This is a departure from the primary purpose of this blog, but appears to be a necessary piece of information (for those with eyes to see etc.)
As with other articles, comments are welcome.
14 January 2018 revised 20 January.
Commentary on Sutherland (2015) ‘Causes of domestic violence and implications for primary prevention’. St. Vincent de Paul Society.
I read this paper with interest but was inevitably disappointed. The author is one of many who fails to get to the essential cause. The journalist Ray Martin (SBS TV January 2018) is another.
The author not only fails, but avoids and downplays the essential cause, in which case his paper is counter-productive. Instead he directs attention to structural; peripheral, or epi-phenomenal factors.
To begin with, let us understand that only a person who has first-hand experience of the phenomenon in question is qualified to write or speak about it. Academics are not so qualified; most psychologists are similarly unqualified, as are many ‘intellectuals’ or other commentators.
A qualified person has, for example, felt an eruption of such intense anger that they could not control it, and so punched a hole in a door.
Second, let us understand that this problem centres on repressed emotion, not rationality, and involves extensive psycho-social denial of this aspect of the current human condition. Thus those who present this truth tend to face a brick wall of denial. A particularly ironic feature of psychological denial is that those with this condition are consciously unaware of it, and if confronted will deny that they are in denial.
From my perspective, contemporary society is riven with Freudian denial; hypocrisy; dishonesty (including intellectual dishonesty); insincerity, and greed. Most of us attain our majority replete with denials. I avoid the term ‘adulthood’ because there are very few adults in contemporary society: most are in effect still children due to un-integrated childhood trauma and consequent limiting beliefs. This applies to greater or lesser extents. This general state of affairs is reflected in widespread use of the term ‘baby’ in romantic relationships, and again in pop songs.
Not only do most people not know this truth of their own being, but they do not want to. This reflects unconscious fear, firstly of re-living the fear around the original trauma, and ultimately that they will be unable to meet their consequent adult personal responsibility. This last touches on commonplace dis-empowerment and/or learned helplessness in childhood.
My current perspective comes from decades of work on my own psychology, in which personal demons were faced and defeated, and in which a reservoir of anger and grief derived from childhood trauma was also faced and dissipated. These things were done on both subconscious and cellular memory levels, this last being unknown to contemporary psychology. As part of this effort, for some years I was attached to a Buddhist monastery. As one result of this effort, I now have eyes that see and ears that hear. By contrast, those still with repressed emotion within suffer from perceptual distortion (as part of an incipient ‘fight or flight’ response, and as a particular post-traumatic stress disorder), and cannot easily see or admit to the truth.
Therefore, do not insult me by suggesting I do not know what I am talking about, or try to patronise me.
I have lived the truths of ‘Know thyself’ from the Delphic oracle; ‘The truth will set you free’ (John 8:32), and ‘The proper study of mankind is Man’ (Alexander Pope). Indeed, to quote C. G. Jung, ‘In interiore homine habitat veritas‘, where it seems few dare to go.
My experience is perhaps like that of C. G. Jung and Thomas Merton (but the latter was clearly not a mystic); but apparently much more focussed, and evidently much more successful. A book could be written on this work, but would most likely frighten people thanks largely to Freud’s egregiously mistaken concept of the Id which
still lurks in the public imagination. In short, I am one who understands the current human condition.
To come back to the document in question, Sutherland writes about ‘deep causes’ but appears to have no knowledge of depth psychology. He mentions temporarily losing control (page 5 para 4) but then provides no explanation of this behaviour. The proper explanation is that there is a temporary breach in the ego-defence system in which the quasi-existential reservoir of repressed emotion from childhood (anger and grief) is exposed. This leads to an immediate stress (fight or flight) response in the neurology, part of which is a shut-down of rational thought.
Such breaches occur when the particular childhood trauma is touched upon metaphorically or symbolically, presumably accidentally, by another person’s behaviour. Most people have such ‘buttons’ (representing unresolved psychological issues), which can be ‘pressed’ by another. When such ‘buttons’ are pressed there is an emotional reaction, not a rational response.
Anger is a biologically programmed response to a lack of nurturing in childhood, evolved to re-establish maternal attention. When it fails to do so, or when its expression is forbidden by a greater threat, this energy is accumulated and held in the system. This can be understood as biological conservation of energy. Anger comes out of fear and can be converted to hate in later life.
Sutherland points out that women are at most risk of violence when they try to leave a relationship, but his explanation that this is because they are most vulnerable and have least social power is facile. The proper explanation is that in such a case the man fears a loss of a perceived source of that nurturing he missed out on in childhood, and will do anything in his power to prevent such a loss. In this case domestic violence may be interpreted as a misplaced biologically programmed response.
There is at present a general lack of understanding of domestic violence and its broadly pathological origins, exemplified by the document in question. The flawed concept of romantic love introduced by Shakespeare and the Brothers Grimm is responsible to some extent for domestic violence, in that a person with a nurturing deficit hopes to have his (or her) deficit made up by another person other than his or her parent. The tragedy is that no adult is able to provide such nurturing, probably because a developmental window is involved, so it is always a false hope. Sex is not love, and is not the nurturing required. Clearly most romantic relationships are base on need (selfishness) rather than love (selflessness). The frequently heard complaint of “I don’t love you any more” is a reflection of such a situation, and indicates a lack of love in the first place.
Sutherland’s three so-called ‘deep causes’ of (i) inequality; (ii) gender roles, and (iii) cultural beliefs are not deep causes at all; rather they are structural. His conclusion that an enculturated (sic) sense of entitlement in men is primary, is similarly misleading.
Domestic violence is of course a multi-factorial problem that includes cultural beliefs; attitudes, and modelling; also genetics. But mere beliefs and attitudes do NOT provide an explanation for occasional displays of intense anger and out of control behaviour.
The ‘inconvenient truth’ of the proper explanation is provided above, so inconvenient that it seems very few want to admit to it: firstly, because it touches on everyone’s psychology; secondly, because it is yet another indication of a deeply flawed society, in which child abuse has been and remains a major problem (the World Heath Organisation definition of child abuse includes a lack of nurturing), and in which piecemeal solutions will not work. In our present society many minds are clearly so hidebound that exposure to truth probably gives them a form of cognitive dissonance.
Given that the nurturing of our children is frequently inadequate, responsibility in domestic violence is shared between offenders and their parents, primarily their mothers. This is of course politically incorrect, particularly for those with a ‘feminist’ ideology. Most know that girls are nurtured more than boys for cultural reasons, but it seems little known that boys are more sensitive than girls. This is a double whammy for boys: the insensitivity and brutality exemplified by ‘John Wayne’ is a consequent pathology.
As to remedies, of course we need to address structural factors. But we will only finally prevent domestic violence by admitting to essential causes and addressing the problem on this essential level. Prevention (proper nurturing of our children, with the necessary structural support) is better than cure (intensive psychotherapy for disaffected individuals). And the latter is doubly difficult in the current absence of individuals or institutions qualified (or rather approved) to do this.
As already mentioned most psychologists are not in practice so qualified, and most avoid the area of depth psychology for good reason: it is dangerous. Unqualified or inexperienced psychotherapists have in some cases been murdered by clients who were pushed too hard. In Greek mythology there was a cave out of which most Heroes emerged insane after entering it. Only one Hero emerged still sane, because his heart was pure (i.e., because he had little repressed material in his psyche). Inside the cave was a perfect mirror, which reflected an individual psyche in its entirety.
No-one can address all their issues all at once: even an adult mind probably cannot handle this. The only safe method is to address issues one at a time in sequence and in the order presented by one’s own unconscious (or super-conscious) mind. This is the method used in that Specialised Kinesiology which helped me, and in which I formally qualified.
Self-healing is not an overnight process, and it can last a lifetime. But no-one needs to be perfectly or completely healed. Where there is a (sincere) will there is a way, including for domestic violence. The primary method in my case was a so-called self-development Workshop, in which my ego-defences, including a deep distrust of others, were broken down by myself with the guidance and support of experienced others. Such Workshops are outside of and beyond mainstream psychology, as is Specialised Kinesiology. Both approaches require personal commitment and the exercise of personal courage.
Judging by the obvious benefits experienced in my case -and as I observed in other cases, such psychotherapeutic Workshops need to be established and supported at Government level, despite likely opposition from mainstream Psychology. In days or weeks they can replace years of psychoanalysis and superficial/ineffective CBT, leading to considerable cost savings in terms of reduced domestic violence -and reduced health care costs in general. Sutherland mentions a ‘very intense’ program for men in Bankstown with ‘great outcomes’ (page 10, para 4) but then fails to explain it: perhaps an avoidance strategy on his part.
Current opposition to alternative or complementary practices (such as those mentioned above) from individuals apparently with an investment of some kind in mainstream medicine is in my view a major factor mediating against overcoming the domestic violence problem, and needs to be replaced by the exercise of intellectual honesty.
David Collier B.Sc. Biology, B.Sc. Psychology, B.A. Sustainability, DCH, sometime M.IASK.
Biologist; Entomologist; Senior Science Administrator, and Psychotherapist (retired).
Postscript: I now wish no association with Thomas Merton after reading his autobiography. I found it not only verbose, but garrulous and narcissistic. His reputation as a mystic is evidently quite unjustified. Those who write such books as his are clearly not at peace with themselves.