04 Jun What’s a few broken windows?
In the midst of public reaction to the murder of innocent people like George Floyd, I hear criticism of the vandalizing and looting of shops, public buildings and monuments across the country. People are saying things like, “Looting takes away from the message.”
Certainly, protesters are coming from all different angles and reactions to this event.
Some people are gathering peacefully, some are angry, some sad, some demanding change, some with a vendetta. And then there’s reaction to the reactions with provokers and anti-provokers and anti-anti-provokers.
I’m not condoning this destructive behavior. It’s a violation of others’ boundaries and at the same time I understand where this reaction is coming from and I invite us all to explore these reactions with some curiosity.
People are hurting!!!
As I reflect on my own past, I remember slamming doors, busting out windows, punching holes in drywall, screaming profanities, burning icons and much more that I won’t mention to save some face.
During these times, my actions were greeted with stern questioning like “Why did you do this?”, “How could you do such a thing?” and “Aren’t you thinking about others?” “You’re so selfish!”, and with privileges revoked, isolation, social shaming and community service mandated.
I didn’t have an answer to these questions. And, I mostly kept my mouth shut so as not to bring on more criticism, shame and verbal attacks.
Now, I can look back at these times with understanding.
I grew up in a household that had the appearance of many of my needs being meet. I had food, shelter, water, security, and opportunity. But I did not receive love. I did not receive the kind of love that comes in the form of being seen, being nurtured, being understood. My wounding was that in the eyes of my parents
I did not exist.
You see, kids in our family were second class citizens. We were told to shut up, sit down and do as you’re told. We were led to believe that the adults’ feelings, thoughts, and needs were more important. We were told to go to our room, go to bed, or deal with it on our own if we had a question, concern, or idea. “If you can’t contribute nicely, don’t contribute at all.”
Kids were put on this earth to serve the adults, go to school, do our chores and be a fine reflection of our family image. I was completely disempowered. I was not given space to develop a healthy willpower. My creativity, my sense of SELF was squashed.
So, as a young child who wanted acceptance, ultimately self-acceptance, I did what I was told and served the adults. My parent’s dreams became my dreams. My parent’s values became my values. My parent’s fears became my fears.
Does any of this sound familiar?
Well, for me, this way of being what others wanted me to be and not being myself didn’t last long. I rebelled. I entered a period of several years of expressing myself without much regard to the impact it had on others or myself because, more often than not, the destruction was turned inward.
All I cared about was me, and proving to myself that I mattered, that I existed, that my life and the things that I care about were worth fighting for. I was discovering my willpower, my SELF. I busted out!! “10,000 years in a bottle can give you such a crook in the neck!”
So, why did I break the window?
I was deprived of some basic human needs and was acting out to get someone to take notice. It was a cry for help. I was hurting deeply inside and didn’t want to hurt anymore. I wanted someone to see me, to understand me, to love me, to accept me, to care about me. And, if no one was going to see me, I needed to see myself, feel myself, hear myself, before my soul was snuffed out by indifference.
Unfortunately, when I was a teenager, there weren’t adults in my life that could hold this compassionate presence, listen deeply to me or give empathy rather than punishment.
Over the years, with many hours of therapy and coaching, I was able to discharge my anger and allow it to move in a safe container without real world consequences. I begin to understand the energy behind it, to honor and appreciate this energy for protecting me as a child, supporting my will to fight for my life and show up for my SELF in a situation where nobody else would.
In one particular process, I was coached to use a padded bat used in martial art training to whack a pillow until every muscle in my body was exhausted and scream profanities at the top of my lungs until my voice was hoarse. I was encouraged to pay attention to my body, to feel the energy. I felt alive, I felt my power. I felt my will to live.
I felt my desire to exist.
In looking back at all those attempts to hurt others, hurt myself, and damage property, I now hear Marshall Rosenberg saying that those were “tragic expressions of unmet needs”. I was attempting, to the best of my ability, to protect and fight for my needs for love, my need to exist, my need to be seen, my need to live.
Sure, if I had the tools and the support to ask for my needs to be met in a non-violent way, I would’ve likely used them. But I didn’t have access at the time. It wasn’t until years later that I managed to find people who cared, who understood and who saw under the superficial acting out of a scared, lonely, confused kid, who was fighting for his will to live.
The paradox of today’s window breakers
When I hear or see angry looters breaking windows, painting graffiti, stealing from stores and screaming “Fuck you, pig”, I encourage you to click on your empathy translation app and instead hear, “I’m hurting!” “I’m dying inside!” “I’m at the end of my rope!” “I don’t give a damn anymore!” “I don’t care if I die or you die.” “I feel helpless!” “I feel hopeless!” “Somebody see me!” “Somebody care about me!” “Somebody love me!” “Somebody help me!” “I need support.” “I need my basic human needs for food, shelter, clean air, clean water, protection, love, education, understanding, safety, fairness, justice to be met.”
Especially when you consider all the years of oppression and then add the current tension of an epidemic that threatens basic human needs. People are overwhelmed.
Most people have been cooped up for months with no outlets, no money coming in, afraid of sickness, without group sports or extra-curricular activities, missing support groups, connection to friends, and all our daily routines thrown into chaos with no end in sight. The rituals that we once relied on to keep us sane have been taken away.
When cups are full for days, months, decades, and lifetimes, I can understand why lids blow.
I encourage you to be still and allow this energy to come out. Let’s take a knee. Let’s witness and hold space for our fellow human beings who are screaming for help. What a gift it would be to allow them to be seen and heard. Certainly, we need to step forward to protect the lives of our citizens. But, what’s a few broken windows compared to centuries of crying out for fairness, safety, justice, love and to be valued?
After taking a knee and giving empathy, you might find that you are moved to help by contributing to meet their basic human needs. If so, here’s how.
You can act by supporting these programs:
In Asheville/Buncombe County:
Call Asheville City Council, 855-925-2801, leave your name and address and request that the fiscal year 2020-2021 budget, redirect funds to bolster the Equity and Inclusion Department and funding for mental health programming for citizens, inmates and law enforcement officers.
Iron Sharpens Iron Men’s Group, Robert Simmons firstname.lastname@example.org, 828-280-7427
Coaching and classes by phone or on-line:
You can also contribute to our Blossom & Be Wellness scholarship fund which provides bodywork, mediation and counseling to those who cannot afford these services.
What are a few broken windows?