Punishment Hurts in Non-Physical Ways

First, here’s a few posts of mine on why all punishment is dependent on physical means:



The second one was written too quickly, but the concepts are there, and this is an online forum; I’m happy to debate them, clarify anything I said in my sloppy shorthand. But this is the other part of the same conversation: it doesn’t need to be physical to be damaging anyway.

I’ve been on this train of thought for a long time, and this idea didn’t develop during the first decade of the journey . . . it’s here now though, and in full force: why should our focus be solely on corporal punishment?

I mean, I’m sorry to kill any buzzes, but, does that mean there’s another kind, one we like better? Perhaps something more powerful, and therefore more efficient, like the mental kind. Whip a kid, he limps for a few days and then back to normal (so there’s all this maintenance), but mentally torture him once and you can fuck him up for years – is that the sort of bang we want for our buck? Of course not.

The thing is, when we opted for the term – Corporal Punishment – defining what wasn’t corporal punishment wasn’t the task, or the problem. It was more a matter of defining what it is, and that is basically the administration of physical pain as a deterrent and a penalty for misbehaviour. Perhaps it overlaps with ‘retribution’ to a great degree, in that they both mean pain, for the sake of pain, to balance the pain of the victims. Point is, we weren’t thinking about having defined Corporal Punishment that we would then have to determine what other sorts there are.

It’s time now, though. The best time is always ten years ago, but now is good too. So there’s your first homework assignment: define “non-Corporal Punishment.” Perhaps that job will morph into naming all the sorts of punishment that there are, for example, what sort of punishment is it when my mom gave me the “wait ‘till your father gets home” treatment? Mental, that it would cause anxiety for the rest of the day, until Dad got home, or probably more emotional, that I would suffer stress and fear for several hours? I guess on those times when all that was promised was given, it all just goes under Corporal, but on the days when Mom or Dad didn’t follow through, the promise was certainly a price to pay, certainly was a punishment in itself, and then should be classifiable. And the much talked about ‘Timeout?’ The solitary confinement must surely be an emotional punishment also, the temporary loss of the primary caregiver and their love?

I have asked rhetorically a few times over the last few years, and I will again – who will stand up and advocate for this form of non-corporal punishment, Emotional Punishment? Of course, no-one will. It is my dream that as other sorts of punishment are identified they are immediately moved to the list of cruel, banned practices, because if we do end up identifying the other sorts of punishment besides the Corporal variety, they are sure to include Mental Punishment, Emotional Punishment, Psychological Punishment and others – the ramifications, one, that the functions identified in the previous studies re: corporal punishment will apply and have always applied to all sorts of punishment, and two,  that now authors, educators and social workers will be in the unenviable position of identifying  some type of punishment off of the list as Approved For Use in the home – are pretty big. The ramifications of what we think and what we do as regards punishment in child-rearing in general have always been huge.

I, for one, am not convinced that all the study that went into the CRC and the anti-Corporal Punishment movement generally says anything like ONLY corporal punishment is damaging. The CRC and the rest list many sorts of damage and trauma beyond the purely physical damage in its condemnation of corporal punishment. Clearly any of these experts would admit at least some measure of the causes of other traumas – mental, cognitive, emotional, psychological traumas – to causes of the same names, mental, sexual, emotional, etc., punishments. Though it would be overly subjective to try to quantify exactly which aspects may produce exactly which or what amount of damage, I think it must be that both these vectors have some effect at some rate. Punishment genres tend to get mixed up in these dramas, often several varieties being dished out in one writhing mass, difficult to categorize.

Meaning, that in theory, emotional, mental sorts of punishments can also bring emotional and/or mental damage – meaning in turn that decrying and banning only “corporal punishment” isn’t going to be enough to stop the damage. So while selling the anti-Corporal Punishment message with this research is fair play, or fair enough, it certainly can’t be the only thing this important research supports. It also lays much of the groundwork to get us from anti-Corporal Punishment to anti-Punishment, meaning again, where all of the non-Corporal kind, like mental, emotional, cognitive, and psychological punishments are understood in our minds to be damaging and counterproductive as well. I know we all know that all those forms of abuse exist, but I think maybe we don’t like to appreciate that those forms of punishment also exist. Perhaps we’re also not appreciating how our acceptance of what we consider to be ‘legitimate’ forms and degrees of punishments tend to give oxygen to the illegitimate kind. We don’t know when we see a kid being dressed down and humiliated at the mall whether this is the worst episode of that family’s life, or the best moment of that kid’s day, much of which may not be spent in public.

When that sort of ambiguity can exist around whether a child is suffering physical punishment or abuse, imagine the additional difficulty of identifying these invisible types, mental, emotional forms of punishment and abuse. We need to do all we can to make abuse more visible, and the second and second best thing we should do is stop approving of all these things that look the same and provide camouflage for abuse. Of course the first thing we should do is realize that the downside of a culture of punishing has a major effect, possibly as big or bigger than the positive effect we always hope for when we’re punishing.

16 thoughts on “Punishment Hurts in Non-Physical Ways

  1. truthaholics April 16, 2015 / 2:06 am

    Reblogged this on | truthaholics and commented:
    Very insightful, thought-provoking post which grapples with some complex issues and exposes equally the dumbing-down of education in society as much as poor parenting as root causes for increasingly driving children into becoming non-thinking, nihilistic consumers instead of blossoming into productive, critically-minded young adults.


    • neighsayer April 16, 2015 / 3:26 pm

      yeah, my concerns are certainly part of the problems you see, all part of the picture. I’m starting to feel sort of a Hundredth Monkey thing going on internally, like the world is starting to make some sense . . .


  2. Pamela Spiro Wagner April 16, 2015 / 5:23 am

    An excellent refining of your position that all punishment is corporal punishment. I too am against punishment in all forms, esp when I see what happens in prisons. Prison itself should be abolished as a regular and habitual form of punishment, but why punish those whom we deem criminals at all, when we know that punishment of any sort does not make anyone a better person, only a cagier, angrier person with grudges and MAYBE restrained behaviors in fear of punishment (but again that has not been shown to be true…)

    I know most people think that prisons must be kept in society because “what about those murderers who would kill us in our beds if we were not protected from them by their Walls?” But I say to them, behind EVERY murderer and every career criminal (as opposed to those swept up in history’s vagaries against the Different…i.e the pot smokers, the mentally ill, the loiterers etc) behind every “criminal” there are two things: a society that defined his or her behavior as criminal and thereby criminalized what we might have explained, understood and treated differently but for the label, “criminal behavior” (even the notion of purely private property I believe should be re- examined…) and a childhood of abuse, i.e. punishment with its sequelae.

    I suspect these are not foreign concepts to you, but for most people they bring abhorrence and looks askance at the very least. What? Re-define MURDER as a non-criminal act? re-define THEFT as a non-criminal act? I say, why not? What has executing or imprisoning murderers done for either us or them, aside from the usual “Protects us from the dangerous…”? And does it really? NOT…If prisons were the solution, it would have solved the “crime problem” a long time ago. But prisons at least in the US keep getting bigger and more dangerous, and their residents as well. Why? Because prison does not help anyone, not even those whom it is supposed to protect…It makes the prisoner worse, without helping him or “us.” Don’t let me start about the concept of Private Prisons…because it ends up just being economics whether we have “criminals” or not.

    Well, enough for now, but a good and new friend of mine, when told who Ted Bundy was, went to look into the matter for herself, and found herself making a (casual) study of the serial killer, and ended up trying to understand him, not being happy with simply condemning him and walking away…It gave me new insights, and new courage to speak up. If she is not afraid to “defend” a serial killer like TB with her compassion and understanding, then why should I be afraid to say, NO PRISONS! Stop calling crime “crime” and justifying brutality in the name of safety, when it doesn’t work and makes all of us less safe.



    Liked by 1 person

    • neighsayer April 16, 2015 / 3:29 pm

      thanks Pam. I promise a good answer sometime, I’m just not getting online with much time to read or write these days . . .


    • neighsayer April 17, 2015 / 6:55 pm

      lessee, nothing to dispute in the first paragraph . . .

      same for the second . . .

      third – yeah, I think I have a post for this somewhere, but it’s like we’re just happy punishing murderers but not really trying to stop Murder itself, murder generally. I do think there still might be murderers for some time after the Change I have planned for the world takes place, and maybe locking the stubborn ones up will be necessary – but as I’ve said elsewhere, it should be comfortable and safe, a hotel sort of thing, all the amenities, even luxuries. The punitive and retributive aspects need to stop.

      fourth – yeah, same thing with Hitler. Labeling him isn’t the most productive thing either, just like everybody else. There are two kinds of brains. One sees processes and change, cause and effect, and the other simply sees in polaroids and categorizes and lists what is in the frozen image, things simply are. Ask the first one why, and you’ll be there all the way back to the Big Bang, but ask the second type why and they can only tell you what. ‘Because he IS, because they ARE,’ like that. I swear to God.


  3. Scarlet April 16, 2015 / 5:05 pm

    It reminds me of 1984 when Winston is being tortured and asked how many fingers, “What do you want me to say” is the answer to everything big brother wants. Punishment is what the mob wants because the mob is told we must punish, to not do it, is a crime of thought.

    Skin heals, bones do sometimes, scars fade, but only on the outside.


    • neighsayer April 16, 2015 / 5:49 pm

      and yet so far, all anyone wants to talk about is the violence, as though only violence can cause the ones on the inside. ‘Highly illogical,’ if you ask this pointy-eared freak.


      • Scarlet April 16, 2015 / 6:21 pm

        You credit people with more depth than I do, its better to be seen to address an issue than to try and understand it. See politics, the internet, relgion and all dogma, its all about the same thing beat the results to death, ignore the cause. A violent society might actually be afraid to remove the violent aspect, then what? People wouldn’t be able to make assertions based on simple ‘truths’ that they hold ‘self evident’.

        You know I’m partial to pointy eared men, especially overly logical ones, hussy!


        • neighsayer April 16, 2015 / 6:42 pm

          That was a little over the top, wasn’t it? 40 minutes of the most dreadful toadying . . .


          • Scarlet April 16, 2015 / 6:57 pm

            When I read your blogs I see reason, you are the opposite of Timholdzagrudge back at thoughtless.com yet he is very popular, playing the innocent butt hurt victim. I think part of it is that its easy to line up behind mob outrage, people pat you on the back for it but to offer solutions like rehabilitation gets on peoples nerves, reason being that they feel hard done by every time a blog like his goes up.

            Terrorist gets off with warning, meth mum gets government assistance and so on. You can play their game, which is what the left does so badly they end up stained with the same gunk or you can be blunt about it. Being blunt requires people to pony up, people don’t like actual involvement, that requires commitment and so they can’t drive down to KFC and lard up for an hour.

            You’ll have to either do what Caesar did, go off and conquer Gaul or you can buy power and be a Sulla, destroy your enemies, either way to effect change you need imperium. I’m so glad I’m blonde and not male. 🙂


  4. neighsayer April 16, 2015 / 7:41 pm

    Yeah, I too am beginning to worry that I may not win this argument with the world . . .


    • Scarlet April 17, 2015 / 2:18 am

      Please don’t let cynical little me put you off!


      • neighsayer April 17, 2015 / 7:07 pm

        Oh, I guess I’ll keep banging my head against this wall for a while yet . . . hey your story, pared down as it is about that beating to death you had to watch – that’s gotten under my skin a bit. What a fucking horror. Jesus.


        • Scarlet April 18, 2015 / 5:27 pm

          I’d grow your hair out and tie them in pigtails, that worked for me as a kid, plus when you do that the hair works better at padding.

          Sorry about that, truth worse than fiction kind of thing. I was having a bit of a protest about the shit people write and get hung up about.

          Brutality has its own tides, but the effect of them is no less damaging than storms. The initial effect of being involved in that is fear, panic, but people will get used to all kinds of things, even when it happens to the person. Then it becomes a badge of honour, this is what I think being a warrior – that matcho bullshit is all about, fighting, guns, being a prick its all in the same arena.

          Even worse is compliance, cowardice, that’s my spin on it, and its not standing up to the bully, that more than often will get you at least damaged, its having the courage to do something, anything to stop it. And by it you can apply the macro and the global, people who get misty eyed over flags are as bad as the ones doing the shooting of the peasants at the other end of nationalism.

          I’ve become too accustomed to tending to my own skin, I’ve stood out of line a few times and been smacked around enough not to do it again, that’s what, in increments and greater to lesser degrees breeds nations of sheep. The core of the true value of violence, pacification with minimal effort. Its exactly the same as when you train a dog, though you don’t at all need to use violence it makes for more submissive slaves. So anyway what I am trying to say in my round about way is that your ideas are right, the resistance is that people have a system that they have been subdued by, so of course you have an up hill battle. The right – and the left to some extent because really are they not the same thing in our time? They are quick to point out macro failure, and slow to accept the bigger picture, the great proof of our time is climate change and the creationist v Darwin lobby. Where it not the death of us it’d be comical.

          Funny thing is it ended up being my last post, I don’t know why but I can’t visit the site from my home IP and when I try log in from another IP the page goes blank.


          • neighsayer April 23, 2015 / 11:38 pm

            I’ve got ONE disciple so far, GoldenPig, my one and only convert. Help one kid, that’s worth something, right?
            I think it’s time for me to start over again, recycle and retweet from the start of this blog again, one a day for 100 days or something . . . but I’m selling something, I guess maybe that’s not the same thing when it’s your sort of blog – stream of consciousness? I figure if I reach a few folks with every pass, that’s good for the world, it’s the way causes (especially lost ones) work. But it ain’t ever going to get the sort of following that would impress a publisher. Different things.
            I haven’t had much time to write or be online lately. I’m hoping I’ll stay busier IRL for my health, but I hope I can drop in online still, that is, I hope it doesn’t have to be all day or never.

            Hey, are you dropping out of here, too? Just keep my email, let me know if you land somewhere new and better that that other place.

            Yes, agree, “Right” and “Left” are not different enough by a long shot.


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