In my last article, In my last article,

Part II: Why Do We Have So Much Violence in Our World and How Do We End It?

Woman standing at railingIn my last article, Part I: Why Do We Have so Much Violence in Our World and How Do We End It?, I talked about why we have so much violence in our world. In this article I’m going to answer some of the other important questions about violence.

Why does the violence seem to be escalating?

We could talk for days about why the violence seems to be escalating. At the root of it is this: We are living in extremely challenging times.

Challenges can create pain, trigger pain, or both. Challenges today include things such as financial difficulties, loss of homes, loss of jobs, extreme weather destroying crops, bullying (a form of violence in itself), people suffering and dying in wars all over the world (war as an extreme form of violence), and many forms of war (war on terror, war against drugs, war against poverty, war against women). All of these things create pain for people, trigger pain for people, or both.

That pain brings forth the defenses people have built early in their lives to hold their feelings at bay. And just like our country’s defenses are so often violent, so also are our individual defenses often violent. (In fact, it actually occurs the other way around: our country’s defenses are so violent because our individual defenses are violent. Our country is, after all, made up of individuals.)  And the greater the challenges are, the longer they continue, the more pain people feel, the more defenses that were perhaps never used before may erupt into the open.  For example, while one child might have—as his primary defense—actually bitten mommy or daddy when in pain, another child might have had some other primary defense, like numbing himself or scratching himself. But this second child might have had striking out as a secondary or tertiary defense, and if pushed to the brink of pain . . . he might have bitten, too. Or maybe he might have just fantasized about hurting mommy or daddy, or about their dying so he wouldn’t have to be hurt so much . . . never dreaming he would or could ever act on that. But maybe as challenges grow in his adult life and his primary defense doesn’t work so well, maybe he will resort to one of his backup defenses to get away from his feelings.

In addition to this deep root, there are other factors as well, feeding the escalation of violence.

We have the vicious cycle of generation upon generation upon generation of people who do not have the capacity to feel their feelings and know what to do with them in a healthy way. And we have the defense of people against their own early pain and often their own early powerlessness, by holding, exerting, forcing their power over and against other people. Both of these are coming more and more out into the open. This form of violence—and it is a form of violence—causes others to feel powerless. They may feel here and now or triggered long ago powerlessness, but either way it causes them to defend against their powerlessness, often with more violence.

Also, we live in a time where our communication systems enable people to see the violence others are using as a defense against their feelings. Some, when seeing others’ violence, “rip off permission” from what they are seeing for their own uses of those violent defenses . . . whether they copy what they see or make their own variation. And others take permission in an anonymous internet culture to comment violently. The number of violent comments on the internet in response to blogs is heart-wrenching.

This is why the violence in our world seems to be escalating.

Why aren’t our efforts to end the violence working?

Very simply, our efforts to end the violence aren’t working because we are doing things that don’t work, can’t work, and often include violence within them. For example, punishment for violence doesn’t work. Laws outlawing violence and then punishing it don’t work.

Gun control—although it may prevent guns from being used for violence in some cases—won’t work to end the violence. People who are defending against their pain with striking out will just find another way to strike out. And praying for violence to end—although it may be a useful, even necessary help toward ending the violence—will not work all by itself to end violence in our world.

What can you and I do to help end the violence?

You and I can honestly look to see if we have the capacity to feel our feelings healthily and to discern which feelings we simply need to feel, which feelings we need to safely explore back into our childhood for healing, and which feelings we need to allow to lead us safely into action.

We need to be honest with ourselves, and if we don’t have these capacities, we need to find someone to help us develop them. A good, integritous therapist who, among other things, is not afraid of feelings and does his/her own inner exploration and healing can help with this.

You and I can honestly look within ourselves to find what defenses we have created to defend us against our own feelings.

We can discover, for example, if we have a defense of striking out at others or striking in at ourselves. And we can once again get the help to build our capacity to feel so we won’t need to defend against our feelings anymore and can allow those defenses to dissolve. (We won’t break the defenses down, we’ll do the exploration and the healing process in a way that is safe for us.)

In addition to building the capacity to feel, and in addition to preparing to let our violent defenses dissolve, you and I can honestly discover what is in the violent currents of defense within us and heal those currents themselves. In fact, they won’t be able to dissolve until we do this. Not only will the defenses be unable to dissolve until we fully explore the violent currents within us, but also we won’t be able to transform all the life energy that was stored in the violent currents and the defenses and used to hold tightly onto the defenses. We won’t be able to transform that life energy into new, truly healthy uses. Just know for now . . . we can find the roots of those currents—the pain that caused us to react with violence—and we can work to heal both the violent currents and the roots.

I know this seems like a lot of work. It is a lot of work. And it’s not an instant fix, so wanted by so many in our world today. But . . . without this work, we cannot change the fabric of our own individual lives. And we cannot change the fabric of our culture. Both of these are absolutely necessary if we are going to end violence in our world.

What stops us from doing our part to end violence?

What stops us from doing our part has similarities for all of us and differences for us individually. Some of the common elements:

Many of us don’t want to do a lot of work. Most of us want it to be easy and quick. Most of us are afraid of our feelings, especially the ones from long, long ago that were and still are so deep and intense. We have spent a lifetime defending against those feelings, working hard to keep them buried.  Most of us are afraid to look at the places within us where we have violent currents and the potential to act on them. Many of us don’t want to need someone else to help us with this or to ask someone else to help us. Many don’t know how to find a right person to help or the resources with which to do the work. And many of us don’t want to invest our time, energy, money, and mental and emotional resources working on our inner life. We don’t realize that we create our outer lives from our inner life even if we’re not aware of that truth. And we don’t realize that we not only create our own individual outer lives from our inner life, but we also co-create our outer communal life from our inner lives.

We have a choice. We can keep creating the same fabric of our lives as we have been—individually and communally—or we can begin the journey of creating something new, something more healthy, something more grounded, something more real, something more in truth, something more peaceful—not false peaceful but truly peaceful from the roots of our beings, from the inside out.

How to start?

Begin by making a firm commitment to yourself to do the work. Know that when we make a commitment, two major things will happen.

  1. Whatever within us needs to be healed in order to fulfill that commitment will come up for healing. We may think what’s coming is an obstacle. We may use it as an excuse to break the commitment and stop the process. But we may also come to see it as the next thing in us calling for healing and choose to keep the commitment and do the healing.
  2. Our commitment will draw to us, from within us and all around us, the help we need to keep and follow through with the commitment. We may not see, hear, or feel the help consciously, but it will be there somehow, somewhere.  If you give up because you can’t sense it or because it isn’t coming the way you think it should or in the timing you want, you are undermining yourself, your own commitment, your own healing.

Remember the movie, Field of Dreams?  And the message Kevin Kostner kept getting in his role as Ray Kinsella? “If you build it, he will come.”

I can tell you this from decades of doing this work with people . . . if you make the commitment—a real commitment—to do your part in ending the violence in our world by doing your own inner healing work . . . you will be “building it.” And if you build it . . . the healing will come.

Related articles:
Why Do We Have So Much Violence in Our World?. . . And How Do We End It?–Part One
Where Does the Violence Really Come From?
Whitney Houston – And the Pain Inside Us

© Copyright 2012 All rights reserved. Permission to publish granted by Judith Barr, MS, LPC

The preceding article was solely written by the author named above. Any views and opinions expressed are not necessarily shared by Questions or concerns about the preceding article can be directed to the author or posted as a comment below.

  • Leave a Comment
  • Grayson

    September 4th, 2012 at 11:04 AM

    For real change to be made and to be significant it can’t start with just one person making the change. There has to be a real effort worldwide to make these changes, and what do you think are the chances of that ever happening? Zero. I hate to pessimistic, but that’s the way it is. I think there are things that you can change on a smaller level, such as the way that you and your family live and maybe even the way that others you are close with live. But to try to take on the world, man, that’s not possible and I think we all know that. I know that change is made through small steps and you have to hope that your one little change inspires others to do the same. Sometimes that works and others it doesn’t. I just think that in the end we have to remain aware of the things that we are in control of (ourselves and our actions) and the things that are beyond our control
    (other people)and learn to live in harmony with that reality.

  • janet

    September 4th, 2012 at 2:18 PM

    problem is that most people do not know how to react to things.if you think about it,you will realize that violent and unfavorable reactions happen when people choose to do things in a hurry and do not take time to fully understand things.if a person does something bad to me,my immediate reaction would be to do something bad to him in return.but with a little patience and thinking I can prevent that and see what best I can do to not respond to evil with more evil.

    and things will only get worse,because we are constantly speeding up things and think all is good because speed means more work done in less time.but certain things need patience and time and we are just not giving those things enough time.everybody wants everything instantaneously and they also react instantaneously without putting in enough though.this breeds violence and hatred and does not let us live peacefully,whether as a community or even as an individual.

  • ben G

    September 4th, 2012 at 3:42 PM

    I kind of have to feel like one of the biggest things that is wrong with society is that we feel like we won’t make a difference. That no matter what we do this will not make any kind of positive change. But if we don’t start the process of making change for the better, then who will? Who will step forward and make those first steps toward improvement and peace? What if MLK had felt that way? Or Gandhi? It must be overwhelming to feel like you are alone, but believe me- you are not. There are simply more of us willing to follow than to be that leader. Isn’t it time that more of us stood up with that kind of courage in the way that these men did and be the leader that so many people are searching for?

  • perry

    September 4th, 2012 at 3:53 PM

    grayson,what you say is true but if we do not even make changes on an individual level then it ain’t going to happen on a global level! yes, you or I cannot change everybody but we can change ourselves! let us do that and see the rewards of that change in our own lives! I am sure there will be a lot more followers of this thought if they see more and more of us being successful with its practice!

  • Eric

    September 5th, 2012 at 4:11 AM

    Violence is something that we can’t chnage overnight- there are so many things in this world that causes it- but shouldn’t we always be ever moving toward a state of mind that is more serenne and content instead of always full of angst and regrts?
    I know that there are those who have had horrible experiences in their lives, but when all is said and done, life is what you chooose to make it. You either have to determine to be better than the past and move forward or choose to remain in the hatred that you have experienced in the past.
    For violence to end and real change to be implemented, you have to make that decision to move on move forward and be more than thhat which we were given in the past.
    This is a generational thing that would likely take a long time to fully impact the world, but I thhink that to say that it isn’t possible to do is giving up, and that is not what I am willing to do.

  • Gene Ross

    September 6th, 2012 at 3:44 PM

    No matter how angry someone is, they have a choice in whether or not to act out violently.

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