I heard the phrase “THE DEATH OF AN IMAGE” on the news in the past week, and it finally helped me understand at least one aspect of my struggle — and perhaps yours — with the flood of accusations, testimonies, trials, and verdicts..naming one after another high profile men through the #ME TOO MOVEMENT!”  I’ve been asked in a radio interview to “explain” the psychology of what’s going on…and clients, both women and men, want to discuss something so important as men FINALLY having to face the consequences of despicable behavior toward women.

    Because I was involved in the start up of MOCSA – The Metropolitan Organization for Countering Sexual Assault – in Kansa City in the early 1970’s I am no stranger to reports of abuse, assault, rape, and murder of women. And in the many and varied settings for my psychology practice, I have listened, helped, and cried with clients as they struggled with the crimes of abuse perpetrated in families, work settings, and in the simple effort to get to a car in a parking lot!

    Consequently my internal “discord” didn’t quite compute with me until I heard “THE DEATH OF AN IMAGE”…THE IMAGE OF MANY MEN…..Cosby as America’s DAD…”creatives” bringing multiple forms of wonderful entertainment through acting, directing, producing, and powerful media men as intellectual models for news, interviews, information that enlightens. I for example have been a long time fan of Charlie Rose informative, educated interviews!

    THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN THE IMAGE AND THE ACTUAL MAN! The two don’t match up! So I’m imagining countless individuals — women and other men — wondering HOW CAN THIS BE?

    FIRST, it has never occurred to me to question women’s stories. That makes RESOLVING COGNITIVE DISSONANCE the “bottom line”  — resolving the discord between the IMAGE VS THE MAN!  Dissonance generates many questions. A general one is:  “How can a talented, educated, successful man do such a horrific, disrespectful, and frightening thing?” And in that struggle with dissonance, in addition to actions of individual men, we have to face the reality of THE SYSTEM CHALLENGE.

    We are facing and learning about broad scale broken systems — from the family to the schools, the church, the wide range of organizations and institutions, and indeed, our government — from local to state to federal. As long as systems see and define women “as a group” as powerless people, individual women face the shocking reality of being seen and treated as objects…and as long as systems see men “as a group” as powerful people, many grow up learning they can and DO dominate and objectify and abuse women.

    The misuse of power in relationships begins with what is or is NOT taught in families — respect for one another is learned, or it simply is NOT! And even if the family provides healthy models of behavior, schools and churches must continue providing opportunities to learn about equality and respect. And yet we know there are a few (hopefully only a few) teachers, ministers, and priests who ABUSE young women and men! Now fast forward to LEADERS in government, in high profile organizations abusing those with less power — to broken Human Resource departments across systems….to a serving president speaking and behaving abusively.

    THINGS ARE BROKEN. Our systems — and our relationships — are all in need of over haul! And many of us are stuck with the question: HOW CAN THIS BE? And hopefully you are beginning to raise a bigger question: WHAT CAN I DO? Perhaps the main thing needed is constructive dialogue. When confused, the best thing possible is solid conversations with others about what is going on, how to know what to do to at least help make a difference.

    If you want to understand a little more about power and systems, you can try my book: RELEASE FROM POWERLESSNESS: TAKE CHARGE OF YOUR LIFE…and the many references it includes. Perhaps, most important is to pay attention. Watch what goes on in the many interactions you have — professionally and personally. And if you can, step up when you see someone being mistreated. Each of us can resolve the DISSONANCE we perhaps feel and do something to resolve it and help make all our systems more welcoming to all.  It feels better to make a difference…and you do deserve to feel better!