• Paul M Schroeder-Haag

To fear or respect, that is the question...

I have been facilitating or co-facilitating a domestic violence offender group in the Green Bay and Fox Cities area since 2016. Invariably, we get to the discussion regarding fear. Many of the men will report that they want their kids to fear the consequences of messing up. No doubt they want their partners to fear, as well. Often times, there is a discussion about how allegedly effective it is for our loved ones to fear, versus to understand and respect. The assumption is that kids or partners need to fear what will happen when dad gets home in order for them to behave. This rarely works.

What I tend to do when these discussions arise is look at the way fear is defined. One definition reads, "an unpleasant emotion caused by the belief that someone or something is dangerous, likely to cause pain, or a threat." Another reads, "be afraid of (someone or something) as likely to be dangerous, painful, or threatening." Fear, you see, is about survival. It is a basic core emotion that has kept us alive since we started on this earth. And so, when I get down to it, building relationships on the premise that fear is good is obviously dangerous and chronically unrewarding for all involved.

As I ended the group today, I ended with the following: "Fear is about survival. I don't want my wife and kids to survive me. I want them to love, trust, and respect me. I want them to feel safe around me. But I can't have it both ways."

What do you cherish more as a man? Being survived, or being loved...

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