After years of witnessing how various people respond to having been abused by others, I am still struck by how differently people may react after they are removed from the abusive situation. Some come away from the situation with a resolve to never do to anyone else what was done to them. Others become abusers themselves, perpetuating a “chain of abuse”. Why do different people respond so differently to a similar situation?
I’m sure there are a number of factors that can affect the way a particular individual reacts to having been abused. However, there is one dynamic involved in every abuse scenario that is certainly going to play a role in how an individual’s mind processes the event, that is the dynamic of power.
Merriam-Webster online gives the following short definition of power:
noun, often attributive ˈpau̇(-ə)r
: the ability or right to control people or things
: political control of a country or area
: a person or organization that has a lot of control and influence over other people or organizations
There is also a full definition given at the Merriam-Webster site, however, it is too long to reproduce here and the short definition covers the aspects of power that are relevant to this blog.
If our memory is intact we can remember what it felt like to be young, very young. To be helpless and dependent. We can remember how good it felt when we learned to tie our shoes, ride a bike, or any number of other tasks that seemed monumental at the time. We were experiencing something new in our lives…power. The power to do things we wanted to do, to go places we wanted to go. It felt good. It made us feel more alive, more competent, more able to make it in this world.
There is a tendency in some circles to think that if a little is good then a lot is better.
This, of course, is an untrue statement. A falsehood. There is absolutely nothing that we can think of that the above statement is true in connection with. How do I know that? Simply by looking at what happens when people act on that statement. One way or another, having too much of anything is going to have a negative effect either on our life, or on our community, and, ultimately, on both.
A nice breeze can truly enhance a warm, sunny day. A hurricane will destroy many things.
Looking at a human life, too much food results in obesity, illness, death. Drinking too much water depletes the body’s electrolytes. Either too much heat or too much cold kills us. Sometimes the results of overindulgence show up from the inside-out. Our internal state is rendered out of balance and we suffer the consequences. Sometimes the negative results of our overindulgence show up first in the world around us. One person or group’s taking too much leaves the surrounding community impoverished in some way. And sooner or later the want and pain experienced by those left with too little will reach the threshold of those who created the imbalance. Because we are all connected.
Why do some people know, after having been abused, that waging malevolent power upon others does not lead to the place we really want to be? And why do other people who have been abused, who essentially reflect the same demographic criteria, not know that? Do some people see expressions of pleasure on their abuser(s) faces when the abuse is taking place and think that they want to feel like that? Perhaps some people become trapped in thinking in dualistic terms and simply believe there are only two sides one can be on, either be the abused or be the abuser. Maybe it’s because we live through many incarnations, and some souls are older, more experienced, wiser than others? Somewhere in the formula that determines the difference, the presence or absence of empathy for others also plays a role.
To a mind which sees only the superficial and immediate reality, a primitive utility can be seen in almost every expression of power. Let’s see, I can use that to obtain, experience … (whatever the desired object experience is). It’s when we can see the underlying reality of our lives and our world that we can begin to use power wisely. Then we can use our power to establish and maintain more enjoyable lives for ourselves, our families and our communities here on this beautiful outpost in space that we call home.