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The cultivation of violence

Posted by on in Individual Dynamics
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If you see an acorn on the ground, would you be shocked to later find an oak tree growing there?  We see the seeds of violence and cruelty all around us.  Yet we act shocked and even outraged when the resulting trees cast life threatening shadows.  We currently live in a veritable forest of violence.  This violence and fear are then shamelessly marketed by our media, which we buy.  In one way or another, we are all partially responsible for this debacle.

Although it is painful to be treated as if you are unworthy as a human being, that is how people routinely treat each other.  Some husbands and wives speak to each other with harsh tones and sarcastic words on a routine basis.  I often witness needy impressionable children being yelled at and called demeaning names by their parents and other adults.  It is clear that people in pain tend to become angry.  Many people routinely bury their pain and anger in mood altering drugs or express them through mindless crime or even self inflicted violence.  Suicide is the ultimate expression of a person in pain.  Even though most gun related violence is directed toward ourselves, there is enough other directed violence that police wisely feel obligated to wear bullet-proof vests.  

Scores of children who don’t fit in with their peers are attacked by word or deed.  They are bullied and humiliated on a daily basis, sometimes by other kids and sometimes by unthinking or frustrated teachers and administrators.  Most children witness or experience such behavior before leaving elementary school. 

In misguided attempts at discipline, children are routinely belittled and threatened in their homes by the very people who are supposed to nurture them. In many cases children are taught not to express pain or distress.  When they finally snap and run amok, we are at a loss to explain their behavior.  They have been required to hide their pain for so long, they don’t even know it is there.  Later they express rage instead.  

We live in a world where people who make mistakes or commit crimes born of their pain, despair and suffering are imprisoned in conditions that range from harsh to inhumane.  Mistakes and misbehavior seldom receive scrutiny regarding what led up to that behavior.  Instead blame and harsh condemnation for the actions may be followed by punishment that can border on draconian.  Punishment is supported by many as an attempt to get at the roots of violence, despite studies showing that punishment is rarely an effective deterrent.  

We spend enough money on police and jails and our courts and our armed forces to feed and house millions as well as treat their emotional distress.  We don’t treat their emotional and physical distress as soon as it is discovered.  Instead we wait until they break a law or act out with violence.  Then we spend huge sums of money to isolate them in a community of other violent behavior specialists in the form of both guards and inmates.  We are willing to spend money on housing violent offenders under horrible circumstances where they will receive continuing messages about being unworthy and unacceptable in our world.   Eventually, we release most of them to return to a world where they will be in worse shape than before.  Often they are then closely scrutinized and held to a more difficult standard than the general population.  

This borders on intentional cultivation of violence.  A research experiment with these parameters would be banned by any university ethics committee as inhumane.  

We recreate our violent culture every day.  For the most part, we are unable to even envision a world without violence.  We sanction violence in many forms.  Our media has learned that we will pay for reports on violence.  Our newspapers and television news feature reports on violence on an almost hourly basis.  Verbal and physical violence permeates our movies.  Our world won’t change until we change our attitude and our response to people who have been taught to hate themselves and others.  Until then it would be folly to expect any significant reduction in crime and general mayhem.  People who are in pain will act that pain out.  If no help comes, they act it out in larger ways until someone responds.  If they have to hurt someone in order to be acknowledged, then that is what they will do.  As a nation we are actively and passively planting, cultivating and nurturing violence.   Then we loudly deny our part in it, blaming and condemning the violent crop we have planted, fertilized and nurtured to maturity in our well-intentioned ignorance. 



Charles L. Gustafson has been a licensed Marriage and Family Therapist since 1973. He offers a combination of interactive psychotherapy and educational information in his approach to counseling. Charles offers individual counseling as well as marriage, or relationship, counseling and parent child counseling.


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Guest Friday, 22 February 2019
  • Charles Gustafson, MFT
    Lic.# 5983
    599 S. Barranca, Suite 224
    Covina, CA 91723
  • 626-966-2662

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  • 599 S. Barranca, Suite 224
    Covina, CA 91723
  • 626-966-2662