Exemplaris Excommvnicationis

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Excommunication

Excommunication is an institutional act of religious censure used to end or at least regulate the communion of a member of a congregation with other members of the religious institution who are in normal communion with each other. The purpose of the institutional act is to deprive, suspend, or limit membership in a religious community or to restrict certain rights within it, in particular, those of being in communion with other members of the congregation, and of receiving the sacraments.

The word excommunication means putting a specific individual or group out of communion. In some denominations, excommunication includes spiritual condemnation of the member or group. Excommunication may involve banishment, shunning, and shaming, depending on the group, the offense that caused excommunication, or the rules or norms of the religious community.

Shunning

Social rejection occurs when a person or group deliberately avoids association with, and habitually keeps away from an individual or group. This can be a formal decision by a group, or a less formal group action which will spread to all members of the group as a form of solidarity. It is a sanction against association, often associated with religious groups and other tightly knit organizations and communities. Targets of shunning can include persons who have been labeled as apostates, whistleblowers, dissidents, strikebreakers, or anyone the group perceives as a threat or source of conflict. Social rejection has been established to cause psychological damage and has been categorized as torture or punishment.

Shunning can be broken down into behaviours and practices that seek to accomplish either or both of two primary goals.

  1. To modify the behaviour of a member. This approach seeks to influence, encourage, or coerce normative behaviours from members, and may seek to dissuade, provide disincentives for, or to compel avoidance of certain behaviours. Shunning may include disassociating from a member by other members of the community who are in good standing. It may include more antagonistic psychological behaviours (described below). This approach may be seen as either corrective or punitive (or both) by the group membership or leadership, and may also be intended as a deterrent.
  2. To remove or limit the influence of a member (or former member) over other members in a community. This approach may seek to isolate, to discredit, or otherwise dis-empower such a member, often in the context of actions or positions advocated by that member. For groups with defined membership criteria, especially based on key behaviours or ideological precepts, this approach may be seen as limiting damage to the community or its leadership. This is often paired with some form of excommunication.

Some less often practiced variants may seek to:

  • Remove a specific member from general external influence to provide an ideological or psychological buffer against external views or behaviour. The amount can vary from severing ties to opponents of the group up to and including severing all non-group-affiliated intercourse.

Shunning is usually approved of (if sometimes with regret) by the group engaging in the shunning, and usually highly disapproved of by the target of the shunning, resulting in a polarization of views. Those subject to the practice respond differently, usually depending both on the circumstances of the event, and the nature of the practices being applied. Extreme forms of shunning have damaged some individuals’ psychological and relational health. Responses to the practice have developed, mostly around anti-shunning advocacy; such advocates highlight the detrimental effects of many of such behaviors, and seek to limit the practice through pressure or law. Such groups often operate supportive organizations or institutions to help victims of shunning to recover from damaging effects, and sometimes to attack the organizations practicing shunning, as a part of their advocacy.

Shunning is often used as a pejorative term to describe any organizationally mandated disassociation, and has acquired a connotation of abuse and relational aggression. This is due to the sometimes extreme damage caused by its disruption to normal relationships between individuals, such as friendships and family relations. Disruption of established relationships certainly causes pain, which is at least an unintended consequence of the practices described here, though it may also in many cases be an intended, coercive consequence. This pain, especially when seen as unjustly inflicted, can have secondary general psychological effects on self-worth and self-confidence, trust and trustworthiness, and can, as with other types of trauma, impair psychological function.

Shunning often involves implicit or explicit shame for a member who commits acts seen as wrong by the group or its leadership. Such shame may not be psychologically damaging if the membership is voluntary and the rules of behavior were clear before the person joined. However, if the rules are arbitrary, if the group membership is seen as essential for personal security, safety, or health, or if the application of the rules is inconsistent, such shame can be highly destructive. This can be especially damaging if perceptions are attacked or controlled, or certain tools of psychological pressure applied. Extremes of this cross over the line into psychological torture and can be permanently scarring.

A key detrimental effect of some of the practices associated with shunning relate to their effect on relationships, especially family relationships. At its extremes, the practices may destroy marriages, break up families, and separate children and their parents. The effect of shunning can be very dramatic or even devastating on the shunned, as it can damage or destroy the shunned member’s closest familial, spousal, social, emotional, and economic bonds.

Shunning contains aspects of what is known as relational aggression in psychological literature. When used by church members and member-spouse parents against excommunicant parents it contains elements of what psychologists call parental alienation. Extreme shunning may cause traumas to the shunned (and to their dependents) similar to what is studied in the psychology of torture.

Some aspects of shunning may also be seen as being at odds with civil rights or human rights, especially those behaviours that coerce and attack. When a group seeks to have an effect through such practices outside its own membership, for instance when a group seeks to cause financial harm through isolation and disassociation, they can come at odds with their surrounding civil society, if such a society enshrines rights such as freedom of association, conscience, or belief. Many civil societies do not extend such protections to the internal operations of communities or organizations so long as an ex-member has the same rights, prerogatives, and power as any other member of the civil society.

In cases where a group or religion is state-sanctioned, a key power, or in the majority, a shunned former member may face severe social, political, and/or financial costs.

Abuse of power

Abuse of power or abuse of authority, in the form of “malfeasance in office” or “official abuse of power”, is the commission of an unlawful act, done in an official capacity, which affects the performance of official duties. Malfeasance in office is often a just cause for removal of an elected official by statute or recall election. Officials who abuse their power are often corrupt.

Abusers are commonly motivated by devaluation, envy, personal gain, personal gratification, psychological projection, or the enjoyment of exercising power and control. The victims of this behavior are often subject to psychological, physical, mental, sexual, or financial abuse.

Manipulators and abusers may control their victims with a range of tactics, including, but not limited to, positive reinforcement (such as praise, superficial charm, flattery, ingratiation, love bombing, smiling, gifts, attention), negative reinforcement (taking away aversive tasks or items), intermittent or partial reinforcement, psychological punishment (such as nagging, silent treatment, swearing, threats, intimidation, emotional blackmail, guilt trips, inattention) and traumatic tactics (such as verbal abuse or explosive anger).

The vulnerabilities of the victim are exploited, with those who are particularly vulnerable being most often selected as targets. Traumatic bonding can occur between abusers and victims as the result of ongoing cycles of abuse in which the intermittent reinforcement of reward and punishment creates powerful emotional bonds (that are resistant to change) and a climate of fear. An attempt may be made to normalise, legitimise, rationalise, deny, or minimise the abusive behaviour, or to blame the victim for it.

Based on statistical evidence, certain personality disorders correlate with abusive tendencies of individuals with those specific personality disorders when also compiled with abusive childhoods themselves.

Personality psychology

In the study of personality psychology, certain personality disorders display characteristics involving the need to gain compliance or control over others:

  • Individuals with antisocial personality disorder tend to display a superficial charm that helps to disarm others, giving a good likable first impression. If someone likes another person, they’re much more apt to comply with them. Because they lack empathy, they see other people as instruments and pawns. The effects of this lack of empathy essentially gives them a grandiose sense of self-worth. Due to their callous and unemotional traits, they are well suited to con and/or manipulate others into complying with their wishes.
  • Individuals with borderline personality disorder tend to display black-and-white thinking and are sensitive to others attitudes toward them. Being so averse to rejection may give them motivation to gain compliance in order to control perceptions of others.
  • Individuals with histrionic personality disorder need to be the center of attention; and in turn, draw people in so they may use (and eventually dispose of) their relationship.
  • Individuals with narcissistic personality disorder have an inflated self-importance, hypersensitivity to criticism, and a sense of entitlement that compels them to persuade others to comply with their requests. To maintain their self-esteem, and protect their vulnerable true selves, narcissists need to control the behavior of others – particularly that of their children seen as extensions of themselves.
  • Individuals with sadistic personality disorder derive pleasure from the distress caused by their aggressive, demeaning, and cruel behavior toward others. They have poor ability to control their reactions and become enraged by minor disturbances, with some sadists being more severely abusive. They use a wide range of behaviors to inappropriately control others, ranging from hostile glances, threats, humiliation, coercion, and restricting the autonomy of others. Often the purpose of their behavior is to control and intimidate others. The sadistic individuals are likely rigid in their beliefs, intolerant of other races or other “out-groups”, authoritarian, and malevolent. They may seek positions in which they are able to exert power over others, such as a judge, army sergeant, or psychiatrist who misuse their positions of power to control or brutalize others. For instance, a psychiatrist may institutionalize a patient by misusing mental health legislation.

Traditional Chinese Story Example

In 215 CE in China, Fa Zheng,was appointed as the Administrator (太守) of Shu commandery (蜀郡) and “General Who Spreads Martial Might” (揚武將軍) by Liu Bei. He oversaw administrative affairs in the vicinity of Yi Province’s capital Chengdu and served as Liu Bei’s chief adviser.

During this period of time, he abused his power by taking personal revenge against those who offended him before and killing them without reason. Some officials approached Zhuge Liang, another of Liu Bei’s key advisers, and urged him to report Fa Zheng’s lawless behaviour to their lord and take action against him. However, Zhuge Liang replied, “When our lord was in Gong’an (公安), he was wary of Cao Cao’s influence in the north and fearful of Sun Quan’s presence in the east. Even in home territory he was afraid that Lady Sun might stir up trouble. He was in such a difficult situation at the time that he could neither advance nor retreat. Fa Xiaozhi supported and helped him so much, such that he is now able to fly high and no longer remain under others’ influence. How can we stop Fa Zheng from behaving as he wishes?” Zhuge Liang was aware that Liu Bei favoured and trusted Fa Zheng, which was why he refused to intervene in this matter.

Rankism

Rankism is “abusive, discriminatory, and/or exploitative behavior towards people because of their rank in a particular hierarchy”. Rank-based abuse underlies many other phenomena such as bullying, racism, hazing, ageism, sexism, ableism, mentalism, anti-semitism, homophobia and transphobia.

Rankism can take many forms, including

  • exploiting one’s position within a hierarchy to secure unwarranted advantages and benefits (e.g. massive corporate bonuses);
  • abusing a position of power (e.g., abusive parent or priest, corrupt CEO, bully boss, prisoner abuse);
  • using rank as a shield to get away with insulting or humiliating others with impunity;
  • using rank to maintain a position of power long after it can be justified;
  • exporting the rank achieved in one sphere of activity to claim superior value as a person;
  • exploiting rank that is illegitimately acquired or held (as in situations resting on specious distinctions of social rank, such as racism, sexism, intellectualism, wealth, religious beliefs, hereditary, marital status, gang affiliation, criminal record, egotism or classism).

Rankism can occur in any social hierarchy, such as governments, corporations, families, non-profit organizations, and universities.

A ranked society in anthropology is one that ranks individuals in terms of their genealogical distance from the chief. Another term for a “ranked society” is a chiefdom. Closer relatives of the chief have higher rank or social status than more distant ones. Societies which follow this kind of structure associate rank with power, where other societies associate wealth with power. When individuals and groups rank about equally, competition for positions of leadership may occur. In some cases rank is assigned to entire villages rather than individuals or families.

Ranks in ranked society are the different levels, platforms, or social classes that determine someone’s influence on political aspects, votes, decision making, etc. A person’s ranking also gives them societal power (power within their civilisation).

source : wikipedia

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