The Roots of Interpersonal Violence
Nov 11, 2021
I’ve spent a lot of time tracing back my life and the abuses I’ve survived
My experiences of abuse are probably the core drive behind my work and what I hope to accomplish in this world.
I desperately want the world to look different.
I don’t want families and relationships to look the way they have for me in the past, in the ways they’ve hurt so badly and left me feeling alone carrying mountains of humiliation and shame.
In this process of tracing back my experience it’s been alluring to look upon it as if it was an unfortunate series of bad actors- bad individuals who hurt me out of their evilness. And while it’s true that there is cruelty I’ve suffered at the hands of individuals, it has never served me to stop there.
When I’ve looked upon abuse simply as something that only bad individuals perpetuate, it’s lead me down a path of seeking control. Trying to control the people I believe are bad to keep them from hurting people. Trying to control communities to collaborate in punishment of these bad individuals.
But this is just another manifestation of the exact codependent behavior that made me vulnerable to abuse in the first place.
When I trace things back far enough, what I find is a young person who was raised to believe that abuse is normal and simply to be tolerated.
I never learned that the people who would do horrible things to me could have sweet eyes and be plagued by wounds of their own that made my heart hurt for them.
I was taught that people who did the things they did would jump out of bushes. They would be sleezy strangers at a bar.
As I’ve pursued the root of the interpersonal violences that plague our world, what I’ve come to find is that we cannot underestimate the importance of two things:
1) That we need to cultivate a deep relationship of care towards ourselves. We need to value ourselves so highly that the discomfort of conflict pales in comparison to the discomfort of betraying ourselves. And
2) That we need to accept that cruel and disgusting acts are something every human is capable of. Seeing the ways they manifest even in the people we love most and learning how to navigate these acts with the integrity of all involved in mind is the key to diffusing harm, and radically altering dynamics.
When I used to imagine a society with relationships that are safe and healthy, I used to imagine a world where all of the people who did horrible things were cast out and disowned.
I imagined that people like that would learn their lesson and others like them would too.
It was a shallow vision that lead me down a path of pain as I realized that nothing about this vision was rooted in reality, nor was it humane or transformative.
Now when I imagine a society with relationships that are safe and healthy, I imagine individuals raised from youth to know their value.
To see and understand the ways that people may try to undermine their autonomy for personal gain.
I imagine a society of people who act in alignment with their own integrity in a way that would look fluid and effortless to us.
I imagine young people who are raised knowing when to walk away and where to go.
I imagine them confronting one another with the reality of their interactions.
I imagine people who are able to look honestly at the ways cruel behavior manifests in themselves without debilitating shame to prevent them from showing up in the ways they need to to make a better choice.
I imagine that they are able to do that because they are unshakably secure in themselves and know that they are a worthy human being no matter what.
I imagine they are able to do that because they are so secure knowing that community, love and belonging will never be withheld from them.
This security forms the foundation from which we can look honestly upon the ways we do not act in good faith. And it forms the foundation from which we can know that asserting our value will be unconditionally supported.
To me this is so much more than a vision for the future of intimate relationships.
It’s a vision of a world with deep reverence for the power that each of us hold as individuals. That sees every life as sacred and intentionally cultivates a deep internal strength in every person.
To me- this is a vision of freedom.