Why do people, organizations, and nations gravitate towards brutes?
Part of Whole Human Development involves examining the factors which cause abuse so that we might be better people and reduce the root causes of abuse.
Is your boss a jerk? In general do you observe people in positions of power who are kind and emphatic? Or, do you observe more demeaning and inconsiderate behaviors in management? What is behind the promotion of abuse? Do “nice guys finish last”? Do we secretly prefer the dominion of boars or did they beat their way to the top?
In reviewing the research of Robert W. Firestone, Jane McGonigal, Nassim Taleb, Martin Kihn, and Matthew Blakeway, we have found 10 motivations which can compel people to stay in abusive relationships, elevate bullies, and cheer for dictators.
“Keep others in suspended terror. Cultivate an air of unpredictability.” Law 17, From the 48 Laws of Power by Robert Greene
Abuse promotes abuse
Abusers in power attempt to validate their behavior and intimidate others by congratulating and advancing people with behaviors similar to their own.
Empathy provides aggressors with an unfair advantage.
Inherently, an empathic person will do unto others as they would like done unto themselves. This ensures that roles of power and aggression will be filled by people indifferent to others.
Action is glorified over inaction.
Although some of the most important decisions in history are negatives (non-action)
“human beings are “suckers for charlatans who provide positive advice (what to do), instead of negative advice (what not to do).” ~Nassim Nicholas Taleb
[NOTE: While these first three examples demonstrate systemic support of brash inconsiderate behavior, the following seven examples demonstrate how average people can find themselves rejecting kindness and embracing abuse]
Love and kindness associated with loss, rejection, danger.
People who have lost or experienced rejection from an important person can the associate positive emotions with loss, rejection, and danger. This can cause anxiety and occasionally develop into rejection and hostility.
Kindness reminds people of loss.
Whether remembering a dead relative or a unfortunate companion, some people associate kindness with death, loss, and risk.
Whether people believe themselves to be “underdogs”, “victims”, or “fighters”, encounters with kindness can provoke an identity crisis. Security and happiness can actually cause an existential crisis which drives them to reject healthy situations.
Kindness can induce a feelings of guilt, expectations, and resentment.
Fear of failure and feelings of “debt” can result in the choice to feel resentment instead of gratitude.
Kindness can perceived as pity.
Some people associate kindness with pity. Some of these people associate pity with being patronized. Perceived insecurity, inferiority, and judgement can follow, producing resentment.
Perceived competition with parents, partners, or family.
Some people perceive that kindness may potentially undermine their core relationships in life.
Happiness causes anxiety about the future.
“There are two tragedies in life. One is to lose your heart's desire. The other is to gain it.” ~George Bernard Shaw
Satisfaction and comfort can cause discomfort. Worst of all, positive feelings can be followed quickly by the realization of mortality and inevitable loss. Experiencing this, some people learn to prefer conflict and struggle which causes them to focus on the present moment and feel a sense of purpose.
Across industries and cultures, we've long mistaken arrogance, egotism and brutishness for talent and fortitude.