A conflicted Society – Psychology VS Punishment

A conflicted Society – Psychology VS Punishment

 

          A swat is good for a kid, teaches ‘em right from wrong. This has been accepted wisdom for many, many folks for a very long period of time: punishments teach.

 

          Abuse damages people – this has probably been accepted by fewer people, and also for fewer centuries.

 

          Can we think both these things? That is to say, is there a place in our minds for both of these  . . . functions? Is there room in our society for these opposing apparent effects we see as resulting from what are perhaps closely related causes?

 

          Psychology and the naming of the ravages of abuse have the potential to change the world in unimaginable ways. The symptoms and unrealized potentials that so often follow in the lives of the abused are a scourge the vastness of which cannot be overstated. The only measures of it that approach the truth are our wonder and appreciation of those who somehow manage to overcome, as well as our appreciation of those who refuse to repeat their abuse upon the next generation and to imagine a world without abuse is to imagine nothing less than heaven on Earth. Unrealized it may be, but only the fields of knowledge in and around psychology and sociology have the potential to bring this dream into the realms of possibility. Unrealized, to repeat. I admit that.

 

          The reasons for the unfulfilled potential of the study of human interactions are many, and not all within the scope of what I’m trying to say here. Conversely, the unfulfilled promise of the other idea – that is sort of my specialty. The other idea, of course, being that children need discipline – read “punishments” – to become responsible, well-behaved, law-abiding adults.

 

          The social – I hesitate to say ‘sciences,’ so the social ‘fields of inquiry’ – haven’t really been tested yet, in terms of their potential to cure some of society’s ills. Despite so much good information coming out in the last few generations about the damages of corporal punishment, spankings and other corporal punishments remain the rule rather than the exception. Despite the consciousness on the part of the psychological and psychiatric communities of the harm caused by punishments, over-punishments and abuse, these professions seem to spend their time selling fixes for the harmed people after the fact rather than focussing on prevention (I mean, to be fair, that is more properly the province of social workers and educators, plus it’s so vastly worse than just pointless and thankless – it’s no wonder no-one gets paid to do it). It seems the patients possibly believe in psychology, and are willing to use what psychology offers – but it appears their parents and caregivers do not. Therapy is looked upon as a very personal thing. When a person’s damage is so bad that it robs them of their quality of life, then they may look at the source of their pain; when we are tacitly accused of being the source of the younger generation’s pain we are less likely to participate in that examination.

 

          Punishing, the belief in punishing, sets the scene for abuse in many ways. I know it’s a normal part of the narrative around parenting and abuse to say that proper ‘discipline’ and abuse are opposites, to say that the parent seeks to mold and direct their kids while the abuser seeks only to harm and humiliate. However to believe this, one must ignore all the gradients between those poles.

 

          One must refuse to see that near the worst end of this bridge, that there is some remnant of the parent, and that near the best end, that there is some small component of the abuser. This would be a truth even if the two things were opposites – but psychology has shown us that as much as they are, they also are not. The truth is that, even as within the popular narrative’s apparent opposition all punishing has a component of abuse, the darker, psychological story of unconscious mechanisms show the abuse component to always be present in fairly constant measure. I’ll make a sharp left turn here.

 

          I’m guessing that paragraph separated the believers of psychology from the believers of punishment (‘discipline,’ if you prefer)? Did anyone just make a choice, or learn that they had already made a choice somewhere in the past? Because that is the point I’m heading for here. No-one seems to take psychology or childhood trauma seriously, not until we run out of choices, or until our choices take a deadly turn, not until we’ve lost everything first. This is my point, the answer to the questions posed at the start of this little rant. If there is room in our minds for both of these concepts, then our minds are split, our selves are severed in two. We need to understand that a choice is necessary. Of course there is only one choice to make.

 

          A modern person who has no concern for abuse, no concern for the consequences of the pain we create, that person is a monster, a villain. That person has been destroyed, he’s either a rare, birth-defected organic monster or has suffered some kind of ultimate abuse himself (or some combination, the possessor of an activated ‘warrior gene’ perhaps). That person has not made a conscious choice, and that isn’t a choice that it is possible to make consciously.

 

          In the middle ground is where humanity lives, nearly all of us. Unaware of the choice, or unaware that one must be made, we treat the lessons of psychology like art, an amusing intellectual exercise, humouring the work and the visionaries who have shown us the way as though they were children and their life’s works were finger paintings.

 

          “Sure,” We say. “Betrayal of love. Childhood emotional and mental trauma, being trained to look at hurt and deprivations as being good for us, demonstrating Might is Right, modeling bullying and the use of force - that’s bad, I mean, I guess . . . but what are you gonna do?” (Shades of ‘Strawberry Fields Forever’ . . . )

 

          “Like, sure, psychology. But seriously . . .”

 

          This, while in our real lives, we punish, wielding pain, withdrawal of love, and selective deprivations of all kinds ostensibly to produce ‘better’ people – because we think the lessons of psychology and the understanding of abuse, unlike hard science’s laws like gravity, only apply to some few of us, to extreme cases, to other people, to other parents, to other parents’ children.

 

          There is a choice, one conscious choice to be made, because not to make it leaves us in the middle ground. That choice is to buy into the basic premise of psychology and the understanding of abuse, which, at its simplest is: hurt hurts. To deny the social forms of philosophy this way, to believe in punishing is to say hurt heals. That’s the simple logic of it, peeled down to the essence. But beyond that, because we don’t really believe in the sciences of human behaviour and so this logical truth can’t reach us, this:

 

          Punishing, being what we have believed for millennia, has us still living in a world of abuse, war, hatred, bigotry, and a crumbling environment. If you think it hasn’t caused it, I ask you this: has it fixed it? Do we think it’s going to fix things any time soon, is that our fantasy? Will anyone say that if we treat our children, our criminals and our enemies with more harshness and less forgiveness that that is the way to peace, tolerance and a better future? Five, six, maybe ten millennia of ‘discipline,’ and this is our world. It’s not all bad, but it’s got a lot of bad still. Is this supposed to be the generation where our ideas of bringing pain and with-holding love will finally solve our problems?

 

          No? So that isn’t a choice, then? What about the status quo?

 

          Would no change in the level of pain and deprivations we use to make things better be a viable choice? Should we be just exactly this harsh and retributive then, and if we do, can we expect improvement in our problems? Should we make sure not to decrease the amount of unpleasantness we visit upon each other?

 

          No again? Of course we want to lessen abuse and pain in the world, but we think we can get there while supporting a concept like punishment, a concept that means hurt heals, a blatant reversal of what is obvious and true.

 

          Or is it yes?

 

          Yes, we really do think the knowledge of abuse and its damages isn’t real, or somehow not important? We really do believe that a great deal of hurt is bad, but some hurt is good, so we need to make sure everyone gets hurt in some perfect measure, we really do think that if we don’t hurt each other, if we don’t hurt our children in some way that they won’t learn and the world will become a worse place?

 

          The knowledge of abuse and its harms are the future of the pursuit of human happiness, and the belief that using pain and the loss of love to make better people of our children is the dark, unconscious past, that is what I’m saying. Let’s get on the right side of history with this. We’ll need to take psychology and human science out of the universities and into our homes, into real life. Most importantly, into our families, our parenting. This is it.

 

          Hurt hurts, or hurt heals.

 

          If hurt heals, then what is abuse?

 

          If hurt hurts, then what is punishment?

  

          Anyone who thinks the world is getting worse (it’s not) because of our gradual increase in humanity (a slow but constant upswing), is suffering from Good Old Days Syndrome; they are not making an accurate assessment of our long violent history. As bad as things look now, they used to be worse, and it is humanistic ideas, the fulfillment of which could well be our modern understanding of abuse and its effects, that are making the difference. The modern lives with no humanism, gang life, lives of never-ending war and strife, they are the lives with the most violence and crime, not lives lived in liberalism and molly-coddling.

 

 

          That’s the choice before us. Humanism, psychology, these are the real deal, let’s let them change us. Let them save our children, our world. We’ve tried the other idea, over and over, hoping for different results, and we know what that is. But of course, mental illness is one of the documented symptoms.

 

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Comments (22)

  1. killingtime

    I believe in spanking children. You do not. I’ll try to make a simple example to get my point across.
    Water. Humans need water to survive. Without water we will die sooner rather than later. Yet people who drink huge (abnormal) amounts of water will die from drinking too much. People that do that (& die) are abnormal, just as people that beat their children enough to damage them are abnormal. Only a small number of people carry those thing to extreme & yes that is a problem. But because a small number of people carry both water & spanking to extremes do not mean that we should all give up drinking water or spanking kids. It means that society as some sick people in it, nothing more.
    .
    To spank or not spank is the choice of the parents. If you take one of the “tools” away (& spanking is a tool of parenting) then you have limited the parents ability to mold a child into a productive member of society. Since the use of spanking has declined, I have noticed that the quality of fully functional adults in society has declined. Maybe that has nothing to do with it or maybe that’s the root cause. I don’t know & really don’t care. I just know that I did my job & turned out 2 productive members of society & I spanked both of them. So spanking worked 100% of the time for me. Anyone that doesn’t want to spank, well that’s fine with me because I really could care less how your kids turn out unless one of them happens to kill one of my kids.

    February 26, 2015
    1. Neighsayer

      “People die from drinking too much water.” LOL.

      Oh, Good Lord. You talk like I’ve never heard of the normal idea of discipline in parenting before, like there’s anyone who’s never heard it. Like you invented it yourself. You must be a genius.

      “I have noticed that the quality of fully functional adults in society has declined.” – I’m sure that’s very scientific, and I’m sure you have been there for several generations to know the difference. Define “fully functional” and define your “productive members of society” for me. What are your kids doing for us?

      Your obvious belief in Original Sin offends me, first you’re sure we’d all naturally be killers, and then you’re sure that you and your invention, “discipline” has the power to change our natures. Plus, everyone thinks what you do about it, and the killers are YOUR kids, not mine.

      February 27, 2015
      1. killingtime

        “People die from drinking too much water.” LOL.
        .
        It’s called Hyponatremia. LOL
        .
        As for my obvious belief in Original Sin, you offend me. I haven’t been in a church in over 40 years. My stance on spanking is from experience & common sense. As for your post, well for me it ranks right up there with all you know about Hyponatremia.

        February 27, 2015
        1. Neighsayer

          “Hyponatremia” – of course it happens, EVERYTHING happens. But comparing the frequency of that sort of death with the damages of punishing and all the associated over-punishing is an insult to all the damaged people out there. Comparing the number of people who die from that with the number of people who beat their kids is ridiculous. It’s probably a couple of orders of magnitude higher that people beat their children TO DEATH.

          February 27, 2015
          1. killingtime

            And there is the EXACT problem with your posts on the subject. YOU see no difference between a person that spanks their kids & a sick SOB that beats them to death. You somehow assume that one leads to the other & they don’t. A normal person doesn’t start out to punish a child & then snaps & beat them to death. As I pointed out (& you laughed at before you looked it up) using your benchmark we should all stop drinking water because we won’t be able to stop & we will kill ourselves. It COULD happen but that’s not something a NORMAL person would do.
            .
            I would also point out that an abusive parent isn’t abusive just because spanking somehow “sets him off”, he (or she) is a sicko & would just as well throw the kid across the room or whatever. Spanking a child does not make him a sicko, he is that way to begin with. Somehow you don’t see or understand that.

            February 27, 2015
            1. Neighsayer

              you see no connection between hitting your kid a little and hitting your kid a lot? No connection. No connection between eating a little and eating a lot? No connection between drinking a little and drinking a lot?

              You’re kidding right?

              - the thing is, normal amounts of punishing give oxygen to abuse in several ways. One, it makes abuse hard to see. How do we know when we see a parent approaching the line in public, that the thing we’re seeing isn’t just the nicest part of that kid’s day? I’m convinced that at least until the very recent past, a predator could carry a kid away from the park, kid screaming blue bloody murder, and we’d all watch it happen, because that’s so often just normal parenting. Two,yes, some parents have lost it and “gone too far” while spanking, something that would happen a lot less if we didn’t spank in the first place. When a certain level of violence is looked upon as OK, there will always be some asshole going too far.

              So if your kids aren’t institutionalized or homeless, your spanking must have “worked?” Like there are no other factors?

              - most people are traumatized for life! Everyone has problems don’t they? Don’t most folks have something – addiction, anger issues, depression, irrational fears, whatever? Who is a perfect example of mental health? And don’t we all vote for assholes and aren’t we always at war? Aren’t we all actively destroying our home planet? Who are all these ‘perfectly untraumatized people’ who weren’t damaged by their childhoods?

              February 27, 2015
            2. Neighsayer

              kt, I just spotted something else in this comment. It’s not so much that they’re connected within a single person, but connected socially, that there are all possible variations going on out there, that people are all connected. I wasn’t trying to say mild punishments and brutal beatings were connected in any given family, but that those acts are connected to each other, across society.

              March 24, 2015
        2. Neighsayer

          So if it’s not Original Sin, what is it?

          I repeat:

          Define “fully functional” and define your “productive members of society” for me. What are your kids doing for us?

          February 27, 2015
          1. killingtime

            Your asking me to explain why my stance on something isn’t bible related? Sorry but I wouldn’t live long enough to go through every reason that it has nothing to do with a concept from the bible. Let’s just say that I spanked my kids, it worked, I’ve seen people that didn’t spank their kids & seen it not work. I prefer spanking & from my observations it works better. As for the “productive members of society” comment, I believe that it’s the ultimate goal (or should be) of every parent to turn out the best grow-ups that they can. Examples of those that aren’t would be people that can’t make a living, end up in jail, that kind of thing. Neither of my kids have problems in that area because they are both able to function within societies “norms”.

            February 27, 2015
            1. Neighsayer

              then why do you seem to believe that people are naturally bad and require spankings to make them good? Is it the evolutionist version then, we’re beasts at heart and need spankings to civilize us? Or why?

              February 27, 2015
  2. scarletts_letters

    I’d like to expand this and say people think its going to fix teens and terrorists, ok, you did that but I agree, humans use brutality as a deterrent then claim the word civilised applies to their culture. Hey look over there to the north of Mexico?
    Men – *Bitch shut the fuck up, I swear I’m over rap, but its like when they hand barbie to you and go – look kid – this is the template, stick your fingers down your throat if you have to. ^ Tools? My mum never hit me, my dad never hit me but my step dad beat the fuck out of me twice, and worse – dad that make me who I am? Nope. Did that make me respect him? Nope. Did that make me a better person?
    The older I get the more I’m beginning to fear that the ability to learn is like tits, they have a golden age, from 20 to about 35 (please let it be at least 35) then everything goes south.

    February 26, 2015
    1. Neighsayer

      Right?

      Well said, Scarlet. They want to use violence and then tell us later it wasn’t. Either liars or schizoid, take your pick.

      February 27, 2015
  3. killingtime

    you see no connection between hitting your kid a little and hitting your kid a lot? No connection. No connection between eating a little and eating a lot? No connection between drinking a little and drinking a lot?

    You’re kidding right?
    .
    Neighsayer, NO I don’t see a connection. Spanking is not abuse. Nor is spanking always used as a form of abuse. Nor is all abuse started by spanking. Nor is abuse some form of spanking. A “normal” person is not drawn into putting cigarettes out on their kids skin because they spanked them. Spanking does not “tempt” a normal person to beat their child to death. Normal people are not sick people & can’t be tempted to become sick people by spanking. I guess that not only will we NEVER agree on this but I don’t believe that you will ever believe that all of us are sick child abuses & spanking somehow sets off those actions. So I’ll pass from more posts on this subject for now.

    February 27, 2015
    1. Neighsayer

      that is not what I said. I never said " all abuse started by spanking," or any of that. I said spanking is a milder form of abuse, that it’s abusive enough to have some of the effects of abuse. You’re putting words in my mouth, you’re arguing with some version of what you think I said, but I didn’t.

      And sure, go away. Too late for you anyway, you’re child-rearing is over, for good or ill.

      February 27, 2015
      1. killingtime

        I’m not trying to put words in your mouth but just repeating the way you come across. Just like now you said that spanking is a milder for of abuse. I totally disagree. Just as I totally disagree that properly done it does more harm than good. But to each their own.

        February 27, 2015
        1. Neighsayer

          Here’s what you don’t seem to grasp, kt:

          Things are not that simple, that THIS is not abuse and THAT is abuse, it’s a continuum, a spectrum of behaviour. If we place bare-fisted, beating the crap out of a kid at one end of a line, and some acceptable form of punishing at another, you must see that somewhere between there is a line, at some point along the spectrum, it becomes abuse, right? And stuff happens everywhere along the spectrum, every possible version happens in the world.

          So if a spank with a certain amount of force is OK, but at some point they’re spanking too hard and it becomes abuse, then we draw a line. Now on one side of the line, you’re saying it’s totally OK, no harm, but on the other side of the line, say an extra foot-pound of force, some extra joules of force, it’s all bad, it’s abuse . . . surely you can see the problem here. Nothing is all one thing and none of the other, it’s not so black and white. Do we praise the parent on one side of the line who gets THIS close to it but not over and put the next parent, the one just THAT far over the line in prison?

          Of course these things are connected.

          February 27, 2015
          1. killingtime

            Your right, I don’t see it. Abuse is abuse & spanking by a normal parent isn’t. Drinking water is not dangerous by a normal person, drinking water by a nut is dangerous. Most intelligent (normal) people can tell where the line is. Now if you want to say that we should ban spanking by sicko’s, stupid, or abnormal people then I’d agree. But just making a blanket statement that spanking is bad I’ll never agree with.

            February 27, 2015
            1. Neighsayer

              I know I started that last comment a little roughly, but you’re a grumpy old fart, I know you can handle it.

              But you really can’t see the sense of the comment?

              You really would praise the first parent in my example and condemn the second one?

              You’re the Black and White one here, it’s me that sees the Grey.

              February 27, 2015
          2. killingtime

            Ok Neighsayer I see what your saying. My comment is that a normal parent doesn’t go over that line…..Period. I know that I never did. What’s more, because they knew that I would spank them I rarely had to spank them. I had 2 boys & if you don’t count swats with my hand when they were young I probably spanked both of them (total, added up) about 8 to 10 times & the truth is that I might be actually over the real number by a couple. The threat was there so I almost never had to actually spank them…because they knew that I would.

            February 27, 2015
            1. Neighsayer

              thanks, kt.

              I won’t push further – besides, I’m working . . .

              February 27, 2015
  4. killingtime

    Neighsayer I tried working for a while. Gave it up, it was to tiring. Besides the hours were horrible. Retirement is much better. (wink)

    February 27, 2015
    1. Neighsayer

      yeah, it’’s not really working for me either.

      February 28, 2015