I am in the middle of a paragraph and am clearly using this blog as escapism. But I am writing about 'ritual ordeal' which draws on the 'humiliation' literature that seems scarily relevant to my life as a DPhil student. The literature mainly comes from sociologists and psychologists interested in various phenomena, from socialization to genocide.
Scholars tend to agree that humiliation - an interaction between two or more people or countries which involves the use of scorn, ridicule, contempt and degrading treatment - is an effective mechanism to ensure the internalization or outward display of various behaviours, norms and values. Typical examples of institutions who use such mechanisms are professions (the military being the most obvious), prisons, schools and the family.
The family is an interesting one. One writer, Dr Donald C. Klein, makes the connection between the conditionality of parental acceptance and approval - a prosocial tool to shape the child into an adult - and the actute and continued sensitivity of humans (and therefore societies) to humiliation and then, in many cases, to any form of criticism.
He cites Mark Twain's The United States of Lyncherdom:
"Each man is afraid of his neighbor's disapproval- a thing which, to the general run of the human race, is more dreaded than wolves and death."
In the middle of reading this literature, my supervisor informed me that she was going to be "very hard on me" until I submit my thesis. I am in a strange phase of life where negative stimulus still works very, very well to a certain point (and I am in many ways grateful for the push), but I tend to prefer and am trying to rely more and more on positive encouragement, and less cloudy, fearful motivations (from myself and others).
Nonetheless, it's tough to break old habits and, I've got to say, I am often and still not very far from the humiliation model. Let me know if you have any healthier alternatives for me...I will pass them on to Dr Klein as well!