All Right you Mothers – Part #1

First of all, women are oppressed second-class citizens, no argument. I’m all about the equality. Having said that . . .

Ladies, get your shit together, and just like Pink Floyd told the teachers – Hey! Leave those kids alone.

I spend a lot of time criticizing parents, and I don’t mean to be sneaking it in under the radar: mothers are the main parents. In most of the world, most of the child-rearing, and therefore most of the child-rearing mistakes are made by mothers. I suppose in places where the men have proprietorship over their women (old world cultures, sub-cultures where the law doesn’t reach, among the very rich or the very poor), we can say that mothers have no choice, there certainly are places where a lot of misguided mothering is forced upon the mothers by a brutal regime of men – but not in my life! In middle-class suburban or city life in my corner of the former First World, the west coast of Canada, for the most part, it is mothers who have control, mothers who are the autonomous rulers of the family. Men here are still children to some degree, still living in the power-shadow of their own mother; the industrial revolution has removed men from the family structure. We’re like lions now, we will be called upon to fight if there’s a war or a threat, or when the children grow beyond the mother’s ability to control them herself. Other than that, we will defer to the mother, as we always have, from our earliest days.

On a personal level, I would have been one of those minimally involved men – I still am, half the time. Honestly, I still have the weak male core-belief that my contributions to running the household are optional. I cook and clean sometimes, but it’s still sort of voluntary, and sometimes I don’t. I’m sure I would have happily taken the suburban male’s back seat position regarding parenting too, except for this idea I had, my epiphany that children should not be punished. Un-punished children would not have happened if I had left things up to my wife. In my house, it was me, the man, who stood up against potential violence, against the betrayal and disregard that punishing brings to parenting. In my mind, it was about that, about saving my kids from a lot of unconscious brutality, but I have to admit – I wasn’t excited to be that uninvolved, un-consulted father. I was, as so many young men in this First World life are, staring down the barrel of familial irrelevance.

Having seen the effect of that in my own father, as well as in the patriarch of my in-laws’ family, and knowing my constitution wasn’t matched for the alcoholism that was their answer for it, I knew that wasn’t going to sit well with me.

This whole ‘no punishment’ thing, though, this started long before I was able to articulate that fear. I never recognized my dad’s situation that way as anything he didn’t deserve, and I only thought about it in a personal context. It was getting to know my in-laws that gave me to understand that it was a situation many men have to deal with.  Or not, I guess – and that I was facing that crisis/choice also. I think the chronology speaks to any conscious need to build a rationale I may have had – but I’m willing to grant the possible overlap of interests. Much as I’d rather look at it as a pleasant surprise, some collateral repair in my life from choosing to do the right thing, that I fought a careful and prolonged battle with my still-beloved wife to implement a form of child-rearing that very few people would understand or agree with.

I felt for many years, while the girls were young and vulnerable that I was walking a wire not to piss the wife off to the point of divorce while trying to bring her around to my idea, and to this day, I can see the pain that her lack of control over things gives her. The poor girl has done what I advise in my blog, she has lost at both ends, powerless with her own mother, and then cut off from the inheritance of power she needs so bad as an adult, never permitted to enjoy the topside of our eternal parent-child power struggle. I was trying to make the same sacrifice, but I had talked myself into it already, her parents were present in her life . . . for whatever reasons, it was me driving the change and was my wife losing her parental power simultaneously with starting to see the situation of her childhood powerlessness. It was very hard on her. She would never have it any other way now, but I think young motherhood was harder on my young wife than it is for some, thanks to me. Not to mention that I was intervening and insisting on changes because the girls were here now and needed to be spared a lot of “normal” stuff now – and a lot of the “now” was before my wife had understood or agreed with the whole ‘no punishment’ (so no force, so no bedtimes, no mealtimes, no toilet training) thing. If I ever succeeded in one of these interventions, it was often only that I had complained long and loud enough that she would just capitulate.

There wasn’t mostly a meeting of minds while the girls were little. It was a pretty stressful few years, bad for me, probably worse for her. It’s been a lot better since the younger one was maybe five or six, for all of us. Having said that –

My wife is the sweetest, most passive girl I could have found. I would say nine out of ten women I’ve met during the child-rearing years of my life would not have either allowed me to make this change, either would have whooped the kids’ asses while I wasn’t around or left me and had them all to themselves, something. I know what we did, what I made happen is what was in my dear wife’s heart, and she’s been very happy with it for many years now. We have always known we were loved, all through the teen years, always the communication and the honesty has been there.

Using your power early on takes that away from you; it’s a trade no-one in my house will ever again consider, I’m happy to say. Having said that, that, to a considerable degree, is motherhood, this power trap that my wife so painfully escaped, the stage of life where at last a young mother gets to feel her own power rather than her parents’ power, at the expense of her children’s power. I’m hopeful that we have lessened the power of that cycle for our girls and that the cycle will not simply resume with them, when they have children.

I’m hoping that my beautiful wife’s suffering won’t have helped save only our girls, but their kids, and theirs, won’t have been for a blip in history, but the start of something.

So I know how I’m framing this, and it’s horrible. It’s like male/master/rational – female/slave of unconscious needs – and I’m sorry. Any psychologist will remind me that I was getting my unconscious needs met too, of course. As I say, I powered my way into a strong parental position. Also, I acknowledge that most parents will grant that she too had a rational position to argue; I don’t agree, but if it makes me seem less authoritarian, I won’t try to convince you!

Hmmm . . . 1,300 words . . . better leave off for now . . .

Jeff

Oct. 8, 2015

Advertisements

#antiparenting

#antiparenting

It’s not personal, Folks, but I think I have to separate myself, I think I have to stop hoping that people might ever find me by searching for “parenting.” You’ll find a lot of people, and a lot of blogs, books, advice, bloggers with thousands, even hundreds of thousands of followers, but from a random sampling of the content, it’s all “parenting,” and in the overwhelming number of cases it’s all synonymous with “control.” I hope I’m not hurting feelings here, but be forewarned: if that’s what you’re talking about I’m not going to follow you. More yet, if I’ve been following you, that’s likely to end soon. Again, not personal, but if I had a brand, you’d be hurting it. I can’t be associated with you.

I’m pretty old, the other side of fifty, and so I’m not the most savvy fellow on the interwebs; much of social networking is counterintuitive to me, and I may have lost my way. I thought I would be followed more if I followed more people, and who knows? Maybe it worked a little. Maybe half of my thirty-some twitter followers and half of my hundred or so WordPress followers are the reciprocal kind, and if those numbers were larger by a few orders of magnitude, I suppose I would accept the arrangement. But really – who compromises for those sorts of numbers? For those numbers I’m going to allow myself to be confused with the likes of Barbara Coloroso?

Not personal, Ms. Coloroso. You’re normal, and as such, you’re a fine specimen of your type – but I am in the business of telling people what they don’t want to hear. I’d love a bestseller, of course I would, but this is not my day job. No-one needs me to make any money at this. Folks, when I tell you you’re all bad parents and you’re destroying the world with your efforts for control, this message comes only from the goodness of my heart. These insults are free for anybody. You’re welcome.

“Parenting” has a lot of positive connotations. We protect our kids, we feed and house them, do all we can when they’re sick and we hope for best for them, of course we do. I have no objection to the things we wish for our children. If that was the entire list of what we do – well, that actually should be the whole list, that’s the point. It is the other side of parenting, the side we don’t like to see, the dark side that I’m taking issue with: punishment has no place in that positive list of parenting activities. It certainly deserves no credit in any positive outcomes our children may have. I tell you here, when a firm hand doing the hard thing appears to save a child from serious trouble, we can be certain it was also what led them to trouble in the first place.

I have to say here, that much of the modern parenting advice never says “hit your kids,” or even “hit your kids if nothing else works.” It’s just that they don’t say not to, at least they don’t say it strongly enough. They’re trying to get read, trying to sell some books or gain a large group of followers; they can’t tell everyone, most of whom have already hit their kids, that they’ve caused irreparable damage. Who wants to hear that?

Let me pose this question, though: who, in the history of the universe ever solved a big problem by hearing only what they wanted to hear? Who, in the history of the universe ever changed people’s minds by only telling them what they already thought?

So the best of the “normals,” as we call the punishers of the world in my house – the degreed ones, the educators, the psychologists – are writing parenting advice, trying to nudge people toward a slightly more gentle sort of parenting, hoping to lessen the damage parents cause through the betrayal and abuse of punishments, but they can’t take a stand on the principle of the matter, not when they’re hoping to be read. There are a few voices in the wilderness. You can find a few people, try searching on “No Punishment,” or variations of that, there are a few of us, as the least of which I count myself.

Again, with no boss to worry about, I’ll say it.

Trying alternative methods first isn’t good enough to stop the damage; ending “corporal” punishment isn’t good enough to avoid the betrayal, the resentment and the world-crippling harm. It is punishment, all punishment, that needs to be purged from anything we should be proud to call parenting. If punishment is a part of the good important work of parenting – I’m anti-that.

Updated! Shows of Strength and Presenting a United Front

. . . are short term, things, of course, is where I’m going. It was never my plan, in raising my kids. We’re playing the long game. We are traitors and pariahs in the world of breeding couples, my wife and I; if you’re disciplining your kids, we don’t have your back. We’ll have no part of it.

Same for the police, and Team America, Team Israel, and the vengeful God of Judeo-Christian-Islamic tradition.

If you’ve never read me before – and the odds that you’re one of the few who have are not good! It’s not like my message is the type to go viral – you may not know that this is a pattern with me, the family and then the society, the micro and the macro, the model and the mass production. I see things as fractal, as we do in our nuclear families, so it goes in society.

In my little corner of suburban Canada, in my mainstream life of the middle and lower classes, the adults have a cartel on what is allowed for kids, over what is done and what is not. It’s public school, public play, large public markets and entertainments, and everyone knows what is expected of kids, and apparently we all know exactly how to insure that, and so we all know exactly what is expected of parents too. Of course, that means discipline and control. God forbid your kids should create any problems for me, and vice versa. We all know when a child goes bad and causes problems who is to blame; it’s the parents. Somebody isn’t with the program. Don’t they know that we are all depending on each other to maintain total control of things?

Well, we took a chance, opted out of the cartel, and guess what? Our kids aren’t causing any problems for anybody. I’m not saying it’s all of the kids – but the kids causing problems were raised in the cartel, in the group where all the adults are backing each other up, where the adults are presenting a united front. When as kids we see that dynamic, when we see that it’s a military tactic and it’s directed at us, that hurts our feelings. And when it’s total, when there is no crack in the wall presented by the authority of the adults, when no adult dares break the line and side for the kids, well then we can lose hope. Then desperation may set in.

This united front, this show of solidarity and strength, it’s authority’s answer to everything, but it’s an affront to those of us who were operating under the illusion that we were all on the same side. So it’s a shock and an insult to us when we’re kids, and the grownups who in nature would be our caregivers, the ones who would love and protect us close ranks and say, “No, kid, it’s us against you. No-one who matters, no-one with a vote is on your side.”

That is the Dark Side of Alice Miller’s famous assertion that the presence of one enlightened adult can be the difference in a child’s life. Yes, believe it or not, Dr. Miller was sugar coating it for you. She also let us all think we could undo the damage afterwards with therapy, or she did with her first couple of books anyway.

So, on to the macro part.

Not parents, but the disciplinarians for the parents, and for the children as well, the police – they also like the benefits that come from presenting a unified front, plus they too have left the role of caregiver behind in favour of the bludgeon a little too often. These latest few high profile police slayings of unarmed black people put me in mind of the Hell’s Angel’s rules of engagement as detailed by Hunter S. Thompson so long ago: if one of them has a fight with you, they all do. Plus, as Thompson learned the hard way, it doesn’t matter that they pick the fight, or that it was accidental, the result of a stupid misunderstanding. You were simply unlucky, wrong place, wrong time. All right, on with it. Here’s the point:

We think that in order to keep control of things, we need to be strong, we mustn’t show weakness. Of course this is a self-fulfilling behaviour. If we establish control with strength – read force – then strength and force it must be, forever, because you have pissed off the objects of your control. Here’s the thing though. After some time, like two seconds after the first use of your strength, things like humanity, mercy, and kindness become synonyms for weakness, and that we mustn’t show, or all is lost. That is the nature of fantasy: the fantasized consequences for imagined actions are infinite, larger than life.

Clearly, what the authorities fantasize would happen if the police punished one trigger happy cop like they do every trigger happy private citizen is total anarchy, the end of their authority and civilization as we know it. Equally clear to some of us is that is really stupid. Of course what would actually happen, is it would be the beginning of some sort of respect. Humanity we can respect. Inhumanity we only fear.

It’s not humanity or weakness that is going to drive the people to rampage, it’s the opposite of humanity and weakness nobody likes, meaning of course, what the police are doing now, the show of strength. Here, perhaps the authorities and their police can take a lesson from parents. As much as parents are the model for this huge error, as much as parents are guilty of the same authoritarian methods, there’s a difference: kids grow up. Every parent sees the growth and steady increase of their kids’ power and the waning of their own that comes with age, and a great many parents can see their mistake in dealing with it and so change their ways.

Those that change, those that add humanity to their arsenal as time does its work, those who allow their dominance to slip and replace it with a real, human relationship, if they do it in its proper time, they are able to grow old, vulnerable and weak without unreasonable fear of their children’s vengeance. Their children also benefit greatly, having a more normal transition from childhood to adulthood, the gradual move from the small world of their nuclear family into the larger world beyond the family dynamic, learning to function in society. Those that cling to their strength and to their dominance live to fear coming under their children’s power – either that, or the children simply get as far from them as possible, possibly never to return. The people in the first group, the ones who relax their grip and show their humanity, those folks are growing up, maturing in a normal arc of learning. The ones in the other group grow stodgy, bitter, fearful of change, and live alone at the mercy of their negative fantasies. Some of the children from the second group manage to grow themselves up against the odds, but many spend far too large a portion of their lives trapped in the messed up power dynamic of their nuclear families. This extra time spent frozen in childhood in that sense, this what we call arrested development.

I’ve recently gotten out the old turntable and begun listening to vinyl records again, and one of the last few I’d bought, back in the day was the first offering from Tracy Chapman, remember it? ‘Talkin’ About a Revolution?’ I listened to the whole album last week, and it was depressing. That record is twenty-five years old and it could have been written and recorded yesterday.

The police, the authorities, they are in the second group of people. They are not learning.

What needs to happen, in order to satisfy Alice Miller’s minimum requirement for a difference in the lives of the people suffering under the dysfunctional caregiving of the authorities, is again, one enlightened adult. In this case though, a particular adult, one enlightened police chief, one enlightened prosecutor,  or one enlightened mayor. That’s something that could make a difference. In a bunch of lives.

A Conflicted Society – the Dreamer, Part #2

My family was always involved peripherally or otherwise, in psychology. My mother was a great reader, we always had copies of “Psycho-cybernetics,” “How to Win Friends and Influence People” and such around the house, “I’m OK, You’re OK” – self-help classics. In my late teens and when I returned home in my early twenties, it had gone to Alice Miller, Jon Bradshaw, ACOA. This was the early 1980s. My brother was working in an emergency shelter for teens and getting his degrees, and one sister did that sort of work as well. Both of my sisters were big readers and were on voracious journeys of psychological self-discovery. I’d say the elder was more based in the classics, Freud, Jung and R.D. Laing, and the younger loved Alice Miller during that period – I’m embarrassed to say I don’t know who she’s been reading since. So this is what all the conversation was about in that time, around Mom’s house. Suffice to say, I came by this obsession honestly.

Mom had been taking in foster kids, teens. Screwed up kids were our world, either we worked with them, or we were still busy being one, like me. Or both, I guess. We’d also had some sexual abuse in the family.

During this period, talking Bradshaw, ACOA (would invoking Suzanne Summers’ name help or hurt here? She was the voice for Adult Children of Alcoholics, wasn’t she?), and Miller, it seemed that there were many sorts of abuse, and that almost no-one escaped them all. After all, we all have problems, and this whole survivor movement was based in the idea that it was childhood trauma that caused our disorders. Physical, sexual, verbal, emotional abuse, abandonment, alcohol and substance abuse, divorce, there were books, support groups and movements for all of these traumas . . .

. . . and it was starting to look to me that lines were being drawn between them all, I had a creeping feeling that everybody, despite the support, was somehow on their own, fighting their parents’ particular brand of abuse. It began to look to me like all parents were abusing their kids, and yet no-one was saying that, no-one would say all parents were abusive. It was starting to feel apologist in that way. Most parents are good, they all mean well, but a certain percentage of them are violent. They all mean well, but a certain percentage of them are drunks. They’re mostly OK, but some are child rapists. Mostly, they’re good folks, they’re doing the best they can, but some abandon their kids, and some are emotional blackmailers. Parents are good and selfless, but many are verbally abusive. Now, I know this is to some degree the ranting of a developmentally arrested person, but it’s all adding up, isn’t it? I was starting to sense the presence of a common denominator.

I wish I could say when the exact moment was, when the crux of the matter occurred to me, that punishment was abuse, that punishment, despite its legitimate status was, uh . . . scientifically, functionally . . . made of the same stuff as abuse. I can’t, though. This wasn’t the moment, but maybe it was the catalyst: when I moved from my rooming house in the town where I took my trade school and home to Mom’s house, I was twenty-three, and I ran into a girl I’d known before, during my lost years. It was love at first sight, well, first sight after several years.

She was twenty or twenty-one, she was just separated from someone, and she had a little boy. He was around one year old. It wasn’t long before we had bought her parents’ condo and we lived together for three years, and I brashly, foolishly took the role of the boy’s father, as if he didn’t already have one. These are regrets, I look back on that time and I’m embarrassed and horrified, the whole period seems like a bad dream. Taking on the role of husband and father with that prefabricated family was like putting on a suit of clothes or something. It seemed to me that I knew everything about it, automatically; it felt like a programmed thing, like I was living on autopilot, and I barely remember it now. I don’t think I was actually conscious. But one episode I do remember.

She was emotional and kind of volatile, and I had come home from work one day and found her at critical mass, waiting for me at the front door. The toddler was driving her nuts, and it going to be my turn.

“He’s not doing” something, or “He won’t do” something else, she said. I don’t remember much, I’ll warn you. I wasn’t high or anything, I wasn’t smoking during my time with them, but drinking weekends. I was just unconscious. I wasn’t angry before, I don’t think it had been a bad day or anything, but as soon as she complained about her son, as soon as she gave me a target, it triggered me. I was instantly pissed off too, and I marched into the house, yanked that two or three year-old’s pants down and smacked him several times, hard. That is the end of that fragment of memory, I’m afraid, I can’t say how we got through that, what the rest of that evening was like, but I think the spell was broken. I think after that I realized that I was living someone else’s pre-programmed life. That was nearly thirty years ago, and I’m pretty sure I’ve never hit another kid.

His mother and I went our separate ways, and a few years later I met my present and only wife, the mother of my kids and by the time our girls were born in the mid-nineties, the thought had come. There would be no punishment, at all.

The lesson of my poor little rent-a-kid, the guilt of that beating, and the unconsciousness, the feeling of having been . . . used, there is no other way to say it, used by some generational repetitive process with a life of its own, that lesson stuck with me. I hated that feeling. It cropped up on other occasions while my girls were young, while my wife and I were fighting over our child-rearing (I mean, what were the odds my wife would come to all the same conclusions as me, and on the same schedule?), that feeling of repetition, that feeling of doing just what my parents had done. It was like Nietzsche’s eternal recurrence, or some evil Deja Vu experience. I hope it’s not necessarily true, but I worry that the feeling meant I was doing something terribly wrong. Of course I did. I was a full-time pothead through those years, always out in space, emotionally unavailable, physically unavailable for half an hour or more at a time, every three to four hours, for a smoke. The smoke was there to make that feeling go away, but of course it only operates on the feeling and doesn’t change anything concrete.

Still, though. Those are problems, things that will have their impacts on the kids, bad things that will leave some scars, but even so – most kids get stuff like that, and punishments and all that they mean as well.

You know, maybe addiction is a fractal sort of thing, a theme that runs all through the lives of folks like me and the people around us. I think maybe that feeling of unconscious repetition was the same one that made it so easy, and made it seem so natural to slide into that first family situation, with my live-in lady and her little boy. Feeling automatic, feeling that I could know how to do it, having never studied it, having never put conscious thought to it for a minute, it was like my first high, the free one, the best one, the one you end up losing the farm trying to recapture. Did I learn to associate that sense of comfort with a trauma, like a kid who gets wasted and crashes the car, killing a loved one? Was whooping that kid’s ass my car crash, and now the feeling of repetition and familiarity, that sense of life as it has always been fills me with terror and guilt?

Whatever it is, I have tried very hard to be a father and a husband consciously this time out, and that has had my wife and I swimming against the current since the kids were born, fighting the grandparents, at odds with our friends, the parents around us, and fighting our own urges for control, because we feel control requires force. If it weren’t for each other, meaning all four of us, which it always has been, it would have been a lonely journey.

It hasn’t been though.

My first experience as a father was a trauma, a horror. This time around has been the exact opposite.

Alice Miller, Continued . . .

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.

Alice Miller was wrong.

Not about the problem. The problem Dr. Miller identified is real. It’s real, and it’s huge and serious. Nearly all children, for basically forever have been abused by their caregivers, usually their parents. Child abuse is ubiquitous and systemic. True dat.

But the doctrine that she offered and has been held by her followers, that a person must have a deep and thorough therapy and recover their memories of childhood trauma, recover the feelings buried during those traumas? This is a good plan for a person, a way for a person to get in touch with themselves, a way for a person to heal themselves, and some folks may succeed. It’s well documented that Dr. Miller failed in her attempt, and sometimes offered as a criticism of her work, at least as a qualifier of the success of her work, but that doesn’t amount to anything. Therapy is not going to solve this problem.

Dr. Miller understood the goal, and she was motivated, personally and professionally, yet still she failed. One reason for this is that almost no-one has escaped the problem Miller described – her therapists included. No-one understands all the types of abuse, no-one qualifies all the abuse as such, no-one can acknowledge all of it. The problem she has described is real, and very serious, even – incurable. Every year we live is more influential and more important than the next, so traumas in early childhood have more power over our development and therefore in our lives than any attempts at intervention afterwards can ever have.

It is prevention that we need to solve this problem. There is no fixing it afterwards. All the King’s horses and all the King’s men . . .

Millerian doctrine has it that we cannot save our children except if we become conscious of our personal histories, of our childhood traumas and abuse, but this rests on an assumption very few people fail to make: that all children need be abused, that all children will be subject to force and violence, because they MUST be. The assumption is that all children must be controlled, and controlled by force and or violence. We seem to consider that it is abuse only when it is carried too far.

This is where I introduce punishment as the vector for the disease. I submit, that if we do not punish our children, that if we never hurt them, as Dr. Miller says, “For Their Own Good,” then we will never go too far with it. If we can find a way to never hurt our children, and not PLANNING to hurt them would be a good start, if we don’t plan to hurt them or abuse them any way whatsoever, then we will never visit upon them even the particular abuses our own personal histories have left us blind to. That is the one, universal repressed thing that we are all blind to, punishment, that is the secret, and if Dr. Miller ever realized it, she never told us.

We all have this blind spot, we all think punishment is OK, that punishing is somehow different from abuse. That is the key., and that is the thing that when we realize the truth, Alice Miller’s dream can come true, children raised without abuse, because the children of someone who has realized this will be safe, despite the particulars of their parent’s abuse. These parents will not pass on abuse, because abuse is passed on by force.

If we refuse to use force, our children will be safe.

I’m with Alice Miller.

Really, Alice laid it out, I’m only trying to give her POV, her revelation in a different way, and from different angles.

I think she’s been somewhat marginalized because so much of her ideas have been bound up with the repression concept, and worse, with the hope of the recovery of repressed memories. That controversy introduces some doubt, and that is all we all need to justify our denial.

I hope that my contribution to the conversation will be to show that the important parts, the main points of Miller’s teaching, do not require that repression or the recovery of repressed memories be accepted. I think I can make a case that children the world over and forever have mostly been abused, and that even ‘acceptable’ punishments constitute that abuse. I think it can be shown, in simple language and without any leaps of faith that punishment – any punishment – causes damage to people, children, and that the ubiquity of the damage does in no way invalidate the harm to individuals and to societies. Rather the reverse.

 

The Common Denominator, Part #2

Again, psychology tells us that abuse and trauma are damaging to the psyche, and to a person’s development. In simple language, we often say that an abused person “has problems.” It is often considered that an abuser was him or herself, abused. Alice Miller thought so:

“It is very difficult for people to believe the simple fact that every persecutor was once a victim. Yet it should be very obvious that someone who was allowed to feel free and strong from childhood does not have the need to humiliate another person. “

Alice Miller
Alice Miller (20th century), German psychoanalyst and author. For Your Own Good, “Unintentional Cruelty Hurts, Too,” (trans. 1983).

Considering the above, often in cases of clear abuse or even heinous crimes, the perpetrator’s own experience of received abuse is not in evidence. We can be baffled when some person commits acts of violence, and the public record shows that no abuse or violence was committed against the offender. This can become fodder for ‘Law and Order’ crusaders, it can appear to give the psychology of abuse a black eye, it can be pointed to as debunking any correlation between the receiving and the committing of abuse. Then there is talk of sin, Original Sin, video-game and TV and film violence, as well as talk of genetic predisposition. Again, though, the existence of a precursor, or common denominator can reconcile this apparent conflict.

If we thought differently about it, if we saw our world in perhaps a darker light, if we had a reason to think that most people were in fact abused, if our view assumed few people escaped abuse, that view would certainly change the puzzle. When someone committed crimes or abuses that shock and horrify us, we would see that they probably were offended against, as per Miller’s statement; there would be some chance to understand it in some way. The conflicts would clear away, and our confusion would be lessened. That is the key. That is my premise.

– here’s part #1:

https://abusewithanexcuse.com/2013/12/15/the-common-denominator/

Video-games Do Not Cause Violence.

It’s May, 2013 as I write this, and the USA is deep into a national debate regarding the ownership of guns and gun violence which has come about in the wake of some very famous rampages where many innocent people have been killed by one, sometimes two, young men with guns. Some people have brought up violence in video-games, film, and television as a part of the problem, that is to say, as one of the causes of what seems to be a disturbing trend towards violence. I can agree with the first part of that statement, it certainly is part of the problem, but video-violence is not causative.

Both of these phenomena, the high-profile shootings and the amazing popularity of the violent video-games, are effects, and neither is a cause. Both these trends can be viewed as the result of violent fantasies, which fantasies can be played out both ways, virtually and literally. Although I do not wish to weigh in on the American gun control conversation or divert this book towards that debate, I must say that America’s unique view of the gun issue would seem also to suggest the presence of violent fantasies in American society. I would note that America is among the last of the former First World nations to ratify the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child legislation; America is a great supporter of the practice of the punishment of children, and also the American lawmakers will not seem to support any sort of limitation of the sale of guns. Again, this suggests the existence of a strong undercurrent of violent fantasies, as well as the reason for them.

Punishment is a form of violence, certainly physical punishment is, and really, there is no other kind. Punishment is unpleasantness imposed, and imposition means force; forced unpleasantness is a pretty good definition for violence. So, if we can grant that (which, maybe not just yet, but we will, someday), then we can view the video-game theory this way:

There is real violence in our society, crime including some rather random mass killings, and there is real violence practiced upon children in the form of abuse and punishment, both corporal and “non-physical,” all of which has been shown, in study after reputable study to be harmful and to increase crime, violence, and poverty. There is also much virtual violence in the form of movies, TV and video-games. Do we really think that virtual violence is a cause and actual violence is not? The real violence is not a problem, but it is the virtual violence on the videoscreen that causes the shocking mass killings?

It is fantasies of violence that makes a child love the virtual violence he or she finds in videogames, a disposition that must exist beforehand, because simple exposure to a stimulus doesn’t cause a need, it only fills it (or not). It is the actual experience of violence during childhood punishments that produce the need, the experience of helplessness that Alice Miller speaks about that creates fantasies of power and violence, and the fantasies predate the experience of virtual violence. If the need wasn’t there before, there would be a much smaller market for violent video-games and movies. If we were unable to identify punishment as violence before, this reasoning would be enough, the size of the market for anything that plays upon our violent fantasies. The other side, the argument against that conclusion would be the same ones about ‘human nature’ and Original Sin:’ it’s nothing we do, we’re just born evil and full of longing for violence, naturally.’ That is counter to evidence, and counterintuitive, to phrase it in the most dispassionate way I can muster.

I must add that the mental illness issue that arises as an alternative conversation to gun control is very largely due to the culture of punishment also; mental illness is one of abuse and corporal punishment’s well documented negative outcomes. If shooting your parents and a bunch of teachers isn’t some kind of reaction to punishment, I don’t know what would describe it better.

Original Sin

Mass-murderers like Charlie Manson and Andreas Brevik (spelling?) seem to think everyone is a psycho like them. They have it in common that all they thought they needed to do to start a race/faith war was to kill a few people, a few tens of people, and the war would be on, that all the average guy needs is for someone to start the killing and we’d all jump in and go on a mass mass-murder spree, a national, even global, bench-clearing brawl. They think everyone is like them, or at least that we all secretly want to be.
A core belief in people’s intrinsic violence, intrinsic evil, that’s what that is. Or to put it in other words, they hold with the doctrine of Original Sin.
Which is, of course, is a strong predictor for the nearly universal belief in the social tool known as punishment.
(This is what makes Charlie so captivating when he talks. He seems to know this, that he and we are not that far apart.)
It’s no secret that the religious, at least the Christian religious make no bones about this, that Original Sin is a tenet, they think it’s true, hence the need for God. And they mostly all follow the extrapolated idea from it, “spare the rod and spoil the child.” But what of the disavowed, the atheists, the lapsed? Also true, for the most part. We can deny the church, we can deny the bible, but it is foolish to deny that the bible is the basis of our entire culture here west of Afghanistan and east of Hawaii, (possibly excluding much of Africa) for the last 2,000 years. You atheists, you church-bashers, know this: use the rod, and you propagate the very thing you hope to extinguish!
This is a key part of the interaction between religion and our faith in punishment as a social tool. When everyone is punished, when we are all raised with punishments that begin long before we have any understanding of the world, then a vengeful god makes sense, the idea of a punishment awaiting us at the end of a mis-lived life seems, reasonable. It has precedent, at least in our minds. Of course, this idea is normally expressed the other way ’round, that God and his punishments are the model for our lives, as written into many faiths’ texts. I don’t hope to change any minds among the religious followers, but the atheist reader will have to admit that the actual function is arranged in the natural timeline of a human life: parents first, God second.
It seems that there is no getting around our cultural heritage, certainly not if we still cling to the most important and influential beliefs of that legacy while only disavowing ourselves of the less reality-based and purely theoretical ones.
Alice Miller:
“Wherever I look, I see signs of the commandment to honour one’s parents and nowhere of a commandment that calls for the respect of a child.”