Psychology as Abuse, Part #2

I’m a suspicious sort. It’s taken me a long time to develop these complaints, so while I try to write conversationally, this little rebellion has been building for decades. I feel it’s going to be my way back to move forward, like I gotta be me more, not less.  I need to stop telling myself I’m paranoid and wrong and say this stuff, if it’s wrong, hopefully it’s harmless, but really, erroneous conclusions aren’t the kind you avoid for decades and are still there waiting for you when you’re finished running. The fact that psychology is just one discipline of many all crammed into the patriarchy and the warrior society isn’t all that’s wrong with it.

There is something wrong with it that I want to explore here with you in real time, and I haven’t nailed it down yet – in fact, I forgot all about it yesterday, that’s why we’re here again – but it’s something I want to answer with “yes, damnit, we are our brother’s keeper.”

We are social animals. We know that we are, that it is fundamental to us, so much so that we know if we raised a person alone, in an even less human version of the Truman Show or something, that if this person never saw another human in their whole life, that humans were the biggest factors in their life still, and that human society did to them whatever that does to a person. Alone in a rocket ship to Mars, we are social creatures and that one interaction – helping us into the rocket – is the interaction that is our life. We are our brother’s keeper, even if we don’t know him, even across the void of space. We are literally keeping millions of our brothers in prison, an odd circumstance if we aren’t supposed to be keeping our brothers at all.

Psychologists, psychiatrists, of course they know this, of course they know it is our interactions that are life and that have the power to make or break us, it’s their business all day long to sort through it, but they don’t have society to work with, often as not they don’t even get our parents or our spouse to work with, all they got is us. I’m sure the task looks like trying to put a cow back together after its interactions with the cattle industry sometimes, except it would be closer to say that it looks like coaching the cow to put itself back together.

When we start to focus on the individual and their part in the interactions that have harmed them, because again, they are the ones we’re talking to, and we start to think about it in terms of choices, as per yesterday’s example –

I’ll break a case down, someone I know – well, half the people I know, as you’ll perhaps agree: a woman, neglected, with or without corporal punishment to boot, by her father, father is detached, unavailable, woman discovers a pattern, later in life of blindness to this sort of treatment, choosing the same sorts of men, always suffering the neglect, with or without ‘corporal punishment’ until, with psychology she sees the early unmet need, becomes more conscious of the issue and is safer from making the same choice next time. A classic psychology success story, I think, not to mention a near ubiquitous one. I think many women and many feminists are familiar with this meme, and it’s an example that defines the popular idea of psychology quite well.

– there’s some dehumanization going on there that I’ve never been comfortable with, and I’m getting less so. If the people in our lives are our “choices,” we are not accounting for their agency, their humanity, or their potential to learn or change. I’m liking this idea less these days, because for me to place my life in this template, I must decide my wife of twenty-five years is nothing but a poor choice of mine, some unconscious animal one can’t talk to and has to work around like any inanimate hazard. This, while simultaneously believing the opposite about my own self, or I’m not in some psych’s office having this conversation at all.

I’m seeking help with my mental health, and I can’t get in the door without taking on this self deception. I suspect one needs a counsellor that’s smarter than oneself. Of course, they know this too, but what are they going to do? We are all they have left to work with. I went to counselling at the very same community health office that my ex and my kids were going to, with the idea that they might be able to see both sides and help us all, but no, privacy laws, I am probably a dangerous stalker. So, we’re all in the same building, our counsellors share a manager – but my ex is just a prop in my own little psychodrama and I in hers, and we each need to figure out for what self-destructive reason we either are coming apart or whatever self-destructive reason we chose each other in the first place. We’re not here to talk about other people, we’re here to talk about you.

They have access to the actual people we are both there to talk about, but no. Psychology deals with our internalized versions of one another, apparently that is more to the point. Real people only complicate things; our stories are irreconcilable, so I guess our counsellors’ stories would be too.

So, yesterday was all about power and the patriarchy using psych sciences as a weapon for conformity, about turning our own experience of abuse into some bad choice we’ve made, about guilt, that many other aspects of life mean this guilt is there, whether we intend it or not. Today, it’s about what framing things as a choice that way does not to our self-worth, but to our sense of other-worth. We are guilty, we have made poor choices, but the ‘others’ in this model are objectified, they aren’t apparently making choices, aren’t apparently able to. Acceptance becomes the goal, because while we are charged to change and grow, the people around us are posited as natural forces or something, exempted.

Everything takes me back to the warrior society, OMG, I didn’t want to think this! That objectification, that dehumanization that we must do in these therapies, this is antisocialization, and the counsellors are cleaning up after the parents, trying to get these sensitive, hurting people to start thinking of other people as things at last, because they never learned it from their childhood beatings, and I’m back to Bluebeard again: you’ll never get any killin’ done, you go around thinking of people as interactive, changeable things all the time. Or any healing either, I guess.

I know, it’s all we can do, that sort of troubleshooting where you have to take these sorts of perspectives, run scenarios, ‘what if you knew, for sure, that your dad was never going to change, never going to hear you,’ and work with that, I know it. I’m not sure you can do that sort of black box exercise with human beings when you are one, it seems like a conundrum – which of course is just what I was looking for when my head went on the fritz, more conundrums.

Thanks for nuthin.’

 

One year today. One year since the last vestige of mania imploded on me and I couldn’t work anymore. Two years, I may as well make this my anniversary, since it was obvious I was in trouble, I can’t believe it, feels like twenty. I can barely remember them, my girls, my ex, my cats, my life.

 

Jeff

Feb. 24th., 2018

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Psychology as Abuse

Feminism, in its present, barely conscious state, isn’t going to work out, and further to that, psychology, in the same state, is fuckin’ bullshit.

I’ll break a case down, someone I know – well, half the people I know, as you’ll perhaps agree: a woman, neglected, with or without corporal punishment to boot, by her father, father is detached, unavailable, woman discovers a pattern, later in life of blindness to this sort of treatment, choosing the same sorts of men, always suffering the neglect, with or without ‘corporal punishment’ until, with psychology she sees the early unmet need, becomes more conscious of the issue and is safer from making the same choice next time. A classic psychology success story, I think, not to mention a near ubiquitous one. To be clear, none of that was the ‘bullshit’ part, I’m with all of that, within that conversation. I think many women and many feminists are familiar with this meme, and it’s an example that defines the popular idea of psychology quite well.

I’m sorry! This ‘meme’ idea, it seems to me to be a definition of consciousness, isn’t it, to recognize, name, and classify thoughts, and then further to address their viability, and guess their functions in the world, as an exercise in a sort of biology? Psychology, in this sort of equation, is the dominant meme in my western world about how to solve many of our personal problems.

Of course, if the conversation is a feminist one, or just an old-fashioned man-hating session, then we might see it a little more simply: a woman, neglected and/or beaten by her cold and/or violent father (and/or surrogates) finds every man she ever gets to know intimately to be the same sort of dickhead, until with the help of someone who will talk to her, she realizes that the first one was lying, she never deserved any of it and she starts to make a serious, more informed try at escaping from this sort of abuse.

Now, despite that the Venn diagram of fucked-over women and ‘women’ are the same circle and that even feminism and psychology have massive overlaps in their demographics, I’m sorry, I see a conflict, and I’m going with the second story, because I hear a simple victim’s truth in the second one. What I hear in the psychology story is a lecture from a parent, a teacher, a priest. In the second story, again, a simple, painful truth, and in the first, the finger of blame: it’s not a series of awful men, it’s the woman’s choices – you know “psychology” like this was concocted by men, don’t you? Worse, it’s an evil, misogynist bait and switch, because if one man in a thousand won’t beat you, then we’re talking about you, about your bad choices. This should make you sick to your stomach if you’re a man who can hear it, it does me. Of course, for the ladies, this is what do you call it, Friday.

I know, ‘Tuesday’ is the joke – but it’s Friday. I know the positive story too.

In the first story, it’s her life, and this puts the power to change it in her hands, it’s not her fault, but her opportunity, it’s not of her creation, but it is her problem and no-one would benefit so much from its solution more than her, and no single person has as much power or chance to solve it, I know, and I have an answer prepared for that.

If it were any sort of level playing field, if the woman or the woman child in question had a chance, if all those other associations of mine were not already in place, the parent, the priest, if pretty much everything else in the woman’s life didn’t also tell her everything is her fault and her responsibility to fix, then maybe the “positive” side of that story wouldn’t be a lot of evil, misogynist bullshit, just like the “psychology” it supports.

As it is, it’s one more bait and switch from the warrior society.

So, again, I’m with the second story. We can try to apply psychology to explain all those dickhead men, that sounds a little more useful and a lot more moral. There’s a point to be remembered about psychology: as things stand today, it’s only practiced on victims. This is a massive weakness of psychology as well: there is no test for truth, so psychological “health” is whatever seems to be average; it’s an automatic status quo conformity machine. Again, when all men beat their wives, psychology will treat the victims. I think it’s a matter of piling on; one suffers trauma, and then one must repair the damage oneself, someone else’s way, and almost on someone else’s schedule too. It’s our “opportunity” and “we have the power” and we had bloody well better show we’re “trying,” or else.

Women and feminism figure huge for me, but psychology pulls that shit on all of us. I’m a man, but it’s all my “opportunity” too. If I didn’t before, there’s nothing like a man finding himself in the subordinate position to help him understand something about feminism, and the sympathy I maybe once had for writers and practitioners of psychology I have now shifted to their subjects – or objects, as the case may be – people, victims. Like me, sigh. Again, if you hear a hundred words, it’s the inclined playing field I would ask that keep your attention on. Psychology has great insights, lots of good stuff, and I know it’s trying, it’s one of the ideas that would benefit all of humanity for all of humanity to absorb it.

It may do more harm than good when it puts its thumb on that balance, when it takes the higher end of that sloping moral pitch of responsibility and blame, is all I’m saying, and it’s a tendency to do just that, that’s sort of the human game. I think if we can use some of those great insights looking upstream, towards the abusers and the abuse, we’ll see a lot less collateral damage, and maybe change the world for the victims instead of trying to change the victims’ minds to match the world created by the un-diagnosed abusers.

Just sayin’, as the kids say.

 

Jeff

Feb. 23rd., 2018

The New Naturists

The Old Naturists

 

I’m not as sure of this as I’d like to be, but the ‘Nurture’ side of the argument is the newer idea, right? It’s modernity, some analogue of science. It’s an increase in complexity in our understanding, the suggestion that not only are things what they are, but they are also what we make them. At least that’s how it looks from today, with the framework of progress superimposed on it. If we really thought in the past that we were simply as God made us, then that might be difficult to reconcile with any sort of strivings for change and success anyone ever had at it, so clearly even Christendom leaves us some ability to direct ourselves – even Jesus gives us the choice to believe or not, to choose the light or the darkness. The framing of that choice shows us that Nature ruled the world in Christendom, though: our choice was to deny our sinful natures or not. It would seem to have been the enlightenment, Rousseau and his ilk who were the early Nurturists, who suggested that our evil was not inherent, that we create it with our interactions.

During that time, while these ideas were being tossed about, the Nature side of the argument in Europe and European societies elsewhere was held most strongly by the church: if we don’t have specific natures, then we don’t all need the church’s cure for it. These were the Old Naturists, and their stance was Man is Evil by Nature, and if he were to direct himself without God’s laws, all that Man produced would be evil. If Man turned away from God, the Devil was already inside him and ruled him. There are still plenty of these sorts of Naturists around, but they may not be the only variety of them anymore.

 

 

The Old Chestnut

 

 

Ideas of Nurture appear to have derived from the evolved human psychological faculty, our ability to “read” one another, to glean other peoples’ intentions and motivations. This explains why psychology seems obvious to so many of us, because of course we’re able to understand some of what’s going on in one another’s minds, we need to. The workings we perceive in those minds and in our own are clearly changeable; if minds cannot be changed, why develop complex language? The ability to add to one another’s information (or misinformation) and alter their calculations would seem to be the definition of the Nurture idea. And it really happens, people tell each other things, people learn, people change their minds with enough time and evidence. Not every time, sure, but we do. ‘Nurture’ as such, is a real thing in the world.

Of course, ‘Nature’ is too, and like so many things, the old debate is always increasingly polarized. There have been famous grandiose pronouncements from the Nurture side of the house, declarations like the big three from Pinker’s book, the Blank Slate (also the title), the Noble Savage and the Ghost in the Machine and others, Watson’s claim to make whatever professional he wished to out of any child, all of which are regularly trotted out today to show the error of the Nurturists’ ways – but the Nurture principle is not really destroyed just because it doesn’t destroy all others. Just because there is more to life than the Nurture idea doesn’t mean there is no Nurture, the same as everything else in the world.

The Nurturists are still in the debate, despite their sometimes jingoistic denial of any human Nature at all, due to the innate belief in our natural psychology most people share, and in that sense they always will be – but this rift has biology and psychology on divergent paths. That situation is all too common in matters of human affairs, but intolerable to science and to true understanding.

 

 

Today’s Naturists

 

The above mentioned atheist fallacies that the enlightenment produced to replace the old world order of church and king – the blank slate, etc. – were loud, flashy, provocative ideas, and to some folks they were worth checking out. There have been famous failures, famous human rights violations. What they are today, though, I think, are strawman arguments. It seems today that all that is required to win the ancient debate is to show that any trait varies more with the presence or absence of a genetic connection more than it varies with some environmental factor, or rather, I suppose, with all the environmental factors we can reasonably vary within the law. Any measurable facet of Nature would seem to disprove any Nurture, which, perhaps I should just give it up: sure. Nurture has not yet been measured.

Rumours that it has actually been measured but in fact lacks dimension have been exaggerated – like all other negative propositions, like the existence of God. Of late, the Real Sciences have been giving the Nurture-based attempts at science like psychology the gears for their famous failures, for their lack of evidence. Of course, finding objective evidence for subjective processes is probably an impossible task in the first place, a setup for failure.

I recently saw a film that convinced me I’d been naïve regarding the existence of antisemitism as a real, distinct thing, its own species of racism. I mean, I knew it, but I must not have, because the experience of the film – The Woman in Gold – really drove the point home and I have a changed understanding of that phenomenon now. That is Nurture in action, isn’t it? Is it not an actual Nurturing event because there is no evidence other than my say-so? Nurture operates subjectively. There may indeed be no way to objectively quantify it – it hasn’t changed my understanding to the point where I might provide evidence, such as some sort of financial support for Israel, or write something pro-Israel, nothing concrete – but twenty such steps, if life somehow arranges them for us, and we have reversed ourselves completely. Some number of steps along that road and my voting habits can change.

Nurture is a stealth operation. No evidence for each of many steps in the execution – but people do change their minds, we do learn. Perhaps that is the question that should be asked in this discussion. Is our inner life not a real thing, does our inner life not have its effects in the real world? What may be the New Naturists’ Bible, The Blank Slate, is all about that it does, that those three toxic atheist ideas have had huge effects on the world, not all desirable. So how has the geneticists’ objective evidence somehow shifted the point from the importance of the subjective world to ‘give us some proof or step aside?’

Does the Nature VS Nurture argument mean it’s like “Highlander” for scientific disciplines? There can be only one?

I think the Nurturists bought into it, is what it is, at least to some degree. Some of them must have gotten overly excited about the twin and adoption studies, they maybe thought they had a chance, thought they were going to be able to compete on that playing field, numbers and graphs. Of course, we all want objective success for psychology, for a potential cure for our hurt. But Nurture stepped into Nature’s home ground with some piss-poor assumptions with which to build their evidences, and they got their asses kicked. The geneticists had real numbers; it was hardly even a battle. Now the narrative (written by the anti-narrative explanation of life people) is that social science has lost the war. Of course psychology, the subject of which shares its subjective nature with religion, can also never be killed objectively – but I too search for the Holy Grail, the connection to objective science from psychology.

Everyone knows of times when they themselves had an inner life experience that changed at least their inner life going forward and many will say they’ve had ones that changed their lives objectively as well, and so psychology can’t ever die. This apparent divergence however, the perception that a good and thorough search for objective support for evidence of parental or environmental influence has been done and the hypotheses of social science have been debunked and the implication that psychologists are pushing ahead regardless of having been disproved – this is a clue about the New Naturists over and above their limited, disciplinary point of view. First of all, the scientists railing against the blank slate tainted psychology paradigm are failing at science: they’ve accepted the classic psychology studies’ data as valid data, bugs, bad assumptions (blank slate included!) and all. Apparently the geneticists don’t know what was wrong with those classic studies today anymore than the psychologists who did them at the time, because they’re comparing data, as though they’ve signed off on the conception, assumptions, and parameters of the old studies.

That is my clue: no improvement in the science, and no desire to improve social science. These folks are saying “psychology has done as good as it ever can and they haven’t proved anything. Let it go.” That is sort of an incurious attitude, coming as it ostensibly does from scientists, who are normally rather sensitive to the closing of avenues of study.

If we consider that psychological disciplines began from a positive place, from a repair point of view, that it began as the study and search for the cure for some our more extreme subjective hurts, we know it’s something we hope would work out. Adding to that the obvious subjective importance of our narratives, the data and the causal relationships by which we understand our lives that is the Nurture principle‘s subjective apparent proof of existence and we may have to wonder. Who wants to win the argument against Nurture? And why?

 

The New and the Old

 

Of course Pinker laid it out: the toxic, pure reason sort of ideas that seemed to arrive with atheist science, the blank slate, etc. He tells of how it’s destroyed social science and delayed better science, and he tells of some horrific communist experiments, breaking families up, that resulted. That’s all well and good, and politically those ideas created nightmares, and they certainly stained social science and all of that, just as he says. Who am I to argue with him? But that isn’t enough to explain anti-nurture sentiments. Just as there is more to any religion than it’s most radical, fundamental sect, Nurture generally is not the enemy of Man because blank slate extremists would take things too far. Further to this idea, that blank slate paradigms do not represent the Nurture principle, I must add that blank slate paradigms took over some politicians’ minds, some governments, and some universities – but not the world generally. Blank slate ideas may be the unreasoning ancient, incumbent evil to be fought at the universities – but there are sure to be a whole lot of Naturists lining up behind the geneticists that never went to school and never gave the blank slate a second thought.

In fact, it may be the older kind of Nurturists lining up in front of the geneticists too, there may be funding from the larger world’s incumbent rulers, the churches and their associations. A lot of money still flows where the churches think it should, and in issues like this, the original polarized debate almost, there are only two sides. Nurture is psychology and atheism. Religion, with all of its inertia and ties to the ancient world of God-kings and emphasis on bloodlines and inheritance, is naturally aligned with the geneticists, on the Nature side of the argument.

Be careful where you place your resources for “science.”

Ancient forces have them pitted against each other, and the “winner” here is not the new kid, as he may want you to think. He may not be working for himself. Nurture is real, so psychology needs a hand up – not to be finished off or shut out of the conversation.

 

Jeff

April 5, 2016

 

I Need a Literary Agent

I want to write a popular science sort of a book.

I’m in the market for a literary agent with some social science background.

I have this idea, but it’s sort of between genres and I think I need help developing it before I could even know who to try to sell it to. It’ll be along the lines of the Nurture Assumption, that sort of subject matter, if you’re familiar with that . . . any thoughts?

A perusal of the last several entries in this blog will also give you the subject matter, but the groping in those blogs has produced an unexpected, full blown socialization theory and maybe more. You’d never guess from all my previous writing where it’s brought me.

Anything would help . . .

 

thank you all in advance

 

Jeff

Punishment as Bullying

The world runs on authority, on force. The army, the police, schools, corporate hierarchies, parenting, parenting, parenting. Family structure. Punishment and discipline is a system by where we control unwanted behaviour by force, and punishment, which, punishment is defined as dishing out unpleasantness to the misbehavers in order to motivate them to change their ways.

 

This is pretty much a definition of bullying. The bully punishes the victim. The bully justifies this punishment by listing the victims’ misbehaviours, or the victims’ families’, or race’s, or faith’s misbehaviours.

 

This is punishing behaviour, this is bullies doing what adults do, doing what the police do, I mean the bully’s behavior is very close to that, closer than any of us would like to think. I’m saying the bully feels he is doing what he sees around him, that in the parlance of some schools of psychology, the bully is getting his power back, after some authority figure has taken his power from him.

 

So, parents and schools going to the bully kids and telling them to stop is a joke to these kids. They see it as just more ‘do as I say, not as I do,’ which it is. I, for one, would love to see someone ask the kids if I’m right about that. Don’t take my word for it. Ask the kids. Better yet, we need a mole, someone who can infiltrate the kids’ group and get a real answer. They don’t trust us.

 

Parents don’t think they are bullying. We have a consensus about what is acceptable punishing behavior, and we really cannot seem to draw parallels with what we see as our legitimate punishments and other similar behaviours. If we can’t, if we won’t see how bullying is an extension, an extrapolation of our punishing ways, then there is very little hope that any of our conversation about bullying, any of our attempts to combat it will get any traction, very little hope of our ever solving a problem if we refuse to understand it in the first place. Surely, someone has noticed that speeches that don’t acknowledge this difficult truth have not had any dramatic effect on the bullying phenomenon? I think any approach that doesn’t include this idea would be considered empty and hopeless, at least to any group that lives under threat or reality of punishment – like our kids.

 

Long and short, if we adults don’t stop ‘bullying’ kids everywhere, we will never stop their bullying, that should be obvious. I don’t know why it isn’t.

 

Many nations have outlawed corporal punishment, in Canada, we are in the process of outlawing it, and I can see the next step, that we will someday realize that the damage caused by punishing behaviours generally outweigh any benefit, and when we all stop anything like bullying, so will our kids. Until then, we will fight this bullying thing in vain, fighting fire with fire, and modeling it and propagating it as we do.

 

So now, there will be programs, task forces, plans and research, all government money spent to figure out this embarrassing problem, and if we don’t try to stop people from the use of punishment – corporal and otherwise – on our kids at home and everywhere else, we are wasting all those resources. And that is a sad, cruel joke, one that the adults don’t understand, and only our kids are laughing about. Not in a good way.

 

Jeff

 

Jan. 22, 2016

Punishment and Respect

Punishment and Respect

 

I’m gonna change my approach a little here, start making these things short and sweet.

 

So this third one of those will be on this idea here: if you punish, it instills respect. Otherwise why would they respect you? So a couple of thoughts:

 

Punishment is a betrayal, of communication, of love, of respect; to be punished is to have our personhood rejected and denied. Punishments happen when a more powerful person or persons has given up talking to or reasoning with us and simply treats us like an object rather than any semblance of a peer, or even a person. To my mind, this is a worst case scenario in adult relationships. At its best, it’s Mandela’s incarceration, a classic walk underground and into legend (though, let’s not forget, not a good time for him still) resulting from a considered difference of political opinion. Rest assured most of the outcomes of this everyday betrayal, punishment, are not so good. One thing at a time, though. Respect.

 

To my mind, punishment is the end of respect. After one punishment, maybe, after some good apology, but after a regular application of it? Talk of ‘respect’ is empty chatter, mind-boggling hubris. A half-century of post-Skinner parenting crap literature never seems to acknowledge that you can’t have discipline from punishment and respect at the same time. I’ll tell you though: you’ve got a choice, and I repeat, you might not lose trust and respect the very first time – but don’t push it twice.

 

Have we really forgotten how it felt when we were the kids? Really? How many of us only come to respect our parents later in life, after we’ve spent a few decades dishing it out on our own kids? How many of us never do? We weren’t born disrespecting, they earned it – and we understand them after we earn it.

 

 

Jeff

 

Jan. 20, 2016

 

Rare Research Opportunity

Parenting styles don’t matter, that is what all the analyses of all the twin and adoption studies came up with. They postulated three sorts of parenting – permissive, authoritative, and authoritarian, and with that in mind and all the twin and adoption data, they found that the middle road was best.

I don’t see it that way, because for them, the middle was the middle and permissive was one direction and authority the opposite direction, when really, it’s a one directional scale. Really, the spectrum goes from no application of authority, through some (permissive), through more (authoritative), to much (authoritarian) application of authority. “Application of authority” means control and the tools for it, meaning punishment, meaning force. My point being the three “parenting styles” they postulated are increasing levels of force, and the data says a little is bad and a lot is bad, but in between is not as bad. To my mind there are other ways to interpret that pattern than that the middle amount of force simply strikes the right balance, I need to know if that’s true, balance between authority and what? Original Sin? If two out of three dosages of it are bad for you, why is the third not?

My interpretation is this: children of permissive parents fear punishment less, the deterrents fail because the child is not convinced he’ll have to pay the price, so some number more of those kids develop bad habits, find trouble. Conversely, children of authoritative parents can be any combination of damaged or bitter and angry from abuse they’ve suffered, and the rougher their parents are, the rougher some of the kids learn to be, and so perhaps more of those kids find trouble too. A multitude of abuse and corporal punishment studies will support that. But then, why the middle road? The other things don’t apply, the punishments are consistent, so the deterrents work, the child has a higher expectation of having to pay the price, and the child has a better chance of avoiding real abuse and damage, along with other things as well, probably. I think that small win for the authoritative parents represents more children trapped in impossible binds, more kids who aren’t hurting enough to really speak out, more kids we’ve fooled into taking it like a man. But the point is this.

The permissive parents’ kids still know they can and will be punished for some things, they know the adults reserve the right to do it, same as with the rougher parents, so they’re carrying the bitterness too, them, the middle-road parents’ kids, they all know that. To my mind, the force is the trouble – and the science also says individual parents don’t leave a trace, that children are raised as a group function, by other kids, with the adult rules and structures in place – the force itself is an issue, but maybe just that all kids know generally that the adults will use the authority, the force, on them is more to the point. That knowledge offends all children, irrespective of how strict or wishy washy their own caregivers are. (That will be a sticking point, of course, I imagine a lot of parents don’t acknowledge that sense of offense, and I would respectfully suggest that not understanding that feeling means there is a large blind spot in our empathy.)

Again, they say individual parents don’t leave a trace on their kids, so that must mean individual parents’ styles don’t matter either – again, by their data, and their analyses, because of the simplistic categorization of “parenting styles.” Life certainly, but their science particularly needs a control set of zero authority parents, because that is the fundamental difference, authority, punishments and force, yes or no, and then perhaps we can make sense of the floating scale of less, more and most too. They saw very little difference, again, the middle road was only a little better, their main point is none of it makes any difference at all, so really, what that means to me, because I postulate force and punishments as the operative force in these matters, is when force is present, the amount of it makes little difference. Perhaps it’s a binary condition, like the presence of some poison the smallest amount of which is enough and more makes little difference. What we need to see is if there is a difference if we remove it altogether. Now it just so happens, I know a family like that we could interview, put through some tests.

Of course, they’d have to be compensated for their time, and these people are rare, which may drive up the price . . . really, though, for a “science” that is a hundred and twenty-five years old, a chance to establish a null control, for perhaps the first time?

What price could be too high?

 

Jeff

 

Jan. 16, 2016

Mom’s Such a Martyr – Parental Sacrifice and the Six Year Challenge

 

One of my many differences with people in the parenting groups and with the prevailing climate in the gentle parenting movement is around sacrifice, around parents looking after themselves as well as their kids, because it’s important to model self-love and care, and because we figure happy, less stressed-out parents will have more success with their efforts to make the gentle change in their parenting. All this and more, and it’s obvious, impossible to deny in theory . . .

LOL. Of course I’m kidding!

My contrariness is not easily intimidated. I don’t know if you, the postulated reader realize it, but I’m kind of living on the edge here, when I start these sorts of rants, often the subject of my critique is something apparently unassailable like this. This is a high wire act in my mind, unconventional thinking, and it’s not easy. But with every new aspect of my study here, I’m gaining confidence and I don’t think I’m going mad. Fooling myself that I’m winning any points in these arguments doesn’t seem overly difficult or complex, which tells me I’m not so far diverged from the reality of things. Of course, for a curmudgeon, this is where the fun is. So to it, then.

This generation’s allergy to parental notions of sacrifice has some strange roots. The image of the sacrificing Mom is that of the Nineteen-fifties middle America, thing, Dad off at work and Mom at home, a slave to the house, the laundry, the kids, and of course Dad, and Mom lives out her life never doing a thing for herself, a martyr for the family. That, yes, a horrible standard for Mom, working twenty-four seven and the most hardworking of Dads not working those hours at all, home time being largely off-time for Dad. This is a situation at which to rebel, and when I was young, it was Women’s’ Lib, the women’s’ liberation movement, or more generally known then as today, feminism, that broke the spell and let us all know that this sacrifice was neither ‘its own reward’ or the model anyone should set their daughters up for.

All right and proper, not strange, I know, but here it is: was that also not the time and culture that beat the crap out of their kids, out of our parents, us and our friends? (I’m fifty-five as of this writing.) I know, right, parenting blogs and feminist blogs and never the twain shall meet, but, folks, it’s all one world out there. Our martyrs passed on their second-class citizen status and associated abuse to us, right? I know, many acted as protectors, shielding us from our more violent fathers, but really, in that demographic, who raised the kids? All I’m saying is, I get it, that culture of “sacrifice” was bad, that model needs to go, for both feminist and – childist – reasons, no argument for that larger thing: that whole culture needs to change, absolutely.

But (and here come the comments), was the sacrifice really the problem in it?

If it seems to be, I think it’s only because of its close ties to abuse, that Mom’s sacrifice means she allowed herself and therefore us to be abused. Does the feminist movement want to say that Mom was complicit in her own and her children’s’ abuse, that is, is Mom’s shared guilt what they want to shine a light on, or should we not just keep the parenting talk focussed on abuse? Abuse is the real scourge here, focussing on sacrifice is oddly misogynist when we’re talking about abuse or parenting, it’s a form of victim blaming – as though there are impersonal, automatic cycles of abuse with lives of their own, but these martyr women, they’re making a choice in it, like they’re the only ones who are. It just smells off to me. Mom may have done it as an adult, but abuse is still abuse, even if we seem to volunteer for it. It’s the driving force in the dark side of our parents’ and grandparents’ parenting and Stockholm Syndrome in itself is a reaction, not a cause. All I’m saying is, Ladies, mothers, feminists and those who are both especially, yes, no-one should model that, that was some misguided sacrifice indeed.

To give the devil and the dark side it’s due, though, some bullshit in the name of a virtue is not a new thing in the world, and many a callous abuser has beaten his chest and cried about his “sacrifice.”  As Dark Side as I can ever be: is the flip side of ‘happy parents are gentle parents’ an ultimatum: ‘Call me out on my bullshit and I will beat the tar out of this kid?’ Misreads and abuse exist for everything, including sacrifice; it doesn’t mean things can’t ever be the good, proper versions sometimes. Sacrifice was our mothers’ and grandmothers’ immediate personal problem, their battle, and maybe still many ladies’ battle today, and solving it saves women, absolutely. Suggesting that fighting this battle somehow saves children, and that the two groups, women and children (read adults and children) can never be in conflict, that one’s gains can never negatively impact the other, however, isn’t right and it’s not helpful. Your fight for freedom was and is against the men, the adults. It’s still OK to sacrifice a little for your kids.

How sacrifice hurts us as children is only one of the many, many ways abuse hurts us. Let’s keep our eye on the prize.

So. ‘One of my many differences.’

I don’t mind some sacrifice. Yes, I’m a cultural Christian, and while that doesn’t mean I agree with the sacrifice of human beings in the literal sense, nailed to trees, I do think sacrifice is, at least in it’s better forms, a good thing, a moral act. In fact, it’s a big part of my planned cure for abuse and punishment in the world. In it’s most practical, generational terms, what I’m advising is that some punished and also possibly abused generation swallow that pain and find a way not to repeat, in fact to sacrifice what they see as a “normal, happy life,” live with the pain and troubles their childhoods left them with and keep their fucking hands off of their own kids, even if they think “raising their kids right” will make themselves feel better. That is gonna feel like some sacrifice, I won’t lie to you.

I felt it, believe me.

I can’t imagine how many times I’ve told the half-joke that I sometimes wish I had beat my second daughter up at least once, just so that during all the frustrating times with her afterward, I could have just closed my eyes for a second and treasured the memory. Man, it would be nice, once in a man’s life to bark an order and see it swiftly carried out. That is an immediate gratification I have rarely enjoyed, believe me. I have fantasies of personal power, my worldview tells me we all do, and I have happily (usually happily) sacrificed getting the payoff those fantasies promise.

In practical terms in a slightly shorter time frame, I would say the sacrifice of our inheritance of parental power needed to last until my younger daughter was old enough to talk and reason with, old enough to understand things, and as I remember it, she was five or six. She was born a full three and one-third years after our older one, so the difficult years, where we manually did everything we might want to train our kids to control themselves for, were then over before ten years had elapsed from the first one’s birth. I mean, ten years into our life as parents, we never had another cause to consider punishing. This when the teen years were still before us, and they aren’t anymore. We sacrificed, and it paid, sorry if that sounds ironically old fashioned.

We sacrificed a lot, all the other things, besides the sense of parental power I will save for another post, but there was a lot of work, and we had opted out of much of normal life around normal families, we sacrificed the support normal parents get from each other. Not kidding, it was a lot, but again: for six years after the birth of your last child, then it’s payoff time. Not kidding about that either.

 

 

Conclusions

 

That old model of family life, yes, that was bad, let’s do away with that, but let’s also make sure we’re fighting the real devil here, not some victim proxy. Mom’s sacrifice didn’t help, but abuse and force, these are the issues that shape us, negative things like these. Sacrifice is still a moral tool, with a legitimate existence. Do we imagine that in harsh, unforgiving nature, sacrifice on the part of parents is not a survival adaptation for the young and so for the species?

Having said that, part of what was wrong with the model of Mom’s martyrdom is that it never ends, the payout is never made. They thought the payout was our success and our happiness – but again: they whooped our asses while they said that to themselves, so that payout maybe never came either, right? Sacrifice for nothing really isn’t, in hindsight. What I’m offering you here is old-time, tried and true sacrifice, hard work for actual results.

Face that Mom and Dad were and all your friends and colleagues are wrong about the benefits of any sort of punishing, and hold back your punitive urges until your kids are six years old. Make that sacrifice and see what happens. And don’t get me wrong, be nice to yourselves, that part is true, it will be easier if you’re getting breaks. If, however, when it gets hard, and you can’t help but feel you’re somehow repeating Mom’s errors, over-sacrificing, I promise you, six years. Six years of feeling like something of a fool, six years of letting your kids get away with stuff you never would have gotten away with, six years of feeling like your inner child has lost a fucking lottery, and after that the hard part is behind you – a decade or two earlier than it was when our parents parented us, if you recall. For my wife and I, it meant it was that long before it ever got any easier for many of the parents around us, and neither the strictest ones nor the least so were immune, which, BTW, fits the social science study data.

Some sacrifice is a good thing, sometimes.

 

Jeff

Jan. 16, 2016

#SixYearChallenge

Negative Proofs

It’s a hard row to hoe, convincing people that all punishment is harmful, Sisyphean, in fact, but the opposite, that was pretty easy: a complete lack of punishment, no dispensing of negative consequences whatsoever – has no ill effects. Punishment is not necessary for life.

You may not be ready to allow that it’s harmful – but for the lack of it to be harmful, me and my family would have to show some harm, some of the sorts of harm we all agree might result from a lack of discipline, wildness, inconsiderateness, poor boundaries, violence, opposition, poor morals – and that is just not the case.

You can’t prove a negative, but you can prove whether removing an organ kills the patient. Punishment is like our appendix, a legacy condition that can only cause trouble. It’s not a requirement for life. I’ve proved that much, and that is no small thing.

You’re welcome.

 

Jeff

 

Jan. 16, 2016

Brave and Crazy

. . . brown trouser time, only I guess I never knew it.

https://youtu.be/RSt1Kshj1QA

(sorry, I don’t know how to insert a video . . . it’s only a short joke, no biggie)

 

When I made my decision, when I determined that it was punishment in any and all of its forms that was the problem with the world (because I’m the sort of person who feels duh, there’s a problem with the world), when I decided I would never punish my kids, ever, I must have been out of my mother-loving mind. A more educated person never could have made this mistake.

I mean, I was living the Blank Slate and the Nurture Assumption fallacies, for starters. I really believed that no part of the human character was written in the blood. I really believed that it’s how we’re treated that makes us who we are – well maybe I wouldn’t have bet my life on those things, but I always assumed they were true enough, that if how we’re treated matters at all, then we should treat each other well. Wait, that sounds like Idle at the end of ‘the Meaning of Life’ – “So that’s why I became a waiter!” I mean, adults should treat children well, and punishments aren’t good treatment. At least that’s what I decided I must have been thinking at some point afterwards, because I hadn’t really looked into any nature vs nurture stuff back then, not yet.

But I’ll admit it:

I really had no idea what I was doing. Looking back, it was an emotional thing, I just thought ‘nice’ was good and ‘mean’ was bad. I didn’t think I needed to know what to do, what parent really does, at first? I knew what not to do, and that seemed like more knowledge than anyone else had claim to . . . wow. Does that sound a little uppity, coming as it does from a man with only a pair of High School Equivalency certificates that got him into trade school? Sometimes maybe not so brave as just plain nuts. Such conviction, and I’ve since been given to understand that the basis of my philosophy has been debunked, it was all Blank Slate nonsense that drove it, stuff like the only thing that matters is how we are treated. I should hang my head and not open my ignorant gob regarding child-rearing or development ever again, right?

(I talk to people now who seem to base their gentle parenting ideas on the same basis that I had, and I cringe a little. But I also had my little epiphany, that punishment is identical to abuse except in the rationale, and that’s the difference. They are Blank Slaters still, Nurture Assumers still for the most part unless they’re professionals, who would punish (be it timeouts and such), while I would not punish and I’m presently accepting the Nurture Assumption Challenge, that is, questioning my previous assumptions. While my insight seemed oddly both revolutionary and self-evident to me, no-one else seems to get it and so I now view that too as naïve and unsupported, to some degree. I no longer expect anyone to see that one my way. I’m amazed, and I can’t believe it, but I have memorized it: this idea, punishment as abuse with an excuse, doesn’t fly.)

Having said that, sometimes a bad thesis produces the most interesting results!

I’d be humble, mortified and silent forever, if my more than two-decade philosophical faux pas here came out, showed itself to the world, how wrong I was, how on the wrong side of history I’d been, such a denier of human nature, but, apparently . . . apparently all that wrong-headed leftist science isn’t so completely wrong that anywhere it leads will mess up your kids. It led me away from power and authority, from punishment – something maybe even the worst of those commies weren’t trying for. And a good thing. Not just a one-dimensional value judgment, I hope: a good thing scientifically, like the discovery of penicillin from a sample gone bad and mouldy. I’m not sure that’s what happened there, but you know what I mean, like I’m the rock-tossing goatherd who discovered the Dead Sea scrolls. I’m not sure that’s a fair characterization of him and what happened there either, but . . . well, there it is. Ha.

I had my little epiphany, my idea, and we went with it, brave and crazy. No punishment was to be the rule, and like dominoes, everything went with it: bedtimes, mealtimes, clean house, organized life, and any sort of support in our child-rearing efforts. (The hugs and kisses tribute due to the family matriarch was not forced either – imagine the potential for hurt feelings.) If you’re not willing to force it – and that was exactly our choice, for better or worse we weren’t going to force anything – then none of the things that you want to happen but your young children don’t are going to happen. I mean they might, sometimes, but not in a dependable way. So I saw that as my choice, control or gentleness, and I can’t explain why control seemed negotiable to me when it doesn’t seem to be for most parents, but I gave it up, we gave it up. Brave and crazy, sure.

I didn’t word it this way until very recently, but here’s the bad thesis: hurt hurts and harm harms. Abuse hurts because hurt hurts, and it harms because harm harms, simple like that, and that also accounts for a lot of ‘normal’ hurt and harm because punishment is ‘normal’ hurt and harm. Simple, as opposed to the newspeak of punishment, strength from hurt and good from harm. That might be a plausible theory if we merely dispense with Ockham’s razor and not consider the obvious, simple truth of my proposition, but really, not as plausible as hurt means hurt, as the fact that words are always synonyms for themselves. Hurt hurts and harm harms, that really is about lower case abuse, meaning negative experience, like the abuse your shoes take; it’s not about ‘parenting styles’ and I would agree: it’s not about the process of child development. All that is as it should be, abuse is a different conversation, indeed. It’s just that it happens in the same places at the same times and at the hands of the same people. Apparently if you do it wrong, it’s not “parenting,” it’s abuse, and by this definition, parenting can never be a bad thing! By this definition, parenting has never been shown to affect children in a meaningful way.

So hurt hurts and harm harms, simple and true. Is that so crazy?

Hint: it’s not; we are.

It worked out great. I mean it was tough, mitigating the damage toddlers cause without dis-incentivizing it, without forcing the child to learn to control herself to adult standards, the first several years were constant legwork, exhausting. It started getting better when the girls were five or six, old enough to talk and reason, and it never got difficult again. As it turns out, if you can manage not to punish your babies and toddlers, your children will trust you and the communication will remain open and productive throughout your family life together. That was a hoped for but unexpected result for us, really amazing, better than we could have imagined. We really were making a change, though. We weren’t raised this way, it was uncharted territory, no kidding, brave, crazy and . . . lucky, I guess. Against all odds.

Again, no argument, I admit it. It was naïve, and it was irresponsible. It just wasn’t supposed to happen (ask my mother-in-law) . . .

. . . and

 

Eureka! Whatever that is. It’s another accidental scientific miracle, human beings, living together in relative harmony right through the teen years and into adulthood with their parents. Is that so crazy?

Happens all the time, doesn’t it?

Of course I mean the accidental huge scientific discovery, not the harmony, LOL.

 

Jeff

Jan. 10, 2016