Sunday, May 12, 2013

The Abusive Rhetor: Essay on the Emotion, Power, and Control of Repeated Word in an Emotionally Abusive Situation

Rhetorical Composing 
by Susan Delagrange, Cynthia Selfe, Kay Halasek, Ben McCorkle, Scott Lloyd DeWitt

Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hide

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  • This week we have been learning or reviewing many terms, aspects of critical thought, and rhetorical expression. This is very useful in writing, but I find it is most useful in living.
    When I read the prompt for this assignment “contribute to a conversation among participants about how analysis informs our daily activities and can provide a useful means of engaging the texts that we encounter,” what came to my mind is manipulative individuals.
    Manipulative individuals are very clever, and I feel I can safely say that they don’t learn their craft through reading books and watching lectures on rhetoric; it is part of their personality and they practice. They practice on those who are less aware of how abusive rhetoric works.
    For us to learn about rhetoric, and how messages can be used with high regard to time, emotion, position (how much power you give someone), and logic to potentially sway us to think or act in a way that we normally would not is crucial.
    Like I said before, abusive individuals are very intelligent, and they will not expose their intentions clearly, so it is useful to be familiar with the typical profile of such an individual in order to analyze his or her true intentions, and protect yourself. Northwestern University's Women's Center webpage "Warning signs of an abusive person" has a list of indicators, but I will focus on one—what the University terms the Jekyll-and-Hyde personality.
    An abusive person has a tendency to react very emotionally. Take this example of a couple with an abusive member:
    Abuser: I love you
    You: Aww, that’s sweet! (smiling toward the partner)
    Abuser: Wow! You don’t even love me do you? All you care about is yourself! You take me for granted, and I just let you get away with it because I actually do love you!
    You (shocked and confused): Why would you say that?
    Abuser (cutting you off): I’m trying to show you how much I care about you, and you don’t even care! Is there someone else? I wouldn’t be surprised. Who is it? (he or she continues in this way until satisfied. Then…)
    Abuser: I’m sorry. I’ve just had a long day at work. I'm so stressed out. You don't know what it's like. I know you love me. I just don’t understand why you couldn’t just say it. You know that makes me angry. I probably over reacted. Can you forgive me? I’ll never do it again. I promise. That’s really not like me. You know that. Please. I beg you.
    So it begins with the abuser (Jekyll) speaking with the intention of receiving a predetermined response from you. You don’t respond in the way that he requires so he becomes infuriated (Hyde). I imagine this would be shocking if you are unfamiliar with this sort of behavior, and you would likely try to share your perspective on the matter. The abuser probably wouldn’t give you the opportunity, and would only stop once your resolve is broken. Then the kind, remorseful aspect would return to sooth you into comfort once again(Jekyll).
    The problem with this is that it tends to be a progressive change and the abuser becomes more bold the longer the relationship has been in place, and the non abusive partner tends to fall into a pattern of fear, where everything he or she might say has to be carefully thought out since it might trigger Hide. Also, for someone unfamiliar with these mood swings it can be a challenge to try and reconcile the two extremes coming from the same person.
    This is one of many instances in which we should not only treasure this knowledge and the skills we learn consequently, which will help us understand these situations and avoid them or protect ourselves from them, we should also aim to share the skills and knowledge with those we love. Some of us already do without considering it propagation of rhetorical theory, but those of us who don’t should aim to.

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Thoughtful dialogue is appreciated.