Sometimes I grit my teeth reading the news, I wonder, “Can’t we stop the worldwide killing, hatred, the judgments, the division?” Then I realize most people, including myself, need to heal our own inner terrorist. We all have negative reactions at times. When we hurt other beings, beat ourselves up or disengage from life, we harm ourselves or each other.
Just 75 years ago, Hitler’s Nazis savagely murdered six million Jews. So many innocent people were viciously tortured, abused, and murdered. It was only one lifetime ago that this gruesome horror ended. But now other atrocities continue. Humanity through history carries a shadow.
60 Minutes recently showed footage of brutality in Syria, another example of the unspeakable cruelty done to innocent humans.
While I ogle soggy pizza on my desk, glimpsing a baby squirrel hopping outside the window, my chin weighs a ton in my palm. Reading about 800,000 slaughtered Tutsis reminds me of how humanity forms these distorted, unfair beliefs about each other. The mind is a dangerous machine. The amygdala brain floods us with “fight or flight” impulses when we’re scared or threatened.
Just look at the mass killings taking place in northern Ethiopia. They are barely reported, let alone curbed. Authoritarianism is the new normal. According to the latest Economist survey, only 8.4 percent of the world population live in a fully functioning democracy, while more than a third live under authoritarian rule.
I don’t mean to be Debbie Downer, but how do we end constant destruction? I’m a psychotherapist and every day I see people transformed when they take personal responsibility for change. I know in my bones that reconstruction is possible.
Then, I open a local article and see pictures of the longing eyes of starved Tule elk at Pt. Reyes. How can this be? Can’t we humans drop our fences?
Oh, there are plenty of ideas about change: Katha Pollitt, in The Nation, comments that Anne Applebaum suggests we unite the left and the right, offering projects, like “How do we fix the potholes in our roads?” Pollitt ads, “It’s a nice thought: Just get people working together on a neutral issue of common concern and before you know it, they’ll be grabbing a beer together and admitting, ‘Hey, you’re OK.’ Definitely better than murder.” It’s wry wit, but I see that all activism matters. Only five women in upstate New York in 1848 started the suffrage movement.
Here’s my opinion: If you don’t get to the roots of the weed it just grows back. Communities need competent, affordable mental health counselors and educators who help families learn about their gritty emotions and teach easy to remember conflict resolution skills. On May 3, 1944, Anne Frank wrote in her diary, “I don’t believe the war is simply the work of politicians and capitalists. Oh no, the common man is every bit as guilty; otherwise, people and nations would have rebelled long ago! There’s a destructive urge in people, the urge to rage, murder and kill. And until all of humanity, without exception, undergoes a metamorphosis, wars will continue to be waged…”
Given more understanding of shame, unmet needs, fear, self-loathing and false beliefs that underlie our hostile impulses, we can redirect humanity’s never-ending, hair-trigger split ends.