Sunday, February 12, 2017

Cognitive Dissonance and Denial

Anna blogs over at God's Bastard. And we have some good conversations. There's a whole side to self-defense that doesn't lend itself to soundbites and simple solutions. What are the options in a violent relationship when the victim is economically dependent on the abuser? What about when the entire social support network is shared between the abuser and victim?

And there are other subjects that dance on the edge of deep buttons: How often is domestic violence a one-way street? What about cultures that have wildly different ideas about consent?

One came up recently. One of the common reactions to an accusation of abuse is denial and normalization. A child accuses an uncle of molestation or rape and suddenly mom and dad, the fierce protectors start saying, "Oh, I'm sure that couldn't have happened. Uncle Fester would never do anything like that. Little Kelly must be exaggerating again."

On top of the act of violence, the victim has to deal with the betrayal of a social network that pulls away. Protectors who deny, essentially calling the victim a liar, add to the damage.

I get why professionals doubt. We have due process and "innocent until proven guilty" for very good reasons. But Anna asked why so many victims in families are left out in the cold. Denied.

My take? People are stupid and talk a lot of shit. But only in the abstract. They are loud-mouthed in their machismo and silent in their cowardice. So the person who has watched innumerable news reports about child molesters and always said, "If anyone did that to my kid, I'd kill 'em." Well, that person now has to put up or shut up. Faced with the actual prospect of doing what they said they would do and the sure and certain knowledge that they'd go to prison for actually doing it, they become silent cowards.

But they can't bear to think of themselves that way. They can't be cowards. The event must not have happened. Because if it did happen, they definitely would kill that somabitch.  And they aren't killing, and they refuse to recognize their cowardice. To prevent cognitive dissonance, they are left with denial.

It comes up too, in personal self-defense. A lot of critical decisions, actually. Draw your lines. Know your go buttons. But think of them all in terms of the consequences as well. Promising to avenge your daughter may satisfy your indignation, but promising to go to prison for her is the reality. Is it worth it? If not, keep your mouth shut.

Have a plan. Know where your lines are. Know what you will do when they are crossed. Know the price you may have to pay (on every level: social, legal, emotional, medical...) And keep your mouth shut. If you hit the line and can't find the guts to execute your plan, at least you won't be outed as the liar and coward you are. And if you do hit the line and execute the plan, well, words are discoverable and can come up in court. They can also give a heads-up to the target. Either way, silence serves you better.

And last point-- If you have been outed as a liar and coward (like all the people who said they'd leave the country if the election went a certain way) don't deny it. Resolve the dissonance. You might learn something.


3 comments:

Michelle said...

I've missed reading your posts, so glad you are back at it.

God's Bastard said...

"People are stupid and talk a lot of shit. But only in the abstract. They are loud-mouthed in their machismo and silent in their cowardice."
May be one of my favourite quotes of yours yet.

Josh K. said...

:-)