Adult humiliation

Added: Woodley Michalik - Date: 05.07.2021 22:07 - Views: 26722 - Clicks: 2346

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Learn More. The author identifies acts of humiliation as a specific and often traumatic way of exercising power, with a set of consistently occurring elements and predictable consequences, including a loss of the ability to trust others. It is argued that these consequences are serious and long-lasting. The interplay between humiliation and shame after a humiliating act is discussed.

It is argued that the patient's recovery of the capacity to a relatively normal life is made more likely if the therapist acknowledges the specificity of humiliation, the impossibility of reversing a humiliating act and the importance of focussing on the consequences of humiliation.

In this article, I suggest that there is a need to see humiliation as an act which objectively takes place and which has a victim whose suffering is likely to be substantial and long-lasting. This perspective makes a distinction between humiliation and related concepts such as shame. I argue that psychotherapists risk pathologising individuals by overly concentrating on the patient's internal world and by treating humiliation and shame as though they were identical phenomena. Approaching this subject from a multi-disciplinary perspective involving history, literature, philosophy, sociology, anthropology as well as psychology and psychoanalysis, I wish to acknowledge that psychodynamic thinking has not been central to my study of humiliation and its consequences Leask, The readers of the journal are likely, therefore, to be experts in a field in which I am not.

However, my aim is to indicate that acts of humiliation, at whatever level or in whatever circumstances they occur, consistently contain the same elements and have similar consequences, even if the extent of suffering or the ability to reduce the impact of the act of humiliation will vary, in part because of the resilience built in by successful early relationships and in part because of strategies of resistance which themselves may owe much to such early relationships. I also suggest that recognising the specific nature of humiliation has implications for the relationship between the therapist and the patient.

It is not always easy to know from a patient's whether an act of humiliation has or has not taken place. In such situations, psychodynamic therapists would see their role adult humiliation only as adult humiliation with the external factors — the alleged acts of abuse and their effects — but also as seeking to understand the unconscious factors including the influence of early experiences which might themselves have involved humiliation that have led the patient to become repeatedly entangled in such relationships van der Kolk,p.

A full discussion of the gendered aspects of humiliation and their ificance is outside the remit of this paper. Readers will be aware that girls and women are disproportionately represented in cases of sexual abuse and domestic violence Herman,p. However, in many other circumstances, boys or men are the victims of humiliation.

He was immediately subjected to physical humiliation: he was brutally beaten by the police and then hung from a hook with his arms behind his back so that his ts came apart with excruciating pain as he was interrogated by the SS. The impact of this, he says many years later, remains with him and will always be something he has to live with; the act of humiliation happened and, along with the emotions and consequences flowing from it, cannot be made not to have happened.

The boundaries of my body are also the boundaries of my self. In common usage, humiliation appears to mean much the same as embarrassment or shame or ignominy. This reflects uncertainty over what humiliation is conceptually, whether it is an act, an emotion or perhaps both. An example such as this suggests that humiliation is an act that causes a change for the worse in the position of the victim and in the victim's feelings about himself and his relationship to the world.

Since power is central to humiliation, the victim of an act of humiliation can be described not as feeling but as being humiliated, as the victim of an act of power. Humiliation is something actively done by one person to another, even if through institutions or directed in principle at groups. It is a demonstration of the capacity to adult humiliation power unjustly with apparent impunity. The adult humiliation I shall use here is that humiliation is a demonstrative exercise of power against one or more persons, which consistently involves a of elements: stripping of status; rejection or adult humiliation unpredictability or arbitrariness; and a personal sense of injustice matched by the lack of any remedy for the injustice suffered.

Such a definition makes it easier to identify when humiliation has taken place, to understand the feelings that result from humiliation and to distinguish humiliation from shame. Humiliation le to a strong sense that one has been wronged, while shame involves a sense that one has done wrong and diminished oneself in one's own eyes or in the eyes of others. What is overtly if not always consciously demonstrated in an act of humiliation is the inequality between the person with the power and the person without it. This exercise of power consistently involves rejection or exclusion, from a family, from a society for refugees, for instancefrom a world where trust had a meaning.

Although it is not always immediately apparent, at least to the outsider, the rejection or exclusion involved in humiliation is absolute, whatever comes after.

The act of humiliation has happened and, along with the emotions and consequences flowing from it, cannot be made not to have happened. Absurdly, it demands that the irreversible be turned around, that the event be undone. It can be argued that a single act of humiliation in an exceptional context, such as an attack in a foreign country, does not provoke a continuing sense of exclusion or rejection. The victim returns home to somewhere safe, to trusting relationships, and adult humiliation no longer threatened by the humiliator.

The same pattern can be seen in cases of child sexual abuse by the Catholic Church.

During this period, he felt excluded within the school from any kind of ordinary life, and outside the school from what he saw as ordinary families with happy children. To save himself from the worst of the physical adult humiliation, he had to accept the protection of two parental figures who seemed genuinely fond of him but who were his sexual abusers. His story as he grew up involved a suicide attempt, further rejection and discrimination after leaving the school, the refusal of most authority figures to believe his of his abuse, time in prison, profound suspicion of the motives of people who were kind to him, and eventual rescue by the woman who became his wife.

For Michael Clemenger, even rediscovering the family he thought he should be part adult humiliation was an unsuccessful attempt to be included again, to overcome the original rejection that caused him to be raised in church institutions. For children abused within the family, there can similarly be no return to a past where they want to be, belonging at the heart of the family, able to love and trust unconditionally Goodyear-Brown,p. Wayne Koestenbaumin a deliberately fragmented essay, provides in the last s one long example of humiliation and dedicates his book to its victim pp.

In a queue at an airport, Koestenbaum recounts, a man kicks his daughter in the buttocks. She is enraged and bursts into tears, but also looks remorsefully at her father, whose expression remains cold.

Koestenbaum, the observer, wants to console the daughter, but feels, against his better judgment. Humiliation almost always happens unexpectedly, even if the victim has been living in fear of it.

It involves a breach of law, norms or values that both the humiliator and the victim believed were binding. The parent sexually abusing is doing something the child, even in his confusion, senses is in conflict with all that he has been brought up to believe about what is right and to be expected from a parent.

Michael Clemenger was abused by people who hypocritically railed against the very acts they were committing. Unpredictability reinforces the power of the humiliator and inculcates a fear of humiliation which is powerful in itself. In the examples quoted above, all the victims were vulnerable to arbitrary or unpredictable acts by those in power. Can humiliation be refused or rejected by the intended victim? Because of the power relations involved, this appears unlikely. A partial exception arises when people are engaged in resistance activities which demonstrate that they do not accept or share the norms and values of those in power.

Communists in Nazi Germany believed they might be killed for their attempts to resist the Nazis, but not that they could be humiliated. Jehovah's Witnesses imprisoned in the German Democratic Republic GDR displayed an extraordinary capacity for resistance while waiting for a better life after this one Kabelitz, —p. In such cases, resisters see their punishment and exclusion as predictable consequences of the power struggle they are involved in.

They see themselves as temporarily defeated, not as victims of humiliation. Herman lists the actions that perpetrators use to humiliate a victim and suggests that the consequences of such actions can include PTSD or complex PTSD p. Where resistance as a way of staving off humiliation is successful, the struggle to resist may in itself be traumatic. However, such resistance might also reduce the incidence of PTSD.

It showed up in the study as the strongest predictor of the severity of subsequent PTSD symptoms. ificantly, the study suggests that resistance based on political commitment and understanding le to a better long-term outcome in relation to the impact of potentially traumatic events and the likelihood of depression. This provides little solace, however, to the vulnerable individual victim adult humiliation humiliation, particularly in a family or in other settings where those in authority misuse their power.

Here, any desire to resist is compromised by the huge imbalance adult humiliation power, physically, emotionally and socially, and the ambivalent attitude of the child towards the parental figure Philpot,pp. Humiliation, except in trivial cases that we tend to shrug off, can have a life-changing effect on the victim, as the examples above suggest. Another well-known example arises from the brutal humiliation of Rodney King, a black man, by four white police officers in Los Angeles in The initial acquittal of the officers, widely interpreted as an indication that the state and the society condoned the humiliation, led directly to riots in which over 50 people died.

There is every indication that King's problematic childhood had left him poorly equipped to deal with the attack on him and its aftermath. King's own view was that time heals and that he had finally found peace. Six weeks later, King drowned, apparently accidentally, in his swimming pool, while heavily intoxicated by alcohol and a variety of drugs. A sense of invasion of the sort King experienced, of personal boundaries illegitimately crossed and of the self being diminished as a result, is central to the personally destructive power of humiliation.

Ripstein says adult humiliation the response of the state through the legal system is important, something that is relevant to the King case as adult humiliation as to the examples of child abuse. Of course, that is the explicit intention when the state itself deliberately engages in humiliation, as in Nazi Germany.

Any act of humiliation may be experienced as traumatic but, as is reflected in the psychoanalytic discussion of trauma, different influences and background experiences, particularly early relationships and the ways in which these have been internalised, influence how individuals react when they become the victims of traumatic humiliation Baron-Cohen,pp.

Personal s of humiliation suggest that the victim tends to pass through different sets of responses, from a sense of bewildered helplessness to rage and from there to revolt, resistance or submission, which may also involve despair and self-destruction. The first stage frequently involves surprise and shock at what has happened, dismay and disorientation because of the rejection or exclusion involved, grief at the loss sustained and bewilderment at the injustice suffered.

How is to make sense of an abusive parent, a woman to come to terms with the realisation that a loving husband can be mercilessly violent towards her? The next stage is likely to involve rage and a desire to lash out and seek revenge.

For the victim of humiliation, the sense of injustice is a adult humiliation cause of rage. Hitler's use of the perceived humiliation of Germans resulting from the Versailles Treaty is an obvious example. Anger, hate and violence are psychologically damaging to the victims of humiliation, and a cycle of humiliation and retaliation may be set up, leading to yet further suffering and destruction.

This applies not just at the level of national and international politics; as is often noted, it is not uncommon for victims of child abuse to become abusers themselves in later life Bentovim et al. The anger resulting from humiliation might also be matched by a realistic sense of powerlessness.

Responses to this include strategies of avoidance: looking away from reality; self-deception over what has happened; and refusing to face up to the new, reduced circumstances Philpot,p. The victim may become indifferent to the fate of others around him, or actively cruel, since this restores some sense of power to him. Despite the differences between adult humiliation, there is often an interplay between humiliation, shame and guilt, which is important to note when considering the consequences of humiliation.

The avoiding action taken by people fearing humiliation can lead to them doing things they accept, internally, are wrong, for which they feel shame: ing in with the humiliation of others, for instance. Resorting to a sense of shame is also a way of seeking to control what is uncontrollable by admitting or claiming one's part in it: the victim blames himself for doing wrong, not the person who has wronged him.

Similarly, feelings of guilt imply an acceptance of an external authority with agreed rules, such as a parental figure; since the rules have been broken, the victim accepts that the authority is entitled to punish him. Feeling guilt like feeling shame in response to humiliation is a way of trying to make sense of the inexplicable, of trying to impose a pattern on what otherwise appears as random, arbitrary behaviour.

This is particularly common in childhood. It is safer, psychologically, for to see himself as a bad child, rather than as with bad parents. In doing so, he is able to cling to a sense of basic fairness and to avoid admitting the injustice of the humiliating acts. Blaming himself at least provides an explanation for what has happened Philpot,p. As it also excuses the humiliator, it is in the interest of the humiliator to develop a sense of guilt or shame or both in the victim Smith,p.

The sense of powerlessness among victims of humiliation can lead to paranoia, despair or depression. One response to this involves closing off from the world physically and psychologically while metaphorically creating a hard skin or shell to control what is allowed in or out Bick, ; Turp, When none of the coping strategies proves effective and the reality of the victim's position overwhelms him, he may reach the adult humiliation of personal fragmentation and disintegration, with severe difficulties in day-to-day functioning at either an individual or a social level.

This was the position reached by Michael Clemenger and Rodney King even after each of them thought he had successfully let go of the effects of his humiliation. Inevitably, in the course of their work, therapists will find themselves face to face with the personal consequences that arise from living with the contradictory feelings, experiences and defences resulting from humiliation.

The therapist's reading of the situation is likely to have profound implications for his or her practice. Just as professional intervention in cases of child abuse involves ensuring the child is safely out of reach of the abuser — the humiliator — so the therapist will, at the very least, seek to provide a safe space in the consulting room for the humiliated adult patient.

However, he or she may also be faced with the knowledge that the patient is still under the control of the humiliator and that the humiliation may be continuing.

Adult humiliation

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