04 November 2007

Looking Into the Abyss [the Only Way to Win is Not to Play]

"Whoever fights monsters should see to it that in the process he does not become a monster. And when you look into the abyss, the abyss also looks into you."
-- Nietzche
It can be hellishly easy, incredibly seductive, to respond to abusers with abuse.

So easy to justify; there's even a Game Theory thesis that seems to support it - the Tit for Tat strategy as the most effective solution to The Prisoner's Dilemma... "First cooperate, but if betrayed, retaliate exactly as you were betrayed."

So deeply and repeatedly modeled; if we have been raised by abusive and enabling parents, then we have been shown, over and over, how to abuse and how to enable abusers. How to abuse and how to be abused. We have not been shown how to stop abuse. We have not been shown how to assert, how to call out abuse for what it is and stand fast in the midst of the ensuing storm. We have seen abuse met with enabling or with more abuse - no third way.

So firmly approved by our culture, so emotionally satisfying. It works in the movies, it works on TV - just destroy the baddies by whatever means comes to hand, and look Ma! A nice clean universe!

Not.

This is not to say that there is no such thing as abuse, nor am I advocating an 'evil does not exist' non-solution to the dilemma. That is the most devious form of enabling; it effectively says we are all sociopaths together, and the difference between 'us' and 'them' is merely that 'they' have the guts to act on it, and the rest of us don't.

I'm also not advocating hopelessness in the face of evil [get rid of one and you just end up with a dozen more]. That, to me, is the saddest and most prevalent form of learned helplessness; it is culturally inculcated despair.

Abuse exists, and the most committed abusers are not simply a gutsier version of our 'lesser selves'. They are another kind of animal entirely, and it is a serious failure in our culture and in our species that we allow them to prey unchecked.

But if we respond to abusers by abusing them in return, we indeed become, to some extent, the thing we abhor. Trapped in Karpman dynamics, we merely persecute our persecutor.

Here it is important to make a very significant distinction. Standing up to an abuser is not abusing them. Pointing out the abusive behaviors and tactics they are using is not abusing them. Refusing to be intimidated by these behaviors and tactics is not abusing them. They will insist that these things are abusive, because in the world of the abuser, any impulse denied, any gratification delayed, is defined as abuse.

Do not let them define your reality.

The most powerful, indeed the only effective, response to an abuser is constraint.

And there is the heart of the problem.

It is almost impossible for an individual, acting alone, to impose any meaningful temporal constraints upon an abuser.

It is also very unlikely that most groups, faced with an abuser [or a gang of them] and a target [or a targeted group of individuals] in their midst, will have enough healthy emotional history available in their membership to muster a solid, reality-based, constraining response - and direct it accurately at the abuse. Far more likely, someone will advocate for the 'we're all sociopaths together' fallacy, or, sadly, the abuser [or gang], via a combination of manipulation, intimidation, and appeals to recreational malice, will recruit and enlist members of the larger group to assist in abusing the chosen target.

Therefore: nearly all advocates for the abused sooner or later reach the point where they advise No Contact as the most effective solution.

It is the only ethical form of constraint that one person, acting unilaterally, may have sufficient power to impose permanently and effectively.

It does not rely upon the tenuous emotional health and even more tenuous goodwill of an uninformed [or poorly informed] and easily manipulated group.

And most importantly, it does not involve an abusive response. Instead, it provides distance, safety, and a space within which to reflect, to assess, to determine just how much of the abyss we may have carried away within ourselves, from the years spent on its brink - and to begin ridding ourselves of that poison.

It puts us on the road to sanctuary and healing.

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4 Comments:

Anonymous Jordie said...

I'd be interested in your response to a new self-help approach to suffering by a woman called Byron Katie. http://www.thework.com/index.asp

Go to the video entitled 'mother' and consider how she approaches this young woman's problem of a controlling manipulative mother. Because of my background it actually sounded genuine to me at first, then the warning bells started going off.

I am amazed at how much success this woman has garnered in such a short time. In relation to the latest blog post on Narcissists-suck, you can see how this sort of thing could come under the tag of brainwashing.

What do you think.

05 November, 2007 00:35  
Blogger Stormchild said...

Hi jordie

for some reason, my browser isn't loading the video properly, so I can't speak to that specific instance, but I was able to look at other pages on the site, especially the page that explains the general technique.

it looks to me like fairly standard 'invalidate and blame the victim' stuff, with the cute twist that the victim is being taught to invalidate and blame themselves. And yes, that is indeed N grooming. This is how codependents are made.

The business of 'turning around' everything - indiscriminately - on the presupposition that there is no such thing as a fact, apparently - is just a slick way of saying "What is Truth?" ... you remember who asked that, and under what circumstances, don't you?

05 November, 2007 21:37  
Anonymous CZBZ said...

Great Entry, Stormchild! Thank you!

CZBZ

10 November, 2007 02:38  
Blogger Stormchild said...

Thank you too :-) glad you found it useful!

12 November, 2007 11:06  

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