The Subtle Real Cause of Anti-Social Behavior

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I used to think like many people today that all anti-social people who did harmful things to others had had some kind of traumatic occurrences and experiences, and they had had them as a result of things that the caretakers, usually parents, involved in watching over them had done to them in the early years of their development.  These occurrences and experiences didn’t have to be of the kind that the parents were openly hurtful to their children – for instance, that they crushed their children’s spirit by implementing a labyrinthine set of rules with which the children had to comply, or that they spanked them regularly for the slightest little infraction, or that they belittled them for the slightest assertion of independence.   No, it could have been the result of the sin of omission rather than the sin of commission.  It could have been that as a result of their being extremely narcissistic people who were too involved in taking care of their own selfish desires, that they structured their lives in such a way that they were just too busy to spend any meaningful time with their kids.  In other words, they were basically indifferent to the needs of their children.

In spite of all these plausible explanations, I have been increasingly inclined to look in other directions for the original sources of the aberrant behavior that is manifested in so many people today.  It is not that these traumatic occurrences and experiences did not play some role in the formation of the character of these anti-social people.  It is just that, in my opinion, there is a level of causation that precedes the level of childhood traumas caused by parents and other childhood authority figures.  It is a level that has been pretty much ignored in the past, because it doesn’t fit into what for a long time has been conventional models of causation, at least, for those people who believe in psychodynamic theories of causation.

In general, there have been two kinds of causation that people have used to explain what is going on around them.  First there is the kind of causation that is based on a substantive phenomenon, a thing.  In jury trials, there is an attempt made to determine if so-and-so did, in fact, do such-and-such thing.  Or, after scientific investigation, it was determined that the Covid-19 virus was the cause of this strange new illness.

Then there is the kind of causation that doesn’t have any centered figure phenomenon.  Here the cause is totally dispersed and, at the same time, experienced as enveloping.  This is what I would call a grounding cause.  Noise pollution and air pollution both have very harmful effects on human beings.  And yet in neither case is there one core thing that can be put under a microscope and established as a core agent of certain harmful effects for humans.  The harmful effects have to be determined by inference.  The focus has to be on the tissues or organs affected by the causal agent.  In air pollution, there is no point putting the chemicals in the air that are causing the human health problems under a microscope, because they are basically inert.  As for noise pollution, one can perceive the discomfort created in people by loud noises.  And in the case of modern popular music with its piercing electronic music sounds, one can test the recipient of the noise rather than the causal agent, the noise, and infer that after long-term exposure to the noise, that it is making a person increasingly deaf.  Unfortunately, the testing usually only occurs after a significant effect of auditory damage has taken place.

So now we come to the third kind of causation which is normally not discussed.  It is not discussed because it is invisible.  This kind of causation is called vacuum causation.  A vacuum can only be determined to be the cause of something indirectly through inference.  As a causal agent, it can’t be grasped directly through any of the 5 peripheral senses.  Nevertheless, a vacuum can be the most powerful causal agent of all in terms of how it affects people.  The numbness it brings on in people in modern technological living environments can get to the point of being a living death.  And then the people affected fight back through many different forms of anti-social behavior.  Yes, these people may also be influenced by early childhood caregivers who weren’t very responsive or responsible with their young charges.   But these caregivers have also been directly influenced by the experiential vacuum in which they have been living as have their caregivers and their caregivers’ caregivers.  The experiential vacuum is something that goes back many generations in its existence.  It was created as a reaction to the dangerous effects of the intense flowing blendable continual organic stimulation found  in traditional natural living environments and which threatened to undifferentiate the people living in these environments.  So, when it first came into existence, people unconsciously used it as a vehicle to protect themselves against the excesses of the organic stimulation environment.  Now the experiential vacuum has become a dangerous influence on human beings.  And an awful lot of people have started demonstrating anti-social behavior as a defense.

© 2024 Laurence Mesirow

Acerca de Laurence Mesirow

Durante mi estadía en la Ciudad de México en los años setenta, me di cuenta que esta enorme ciudad contenía en sus colonias distintos "medio ambientes vivenciales", que iban desde muy antiguas a muy recientes; desde muy primitivas a muy modernas.Observé que había diferencias sutiles en la conducta de la gente y en sus interacciones en las diferentes colonias. Esta observación fue fundamental en la fundación de mis teorías con respecto a los efectos de la tecnología moderna sobre los medio ambientes vivenciales y sobre la conducta humana.En México, publiqué mi libro "Paisaje Sin Terreno" (Editorial Pax-México), y luego di conferencias para la U.N.A.M. y la Universidad Anahuac. También, presenté un ensayo para un Congreso de Psicología.Ahora que mis hijas son adultas, tengo el tiempo de explorar mis ideas de vuelta. Le agradezco mucho a y en especial al Sr. Daniel Ajzen por la oportunidad de presentar mis ideas.

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