Guilt is always a self-imposed burden, but it is not always rightly imposed.
- R. A. Salvatore
As a Canadian I am reminded about a reputation Canadians have. We are the only culture in the world that apologizes when we haven't done anything wrong. For example, if two people accidentally bump into each other in a crowded supermarket aisle, each will apologize to the other.
This may not be guilt, but it comes from being a people who live in the shadow of a world giant. Better to apologize than to have the giant take offence and crush you because of a misunderstanding.
Guilt, to a social scientist or medical practitioner, is a great problem for many people. It has its worst effect on insecure, shy and quiet people, especially those who have been emotionally abused by another person in their past.
Abused people have trouble understanding what motivates an abuser because often they have not done anything that would seem to warrant the abuse. As a result they often blame themselves for offences, characteristics or natures which they imagine.
Self imposed guilt is difficult to shake, once it is revealed as wrong and misplaced to the abused, because it usually has become ingrained in the personality of the person who feels the guilt. Guilt becomes so embedded in their psyches that they feel they must have been "born wrong."
What most abused people fail to understand is that abusers are insecure themselves. However, they take a different route to dealing with their insecurity. Rather than be defensive, they take the offence.
As relatively few occasions arise in our daily adult lives when we do something wrong enough that warrants punishment, abusers will manufacture faults, mistakes and errors to blame their victims for. Since this doesn't make sense to the abused person, they assume that they must be defective or fundamentally wrong in some way. Thus they feel guilt.
Insecure people tend to find each other in remarkably little understood ways. The offensive insecure person can't get along with anyone for long, at least in an intimate relationship. Two defensive insecure people can find ways to form a lasting relationship. When a defensive insecure person links up with an offensive one, abuse or bullying are waiting to happen.
Very little makes a bully or an abuser shrink into a corner. They rarely exhibit their tactics other than to a defensive kind of insecure person. Then they may act contrite and apologetic, so much so that the abused peson may forgive the abuser (and usually not report the abuse to the police).
In my experience, the only strategy that makes an abuser back away from a victim is for the victim to tell the abuser or bully that he knows that the abuser is insecure, can't manage their problems and feels that he must take his frustrations and anxieties out on another (innocent) person. The shock of being revelaed as insecure usually makes the bully back away.
To a bully, being revealed publicly as being insecure marks them as social rejects. Though they want attention, public attention for their personality defects is not the kind they seek. They want to quietly show their power over another insecure person.
Bullies and abusers use their bullying as a way to feed the monster that their insecurites have become. They will not and cannot change until the monster dies. The monster dies only when the bully is revealed publicly as an insecure person, someone who can't cope with their personal problems.
The bully or abuser may accept remediation and help only after the monster within has been killed. Until then, the monster hides until the next good occasion arises.
Our society treats abused people and punishes bullies and abusers. We would do better to teach everyone, in childhood, that bullies and abusers are insecure and that they should tell this to a bully if they are bullied or abused. Then we need to treat the bullies so they have no need to exhibit their anxieties as abuse against others.
No one wants to be a bully, any more than anyone wants to be bullied or abused. If we want to end bullying and abuse, we must address the needs of potential bullies and those who have already offended. The unaddressed needs of bullies are known to psychologists, even though they are not well known to the general public.
Punishing bullies and abusers does no good. It merely postpones the problem, even though it may temporarily satisfy the general public that an abuser has been dealt "the punishment he deserves."
Prisons and detention chairs in principals' offices are, at the end of the day, nothing but places where we display our failures to satisfy the basic social and emotional needs of some people.
We say these people have fallen through the cracks. The cracks are widening, but we still do nothing about them. Except to build prisons underneath them.
Turning It Around: Causes and Cures for Today's Epidemic Social Problems, striving to put the difficult problems of life into perspective so they can be solved by every community.
Learn more at http://billallin.com