Sunday, October 13, 2013

Domination, Manipulation and Control

In some ways I don’t think people are all that hard to understand. Whenever I see someone trying to manipulate, dominate and control someone, I know that underneath they feel inadequate and humiliated. Those feelings of inadequacy come from being abused when young – not having their boundaries respected.

I don’t think I’ve ever seen an exception to this rule. The more someone tries to manipulate, dominate and control someone, the greater their feelings of abuse and humiliation as a child. The more dysfunctional the family - and the society,

I’ve heard it described as pride covering up shame. It’s not the normal sense of pride that’s being discussed, but more like excessive pride to the point of arrogance, the kind of “pride” that is easily insulted. (I've heard this called "defensive high self-esteem," in which "individuals internalize subconscious self-doubts and insecurities causing them to react very negatively to any criticism they may receive...associated with boastful, arrogant behavior or sometimes even aggressive and hostile feelings toward anyone who questions the individual's self-worth, an example of threatened egotism.")

Every person I’ve ever known with this kind of conceit and pride has been insecure underneath. Terribly insecure, and in every case full of anger, sometimes hate and rage. They often want to get revenge on people.

These people also blame their blame on other people. In a perverted sense, they are right, because shame is based on what other people think of you. Guilt is based on what you think of yourself.

James Gilligan, who spent his career studying murderers, found they murdered after being insulted. They felt shamed and humiliated, and in an effort to repair their sense of self-esteem, they removed what they saw as the cause of their problems.

There is even a shorthand for what these murderers felt – being “dissed.” Disrepected. Then they got revenge, which is an attempt to restore their pride.

One of my friends, who was head of security in an area surrounded by criminals, got along fine with them, and never had any trouble with them. How did he do it? He told me even though they were pimps and whores and drug sellers, street people and drunks, he treated everyone of them with respect. The poor are always with us, as was noted in the Bible, so you might as well treat these people as humans.

Gilligan realized one day what he was seeing over and over was the story of Cain and Abel, in which Cain, who had his sacrifice rejected by God, murdered his brother, whose sacrifice was accepted. Cain would not have done this unless he felt rejected and humiliated.

The curious thing about Cain and Abel is that they are the children of Adam and Eve, who are the original scapegoaters – they get kicked out of the Garden of Eden because they broke the rules, after which Adam blames Eve, and Eve blames the serpent – just the way Cain blamed Abel.

If this is not a dysfunctional family, then what is? Two self-absorbed parents blaming their problems on others. These days, what kind of parents would they make? Not very good ones.

After all, Adam and Eve did raise a murderer. The parents brought evil into the world through scapegoating and the second generation brought violence through murder. These days, their story could be updated and made more accurate and insightful.

I think it’s clear that self-absorbed parents who blame their problems on others are going to be manipulative and controlling parents, and their children are going to grow up humiliated and shamed and prone to same problems, including violence.

Carl Jung made a comment to the effect you can have power or love, but you can’t have both. I think he was right.

So many problems run back to childhood. What’s that old saying? As the twig is bent, so the tree grows? Not respecting boundaries, abusing them physically and emotionally, controlling and manipulating them...the problems caused by these attitudes and behaviors are simply staggering when the children become adults.

John Locke wrote hundreds of years ago, “The evil man is the child grown strong.” He was as right about that as Jung was in his statement.

Or to put it another way, when you abuse and disrespect people, they will get revenge on you to restore their pride and self-respect.The Greeks called it Hubris followed by Nemesis - humiliation followed by revenge.

2 comments:

Wraith said...

Funny thing...I went through tons of shame, abuse and humiliation as a kid...and it made me resolve NEVER to do that to others.

Curious, that. What do you think makes the difference?

Bob Wallace said...

Imagination and empathy.

People who suffer such things also tend to not particularly like themselves and can be self-destructive in one way or another.

Sound familiar?