The attraction of evil and the destruction of meaning

  • Anna Migliozzi
  • The International Journal of Psychoanalysis, August 2016, Taylor & Francis
  • DOI: 10.1111/1745-8315.12367

The Attraction of evil

What is it about?

The attraction to evil remains an open question in fields such as philosophy, art, literature and religion, and the continued and even accelerated pace of human destructiveness and cruelty, makes this question ever more relevant and urgent. In the realm of psychoanalytic thought, evil has been described as a pathological condition characterized by a disregard for humanity, including the destruction of meaning and meaningfulness of life in and for others. Evil proceeds silently, seducing the healthy part of the personality and colonizing it. As evil negates and destroys meaning, it also subverts the order of diachronic time, eliminating the possibility of imagining oneself as existing in a vital and creative future. In this paper, I will describe selected moments from a young boy’s long analysis to illustrate how evil gradually seduced him and gave him a sadistic sexualized excitement, which progressively contributed to his confusion and desperation.

Why is it important?

Although evil may arise as a reaction to repeated trauma and frustration, there is no logical reason to assume that destructive tendencies always will appear in reaction to and as a defense against repeated frustration of environmental failures. Once established, it becomes an independent psychic configuration that compulsively pressures to reproduce itself like a drug addiction or perversion.


Italian Psychoanalytical Society

Evil is a state of mind characterized by envy of life and vitality, the absence of joie de vivre and the destruction of emotional meaning. Physical violence, sadistic humiliation, even murder may be the result of evil, but the quality that is the hallmark of the evil state of mind, and what I wish to call attention to, is the unprovoked exercise of power and cruelty and a tendency to destroy meaning and the meaningfulness of life. This often includes and is connected to sadistic phantasies, wishes and actions that imply a cold disregard for others.

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The following have contributed to this page: Dr MIGLIOZZI ANNA CARLA MIGLIOZZI