Posted by: David M. Hazen | November 9, 2011

Steps to Recovery from a Culture of Violence

I am writing a book, “Love Always Wins: Hope for Healing the Epidemic of Violence, ” based on the theory that violence is an addictive behavior that can be put in remission through a similar 12-step program as the one used for chemical dependency. As a recovering addict and violent person who has broken the multi-generational cycle of violence in my family, I invite anyone to test the validity of this idea.

I believe our culture fosters an addiction to control, domination, and violence. In this addiction we defend our sense of security by dependence on various forms of violence in thought, word and deed that only increase in intensity over time because they provide only short-term solutions and no long-term solution. Because we have been deeply culturally conditioned to think in violent ways and to be complicit with others who are violent, we make mistakes, sometimes very harmful, violent mistakes. We need a counter-culture of self-forgiveness for our mistakes. When we learn from our mistakes instead of identifying with them, by separating who we are from our behavior, they become our stepping-stones to freedom. A generalized overview of this process:

The twelve-step program for recovery established in 1935 for Alcoholics Anonymous has been adapted into many other anonymous fellowships, all of which are focused on a specific type of addiction, be it food, work, sex, drugs, gambling, shopping, or care-taking others. The wording of the steps varies only slightly to address the specific kind of addiction in the room.

As far as I know, there has not been a fellowship created for recovery from violence dependency specifically. However, the violence epidemic we are now experiencing in our families, communities, media, schools, prisons, departments of government and international relations may indicate the time has come for a recovery movement for violence. Mark Umbreit’s Twelve Steps of Personal Peacemaking could be used for just such a movement. [Since the publication of this essay in 2011, I have written Affirmations of Personal and Global Peace as a program of personal empowerment.]

These steps have a more modern and inclusive re-wording of the original Steps while maintaining their essential intent. The traditional Twelve Steps have always referred to God as the higher power, and referred to him only in the masculine gender, which was acceptable mainstream language in 1935, when those steps were first written. However, God can be known by any name, gender, or concept that symbolizes that energy. Other changes were made to enhance their relevance to a culture of violence.

These steps are not simple platitudes, they are the meme for an entirely new lifestyle.  Changing personal habits cannot be done with impatience or superficial effort. The process of self-examination and reflection is best done in the context of daily life where small encounters provide opportunities for practicing new skills. Becoming ready to move on to the next step is a deliberate and respectful process. Each of these steps builds on the work done in the previous steps.

The work of personal transformation works best in combination with self-disclosure in a safe group environment, a small weekly discussion group of friends for keeping each other encouraged and accountable for working each step. I suggest that you use a workbook-style, detailed guide to each step,“The 12 Steps — A Way Out.” (Friends in Recovery, RPI Publishing, 1995). 

If you are at all interested in pursuing this path, I would like to know.

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