Seeing someone as a monster is like tossing yourself into a pit, and at the bottom of that pit, you find yourself ankle-deep in acid. You find yourself stuck where you can’t escape, being slowly destroyed.
Seeing someone as a monster is dehumanizing, by definition. And what must you do with monsters? You must destroy them. Think about monsters, as a concept. Why do we find monsters scary, whether it’s a cyclops, a vampire, or a dragon? We find them scary because we always depict monsters as wanting to eat us, or at the very least kill us. If you came across a cyclops, you’d be scared because of its size and its deformed appearance. Somehow, that convinces your primal instincts that it’s gonna chase you down and kill you.
When we see people as monsters, it’s no less primal.
It’s not just dehumanizing. To see someone as a monster, you also assign monstrous characteristics to them that they probably don’t even have. You trick yourself into thinking they’re coming to get you, lurking around every corner, hiding in every shadow, like they only exist to harm you. That’s part of the meaning of ‘monster’ after all: A monster isn’t a monster unless it has nothing better to do than harm you.
Think of how the political left sees Donald Trump. Sane people call it ‘Trump Derangement Syndrome’ for a good reason. The Left has called Trump ‘literally Hitler,’ and for 4 years, that is all they see, no matter what.
Remember I said this kind of thinking is like being in a pit. You can’t escape it. Once someone is a monster in your mind, you have fooled yourself into believing they cannot possibly be anything else except a monster. You never allow yourself to think maybe you are mistaken about them. You never allow yourself to see evidence that they are not a monster. In fact, you have fooled yourself into thinking all the evidence that they are not a monster is, actually, even more evidence they are. Like a bubble, inflating forever. Everything that should change your mind about them somehow only reinforces what you already think.
Like a pit. And you just keep digging yourself deeper into that pit.
People are people. Nobody is completely good or completely evil. People are complicated. People have reasons for what they do, even if you can’t relate, and even if they themselves don’t know the reason.
Lastly, I want to emphasize that this is a very human tendency. Even I suffer from seeing people as monsters sometimes. We all have to consciously resist the urge to see human beings as anything less than human. That doesn’t justify their horrible actions, if they committed any, but we should all admit that we tend to see people as monsters based on our feelings, and not for any tangible, concrete examples of anything they’ve done.
Even when I have a good reason, in my mind, to see someone as a monster – toward people like Josef Fritzl, or Ted Bundy – I still try to fight my primal urge. I still try to see more nuance and remember they are/were human, too. Even if you think you have a good reason to see someone as a monster, and we always think we do, it’s still a horrible habit to get into. We are primates, and like all other primates, we are very easily frightened. We humans evolved to use tools because we are easily frightened. Our ancestors weren’t brave enough to evolve claws or fangs. Nope, our ancestors ran away. We didn’t evolve to prowl in the dark, we evolved to stay up in the trees at night until morning came and we felt safe again.
Again, people do horrible things sometimes, no doubt about it, but all I’m saying is that seeing them as nothing but a monster doesn’t help anything. It doesn’t help you understand their motivations, and it doesn’t help you, at all, in any way. If anything, it destroys you from the inside, as you either burn up with hatred toward them, or you frighten yourself so much you end up ruining your own life.
Whether it’s Trump, or someone you know personally, it’s far better to understand what you fear and/or hate than it is to dehumanize them. One choice is rational, the other is primitive.