Moammar Gaddafi is dead. He was captured and some say executed. His country was deeply affected by the violence he created. But now . . . there is a culture of violence that remains. People killing him instead of making sure he goes to trial. People in his country cheering his death.
But Libya is not the only culture of violence. There is a culture of violence all over our world. Our world is not solely a culture of violence. It is also a culture of healthier characteristics. But there is a deep current of violence in our world today that is affecting us destructively . . . individually, communally, nationally, and globally.
For example . . . Who killed Abu Musab al-Zarqawi (in a US Air Force targeted killing in 2006)? And who cheered his death? Who killed American born Anwar al-Awlaki (in a September 2011 US drone attack)? And who cheered his death? Who killed Osama bin Laden? And who cheered his death?
Who has the death penalty for people accused of crimes, instead of rehabilitation? Who punishes instead of teaches and heals? Who has citizens killing others and themselves, instead of getting help? Who has an increase in the frequency of suicides in response to bullying, job loss, financial suffering?
In a nearby town, a man killed his wife, his children, and himself last week . . . in response to his suffering. And the people in the community are reeling. Some of them, too many of them, are looking for who to blame. Some are defending against their own shock and horror. Many are defending against whatever suffering the incident brings up in them from their childhood.
Needless suffering. That is the root! It's not healthy. It's not rational. It's not a true adult solution. But when people are suffering today, their suffering as children gets opened up (even if they don't realize it). Their suffering as children gets opened up, and so do their defenses against and coping mechanisms in response to that suffering. The defenses and coping mechanisms of the child that they once were. The child they once were that is still alive inside them today . . . although hidden, hiding, buried.
Here's a beginning step toward our helping ourselves, our loved ones, our neighbors, our community, our country, our world when there is suffering. First we need to understand: When we are suffering as children . . . and when that suffering feels unbearable . . . and when we feel powerless to ease that suffering . . . we reflexively create ways to try to escape from that suffering. We may not even be able to carry out those ways. We may not even know what those ways mean. We may not even be able to articulate those ways. But we create them anyway.
Violence, in the form of wanting to die or wanting someone else to die is one of the last resort options the child comes up with . . . again, perhaps even before there are words . . . and likely without even realizing it. But think about it . . . a child wanting to die might shut down his feelings, in effect deadening them. She may numb her body, in effect deadening it. He may close his heart, in effect deadening it! Or a child might wish his parent would die and stop hurting him. Some children even tell their parents "I wish you were dead." Just thinking these things, just feeling these things, just doing these things internally can seem to bring some relief for a time. But then the suffering occurs again and they resurface attempting to bring relief again.
If you think when someone ages this part of them dies . . . you are wrong. This part of a person remains alive within, coming along with the person as he or she ages. And when they suffer as a 20-year-old, a 35-year-old, a 65-year-old . . . this part still has an impact on them.
When I work with people I help them uncover these conscious or unconscious violent child attempts at relief and escape so they can first, commit not to act on them, and second, work through them and the suffering that caused them to spring forth. This is possible. Clients who live in the community where the husband/father killed his family last week shared with me that they wish they had known, they wish they had been able to talk to him, help him understand, and help him get help.
We have very childlike ways of dealing with our suffering. We are destroying our selves, our families, our world with those ways . . . some of them violent ways. This is a call to us to help heal those violent ways that are pervading our culture. A call to help people learn how to heal the suffering . . . both the current suffering and also the suffering that still lives inside from childhood. If we don't help with the real healing to the root . . . we will continue to foster and feed the needless violent responses to suffering.
I spend my life working to help this healing. What will you do?
© Judith Barr 2011