Couples fight on Facebook, notes today’s NY Times . Each person presents verbal artillery to wound the other. Instead of discussing conflicts and coming to some resolution, a public war ensues, each partner searching for allies and ultimately the more powerful position. It reminds me of young children who say: “He did it first.”
On Facebook, Mom doesn’t decide. Friends and acquaintances are enlisted to judge who is right and who is wrong. Is there another reason for the public battle? Is the intent to shame and hurt one another? Is the goal a form of public flogging?
This morning I met a friend who was concerned because her 13 year old daughter was being bullied by a girlfriend. Subtle but the message is the same. I have the power. you are the victim. If I have an audience, my power is intensified.
Scanning a lead article on the first page of the Times, an infinitely more lethal form of bullying, terrorism, grabbed my attention. Bullying among teenage girls is at one end of the continuum and terrorism is on the far opposite end. However both evolve from a form of communication based on power rather than on human connection. I will destroy you emotionally, physically, spiritually to demonstrate my power over you.
Does one lead to the other? Do parental bullies produce bullying children? Were the parents of terrorists more likely to use abuse or violence in childrearing or in treatment of spouses? Do parental bullies teach that might is right and power precedes compassion and empathy.
I thought about it often during the day mostly between client sessions. Then the mail arrived with my March/April Psychotherapy Networker, a well written psychotherapist’s magazine. On the last page, a psychologist wrote a piece about his father, whom he admired greatly. Examples were provided of how his father beat up folks who did not treat members of the family well. On the one hand it was protective but on the other hand, I felt some discomfort in my gut.
The terrorists think they are protecting their turf. The psychologist’s father was protecting his family. It’s still bullying. Sure self preservation is primal but this is not about self preservation, this is about power over others, the old victim/perpetrator dynamics.
All of these folks from the girl to the terrorist are engaging in victim/perpetrator dynamics.