and murder, for example, war and disease. The perpetrator of the evil, the thief, the murderer, is only named and made liable in a second step. Completely different from western societies, which assign evil deeds to a person immediately.

Everyone is equally good and bad

"For me personally, evil is when a person consciously puts his personal interests above those of others and makes decisions in order to satisfy any need to harm other people. If he decides consciously and in the clear knowledge that this is so, then that is an anti-social decision for me, and anti-social decisions could be described as bad. "

Lydia Benecke, criminal psychologist, Cologne:

"All people have moments when they may decide in favor of others, moments when they decide in their own favor or even selfishly. There is no human being who always decides for others and always gives, and there is also not a person who harms and benefits others in one hundred percent of all their decisions. "

Everyone is good and bad in equal measure and, like the power dog from the Congo, symbolically looks into two worlds. This does not answer the question of the origins of evil and good. This question was examined by three psychologists from Ulm, Landau and Copenhagen in a study funded by the German Research Foundation. Do egoists, Machiavellians, narcissists, psychopaths and sadists have a common denominator, they asked, is there a "dark factor of personality" - the D-factor - to which all evil can be traced?

Selfishness is the source of evil

"The definition that we have worked out is that this is ultimately the tendency to permanently put your own benefits or interests before everything else, above everything else, and at the same time the costs that this for others or for society has to ignore, sometimes even seek out these costs, thus deliberately harming others. "

Benjamin Hilbig, Professor of Psychology at the University of Koblenz-Landau.

"And the whole thing goes hand in hand with convictions that serve as justification. For example, I can be convinced that I am now superior and therefore may put my own benefit first. Or I can be convinced that the World is bad anyway and everyone only fights for themselves and so on. In short, it is a kind of exaggerated egoism, which in case of doubt even goes over corpses, i.e. accepts the costs of others or ignores or even visits them, accompanied by certain beliefs that serve as a justification. "

Exaggerated egoism is the common denominator of nine "bad" personality traits, postulate the researchers. These include egoism, hatred, Machiavellianism, moral disinhibition, narcissism, psychopathy, sadism, self-centeredness and excessive pretension. One may object that egoism is ultimately a socially desirable quality. Neither in science and culture, nor in business and politics, top performance is conceivable without pronounced egoism.

"What we do not want to do and cannot do is differentiate between a healthy and an unhealthy extent, but there is a dimension. It starts with no egoism at all and ends with extreme egoism, and the essential point is that this dark factor Not only does it mean that one asserts one's interests, it also means going over dead bodies and causing other costs. If you now say that this is typical for a politician, I would say that it may be, then it may be so in our society that we tend to consider people with a higher D-factor to be suitable for this occupation. "

Whether a celebrated politician or a criminal - the decision is made afterwards

What follows from this: With some selfish people, it only becomes clear afterwards whether they end up as criminals or as Federal Chancellor or Federal Chancellor.

"(Laughs) Well, you said that, I wouldn't have come up with it in this extreme form, but in principle that's of course true. You could imagine two people with equally high values ​​on this factor, who end up very differently in ours Society, but that also makes sense, because where you end up will depend on many other factors. Certainly on the social context in which you grow up, the opportunities you have, your level of education and so on. and so on. How much our properties are reflected in our lives always depends to a large extent on the boundary conditions. "

Benjamin Hilbig cannot explain how the dark properties arise.

"But the question of how do traits arise is one that has basically been asked in personality research for decades, and there are certainly indications that genetic factors play a role as well as, let me put it, social context. That applies to most of the characteristics that exist in personality research. I would dare to say that it is very likely that it also applies to "D", a mixture of hereditary, maybe even biological factors, as well as environment , Education and so on, and so on. "

Connections that should be checked in real criminal cases. Two crimes have caused horror in the past few months. The case of child abuse in Staufen near Freiburg, where a mother offered her own son for rape on the Internet for money; and the serial murder of an Oldenburg nurse who claims to have murdered more than 100 patients while on duty in intensive care units. The psychiatrist Karl bein investigated these and other murders in his book "Tatort Krankenhaus". What kind of people are they capable of such monstrous crimes?

Serial killers in clinics are mentally unstable

"People who are inherently insecure in a particular way, are insecure in their own depths and are particularly dependent on recognition and appreciation and praise from outside in order to stabilize their own person are susceptible to such serial killings in hospitals and homes."

Karl legs, professor of psychiatry and psychotherapy at the University of Witten-Herdecke and chief physician at the St. Marien Hospital in Hamm.

"And if the motive of recognition or appreciation predominates when choosing a career, or if the choice is made exclusively to compensate for one's own self-esteem problems, then disappointment is inevitable because everyday working life in German hospitals is tough."

Over time, frustration builds up, the stress level rises, speechlessness spreads.

"Then in the end there is a state in which one's own discomfort is not clearly differentiated from the patient's suffering, and a downward spiral emerges at the end of which the job appears pointless, the efforts appear pointless and a void sets in which then becomes unbearable for the perpetrator. "

He neither seeks professional help from therapists, nor talks with colleagues or superiors.

"And then the perpetrator thinks he is doing something good for the person affected by intervening, that is, by killing people. In essence, however, he frees himself from the unbearable sight and thus frees himself from a situation At least for the moment from which he thinks there is no other way to free himself. "

The perpetrator fills his own emptiness by soaring himself to be lord of life and death. Because the liberating feeling after a murder does not last long, he finally kills in ever shorter cycles. And because death is normal in hospitals, nobody notices that a particularly large number of patients die in certain shifts. If so, those responsible often weigh down: the perpetrator is dismissed with a good report card, stress with the police only disrupts the clinical processes. Society, at least the groups and circles directly involved, always bear joint responsibility for such acts. This is also the case with the abuse of Staufen, where the mother is the main culprit. Your own mother?

Mothers also abuse and kill their own children

"Probably this emotional horror reaction in women who really torture a child to death, alone or with a partner, this horror is surely based on the idea of ​​what a mother should be, namely that they love and protect their child above all else would have to be so far away from a mother who torments her child. "

The idea of ​​a mother actively abusing her child always calls into question the value system of society. Therefore, society often refuses to accept the fact that women are also perpetrators - according to Cologne-based criminal psychologist Lydia Benecke.

"One problem is that when women commit sexual abuse of children, minors, adolescents, they are much more likely to get away with it. Still, significantly more men than women commit sexual offenses, but the percentage is dark for women certainly larger than the group of men, even if the group of men is larger than that of women, because women are almost never shown. "

And not because they are more skilled and do not allow themselves to be caught, but because abuse by women is often not recognized as abuse by the victims themselves. Women are more good than bad in the value system of Western societies. Breaking this open is difficult.

"Nobody has promised us an easy life, and of course it takes effort to stand up for your own convictions and to blame and recognize the evil."

The aim must be, according to Karl legs, psychiatrist at the University of Witten-Herdecke, to keep the dark properties in people in check.

"We know where the sources of danger for malignant degenerations lie, we know that in families, we know that in smaller and larger groups and we also know that for society. We have to remember that we have to work responsibly through what is happening to us Has happened in the past and we ensure that the risk remains as low as possible, that evil takes hold, that evil gains the upper hand. "