Releasing Attachments to vs Combating Violence
Previously RooT’s vision statement recently included the phrase “combat abuse.” After much observation, it became clear to me that we cannot “fight” or “combat” a thing that is housed inside of us. This is not how our bodies work. We are mostly unaware of the fact that while our way of making sense of the world is generally linear, our bodies experience the world differently. Humans are mammals that seek physical and emotional protection. We also protect belief systems that help us make sense of our place in the world. When any of those are threatened (real or perceived threats), our bodies respond in defense. What’s good is that the body’s and mind’s tools of protection are alive and well. What’s not good is that oftentimes our belief systems or behavioral patterns are the same ones that cause us, and others close to us, harm. If we attempt to “fight” those belief systems and habitual behaviors, our natural instinct hurries in defense. All kinds of conflicting responses occur: we tell ourselves and others that we’re not responding violently, when we actually are, because believing that we’re not monsters helps us feel protected. I’m convinced that more often than not, those who abuse others habitually are constantly “combating” the violence within themselves with any narrative possible to not appear as a “monster” to the logical mind. We justify our violence. So this is one case where the idiom fighting fire with fire applies. We won’t obliterate a culture of violence by “combating abuse.”
What helps us move past our defenses is to acknowledge that in most cases, when we respond with violence, we’re often seeking to protect ourselves with tools we were introduced to (and to which we responded with reluctance) as children. We develop a deep attachment to those violent responses. They feel a lot like trigger responses because they are. If we list things people say, do, or avoid when they sense a threat to their ego, power, or anything they attach to their sense of security, many of these responses can be linked to actions or inactions that lead to harm. Untended wounds can make us feel like we have to perpetually assert our security, sometimes in harmful ways (which are taught to us in abundance). Some of our wounds are gaping wide and recent (within our lifetime), some are deepened over time through repeated smaller verbal or physical lacerations, some are engrained ancestrally and passed through generations. We can learn how to tend to those wounds without the use of violent responses. It is our responsibility to learn where our attachments to violent responses are located, and show the body how to respond differently. Put love on the wound. We have to look at the wound to be able to tend to it. Let’s hold our own bodies and imagine new ways (or remember old ways) we can access safety. Find things we can touch, smell, hum, or listen to that can bring us back to our places of safety. Lets not “combat” our body’s felt sense of protection. Let’s release our attachments to violence by tapping into who we are when we are safe, whole, and armored by our very being, and believing that that version of ourselves that exists inside is enough.
Grateful for inspiration from Amy Paulson, Antone Olivier, Resmaa Menakem through his book “My Grandmother’s Hands,” and insight gained while figurin shit out with my ancestors.