Thursday, 17 November 2011

Indifference is psychological violence in disguise

The title may appear to be weird. After all most people talk about indifference to violence not that indifference itself can be a violence. What do I mean by this obscure and somewhat cryptic title? It is not an enormous discovery but still quite some I think. I have been pondering for a while on this topic but never had enough of time or an inspiration to write about it.

Eva Pierakos some time ago wrote an excellent chapter in one of her book - the pathworks, in which she wrote that numbness of a person to another person in close relations is a form of cruelty in disguise. Numbness is a mechanism that people and especially children use to overcome pain and suffering. The way this mechanism works is that by numbing oneself, one protects oneself from pain and suffering. Unfortunately, numbing negative emotions automatically means one is numbing positive emotions as well. What is mentioned in the chapter is the fact that numbing is used when suffering and distress is caused by events from the outer world, world on which our control over events is seriously limited. Eva mentions that being numb is a form of a concept of evil, it is a strong statement indeed. In addition, Eva Pierakkos mentions that if we believe in God - we can devote the control to God and accept the status quo, and many events, which we cannot control - even though at times it may be painful and hard. This is a summary from the chapter.

What I have observed on top of that is something more subtle, a bit harder to see at first glance. If numbness is a form of protection from the outer world with many unpredictable events - in close relations is often used as well. This is especially the case when we have been let down, have suffered, have been seriously disappointed or even when we want to be careful so to speak. Numbness can lead to a psychological violence in disguise. It is a type of a very subtle passive-aggressive behaviour. Needless to say the consequences of this violence cannot be felt as easily as physical violence and one needs to be somehow sensitive to feel it. One could argue that in extreme cases one perhaps can be too sensitive but it is hard to explain it to someone who has suffered by violence caused by numbness and coldness. That type of violence is hidden and in disguise and somewhat difficult to notice. Depending on the strength of connection and the nature of a relation - the suffering caused by this type of violence can have dramatic effects on person’s health and can lead to victimisation and symptoms of psychological victimisation that in turn lowers one’s confidence and can have serious psychological side effects.

It means that one doesn’t have to kick, punch or hurt in any other physical way but pain can be inflicted on purpose or without it by being numb, distant and cold to somebody close or to put it a little bit drastically - by ignoring them. Ignoring is a bit extreme but happens sometimes as well. The more sensitive the person the more coldness can be felt.

You may have heard a numerous cases of family violence, serious violence, but would you ever believe somebody - if they said that they felt distressed and upset because someone was very cold and numb to them? Probably not, if somebody wanted to divorce over such an issue - a judge in the court could question motives of such person. At first glance it is an absurd claim Indeed, if we compare it to very drastic family violence cases - when an offender uses psychical force - then it appears as coldness and numbess as a form of aggression is a joke but over time - actually it can be felt pretty intensively.

The notion of violence caused by numbness becomes more tragic once one understands that as in case of all violences in the society - one can demand not to be mistreated and should indeed show that this behaviour is not to be accepted - with numbness type of violence - one cannot demand on offender to stop being cold. It simply doesn’t work in this way. You cannot ask for another person to be warmer, you can flag they have this problem and offer help but you cannot ask for them to change for you. This is especially true in very close relations - relationships - this is because we cannot beg and ask for affection and warmth. It is like almost when we do that - this is a perfect way not to get it. The more we ask the lesser affection and warmth we may get.

Eva Pierakkos - the concept of evil -

Blog post - dedicated to Eva Pierakkos (1925 - 1979) - for her excellent book - the pathworks.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I fully agree that showing indifference can be very harmful especially in close relations, in which your heart is somehow at the mercy of another person. It can be indeed cruel.

What I'd like to add is a small remark on this topic. I have noticed that in some cases there could be misunderstandings. Not everything which you perceive as sign of passive aggression is meant as such. People have so many ways of expressing themselves and behaving that often we misinterpret them. I have experienced it many times that I felt somebody was indifferent towards me or gave me a cold shoulder. But in fact I was totally wrong. It took me a lot of time to realize that it wasn;t indifference on purpose but just different way of communication. You can say: does it make any difference? After all you feel the same: rejected, hurt and snubbed. That's true.

However, if you know that someone is cold to you neither deliberately nor because they're malicious but only because they have another way of expressing care - then it brings a kind of relief.
The question remains if in such cases it is still a kind of violence or just a psychological mismatch.