The Impact on our Person and our Societies
Humiliation is one method that we humans use in interaction to maintain hierarchy. According to Gandhi, it is the way that some individuals in power effectively control large populations. Humiliating someone stems from an antiquated feudal social system and reduces our relating to one of two possibilities: domination or submission.
We create a society where individuals fear each other and become focused on avoiding the impact of humiliation by humiliating others. The worldview of the dominating few is adopted, while the intelligence of the dominated is drowned out. According to David Bohm, this type of fear-based interaction sets up conflict and primitive brain functioning and hinders collective intelligence and higher forms of thought and creativity.
Shame — synonymous with humiliation — is the personality’s method of internally controlling one’s behavior so an individual can survive in this all too common social milieu. The mechanics of shame arise from neural networks formed by early-experienced intimate social interactions. Thus one’s internal world mirrors external interactions and not only keeps individuals stuck in these antiquated forms of relationship with others, but with oneself as well. This way of relating repeats itself in unfulfilling ways, mainly because parts of the self are ignored or cutoff in order to avoid feeling this humiliation. Similarly in social interactions, this precludes one from experiencing the wisdom and sense of fulfillment that an integration of the self would lead to and tends to create the experience of being internally stuck.
Author James Gilligan, M.D. in his work with inmates identifies the call for the remedy of this:
“What we really need is to be able to specify the conditions that can enable love to grow without being inhibited by either shame or guilt. And it is clear that shame and guilt do inhibit love.”
The first relationship to address is how to relate to the self in a way that allows “love to grow.” For with the right relationship with the self, one is able relate with wisdom. The question is: how does one love the self? Gandhi came up with a powerful intervention – he created an internalized optimistic faith in humanity based on the sentence below. It was so powerful that one time, when his faith was shaken, Gandhi was reduced to tears. He could count on his own sense of goodness of self and then he generalized that to others and as a result, on this one sentence, he built an entire campaign that allowed for love to flourish and grow internationally:
He wrote: “The first principle of non-violent action is the non-cooperation with anything humiliating.”
When I read this sentence my job became clear: As a therapist, educator, mediator, and human my job is figure out how to help people relate without humiliating themselves and each other. To help people set up environments with each other to allow love to flourish, to allow for collective and relational intelligence to expand. I wanted people to feel psychologically and spiritually confident.