Sunday, 13 May 2012

Mitt Romney : Cycles of abuse, Remorse or Denial, and Power

In The Rumpus, Steve Almond wrote a wonderfully clear piece about Mitt Romney, a Republican Presidential Candidate in the USA, concerning Romneys abusive behaviour (high school pranks) as a teenager. It is called THE WEEK IN GREED #6: To Behave Like the Fallen World

This piece is not so much about Romney as about the lack of empathy which we see all the time in those who assume or take power into their hands, be it national, international or at the local level or even within our own families, and the great difficulty the rest of us have when it comes to dealing with this, and the adverse outcomes for so many people of this dynamic.

Alice Miller wrote many books about how, if as  child, one is bullied or mistreated by parents, by Institutions, by society, or by circumstance and one is unable to resolve the situation, that suppression of one's true feelings becomes a mechanism of psychic survival, and this leaves the feelings anger, grief and sadness still alive, yet masked, buried, hidden from awareness.

These hidden, buried feelings then start to colour how one behaves towards oneself and others. The anger can be directed against oneself (shame, self loathing) or against the next generation, or against one's own children or against some 'other': the enemy 'created' by those in power as the receiver of these unresolved feelings, especially the anger and rage.

The problem is compounded by the fact that until these feelings are resolved, they remain alive within, and that even if a person acts out that anger, it will remain available for re-stimulation, again and again.

Alice Miller showed how this experience of mistreatment, abuse, trauma can become an intergenerational pattern, (the children of traumatised parents will grow up within that PTSD psychological environment, and whilst not all turn out with such adverse behaviours, many do, usually due to the lack of an ameliorating presence, what Miller calls an 'enlightened witness', certainly enough to populate systems of power and oppression, to fill the ranks of armies and paramilitary groups, often claiming 'it is for your own good') and others have written about Historical Trauma to show how any community that is traumatised can find itself traumatising it's own children, or each other, in a cycle of abuse and neglect.

This is akin to Lateral Violence, where violence erupts between those who have been subject to abuse from a more Powerful source which they cannot counter. Lateral Violence also occurs in hierarchical bureaucracies, in care systems.

Others have shown how Power can utilise that distressed behaviour to lay blame on those who show the signs of distress in addiction, obesity, psychological distress, inability to conform to 'standards' - people who are used as examples of how not to behave in conformity with 'a fallen world'.

And then there's the history of Power creating enemies to bind the people over whom Power has traction.

This is a very large part of what drives politics and power.

The writers own admission and remorse is the healing of all this, and is the kind of response required to lead towards ending the intergenerational re-traumatising cycles.

It is based on self-empathy.

For to feel the pain of another, beyond mere intellectual comprehension (compassion), is based on one's own sense of pain. And to feel remorse for hurt caused, is to understand that the others pain is real and visceral; it is a living sensation that pain has the same effect on the other as it does to oneself, and that one would not wish that upon any other any more than one would wish it upon oneself.

Expecting those who seek Power to have empathy is folly. Recognising this, it becomes essential to heal this dynamic in oneself as a personal praxis and study of power and oppression, and where it truly matters and where it can be extended is at the grass roots, in one's own life, one's own family and one's community.

If this can be done, then Power will find itself without the necessary accomplices, without which it cannot act.

From the comments on the piece (and elsewhere when such matters are raised), we can see that some people are yet willing to minimise what happened in Romney's case as being in the past, as being high school bullying, as being minor in comparison to the larger issues.

This is not the case. These events are linked in the lives of so many Power leaders, from the Kings of England, the Emperors of Rome, from Hitler to Stalin. And they are linked in the lives of the many people who populate bureaucracies of power.

The Vatican's 'response' to the testimony of courageous Survivors or clerical abuse is another example of this dynamic.

Kindest regards


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