J. Bruce Evans
J. Bruce Evans
Currently emerging pictures of prisoner abuse of Iraqis by Americans provide a mirror for clarifying the subject explored in the following pages. Obviously the photos of men forced to be nude in the presence of others, including a young woman who laughingly points toward their genitals, are evidence of disgusting abuse. Immense indignation and calls for congregational investigations, plus showing the pictures over and over on television, not only confirms the events themselves, but also reflects a common understanding of them as abusive, along with a deep sense of general curiosity.
In this study I begin with this common understanding of the abusive nature of such events, and the outrage both in Iraq, America, and the rest of the world that such abuses still happen in civilized society. Obviously something needs to be done to remedy this deplorable situation. Where in the chain of command should final responsibility be placed? Do we the American public bear any responsibility? What can be done to prevent such abuses happening again?
These observations and questions, however, are about the present and future. My exploration here begins with seeing and accepting these facts, but turns instead to explore the past, that is, what is their source and cause? What possible factors led up to them? What within the nature of the perpetrators made them act this way? Could there have been anything within circumstances and the nature of the victims which invited the abuses? How can we analyze these and many other forms of abuse in society today? Is greater understanding possible? And if so, might such insights become a more functional basis for correction and change in the future, more effective than simply weeding out and punishing perpetrators, plus placing blame properly?
I speculate that better understanding of possible causes might indeed lead to social changes in the future; but here I give attention to analyzing factors which may underlie the many and varied forms of human abuse common in society today.
Typically, attention to abuse is limited to events and their consequences, that is, the present and future of encounters we see as abusive. Here, however, I am looking to the past, the roots, I might say, of these thorny plants, and what happens to those who touch their dangerous and forbidden fruits.
In summary, this is an exploration of the psychological roots of the abuse phenomenon in America today, in particular, two specific components, one in the public forefront and the other relatively ignored, namely, sexual abuse by males and spiritual ("emotional") abuse by females.
Currently, popular understanding is largely limited to moral judgments, with little public attention given to possible psychological causes. Almost without exception any form of physical or sexual abuse is automatically judged as bad if not sinful or evil, mostly the latter. Leaving analysis at this level of moral judgments and automatic reactions, without looking further for psychological, if not genetic roots also invites further confusion by introducing another psychological factor, namely, motivations related to rebellion against authority, which have no connection with the specific forms of abuse itself. I refer to this as the "betcha can't make/stop me" phenomenon, that is, the psychological invitation to do/not do whatever is prohibited, also known as the "wet paint" phenomenon (an invitation to touch, even if one would otherwise have no desire to do so).
Abuse can be sub-divided into three major types: physical, sexual, and spiritual. Although they often overlap and intertwine, making these neat categories difficult to distinguish, here I focus on the latter two, sexual and spiritual, because they are, I think, more commonly misunderstood. Sexual abuse, for example, is often seen only in physical categories; and spiritual abuse, which may be even more devastating than either physical or sexual abuse, is commonly ignored altogether.
Generally speaking, I view all abuse as personal harm, physical abuse as bodily harm, sexual abuse as harm to this part of human capacity, and spiritual abuse as harm to the spirit of a person. In comparison, bodily harm is most easily felt and seen immediately, and tends to heal quicker than either of the latter two forms. Sexual harm, I think, is more socially than personally threatening; and spiritual harm is least recognized yet with more pervasive long range effects than either of the first two forms.
I ignore physical abuse here because it is easily perceived and commonly understood with more clarity. Conversely, sexual abuse is, I think, deeply misunderstood, shrouded in mystery, and spiritual abuse is even more cloaked from common awareness. I skip over physical abuse because its sources and results are more clearly understood in present society, that is, we have a healthier approach to bodily harm, namely, confronting it in service of better health in the long run (as in, shots, surgery, etc.) and avoiding/condemning it otherwise. These stances seem to be in accord with genetic wisdom and have far fewer deep psychological motivations.
But the two types I explore here do have a host of dark psychological ramifications as well as social implications. We have, I think, a far less natural and/or rational approach to these two widespread phenomena. In present society, for example, we are eagle-eyed about sexual abuse and close-eyed about spiritual abuse, even though the actual damages resulting from the latter may be more devastating in the long run, both physically and mentally, insofar as personal well being and happiness are concerned.
My approach to each is to first clarify surface issues, that is, what is easiest to see and is commonly taken to be "the truth." This is only to distinguish these facts from those I am more interested in exploring, namely, underlying causes or contributing factors which are less visible to casual observation. Surface facts, or socially accepted ideas and stances, represent traditional understanding, the ways most of society has come to view and relate to the phenomena involved. They are what I think a proverbial, "average man or woman on the street" thinks and commonly takes to be "the truth,", that is, the way things actually, literally, and finally are.
But, as is the nature of all visible things, often there are less visible, even totally hidden factors which underlie them--"causes," we are accustomed to naming them. Just as we think of germs and viruses as "causes" of disease, so there are unseen elements which give rise to the surface phenomena under consideration here.
I hesitate, however, to call them "causes" because I consider the whole concept of cause and effect, implying a relatively static world in which one thing is literally made to happen (be caused) by another thing, as though each happening lacks inherent forces on its own, to be inherently flawed on deeper analysis. More clearly we might see steps in processes, in which some things do indeed commonly precede others, but do not literally cause what comes later to happen. For instance, day commonly (always?) precedes night, just as injury often comes before pain. But when we go the next step in logic and assume that day actually makes night happen (or that all pain is caused by some type of injury), then we must ignore a wealth of other, often conflicting, information.
Obviously the concept of cause and effect is immensely useful in thinking (understanding the world), as well as pragmatic in world-shaping activities; but its limitations, which I am noting here, become particularly relevant to my topic being explored. For now I only want to clarify the fact that when I focus on underlying or hidden elements related to abuse, I am looking for prior steps in processes which may predictably result in what we now see (in this case, events of sexual and spiritual abuse), but are not necessarily the forcing causes for visible facts. They simply precede, may influence, and often give rise to visible events; but to assume that they literally cause what we see to happen is more than I intend to imply here.
At best I think they are related, come earlier, or lie at the roots of the visible plant. And I assume that seeing these factors may lead to clearer understanding of the phenomena being considered. Such understanding may aid in finding more functional ways of dealing with disturbing abuses, but that is not my subject here; for now I am only trying to look more clearly at other less visible factors which I think may lead to the abuses we more easily see.
Nor, in these explorations, do I intend any judgments, bad or good, of the surface facts about the two forms of abuse (the ways we commonly see and deal with them). I do not mean to imply, for example, that the present stance of automatically condemning sexual abuse is either good or bad, or that the possibly underlying factors which I will speculate on are themselves right or wrong.
This is not intended to belittle, justify or absolve meme-based damages, but to look behind or beneath them for relevant factors more often ignored or denied.
Past judgments and into pragmatics only, I do not yet conclude that present modes of seeing and dealing with abuse are impractical in the larger picture of social structuring. It may well be that how our views and practices have evolved so far (the way things now are) is absolutely best for society and all concerned. Suppression and condemnation of overt sexuality, for example, may be the most functional way of dealing with these powerful animal instincts brought into civilization.
may speculate later on possibly wiser ways of dealing with these troublesome issues, but
for now I am only trying to see more clearly any underlying factors which may give rise to
them. Perhaps there is a better way of dealing with them; but here I am only exploring for
a better understanding of present ways.
My personal motives, as best I know them, are to increase my conscious honesty about what I actually see and think, especially as it differs from prevailing understanding. I have come to believe that thinking clearly in light of one's own perceptions is extremely important in individual well being, that is, personal happiness in the here and now. Although repression of awareness, especially in sexual and spiritual arenas, is obviously a prevailing social and religious mode of dealing with these challenging instincts, I find the side effects on personal integrity to be devastating in time.
I find much liberation in thinking for myself rather than blindly accepting ideas and beliefs of others, that is, carefully weighing my personal perceptions (what I see, hear, sense and reason, plus what I have privately learned in the proverbial School Of Hard Knocks), on the scales of conventional wisdom, and, when they come out differently, that is, when what I see or understand based on my own experience differs from what "they" see (or say they do), to remain aware and respectful of our differences.
Surely I owe much to various repressions I have made in quest of social/religious approval; but I also become increasingly aware of the prices I have long paid for these approvals which have come via dishonesty with myself. I would not want to lose the benefits of repression, but I am beginning to see more clearly that recognition and wise coping with powerful memes (social forces) does not necessarily require suppression of genes (instinctive drives), as I have learned in society.
It is possible, and highly desirable as I see things, to both be honest with oneself and with others, that is, to see and respect genetic drives as well as social and religious imperatives, and to merge them both pragmatically, avoiding significant sacrifice of either. Certainly repression of one or the other, that is, "giving in" either to instincts or powers-that-be "out there," and trying to negate the other may be initially easier; but at least for me I now value a more comprehensive way of seeing, respecting, and honoring both, even with the grand challenges this inevitably involves.
But values aside, my personal motives in this analysis of these two forms of abuse are mainly to use it as a way of becoming more honest with myself about what/how I actually view them and what I suspect to be their contributing factors. Obviously to me, I yet live with much repression in regard to both; but here I am essentially trying to engage in un-repression, beginning with looking honestly, as a first step in hopefully transforming my insights into who I am, that is, moving from intellectual analysis to existential self-becoming.
First, a fuller understanding of the terms I use seems relevant. Here are my definitions of common words related to this subject:
ABUSE: Any action, word or deed, perceived as harmful to an individual by society or resulting in harm to a person, whether or not perceived as negative. The victim may or may not view and/or experience an event as abusive; but in either case the determination as abuse is made externally by others or properly labeled as such by nature of resulting personal conditions. One may perceive an action by another as abusive when society and/or the perpetrator views it otherwise, even as positive. Or, the victim, in the eyes of others, may not experience the event negatively; but in either case abuse is defined as such by society and its institutions (memes) and/or actual effects in the life of a victim.
PERPETRATOR: A person whose actions, verbal and/or nonverbal (words or deeds), intended or not, lead to or result in an event known as abuse. Although the term is commonly associated with negative judgments, such as, bad, "shouldn't be," and/or, evil, I intend it here only as a label for one who initiates abusive events as defined above. Properly labeled perpetrators may, for instance, sometimes be even more innocent than those seen as victims of their actions.
VICTIM: A person who is the recipient of abuse, one whose life is changed by an abusive act, either negatively, as in, personal harm, or positively, as in financial compensation. Although victims are commonly seen as innocent, not personally involved, and certainly without responsibility for an abusive act, these latter perspectives are unintended here. Often those viewed by society as victims have in fact been deeply involved in the abusive events in ways less obvious than the deeds of the perpetrators. And at other times one may be truly victimized when there is no recognition of a perpetrator as such.
For comparison: a perpetrator is usually seen as a powerful doer, with a victim as one "done unto," that is, an "innocent victim of circumstances beyond his or her control."
I use the general term sexual abuse to represent a wide variety of sexually related interests and activities, varying from revealed bodily curiosity to inappropriate touch to child pornography to rape. Sub-categories, for purposes of this exploration, include: impersonal rape, sodomy, date rape, assault, sexual harassment, suggestive talk, molestation, fondling, inappropriate touch, exposure ("exhibitionism"), voyeurism ("peeping tom-ism," as in, looking in windows, or placing hidden cameras in restrooms), and pornography (especially of minors).
Some abuses, like rape and sodomy, obviously, are more clearly related to direct physical harm, while others, such as, male exhibitionism (there is no female counterpart) or suggestive jokes, are more indirect. Each, however, is seen as "invasive," either of the physical, emotional, or mental space of another, and therefore qualifies for the overall term of sexual abuse.
Although some of the subjects I refer to are not inherently abusive in nature, such as, fathers touching daughters or priests touching children, I include them because they are often seen as such and sometimes used as evidence, even proof of actual abuse (as in custody or parish cases). Also, because I understand them to be relevant underlying factors, I also refer to other sexually related issues such as, desire, lust, infidelity, and adultery. These, of course, are not commonly seen as inherently abusive; but they are, I conclude, often relevant in understanding forces underlying many abusive acts.
First I briefly point toward self-evident facts in the current social scene, that is, the "way things now are" in much of society. I do so only to distinguish what is common knowledge, "the surface" as I call it, from speculations I make about possible factors underlying conventional wisdom, "the roots," if you will, of sexual abuse.
Facts commonly recognized include these:
The two types of abuse, sexual and spiritual, are typically gender related, that is, fairly restricted to opposite genders. Sexual abuse is primarily a male phenomenon, while spiritual abuse (to be explored later) is far more operative by females. Of a vast array of specific forms of sexual abuse, only one, sex with minors, may put females in harm's way from social judgments. "Peeping," fondling, and molestation, for example, are generally related to male activities only. Has any female ever been publically charged with "fondling"? If all charges of sexual abuse in its varied forms could be counted, I suspect that some 99% of them would be directed at males.
All forms of sexual abuse are automatically, without exception or regard for circumstances, taken to be "bad" and therefore subject to condemnation, suppression, punishment, and/or incarceration. Any sexually related activity which remotely comes close to a category of abuse is presumed to be unacceptable, criminal, and/or evil. Here, perhaps more than in any other arena, society and religion come together in joint judgments, all negative, about each form of sexual abuse.
Motives, for example, although taken into consideration in even the worst of other social crimes, such as, theft and murder, are commonly ignored and assumed to be irrelevant in regard to sexual abuse. Even the actual results (e.g., pleasure rather than pain) of an act labeled as abusive are irrelevant to social and religious judgments. No matter what is intended or what occurs for the persons involved, "wrong is wrong," and "it shouldn't go unpunished."
But such consistent judgments of "all bad" with no room for looking further, have, I observe, the same spiritual costs as any other judgments, both for society and for individuals who make them. Any potentially positive benefits are obviously lost under the weight of such judgments.
Even without evidence or examination, all forms of sexual abuse are automatically assumed to be harmful or damaging to the passive partner, that is, the one the "bad" deed is "done to." As noted before, almost all offending parties are male. Also, those seen as "damaged" are usually female and/or minors. If, for example, a male "spies on" or tries to look at a female's body without her conscious and obviously given permission, this is automatically taken to be "invasive of her space," not only offensive, but somehow damaging to her emotionally if not physically and therefore abusive.
It is commonly assumed that the offending male is also harming himself in his abusive deeds; but primary damage is inflicted, obviously, on those "done unto" rather than the doers themselves.
No room is socially given to any opposing possibility, that is, speedy conclusions of harm preclude any possibility that consequences might in any way be favorable or positive, certainly not "good" rather than "bad."
Consequently, therapy is automatically assumed to be needed, especially for the damaged one, but also for the "bad" person who caused it.
Consequently, those who have an active role in sexual abuse are automatically seen as perpetrators of the "crime," and passive parties are therefore automatic victims. The first are inherently guilty, while the second are assumed to be innocent, at least insofar as social judgments as well as the law are concerned.
"Co-conspiracy" or mutuality, if considered at all, is quickly overlooked in favor of verdict-without-trial and/or jury. The male is at fault; the female or child is always the abused one, the victim, no matter what the circumstances may have been. Even if the passive person willingly and pleasurably participated in the abuse at the time, he or she may be quickly returned to victimhood later with any indication of "seduction," having been "under the influence" of drugs, or stated fears of "what might happen" if they resisted.
And since later examination is almost always "my word, your word," that is, what each person may choose to say, the word of the victim is consistently taken as truth, while the perpetrator is automatically assumed to be lying. In the current Catholic Church purging of abusive priests, for instance, any victim's word, no matter what the perpetrator may say, is assumed to be "what really happened," and therefore call for priestly dismissal if not punishment, plus recompense to the injured party.
For clarity, before I explore other factors, I note that I, like most of current society, also condemn physical and psychological abuse, intended or not, whether rooted in reality or repressions evolved for coping with it, that is, potential harm to self and/or ego, while at the same time respecting the challenges inherent in growing up in the "real world" where sexual urges are only secondary to survival instincts, and where most all the phenomena classified as sexual abuse might conceivably be invaluable stepping stones rather than inevitably damaging.
Point: current "all bad" judgments about all forms of sexual abuse may properly reflect its true risks, both to society and individuals involved in it (victims and perpetrators).
Also, I respect conventional wisdom that "once a predator, always one," that is, the statistical probability that sexual abusers (of any form) are apt to be "repeat performers," likely to "strike again" if not put away or kept away from any temptation to abuse again (e.g., away from children, or from computers and potential childhood pornography), as a broad way of protecting society as well as other potential victims.
But at the same time, I affirm remaining open to, indeed looking for potential flaws as well as costs of the way we now are as a society in these regards, and also looking at the "self-fulfilling prophecy" element inherent in current approaches to sexual abusers.
For clarification in later observations, some delineation in forms of harm or damage, "hurt" or "pain," is relevant. In general, distinctions may be drawn between physical and psychological pain, the first related to bodily injury, such as, bruising or tearing of tissue, and the second type of "pain" coming from "hurt" to one's "feelings" or sense of self.
For brevity, I summarize them as Type A and Type B damages. Often, of course, they overlap and are usually indistinguishable in experience ("first hand"); but for thought and analysis purposes, lines may usefully be drawn.
Type A damages may be seen as related to biology and genetics, the natural world of creatures in general, not just humans in particular. As noted first, they are mostly physical or bodily related, occurring with some damage or break in skin or when a malfunction of internal organs results.
Type B damages, in contrast, may occur with no bodily harm at all; they are, in effect, "all in our heads" in the sense of rooted in psychological factors rather than biological structures. Type A pain, for example, may result from your foot stepping on my toes; but Type B can happen when you "step on my toes" figuratively speaking, as in, offending my ego by ignoring me, or "making me feel bad" when you criticize me harshly.
The pain and hurt associated with Type B damage is more like "you hurt my feelings" than "you hurt my foot," that is, figurative rather than literal, psychological rather than biological. But to say that it is psychological or "all in your head" does not mean that it is "not really real," nor that physical pain may not also occur concomitantly. Here the lines between physical and mental become even more blurred than in most other arenas. Mental pain, for instance, though initiated by psychological rather than physical factors, typically reflects in bodily discomfort also, such as, stress, even pain and/or disease.
Relevant here is the fact that Type B damage more commonly results from psychic "problems" than from any kind of physical harm-to-body; for example, mental disharmony resulting from repression (trying to not-see what you do-see, or could if you looked) seems to be one major source of Type B damage.
If self as a term for inherited traits, capacities, and characteristics, is distinguished from ego, representing personally acquired notions about "who I am," that is, one's sense-of-self which may be totally at odds with one's true (inherited) self, then Type B damage is mostly about ego, while Type A damage is to one's real self. The danger then, is to one's social image rather than to one's inherited self.
Now to the point: damage commonly resulting from sexual abuse is, I conclude, about 5% Type A and 95% Type B. To understand the "pain" or consequences of sexual abuse, we may more usefully look in psychological than in biological or physical arenas. Insofar as physical pain or harm to inherited self is concerned, many forms of so-called sexual abuse might in fact be more pleasurable than painful, even more fulfilling than damaging. Among the many varieties of sexual abuse, only forced rape by an overly aggressive, large membered male, which results in vaginal or anal tearing, is likely to be damaging to body or inherited self.
Were there no social memes and/or personal repression aimed at conformity to them, that is, no "psychological issues," I speculate that about 90% of presently labeled "sexual abuse" would be a non-issue, that is, would not result in actual damage to self because the events would be dealt with reasonably rather than blindly, either in preventing their occurrence or responding realistically to Type A damages.
Or, more specifically, most of the damages associated with sexual abuse (other than violent rape and sodomy) are, I speculate, the result of personal repression and/or social threat. For example, associated guilt is, I speculate, about 95% false or unnatural--that is, related to learning from one's own mother rather than from Mother Nature. A natural child, yet to absorb social values into his or her sense of self would, I imagine, rarely be damaged, e.g., by fondling.
Two terms I use to distinguish between natural and psychological abuse are self and ego. Although both are common and familiar words, I give each special meanings here.
I use self as a synonym for "natural self," that is, the sum of all inherited characteristics, traits, and capacities, including those common to all human beings plus those unique variations on the shared themes, which make us individual or personal selves. Our "natural selves" are who we are born being and capable of becoming in the fuller sense of the term. They are, in effect, the gift of Mother Nature, that is, eons of evolution brought to fruition in the unique combination of genes inherited from our particular mothers and fathers.
As such, self or "natural self" has nothing to do with "what we think" of ourselves, except as variations in degrees of thought capacities are also inherited (e.g., IQ's). It is, in effect given or posited in potential when sperm and ovum unite, and brought to the world with birth of each person as a separate individual. It is "who we are born to be and become" despite what we may later come to think of ourselves or to consciously accept as "who we are."
In contrast, as is so often the case, ego is the term I borrow to expand on and take to stand for acquired images or beliefs about who we are, which may or may not correlate with actual inherited facts. Ego, of course, is often used in a more specialized sense, as defined by Freud and others; but here I take it because of its familiarity and use it in this somewhat expanded sense. In summary, ego, as I mean it, is one's "sense of self" or who we come to think of ourselves as being, either consciously and/or unconsciously, that is, in or outside of current awareness.
For clarification: Self is what we are born with; ego is something we acquire after birth, a sense of self developed, I speculate, as a way of fitting in with circumstances in which we find our "natural selves" required to cope. Self is who we "really are"; ego is who we "think we are (or would like to be)." Self and ego may, of course correlate and, theoretically even be synonymous in many regards; but not likely. Most of the time, I theorize, we create and develop egos precisely because we find our inherited selves to be unacceptable or ineffective in enhancing survival in our unique situations.
I might use modifiers such as "real" and "imagined" or "actual" and "assumed." But this is tricky because in practice, after long identification with our egos, they may seem to be "more real" than any possible inherited self which has been long suppressed in awareness. Also, conscious imagination, as in, choosing to "make up" an ego, is probably never the way we create and develop our egos, our accepted senses of ourselves.
Even so, literally speaking, our natural selves are "real" in the sense of existing in physical forms, e.g., genes, chromosomes, and bodies, while our assumed egos are "fictional" in the sense of "made up" from images which may or may not actually correlate with actual facts. They are, in effect "all in our heads" rather than existentially present in what others may see more easily than do we ourselves.
In summary, I use self here to stand for "natural self" or inherited capacities and traits, and ego or "sense of self" to represent acquired beliefs about "who we are," which may or may not have anything to do with "real" facts. Also, although one's sense of self (ego) will often be consciously held, that is, known awarely, often it is out of awareness, existing, we might say, "unconsciously."
All this explanation is for clarifying what I try to distinguish as Type A and Type B abuses. In summary, Type A abuses are damages to one's natural self and Type B abuse damages are to one's ego or assumed sense of self.
Always, it seems to me, an imbalance of personal powers, either real or imagined, lies somewhere in the roots of all forms of abuse. Perpetrators inevitably seem to wield more power than victims; and victims consistently seem to be, or feel themselves to be, weaker or somehow at the mercy of those who harm them.
This theme, which is obvious in cases of physical abuse or rape, is also present, less noted, with parental abuse, captors and prisoners, priests and parishioners, all adults and children, bosses and employees, males and females in the work place, etc. When no power imbalance exists (or is perceived to) the same events which are otherwise taken as abusive, may otherwise pass relatively unnoticed, for example, female employees who feel harassed by a sexual joke told by a male boss may feel abused when the same joke is told by a female secretary (other than judging her as crude, etc.). And a comment by a mother or spouse may pass without effect when made by friends or strangers with lessor powers over one who turns out victimized when powers are perceived differently, either real or imagined.
Point: Somehow a perceived-to-be-real power differential must be one relevant factor to be considered in understanding all forms of abuse. Could this be the critical factor, the singly most consistent basis for abuse? It seems so.
What, specifically, is the nature of an abusive event, such as, a male telling sexy jokes in the presence of a female, or touching a female breast or butt uninvited? Obviously we must look past the immediate content of the events; the sounds of sexy talk aren't inherently offensive to human ears, any more than tactile contact of one's body, especially through clothing, is painful. In fact, such touch might even be intrinsically pleasurable, were it not for other factors.
What then is the nature of the harm in such events? Clues may lie in the above description, uninvited. Is the abusive nature of such events a product of female will, that is, conscious willingness to hear such words or to permit such touch? Is the nature of the abuse related to "invasion of space," uninvited entrance into some invisible barrier or edge of one's conscious self?
If so, is uninvited invasion a product of female control, that is, being master of events which involve her? And could such control have further uses for power with or over others, beyond simple self-protection?
I think it must be so. More obviously, designation of any such event as abusive is solely by social and/or female decision. Rarely, I think, does a male perpetrator see such acts as abusive.
Paradoxically, events socially defined as abusive are not necessarily harmful in personal experience; and, conversely, one may be abused in happenings not seen as abusive by society. When one is not individually harmed by an event socially labeled as abusive, then he or she may be in a dilemma: Does she, for example, remain honest with herself and defy society by declaring she was not harmed, or does she capitulate to social conclusions and risk damage to self via personal repression? Or, ideally, she may play along with what society thinks and yet remain true to her own perceptions, in effect, "knowing better" without risking social alienation.
Non-labeled events often abusive without being seen as such by society include:
1. Teasing, kidding, and name calling.
2. Language judgments, "bad" words, e.g., enforced as truly bad (as inherently evil or sinful) rather than simply socially improper.
3. Enforced beliefs which are contrary to perceptual experience and enforced as inherently true, leading to repression of natural thinking as a prerequisite to socio/religious acceptance.
4. Sexual taunting.
5. Many forms of physical punishment inflicted without regard to personal response.
Actual causes of both sexual and spiritual abuse are best understood by focusing on the context of the events or steps-in-the-process, rather than on the persons who initiate the happenings and are commonly seen as perpetrators, that is, ones who "do it" or "make it happen."
Relevant factors in context (preceding steps) include: a) Social circumstances; b) Personal history of victims and perpetrators; c) Repressions of victims; and d) Projections onto perpetrators.
Relevant social circumstances include local laws, beliefs, attitudes, predictable reactions, and common punishments of perpetrators plus public views and benefits of victims.
Significant factors in personal history include, in order of significance: 1) Nature of personal mothering, that is, attributes and quirks of one's primary care-taker in the first three years of life; 2) Values and attitudes in family and childhood community; 3) Traumatic events in early life; 4) Adaptive habits acquired early in life for survival and well being in one's particular context.
In general, this refers to aspects of one's natural self and inherited capacities (genetic givens) which were repressed from awareness and/or activation, usually beginning in early life, in quest of personal advantages in one's immediate family and local community. Such denied attributes, desires, and inclinations may have been suppressed if one tried to comply ("be accepted") by "being good" or acted out irresponsibly if the opposite path of rebellion ("being bad") was taken. In either case, the individual exists "cut off" from significant parts of his/her unique self, and commonly becomes self-identified with either limited portions of inherited capacities and/or unrealistic images of who-one-is (which I call ego).
Specific arenas of typical repressions and their manifestations include:
I speculate that repression of natural bodily acceptance (observable in small children), resulting in bodily shame, may be the deepest and most pervasive factor underlying most forms of abuse, especially those sexual in nature. Bodily shame, typically beginning in early life with the advent of toilet training, also marks the start of dis-identification with one's physical self, plus negative judgments about the natural body and its various functions. As such, dis-identification, a developing sense that "I" am not "it" and "it" is dirty, shameful, and/or bad, becomes, I speculate, the most primary basis for what will later be called "sexual abuse."
Self creation of an ego or sense of self apart from one's physical body is, of course, "all in our heads," and does not in fact negate body and its urges and functions. Actual embodiment and instinctive desires continue to be alive and well, only now relegated to mental darkness. Natural forces are, as it were, abandoned to function on their own without the guidance and direction of conscious thinking.
As such typical dis-embodiment (in mind's eye only) progresses, we come to live, as it were, on top of a mountain of powerful urges which we perceive to be "not me," and even as enemies of our created ego (sense of self).
The end result of such early-acquired unnatural shame, plus associated dis-embodiment, is a stage set for many disquieting consequences, among the worst of which is sexual abuse. On an initially less dangerous level, bodily shame, reflected, for example, in "being embarrassed if caught naked (or 'going to the bathroom')," is apparently near universal today. Early "innocence (as adults see it)" about nudity and bodily functions such as defecation, which naturally reflect in physical confidence and pleasure, even pride in being naked as well as in "waste products (apparently self-created 'do-do')," is, of course "lost."
But with increasing dis-embodiment and associated shame two predictable factors become operative: First, natural "innocence" plus inclinations to "go naked in the world (openly be oneself)," plus curiosities about the bodies of others, remain operative though suppressed. We are then caught between these natural instincts and other powerful social messages (memes) which say nudity (and hence, body) is shameful and not to be exposed, and looking at the bodies of others (even wanting to) is forbidden and often punishable.
This powerful dilemma which is almost universal in society, is, I speculate, a major factor at the heart of many forms of sexual abuse, such as, exhibitionism, voyeurism, inappropriate touch, fondling, etc. Primal motives may be rooted, not in evil desires as commonly assumed, as much as in natural urges long suppressed and thereby magnified in intensity, even to the boiling point of acting out in socially unacceptable ways.
Closely related and finally inseparable in practice are other natural, physical urges, primarily seen as sexual in nature, which emerge in time as another bodily function past shameful nudity and defecation, etc. (pissing and shitting). Primal instincts for personal survival are intertwined with urges for self-replication, beginning with "good feelings down there," and culminating later in desires and actions which are seen as "sexual" in nature.
But if urges to remain embodied, unashamed ("innocent"), free to be unclothed as well as curious about the bodies of others too, are soon suppressed, so and a thousand times more are associated inclinations related to instincts for reproduction of ourselves, that is, natural sexuality. And again, as with Eden-like urges to be "naked and not ashamed (as reported about Adam and Eve in the beginning)," that is, negative judgments about inherited sexuality, these later instincts typically become the subject of even greater shame and repression.
Consequently, following dis-embodiment (usually feasible in quest of social acceptance) and its associated shame-of-body, judgment, suppression, and eventual repression of natural sexuality typically follows in time. When so, we then exist "on top," as it were, of ingrained urges to be embodied (and open about it) and even more powerful and conscious drives to replicate ourselves. So far, so good; except many powerful social and religious forces combine to direct us otherwise, that is, to hide our bodies (as well as our curiosities about those of others) and to suppress/conceal/deny sexually related desires and/or activities until such times much later in life ("legal adults") when limited permission to replicate is socially allowed.
The predictable, personal conflict between these two powerful sets of forces, the first inherited and internal, the second external ("out there"), both of which are critically important in survival and well being, becomes, I speculate, the second major source of most forms of sexual abuse, especially for those persons who are most repressed and hence cut off from being sensible about all existing powers that be.
Contrary to popular views of males as "over sexed" rather than "sexually repressed," I think that what we commonly see is more like a predictable reaction to repression than an expression of natural male sexuality. I theorize that unembraced (repressed) natural masculine desires tend to be projected onto females, and then less repressed aggressive instincts get directed at females who consequently wield the powers of such male projections.
Following typical male sexual repressions, cloaked by exaggerated attention and acting out, men commonly exist with our natural powers unembraced and only recognized in projected form "out there," as though existing in females and various of their bodily parts (e.g., breasts which "turn us on."). Then, aggressive instincts which are more socially acceptable and therefore less repressed get activated in anger, hostility, and aggression against females for what might be seen as "abuse of power," theirs, that is, which exist primarily because of male projections to begin with.
Precisely because natural male aggression is less repressed than correspondingly repressed sexuality, we are more tempted to act out, as in sexual abuse in angry ways than in passionate ways. Although the content (form) of our abuse is sexual in nature, the underlying forces may then be more rooted in aggression than in urges for replication. Sex, we might say, is the subject, but anger (and its companion, fear) is the source of the drive, more so than desire itself.
Another major psychological factor, more visible than male repression, is repressed female sexuality, resulting in two contributing forces: first, unconscious seduction or "asking for it" as males like to fantasy; and secondly, unreasonable and abusive use of powers (to be considered in Part II) which invite aggressive reactions in males.
When females are unconscious of their own sexuality, only seeing themselves as "innocent" and "liking to be pretty," they all too easily tease and tempt sexually repressed males to either act out their own dark fantasies or else to seek revenge for excessive "temptations."
Also, in service of maintaining their own sexual repressions, such females typically strive to enforce social judgments and punishments against male sexuality (much of which is viewed as abusive), thereby making males the culprits and at the same time protecting their own powers largely rooted in male projections to begin with.
Typical male repression of any sign of homosexuality is, I think, another major root of sexual abuse, especially of males against other males, as in the current priestly revelations and general homophobia against gays as well as lesbians.
When all same-sex inclinations are repressed within oneself, they are predictably projected "out there" onto any others who in effect volunteer as mirrors by their overt actions (e.g., open gayness). Then, in order to maintain private repressions, "gay bashers" seek to eliminate "out there" any sign of what is already denied "in here," that is, to "kill the messenger" who brings the bad news, or to "break the mirror" which reflects unwanted images of oneself.
Another major psychological factor reflecting in many forms of sexual abuse is denied childhood sexuality, that is, the prevailing illusion of sexual "innocency" in childhood, as though sexuality is limited to adults of legal age. I say "illusion," reflecting my sense of this socially accepted notion, because I consider it to be patently unreal.
We are, I think, inherently "sexual" from the get go (soon after conception), not, of course, in overt forms like "wanting to fuck," but in all the subtle and pervasive ways in which primal instincts for self replication are rooted. Even as children, I conclude, were it not for repression, we all would be naturally feeling and exploring many forms of pre-sexual behaviors.
But once these natural developmental stages of adult sexuality are denied and suppressed in society, and consequently repressed in individuals in quest of social acceptance, two major psychological factors become predictable sources of sexual abuse: first, natural male interest in and attention to approaching puberty in young, virgin females who might become potential recipients of male sperm in time; and secondly, natural childhood desires related to exploring their own passions and emerging sexual powers openly with others.
Once children who have repressed their own sexuality reach adulthood, predictably they seek to enforce similar repressions in other children as a way of maintaining their own earlier denials. Any obvious childhood sexuality, as in, "playing with themselves," "playing doctor," or evidencing curiosity about adult sex, would understandably invite adult recollections of similar desires in their own childhood, thereby threatening fragile repressions.
Also any other adult's interest in sex with children, as in, child pornography, would likewise invite similar interests which must, apparently, remain repressed if established social systems are to remain intact.
In memeland--that is, in social consciousness, childhood sexuality is zero or non-existent. Even in our language there are no words for it except grossly generalized and all bad terms, such as, "touching yourself 'down there,'" "playing with yourself," and "fucking," or, from the adult side, "assault," "molestation," etc. Consequently, one can hardly even think about the subject without readily available words for structuring thoughts.
Even so, I think, sexuality is an immensely significant element in childhood experience, beginning in the womb, continuing with birth, and reaching fulness at puberty. At the same time, it remains unacknowledged, even unrecognized by most adults. The situation is like living in a house with a large pink elephant wandering around all the rooms, but none of the adults acknowledge its presence, let alone give guidance to children in how to best live with it, except by denial, suppression, and/or condemnation of any clues to the elephant's existence.
Adults commonly assume, even blindly, the burden of enforcing directives thrust on them by memes-made-sacred. Their task of pretending non-existence of the symbolic elephant is made more difficult by their sexual repressions begun in childhood, e.g., between mothers and sons (incest taboo), fathers and daughters, all siblings, and all males for pubescent, virgin, Lolita-like girls (such as, Brittany Spears and Anna Kornikova).
Although repressed elements of one's real self, including their associated powers evolved for activation, are commonly projected and only recognized "out there" as reflected in objects, persons, or situations on whom or which they are mirrored, the nature and extent of such projections varies from person to person.
In general, as best I can tell, males more thoroughly project our denied capacities and powers than do females. Although females may also repress awareness of many aspects of themselves, they seem less likely to view the associated powers externally, with one notable exception, namely, female sexuality.
A report issued by the Vatican indicates that more than 4,000 American priests have been accused of molesting minors since 1950, over 4% of all Catholic priests. Also, some 533 million dollars has been paid in compensation to victims of these abuses thus far. An emerging "zero tolerance policy" in America holds that "an offending priest can be permanently removed from ministry, and possibly from the priesthood, for a single act of abuse." (AP 2/27/04)
Obviously the situation is serious.
Here I borrow this as one example of widespread sexual abuse, and speculate on how my generalizations amplified before might apply to this current phenomenon.
My summary speculation is that about 98% of priestly abuses are related to Type B damages, and 2% are of Type A. We are not told the specific nature of these multiple abuses, but I would guess they commonly involved such acts as: talking about sexual subjects; touching sexual parts; kissing or fondling; masturbation, either by a priest on a minor, vice versa, or mutually; and intercourse and/or sodomy.
If so, I further speculate that "real" or Type A damages were limited to instances of violent rape or sodomy in which skin tissues were broken (in vagina or anus), resulting in bodily damage and unacceptable degrees of personal pain. I would further guess that such cases are extremely rare and that by far most of the damages were mental rather than physical, that is, related to Type B psychic experience rather than Type A bodily happenings. They were, that is, more related to ego ("sense of self") than to the "natural self" of those abused.
Now for speculative analysis: First, as noted before in my overall generalizations, in all cases the minors are automatically labeled "victims" and the priests, "perpetrators." The children are "innocent," the priests "guilty," without further evidence and/or trial. The minors "did no wrong" and the priests are "bad," or at least "did bad things."
Also, without question or examination, the "victims" are assumed to be damaged and the priests are the cause of such harm. It would be ludicrous in popular thinking to even imagine, let alone suppose, that any of these events of abuse might have been in any way beneficial or had positive rather than negative consequences. Furthermore, as inevitably damaged, all "victims" are assumed to "need counseling" and to be due financial compensation (over half a billion expended by the Catholic Church so far).
Also all perpetrators are automatically assumed to be "sick," "sinners," "perverted," "mentally imbalanced," or "just plain evil," and therefore in serious need of therapy and/or forgiveness themselves. Without question they should be removed from contact with children, perhaps from the priesthood itself, and in some cases punished as criminals.
These observations are, of course, obvious, on-the-surface facts. All who follow emerging revelations in the news know about them. My interest here, however, is, as noted, not about the facts themselves, but about potential underlying factors which may lead up or result in them.
I assume for openers that the events of abuse did actually occur rather than simply being imagined or "made up." Also, I do not question the practicality of removing offending priests, getting counseling for all concerned, extending compensation to victims, and in more extreme cases criminally prosecuting the perpetrators. Perhaps what is happening so far in dealing with the phenomenon is exactly as it should be, that is, in the best interests of the church, society, and all parties involved.
Remaining unexplored however (as least so far as I know), except perhaps for seeking proper psychological diagnoses and preferred modes of treatment for victims and perpetrators, are the questions I am raising about roots of the phenomenon itself. Based on my prior observations and definitions of terms, I theorize that the more specific threats and damages, almost all of Type B, may include these:
1. Danger to the church structure when/if priests become consciously sexual and question or break vows of chastity and supreme devotion to an infallible Pope.
2. Danger to children who are initiated into sexual consciousness by/with priests assumed to be godly or representatives of God. If trusted or idolized adults, especially in a religious sense, seem to convey the message that being sexual is okay, even acceptable in practice, then for children living in a society which universally says otherwise, what a mental dilemma this must be. Who are they to believe? Parents and society who say "no" to childhood sexuality, or their admired and trusted priests who are, in the abuse events, saying "yes"?
Also, in such events of intimacy with an ultimate authority figure, there must be a high degree of personal safety in listening to Mother Nature herself, that is, to more openly dare to trust one's own feelings, inclinations, and urges as guided by instincts (genes) rather than as dictated by prevailing memes. If a child is already wishing, even unconsciously, to become overtly sexual, how inviting must it be when such drives are religiously supported.
I imagine that sexual initiation, certainly the invitation to feel sexual feelings and desires as invited by a godly figure when ultimate threat may seem removed, must be a grand temptation, especially for youths approaching puberty and experiencing their own sexual awakenings in private.
3. Temptation to personal repression following such abuse events, whether deemed pleasurable or painful at the time, must also be great. Moving back into society (or home) where any childhood sexuality is denied and/or punishable, such a child must feel immediate need to re-establish his or her acceptance in these contrary circumstances. Even if the priest in effect blessed their sexuality, surely their parents will not do likewise; and now, outside the safety or the church, rectory, or wherever the events occurred, survival at home must necessarily be confronted at once.
The temptation to use self-repression and projected responsibility as a means of coping with contrary social positions must be further amplified by the fact that all society immediately sees the child as an innocent victim and the "bad" priest as perpetrator. Rarely, I suspect, is any such abused child called on to explain themselves to secular authorities, as though they may in any way be responsible themselves (e.g., for not using personal powers at their disposal, such as, openly resisting priestly advances, telling them "no," screaming, running away, telling parents, notifying police afterward, etc.).
Surely it must be far easier to "go along with the system," that is, assume victimhood, blame the priest, accept the sympathies of secular authorities, and in many cases seek financial compensation for one's family if not oneself.
All this can of course be made easier if the child simply "blocks out," that is, represses personal awareness and "acts like nothing happened," or else assumes irresponsibility and takes part in social efforts to demonize the offending priest (who may in fact have been admired, enjoyed, and even loved during a time of extended abuses).
As noted before, most damages resulting from sexual abuse are, I conclude, to ego rather than natural self. I estimated this proportion to be about 98% to 2%. The small proportion of self damages may occur in instances of bodily harm and excessive physical pain, as possible with rape and/or sodomy. But even here damage to self is not inherent in physical hurt alone; if, for instance, a painful experience which is not life threatening leads to overcoming unwarranted fear of pain or greater awareness of actual ability to tolerate pain, then the regrettable experience may actually be self-expanding rather than self-destructive.
Potential damages to self are largely indirect or second-hand, that is, they occur as a result of other happenings not directly related to one's natural self. They may more clearly be seen as risks or dangers to self, most of which result from ego reactions rather than the actual abuse itself.
The greatest danger to self occurs when ego reacts to sexual abuse by attempting murder of self rather than facing its own threats directly. In attempts to preserve its existence in the midst of sexually related events which threaten its fragile integrity, rather than aggressively turning on the abuser himself, an ego-trapped person may instead turn on his real self, that is, attempt to negate instincts likely to arise in the course of the acts of abuse. Predictably these will be either natural aggression and/or personal passion, usually, I surmise, in consort with each other.
For example, natural self impulses in the midst of an uninvited event of sexual abuse may first be aggressive in nature, arising from powerful instincts for self-survival, inclinations to protect oneself against any form of personal harm. When the predator is seen as threatening, these instinctive reactions may be to strike back, to scream for help, or to physically run away.
But if the potential abusee is also threatened by these aspects of his natural self, namely, aggressive drives to hurt and/or kill when in danger, then he may pervert urges which would naturally be directed externally and instead turn them in on himself, that is, his natural self, in inward attempt to in effect murder his impulses. Instead, for instance, of attacking the abuser, he may attack his own urge to attack.
Or if the event of sexual abuse is not physically threatening, for instance, touching by a kindly priest, then the greater danger may arise from personal passions evoked or invited by the encounter. Such inward arousal may be especially likely with those who have been more sexually repressed in the past. In sexually related events not of one's own choosing, as abuse normally is, such a sexually repressed person may be unduly tempted to risk personal feelings since he or she is obviously not responsible for what is happening. Indeed, the very aggressiveness of an abuser may be sexually stimulating, unconsciously of course, to one who is commonly unaware of natural passions.
But if such arising personal passions are perceived as a threat to an ego established as virtuous or "above such base desires," then once again, turning on one's own natural desires may seem easier and safer than risking damage to ego. Attempts to murder one's own sexual self, as may have been invited to appear during the abuse event, may then become a true danger to natural wholeness.
Attempts to murder one's natural self are psychologically called repression. What occurs as a danger to one's inherited self, initiated in support of a threatened ego, is that the individual involved opts for psychic repression rather than daring to remain, especially to risk an expansion of unexplored aspects of, his or her real self.
Although I do not think (in theory) an actual murder of self is possible, that is, that no matter how thoroughly one represses any aspect of natural self, in this case, one's aggression and/or sexuality, ego cannot finally negate self. But practically speaking, such a murder can be quite real. Following power-packed events of abuse, especially when repeated over time, repression of self, even of memory itself, may be so thorough and complete that for all practical purposes suppressed capacities are deadened thereafter. Often, for example, even the event itself may be erased from memory for years to come. Such damage to this part of mental capacities can properly be labeled as murder, even if eventual resurrection of awareness remains possible.
Even when damage to self is short of murder, that is, when repression is less complete, still there may be costs in terms of growth to one's natural self which would otherwise follow were it not for repressed awareness at the time. These costs may include: missed education, failure to learn, arrested development, stymied growth, and, most costly of all, hangups or erotic fixations.
Naturally, in the absence of repression, abuse events would, I theorize, be learning experiences in the proverbial School Of Hard Knocks, which could result in one's becoming wiser in the ways of the world, not unlike any other type of hard experience. Personal education on extremely important subjects commonly ignored by otherwise instructive parents and not taught in public schools would naturally be garnered in such experiences. Growth, we might say, would proceed normally, even if surprisingly and/or painfully at the time.
Some potential learning experiences inevitably missed when repression replaces honest responding might include these:
Individuation, becoming a truly separate individual apart from family relationships and dependency on others is a critical aspect of every person's move toward wholeness. We can never truly be ourselves so long as we remain, in effect, defined by others, that is, only know what they have taught us or guided in learning. For example, in order to develop mental independence we must learn to think for ourselves rather than simply accepting the ideas and beliefs of others.
Perhaps no other single aspect of growing up is more important than becoming separate persons on our own, hopefully without damaging relationships which will also remain critical in overall development as citizens as well as private persons. One essential part of such maturation involves accepting and embracing inherited sexuality, our second most primal instinct.
But as critical as embracing sexuality is in becoming whole persons, paradoxically, society so far has only evolved the mode of suppression for coping with these powerfully ingrained instincts aimed at self-replication (along with others for self-survival). Positive training in becoming naturally sexual in society is notably lacking; and when it does occur, mostly it is negative, that is, favoring repression rather than responsible activation.
Into this prevailing circumstance many sexually related events, all of which easily fall under labels of sexual abuse, commonly occur in the lives of most children and adults. Relevant here is the possibility of positive learning which might result from such seemingly unfortunate events, were it not for repression.
Perhaps the first and most important lesson which might be learned would be totally apart from sexuality and more in the larger dimension of individuation itself. Precisely because society has only evolved modes of denial and suppression in regard to sex, it easily becomes a readily available arena for practice in individuation. In the absence of social guidance (other than toward repression) we are unwittingly invited to explore on our own, which is the major way individuation seems to occur.
For example, in the midst of social messages and powerful memes which can be summarized as sex is "bad," "dirty," "sinful," etc. (all negative), one may actually find contradictory personal perceptions more clearly experienced first hand as "feels good," "is exciting," "doesn't seem dirty," and "so what was evil about it?," that is, individual responses completely at odds with prevailing social instructions. "What they say" and "what I find for myself" may not add up.
As in all other instances when parental (and social) messages (e.g., "Jump up it didn't hurt," etc., etc.") contradict personal perceptions ("It did too hurt.") a child (or adult) finds himself in a critical dilemma insofar as individuation is concerned. Will he simply accept what he is told, act accordingly, and hence become a "good" child (or later, pupil or citizen); or will he give weight and value to his own experience and hence risk finding himself as one-apart from others, that is, be trained in individuation rather than group membership alone?
Point: any sexually related experiences, all the way from "touching oneself down there" to sexual abuse, become potential arenas for individuation, or repression in favor of social conformity, and this quite apart from sexuality itself.
This first noted cost of opting for denial and/or repression in regard to sexual abuse is related to lost potential growth in personhood; sexuality is only one arena in which this critical aspect of becoming an individual may or may not occur, depending on how each person responds at the time.
Although many other advantages may lie in denial and/or repression of sexual awareness, there are, I observe, high prices eventually to be paid when consciousness is maimed and/or killed in service of social conformity. For example, following suppression of awareness (instincts, obviously, are not negated when we deny their presence) primal urges remain active, only now without the guidance of reason in their expressions. Acting out, usually irresponsibly, becomes predictable once "sense" is separated from desire, whenever repressed urges manage to surface anyway.
In the very arena where more discretion is needed than in most all others, access to reason and hence wise responsibility is lost under the weight of personal repressions. Although typical repressions may more easily be maintained in ordinary circumstances, events seen as sexual abuse are perhaps the most inviting of all to consciousness in an arena ordinarily kept in darkness.
Whenever repression prevails following sexual abuse, as commonly seems to occur based on evidence presented in trials and revealed in counseling, another great loss in learning experience inevitably takes place. An occasion for learning more about oneself via expanded consciousness, as well as about others represented by a perpetrator, is obviously missed.
With consciousness comes expanded capacity for personal responsibility. Just as repression forces dependence on others for knowledge about "what to do" and "how to take care of things," so un-repressing may lead to expanded abilities for making wiser personal decisions, that is, responsibly choosing feasible actions in threatening circumstances. Information, both from within and without, expands in accord with un-repression; and this data, when not suppressed, become immediately available for making smarter choices as a separate individual.
In the arena of sexual abuse, expanded responsibility is perhaps more relevant than in most other dimensions of life, precisely because accurate information is so hidden in society. Specifically, in the absence of repression, one caught up in events of abuse might learn much about embracing his or her own sexual capacities which are invited into activation, both positively and negatively, by the event itself. Such experiential knowledge (what to do with/about personal feelings and passions) is well beyond any degree of book learning acquired from reading and/or thinking apart from real events. Finding out for oneself in the "heat of battle," how to be sexual, that is, how to feel, contain, reveal and/or express passion, can be invaluable experience later, when situations are less threatening and more conducive to responsible pleasures.
Specific arenas for "lessons in life," that is, things which might otherwise be learned in events of abuse include: fuller knowledge about one's own passions and what evokes them; knowledge about masculinity itself ("what men are really like"--since some 99% of perpetrators of sexual abuse are male); a chance to recognize and acknowledge the fuller extent of pervasive social denials, as well as the immense power operative in sex-related memes; personal experience in "cope-abilities," that is, capacities for "taking care of oneself" in threatening circumstances when help from others is not immediately available; knowledge about confronting the unknown, especially one's potential ability to survive as an individual when "what to do" information is almost completely lacking.
Because most sexual abuse is done by males and sometimes to males, the whole arena of homosexuality "raises its ugly head" in many of these events. This is especially true in current revelations about the Catholic Church where some 90% of reported cases are between male priests and boys, aged 11-15. Consequently, were it not for repression, such events might theoretically lead to expanded growth in this arena, rather than expanded repressions, which seems to most often be the case.
For clarification, I expand my ideas about the larger nature of homosexuality, beyond molestation and anal intercourse, etc. First, I think that most all truly homosexual orientations, both male and female, are genetic in origin, that is, a consequence of being genetically structured near the center of the sexual continuum whose end points are masculinity and femininity. True homosexuals, both gays and lesbians, exist, I think, more in the middle of the scale, or even nearer to their opposite anatomic position, that is, born with balls or ovaries, yet with other prevailing genetic endowments which make them more like the gender with contrasting bodily structures.
In these rarer cases, genetic males with testicles, for example, actually have more X chromosome-related characteristics and capacities than do typical males more determined by their Y chromosomes. Obviously, in the absence of ovaries and a womb, they can't have babies; but otherwise, even "stuck" with a penis, they find themselves more determined by interests and urges common to females rather than by typically male inclinations.
But aside from these rarer cases of true genetic homosexuality, I think that all humans, both male and female, would, were it not for social structuring and typical repressions, pass through phases of growth, especially during puberty, in which same-sex orientations are normal and positive, that is, boys would be sexual with other boys, and girls with girls. Not so much that boys would be sexually attracted to males rather than females (and vice versa) insofar as passions are concerned, but that growing up circumstances which tend to throw each gender together during the process would also include becoming overtly sexual together, just as other emerging capacities (e.g., fighting and competing by males, socializing and beautifying by females, etc.) are experienced together.
Because, for example, each gender tends to feel more comfortable "with their own kind" than with their opposite (and often opposing) gender, and consequently explores most dimensions of growing up where they feel more comfortable, so they would normally do with sexuality also. Boys, for example, just learning about being sexual in the world, especially with girls, who are presently unavailable and often at odds with them, would naturally explore their emerging passions with boys, where they feel more comfortable and accepted.
Although there might normally be sexual explorations with other boys, as in, comparing penises and seeing how they work and where they might fit (as is obviously true with other male animals during the puberty stage of development), I suspect that such homosexual experiences in youth would be more about learning to be openly sexual in the presence of other males than about doing sexy acts, such as, mutual masturbation or having anal intercourse.
Also, I theorize, such same-gender relationships would naturally include exploring and activating together the smaller number of feminine characteristics all males have due to one X chromosome in each of our cells. For example, emotionality, sensitivity, attention to appearances, creativity, warm relationships, etc., all traits more commonly associated with and developed in genetic females, would, were it not for repression, be activated among young males as well as young females. Although "being warm and sensitive" together, rather than restricting our relationships to competition, fighting, etc., would not necessarily mean being sexual also, any such "sharing" among males in our society would quickly be labeled as "sissy," and worse.
In summary, I think that normal (insofar as genetics are concerned) male/male relationships would include being openly sexual together, that is, activating our sexuality in the presence of other males (even if we do not "molest" or fuck one another) as well as our other inherent feminine capacities while with one another (e.g., cry together, or be sensitive to the emotions of each other).
But, given the nature of presently evolved society and typical male repressions, all such activities, even the signs of either, are quickly judged as feared "homosexuality" and hence condemned from the outset.
Widespread fear of homosexuality today, as evidenced in present social threats to gay marriages (even so dangerous, some think, as to require an amendment to the constitution for preventing them), are, I conclude, about 99% related to prevailing repressions than to any actual dangers either to individual genetic males, or certainly to civilization or the human race, as some speculate. The size of prevailing fears, I suspect, is directly proportional to the extent of prevailing repressions. Without them, such feelings of threat would hardly exist at all, or so I conclude.
Now back to my explorations: how do these speculations about the nature of homosexuality relate to self-dangers, for example, in priestly molestations? Now common "resurrected memories" of such events by hundreds, if not thousands, of former Catholic youths, all negative as reported, seem attributable to near universal repression about the experiences themselves. If such typical repressions and their predictable "all bad" judgments did not occur, what might fuller memories bring forth?
Possibly lost learning includes the relatively unknown experience in today's society of male companionship in the threatening process of a boy's initiation into overt male sexuality. Given immense threats associated with potential homosexuality, including its erroneous identification with any feminine-like male traits (resulting from our single X chromosomes), most boys, as best I can tell, develop homophobia so early that we become fearful of intimate male associations even before facing the challenges of male puberty.
This seems especially true in regard to overt masculine sexuality. Perhaps earlier Oedipal fears also play into these later uncertainties. Whatever its genesis, I note that American boys typically become fearful of sexual intimacy with other boys early in life. I refer more to being sexual in the sense of facing predictable social and personal threats related to growing up as a male in our society than to literal homosexual desires.
At the very time when individuation from female attachments, beginning with one's mother, is properly occurring, and male companionship in the process would be highly desirable, because of homosexual threats it becomes least available. Even though boys may have close friends and pals in other aspects of growing up, it seems to me that commonly we quickly learn to exclude learning to be personally sexual in the presence of our friends. I attribute this more to prevailing attitudes about homosexuality than to natural gender affinities.
Without such fears of homosexuality I theorize that human boys would be much like young male animals in learning to be individually sexual together with other young males where there is less danger or female threat and/or social judgments. We would, that is, use the safety of male companionship where risks of intercourse with females are absent, for seeking support in facing the challenges of masculine puberty and emerging instincts for replication.
But so much for theory; in practice, beyond braggadocio and bitching about females, male companionship generally excludes any true intimacy and/or support in a boy's emerging sexuality. We may talk about much else and do many things together, but when it comes to sharing feelings, ideas, and ignorance about our sexual selves, it seems to me that young males (and older ones too) are extremely careful about closeness with other boys in this dimension of ourselves.
These observations are in the background as I return to speculations about lost learning of youths in sexual encounters with priests. I theorize that before repression sets in, boys might be deeply attracted by the safety of an intimate relationship with an adult male where sensitivity as well as sexuality might be brought into the open, as is generally impossible with other adult males. This would be especially likely if the adult male were perceived as "godly" or representative of ultimate powers, that is, entirely "good" and present only for "helping others."
Not only might a boy be invited to become more honest about feelings and "problems" with such a priest, but also his challenges in facing emerging sexuality would be likely subjects of shared concern. If such a priestly person openly acknowledged, even encouraged a boy to become overtly sexual, as in events later to be labeled as abusive, such a youth might well be encouraged to become personally open about a subject normally off limits both in his family and with other boys as well. Such a situation in which one respected adult, in the absence of any other, affirmed rather than denied/condemned sexual desires, would, I theorize, place a natural young male in a fierce dilemma.
Here, perhaps for the first time in his life, he might find his fledgling sexual urges invited to open acceptance by an adult who is affirming rather than judgmental. If it is "alright for a godly priest to be sexual," such a boy might think, "then it must be okay for me too." When stimulating events such as touching, caressing, kissing, etc., are added to emotional/mental acceptance, then the temptation to become overtly sexual oneself must be immense. Or so I imagine.
Also, the added temptation to become emotional and sensitive with another male, an option common with females but almost entirely absent in an average boy's life, that is, to embrace natural male capacities related to X chromosome gifts (commonly seen as being "sissy," etc. and hence regularly denied elsewhere) with another of one's own gender must be great. When actual male sexuality plus feminine elements present in all males are invited to activation at once, then I surmise that the dilemma faced by all such "seduced" youths must be immense.
Here, perhaps for the first time in his life, a boy is invited to become a larger measure of himself (both sexual and sensitive) in the presence and under the tutelage of a respected adult. Perhaps the extent of this potential dilemma is reflected in the fact that so many of the so-called "molested" boys do not acknowledge (remember?) the events until years later.
But if repression replaces facing the risks of expanded self-development in sexually abusive events for boys, the same must also be true for young females. The specific nature, however, of possible female losses may be quite different. I speculate that these might include:
1. Loss practice in wise use of powers typically projected on them by all males, especially in types of abuse, such as, fondling, molestation, etc., where actual intercourse is less likely to occur. If, instead of immediately repressing her own responses, as seems to be the most common reaction, such an imaginary girl might consciously face and see the immense powers she is easily able to wield on "bad men" in their attractions to her, then she might instead begin to accept and use them smartly to her own advantages, rather than wasting such knowledge via repression of self and condemnation of the "perpetrator."
2. A chance to see and accept this socially rejected aspect of masculinity, namely, inherited male urges to seek and seduce as many conceive-able females as possible, and to perhaps short-circuit eventual resentment of men-in-general for "the way we all are," as commonly seems to later occur in females who opt for repression and judgment instead. I theorize that in spite of prevailing social rejections of this aspect of natural masculinity, if a female does not blindly accept them as her own, she might instead come to simply recognize, accept, and use these male propensities to her own advantages.
3. Lost learning in relatively safe invitations to personal passions outside the threats of prevailing incest taboos. This would seem to be especially true in abusive events where the chances of forced intercourse or bodily harm are less likely, such as, touching, fondling, kissing, etc. by relatives other than one's father. My phrase "relatively safe" is, of course, not commonly applied to any type of abusive situation. But here I refer to those occasions in which "inappropriate intimacy" takes place midst circumstances where physically dangerous consequences are less likely to occur, such as, social events in which other people are near by and subject to call at any time.
4. Lost practice in conscious use of female wiles (amplified elsewhere as Sophia's Wisdom) which will remain relevant for the rest of life.
5. Consciously breaking ties with one's mother and moving into individuality as a sexual person herselt, especially the pleasurable aspects of passion. Typically, children who dimly learn about "where babies come from" and what parents may do "behind closed doors" may come to view sexuality (even without clear language) as an essentially adult phenomenon, and only for baby-making at that. I theorize that coming to see and accept her own emerging capacities for "making babies" on her own, especially for any related pleasures in the process, must be a relevant phase in any girl's healthy maturation.
But such self-acceptance may evoke emotional threats in breaking ties with one's mother as early goddess, that is, universal challenges in individuation itself quite apart from its sexual aspects. I imagine that becoming consciously sexual herself, previously seen only as a motherly capacity ("something her mother must have done"), must be a potential threat to young girls as they face their own emerging sexuality.
Abusive events--those apart from potential physical damages, I further theorize, might invite conscious facing and working through this phase of individuation as a girl finds her own sexuality and/or passions potentially activated. More typical repression, however, obviously precludes this possible learning.
6. Practice in learning to feel consciously sexual without "going all the way." The majority of sexually abusive events occur, I speculate, without actual intercourse taking place (e.g., hearing explicit jokes, harassment, and inappropriate touch). Sexual subjects and suggestive sexual events become the basis of much such abuse. Were it not for immediate judgment, condemnation, and self-repression, I theorize that a female might, under relatively safe social conditions, practice becoming sexual herself apart from risks of pregnancy, etc., if, that is, she resisted temptations to easier repression and projection of her own feelings.
Type A damages, that is, potential harms to an individual apart from social threats, include the risk of falling to an invitation to fuller humanity, to growing up as a sexual being in society which supports suppression; of opting for self-repression versus self-expansion, for becoming less rather than more of one's human self, specifically, the risk of seeing gender differences as they are and oneself as sexual.
The real dangers associated with, e.g., sexual molestation, apart from Type B damages (related to meme violations) are often about: a) Sexual awakening in adolescents to desires, capacities for pleasure, and immense contrary social powers, both positive and negative, e.g., to move, control, and secure favors from males of all ages, to wield negative powers with repressed adults (such as, to "get a rise out of adults" by saying "bad" words, almost all about sex), and be strongly invited to resist temptations to socially invited repression of one's own; coming of sexual age before the law allows; puberty without social acceptance of sexuality; Mother Nature saying "yes," while birth mothers and all of society say "no."
Real threats to juveniles are related to:
a) Emerging urges and capacities for personal pleasure, which are either denied, suppressed, condemned and/or punished by society, e.g., the "fear of fun" phenomenon, especially when it is of a sexual nature, arising from physical pleasure, orgastic possibilities, and associated social dangers.
b) New-found powers (positive for girls, negative for boys) for manipulating the world (especially male adults), which are unacknowledged in society and, given previous levels of relative impotence, are likely to be personally threatening as well, like discovering a magic wand, or realizing for the first time what must seem like Superman-like forces while one appears like mild-mannered Clark Kent, e.g., seemingly innocent and weak pubescent girls (and "sweet," pretty, effeminate boys) to move powerful men of the world, such as, fathers, teachers, politicians, priests, etc., to: want favors, serve, and even bow before them who were previously relatively impotent except by the good graces of others.
c) Temptations to expanding consciousness in social circumstances which almost demand denial if not repression, e.g., 1) of inherent pleasure capacities, 2) degrees of self-serving desires, (like, daughters to seduce the affections of a father from her mother), 3) adult male weaknesses and vulnerabilities, and 4) first glimpse of Sophia's Wisdom and natural superiority of women.
Temptations to self-becoming versus existing only as parent's child, a "good
girl," or various other acceptable images only, e.g., "See, I can be a person,
in this case, sexual, on my own, without
anyone else to help or allow me."
e) Experience of handling excessive power without training in its use or awareness of its consequences. A juvenile, for example, is likely to be more alert to what he or she "feels like doing," or to "what feels good," than to predictable results, e.g., the temptation to wield power over an adult male, to "make him beg," "kiss my foot," or bow before me, that is, to exercise Sophia's powers while still a princess only, without queenly responsibility.
f.) Ease of irresponsibility; no matter what a child does or allows, he or she remains innocent in social eyes. Always and only the adult participant (the "perpetrator") is at fault in the eyes of society, and must pay for what both may have done, regardless of circumstances and/or pleasures and benefits to either. This is, in effect, training and support in personal irresponsibility.
g) Creating "victims" with immense costs for later life if one gets caught up in these prevailing perspectives, along with making inevitable "perpetrators" who may be put away or cut off from society, resulting in loss of human potential to society as well as to the individuals themselves; invitation to victimhood rather than expanded integrity, which may be immediately freeing, but with long range bondage to be predicted.
h) Illusions of innocency and irresponsibility, childhood notions of omnipotence, invulnerability ("it can't happen to me"); also to illusions of godly benevolent adults as "here to take care of me."
i) Invitation to view the world as it is, that is, a dangerous-to-self place, versus existing-for-me, that is, to a more realistic view of actual reality.
j) To wield impersonal powers projected on them by society in vengeful "get even" ways, used to further repress awareness of the actual nature of an event itself (e.g., personal pleasure, power etc.).
k) Temptation to paraded virtue in quest of expanded social approval and /or financial pay, as in the current Catholic Church phenomenon.
A real challenge is to face social definitions, e.g., spiritual sin and/or psychological diagnoses, to see and accept them as such, responding sensibly while at the same time remaining aware of personal perceptions and perspectives, especially when contradictory, rather than blindly capitulating or engaging in self repression in favor of social acceptance, or, as in my case, using mind to rationalize and explain away via redefinition of terms as commonly understood, so as to cloak/evade the import of one's actual indiscretions. That is, remaining in illusions of innocence which: a) protect one within social systems by evasion of guilt, and b) keep seeds of integrity alive though buried awaiting rebirth.
Also, to be able to name sins and crimes responsibly, without at the same time falling into their definitions and negating personal perceptions via self repressions; also, to affirm one's contrary perspectives without falling into illusions of omnipotence/omniscience (false godhood), as in, "I'm right, they're wrong," that is, illusions of possessing The Truth oneself; plus to live openly and responsibly in the midst of memes and genes, respecting and honoring each but avoiding idolatry of either.
I speculate that the greatest dangers encountered in all forms of sexual abuse, except, for example, physical tearing in violent rape, are psychic rather than biological, that is, related to Type B damages rather than Type A. This is especially true for children, as in cases of child molestation, but probably so in most adult situations also.
The greatest psychic (in the head versus the body) damages are apt to result from a child's fall to the temptation of inward splitting, that is, beginning repression, as a way of coping with the inherent dilemma of becoming sexual in a society with prevailing attitudes, stances, beliefs, and laws related to my subject under consideration here, especially when they are well embodied in one's biological mother and father. Commonly, social memes are first encountered in one's parents (mother first), especially those deemed to be "good parents" by prevailing standards. Good in this sense usually boils down to representing local memes well and diligently in rearing children, that is, "teaching them what's right and wrong" as locally perceived.
With adults, the same results occur in reactions more designed to protect and support established repressions begun in childhood than to represent true, present-tense responses to the actual experiences labeled as sexual abuse, that is, to reinforce self-splitting which was begun in earlier times in related type situations.
But the phenomenon itself may best be seen in childhood events when one is yet viewed as "innocent" rather than "mature," sexually speaking. What often happens, I speculate, is that abuse type events, such as, fondling by an adult, occur during times of sexual awakening in childhood, that is, when bodily capacities for sexual pleasure, which will later be experienced more fully when puberty and possibilities of actual replication begin, are first becoming more conscious and identified with sex.
At the same time such a child with emerging consciousness is also beginning to distinguish self from others more clearly and thus to confront the challenges of responsibly fitting into society, that is, beginning to see the benefits, indeed the necessity, of being accepted by others rather than simply living by instincts as babies do at first. Even though mother and father may have "just let them be" as infants, that is, be themselves and do as they pleased, soon the demands of dealing with socially unacceptable instincts and urges are also being confronted.
In this overall process of becoming civilized, of learning to act and live among others past existence as "the center of the universe," as parents typically treat young children, there must be no greater challenge than integrating natural sexual inclinations and urges into a social world which essentially denies their existence and treats any sign of same as "bad."
Sexual awakening is occurring in the midst of powerful social forces in effect shouting loudly, "Stay asleep, stay asleep; you'd better not wake up, because if you do you'll be punished." Already such a child knows well the advantages, even necessity, of keeping in the good graces of voices "out there," namely, parents, if he or she is to continue receiving the benefits of their seemingly omnipotent powers and favors. But now comes the voice of Mother Nature with conflicting calls from within. "Wake up, wake up," she seems to be saying. "I have exciting vistas for you to see and explore, and they're packed with pleasures unknown before."
The situation is not unlike a child discovering that Santa Clause may not come down the chimney or that the Tooth Fairy doesn't really exist. If a previously lucky child admits that he doesn't believe in Santa Claus, or suspects parents of fooling him, alas, Christmas may die and the Tooth Fairy may cease visiting; only in the case of sexual honesty the consequences may be 1000's of times worse.
So what's a child to do? Which matters more, parental loyalty and obvious needs for their approval and support, or listening to internal voices inviting individuation and calling to unknown realms where no external guidance/support is available, along with the threat that if you dare "let on" great danger awaits you? Easier, obviously, to opt for responding to the voices of external gods immediately present and with obvious rewards/punishments, than to listen to internal urges from Mother Nature with no promises for anything, save "feeling good" at the time.
First of all, any measure of positive response to encounters labeled in the large arena of sexual abuse is an invitation to un-repression, expanded consciousness of socially unacceptable interests and inclinations, wants and desires previously denied in service of acceptability to others, e.g., about childhood sexuality, incest taboo violations, phony loves based on social relationships, self-deceptions about pretended virtues (such as, motherly love, faithfulness, and absence of lust).
Secondly, there is an inherent invitation to social, religious, and civil transgressions with real, predictable consequences ranging from rejection to being fired from a job and/or fined, convicted and incarcerated, and labeled for life if not excluded from access to financial systems. For example, to feel desires to do natural acts long denied in awareness but somehow triggered by present images, such as, young breasts, developing hips, and innocent eyes, especially after long practice in being sexually repressed, may feel terribly threatening.
Thirdly, adult threat may be to indulge in social acts unconsciously aimed at self-actualization via rebellion rather than the more difficult way of conscious responsibility, e.g., as in the "betcha can't make/stop me" form of rebellion; or, "I'll show them I can do what I want to" in prohibited sexual arenas, but often with limited sexual activation (e.g., in rape motivated by anger at women plus the appearance of power over them, rather than pure lust).
In such unconscious rebellions, one may rationalize: "What they call molestation, I call caring for." Also such rebellious acts may actually be against possession by another woman, such as a mother, wife, or lover. By a deed seen as sexual abuse to others, such a person may be unconsciously telling a possessive partner, "Look, I am not owned by you; I can do whatever I please with others."
Fourthly, "sexual abuse" as seen by others may be more like "safe sex" to a "perpetrator," that is, apart from social dangers related to priesthood and vows of chastity, powerful wives/mothers, social responsibility (e.g., pregnancy, paying for, and especially the judgmental eyes of other sexually repressed adults), and in response to openness of a potential "abusee" (e.g., innocency and/or virginity).
Another typically male danger may be: Truncating emerging masculinity with its fuller possibilities of boys becoming gentlemen rather than macho chauvinists cloaking weaker wimpism, by condemning and punishing intermediary steps in male maturity, such as, training in scoping and seducing, and their essential place in the growing up process of all boys; inviting early and lasting repression of inherited traits essential in fullness of life, both as individuals and citizens.
Here I try to distinguish between male intentions and female offenses, that is, what may motivate male actions categorized as abusive and what females commonly take as negative and/or bad.
First, I believe that some men are indeed evil, that is, aimed at destruction, in this case, are evil and out to get, hurt, harm, even destroy women via various forms of physical and sexual abuse. These, however, as best I can tell, are in a small majority. By and large, some 90%, I estimate, of male abuse is motived by creativity-gone-awry, rather than by evil intent of perpetrators.
For example, sexually explicit talk (language, comments and jokes) offensively taken and often legally charged as sexual harassment is, I think, rarely intended to offend. Interest in child porn is not necessarily moved by desires to harm children. Even painful rape is commonly more attributable to uncontrolled male passion than intended harm to victims. Familiar male excuses, such as, "But she wanted it" may obviously be just that, excuses; but even then male motivations are more likely to come from passion-gone-awry (or other unrelated psychological motivations) than from intended harm and/or abuse.
This noted, my point here is trying to understand males, not to justify any form of male abuse. A harassed female is, obviously, just as bothered/harmed, no matter what male motivations in abusive actions may have been. Even if he "meant well," offense is still offensive.
Male motivations may be sub-divided between those which arise from universally inherited masculine drives, and others which are based in personal psychological quirks, such as: a) Reactions to female responses; b) Habits acquired early in coping with mother's modes of reactions to emerging male sexuality; c) Reactions to memes, that is, to impersonal social standards and legal structures which mitigate against natural male sexuality and its related traits.
Some abusers must certainly be evil; but the vast majority of perpetrators of both sexual and spiritual abuse are not bad and can more clearly be seen as ignorant, immature, misguided, or even mentally ill, than intentionally destructive of their victims, and therefore properly seen as evil.
I didn't know the gun was loaded
Most perpetrators of spiritual abuse are, as best I can tell, consciously innocent; they "don't mean to hurt," and commonly "mean well" in the very acts which turn out to be spiritually abusive. Rarely, I think, are spiritual abusers truly evil of heart. Surely, some women, for example, may be evil; but these are, I conclude, extremely rare.
Still, as we all know, dead is just as dead, even if a shooter (an abuser) "didn't know the gun was loaded."
But here I am primarily exploring the nature and effects of spiritual abuse, not focusing on the intents of perpetrators (though I will briefly speculate on motives also). I am trying to understand the phenomenon, not to blame or indite, certainly not to condemn those at whose hands it occurs.
SPIRITUAL ABUSE: Any action, word or deed, verbal or non-verbal, which results in diminished spirit in one to whom it is directed (said or done to). Such abuse is determined solely by the nature of its results, not by the size or qualities of the initiating action, the intents of the abuser, or the reasonableness of the connection between the stimulus and its consequences.
Based on conventional reasoning (sense-making) various actions at the source of spiritual abuse may not seem to be abusive or sufficiently empowered to cause the results they do. In fact, they may easily be taken as innocent, benign, or powerless within themselves. Furthermore, the common dis-connection between damaging results and conscious intents of a perpetrator may make the label of abuse seem quite unjustified. Almost never, I speculate, does a perpetrator of spiritual abuse mean to harm a victim. In fact, as best I can tell, the various weapons of spiritual abuse are rarely if ever seen as such.
In summary, although results in the experience of victims of spiritual abuse is usually easier to see, conscious motives of its perpetrators almost always cloak the actual severity of their initiating actions.
In light of these familiar appearances, namely, apparent size and power of weapons in the hands of equally appearing innocent perpetrators, the initiating actions might more clearly be seen as triggers rather than weapons, that is, mere stimuli which becomes empowered only by association, as in conditioned responses, such as, Pavlov's dogs which learned to salivate at the sight of food. Obviously, in this perspective, the mere presence of food has no power to cause the resulting salivation; and so with most of what I will later call weapons of spiritual abuse; still, as already noted, my focus here is on the results of the stimuli, not inherent powers or intentions of those who present the "food (initiating action)."
For example, particular kinds of words are one of the weapons I will note. An old saying states, "Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words can never hurt me." A newer and, I think, far more accurate version goes like this: "Sticks and stones can only break my bones, but words can break my heart."
This latter version points more clearly to the true nature of spiritual abuse, as related to heart rather than bones. Heart, of course, is a metaphorical term in this analogy, and may be taken as a synonym for spirit as I use the word here. Also this second version of the old saying implies the comparably more serious nature of heartbreak over bone break, plus the potential power of words in comparison with sticks and stones insofar as spirit is concerned.
In perhaps an even clearer metaphor, the Bible describes the tongue as a fire, and notes: "Behold how great a fire a little fire kindleth! And the tongue is a fire...(James 3:5-6).
Although the term "emotional abuse" might be initially clearer, I choose the modifier spiritual because I find it closer to what I am exploring here. Certainly emotions are commonly involved, but what I am trying to analyze is far more than "hurting feelings."
By spiritual I refer to colloquial rather than religious meanings, that is, to what is implied in such phrases as, "killing my spirit," or being left "dis-spirited," as the word might be used in secular society. Commonly, of course, spiritual is a religious term, with spirit being a synonym for soul or a religious part of oneself. Here, however, no religious connotations are intended. I take the word as a modifier to point toward the deeper nature of this form of abuse, which, as I say, is much more serious and long lasting than more familiar "hurt feelings" or danger to emotional elements of oneself.
Just as physical and sexual abuse is about 95% male-initiated, so spiritual abuse must be about the same for females, that is, mostly done by females to males and minors. Not that males might not choose to use this form of power if we could, but that females seem to be better equipped and far more efficient in this type of abuse.
About 80% of spiritual abuse, I estimate, is powered by projections, that is, powers blindly given to those who seem to wield the weapons, rather than arising from forces inherent in perpetrators. Victims, I hold, are mainly to blame, even though they (we) seem to universally (100%?) believe ourselves to be innocent. Men, for example, often believe "She did me in," just as we so commonly think that "She turns me on."
How does spiritual abuse occur? Here I explore some of the ways-it-happens, the forms of verbal and non-verbal actions (words and deeds) which may result in diminishing, even temporary killing, spirit--regardless of the intents of perpetrators. Just as male motivations in physical and/or sexual abuse are not necessarily bad or evil, so with female intentions in spiritual abuse. In either case, my focus here is: how-it-happens, not what-is-intended by those at whose hands or mouth it takes place.
First, a laundry list of weapons or tools of spiritual abuse might begin with these:
Frowns; cold shoulders; fake service; emotional distance; withdrawal of favors; phoney smiles; overt criticism; verbal abuse; nagging; shaming; putting down on; fake agreement ("Whatever you say," "Have it your way"); fake giving in; indirect criticism (as of clothes, manners, deeds); phoney obsequiousness; physical distance; distrust, suspicion, accusations; ig-norance (not seeing, looking through); taking for granted; no recognition of services, ideas, etc.; refusal to reason or to argue by male rules; refusal to talk, or chit chating only; flirting with other males; more attention to others than self; full attention to children/others; sexual withdrawal, disinterest, going through motions only; transgressing or belittling male values, such as reason, efficiency, time; unconscious seduction (teasing).
More specifically, some of the more common weapons of spiritual abuse are:
Rejected advances; turned-down male approaches (looks, smells, words, touches) which may or may not have sexual connotations. These may range from non-verbal acts, such as ogling, to verbal invitations, like, "Let's make love." Female rejections may likewise range from simply turning away, not seeing, or other messages which say, "Cool it," or, "Not tonight (or ever), Henry."
Judged desires; female judgments, not necessarily intended as such, which initiate male reactions learned as early as nursery times when life was largely determined by a goddess-mother. Non-verbal expressions, such as, negative looks, frowns, etc., are often the most effective forms of such judgments.
Misguided stratagems; innocent ploys which backfire, such as, seductions gone awry, e.g., delaying favorable response too long; putting down on oneself in the process of encountering; pretending disinterest; making distracting comments on other subjects; concealing personal desires too long.
Teasing; "carrot dangling," almost always unconscious, as best I can tell, by presenting oneself as sexually desirous as seen by male gene eyes (e.g., appearing to be young, attractive, beautiful, conceive-able, and available). Much such teasing is, of course, entirely impersonal in the sense of determined by inherited good looks, even as impersonal as simply being born with tits and ass. But teasing can occur when natural attributes are obviously enhanced by diligent efforts summarized as "beautifying," dress, make-up, smells, exposure, and moves.
Shaming; playing on male shame, ingrained guilt, deep feelings of being "bad," as boys commonly acquire early in life, even at mother's knees.
Ego bashing; undermining fragile egos, as in comments such as, "Is that it?" or, "So and so was bigger (stronger, better)," and countless other less direct attacks on proverbial fragile male egos.
Tempting repression; trafficking in male repressions, such as, fear of emotions, fear of sensuality, fear of intimacy, fear of rejection (disapproval).
Note: A women reading this laundry list of potential weapons for spiritual abuses which label her as a perpetrator, may well wonder if I am saying that "everything she does is wrong." Again, as noted earlier, I am here bypassing issues of virtue and/or pragmatics, and focusing on effects only. Certainly many of my labeled "weapons of spiritual abuse" may indeed be performed innocently and functionally in other regards.
Still, for clarity, understanding the potentially abusive nature of even the best intended female words and actions is essential in grasping the nature of victimizing effects.
Many of these common weapons of spiritual abuse may be summarized as no-saying, that is, contradicting, denying, or otherwise countering the desires and/or actions of another, as in, not allowing, preventing, or, in summary "saying" no rather than yes, either verbally or non-verbally, to the wishes of someone else.
Obviously abuse is not inherent in no-saying, that is, one person's choice to either curtail certain behaviors of another for any reason or to prevent invasion of personal space. When then, does no-saying become abusive?
Answer: When its form is harmful to either body, mind, spirit or self of another, e.g., done in such a way as to inflict pain, to suppress or curtail honest thinking, to put down or shame another. These harms are not as simple as "offending" or "hurting feelings," though these too may occur.
PROPER VERSUS ABUSIVE NO-SAYING
Proper, non-abusive no-saying includes these situations: 1) Representing reality, e.g., actual limits/dangers in the world and society which may either be unknown or unaccepted by another; 2) Representing one's self with differing concerns or desires at the time ("I'm not interested or ready"); 3) Parental responsibility in protecting/civilizing a child, guiding one safely and trained into the larger world beyond family.
Although each of these times of no-saying can be a proper function, each can also be used in an abusive manner. They may become abusive when done in a disrespectful manner, as in, acting superior, looking down on, judging and/or rejecting one who is said "no" to as a person of equal value. Proper no-saying is on a level plane, "eyeball to eyeball," with the only difference being a greater concern for one or both persons by the one saying no.
of the possible female motivations for what turns out to be spiritual abuse, in spite of what may have been consciously intended by
its perpetrators, include:
"Appearances," that is, devotion to the powerful meme, What They Think.
Controlling males, a means of
exercising power over physically stronger males.
Civilizing males--ways of teaching males "manners" about how to behave in society.
Teaching males how to properly seduce females, that is, via romance rather than a crudely direct approach.
Protecting children from sexual knowledge.
Self-satisfaction, as when, for example, one is "just not interested in sex" at the time or with this particular person.
Although much spiritual abuse is related to female beauty, the two are of course not synonymous. Female beautification, though inherently inviting to masculine response no matter the intentions of a presenter, obviously cannot be properly seen as inherently abusive. How then are the two connected, if at all?
Again the answer lies in the form or manner in which a female wields her beauty and/or responds to predictable male reactions. Beauty becomes abusive when wielded in teasing/taunting ways, e.g., inviting favorable responses when there is no intention of accepting them, for instance in what males sometimes call "prick teasing," acting seductive and then being rejective.
Abuse, of course, is not inherent in male passions unrequited, no matter what may have stimulated their arousal, including female beauty and/or seductive behavior. In reality males are finally responsible for our passions, however they arise; but abuse enters the scene when females traffic harmfully in these aroused states, where males are typically more vulnerable.
Here, again, I bypass ethics and utilitY, that is, whether or not we should and if it is useful in service of other values, such as, keeping a mate regardless of harm to them. Instead I focus only on how spouses may harm each other personally, even in service of other worthy values.
As noted before, understanding abuse requires attention to context, that is, looking beyond abusive events themselves. Quite obviously many such events of spouse abuse are relatively benign within themselves and can only justify the name abuse when long range consequences are considered.
Forms of female spouse abuse, rarely recognized as such, but often resulting in victimization include:
Supporting fragile male egos--contributing to this all-too-common male error of identifying ourselves with a self-created image, all the while ignoring or trying to negate our inherited selves.
Paradoxically, negative responses to a male's ego, that is, refusing to support, putting down on, or even attacking, may be less abusive to masculinity than are manipulatively motivated positive efforts. In fact, such attacks, even when passive, as in, refusing to affirm a fragile ego, may be favorable insofar as encouraging real self growth.
Playing mother, that is, "taking care of a husband" as a mother might a son, as though he is yet a small child; unwittingly contributing to his remaining as such, as in, "picking up after him" or assuming responsibility for his food, clothing, and health.
Phoney listening, that is, patiently "letting a husband talk" without interruption, all the while pretending to be actually listening to and understanding what is said, when in fact one's thoughts are far away, perhaps planning the next meal or redecorating the house in mind's eye. The abusive element in such fake hearing is supporting male illusions about powers of mental acceptance as essential in affirming their own thinking.
Using sex for power--as implied in the male euphemism "pussy power," that is, "pussy whipping" a husband by selectively using access to her vagina and/or appearance of acceptance/permission before he is allowed to be sexual in her presence. Though rarely recognized as such, this perhaps universal use of sex-for-power might more clearly be seen as marital prostitution (un-punishable by law), that is, using sexual parts impersonally for purposes of power if not money.
The abuse element in such wifely manipulations, that which qualifies them as unacknowledged perpetrators, lies in using sex (or its withholding) as a weapon for controlling male behavior and contributing to modes of masculine repression commonly begun with birth mothers, for example, the common illusion that past early childhood, permission to embrace masculine sexuality in its natural forms continues to exist in female, in this case, wifely, hands.
Judgments--with implied threat of personal rejection, such as, "I won't like/love you unless you stop/change." Content of such judgments is irrelevant to threatened displeasure with an offending husband, for example, the subject may be manners (or lack of same), dress (out of style), cleanliness ("Did you wash your hands?"), efficiency in chores ("Why can't you take out the trash without being told to?"), crudeness ("Why must you talk like that?"), any overt sexuality, and endlessly on.
The potential abuse is not related to "nagging" as such, but to its use in conveying shame, threatening wifely displeasure, and/or self-condemnation of a husband for being his natural self with un-feminine like values.
Emotional love, that is, feeling positively about for one's possessions, in this instance, one's husband, which males easily confuse with caring for or affirming who-we-are and mistaking the first for the second, thereby becoming vulnerable to abuse.
Shame, using shame as a weapon, for example, for being unsociable, uncooperative, impolite, aggressive, sexy, competitive, that is, for natural male instincts and values.
Certainly husbands may also effect spiritual as well as physical and sexual abuse on wives, victimizing them as persons if not harming their bodies. But in general, even allowing for my male prejudices, I think that wifely abuses in this arena typically are far greater in proportion. Even though male abuses in marriage, which rely on brute strength, may be more easily recognized and have obvious forms of harm, less visible types of female spiritual abuse are often more prevalent, pervasive, and lasting in serious consequences, of so I conclude.
Even so, many typically male abuses in marriage, beyond bodily harm, remain prevalent. Among the more obvious are:
Mental intimidation. In societies such as ours which elevate logic, rational thought, and "making sense," male abilities in the realm of mental focus (plus other left brain type skills) often give us the edge in "logical" thinking, and with it the temptation to put down on (judge negatively) typically female types of comprehensive thought.
All too commonly we may judge female thinking as "unreasonable." Wives with a history of living with mentally oppressive males (fathers, brothers, boy friends, and/or previous husbands) may easily be victimized by critical husbands who, even if well intentioned, consistently question what they say. And, of course, obvious overt criticism, as in, name calling, like "dumb," "stupid," or "non-sensible" can easily be victimizing to a woman who lacks confidence in her mind.
Real or threatened "unfaithfulness," that is, implied risks of "leaving you if...," as potentially evidenced, for example, in attention given to other females. Exclusive male possession may be the finally most essential element in a fragile sense of security of many wives. Consequently, even a hint of infidelity, especially if sexual in nature, as implied in a husband's attraction, admiration, and/or being turned on by anyone other than herself, can be devastating to a wife who is dependent on her husband for physical and/or emotional support. Even innocently, such a husband with "roving eyes (if not hands) can become an effective perpetrator of wifely abuse.
The finesse of good parents can be compared to "breaking" a wild horse. Ideally a horse is broken to saddle without breaking his spirit, that is, training one to fit in with human values (become rideable) without at the same time killing his natural wildness, turning him into a spiritless nag.
And so with children. The challenge of good parents is to civilize an animal-like child, teach him the ways and requirements of society, without at the same time "breaking" his instinctive spirit, leaving him severed from animal instincts, his genetic heritage, turning him into a good citizen, a "nice" person, but one cut off from the juices of passion and genetic powers essential for well being as a whole person.
But unfortunately, all of the above noted weapons of spiritual abuse may be directed toward small children as well as males, minors, and spouses. When so, perpetrator parents, even when they consciously mean well, may abuse the spirits of their offspring with consequences lasting a life time.