20 February 2007

The "Non-Abusive Presupposition"

Our culture presupposes nonabusiveness.

In other words...

In our culture, it is a basic belief that human interactions are not abusive in intent - either overtly or covertly. People are assumed to be WYSIWYG - what you see is what you get - until they prove otherwise.

Much frustration and pain results from applying the non-abusive presupposition in abusive situations.

For example, "I" messages, which are the mainstay of non-defensive [assertive] communication, are completely dependent on the non-abusive presupposition. They fail - sometimes spectacularly - when used with an abuser.

Non-abusive dialog:

A: "When you call me silly, I feel hurt and ashamed."

B: "I'm sorry, I don't mean to hurt and shame you." ...

Abusive dialog:

A: "When you call me silly, I feel hurt and ashamed."

B: [pick one]
"Good!"
"Who cares how you feel?"
"You feel ashamed? What about me? How do you think I felt the last time you [anything irrelevant, especially if it's old, inflammatory, and totally unfair, in order to change the subject]?"

The non-abusive presupposition assumes that both participants in an interaction are living in the same psychological space - what Patricia Evans calls "Reality II". This is a place in which human beings interact as equals, with their worth and dignity presupposed. It is not necessary for either participant of a pair, or any member of a group, to establish and preserve superiority over the other[s] in order to be treated respectfully [listened to and actually heard, have needs met, receive support, experience the concern of the other[s] during difficult life passages].

Unfortunately, the non-abusive presupposition isn't a safe starting point. Human interactions are abusive far more often than our culture pretends.

Interestingly, many people know this, at a deep internal level. Which is why people so seldom stand up for themselves or others, so rarely take the direct approach to resolve what may be simple misunderstandings, so frequently assume the worst ... they are so often right.

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