Violence: why is it a “problem”?
The status of “problem” is generally attributed to violence because of the negative effects it produces for victims as well as for those close to them. We have only been able to put mechanisms in place to counter and prevent violence ever since we have been able to learn about the psychological consequences on those exposed to it as well as about the mechanisms of its generational transmission. Tolerance towards violence is not the same for everyone: personal history, life experiences, models, values and beliefs influence each one’s perception. However, even though violence may seem to be an effective means to an end, human history demonstrates that it is rarely a long-term solution; given the “human cost” it gives rise to.
The issue of “responsibility”
Several years ago, a bulletin board about safe driving read: “it is the other one’s fault!” True or not, whenever something frustrating or serious occurs, individuals spontaneously tend to attribute responsibility to an external source. It is easier to place the blame on others or on circumstance, than to recognize one’s shortcomings. To question oneself, assume responsibility for one’s actions and words and to take it upon oneself to repair the damages one has caused, is a process often perceived as too difficult to undertake. To openly admit a mistake could entail being blamed or judged by the one who was wronged; a risk one would not want to take. Admitting one’s fault could also imply losing one’s self value. Finally, the history of the relationship, the history of conflict in the relationship and the manner in which these conflicts were or were not resolved, leave marks, which make it such that the other is inevitably perceived as having part of the responsibility. One could end up resenting the other when he feels unfairly treated. As such, one could easily legitimize the recourse of using abusive words and actions.
The Consequences of Violence
No matter what form of violence one uses (physical, psychological, or verbal, among others…) it always leads to negative consequences for the victim.
- The fear of having witnessed the situation repeating itself will alert oneself to seek for self-protection. As a consequence, the individual may take a distance from the person who has used violence. This distance can be physical or emotional.
- The anger expressed by the one exposed to violence, is often a normal response, which expresses a refusal to be unfairly treated as well as a demand to be respected.
- Violence undermines one’s self esteem and self confidence and could even bring the victim to believe that he/she deserves to be abused.
Since violence gives rise to feelings of pain, fear, guilt, shame, or revolt, it always undermines relationships between people. This is especially true when it involves relationships with loved ones.
Violence and intimacy
The issue of behaving violently towards the person one cares about the most could seem contradictory. It rests upon complex mechanisms:
- The fear of losing someone important could, for example, generate violent behavior. This defense mechanism manifests itself in order to respond to fears and to end threats, even if these apprehensions are not based in reality.
- The context of intimacy, in itself, could constitute a threat for each member of the couple, especially when the close proximity with the other brings one to reveal aspects of themselves that may not reflect a good image. In a reactionary defensiveness, one can refuse to emotionally approach the other and as the other makes a move to get closer, this is perceived as a threat, which is responded to with violence.
- Feelings of jealousy and an unhealthy possessiveness could be generated by a lack of confidence in one’s self, which could bring them to doubt his partner’s love for them. This inner insecurity and its consequences end up victimizing the other’s freedom and paradoxically distance her/him from the jealous individual.
- Violence can also arise from the impression one may have that the other is not taking care of them as they are supposed to.
- Some men can take on a dominating role in relation to their partner as a result of cultural or religious conviction. This occurs as a result of a reproduction of a dysfunctional paternal model or due to one’s avoidance of finding himself in an inverse position of submission and vulnerability.
Whatever the goal, the use of violence and control only ends up distancing the other as well as nourishing in them distrust and suspicion which ultimately destroys the relationship. The bottom line is that one ends up obtaining the opposite of what was initially sought when using violence.