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Encountering the Devil in Fiction

There is a negative vitality that resides in every human being. In psychological (Jungian) terms, we might call that "negative" energy, the Shadow. Regardless if whether or not we choose to recognize our Shadow, it persists. Our fears, our repressed feelings, and our devious instincts all exist in the Shadow. I chose the title for this article, "Encountering the Devil in Fiction," because every work of fiction I've written has explored the negative aspects of the human psyche. What's my intent for using "Devil" in the title?

The popular view of the Devil, Satan, is that he is a fallen angel, an angel who rebelled against God and was cast out of Heaven. However, in the Old Testament, Satan was not considered to be a fallen angel. In Judaism, Satan has no free will. He cannot act without God's approval. He has a specific purpose, to test God's people (see the Book of Job). It wasn't until Christianity came around that the Devil, Satan, became God's adversary. Christians view the Devil as a heartless, cruel, destructive being who is lurking around the planet trying to turn them against God, to destroy their faith. This article will use the Devil in the Christian context. He has become the embodiment of Evil.

I mentioned before that I explore the Shadow in each of my novels. I do this for two reasons: 1) To learn more about myself 2) To help others learn more about their Shadow. I achieve this by creating characters fashioned from ideas that, I believe, emanate from my unconscious mind. For some characters, the Shadow might manifest in subtle ways. For others, like the antagonist, the Shadow might be more prominent. In either case, the negative aspects of the human psyche manifest.

I'm sure many others who write stories that involve rape, murder, and other heinous human actions, get in tune with their Shadow. The process of attunement with the Shadow is what I call, negative empathy. When we empathize with someone who is suffering, we try to share their feelings with them. We attempt to absorb their suffering so that we can relate to what they're going through. With negative empathy, we absorb the darkness inside another person. Their anger and hate seeps into our minds like a virus, causing us to enter a dark place. It's as if those negative emotions take us over. I think most people have walked into a room where there is considerable "tension," where the psychic atmosphere of the room has been infested with negative energy. That energy is palpable.

Maybe other authors can relate to what I experience when writing scenes that involve violence and cruelty. I feel as though the light of hope and love dims inside my mind. A darkness enters. My mind becomes flooded with wicked machinations. I descend into the character's mind. More often than not, after I've finished writing a grim scene, I feel lethargic, drained of all energy. I may experience negative after-effects for several minutes. For a moment, I become possessed by the Devil. I become the Devil. And thinking like the Devil is not pleasant, unless maybe you're a psychopath. When I can achieve a state of negative empathy, I feel that my writing is better. Writing evil as an outsider doesn't have the same effect.

I would love to hear about your experience writing from your Shadow. Leave a comment, if you dare.

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