I’m having a little trouble getting this idea across, the idea of parental force and violence, of parental power, as a condition necessary for abuse. To read the psychoanalysts on the subject, gives one a concept of a purely mental process of manipulation, that abuse is inevitable unless a caregiver purges himself of all unconsciousness of his own damage, of his own abuse suffered in his own powerless state of childhood.
Full disclosure – I have not had the therapy, I haven’t discovered my own emotional history. I am told I’m a rather closed person. I’m not sure the psychoanalysts are wrong in the above idea, and I’m not sure my own children are without some damage. Certainly there is a great deal of education I was unable to give them, certainly my inadequacies must add up to deficiencies in their lives. Certainly my blind spots resulted in a failure to acknowledge and nurture certain traits or abilities in them, and in a real sense, this must be a kind of abuse.
Having said all of that, is this really the larger problem?
Would this sort of abuse have spawned psychological thought, that is, would the symptoms, the resulting damage from these sorts of failings have brought about an entire branch of medical care, one that began in hospitals?
If we were to triage the various phenomena of mental damage, I think we should look first to the more immediate, more invasive sort of trauma. Perhaps if we can make some kind of dent in the mountain of abuse damage that we are very actively creating by our own force, then we may have a generation, a society that can look to the sort of failing I have visited upon my children, who were never punished, ever, for anything.
I raised my kids on the theory that if I never forced them to accept anything I may have wanted them to have or do, that along with the good learning and disciplines I might have imparted, they would not have to accept any bad thing I might have also imparted to them. I hoped that the truth of life and the world could be apparent to them if I did not force or coerce them into accepting my views, which considering my damage, must probably be very flawed. My idea was that if I never punished, never forced, I could never abuse. This is the concept I am having so much trouble articulating here:
Abuse is not automatic, not transmitted invisibly from one mind to another. Abuse is something that occurs in a power imbalance, with the exercise of power, and much thought, both of professional practitioners and theoreticians of psychology and parents, seems to hold that the very power dynamic that makes abuse possible is proper and necessary, and in fact, that force and even violence is proper and necessary. My own view of this idea changed many years ago, and now, I am somewhat hesitant to say, this idea seems . . . crazy.
Are we truly, as a society, simultaneously of the opinion that abuse is transmitted somehow invisibly, not to say ‘magically,’ and also that the force and violence of punishing children is not only not involved, but actually absolutely necessary?
Abuse is transmitted by very clear means, for the most part, at least the worst kinds are, and the foundations of it are the power dynamics of the parent/child relationship. The mechanics of it are in the practice of punishment. Whomever was abused, whomever has witnessed abuse, I challenge you: could it have happened, or could it have been allowed to happen without the existence of the socially accepted structures of power and punishment? For the largest part, punishment is a condition for the existence of abuse, and the difference between the two being considered as only in the details, the particulars – that is everyone’s, society’s blind spot.