Jonathan Hart

3 Kinds of Abuse

3 Kinds of Abuse

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by: Jonathan Hart, LPC

There are many kinds of power, and anywhere there is power, there is the potential to abuse it.  Not all people who abuse power are abusers.  It is possible to be abusive without abuse defining one’s character.  Many instances of abused power are either Situational or Contextual rather than Characterological.

“Situational” abusiveness occurs when “we” are having an argument and it escalates.  We both “lose control” and cross lines in the heat of a moment.  We still need to apologize and take responsibility for our actions across lines, but this is not *characteristic* of who either one of us is at our core, even if it happens “all the time”.  What we do and say in these moments is not something we enjoy or approve of.

What I’m calling “Contextual” abusiveness generally occurs in places where one or the other of us does not fully recognize how much power we have in our context, that is, in the culture that we come from. We don’t recognize how our own culture interacts with the culture of another.  We don’t have a frame of reference to understand just how much power we have even walking into a room when people unlike ourselves are there.  We trample people underfoot or insult them without recognizing what we’re doing.

This is the most common kind of power struggle that shows up in relationships (in my experience).  It shows up even when the relationship is not racially or culturally mixed.  We all have a family culture that is often more powerful than we understand.  We have a set of “normals”: expectations that come from our customary experience and which we often simply take for granted.  These are almost invariably different from the person with whom we are in relationship, because they have a different family.

Normally, this leads to all manner of conflict and argument in a couple’s relationship.  People in healthy relationships learn how to adapt to these differences and continue to function.  Many folks – even those in healthy relationships – need help in recognizing each person’s blind spots and learning how to value or at least account for the other person’s family culture.

Oppression or “Characterological abusiveness” in relationship happens when I treat my “normal” as the only “right” way to operate and refuse to take the other person’s different “normal” into account. It happens when I attempt to coerce (force, deceive, confuse) the other into my way of being and operating as the only acceptable mode.   It happens when I know what kind of power I have and I knowingly and deliberately misuse that power to gain victory or control over another person. The thing that separates this from Contextual is a lack of willingness or ability to bend and learn.

My aim with this post is to help the reader develop language and understanding around the pain they are experiencing in relationship, to be able to seek the help they need more accurately, and by finding that help, to connect with hope in what often seems to be an overwhelmingly hopeless situation.  –JH

Redeeming the Look: Retraining the Eyes of Porn Users

Redeeming the Look: Retraining the Eyes of PornPorn Users Users

by: Jonathan Hart, LPC

In the previous blog of this series, “Training In Use: The Pernicious Effect of Sexualization and Pornography”,I explored the reality of objectification and the way that a person’s eyes and mind are trained (particularly by porn) to use another person’s body parts.  This blog will look at ways of breaking that habitual pattern.

When a person recognizes the need to stop using porn and to stop using others in his or her mind, many find themselves stuck.  They don’t want to do this anymore but feel that they can’t stop looking.  It is certainly true that we cannot stop seeing.  As I mentioned in that previous blog, sexualization is everywhere.  The likelihood that an image specifically designed to activate our gaze and desire will enter our field of view is 100%, whether that image is an ad on a billboard or a person wearing an attractive outfit.

Please note:  I am not saying that a person wearing an attractive outfit is “asking” to be used in a sexual way.  The reason anyone wears an attractive outfit is to attract attention, that is, to activate gaze and desire on some level.  We simply want to look good to others.  There is nothing wrong with this in a healthy context.  It is the training of porn and commercial objectification that turns healthy attraction into unhealthy sexualized desire and use.

The one who realizes that they need to stop using others sexually has to learn how to stop using people with their eyes and mind.  One popular solution that is prevalent at the moment is the idea of averting your gaze. The idea is that when you find yourself looking, you yank your eyes away from the triggering image or body.  This is aimed at working against the reflexive look by removing your gaze before you shift into using or objectifying the body.

This is a needful step, much like the alcoholic staying away from bars.  However, this cannot be the only step, because there is no way to stop seeing.  Ultimately, the work for the ones who use people with their eyes is not to change what is seen, but how it is seen.  The work is to learn how not to use.

I call this “Redeeming the Look”.

People who use must learn how to see attractive people without using them in their heart and mind, to see with respect and regard for dignity.  Ultimately, the goal is to be able to see a whole person with a story, a life, with dreams and desires, rather than to focus on and use only their body parts.

We have to confront the reality of sexualized use in porn specifically.  We have to see it for what it is.  The truth is that a significant percentage of people in pornographic images do not want to be there.  This is contrary to the illusion presented by pornography.  Many have been kidnapped, involuntarily addicted to drugs, and forced to perform for the cameras.  If you think about a person in this situation, it changes how one looks at the image.  It activates compassion and sorrow rather than lust and use.  It changes our willingness to engage in the use.

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Many people in porn are there voluntarily.  Some are there just to make money.  What about them?  I ask you to consider what it takes to get a person to set themselves up for public display and use in this fashion?  Who told them that their value or power was only in their body, that their parts are the only thing about them that matter?  I suggest that this never comes from a healthy, balanced life or self-image.

Again, confronting this reality changes how we see the person.  When we consider the whole person, their whole story and life, our willingness to use is reduced and our compassion is activated.  (For more on this, I recommend visiting https://fightthenewdrug.org/for a wealth of solid information and awareness about the pervasive effects of porn.)

There is more to challenging and changing the mental and emotional components and behaviors of those trained by porn and commercial sexualization, certainly more than a blog can contain.  This is a look at the basic principles that can begin the process.  If you are looking for to change, don’t try to do this yourself.  It doesn’t work that way.   Reach out to a professional who is experienced in treating sexual addiction. Get the help of your family and friends. Community is essential.  Change is possible.–JEH