Pseudo-biographical abuse narratives have become popular of late. For some, there’s nothing more tantalizing than digesting a real-life story about a victim who has suffered in the worst kinds of way. Sexual, psychological and physical abuse, paedophilia, sadism and self-harm — are just a few of the topics covered in what’s been coined as misery literature.
What attracts people to misery lit?
There are four groups of individuals who read this broad-based genre.
- Care giving empaths
- Community leaders
Reading another’s story of triumph-over-extreme-adversary provides hope, not just for humanity, but for ourselves. Many of us have experienced extraordinary levels of pain and want to know that a stranger’s painful life has an outcome that ends well. We want them to succeed and rise above it all because we want to succeed and rise above it all. Their life is ours and their happy ending is ours too. At the very least, a shared abuse story acts as a catharsis. It eases the pain for both the author and the reader alike.
And then there’s another group of kind, empathetic people who choose to read misery literature to better understand a friend who is (or has been) a victim of abuse. Digesting misery lit encourages new knowledge about the subject — and a level of shared existence with that individual. The idea is to develop better communication with them and, in some way, help improve their lives and future.
A Community Leader
Intellectual readers visit this genre to acquire knowledge diversity. There’s nothing gained in this world by reading the same authors and genres — no title is off-limits. This reader’s broad-based bookshelf is the sign of a well-read, educated individual. They are able to look at the human condition from many perspectives and relate to each of them fairly, even if two (or more) of them are aggressively opposed to each other. Philosophy and leadership are this reader’s other great virtues.
Abusers read misery lit for an alternative reason. They adore the power inequality. They’ll put themselves in the perpetrator’s shoes to wield a similar weapon at a similar victim. It amuses them. It feels nice. This sensation comes from a dark side — evil juices flowing through their veins while reading the texts. It’s enjoyed on a totally different scale to the other three types of readers mentioned in this article.
Misery literature exposes humanity’s hidden wounds. It’s not for everyone. Not all readers like looking at such obscenities — but some can’t avoid looking away. They will glare directly into the carnage and do it in wonder. They then need to know who caused it, why and how it happened and what the victim endured to survive the pain. The obsession to get between the victim’s flesh and their soul to feel the right type of emotion is what consumes them. It’s absolute. Seeing a perpetrator punished is the cherry on the pudding.
My story walks the misery line too as it includes my abusive marriage. I didn’t see it as abusive at the time but that’s what it became, without a doubt. I’ve met many people along the way who have said the very same thing about their former marriages. They never knew their spouses were being abusive until they walked away from them and looked back at the wreckage left behind.
Abuse comes from any angle. The most damaging of all are those that leave no injuries. Compounding the problem is the loneliness felt knowing that you’re the only one who feels this way — and then doubting yourself all the while.
You begin to wonder if you’re being too sensitive or paranoid (or not enough). You want to speak but the words never make it out the right way. They sound jumbled and feel stupid to hear. Eventually, you just stop speaking and learn to live with what you don’t yet know is a dysfunctional, abusive relationship. Well, that’s how it happened to me.
And then I gave myself the challenge to express the right kinds of words and place them in the proper order on a page or three.
I put the best ones into a book.
P.S It’s pseudo-autobiographical. You decide which part isn’t real.
Five women’s bodies are discovered after the nights of thunderstorms. Their spouses are suspected of the crimes, but it becomes clear that someone else is responsible. There’s no blood and few clues. A storm photographer who specializes in taking pictures of lightning may be the only witness.