The Darkness Within Us

'Snail in a Salt Storm' (

My Real Memoir

(Warning: Contains some disturbing descriptions)

I thought I didn’t have a dark side. When a college professor asked us to talk about our most sadistic impulses, our temptation to hurt others, I was the only person in the class who said he’d never been tempted to do so.

But then I remembered my childhood.

Around age 11, my buddy Rory and I went through a curious-cruel streak. We learned that if we poured salt on a snail or a slug, it would disintegrate before our eyes. It was morbidly fascinating. And being boys, we had pocket-sized magnifying glasses that could magically enlarge things. Like disintegrating snails. Which made their deaths even more real. And disturbing.

But other kids were doing it.

And then, when the sun came out, we discovered concentrated beams from our magnifying glasses could set things on fire! Things like paper, leaves, twigs…and ants. We’d watch in guilt-laced fascination as the insects suffered. But a short time later, while delivering newspapers, I passed a kid who was methodically beheading bees. Horrified, I ordered him to stop. He laughed and called me a girl. I was fine with that if it meant not being like him.

It didn’t matter whether other kids were doing it.

But my curious-cruel streak wasn’t over. I’d learned that cats used their whiskers to navigate. And so, despite an internal warning bell, I took a pair of scissors and cut off our cat Ginchy’s whiskers. When he bumped against the wall in a darkened hallway, I let out a weird laugh-cry. And later, as though Ginchy were to blame, I pushed him off the dryer (one of his warm places), entrapping him in the darkness behind it. I told myself it was an experiment. But I knew better–I was a monster. Then, I climbed over the dryer, reached down and lifted him out, and begged his forgiveness.

I denied knowing anything, when my parents asked what had happened to Ginchy’s whiskers. But a few days later I confessed (I never told them about the dryer). For days, months, possibly years, I wondered why I’d done it. Was it just curiosity? Was I jealous of the attention Mom gave him? Or was there really a monster living inside me? I decided to starve the monster till it died, or at least grew too weak to come out again.

A year or so later, I heard about a junior high boy who’d found and brutally killed a litter of kittens. Was it true? My first thought was, No, it can’t be. But my second thought was, “Yes, I’ve seen that monster.” I still convulse at the thought of what the boy who fed the monster might have become. And what I might have become. Because…

I no longer believe I don’t have a dark side.

“What if I should discover that the very fiend himself (lives) within me, and that I myself stand in need of my own kindness, that I myself am the enemy who must be loved?”

~Carl Jung

My Real Memoir is a series. To read the next one, click here.

About mitchteemley

Writer, Filmmaker, Humorist, Thinker-about-stuffer
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44 Responses to The Darkness Within Us

  1. rwfrohlich says:

    It takes courage to admit the existence of the monster within, but the Bible is clear that we’re all sinful beasts. Culture may help build a cage for the monster, but only Christ can slay the beast.

    Liked by 9 people

  2. ejstoo says:

    Sorry, can’t seem to read through. Very young before I knew the difference, a fish bowl toppled and I washed the floor with the water…but think Mom rescued the fish.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. This was a tough one to read.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Very thoughtful and thought provoking. Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson was a best seller perhaps, in part, because it’s theme was universal.

    Liked by 4 people

  5. Abe Austin says:

    I applaud your courage, Mitch. I think it’s easy to pretend that nothing like that could be inside of us, but if no one ever talks about it then we all just privately think we are the only one in the world who has that inner beast.

    I believe that a very real part of our morbid fascination is our inner child trying to process the reality of its own death. Could that terrible thing REALLY happen to me? It is natural then to want to experiment in that space between whole and damaged, alive and dead, and thus shine a light on that terrifying unknown.

    Of course, the fact that it is a natural impulse is not a justification to indulge in it. Doing so can cultivate an appetite that is truly devious. What is more, it only affirms to our inner child that mortality is real, but does nothing to address the actual fear. Rather it increases it.

    But I would suggest that instead of “starving the monster” and ignoring our primal fear, it would be better to use those impulses as an indicator that we need to go find that little child inside who is scared of dying, and comfort him instead.

    Liked by 4 people

  6. This one made me so uneasy, Mitch. My boyhood friends and I had magnifying glasses, too, and salt was easy to get from the kitchen. We tried those same “experiments.” To this day I can’t tell what bothered me more—the agony we put those poor creatures through, or the delight one of my friends in particular took in doing that. Jung is absolutely right. We have to come to terms with our shadow. Richard Rohr has said that if we don’t take care of our pain and fear and other unfinished business, we spill it all over everyone else. We should thank God for all those who teach us empathy.

    Liked by 6 people

  7. Pingback: That Time I Almost Joined the Circus | Mitch Teemley

  8. Todd R says:

    I remember my first experience with the massive “Brood X” of cicadas that come out every 17 years here. I spent many afternoons finding ways to be cruel to them. It is not an accident that the first Beatitude is about being poor in spirit. The finger always points back at self. On a macro scale, many of the darkest times in human history happened because one group of people decided only “other” people had darkness within and that it was their job to “fix” it.

    Liked by 4 people

  9. Did the whiskers grow back?

    Liked by 2 people

  10. capost2k says:

    While this exercise may have turned out good for you, teaching us to pray, “God, Be merciful to me a sinner,” the impulse of the professor who asked this is my concern.
    While Jung’s quote rings true with the tax collector of Luke 18, too much of modern psychology has focused on, “Tell us what you ‘really’ feel,” which is really a way of saying, “Tell us the worst you feel.”
    That we feel inclined to do evil does not have to define us, because we also feel like that tax collector. And Father is always looking for us useless sinners so that He can redeem and restore us to Creation’s glory.
    As John Newton said, “I am not what I ought to be, I am not what I want to be, I am not what I hope to be in another world; but still I am not what I once used to be, and by the grace of God I am what I am”

    Liked by 3 people

  11. Painful candor. I just spoke about this to a class of middle school students I was subbing in today. They are reading The Hiding Place by Corrie Ten Boom and I mentioned how all of us have the potential in us to just keep walking down that path… Thanks be to God for Christ Jesus!

    Liked by 3 people

  12. annieasksyou says:

    I agree this was tough to read, but also valuable and courageous. I wonder how much of your “experimenting” is gender-based. Still, you felt guilt and reacted strongly when another boy went too far. If you knew that boy as an adult, you may have been aware of full- blown pathology.

    Though male humans tend to be more violent, I think your Jung quote is apt. I, too, carry bugs outside, and I weep when I see any person or animal suffering. But once when I was young and my big sister was verbally abusive…

    We must all strive for kindness and empathy to keep the dark side at bay.

    Liked by 2 people

  13. It is sobering to glimpse the monster within. But praise God, that’s not who we are created to be, nor must we succumb to because of the undeserved grace of Christ.

    Liked by 1 person

  14. I think this is honest as you had to remember a childhood experience that was suppressed but you seem to have learnt from this and the cat. I only remember my older brother pulling the cats tail and tearing the legs off daddy long legs/ crane fly. But my dark side is I let my husband deal with trapping the mice that like to live in the house. Humane trapping was tried by me but possibly also not fair to transport the mouse miles away. Is it the frightened, neglected child or the curious, testing the limits child? Or the ability to have power over a smaller creature?

    Liked by 1 person

  15. This is beautifully and sensitively done, Mitch. Yes, the shadow lurks within us all.

    Liked by 1 person

  16. revruss1220 says:

    You were a real little monster, weren’t you. I, of course, say this as one who has “been there, done that.”
    I think this is one of the main reasons we revel in pointing out the cruelties committed by others. That way, we can easily identify evil as all “out there” and not have to confess that it is also “in here.”

    Liked by 1 person

  17. I remember saying mean things as a kid and laughing but having a knot in my stomach. It wasn’t much fun, so I soon became a nauseatingly sweet kid that was more of a victim of the mean kids. 🙄

    Liked by 2 people

  18. PeachyTO says:

    Those that face their darkness, as you did, will not be ruled by it. Powerful piece.

    Liked by 1 person

  19. Distressing to stare at the darkness. I like the analogy of starving the beast. For me it’s helpful, necessary, to focus on The Light! The more I do, the better off I am!

    Liked by 1 person

  20. “If only it were all so simple! If only there were evil people somewhere insidiously committing evil deeds, and it were necessary only to separate them from the rest of us and destroy them. But the line dividing good and evil cuts through the heart of every human being. And who is willing to destroy a piece of his own heart?” (Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn).
    Powerful story (I did the one with the magnifying glass and ants once).

    Liked by 1 person

  21. gpavants says:


    That is a real battle for sure. The darker sin self wants to run the show. It is a constant battle all of our lives.

    In Christ, Gary

    Liked by 1 person

  22. Carla says:

    I believe we all have a dark side and we have to work to keep it weak in our lives. It is wonderful to have help to do that. Our help is in the Lord.

    Liked by 1 person

  23. Reblogged this on battleoftheatlantic19391945 and commented:
    “MORONIC, JUST ANOTHER MANIC Monday, in COWARDICE CANADA/1993-2022, March 28, 2022@19:30-Jesus Christ OUR Lord-Saviour…SAYS that we MUST FORGIVE OTHERS. We MUST also use RIGHTEOUS JUDGEMENT, and being UNDER CRIMINAL TREASON, ETC., 1993 – 2022…has our Five Canadian Police Forces, Nation’s Security-CSIS, Canadian Civilian Satellite-Computer SPY RING Males-Females=RATS-TRAITORS-TURNCOATS, ETC., making and having; OUR CANADA…as THE DARKNESS WITHIN US!!!” “With YOUR COWARDICE CANADA LAW AUTHORITIES MENTIONED, YOUR Civilian Satellite-Computer SPY RING Males-Females, YOUR NATION’S SECURITY-CSIS…PEOPLE WORLD WIDE CANNOT EVEN GO TO CHURCH ON Sunday..The Sabbath, I CANNOT EVEN SALUTE YOU COWARDICE CANADIAN GOOFS-PUNKS MENTIONED PROPERLY=WHEN I AM TAKING a SHIT, HAVING a BOWEL MOVEMENT, and Y’ALL COWARDICE CANADIANS WONDER WHY I, and other Born Again Christians…ARE BACK-SLIDING, STUMBLING, SINNING, WALKING AFTER THE FLESH; WITH WHAT YOUR Canada HAS DONE, IS DOING…TO THE WORLD FOR 29 YEARS/1993-2022!!!” “Canadian Forces-JUDGE ADVOCATE GENERAL, OMBUDSMAN…YOU BOTH KNOW and are AWARE of WHAT IS TAKING PLACE, WHICH INVOLVES YOUR Canadian Forces in Canada/1993-2022, YOU SHOULD KNOW THAT THIS CRIMINAL TREASON, ETC., INVASION OF PRIVACY=WHICH RELATES TO DIFFERENT CRIMINAL COWARDICE, WHEN IT CONCERNS YOUR Canadian CLASSIFIED PEOPLE-SUCH as your Canadian Forces, Q.E.II, CSIS, Prime Minister, Government, AND Non-Classified People-Invasion of Privacy; and/with you also KNOW THAT YOUR Canadian Police Forces-5, Canadian Nation’s Security-CSIS=IS NOT GOING TO LEGALLY CORRECT THIS, THEN IN 1993, and/or NOW-in 2022; so YOU HAVE TO SEND YOUR Canadian Forces Military Deployed, SUCH as in Afghanistan/2002-2014…INTO HARMS WAY=YOU ARE STANDING INTO DANGER-Z, NAVAL SEMAPHORE…as YOU-Canada/1993-2022 HAVE Canadian Civilian Satellite-Computer SPY RING RATS-TRAITORS-TURNCOATS…ILLEGALLY-CRIMINALLY USING Satellite-Computer Images-LIVE; and AIDING AND ABETTING THE ENEMY@Conflict-War, and ALL ETC. Being that our CF-JAG…Canadian Forces-JUDGE ADVOCATE GENERAL; is the ONLY LEGAL CORRECT FACTOR, Y’ALL Canadian Morons Mentioned…BETTER END UP BEING SUBPEONA to a Criminal Canadian Superior Court of Law-SOON, AS THE ALLIED WORLD, etc., has HAD ENOUGH of THIS GOSSIPING GOOF-PUNK CANADIAN COWARDICE=CRIMINAL TREASON, etc., and 29/1993-2022 YEARS…IS ALL ANYONE CAN TAKE of THIS DISHONOUR BEFORE DEATH!!!” RESEARCH-The Canadian Non-Fiction Military Published Author, Present Day Military Analyst/Amateur, High Treason Q.E.II Analyst, W.W.II Naval Researcher-Published Author, Niagara Falls, Ontario, Canada. “The Darkness Within Us=Cowardice Canada/1993-2022!!!”


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