It all starts when we punish our kids.
What “all starts?” Well . . .
- Domestic Violence.
I know, I`ve already talked about violence generally (part 2), as well as misogyny (part 3) and rape (part 5) all in this series and I`ve written this argument before too, but I thought it deserved its own entry.
Here`s the rest of the series:
And here`s the other one:
Oh, and there`s this, possibly amusing and enlightening for those who haven`t seen it yet:
Wow, seems this is all I ever say!
OK then, so, one more f/$%?*g time: when you start to see a few things, when you start to see that there is no qualitative difference between abuse and punishment, and that there really is no form of punishment that isn`t physical, then the connections stand out like a white guy in a rice paddy.
Personally, it doesn’t surprise me. From my point of view, the idea that some folks get used to the situation we mostly all shared in our childhoods, that our creators and landlords (“I brought you into this world, I can take you out” and “As long as you’re living under my roof you’ll obey my rules”) make the decisions and keep control through force and intimidation and so they just transition smoothly into adult abusive relationships. It’s only a surprise when we’re going about in denial about it. I tell you now, the surprise is a clue, an opportunity.
When two apparent facts are in conflict, one of them must be wrong, or there is a higher truth behind them. Certainly not in every individual case, of course, but in general, adult abusive relationships give the lie to stories we tell of peoples’ idyllic, or even “normal” childhoods. I think in a way, we all intuit this connection, and so parents and caregivers of abused women have a range of reactions to their child’s adult abuse, from blatant support for the abuser against a child they always thought was difficult, through blindness to it, to demonization of the abuser in an attempt to distance themselves and preserve the family myth of discipline without abuse. Sometimes the parents figure it out and guilt ensues. Perhaps some of these parents would have changed their ways having seen where their kids ended up.
Now I’m not unsympathetic, at least not from my vantage here at the computer. Honestly, I get unsympathetic (frightened and reactive) in the presence of violent people, but in theory, parents deserve some sympathy, some understanding. The shock and horror of seeing the child we raised apparently addicted to abuse, that is terrible, and in theory, if not in real life, I imagine I can empathize with the experience even if I think that generally, parents set it up in the first place. That’s not easy, because parents and caregivers are very active, very much the agents of this thing. You can’t stop them from their discipline, they are committed to it and won’t be turned away. Empathy for the way things turn out afterwards would seem to require either approval of their methods or some sort of acknowledgment that they too are victims, driven by unconscious forces, that their agency and authority were illusions.
It’s hard, finding sympathy and forgiveness for those whose mistake was to be powerful and authoritative. Seriously, if that was forgivable, who is left that we can just relax and hate? That rationale puts Hitler, Stalin, and dictators generally in the ‘there but for the grace of God go I’ column. It’s where every sinner belongs if we’re saints, but actually getting there, well . . . let’s just say there is intellectual forgiveness. We know, that in theory, in a perfect world, or from our image of our perfect selves, power ultimately needs to be forgiven and understood, eventually.
So, with that caveat, that there is sympathy for every possible mistake and that we are all only human, raised in the system, here are the ways in which parents and caregivers lay the groundwork for abusive adult relationships:
- Modelling authority. If our childhood home has a hierarchy, if the adults are in charge and make the decisions, then that power structure becomes part of our worldview. Every person raised this way will expect to be a boss or an underling. Most children are trained to take orders.
- Modelling intimidation, violence and personal disregard through the use and teaching of punishment. We call it “discipline,” but it means all of that.
- Modelling gender roles, as relates to hierarchy and power sharing. Many families still have certain expectations of children based on their gender, such as that violence is somewhat more acceptable from boys than girls and that girls are more often expected to be the peacemakers
I’m successfully resisting the temptation here to give this one of my pithy, rhetorical endings, I think this one is better left hanging, like the situation I’m talking about, unresolved and embarrassing . . .
Thanks for reading, Folks. Please re-tweet and repost, trying to save the world here.
August 8, 2015