Trigger warning. This one is rough.
Ever have one of those stories in your head where you can’t remember if it really happened, or if you read it in a book or saw it in a film? I have a bunch of those. I remember a story about a deadly feud in the Ozarks, something that had claimed dozens of lives over multiple generations. The thing that was notable is that each side said the other had started it, and each side said that their violence was in retaliation for what the other side had done. Someone traced the argument back and back and it turned out that the first transgression was something about a pig getting into someone’s garden. And the other guy shot the pig. And dozens of people over almost a century died because of that damned pig.
The same thing is true with tribal wars of course: each side says the other started it. Each is responding to an outrage. Every stimulus is also an effect, every effect a stimulus. The peacemakers are people who can step out of that action-reaction cycle. And they are the only ones who can.
In race in America, you can trace the roots back to the slave trade…or you can go even deeper and further, until you hit prehistory. Who knows why the hominids who developed into Europeans and Asians left Africa? Maybe they were the smartest and most adventurous–that’s what white racists say. Maybe they were the weakest and got their asses kicked the hell out. I’ve heard that one from black racists. One can imagine ancient grudges going back to 80k B.C., acted out in endless cycles of violence, until the end of time.
And in gender…wow. When men behave badly, it is because they are men. Or “programmed by the Patriarchy.” When women behave badly…they are acting like men.
Whoa. Heads I win, tales you lose, and the sad thing is that there mopey little guilt-ridden boy-children who buy into this.
If you start with equality, you come to a different conclusion.
My first real girlfriend (I was about 19) was named Sandy. She was a gorgeous creature, what a buddy of mine called a “typical Radcliff sister” and I adored her and she definitely turned me out sexually. But…she had some troubled friends. Well, to tell the truth, all of us were struggling, whether we knew it or not, just trying to make sense of the world. This one girl we’ll call “Sarah” was in special trouble, though.
Sarah had a boyfriend we’ll call Tommy, who abused her. Tommy finally stepped over the wrong line, and went to jail. While there, she met a new guy: sweet, gentle, and kind. She seemed to change, that hard and nasty edge lurking just below the makeup softening. We were optimistic for her…and then the boyfriend got out of jail. Came looking for her.
Beat the hell out of her new guy, and then…there is no way for me to say this without flinching. He mutilated her genitals with a rusty razor blade.
That was bad enough. But when she got out of hospital…Sarah got back together with Tommy. Sandy was aghast, and asked her: “why?”
The reply: “you just don’t know what love is.”
I wish I could say this was the only time I’d heard from abused women…girls…men…boys…that they went back again and again to negative relationships. Some physical, some emotional.
And there will be some who blame this on the man, which is an understandable response: he is 100% responsible for his vile and loathsome actions. If she’d been my sister, I’d have killed him.
But who is responsible for her going back? Him? An abusive father, perhaps? Or how about the mother who CHOSE that abusive father? And if her, who damaged her? Her mother? Her father? “The Patriarchy?”
And how about the boyfriend? Who messed HIM up? Was it nature? Nurture? A combination of these things? His father? His father’s mother? His father’s mother’s father? His father’s mother’s father’s mother..?
The entire society? The evil men in it? The weak and twisted women? Who? What?
We can blame each other, or we can take a cold, hard look in the mirror and end the war.
Get past gender. Men and women do horrible things out of fear. And EVERYTHING they do is trying to feel better about themselves.
Men who do terrible things and make bad choices. Women who make bad choices and do terrible things.
We could argue all day about men and women and violence and sex. There are endless potential explanations for what went wrong in this woman, this man, this relationship, these family histories, this society. This species.
Or we can focus on what a healthy human being is, what a healthy relationship is, and just concentrate on getting back to that. We want to survive, have healthy sexuality, the power to control our environment, experience and give love, contribute goods and services to our communities, raise our families according to our own values, speak our truth, understand life and communicate that understanding, age with dignity and die at peace.
ANYTHING that interferes in that flow is an obstruction to be removed, a “kink” in the wiring to be untangled. Life seen as a living thing is as simple as a flower. Seen as a maze and a trap it is an unwinnable, rigged game. Some declare “victory” by rejecting the obligation to try.
This is madness: you don’t solve a Rubik’s Cube by painting the whole thing black.
The most basic thing that we can extract is that both Sarah and Tommy started life seeking joy and peace. Love. And somewhere along the way, that got twisted and warped.
How twisted does “Tommy” have to be to be so fearful, so confused about the connection between sex and violence? Partnership and possession? Can you even IMAGINE him having any genuine self-love? The capacity to nurture his own heart? No. All of his nurturance probably comes in moments he feels sexually loved. His entire life is a seething mass of fear and confusion, and when he felt cut off from that source, it triggered rage and violence.
Had he been able to START with love, he never would have abused her in the first place, he likely wouldn’t have gone to jail. Coming out, he never would have beaten up her boyfriend–why would he? If you love yourself, and KNOW you are of value, you lose little or nothing if a particular person rejects you. You know there will be others. Further, if you love THEM you WANT them to be happy, don’t you? You can let them go with your blessing.
And he never, ever would have mutilated her, desecrated the sexual temple at which he worshipped. This is so extreme and pathological that one doubts this man can ever heal, absent an epiphany or spiritually transformative experience.
And what of Sarah? Why did she choose him? If you believe there are no good men out there, please be my guest–your natural partners are the people who think there are no good women. Have fun with each other.
But throughout the primate kingdom, and much of the animal kingdom, females have as much agency in choosing mates as males, and some primatologists suggest they have MORE.
Let’s stick with equality. Healthy people choose healthy partners. Sick people choose sick partners. We can be nurtured or damaged by our families, by the men our mothers choose, and the women our fathers choose.
If you need to believe one gender or the other is sicker, more twisted, then I simply suggest that that is your fear about the male or female aspect of your own soul. People who have made peace with both, who can embrace both, and have mastered the art of building a life with the opposite sex don’t have that delusion.
Sarah…what in the hell was SHE looking for, such that she sought out Tommy? Such that she was willing to go back to him? Was she terrified he’d kill her if she rejected him?
But what if what she said to Sandy was the truth? That from her perspective, Sandy “didn’t know was love was”?
What WAS love to Sarah? Some possessive, ugly sharp thing that cuts you no matter how you use it? What IS the world that it seems so dangerous that you have to have a beast in your cave to protect you from even greater beasts outside?
How alienated from her own strength AND softness would she have to be to need such a twisted mockery of strength, and mistake that violence and horror for love?
What in the living hell happened to Sarah? To Tommy?
We could go into endless social and psychological theories, or we can ask what the way OUT is…for either of them.
It is the same in both cases. Somewhere along the messages of love and fear got scrambled. Can you even IMAGINE Sarah wanting her daughter to suffer such horror? Can you even IMAGINE her as a little girl, thinking “when I’m grown up, I want to love a man who will mutilate me?”
Hell, no. SOMETHING HAPPENED ALONG THE WAY.
And with him. Can you imagine him holding his newborn son and saying: “I want you to never experience love or joy. To spend most of your life in prison. And to destroy everything you care about, and have no sense of peace!”
Can you? I hope not.
We start life with a cascade of pure emotion, that Buddha Baby sense of “Earth Below, Heaven Above, No One In The World Like Me!” That primal birth scream of joy and fear mingled in pure emotion.
What does it take to get a man or woman so far off track that they will damage themselves, or each other, in such a way, and confuse fear for love?
The way out is to give yourself the thing you are seeking. Love, pride, connection, passion…these are emotions that are either already IN us, or we would never be able to experience them. People and events trigger these emotions but do not CREATE them.
If you have no love within you, no one can give it to you. If you have no fear in you, nothing can trigger it.
Whatever the emotions are that we seek, they are already there.
If I could go back to either of these sad, sick people, I know what I’d say to them IF THEY WISHED TO CHANGE. Oh, you can poke around and point out how unproductive or destructive their actions and attitudes are…but if they don’t agree? If they don’t associate pain with where they are? They’ll never change.
But if they did? If you could catch either of them in a vulnerable moment? A moment when they have dropped their guard, honestly connect with their sense of loneliness and desperation and can admit they want a way out? If by some grace or luck you get such a moment?
Then I would take either of them, and get them to remember a time they felt totally loved and supported. Whether you have a CONSCIOUS memory of such a time or not, the experience was there. Human beings who never experience nurturing, even in infancy, DIE. It is called “failure to thrive.”
I would connect them with that memory. Then sort through every negative action, every negative choice and ask them why they did it. And what they were trying to accomplish thereby.
And in EVERY case, if you go deep enough, you will find that what they were seeking was love, and peace. Every time, if you go deep.
But…they already had what they were looking for. And searching for it in the outside world is ALWAYS a fool’s errand. If neither of them had ever been parented, or nurtured, or had the grace to discover this love within themselves, then helping them find it will be a revelation.
At that point, they would be likely to break down and sob their eyes out, feeling lost and found. And then…friend, you had better have a support structure to help them, because EVERY OLD ASSOCIATION and habit pattern was designed to support their old world view. And human beings would rather be wrong than be alone.
They will need resources. Friends. Mentors. Support. The “voices in their heads” will scream and rail at them that the new path of love is wrong, and weak. If their social context is damaging, they will hit reality HARD, and the walls of their new positive world will come crashing down and they’ll fall back to their old selves.
Hero’s Journey time:
- We are confronted with the challenge of becoming mature, loving human beings.
- We have no role models of possibility, no paths to success
- But have to take action anyway, so…
- Down the wrong road we go. Along it we…
- Meet allies who reinforce our negative beliefs, and harden the tools that help us survive in the cruel world we live in, choose, or create.
- Eventually there will come a major threat or challenge
- And this will throw us into despair. We reach the end of ourselves.
- The way out is faith. Faith that we have more potential, faith that there are friends, family, mentors, lovers who embrace and guide us to happiness. Or that there is a higher power, a higher order to the universe that can guide us if we can just surrender to it, in the same way that a sailor can navigate the sea if he understands tide and wind.
- If we can believe in ourselves, model healthy mentors or surrender to faith we can beat the devil. Break the old chains, even if they are multi-generational.
- And…in so doing we can become models ourselves. We can guide others from the darkness, and become avatars of light.
I have no idea what happened to eventually happened to Sarah. I suspect Tommy is dead by now: that level of hatred and fear for the feminine energy cuts one off from the flow of life itself. Sarah would have so much healing to do that I can’t imagine anything outside of a fanatical religious belief saving her from total self-destruction. Hanging on to something “bigger than herself” by a fingernail.
If she managed that…perhaps her children will be a little healthier. Or their children.
Sigh. We don’t know what bombs go off in families, but they can be damaged for generations. Or, it might be genetics, and another reason to be careful in the partners you choose. Or…it might be a twisted soul, damaged or demonic soul. Who knows? The answer are on the outside of the box, and we’re trapped on the inside.
What I do know is that Love and Faith are the way out, and that they are so critical that I want every one of you to deliberately connect with them daily.
Daily give thanks for the blessings you experienced in the past.
Daily give thanks for all that you love and that loves you.
Daily imagine the life path ahead of you, and what you will do TODAY to bring it into existence.
Daily remember all that you care about, all that you love, all that you want to contribute to the world, until you are vibrating with energy.
And…contact the love within you. Go so deeply into it that you NEED nothing from the outside world. Which frees you to enjoy the wonder of life and human relationships without dependency.
Every day, give yourself the gift of love, and joy, and connection…first with your own soul, and then with the family of your heart.
I do this, every day. And every day I connect with you, the family of my heart. And bless you for being there.