Making Relationships Less Violent
is Making the World Less Violent
By Frank Kermit
Are we a more violent society? With the headlines as of late, it could easily feel that way. Everything from gay-porn serial killers, to midnight movie jokers with guns, to Toronto house party gang wars, to football administrations turning a blind eye about the sexual abuse of players, to hate crime murders based on sexual orientation, to families who murder their own children under honor killings, to teenage bullies tormenting elderly bus monitors and the list goes on. One would wonder if we really are a society getting more violent and desensitized to violence.
Then, a sober moment to reflect on history depicts another story. Violence is not a new phenomenon. Violence has been one of our companions in time. Romans fed Christians to the lions, women were tortured and killed for being accused of practicing witchcraft, and millions have died over time due to conflicts based on race, property conquests, religious crusades, slavery, and more. It is very easy for many to forget that not too long ago, even the concept of gender-equality and human rights were considered preposterous.
If there is a circle of life, then alongside it is a circle of violence. People who act violent help insight others to act violent. Although human beings are to be held accountable for their individual behaviors, it is no secret that as a species, we are very influence-able creatures. Constant exposure to violence desensitizes us to violence. Each person has a choice of whether or not they will participate in the circle of violence. If a person does not have the choice in the matter, or control over a situation where violence takes place, there are in most cases a way to separate themselves from those situations. You may not control the person who abuses you at home, or you may not control the situation of the enablers in the house that are part of the problem of allowing the abuse to take place. However, with enough planning, and locating resources, you can work towards removing yourself from that household to get away from such a toxic environment instead of staying and hoping the violence will stop.
Serial killers, movie theater murderers and even bullies on a school bus all have one thing in common at their core. They all attach no value to human life, especially those human lives they deem to be vulnerable. It does not matter if the person heads up an organized mass assault on civilians, or if the person secretly attacks and kills an unwanted homeless person, or if the person belittles a classmate over the Internet for being different. At their core, the same source for the different kinds of violence exists: the inability to value all human life equally.
Do not think you are any better a person just because you only hit your spouse, or verbally insult your kids instead of walking into a shopping center with a weapon. It is not the degree of violence. It is the fact that you have chosen to be a part of the circle of violence at all. Maybe you are not the one that committed the greater acts of violence; but you are part of the violence culture that cultivated those same killers.
When coaching individuals, and especially couples, the shock and surprise they experience when they discover that part of their routine squabbles are actually acts of violence to one another is often a first step to either full reconciliation, or the end of the relationship.
Explaining to a man that using name calling in anger against his wife is an act of verbal abuse, takes him aback as he never thought of himself as an abuser; he just though of himself as angry. Explaining to a young woman that sending mixed signals to her boyfriend and constantly threatening to leave him for not reading her mind is emotional abuse, stuns her as she never thought of it as abuse; it is just the way she thought relationships were suppose to work.
It is thought that most violence is gendered in that men are more physically abusive and that women are more emotionally abusive. A study that was lectured about at a Dr Steve Stosney Montreal seminar in 2010 mentioned that as regards gendered abuse, "girls are catching up" with the boys regarding rates of abuse.
In my own practice, I find no correlation between gender and abuse. Both male and female sexual predators exist; both the mother and the father can be culpable of physical violence, sexual violence, emotional violence and neglect upon their children. Stories about their being the good gender and the bad gender in relationships, are comforting but often that is all they are: stories of comfort.
We all have choices to make. We all can make mistakes, but mistakes or not, we all can make choices. If you have a problem with resulting to violence with your loved ones, there are programs available for anger management, competent physiotherapy, and compassion training programs. If the violent behavior is relative to using drugs and alcohol there are support groups to help with those challenges as well. What is your highest core value? Do you want to be a member of the circle of violence? You have a choice.
If you want to help yourself get out of the habit of any violent behaviors you could be exhibiting, it is not just about your family and loved ones. It is about adopting a new way of living. At the core of adopting a non-violent way of life is holding a very highly regarded value for human life, specifically human beings that come across as vulnerable.
This means if you feel like making an anonymous Internet attack through an online comment, where the sole purpose of your comment is to insult or hurt someone, you do not do it. This means that if you want to jump on the bandwagon to assassinate someone's character, in a situation that you know nothing about, you do not do it. This means that you do not make fun of any group of people for any reason including, but not limited to race, religion, body shape, intelligence, where those people commonly shop and so on. On the circle of violence there is very little distance between the bullies on the school bus, and the killers of the cinema. At their core, the same lack of value towards human life is the same. Only the degree of their unchecked violent actions is different.
Next time you want to put someone down, whether your loved one or not, stop. Otherwise, you are part of the problem of violence in the world, not part of the solution to rid the world of violence through acceptance, compassion, education, tolerance and the many other tools we have to eliminate violence as an option.
So do we live in a more violent society than ever before? I do not know. I do believe that we know more about ways to handle violent tendencies than ever before, and that is what I focus on as key to helping to make the world a better place.
You have a choice.