Phyllis Beveridge Nissila
I am going to draw an analogy between how targets of abusers in relationships survive the abuse and how similar strategies can help targets of political abusers–i.e., individuals and groups I would define as those on the current far left who no longer engage with reason when it comes to certain topics, often shutting down attempts to even discuss the issues by the abuse tactics of censorship and/or violence.
In short and to the point: in each case of abuse there comes a point where reason ceases to work, where a different approach is needed if sanity is to resume and solutions are to be found, if only for the abuse target.
In each case, there comes a need to shift focus from thinking one can succeed with reconciliation and restoration strategies with those who resist reconciliation and restoration because they have another agenda, another goal, perhaps even what can be gained by causing and continuing emotional and/or violent crises that, as one observer noted recently, one should “never let…go to waste.”
In the political arena, it would seem to many that the far left is not really interested in bi-partisanship, in the rule of law to solve problems, or in the “goodness” that has made citizens of the United States “great,” as de Tocqueville observed. Rather, just as some abusers in relationships simply don’t want to stop their power ploys, or they may simply feel entitled, for some reason, to disrespect the other in the relationship by means of physical, mental, emotional, verbal, and/or spiritual abuse, the far left just wants trouble.
But rather than remain spinning in a frustrating quandary over that kind of destructive behavior in the political realm, perhaps there is another perspective, or two, from the relationship realm* that will not only stop the spinning (what I call the “crazy-g0-round”) but also enable the concerned to move forward beyond trying to reason with the opposition that seems to have dug its heels into a “my-way-or-none” mode.
To this end, I will expand the analogy by citing two strategies of defense and deliverance recommended for survivors of relationship abuse: “gray rock” and “N.C.” (No Contact), that I believe can help targets of political abuse.
ON GRAY ROCK (OR GRAY ROCKING)
Regarding the strategy called “gray rock” i.e., becoming as boring, dull, and minimally responsive as, well, a gray rock*, this strategy enables the target of abuse to hopefully tamp down some of the anger of the abuser until a more long-term solution can be achieved. Proverbs 26:19-21 offers a different but also illustrative analogy: “Without wood, a fire goes out; without gossip, a conflict ceases. Like charcoal for embers and wood for fire, so is a quarrelsome man (or woman or group, I would add) for kindling strife.…” (NIV).
In short: don’t kindle strife even in defense, which is human nature to want to do, and the strife will eventually sputter out and die down. And note: although the abuse target may be responding in the calmest, most reasonable manner he or she can (and this can be very hard), it may still (unwittingly) kindle the abuser’s anger because abusers may well interpret any response as an invitation to continue stirring strife.
Some relationship abuse survivors note that a simple, “Hmmmm, interesting,” response works to defuse rage, as well as others such as, “I’ll have to get back to you on that later,” and/or, simply, “Oh,”–if any response at all is offered (see below for a more comprehensive strategy: No Contact).
Neuroscientists might add the perspective that when we are in the “emotion” center of the brain (amygdala) where, for example, we process responses to the emotions ginned up by real or imagined fear (“fight, flee or freeze”–or rage), because such thinking is critical for survival it might temporarily override more complex critical thinking (centered in the cerebral cortex).
Thus, depending upon the abuser’s mental and emotional condition, he, she, or they, in the case of rioting political “protesters,” may not be able to respond very well, at the moment, to reason, let alone carefully thought-out discussion.
However, gray rocking, even if effective, may still be only a stopgap measure until the target of abuse can establish “No Contact” (N.C.) or “Low Contact” (L.C. if, in the case of marital abuse, there are child custody and visitation issues to resolve over time, or if the abuser is in the workplace where interaction may be required).
I invite you, then, if this concerns you (like it concerns me), to consider the following additional strategy to help by-pass the anger of the political far left when it becomes apparent that reason–even gray rocking–is failing, or, as Rahm Emmanuel implied, it’s the crisis the opposition really wants.
For if we devolve into anger ourselves in an attempt to diffuse anger, everybody loses–except, of course, the crisis mongers.
ON N.C. OR L.C.
Sometimes, however, one has to just walk away; stop contact (or continue as minimally as possible, as in L.C., defined above).
It will be hard to discern if/when this strategy is what is called for, of course. Many on the far left have become “woke,” as the new term meaning “aware” implies, to what has been happening, and are slowly coming around to a more reasonable evaluation of the political scene.
But if in an attempt or many attempts to broach the salient issues one is consistently met with name-calling, insults, false accusations, even violence, it’s time to go N.C. while discerning what else one might be able to do in general to counter the “crisis” at hand.
This may necessitate distancing oneself even from loved ones, or “going N.C.” in some cases, sadly, but it is a way to move on and to move forward in order to get back to civility, not to mention sanity, while working toward whatever one can do to solve the situation personally and/or as a citizen.
And, hopefully, there will be that ultimate reconciliation and restoration that one can always pray for, as well as praying for wisdom and discernment in one’s own daily analysis of all things in order to counter the also very human “blind sides”.
ON REMEMBERING OUR REAL “ENEMIES”–AND SOME ENCOURAGEMENT
In the meantime, for those battles that might well be sourced in our real enemies, the “principalities and powers” from Satan’s realm, here is an “antidote” and some encouragement:
Surely he will save you
from the fowler’s snare
and from the deadly pestilence.
4 He will cover you with his feathers,
and under his wings you will find refuge;
his faithfulness will be your shield and rampart.
5 You will not fear the terror of night,
nor the arrow that flies by day,
6 nor the pestilence that stalks in the darkness,
nor the plague that destroys at midday.
7 A thousand may fall at your side,
ten thousand at your right hand,
but it will not come near you.
8 You will only observe with your eyes
and see the punishment of the wicked.
9 If you say, “The Lord is my refuge,”
and you make the Most High your dwelling,
10 no harm will overtake you,
no disaster will come near your tent.
11 For he will command his angels concerning you
to guard you in all your ways;
12 they will lift you up in their hands,
so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.
13 You will tread on the lion and the cobra;
you will trample the great lion and the serpent.
14 “Because he[b] loves me,” says the Lord, “I will rescue him;
I will protect him, for he acknowledges my name.
15 He will call on me, and I will answer him;
I will be with him in trouble,
I will deliver him and honor him.
16 With long life I will satisfy him
and show him my salvation.”
(Psalm 91, NIV)
AND, here is a free, downloadable devotional booklet based on the verses in that psalm with real-life illustrations of how this can work.
*I offer a series of posts entitled, “Is it “The Silent Treatment” or Emotional Survival?” here, concerning how this abusive dynamic operates in partner/marital relationships. Those posts–and more, on related topics that include spiritual abuse–are featured on the page called “abuse“. The lists include submissions by other writers/researchers/counselors as well.
POST SCRIPT: the reader may also wish to read my series of posts on “The State of Political Rage” that also includes commentaries on related topics.