I began this blog entry weeks before the events in Newtown, Connecticut, occurred. After the devastation and with the country in mourning, I decided to wait for the collective angst to abate. The violence of which I am speaking in this entry is operant more on a personal level than the collective violence that has been endemic in our culture. However, I believe that they are related. Working with our own internal violence is a way to do our part in meliorating the collective epidemic. If we are human, we likely have unresolved anger. Whether it shows up as outright rage or adaptive passivity, or something in the middle on this continuum, we can do our share to affect the collective violence. I will describe my own personal journey to becoming aware of and lessening my own footprint of violence.

As a child, I experienced a good deal of rage. Without the ability to understand or express this anger appropriately, I would cry into my pillow at night, alone in the darkness. With so much shame attached to anger, I suspect this is not an uncommon occurrence. During latency, I learned to sublimate this rage. I suspect that during those years much of the anger was internalized or turned against myself. I became reckless driving automobiles, which was quite destructive, but outwardly I became passive and diffident. As I adapted to the persona of a demure individual, I gave up a good deal of my innate authentic power.

While participating in group work with a controversial “spiritual teacher” during early adulthood, group members were given “shadow” presents for Christmas. The presents were specifically selected to evoke transformation. Much to my horror, I was given a plastic machine gun. The nakedness I felt when I opened the present was only surpassed by the shame I felt at having this part of me exposed. If I could have disappeared at that moment, I would have. After all, this was a group of people from whom I could not hide. This is a recurring theme in my life, where I choose people around me who do not become complicit in my denial system. Reluctantly, I took the machine gun home and over the next few weeks I learned to enjoy the sound of simulated bullets shooting out into the air. There was a feeling of suppressed power that was beginning to be released.

When I was in my 20s and 30s, I was intermittently a VICTIM of violence and sometime during my 40s I became a SURVIVOR of violence. In my experience, sometimes a victim of violence creates a certain energetic opening that draws this kind of behavior. This should not be confused with “blaming the victim.” As soon as you enter into “blame” of yourself or others, you re-create the undesirable behavior; you re-create the violence. There is a difference between devolving into blame and acknowledging a deeper pattern that is needing to be transformed. There is a great deal of violence inherent in our culture that needs to be acknowledged and transformed. Whether the imprint being transmuted by the individual is cultural or personal, violence is a pattern that needs to be detoxified within the mandala our society. Tragically so, as examples are revealing on an (almost) daily basis.

Within every case of domestic violence, I suspect that there is an imprint of the perpetrator and a related mirror image of the victim. Speaking from my own experience, I can remember the day in group therapy when I actually realized that I had been an integral part of the violence. What a revelation to realize that without my complicity, the violence could not have taken place! And it wasn’t until I courageously identified this insidious pattern within me that I could finally be liberated from it. Unfortunately, the pattern needed to recur over and over, becoming more and more subtle, until I was finally able to transform it. And once I successfully eradicated the pattern in myself, I was able to more effectively teach others to liberate themselves from the violence in their lives as well as the violence endemic to our society. The metaphor I used to identify this pattern of complicity within myself and then with others was “waving a match near a firecracker.” I could see the recognition in people’s eyes, when they were finally able to identify their participation in this  “unholy” covenant. This fearless awareness and the subsequent ownership of the pattern were the necessary prerequisites to the liberation that was to follow.

This revelation holds true for sexual abuse as well. Again, I can remember the moment when I realized that only after I transcended the identity of “victim” of sexual abuse could I be effective in helping others heal from the pattern. Having experienced sexual abuse as a child, this pattern was omnipresent in my psychological work through the years until it was eradicated. It was only after I cleared the feelings of blame and anger (otherwise the victim becomes another perpetrator) and forgave the perpetrator myself was I able to effectively work with “victims” of sexual abuse. Perhaps not everyone has to clear this insidious pattern as completely as I did, but with the responsibility of working with others, I clearly needed  to. I have seen many healthcare professionals who have not completely healed from their pasts, and they inadvertently impede the progress that their clients could have made in clearing the pattern for themselves. Also it is important to realize that forgiveness is less an action to be taken than an outcome that results once unresolved feelings are followed through to completion. Forgiveness happens. It is not a requirement, just an indicator that the work is complete.

There are many circumstances life brings that may be perceived as less than desirable. Perhaps it has been the completion of these forms of violence in my life that has allowed me to go beyond the perception of being a victim of this disabling illness. Regardless, I feel fortunate to have been able to do the transformational work and to help “my beloved others” on the journey. I believe everyone needs to be a part of the solution if we are to transmute the collective violence in our present society.