The Various Motivations Behind Punishment
Note: ‘transgressing’ here means doing something that is considered bad or wrong. ‘Punishment’ means something negative that is purposely done to a person who has transgressed.
The motivations can and often do come in groups rather than alone.
- Helping the transgressor, version 1-atonement: “You understand that you did something wrong, and feel guilty about it. You need/want a way to deal with this and put it behind you. This will be that way.”
- Helping the transgressor, version 2-repentence: “The way you are currently thinking/feeling about your actions is not correct. It is important that you think/feel correctly, and we hope this punishment will lead to that.”
- Helping the transgressor, version 3-security: “You need/want to feel secure in the fact that I will be there to enforce the boundaries when you cross them. I am reminding you that yes, I am there.” (Note: in stories, this very often comes up when the constrict purposely does something boundary-testing in order to get this reassurance). [added with edit as noted in this post]
- Helping the transgressor, version 4-external self control: “You want to not act like this, but you have trouble doing this on your own. This punishment will help you [remember to] act correctly. [edit 2/13/16, rereading for a different reason and realized I didn’t have this]
- Helping the transgressor, version 5-care: “It makes you feel cared for that I care enough about what you’re doing to punish you.” [edit 2/13/16, after a conversation with a friend (not sure how I hadn’t thought of this earlier, since I’d run into it, but apparently that happened)]
- The principal’s emotions: “You doing this emotionally affected me. In order to restore things/forgive you/etc, I need to punish you.” [added with edit as noted in this post]
- A deterrent for the transgressor: “You won’t transgress again, because you’ll remember this punishment and won’t want to be subjected to it again.”
- A deterrent for others: “When people see what we do to people who transgress like this, they won’t do it, because they won’t want to be subjected to this punishment.”
- A physically effective deterrent for the transgressor: “We want to make sure you don’t do any more such things, and if you are locked up/unable to use parts of your body/dead/etc, you won’t be able to.”
- Compensation: “Your actions had a bad effect on person X/society/etc, so you have to do something that is positive for them in recompense.”
- Justice: “It isn’t fair if people who have transgressed and people who haven’t are treated the same. Therefore, people who have transgressed should be treated worse, by being subjected to this punishment.”
- Vengeance/Retribution: “Your transgression makes us want to hurt you/see you hurt, so we will.”
- An excuse: “We want to hurt you/see you hurt in general, and your transgression will be our pretext.”