February 22, 2012

The Man and The Reptile...

There's a fragile edge between safety and sorrow...

This blog post was spurred by recent stories in the media about alleged child abuse on young boys by their scout leader, and the subsequent organizational denial and coverups that are now coming to light.

We want to believe that our parents, our caregivers, and the adults and guardians who look after us can each be trusted; that our young children, who are among the most vulnerable and impressionable members of our society, will be safe in their care.

When reflecting on news of a murderer, a rapist, or a child molester, people often remark that the person must be some sort of monster - inhuman. Perhaps (and I do want to believe this), most people are good, caring beings who are rightly shocked by such inconceivable acts of violence - acts which they themselves are certain they could never take. The perpetrator of those shocking acts becomes seen as or cast in the role of "the other" - someone who is alien and socially cast out from the majority of society.

Our reptilian brain core, that oldest part of our brains that drives us, below reason and morality, below concepts of compassion, empathy or duty. Perhaps it is what drives us to strike for self-preservation before thinking of the other, to attack first for the sake of survival, to fight or to flee, or to kill or be killed.

The reptilian brain is supported by the old mammalian brain, which is the ancient seat of our parenting and herding instincts - the need to live in a social group, for mutual protection, nurturing, and support. Reptiles don't stick around to care for their young, we might say to ourselves with pride or satisfaction. Mammals do.

Yet in cases where human beings do violence to their children, or commit psychological or physical or sexual abuse, the so-called highest, most-evolved aspects of the mind are brought into play to serve the abuser: complex rationale, imagination, pride, logical argument or denial are all brought into service to deflect or minimize personal responsibility, to try to justify a bad act, or to control or subjugate others.

This is where self-denial, lies, deceit, and delusions are built: family politics, internal group power structures, and misplaced loyalties and shame are formed here.

Internal family roles are defined through repetitive role play. The notion of "father" lives here as the authority figure: strong, stable, benevolent, or threatening, violent, and physical. The notion of "mother" as protector, confidant, or passive, depressed, non-communicative or non-existent. Young children learn what kinds of people parents are supposed to be from what they see in the world around them. They learn what their parents actually are from everything that happens at home. Those are just my personal archetypes...

The person who protects his daughter from danger and takes care of her when she is sick, who takes her to dance or music lessons and encourages her - that person is a man, a father and a caregiver.

The person who sexually abuses his daughter and makes her keep it their little secret, even after he's long dead, that person is subhuman - a reptile.

What does the daughter do when the man and the reptile are the same person?

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