humiliate    reject         neglect
ridicule     disrespect     abandon 
dishonor     slight         demean
insult       taunt          put down
beat         abuse          punish
hurt         loss of face   soul-murder
worthless    prejudice      racism       
numb         dead           cold
hell         joyless        suffering

pride        confidence     dignity
self-esteem  self-respect   self-love
malama       bood

The sequence of events leading to violence

Punishment leads to shame which then leads to anger, then rage, and finally violence. Like a broken record, this tragic song plays itself over and over again each day. For example, I just read in a recent letter to Ann Landers (22 May 1997):

"One prison psychologist told of an inmate who, as a child, forgot to feed his father's dogs one day. His father beat him, stripped him naked, fastened a dog collar around his neck and tied him in the backyard with the dogs. As the boy sat crying and shivering in the backyard, he saw his mother and sister watching from the house, also crying but too frightened to intervene."

"Later, as an outlet for his rage, the boy killed the dogs. The boy grew up to become a rapist, the only outlet he could find for the rage he felt toward the women in his life who had witnessed his humiliation and done nothing to help him."

The presence of shame is the absence of love or the loss of love, and leads to the destruction of self-esteem.

When you shame a person, it hurts. Shaming is the purposeful assault on the soul, that inner spirit which animates the person. When shamed, the victim marshals its resources to protect the soul. Normally, an individual has sufficient self-esteem to survive most attacks, and has the ability to change or exit the situation. However, in situations where self-esteem is insufficient, persistent and severe attacks may reach the inner core of the soul, leading to the response of rage and violence. Concomitant to such situations, is the physical and psychic pain which can be so overwhelming that the mind protects itself by automatically and unconsciously numbing itself, resulting in an individual that cannot feel. When the assault is extreme and inescapable, as may happen in child abuse, the result can be soul murder, leaving a sociopath, a physical body inhabited by a dead soul, a living machine that can kill or maim without feeling or remorse.

Nourishing the soul begins in childhood

In order to thrive, children must receive love, attention (lots of it!), understanding and encouragement from others. Love nourishes self-esteem, and builds the child 's capacity for self-love. With the ability to love, life becomes joyful and full of happiness. Without the ability to love, life becomes hell, full of suffering and pain.

For more on the roots of violence, read Gilligan, James (1996) "Violence: Our deadly epidemic and its causes. NY: Putnam.

Some quotes from Gilligan's book:

p48: Shame deadens the feelings of being human, and leads to rage. The sources of love for the self are love from others, and one's own love for oneself. Children who fail to receive sufficient love from others, fail to build up reserves of self-love, and the capacity for self-love, which enable them to survive the inevitable rejections and humiliations which even the most fortunate of people cannot avoid. Without feelings of love, the self feels numb, empty, and dead. To be overwhelmed by shame and humiliation causes the destruction of self-esteem. Without a certain amount of self-esteem, the self collapses and the soul dies.

p51: "The soul needs love as vitally as the lungs need oxygen; without it, the soul dies, just as the body does without oxygen."

pp52-53: "But a joyless life is a synonym for hell. A man who does not love and cannot love, is in effect, condemned to hell.* His entire environment, from which -without love- he is cut off, is without enjoyment for him, and thus the world he "lives" in is a source of emptiness and emotional suffocation for him. Both the world and the self are experienced and perceived emotionally as being dead, inanimate, without a soul--without feelings."..................

"Since the sense of aliveness and humanness that comes from loving includes a vulnerability to pain, only those who are capable of risking pain can experience joy. Emotional health is not the absence of pain. It is the capacity to bear painful feelings when they occur, without letting them stop us from loving others and continuing to feel worthy of love ourselves. A person can expose himself to the vulnerability of loving another person only if he has enough self-esteem to protect himself from the devastation he would suffer if that love were not reciprocated. He cannot afford to give to another the love which he cannot give himself. If he has taken the chance and lost, the results can be immediately and devastatingly lethal, to others and to himself. Without love (by which I mean here love for oneself), the self collapses, the soul dies, the psyche goes to hell. Men will quickly and ferociously attack others, even kill them, if they think it will prevent their own souls from being murdered. What they immediately discover when they commit a violent act, however, is that this strategy is self-defeating. And that is why so many murderers finally decide to end their own lives as well."

*In other words, to love something or someone is to enjoy it, or him, or her. and where there is joy, there is love. Conversely, where there is no love, there is no joy (this is the condition called hell, in theological language). And the cause of lovelessness (the incapacity for love) is joylessness (in incapacity for joy); and vice versa. The chief causes of the incapacity for love and joy are shame (the lack of self-love, which inhibits love of others, and stimulates hatred toward them, and fear of them, instead); and guilt (the presence of self-hate, which inhibits self-love, and stimulates fear and condemnation of one's own hostile and destructive impulses and wishes). Among the clinical and behaviorial syndromes caused by shame are paranoia, narcissism, sociopathy, selfishness, sadism, and revenge; whereas guilt causes, among other things, depression, penance, self-punishment, self-sacrifice, martyrdom, and masochism.

pg 214: "We need to "change our attitudes toward taking care of each other, instead of regarding it as shameful if men have a need to be helped by each other (and, more shameful yet, by women)."

pg 234: "But--and this is the crux of the matter--this same emotion, shame, that motivates the ambition, activity, and need for achievement that is necessary for the creation of civilization also motivates violence. "

Other related quotes:

"What is hell...... it is the suffering of being unable to love." as put by Father Zossima in F. Dostoevsky's: The Brothers Karamazov (I,VI.3.i)

"The deadliest form of violence is poverty." Gandhi

"Mankind takes no notice of him. He rambles and wanders unheeded. In the midst of a crowd; at church; in the market . . . he is in as much obscurity as he would be in a garret or a cellar. He is not disapproved, censured, or reproached; he is only not seen. . . . To be wholly overlooked, and know it, are intolerable." as noted by John Adams on impoverished individuals, from: Discourses on Davila, Works (Boston: Little Brown, 1851) Vol VI, pp. 239-49.

"Moral poverty is the poverty of being without loving, capable, responsible adults who teach you right from wrong; the poverty of being without parents and other authorities who habituate you to feel joy at other's joy, pain at others' pain, satisfaction when you do right, remorse when you do wrong; the poverty of growing up in the virtual absence of people who teach morality by their own everyday example and who insist that you follow suit. In the extreme, moral poverty is the poverty of growing up severely abused and neglected at the hands of deviant, delinquent, or criminal adults." quoted from Body Count, by William J. Bennett, John J. DiIulio, Jr., & John P. Walters, Simon & Shuster (1996) Pg 56:

Last updated May 23, 1997

Copyright © 1997 by Duen Hsi Yen, All rights reserved.


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