The lustre and hubris some have aspired to while endorsing acts so heinous against children, elders, every-
day people, the poor, the unguarded, the helpless, is breathtaking.
– Clarissa Pinkola Este?s, Ph.D. Jungian psychoanalyst and author
Once upon a time, there lived a little girl who could not understand why there was so much violence in the world. It confused her when she saw those who could not defend themselves get bullied by those who could. She did not understand why those who spoke out truthfully and who strived for excellence were belittled or viciously attacked, why hard work was destroyed, and why young children full of astonishing gifts could be tortured or abused. This young girl was a loving child. She had vim and vigor. She did not understand the wrath of man or woman. This young girl, whose life was consumed by defending her weak peers from the strong oppressors, changed one day. She became the victim, the bullied, the weak; unable to defend herself against the strong. After a trauma, one that she may not have understood and we may never discover, she became what she loathed – violent.
Fairy tale? Or a story with which we?re all too familiar? Many of us encounter times when our tempers are tested, our limits pushed, our boundaries invaded. Such experiences lead some down a path toward rage and brutality. Others refuse to follow this route: they may have suffered equal or greater horrors, but they avoid the temptation to hurt others and –ultimately – themselves.
I am no stranger to this choice. As a little girl, I had an infamous temper. In the words of an old song by Peter, Paul and Mary, “I hammered out justice,” not caring who or what I hammered on. My peers were in awe of me: I was the protector, the avenger. It was eye opening when I eventually learned that many of them (including my siblings) had come to fear me, not adore me. I had become the very bully I?d once fought – oppressive and dictatorial.
As time passed, I noticed a change in people. They were thrilled when I saved them from victimization, but questions arose about who would be next on my list for punishment, and for which crimes. At one point, I hit a good friend – just because she dared me.
As a child, violent language and behavior seemed normal. Too many people around me acted and reacted badly. So did I. Too many children at school were concerned with who was the toughest, who was the strongest, who could control whom. I was one of them.
Eventually, I noticed the psychological results upon the bullied. Some shy youngsters withdrew; others became violent. Even as I realized that I was hurting others, I failed to understand how deeply I was hurt- ing myself. I became guilt ridden and angry – angry that I?d contributed to others? pain, angry that I couldn?t stop the cycle, angry that I had become “them.”
I stopped hurting people – on purpose (I?m only human). I learned how to accept forgiveness, and to forgive myself. I?m particularly grateful that I did not physically harm anyone.
I still harbor demons, because I now know that small hurts can fester into large ones. Harsh criticism can produce long-term psychological problems. We are all familiar with the story of the Columbine High School killings. Twelve students and a teacher paid for the pain and anger of two individuals, who were ridiculed and criticized for being who they were. Parents and teachers turned a blind eye to brutal mockery and student-on-student abuse. The students who carried out the massacre lacked direction, and slipped easily onto a murderous path. There is no healing or repentance for them – no apologies to their victims.
Our words and deeds can have a profound effect upon others. Many of us are unaware of this impact, or simply don?t care. Wouldn?t it be helpful if we tried to understand how we affect those around us – if only to learn why they react to us in certain ways? Why not ask questions, and become aware?
Asking probing questions doesn?t require much time. Learning how to interpret the answers, engage in critical thinking, withhold judgment, make non-violent change, and discover how to stop the cycle of anger does take time … and practice. But we owe it to ourselves to assume these tasks.
My challenge is to use my own experiences to become more aware, which allows reason and logic to conquer emotions and fury.
Maybe you?re thinking, “I don?t need to become more aware. I?m fine. It?s the other person?s problem. After all, it doesn?t affect me!”
If so, I beg to differ. Anger and violence do affect us all. They affect our emotions and how we react to others on both a personal and global level. Violence determines whether your kids can get to school safely, and stay safe inside. The level of hostility worldwide determines how much tax money is spent on education vs. arms. Hostility determines how long our sons and daughters will stay in Iraq.
How can people embrace a non-violent response to others? Like you, I don?t have all the answers, but I know we need to find them, because statistics show that we are addicted to violence and war. Ap- proximately 2,000 people lost their lives in 2004 to terrorism attacks, and more than 100,000 people (Iraqi civilians, journalists and soldiers) are dead as a result of the U.S. invasion of Iraq.1 In 22 African countries, – during only one year (2001) – small arms conflicts cost over 8 million lives.2 These numbers continue to grow.
Why do we accept the proliferation and use of weapons? Why is it OK to “knock someone?s block off,” while a hug or a kind word is for “sissies?”
By asking probing questions, thinking critically and acting with courage, we can imagine a life of non-vio- lence. This is part of what we hope to achieve at Awaken the Senses – to ignite the power of awareness within you. Click here for more information.
Once upon a time, she dared to dream, she dared to challenge what she had become, she dared to become another to ease her trauma and heal some of the world?s pain. She dared to wake-up and ignite her own power to become aware.
See you next month!
1 Les Roberts et al., “Mortality before and after the 2003 invasion of Iraq: cluster sample survey,” The Lancet, Vol. 364, Issue 9448, November 20, 2004, Pages 1857-1864. 2 http://www.un.org/ecosocdev/geninfo/afrec/vol15no4/154arms.htm. 3 He or she is used interchangeable on this site. This site is an equal opportunity site. We are not sexist or partial to any gender. We are all in this together. Next week the story may be about he.