During ancient times, human evil was attributed to demonic possession or temptation. While law emphasized that an individual bore personal responsibility for his actions, superstition or religion held out the hope of projecting blame for those actions onto an external, malevolent agency. When theocracies existed, such absolution could sometimes be purchased by exchanging goods, money, or acts of faith for indulgences. The evolution of laws and social contracts eventually lessened societal (if not individual) projection of blame.
Modern psychology has helped to explain the self-destructive impulses that drive people to hurt themselves or others. The discovery of the unconscious disclosed the hiding place of those drives. Recognition of emotional wounds suffered by one’s childhood Self revealed the origin of self-destruction: the wounded child, the persistent little saboteur who hides within the unconscious and whose words and actions send destructive echoes through life.