Some people deliberately add insult to injury

The phrase, “Adding insult to injury/’is from a fable of classic times quoted the Latin writer Fhacdms,  from the more ancient version by Aesop.

The fable relates how a bald man who was bitten on the head by a fly gave himself a sound smacking trying to kill the insect.

Where-upon the  fly said jeeringly: “You wanted to kill me for a touch – what will you do to your-self, now that you have added insult to injury.”

To add insult to injury is to inflict further degradation and heap scorn on a person already injured; to make harm worse by adding humiliation; to hurt a person’s feelings in addition to and after first doing them some other harm; to make a bad situation worse.

“There is a huge amount of freedom that comes to you when you take nothing personally.” ~Don Miguel Ruiz

Lori Deschene says, (

The other day I received a comment on an old blog post that started with, “You’re full of crap,” and ended with, “I don’t know, and idiots like you don’t help us figure it out.”

Shortly after, I received an email from a new blogger who recently contributed to the site. She mentioned she’d received her first harsh comment, and she wanted to know if this is normal—and how she should deal with it.

I told her she will likely engage in far more constructive, uplifting conversations than negative, hurtful ones.

But this kind of thing isto be expected when you write about emotionally charged topics, especially since we often search for self-help articles when we’re looking for answers—or we’re looking to forget the answer we already know: that pain is unavoidable, and sometimes we simply need to go through it.

With this in mind, I responded privately to my reader, “I get the impression you’re really hurting right now. Is there some way I can help?”

Right then I thought about all the times I lashed out at people when I was suffering in the past. And I thought about how justified I felt in hurting others, especially when they’d hurt me first, or failed to really help.

These are not things I am proud to admit, and they’re not things I’d recommend or condone. We all have a responsibility to learn healthy ways to cope.

But I suspect if we’re honest with ourselves, most of us can identify moments when we acted thoughtlessly, from a place of sorrow or anger.

Most of us have felt pain burning like a hot coal in our hands and felt desperate to unload it, somehow, somewhere.

I don’t appreciate being called an idiot, and I know I don’t deserve it, just like none of us deserve misdirected rage from a family member, coworker, or stranger.

We have a right to set boundaries and communicate when something is not okay. But the world is a better place when we choose to do that from a place of love and compassion instead of righteousness and judgment.

We all act thoughtlessly at times. Most often we don’t mean to hurt each other. We just don’t recognize or remember how to stop hurting ourselves.

Everyday Sadists Take Pleasure in Others’ Pain

The Association for Psychological Science advises,

Most of the time, we try to avoid inflicting pain on others — when we do hurt someone, we typically experience guilt, remorse, or other feelings of distress. But for some, cruelty can be pleasurable, even exciting.

New research suggests that this kind of everyday sadism is real and more common than we might think.

Two studies led by psychological scientist Erin Buckels of the University of British Columbia revealed that people who score high on a measure of sadism seem to derive pleasure from behaviors that hurt others, and are even willing to expend extra effort to make someone else suffer.

The new findings are published in Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science.

“Some find it hard to reconcile sadism with the concept of ‘normal’ psychological functioning, but our findings show that sadistic tendencies among otherwise well-adjusted people must be acknowledged,” says Buckels.  “These people aren’t necessarily serial killers or sexual deviants but they gain some emotional benefit in causing or simply observing others’ suffering.”

Based on their previous work on the “Dark Triad” of personality, Buckels and colleagues Delroy Paulhus of the University of British Columbia and Daniel Jones of the University of Texas El Paso surmised that sadism is a distinct aspect of personality that joins with three others — psychopathy, narcissism, and Machiavellianism — to form a “Dark Tetrad” of personality traits.

To test their hypothesis, they decided to examine everyday sadism under controlled laboratory conditions. They recruited 71 participants to take part in a study on “personality and tolerance for challenging jobs.” Participants were asked to choose among several unpleasant tasks: killing bugs, helping the experimenter kill bugs, cleaning dirty toilets, or enduring pain from ice water.

Participants who chose bug killing were shown the bug-crunching machine: a modified coffee grinder that produced a distinct crunching sound so as to maximize the gruesomeness of the task. Nearby were cups containing live pill bugs, each cup labeled with the bug’s name: Muffin, Ike, and Tootsie.

The participant’s job was to drop the bugs into the machine, force down the cover, and “grind them up.” The participants didn’t know that a barrier actually prevented the bugs from being ground up and that no bugs were harmed in the experiment.

Of the 71 participants, 12.7% chose the pain-tolerance task, 33.8% chose the toilet-cleaning task, 26.8% chose to help kill bugs, and 26.8% chose to kill bugs.

Participants who chose bug killing had the highest scores on a scale measuring sadistic impulses, just as the researchers predicted. The more sadistic the participant was, the more likely he or she was to choose bug killing over the other options, even when their scores on Dark Triad measures, fear of bugs, and sensitivity to disgust were taken into account.

Participants with high levels of sadism who chose to kill bugs reported taking significantly greater pleasure in the task than those who chose another task, and their pleasure seemed to correlate with the number of bugs they killed, suggesting that sadistic behavior may hold some sort of reward value for those participants.

And a second study revealed that, of the participants who rated high on one of the “dark” personality traits, only sadists chose to intensify blasts of white noise directed at an innocent opponent when they realized the opponent wouldn’t fight back. They were also the only ones willing to expend additional time and energy to be able to blast the innocent opponent with the noise.

Together, these results suggest that sadists possess an intrinsic motivation to inflict suffering on innocent others, even at a personal cost — a motivation that is absent from the other dark personality traits.

The researchers hope that these new findings will help to broaden people’s view of sadism as an aspect of personality that manifests in everyday life, helping to dispel the notion that sadism is limited to sexual deviants and criminals.

Buckels and colleagues are continuing to investigate everyday sadism, including its role in online trolling behavior.

“Trolling culture is unique in that it explicitly celebrates sadistic pleasure, or ‘lulz,’” says Buckels. “It is, perhaps, not surprising then that sadists gravitate toward those activities.”

And they’re also exploring vicarious forms of sadism, such as enjoying cruelty in movies, video games, and sports.

The researchers believe their findings have the potential to inform research and policy on domestic abuse, bullying, animal abuse, and cases of military and police brutality.

“It is such situations that sadistic individuals may exploit for personal pleasure,” says Buckels. “Denying the dark side of personality will not help when managing people in these contexts.”

What Causes a Person to Be Intentionally Cruel?

What causes a person to be intentionally cruel? Is it carelessness? A genetic predisposition involving a lack of empathy? A lack of proper nurturing? A culturally indoctrinated tendency? Desperation is the common thread.

 (4 July, 2011) described her enlightenment on this topic:

In my search for answers to the toughest philosophical questions, I find myself being enlightened in the most unusual ways; and often, by the most unexpected people.

The other night, I was watching a show called “Scared Straight“, in which young offenders and troubled youths visit hardened criminals in prison in order to get a taste of criminal reality. One the convicted felons said something that stuck with me because of its poignancy. He said, “Hurt peoplehurt people.”

There are so many ways to interpret this: I got hurt, so I’m going to hurt others. Pain is all I know, so what else can I give? I have so much pain, I have to get rid of it onto others. Others deserve to suffer because I did. I had no choice so why should anyone else? I don’t want to be alone in my hurt. I need to share it.

Desperation is the common thread.

Any feeling felt strongly enough is a feeling that imposes the desire to share it. When you are in love, you floats. You wish to shout from the mountain tops about your potently bursting feelings. The same thing happens when you are in pain, and perhaps, a potently bursting negative feeling deserves no less tribute. In any case, human beings have a social proclivity towards sharing feelings.

In the case of hatred, anger or violence, the emotion is often so horrible and powerful that the person feeling it wants to get rid of it, and since the emotion is so volatile, the expression of it tends to be as well. In addition, even if on some deep moral level a person knows that hurting others is wrong, the compulsion to eradicate the bad feelings, on a psychological level, is prevalent. The need to not feel intensely negative all the time overrides the need to walk a moral or ethical path.

In essence, I think it is very likely that the act of imposing pain on others might be merely symptomatic of overflowing negative emotions. Every person has a threshold for pain; the breaking point is when the dam of self control breaks and the pain floods out. I would go so far as to say this a survival mechanism we are born with.

Adaptationist thinking about physiological mechanisms, such as the heart, lungs, and immune system, is common in evolutionary biology. Evolutionary psychology applies the same thinking to psychology, arguing that the mind is a modular structure similar to that of the body with different modules having adapted to serve different functions. Evolutionary psychologists argue that much of human behaviour is the output of psychological adaptations that evolved to solve recurrent problems in human ancestral environments.

We are biologically programmed to survive. Psychologically, when a person feels fearful and hurt all the time (due to inappropriate neural networking, a person can feel threatened by even things and people that are no threat to them in reality), fight or flight syndrome kicks in and puts them in offensive mode.

To take this point further, if a child is born into an abusive life and learns nothing but abuse, pain, fear and intimidation, they will not only be conditioned to think that this type of feeling is normal (in other words, the nurture side of things conditions them to believe that this is the way things are), but they might also feel an even deeper conditioning based on the biological and social need to connect with others to share what they have experienced. In essence, if the method of connection is created in a chaotic mind, it often presents in a chaotic or harmful way. This is where is gets really interesting for me as a philosopher.

If human beings are deprived of meaningful social connection, studies have shown they tend to become hateful and violent, even insane. So in a way, inflicting, imposing or sharing their negative emotions on the world and those in it is a way of sustaining and connecting with what remains of their humanness. It is a (perhaps psychologically deviated) method of touching the spirituality of human being itself that in reality, a violently abused child, for instance, may have never actually experienced.

In life, I have little sympathy for people who choose to hurt others simply because they are in pain. But this does not stop me from wanting to understand why people deal with their pain by sloughing it off onto others.

I believe all overcompensations, psychological chaos, hyper-emotional states and unreasonable decisions are made due to an imbalance in the mind, caused either by bad nurturing or a lack of connection to nature. Without a good balance of both mother nature and nurture, ego is allowed to drive the bus, when it should be sitting at the back of it, forced to be quiet while the metaphorically and sometimes annoyingly cheerful possibilities of happy driving songs echo through the mind.

With the ego at the wheel, anything is possible. Without properly established boundaries, human empathy and natural connection, “anything” is usually pushed into the chaos of ubiquitous darkness. Without the emotional equipment necessary to build appropriate caring relationships, in the empty vacuum of the human soul, one will create something else. That something is typically highly emotional, as there is perhaps an even stronger emotional desire to be met, as it never was met properly, but emotional in a way that is inappropriate, hurtful or intentionally cruel. But again, underneath even the worst intentions is perhaps the simple human desire to be a part of something else: To share an experience with another. To connect.

To say that hurt people hurt people makes sense to me. But what of unhurt people who hurt people? How do we explain the fact that some people with great lives, great upbringings, lots of love and opportunities, in some cases, still seek to impose harm on others? What of all the hurtful games in society, the lying, the cheating, the bullying, media intimidation, idle gossip and voyeuristically bizarre reality television shows? Have our minds become bored with survival (as in developed countries, anyway, we have all our basic needs met), and thus, we need something else to occasionally push our minds into “fight or flight mode”, in order to feel alive?

I think it might be just that. Human beings are bored with the five-senses world and have pushed it into the heights and depths of depravity and debauchery out of boredom for something more. I believe that people lie to themselves about why they do what they do as a way to deny that they are in fact propagating the parts of themselves they do not wish to see, and further, to mask the fact that they could be much more if only they looked.

To avoid all sorts of pain, we hide behind lies as a way to avoid the fear of “the truth”, whatever that might be. We lie to hide nefarious intentions and perceived emotional insecurities and ineptitudes that we feel ashamed of and/or do not wish to face. But even without nefarious intentions behind self delusions and lying, there is insecurity. Insecurity is ego’s loud and brutish voice, which shouts to us in our weakest moments to act and react in ways that will have the greatest impact.

To lie is to hide inside of ego’s belligerent “right story”. To propagate the delusion of the importance of “me” is ego’s only purpose and it will fight to the death to maintain itself.

So, cruelty is perhaps rooted in ego’s need to survive and propagate, instead of in our “being”. But no matter what the reason, I find these types of behaviours self-mutilating. Facing the ugliness inside is not worse than lying about the fact that it’s there, in my opinion. Never mind the fact that our personal and subjective ideas about “the ugliness” we need to hide or lie about is in many cases the result of some ridiculous story that ego clings to out self-preserving desperation. Or, in the case of a person born into horrible circumstances, the “ugliness inside” was something imposed that is not truly us. Ego would have us believe otherwise, of course, but with right intention, any mind can be rewired. Every person can take the desire to be intentionally cruel and transform it into something ego cannot even touch, let alone understand.

“It’s better to light one candle than to curse the darkness”.


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