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Looking after ourselves

Senior Contributor

Looking for info - (possible trigger) conflicted thoughts about people who have harmed others

Hi everyone.


I'm wondering if anyone has come across any articles or resources about dealing with conflicted thoughts/feelings about people who have harmed others, but were otherwise a positive influence in the life of people who hadn't been harmed?


For example, there's a person who you'd previously thought fondly of, but later found out that they'd done something wrong that may have really hurt someone (either while they are still in your life, or after you'd stopped interacting with them). Trying to find the balance between how bad the thing was for them to do and feeling compassion for the victim/s, yet still appreciating the positive things that the person has brought for you, and holding the opinion that bad deeds don't make a person 100% bad. 

(Edit: and I guess, also feeling for the person who did the bad thing with respect to what has led them to the place where they did that thing.)


I'm usually pretty good at finding stuff on the internet, but for some reason I'm having a lot of trouble finding much at all about this.


Re: Looking for info - (possible trigger) conflicted thoughts about people who have harmed others

@TheVorticon I don't have any research or articles to point you in the direction of but do have personal experience of exactly that kind of thing myself. I became quite friendly with someone recently after we connected on social media. He was in a year behind me at school and although I had nothing to do with him then we found we had a lot in common now. My sister knew him well back then as he was in her grade and said he was a lovely, caring young mand then. I found that to be the case recently also. We became quite close and I felt comfortable being with him then he told me he had been in jail after assaulting a woman he had been seeing many years ago. He had done martial arts for many years so it whilst he 'lashed out' at something she had done to him his training meant that his rebound reaction was very serious. I found knowing this completely changed how I felt about him - I could not get past what he had done. It did not make him a bad person but in my own eyes that was something I could not see past. Personal history made it impossible to see past also as I know the massive impact something like that has on a person. It is not something I could forgive under any circumstance and certainly was not something I would forget. I know deep down this person is a really lovely, kind, caring and considerate person but his history got in the way of me seeing just that about him - it changed my opinion and was not something I could get past.

Re: Looking for info - (possible trigger) conflicted thoughts about people who have harmed others

@TheVorticon @Zoe7  Hi The Vorticon and Zoe7 this is an interesting topic as I have been wracked with guilt over things I have done in the past when I was ill and have a hard time understanding them and forgiving myself. Logically one would say that no one is perfect. Everyone of us would have done damage to someone who has crossed paths with us in our lives at some stage in our lives unless you are Buddha or Jesus Christ. 


I find the only way I can reconcile my guilt is to know that I am trying to be a good person and trying to do good things in this world however small they are. Besides when I forgive people for hurting me I feel better within myself than feeling resentment and hatred which is just poison. Forgiving myself is another matter though ....peaxx

Re: Looking for info - (possible trigger) conflicted thoughts about people who have harmed others

Trying to be a good person is all we can do @greenpea When you do things you are not proud of when you are unwell there are exenuating circumstances - you are not always in control of your actions and that makes it so much harder to reconcile the well you with the unwell you. Our whole brain chemistry can change when we are unwell and for some illnesses that can entirely change your behaviour - that is not something you can control.


There are some things I find it extremely hard to forgive personally no matter the circumstances and other things that can certainly colour my view of people. You are very right though that we all no doubt have things in our lives we are not proud of and it shows the character of a person to have guilt and regrets over those things. Just feeling those things shows your remorse and desire to be better. For me it is totally the degrees to which you are hurt - are those things that have been done unintentionally or are they intentional acts to cause the most pain - and within that again are there extenuating circumstances such as illness, mental impairment or defending oneself from harm (to name a few). In the end every situation, every example, every action/behaviour is different for every individual and we often do not know the bigger picture.


Then again I have no empathy or time for anyone that hurts children or animals. I also found it very hard to reconcile the person I knew with someone that had previously assaulted a women. I knew the precipitating factors and also believed the damage caused was accidental but the fact that he lashed out at all with all the training he had had made it hard to get around. It certainly did taint my view of him and having a DV background and knowing how I felt being on the receiving end certainly added to those feelings.


Experience, our past, our values and beliefs and the view we have of the world in general all add to what we believe and what we will tolerate - and yes also what we will forgive and move on from. I also think we here are our own worst critics but that also equipts us with the empathy and understanding of others to weigh up all situations with our own values and beliefs.


In my very long-winded way I am also saying that no one is perfect and all we really have is ourselves, our values, our beliefs, our tolerances and our knowledge ...and in the words of Skakespeare "This above all to thine own self be true ...and it must follow as the night, the day ...thou canst then be false to any man".

Re: Looking for info - (possible trigger) conflicted thoughts about people who have harmed others

@greenpea that does sound hard, having to navigate guilt for actions you've taken when unwell that don't align with your values. I hope you can find a path to forgiveness for yourself.
There are things I've done in the past which I'm not proud of and it's hard to face the action, figure out why it happened and do the best we can to avoid repeating it, without taking an easier path to hating ourselves or the world.
I admire your strength and courage, greenpea Smiley Happy

@Zoe7 that's really tough about your friend and learning about his past. I can definitely see why you needed to make that choice for your own wellbeing.
Holding the good and the bad in mind at once is tricky enough as it is, but keeping oneself safe regarding past experiences and trauma definitely comes first.

Re: Looking for info - (possible trigger) conflicted thoughts about people who have harmed others

It was really hard to reconcile the person I knew with what he told me about his past @TheVorticon I do give him credit for being so open about it with me but it did certainly colour my view of him. I actually felt quite devastated at the time as I had become quite close with him and really enjoyed his company. It did completely change our relationship as it was something that I could not get past. He was a lovely, caring and thoughtful person who I felt comfortable being around. We had many long conversations about so many different topics - he talked the most and I listened but was not afraid to add my voice as well. So to know he had had in the past that aggressive side did not fit with the guy I had grown to know - so it really did come as a complete blindside to find out what he had done - and I honestly tried to process and move on from that but it goes against my core values and that is not something I could deal with. We still have the occasional contact but he has moved to a different state and is now in a relationship so that contact is minimal. I am happy for him as at his core I believe he is a very lovely guy.

Re: Looking for info - (possible trigger) conflicted thoughts about people who have harmed others

@TheVorticon  thanks TheVorticon Smiley Happyxx

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