This week we have a guest blogger! I'm thrilled to give you this article from Dave DuBay, who provides us a guy perspective on the true secret behind authentic masculinity.
Hannibal Lecter is an iconic movie villain. He’s sophisticated and refined. His education, eloquence, and etiquette reflect the trappings of civilization. Well, except for the cannibalism part. So no one would call Hannibal Lecter a civilized man.
On the other hand, Hagrid—the half giant from the Harry Potter book and movie series—is not refined. He looks like a caveman. But he is a friend to children and magical creatures. So people might disagree on whether he’s a civilized man.
Which movie icon, though, would you want to hang out with?
What does it mean to be civilized? No one would claim that “boys will be boys” promotes civilized behavior—quite the opposite. Related to this is the concern about “toxic masculinity” and the proposed solution of redefining masculinity.
But what does redefined masculinity look like? We often hear words like vulnerable, nurturing, and empathic bandied about. Certainly these are positive traits. But another cultural stereotype is the insipid “nice guy” who, seeming to have lost his élan, listlessly wanders through life.
Physical violence should be clear-cut, shouldn’t it? If you’re being punched, kicked, strangled, threatened with a weapon, or enduring any other sort of bodily harm, you’re being physically abused. If you’re body isn’t battered, then you’re not being physically abused. Right?
Well, not exactly.
I call this psychological physical violence (PPV).
Many manipulative personalities use the tactic of PPV to forcefully coerce a partner into submission. This type of intimidation can take the form of damaging property by punching holes in walls, breaking furniture, or throwing items across the room so they dramatically smash to pieces. An abuser may purposely destroy electronics, precious ornaments, photographs, or other items of emotional value, or attack pets. Picking locks to get at their target is another common tactic, as is violently slamming doors, especially when it causes the door or doorframe to crack and splinter.
You'll be surprised at the answer ...
The manipulative techniques of domestic abusers have been well documented not only by psychologists, advocates, and researchers, but by countless survivors. In articles, books, studies, videos and more, the same patterns keep popping up again and again in discussions about domestic violence. Isolation, threats, gaslighting, crazy-making, degrading remarks, and the occasional indulgences are all familiar tactics to keep a victim in a state of foggy, self-doubting, trauma-bonded confusion.
But what does this have to do with Chinese Communists?
Albert D. Biderman was a veteran who, after the WWII ended, worked as a research social psychologist for the U. S. Air Force. He specialized in studying American POWs during the Korean War, and in 1956 he delivered a crucial document to the Air Research and Development Command at Maxwell AFB in Alabama.
In his article, “Communist Attempts to Elicit False Confessions From Air Force Prisoners of War,” Biderman describes the tactics Chinese Communists used after the Korean War to coerce, confuse, and psychologically torture their America POWs.
As I was reading the article I felt a sudden, deep dread of understanding. The tactics the Chinese Communists developed are eerily similar to those of the domestic abuser. And the responses of the POWs mirror the responses of victims of intimate partner violence.
Loneliness is all-encompassing, creeping from our hearts to our souls and enveloping everything in between. It can often be felt deep within the body in a physical way, as a heaviness in the chest or an ache in the gut. It reaches to all parts of a person and leaves us bereft, restless, and joyless. Loneliness is soul-wrenching, because God made us social creatures designed to share our lives and loves, hurts and sorrows. Even Adam, living in the glory of paradise, cried out to God to give him a companion of the soul.
Even worse than the ache of general loneliness is being lonely when not physically alone. By its very nature, an abusively toxic relationship doesn’t allow for true tenderness, mutual self-giving, or “the intimate community of life and love which constitutes the married state” (CCC 1603). The CCC further says that marriage “is by its nature ordered toward the good of the spouses” (CCC 1601), yet when one spouse emotionally, physically, psychologically, or verbally batters the other, they’re certainly not concerned with the good of their partner. They’re focused only on what they perceive to be the good of themselves.
Such toxic treatment results in emotional stagnation and alienation. When we have to walk on eggshells, creep around the house in order to avoid triggering Mr. Hyde, and watch our every word and action to be sure we’re avoiding anything that might set off the explosion of abusive anger, getting close on an emotional level is the last thing on our minds. We can’t. It’s too dangerous. It would be like getting too close to a striking cobra. Why would anyone want to do that?
“The most terrible poverty is loneliness, and the feeling of being unloved.”
( St. Teresa of Calcutta)
Marital loneliness is one of the worst kinds of anguish. To be bereft of love, friendship, and companionship while involved in an intimate relationship is bewildering and crazy-making, to say the least. On top of it all, self-blame is a huge and corrosive issue within lonely, abusive marriages. We can’t make sense of why Prince Charming so often turns into the Big Bad Wolf, ready to do anything to ensnare his target. When we’re told we’re the problem and we’re to blame, we tend to accept the accusations as truth because we love and trust the person who has promised to love and trust us. What we all need to realize is that if he’s abusive, nothing he says can be trusted, because he’s not to be trusted.
Anyone who uses abuse as a way to control and manipulate others is not to be trusted.
Yet all this—the self-blame, the confusion as to why he claims he’s not at fault, the criticisms mixed with the times of loving compliments and seeming support, the lack of emotional availability, his voice claiming “I love you” while his actions say “I really think you’re a piece of shite” (and sometimes being told that outright), the controlling possessiveness and jealousy, the unfair and unjust accusations of wrongdoing, negative intent, and infidelity … all of this swirls and combines within until we’re left with a searing hollowness we can’t define.
I'm Jenny duBay, a domestic abuse survivor and now advocate. My degree is in Christian theology with a concentration on spiritual direction, and my vocational emphasis is on helping those who have suffered from domestic abuse to heal and reclaim their true selves.