Updated: May 7, 2018
In my previous post on violence, I brought to light the undercurrents of violence coursing through our culture. When those currents go unchecked, they build up and can lead to large explosions of violence that we see on the news.
The roots of violence, like any weed, are deep down in the dark, sucking the marrow and life right out of humanity.
Today I'd like to go a little deeper into the subtle modes of violence we experience on the daily. By identifying these modes, hopefully we can bring more awareness to the violence we perpetuate internally and socially.
Although the concept of verbal ‘abuse’ is not a new one, you’d be surprised how much of it most of us encounter.
We are used to abuse from ‘aggressive’ communicators: “Shut up, Maureen! Nobody asked your opinion!” Shouts from an abusive parent or spouse and even language used on us by superiors at work are common forms.
What’s less apparent, but maybe even more common, is the violence inflicted by ‘passive-aggressive’ communicators: “Yeah, sure, Maureen. Of COURSE you have all the ideas. Don’t you ALWAYS?!” This kind of communication is hard to pinpoint at times but the effect can be just as harmful, if not moreso, than the aggressive style. Part of the reason for the danger of this kind of violence is that is subtler and harder to identify, so it goes unseen and runs rampant through our relationships; it undercuts the stability and health of our connections without a clear way to mitigate it.
You can take one of my Non-Violent Communication courses to become more skillful in unearthing and alchemizing verbal violence.
This is one that gets under my skin a bit. Cultural violence rears it's ugly head in most of our daily goings-on. This is the type of violence that is thrust on an individual based on the cultural story of the society that the individual lives in.
For us in the US, an example of this would be the widespread disdain and persecution of the LGBTQIA+ community. The separation of church and state is a mandate handed down by our fore fathers yet this purely religious-based bigotry has become pervasive in our communities, religious and otherwise. Whether it's an undeniable dirty look while walking down the street or an AR-15 gunning down a nightclub, people in this community experience violence as a result of our cultural belief.
In some countries in Africa, the Middle East and parts of Asia, it's acceptable for children as young as 6 and 8 years old to be married off to much older partners. This cultural norm was established hundreds, maybe even thousands, of years ago in order to establish one Tribe's authority or status among other tribes close to it. Women were (are) used as a commodity to be used to elevate a family. There is no need in our modern world to use human beings as commodities, with the wealth and knowledge we have today yet this practice continues on as a part of certain culture's narratives.
Although the above example is a fairly extreme version of violence against women, the idea of us being a commodity is still very widespread, across the globe. Ask any woman if they have been made to feel uncomfortable or put-upon by a man and she will almost assuredly answer Yes. This is violence: pushing 50% of our human population off the paths of their own authentic experiences due to a pervasive cultural idea.
At first glance, this form of violence seems to be closely related to the one above, however that’s only partly true. Sure, this can manifest as prejudice in our communities but I would like to speak to today is the ways in which people use our spiritual beliefs to coerce and manipulate us.
We’ve all seen the stories of charismatic ‘gurus’ taking hold of whole groups of people and using those people to meet the needs and goals of the leader: Jim Jones at Jonestown, Charles Manson and his “family”, David Koresh and his “Army of God”. All of these men used people’s enate wish to ‘believe’ against them for their own twisted agendas.
Priests and other spiritual leaders have used their stature and power to manipulate young people into inappropriate relationships. This can happen through implying that it’s a ‘duty’ to perform and it can also be perpetrated through outright threat.
But, as with most forms of violence, the above are more obvious examples. The less obvious are the parents who guilt their child into a forced marriage, using the reasoning that it’s the child’s obligation to their spiritual path. Or the genital mutilation of boys (and girls) in infancy and puberty as a religious rite of passage. Even the push by parents to force their children to go to church against their will can be a form of spiritual violence.
This type of violence is an intrinsic part of many of the named forms listed elsewhere in this article. Our minds are a particularly vulnerable place to assert control so it’s a favored method among people intent on manipulating and hurting others.
Most of us experience this daily in our work lives. Almost every interaction we have with the hierarchy above us implies that we must toe the line or lose our job. Their is no room to be human or make honest mistakes; we are expendable - there is someone just outside who is sitting, waiting to take our job. Management is trained to use psychological violence to ‘manage’ the people under them.
Unfortunately this kind of violence is most common with the most vulnerable of our population: our children. As parents it’s so easy to feel a sense of ‘ownership’ over our kids due to the responsibility we feel toward them. This can often lead to a very unhealthy dynamic in which the parent feel that they can institute punishments meant to embarass, belittle or demean the child in order to ‘teach them a lesson’.
While many parents have the intention of doing the right thing, this type of ‘discipline’ is extremely violent to the child. By undermining the child’s sense of worth, they are essentially fracturing the child’s emotional health and causing violent ripples and patterns to be perpetuated in that child.
(If you're getting frustrated with punishments that just aren't working, read my article about how to set healthy consequences for our kids.)
If you've made it this far, it's probably become evident to you that violence has snuck it's way deeply into human societies all around the world. In the smallest of ways, we continue to perpetuate violence on the daily in ourselves and those around us.
By examining these modes of violence, we can better understand how to identify and call them out. Remember, the only way to root violence out of our reality is to shine the Light of our awareness on it. The roots of violence, like any weed, are deep down in the dark, sucking the marrow and life right out of humanity.
Can you identify violence in your own life, based on the modalities above? How do you react when you come up against such violence? Feel free to leave your thoughts in the comments section.