By Robert J. Burrowes
One inevitable outcome of the phenomenal violence we all suffer as
children is that most of us live in a state of delusion throughout our
lives. This makes it extraordinarily difficult for accurate information,
including vital information about the endangered state of our world and
how to respond appropriately, to penetrate the typical human mind.
‘Phenomenal violence?’ you might ask. ‘All of us?’ you wonder. Yes,
although, tragically, most of this violence goes unrecognised because it
is not usually identified as such. For most people, it is a
straightforward task to identify the ‘visible’ violence that they have
suffered and, perhaps, still suffer. However, virtually no-one is able
to identify the profoundly more damaging impact of the ‘invisible’ and
‘utterly invisible’ violence that is inflicted on us mercilessly from
the day we are born.
So what is this ‘invisible’ and ‘utterly invisible’ violence?
‘Invisible’ violence is the ‘little things’ that adults do to children
every day, partly because they are just ‘too busy’. For example, when
adults do not allow time to listen to, and value, a child’s thoughts and
feelings, the child learns to not listen to themSelf thus destroying
their internal communication system. When adults do not let a child say
what they want (or ignore them when they do), the child develops
communication and behavioural dysfunctionalities as they keep trying to
meet their own needs (which, as a basic survival strategy, they are
genetically programmed to do).
When adults blame, condemn, insult, mock, embarrass, shame, humiliate,
taunt, goad, guilt-trip, deceive, lie to, bribe, blackmail, moralize
with and/or judge a child, they both undermine their sense of Self-worth
and teach them to blame, condemn, insult, mock, embarrass, shame,
humiliate, taunt, goad, guilt-trip, deceive, lie, bribe, blackmail,
moralize and/or judge.
The fundamental outcome of being bombarded throughout their childhood by
this ‘invisible’ violence is that the child is utterly overwhelmed by
feelings of fear, pain, anger and sadness (among many others). However,
parents, teachers, religious figures and other adults also actively
interfere with the expression of these feelings and the behavioural
responses that are naturally generated by them and it is this ‘utterly
invisible’ violence that explains why the dysfunctional behavioural
outcomes actually occur.
For example, by ignoring a child when they express their feelings, by
comforting, reassuring or distracting a child when they express their
feelings, by laughing at or ridiculing their feelings, by terrorizing a
child into not expressing their feelings (e.g. by screaming at them when
they cry or get angry), and/or by violently controlling a behaviour that
is generated by their feelings (e.g. by hitting them, restraining them
or locking them into a room), the child has no choice but to
unconsciously suppress their awareness of these feelings.
However, once a child has been terrorized into suppressing their
awareness of their feelings (rather than being allowed to have their
feelings and to act on them) the child has also unconsciously suppressed
their awareness of the reality that caused these feelings. In brief,
this means that the child now lives in a state of delusion. And because
this state was caused by terrorizing the child, the child is unable to
perceive the series of delusions in which they now live.
Moreover, unless the child (or, later, adult) consciously feels their
fear and terror, it will be extraordinarily difficult for them to
perceive anything beyond the delusions that they acquired during
childhood. This is simply because the various elements of the child’s
delusional state (the ‘values’, beliefs, attitudes, prejudices, biases)
were the ones approved by the key adults – parents, teachers, religious
figures – in the child’s life.
Needless to say, living in a delusional state has many outcomes that are
disastrous for the individual, for society and for nature because the
individual will now behave on the basis of their delusions rather than
in response to an accurate assessment of all available information
through appropriate sensory, emotional, intellectual and conscientious
scrutiny. For a full explanation of this process, see ‘Why Violence?‘ and ‘Fearless Psychology and Fearful Psychology: Principles and Practice‘.
In essence then, the typical human being lives in a delusional state and
this state is held in place by enormous, but unconscious, terror: the
unfelt and hence unreleased childhood terror of being endlessly
threatened and punished (for not complying with parental or other adult
‘authority’ throughout childhood).
And if you have ever tried to persuade someone, by argument of an
intellectual nature, that a belief they hold is inaccurate and wondered
why you couldn’t get anywhere, it is because you have run into their
unconscious terror. And sheer terror beats the best argument in the
world ‘hands down’.
So when you listen to people like Donald Trump and Marine Le Pen, or
ponder those politicians and military generals who conduct endless wars,
or watch those people on the street protesting against Muslims and
refugees, or watch police beating up another indigenous or black person,
or hear someone else deny the climate science, remember that you are
witness to a person or people living in a terrified and delusional state
that prevents them from perceiving and responding intelligently to
reality. And that, in the case of political and corporate leaders, they
only have the support to do what they do because a great many other
delusional individuals (including voters and employees) enable them.
Equally importantly, however, it is also necessary to recognise that a
delusional state afflicts many of those we like to regard as ‘on our
side’. It is just that their delusions work differently, perhaps, for
example, by making them believe that only token ‘make it up as you go
along’ responses (rather than comprehensive strategies) are necessary if
we are to work our way out of the multifaceted crisis in which human
society now finds itself. This is why many ‘leaders’ of liberation
struggles as well as activist movements concerned with ending war(s) and
the climate catastrophe, for example, are so unable to articulate
appropriately visionary and functional strategies. But the problem
afflicts many other ‘progressive’ social movements as well, which limp
along making only occasional or marginal impact, if they have any impact
So what are we to do? Well, the most important thing you can do is to
never consciously participate in a delusion, whether your own or that of
anyone else. I say ‘consciously’ of course because unless you identify
the delusion, you will not be able to avoid participating in it. And
there are probably few humans in history who have avoided all of the
delusions their culture threw at them. If they did, they were probably
outcast or killed. Christ, Gandhi and King are reasonably good examples
of people in this latter category. But, historically speaking, many
activists have been killed for refusing to participate in elite-promoted
delusions. And many others have been marginalised, one way or another,
depending on the culture.
The value of not participating in a delusion, whether someone’s personal
delusion or a widespread social one, arises from the impact you have on
those around you: some of these people will have the courage to reflect
on your behaviour and reconsider their own.
If you believe you are relatively free of delusion and are committed to
taking serious steps to tackle one or more aspects of our multifaceted
global crisis, then you are welcome to consider making ‘My Promise to
Children‘, and to consider participating in ‘The Flame Tree Project to Save Life on
Earth‘, signing the online pledge of ‘The People’s Charter to Create a Nonviolent World‘
and/or considering using the strategic framework on one or the other of these two websites for your campaign or liberation struggle: Nonviolent Campaign Strategy
and Nonviolent Defense/Liberation Strategy.
Living the truth on a daily basis is a tough road. And it will never
come without cost. But living in the comfort of delusion, rather than
taking action, is the path of cowards.
Biodata: Robert J. Burrowes has a lifetime commitment to understanding and ending human violence. He has done extensive research since 1966 in an effort to understand why human beings are violent and has been a nonviolent activist since 1981. He is the author of ‘Why Violence?‘ His email address is firstname.lastname@example.org and his website is at http://robertjburrowes.wordpress.com
Robert J. Burrowes
P.O. Box 68
Flame Tree Project to Save Life on Earth
Nonviolent Campaign Strategy
Nonviolent Defense/Liberation Strategy
Anita: Songs of Nonviolence
Global Nonviolence Network