Interpersonal Edge: Stopping the cycle of abuse
Sunday, September 20, 2020

By Dr. Daneen Skube

Tribune Content Agency
 
Q: I've been watching the news on the Floyd demonstrations to protest the death of the African American man. I'm both heartbroken and afraid of what is happening. I don't see how more violence in words or behavior creates change. In your work inside companies what do you see that breaks the cycle of verbal or physical abuse between perpetrator and victim?
 
A: Few people disagree that what happened to Floyd is heartbreaking and wrong. Yet the problem remains how to break the cycle of abuse. Perpetrators hurt victims and then victims lash out at perceived potential perpetrators and so it continues. When I use the word "violence" in this column I mean our hateful words, our silence, and our physical actions. Breaking the cycle of abuse requires each of us to understand both the perpetrator and the victim. The cycle is the root of the problem.
 
Obviously just walking peacefully is not a problem. We know with these protests many of the worst behaved people in the crowd are not in fact protesting. Obviously as well attacking the police physically, or destroying property or raging verbally creates no change.
 
An uncomfortable reality is man's inhumanity to man is called...history. History shows us the bigger picture of how much damage we're capable of doing to each other. The truth is we're all capable of violently with word, deed, or silence acting out our own self-hatred on another. If we know this side of ourselves we have a chance to understand both the abuser and the abused.
 
Historically we can see we're making progress. Most today have the empathy to be outraged and heartbroken by Floyd's death. Most people agree that any life lost to hatred is too many. We can see that during the Middle Ages no one would have noticed nor protested.
 
If we only judge the policeman that killed Floyd without an awareness that we all have the potential to be violent we lose power to change society. Carl Jung, a famous psychologist, believed the survival of our species depended on each individual knowing his or her personal "shadow." The shadow is the part of us we reject and deny (like our violence). He felt if we don't know our shadow we project it on others and want to annihilate them.
 
Using Jung's thinking the policeman that killed Floyd projected his shadow on Floyd and protesters using violence are projecting their shadows on whoever they see as perpetrators and thus the cycle continues. Self-hatred is at the root of hatred of others. No one that loves him or herself can do violence to another.
 
We all have the capacity to harm or heal. The workplace provides an ideal place to examine our shadow. Violence comes in many forms. Our words and our behavior can be violent when we project our shadow on others. Hate is easier than love because to love means we're willing to see our own imperfections reflected in behavior we hate in others.
 
There's no one among us that has not been violent in word or deed when we project our negative qualities on others. Violence is never okay but perhaps an understanding of the origins of violence may someday stop the cycle of abuse. Few of us would kill another yet if we are honest we all know that kind of rage internally.
 
Our society is a powder keg right now desperately needing powerful social change. Income equality, racism, sexism, ageism, and other problems need real solutions. Violence may erupt as these birth pangs proceed. But, the more we are able to see the cycle between abuser and victim as a process that also exists in ourselves the more we can collaborate to be and get the change we want. Hate and violence create destruction at a time we urgently need to create solutions.
 
Daneen Skube, Ph.D., executive coach, trainer, therapist and speaker, also appears as the FOX Channel's "Workplace Guru.”. She's the author of "Interpersonal Edge: Breakthrough Tools for Talking to Anyone, Anywhere, About Anything" (Hay House, 2006). 
 
 

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