Humans and War
The history of human societies is filled with war. For many thousands of years, groups of people have fought and killed each other—at the levels of family, tribe, and country. Human history is also filled with countless new understandings and discoveries, great thoughtfulness and cooperation, and widespread improvement of lives. We think that the human mind responsible for this second list is capable of taking the steps to end war.
The human mind is capable of creating endless and workable solutions to any problem—including long-standing problems. Every human has such a mind. The great functioning of the human mind can be interfered with by hardship and distress, physical or emotional, and this can interrupt its ability to create new, good solutions and send it instead into thoughtless and inflexible patterns of reacting to the world. We think this responding to the world in the midst of distress is what has caused and perpetuated the unaware, irrational, unfriendly, and hostile behavior we see in individuals (ourselves included). We think it is also the source of the oppressive and destructive behavior shown by large collections of humans, including that between nations.
In the world today we have ongoing and relentless war, and other forms of exploitation and oppression, the clear result of which is the continued and increasing inequity of resources among humans. Wars are fought, and people exploited, when there is a material benefit to be gained—be it land, oil, or cheap labor. Once exploitation and oppression have become part of a society, every child born into that society is subjected to at least some piece of them. All children become “infected” and tend to play out the irrational roles installed on them as they become adults, and for the rest of their lives.
The particular ways a child is exploited and oppressed depend on his or her nation, economic class, gender, race, and other factors, but everyone is infected and damaged, whether he or she ends up as a target of oppression or is trained to move into the role of an agent of oppression. We endure, and are conditioned to treat others with, belittlement and mistreatment on the basis of many untrue and irrational pretexts. No one is given a choice in this area.
There is no escape from this damage from oppression, there are no good roles within it; everyone loses access to a portion of his or her humanity. Many of us have understood the injustices in the current world and have chosen to struggle against them, but this does not mean that we haven’t been infected. It simply means that we must also struggle against ourselves part of the time—often silently condemning ourselves as we do.
We do not think the situation needs to remain like this. Indeed, we do not think that any mind needs to remain saddled with and confused by the hurts inflicted on it by the irrationalities of society or any other source.
Our picture of humans is that each one of us naturally has enormous intelligence, creativity, interest in other humans, enjoyment of living and no inherent, unsolvable conflicts with anyone else. These are the characteristics that have allowed humans to flourish and spread across the earth.
Human Vulnerability and its Worldwide Effects
Human intelligence also has a vulnerability: when humans encounter an incident of distress, emotional or physical, their thinking ability tends to be interrupted by the incident and replaced with a less-than-thoughtful reaction to it. For example, when we are scared by something, we tend to blindly react, freeze, or run away, rather than being able to think about how best to handle the situation.
Incidents of distress happen in thousands of ways, from the first days of our childhood, and continue to play a large role in how we see the world and respond to it. For example, once scared by an incident involving unfamiliar people, we tend to remain scared of unfamiliar people. Once hurt by being left alone as a child, we tend to keep feeling lonely and isolation on into adulthood.
If we, as children, witness others acting out racism, sexism, or other oppressions, we can carry feelings of fear or confusion and have difficulty thinking clearly about these oppressions for the rest of our lives. The distresses are “recorded” in our minds. Anytime something happens that is similar enough to a way we have gotten hurt, we begin feeling just like we did in the earlier incident of distress, even if the current situation is very different from the original one. We are unable to think freshly and intelligently about the present and instead act as we did in the past.
At this stage in the development of human societies, most of our distresses are created by the humans around us, most often unawarely. Because we are born into societies in which people are acting out racism, sexism, nationalism, and other oppressions, these oppressions are acted out at us, and around us, leaving us with recordings of distress that make it difficult for us to think and act intelligently with regard to these oppressions. In societies that are based on encouraging people to survive by accumulating material wealth, everyone also gets hurt by scarcity and greed.
Once those recordings of these distressing experiences are installed on a group of people, those people can be reminded of the distress (“restimulated”), which interrupts their ability to think clearly. Once they have distresses about another nationality, or any other grouping, it is possible to restimulate their fears, thereby interfering with their thinking and making it possible to gain their support for irrational behavior, like race riots or war.
We see this happening across the world in the present period, but because of another characteristic of the human mind, we do not think the situation is unsolvable.
A Way Out Of Irrationality
We believe that the human mind also has an innate process for healing itself from the effects of distress. We call it the discharge process. If it can be allowed to function fully, without interruption, the mind can recover its full ability to think in the area in which distress had occurred. Then, even in situations similar to earlier distressing situations, the mind is not confused or pushed into fears or other feelings of upset. When people have had the chance to use this process well, they are able to think about the most complex challenges facing them without running into feelings from earlier distresses.
When the distresses involve oppression, the recorded feelings can have us believing that other people are not like us or are our adversaries, making very difficult the intelligent communication, and thinking together, required to find solutions. Freed from these confusions, people have the ability and desire to work cooperatively to solve any problem facing them in ways that benefit everyone.
Some aspects of this healing discharge process are familiar to you. Outward signs of it include crying, shaking with fear, laughing with embarrassment, and storming with frustration. These are reliable indications that the process is operating in a person’s mind, gradually freeing him or her from the confusions installed by a distressing incident. You have used this process. Every one of us was born trying to use it. It can work fully and completely, however, only with the aware, supportive attention from another human being. Without this support, humans gradually give up on letting it work. Few of us get a chance even to fully grieve the loss of a loved one, because no one is able to stay and awarely listen to us as much as we need.
Allowing the discharge process to operate, and organizing ourselves so that it can be allowed it to happen, are important ways of beginning to interrupt the irrationalities that lead to oppression and war. Our experience is that all distress recordings can be eliminated—no matter how long an individual has had them, how confusing these pictures from the past are, or how hard a society works to keep people restimulated, confused, and scared.
It has been our consistent experience that when people use the discharge process, it removes rigid and reactive beliefs and responses from their minds. It is our belief that only when individuals are able to do this do we have the real possibility of changing the rigidities and anti-human policies that have become such a part of our societies.
Using the discharge process does several things:
- It frees the individual from the confusions caused by the way that he or she has gotten hurt and oppressed.
- It allows the individual to understand present-day reality as separate from the ways he or she been hurt and as a new circumstance that requires fresh new thinking and solutions.
- It eases the communication and cooperation between people who are seeking solutions for present-day problems and irrationalities.
- It helps people recognize when they are being restimulated and decide not to follow the pull of the feelings from that restimulation.
- It helps people recognize the individuals, groups, institutions, and parts of society whose function it is to restimulate people into reaction.
- It helps people to realize their power and ability to work together to interrupt the irrationalities and oppression in the institutions of their societies.
- It removes the distresses that keep people feeling separate so that they recognize our common interests and find solutions that are to the benefit of everyone.
Putting This Into Practice
To put this into practice is not complicated, but it does not always feel easy. We humans carry many, many feelings from past hurts, most of which we have had to put deeply away. When we begin to feel them again, we can forget that being allowed to feel them, with someone else there in support, will finally let them be resolved.
How You Can Begin
To begin using the discharge process and finding out if it can work well for you, you simply need one other person willing to take turns listening with you. The listening is for the benefit of the speaker, not the listener, and needs to be done in a way that may be quite different from the way you have usually listened to others.
We call the two people Co-Counselors. The listener (or counselor) tries to be interested and supportive of the speaker (the client), without offering opinions or advice. The counselor’s task is to find ways to encourage the client to talk about what he or she wishes to talk about—not to judge or analyze what is said nor to ask questions to satisfy the counselor’s own curiosity.
Each person in the pair gets half of the time to speak about his or her own thoughts and memories and then spends the other half as listener. The relationship is to be entirely equal.
Many useful ways have been developed to help this process work, and they can be found in other literature on Re-evaluation Counseling, provided by Rational Island Publishers (see footnote with website, address, etc.). Something important that needs to be understood from the beginning is that the content of what a client says is to remain confidential. What is said to the counselor in these times (sessions) is to remain with that person alone; he or she is not to discuss it with anyone else. Only with the agreement of confidentiality will both people feel safe enough to talk about some of the things that are important to their lives.
For this process to work well, the two people do not need to have the same, or even similar, ideas or perspectives. They do need to listen attentively and with respect to each other, rather than being pulled into discussion or argument. Our consistent experience has been that when people have the opportunity to use this process fully, they tend toward overcoming the rigidities in their thinking, gain broader perspectives, come closer to agreement on a wide range of issues concerning both of them, and are able to find non-conflicting perspectives and proposals for moving forward on any issue.
The first benefits of using the discharge process occur quickly. You may notice them after only the first session or two. They continue as you continue to apply the process to all of the difficulties and distresses you have encountered in your life. Because many things have happened to each of us, for many, many years, and we have not had the chance to let the healing process operate, you will find a large collection of things to talk about, and to grieve and cry about. You will revisit old fears, and even shake, and remember old embarrassments, and laugh and perspire, as you recover from the accumulated difficulties from the earlier events.
An Overview on Ending War
We think that all wars, at their roots, are caused by stored-up hurtful experiences, which confuse people into justifying the exploitation of other humans and believing that violence is necessary and legitimite when economic coercion and its exploitation fail.
While the exploitation of one group of humans by another may, in the past, have provided the time and resources for some people to understand the world better, and thus led to progress for our species, we now have enough knowledge and resources that the “usefulness” of or “need” for exploitation is well over. No people should be oppressed or exploited, and no justification of oppression or exploitation is legitimate.
Our experience has been that as people discharge on the ways they have been confused and hurt, especially by the oppressions of their society, they become ever more interested and active in seeking ways to move society forward toward ending exploitation, oppression, and war. An ever growing collection of people from many countries are now part of this work in United to End Racism, a program of the Re-evaluation Counseling Communities.
We think that the recovery process described here is important, and we invite you to take what we have learned and use it in your work for a future of peace. Our knowledge will not replace what you know, or the work you have chosen to do. It will assist you to not get “burned out” by the challenges of the work, and to think more easily, clearly, and broadly about it, and help you in the communication and cooperation that is vital to making the work move swiftly forward.
To end war, all of us, as individuals, must move forward; reach a wider spectrum of people, as well as greater numbers; build our collective understanding; and resolve to make the world different from anything it has been before.
We are confident that this can and will be done, and we offer you our support, and the knowledge we have gained, for your work.