Applications of Ahimsa-Nonviolence in Daily Life

EDITORIAL, 29 July 2013

#282 | Johan Galtung

The TRANSCEND-Peace Development Environment Network started with geopolitical macro and mega conflicts; many well known and dramatic.  But conflicts in daily life, at school, in couples-family, at work may be even more dramatic; at the micro level within the persons involved, between them, in the context, and at the meso level of social groups.

Macro and mega, between states and regions, nations and civilizations, may also matter, like micro personal and meso social conflicts matter for macro and mega conflicts within and between negotiators-mediators.  Any act of violence, like bullying at school, quarrels in the family or at work may actually not express hostility toward the victim but be directed toward the “system”.  A feeling of being trapped in general may be expressed as violence at school, in a couple-family, at work.

But higher levels generally prefer a lower level focus; not on them and the level they represent, but at the bully or the quarrelsome person.  Psychologists may be mobilized to handle “the difficult person” when seen more deeply what is at stake is a highly problematic system.

For a nonviolent handling we have to have all levels in mind, and that is the essence of our SABONA project, TRANSCEND in daily life.  The word means in Zulu: “I see you”, I take you in, all of you, all levels!

I present here a table with three columns for the three types of “daily life”, and ten levels for theory and practice. Lack of adequate analysis leads to single-level reductionism and interventions at the wrong, usually meaning lower, levels.

For therapy sensitivity to intra-column multi-level conflicts is indispensable, not only focusing on perpetrator or victim and their narratives, but also on relations, contexts, structures and cultures in which they are embedded.  Sensitivity to inter-column transfers of conflict energy is also needed, as frustrations in one may easily come out as aggression in the other.

ANALYSIS

LEVEL

SCHOOLS COUPLES-FAMILY WORK
1 Micro,

within

Bully Perpe-

trator

Trouble-

maker

2 Micro,

within

Bullee Victim Competitor

 

3 Micro,

between

Bully-

Bullee

Relation Competition
4 Meso,

context

Bully-Bullee Perpetrator-Victim Troublemaker-competitor
5 Meso,

setting

Class-

teacher

Marriage-

Family

Section
6 Meso,

super

School-

rector

Kin Company
7 Macro,

meta-

setting

School-

system

ministry

Marriage-Family

system

Economic

system

8 Macro,

society,

structure

vertical

horizontal

patriarchy

parentarchy

vs parity

vertical

vs

horizontal

9 Macro,

society,

culture

individual-ist- vs

collectivist

individual-

ist vs

collectivist

individual-

ist vs

collectivist

10 Mega

civili-

zations

Modern vs

tradi-

tional

Modern vs

tradi-

tional

Modern vs

tradi-

tional

Difficult?  Yes, but knowledge helps.  Thus, sitting down with perpetrator and victim, one at a time, asking questions beyond their relations to each other, may already be half the therapy.

Incidentally, it also takes some of the brunt of the verbal or physical violence: there as more to it than just the two of us.  A worker-manager relation may have gone very sour; it helps to ask both what could be done with workplace organization.  Maybe a change from company toward cooperative may help?  Thus, there are structures that are problematic regardless of the concrete persons who enact the various roles.

And vice versa: there are persons who are problematic regardless of the structure in which they are embedded.  We may have to search in micro and meso contexts like the Freudian focus on the childhood.  Not forgetting the Jungian focus on the role of civilizations–.

_____________________

Johan Galtung, a professor of peace studies, dr hc mult, is rector of the TRANSCEND Peace University-TPU. He is author of over 150 books on peace and related issues, including ‘50 Years-100 Peace and Conflict Perspectives,’ published by the TRANSCEND University Press-TUP.

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This article originally appeared on Transcend Media Service (TMS) on 29 July 2013.

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3 Responses to “Applications of Ahimsa-Nonviolence in Daily Life”

  1. Dear Johan,

    Wonderful to read you, with all the erudite and detailed information you give us. Fortunately for me, I have no difficulty in understanding what you wrote, as I’ve been interested in Psychology my entire life. (also have several, psychologists, psychotherapists, psychoanalysts and psychiatrists in my family)

    You are very right in relating “therapy sensitivity” to “conflicts”, on “not only focusing on perpetrator or victim and their narratives, but also on relations, contexts, structures and cultures in which they are embedded.”. Of course you’re also very right when stating “frustrations in one may easily come out as aggression in the other.”

    You are spot on when you say “sitting down with perpetrator and victim, one at a time, asking questions beyond their relations to each other, may already be half the therapy.” However, what you don’t say is, are we supposed to give a gun each, in advance, to the perpetrator and the victim, just in case our therapy didn’t work?

    In a large scale, a Cultural, Religious, Nationalistic, Economic level, this is what we do: we accept countries have Armed Forces and tell them their military arsenal needs to be renewed, updated, on a regular basis.

    Millions of people are trained to “officially” kill, by land, sea and from the air. I ask you, what psychological treatment do you recommend to prevent the eruption of violence?

    If violence didn’t erupt, bullets, bombs were not used, air-fighters were not downed in conflict, what psychological therapy do you recommend for all those military factories that will go bankrupt ??? what would Freud or Jung say?

    My very best wishes, Alberto

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