The dark passage of violence

About 12 years ago, I had a moment of feeling trapped in my body, my history, my story, and I just wanted so desperately to be free. I was reminded of my reason for wanting to end all violence everywhere for all time: the abuse I received at the hands of my father. I wept for myself, I wept for the world, and I decided to remain here, not knowing the answer, not free. Since then, I have experienced a gradual release from the prison of my own thoughts through healing practices.

I’ve survived my own suicidal impulses, all of which were self-created from a story of myself as a victim, unworthy of love, a story of self-pity and toxic shame. Those stories altered my brain chemistry. I was diagnosed as clinically depressed. Then I was GIVEN an “unearned opportunity” to learn a new story, and today depression rarely comes.

How did I get to be so fortunate? My answer to WHY ME and WHY NOT THOSE OTHERS is a cultural story, that we move together as one body through the dark passage of violence and toxic shame.

Some of us are in the middle of the body, some are on the edges and smack into things along the way. Some of it is choice, some of it is simply bad timing. My life’s mission and passion is to make sure everyone makes it through, that nobody is left behind, that no pain is left unrecognized, and that we all own each other as one family. We CAN change our cultural story of reasons for abusing others or ourselves.

For those who oppress others there is a deeply-buried loss of integrity, a toxic shame that is so unconscious that it takes a crisis to expose it to the light. We are now in such a crisis, enveloped globally in a plague. We have all become profoundly uncomfortable. Our needs for security have not been met, and we are literally bouncing off the walls of our jail — the blank, solid powerlessness of our governments, institutions and ourselves.

Institutional racism and violence is a deep, cultural issue with many supporting structures in the same way that alcoholism is culturally supported. The addiction to violence is “cunning, baffling and powerful,” and it is a behavioral disease. Those who would heal this disease must root it out from themselves first, then show by their actions — not their thoughts, not their words — the possibilities of life without violence.

Unless we plunge deeply into the darkest emptiness of our despair of loneliness — experience the death of our self-centered suffering — intentionally or by force of circumstance — we will not heal the illusion of separation that we have foisted upon ourselves. This cannot been done quickly for we are a tender species, yet it can be done, is being done all over the world, which brings me great joy.

Only a few pioneers making this breakthrough will be enough to trigger the dissolution of the culture of violence. It is my guess that those people are already here and unknown to the culture at large. That will change as that violent culture hits bottom and begins desperately looking for solutions. An organized violence-resistant movement is helpful, but the shift to non-violence is most likely to be spontaneous and swift when the right moment arrives.

We need to see that contained within all of our collective pain is the insatiable desire for connection, inclusion, mutual support and contribution to each other’s lives.

We each without exception have personal responsibility — not guilt, just the ability to respond instead of react, the true meaning of response-ability — for perpetuating the culture of shame, blame and violence, and it is up to us, personally, to make a choice for nonviolence. Think carefully and deliberately what is your choice now, before the virus of violence infects your soul.

Massive social change occurs at the bottom level of the individual, in a shift of beliefs and attitudes, not at the top level of policy leaders. What are we willing to do to change ourselves, and when will we get started? Don’t set the world on fire, set your heart on fire and illuminate the world.


  1. This is moving and inspiring, up to a point. I understand the value of a focus on oneself, as without that we cannot be grounded in what we are trying to live into the world. But I see this focus as working in tandem with changes in practice and policy at all levels. It’s messy stuff, but some shifts such as elevating mental health care services (including funding) are broadly supportive of the kind of revolutionary change you are talking about. A local example of that is CAHOOTS, and repeatedly the recent federal funding for other communities to start similar programs. Which is less surprising than it would have been before Obamacare, which did a lot to put mental health on more equal footing with physical health.

    For me the larger revolution is not entirely a mystery which will emerge spontaneously when the time is ripe. Work on the foundations (laying the new one, and chipping away at the old one) is constantly happening all around us if we have the eyes to see it, not only for people as individuals but also in policy & practices work at all levels of society.

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