Invisible Violence to Kids = no-Self Adulthoods & Violence
You can run from the truth
You can hide from the truth
You can deny the truth
But you cannot destroy the truth
Robert J. Burrowes
According to Robert J. Burrowes in “Why Violence?” “no-Self” people run from, hide from, deny the truth. “Self” people recognize it and communicate it!
Edward Snowden! Self or no-Self?
Bradley Manning! Self or no-Self?
Gitmo Hunger Strikers! Selves or no-Selves?
Too many of the rest of us citizens?
We are somewhere on the spectrum of the “no-Self", I’m thinking.
We seem to be more and more an anti-feeling, watcher, schadenfreude and even eager-to-punish society, given the propensity of trials by media.
We seem to be in short supply of stand-up, pro-active, conscience-responding, empathetic “Self”-grounded people in America of which there are decidedly a good number, but our amoral and dysfunctional media, once again, does all it can to keep its spotlight, or more accurately propaganda pen-light, off of them. Off of those who are willing to respond with humane and appropriate perceptions, feelings and ACTIONS to an ongoing and accelerating assembly line of fresh hell outrages including gratuitous, misdirected mass violence by “no-Self” leaders of our government perpetrated against our global family of man, woman and children.
Robert J. Burrowes maintains that the path to the dysfunctionally violent or dysfunctionally enabling of the violent “no-Self” people in our citizenry begins in childhood when a child is overwhelmed by traumatizing visible violence and/or what Burrowes labels as traumatizing “invisible violence”.
Invisible violence, according to Burrowes, is when a child is emotionally and intellectually “socialized/terrorized” into denying or minimizing the reality he or she is going through at a given moment by a parent or other authority figure. These authority figures interfere for their own needs and convenience -- from their own profound unprocessed fears -- with the child’s natural and vital intellectual and emotional developmental “processing” of events.
The impact of chronic interferences interrupting a child’s processing of reality, according to Burrowes, is devastating for the spiritual growth of the child, dooming him or her to a dysfunctional (often low-conscience and violence perpetrating and/or violence enabling) adulthood.
At birth, a human being has enormous intellectual, emotional and physical potential. It develops in accordance with the stimuli that are provided by its social milieu and physical environment.
... once a child has been terrorised into suppressing its awareness of its feelings (rather than being allowed to have its feelings and, preferably, having them listened to) the child has also unconsciously suppressed its awareness of the reality that caused these feelings. This has many outcomes that are disastrous for the individual, for society and for nature because the individual will now easily suppress its awareness of the feelings that would tell it how to act most functionally in any given circumstance and it will progressively acquire a phenomenal variety of dysfunctional behaviours.
.... Moreover, as its dysfunctionalities deepen and its fear of resisting this violence is consolidated more deeply in its unconscious (where it is no longer readily accessible and thus felt), the child increasingly learns to ‘like’ its dysfunctionalities given the parental and social approval these routinely attract. Even worse, the child takes over responsibility for maintaining its own dysfunctionalities.
Unable to get away from the pain, the child stops listening to the pain (that is, the child increasingly suppresses its awareness of the pain) as an indicator that something is wrong and that it should do something different. The warning signs are increasingly ignored because parents, teachers and other adults teach the child that there is no way out. The child eventually stops looking and trying. At some early point in its development (and certainly long before the age of ten) the destruction of the child’s natural Self and the creation of its socially acceptable ‘no-self’ is completed.
The “no-Self”. An ungrounded, fear based, unintegrated, empathy-challenged personality.
Burrowes goes on:
If a child is denied functional control over its own life, and not allowed to have its feelings about this, the child will endlessly seek dysfunctional control over other people and events to retain a sense of being in control or, if even this is thwarted (as it must be on some occasions), it will create a delusion that it has control in situations in which it does not.
In essence: If you deny a child natural control, and don’t let it get angry about this, it will become obsessed with controlling ‘everything’ and will use devious (including violent) means for doing so, or it will delude itself that it has control when it does not.
Burrowes spells out how children are ambushed from processing experience by authority figures:
- by ignoring a child when it expresses its feelings,
- by comforting, reassuring or distracting a child when it expresses its feelings,
- by laughing at or ridiculing its feelings,
- by terrorising a child into not expressing its feelings (e.g. by screaming at it when it cries or gets angry), and/or
- by violently controlling a behaviour that is generated by its feelings (e.g. by hitting it, restraining it or locking it into a room),
I remember reading years ago about a study done with a group of children who had been traumatized by Hitler’s air “blitz” bombing in England. The result of the study showed that the degree of psychological trauma dogging some of those child victims in later life was not based on whether the children were exposed to it at all but whether the children positively were nurtured and allowed to “process” their frightening experiences subsequent to them or negatively told to pretend the experiences never happened, to forget them, to minimize them, to “stiff upper lip” them subsequent to them! Demanding “stoicism” from those children or shaming them for having legitimate and extreme emotional reactions to their experiences guaranteed future painful dysfunctionality for that group of children as adults.
Burrowes explores the backgrounds of severe adult cases of personal childhood terrorization, those who seemingly are addicted to and willing to amorally and easily perpetrate visible violence as adults on innocent others. He maintains that these individuals undoubtedly suffered “an extraordinary level of terror and violence” themselves. They are profoundly emotionally damaged as adults because of this. They are terrified of their original perpetrators, a terror so extreme they refuse to consciously identify those who perpetrated violence directly and chronically on them as children. They are unable emotionally or physically still in some cases to defend themselves against these people nor against others reminiscent of the original perpetrators currently threatening them. They carry a strongly negative self-image of themselves because of their historical perpetrators.
Bellowes goes on:
... the extreme social terrorisation experience to which archetype perpetrators of violence have been subjected means that the feelings of love, compassion, empathy and sympathy, as well as the mental function of conscience, are prevented from developing. This is because the human potential to have a conscience and to have the feelings of love, compassion, empathy and sympathy depend on exposure to these and cultivation of them during childhood: they cannot be fully developed later. Devoid of conscience and these feelings, perpetrators can inflict violence on others without experiencing the feedback that conscience, love, compassion, empathy and sympathy would provide. ..., and reinforcing the previous point, archetype perpetrators of violence have been taught (that is, terrorised into believing) that it is wrong to love: they are not allowed to be loved or to love other people. Consequently, the idea of being loved is terrifying and the idea of loving another is terrifying.
.... archetype perpetrators of violence have a compulsion to be violent; that is, they are addicted to it. Why? Because the act of violence allows them to explosively release the suppressed feelings (usually some combination of fear, terror, pain, anger and powerlessness) so that they experience a brief sensation of delusional relief. The relief is delusional, rather than genuine, because it does not last and because it does not occur as a result of insight into why the violent behaviour is occurring, which is necessary for behavioural change away from violence to take place.
...., archetype perpetrators of violence have a delusional belief in the effectiveness and morality of violence; they have no capacity to perceive its dysfunctionality and immorality.
... because they are terrified of identifying that they are the victim of the violence of their own parents (and/or other significant adults from their childhood) and that this violence terrified them, archetype perpetrators unconsciously delude themselves about the identity of their own perpetrator. They will unconsciously identify their ‘perpetrator’ as one or more individuals of whom they are not actually afraid from an existing ‘legitimised victim’ group because this or these individuals are either clearly not threatening (to them) and/or are vulnerable in some way: this identification might be limited to their own children and/or be a larger social group such as people who are black, Jewish or Palestinian, for example.
... archetype perpetrators project that their (unconsciously chosen) victim is now ‘attacking’ them and this ‘attack’ justifies their own violence against their victim (which they will delusionarily perceive as ‘self- defense’).
... simultaneously, archetype perpetrators unconsciously project their self-hatred, one outcome of their own victimhood, as hatred for their victim, thus giving themselves an ‘ideological’ belief to both justify their behaviour and to obscure from themselves their true but unconscious motivation: to remain unaware of their own terror, defencelessness, powerlessness, self-hatred, self-worthlessness, and all of the other unpleasant feelings that make them become perpetrators of violence. ... they do these last three things because their terror (which they are too terrified to feel) compels them to project itself onto something that is ‘controllable’ (because their original perpetrators never were) and on which they can ‘justifiably’ and safely take revenge.
Burrowes maintains that these incredibly emotionally clueless and dangerous archetype perpetrators when challenged about their violent behaviors (which challenges threaten them with the specter of punishment as challenges did in childhood) desperately and adamantly deny that they are violent or they profoundly minimize the violence. They also do all they can to suppress awareness of their violence in the public domain. They maliciously attack the messengers who are drawing attention to their violence, insisting it is they who are “criminal”, “psychotic”, “evil”, etc. If that doesn’t work, the archetype perpetrators will further lie and claim their actions are purely out of “self-defense”.
Sound familiar? Pathological behaviors of members of both Bush and Obama regimes!
Bellowes then goes on to describe others on the “spectrum of the violent personality” who are not “archetype perpetrators” but more subtle, secondary perpetrators of violence. They do not have all the attributes of the first group or to such an extreme degree, but have some of them. For example, he explains, they may have more capacity for conscience and to feel love and empathy to a degree. Burrowes points out that they also have a “skewed” degree of over-empathy for those primary archetype perpetrators of violence. These people like them have hidden needs to inflict violence but they seek more covert, legitimate and institutional outlets to satisfy that need.
These individuals might seek a legitimised way to inflict their violence, for example, by working in the police, legal or prison systems. This will be an (unconsciously) attractive option to those individuals who have been successfully terrorised into obedience.
By working in the institutional setting, some perpetrators will be able to inflict their violence ‘legally’, most usually in the form of ‘punishment’. This means that some judges and prosecutors, police and prison officers will use their position to inflict violence of all kinds, knowing that they will ‘get away with it’ precisely because the institutional setting gives them licence to do so.
Most of this violence is easily obscured and not just because it is socially endorsed. In a courtroom setting, for example, the legal obsession with procedure (including what constitutes ‘legally permissible evidence’) can easily be used to obscure the truth; judges can readily manipulate (inexperienced) juries. Other institutional settings allow employers and teachers, for example, to inflict legitimised violence as well. A key attraction of positions such as these is that they allow the perpetrator a strong ‘defence’ in modern society: ‘I am only doing my job’.
In summary, individuals who are violent each occupy a unique place on the spectrum of the violent personality, depending on the precise range and intensity of the violent behaviours that they exhibit as a result of the unique social terrorisation experience to which they were subjected as a child. And many of these individuals will unconsciously seek a socially-endorsed role that allows them to inflict their violence ‘legally’.
Burrowes then takes on the group of dysfunctional adults he refers to as “collaborators” or “traitors”.
... terrified, defenceless and powerless, some victims will try to placate the perpetrator. Victims who resort to placation ... will invariably fear those individuals who resist the perpetrator’s violence, will usually perceive resistance to violence as ‘morally wrong’ and perhaps even perceive any resistance to violence (including explicitly nonviolent resistance) as ‘violent’, because their own fear of resisting perpetrators is now so deeply embedded in their unconscious that any form of resistance is considered futile and likely to provoke further perpetrator violence. And this ‘violates’ their powerless ‘strategy’ of placation.
In these circumstances, such victims might be offered what looks like a way out of being further victimised themselves: the perpetrator might have a use for them as a collaborator, that is, someone who will actively assist the perpetrator to retain control either by aligning themselves (often secretly) with the perpetrator in any conflict and/or (often secretly) by betraying (perhaps by spying on) the perpetrator’s other victims. The strategy of placation is usually made more attractive to collaborators because they have a warped sense of empathy and sympathy....
They will have empathy and sympathy for the perpetrators of violence (rather than the perpetrator’s victims) as an outcome of how they were damaged by the social terrorisation experience they suffered as a child.
These individuals, according to Bellowes, choose “betrayal” of those fighting the archetype perpetrators of violence as a means of defending themselves. They have a deep sense of self-hatred which allows them to be exploited by those wreaking violence. They glean a delusional sense of feeling wanted by the archetype perpetrators. They will self-righteously justify their defense of the archetype perpetrators of violence in ideological terms or in terms of human sympathy. They characterize their own obedience to violent authority as “loyalty” and “support” or “helpfulness” to mask the inner fear that drives their own submissive behavior.
For collaborators, the importance of obedience also far outweighs any sense of personal moral choice. Obviously, it is their fear that generates this attitude and behaviour. If you are scared to resist violence, then you must make a virtue out of submission and obedience. In essence: the collaborator/traitor will dogmatically defend their behaviour as ‘right’ in the circumstances as the means of suppressing their own awareness of the terrifying and painful tangle of feelings in their own unconscious.
Penultimately, collaborators/traitors invariably ... unconsciously project their fear and self-hatred, as outcomes of their own victimhood, as fear of and hatred for, the perpetrator’s victims, thus presenting another ‘ideological’ belief to both justify their behaviour and to obscure from themselves their true but unconscious motivation: to remain unaware of their own terror, defencelessness, powerlessness, self-hatred and self-worthlessness, as well as the self-righteousness and projection that make them become, initially, co-perpetrators of violence but, ultimately, perpetrators of violence in their own right.
Finally, as a result of all of the above, the collaborator will exhibit ... the delusion that they are ‘in control’; that is, they are no longer (and never were) the victim of violence themselves. Tragically, of course, this delusion is a trap: an individual is never safe in the role of collaborator. Like perpetrators of violence, collaborators are victims of violence who haven’t found a way to heal themselves from the fear and pain of their own victimhood, and so they cannot genuinely defend themselves against the violence of perpetrators.
The individuals described above are active collaborators: those who actively seek to undermine the capacity of victims or intended victims to defend themselves against perpetrators of violence. There is another, much larger, class of collaborators. Passive collaborators are those individuals who feed the perpetrator energy by submitting in fearful silence to the perpetrator’s violence; that is, they let the perpetrator ‘get away with’ violence against others without protest, challenge or resistance. In addition to these two types, structural collaboration occurs when an individual collaborates with structures of violence and exploitation, such as capitalism.
Burrowes explains that collaborators and traitors learn to be the way they are from being terrorized by parents and/or authority figures when young. They collaborated with these parents or authority figures against siblings or fellow children.
Once the child has betrayed its siblings or classmates, it will usually need the ‘protection’ of the violent parent or teacher as a ‘defence’ against any retaliation by its siblings or classmates. Hence, it will become ‘locked’ into the role of collaborator/traitor out of fear of the perpetrator’s violence against it as well as fear of the violent retaliation of siblings or classmates. This, of course, suits the perpetrator. The collaborator will perform this role throughout its life as it now unconsciously recognises and identifies with those who are most violent, including state authorities that inflict legitimised violence on those individuals perceived as ‘criminals’.
One fundamental outcome is that once you have terrorised a human being into ‘thinking’, ‘feeling’ and behaving in a delusional/dysfunctional way, it is extraordinarily difficult to get them to think, feel and behave functionally, because they are now unconsciously terrified of doing so. What they are ‘thinking’, ‘feeling’ and doing now is what got them approval as a child and that is terrifiedly but unconsciously locked in their mind. And the fear of even becoming aware of this, let alone feeling all of the feelings so that things might change, is overwhelming.
Human violence, represented as an iceberg, has three giant tips. The three tips represent war, exploitation of the Third World and environmental destruction.
However, just below these tips but above the water surface is a section of the iceberg proper and this represents the enormous violence inflicted on many constituencies including women, workers, non-whites, indigenous peoples and non-human species.
Beneath the surface, well out of view, is the vast bulk of the iceberg. This represents the violence - visible, invisible and utterly invisible - directed against children. If we are to tackle the problem of violence and its more obvious manifestations, then we will need to tackle the cause: a society so terrified of the powerful Self of each of its individual members that it uses social terrorisation (what humans call ‘socialisation’) to ruthlessly destroy the Self of each and every child.
Burrowes has gone a long way in explaining why such extreme degrees of injustice and violence have been accepted as “status quo” too easily by our citizens -- who let go of their mandate of a government "of, by and for the people." His work is reminiscent for me of Alice Miller's, who pointed to a poisonous pedagoguy ambushing the self-hoods of children via personal and socially condoned trauma. According to Burrowes, the citizenry has been conditioned to support the delusions and violence of its governing class, the way it was conditioned to sacrifice its healthy sensibility of reality as children for the sake of powerful and intimidating authority figures.
True Self became no-Self in so many cases.
And it gets considerable approval for being this ‘no Self’. In the case of the Western middle class professional, for example, the rewards usually include (limited amounts of) money, status, travel and/or influence. But this simply reinforces their already deep fear of challenging the status quo and going in search of their True Self while struggling for a just world.
I think of Edward Snowden for example having decided to do just that!
The mind is genetically programmed to be one integrated whole, not a conflicting set of components, but it is easily damaged so that one part of its capacity dominates or suppresses others. It is the ongoing destruction throughout childhood of the capacity to pay attention to all of this input and particularly your feelings that progressively destroys the innate capacity to become Self-aware. What causes this damage? Terror. And what makes a mind react with terror thus disrupting all other functions simultaneously? Violence. And particularly the unrelenting onslaught of invisible violence and utterly invisible violence inflicted on children throughout their childhood.
All violence is an outcome of the visible, invisible and utterly invisible violence inflicted by adults on children. Once the child has been damaged, it will inflict violence on itself, the people around it, as well as non-human species and the natural environment; it will also play a part in maintaining structures of violence and exploitation (such as the education and legal systems, as well as capitalism) in which it is both victim and perpetrator.
The man who inflicts violence on women was damaged during childhood. The white person who inflicts violence on people of colour was damaged during childhood. The employer who inflicts violence on workers was damaged during childhood. The individual who endorses the state violence inflicted on indigenous peoples was damaged during childhood. The person who supports structures of violence (such as the military, police, legal and prison systems) was damaged during childhood. The person who supports structures of exploitation (such as capitalism and colonialism) was damaged during childhood.
Violence does not ‘just happen’. It is perpetrated by damaged individuals, including ourselves. Only we can take responsibility for healing the damage done to ourselves. Only we can take responsibility for ending the origin of all of this violence: the violence we inflict on our children. It will take time.
Finally Burrowes floats an inspiring vision:
Imagine, then, a planet populated by powerfully Self-aware individuals who live in harmony with themselves, with others and with nature.
[cross-posted on open salon]