The One Thing We Must Do To End Male Violence In America Now And Forever – Part 2
Part 2: The Traumatic Roots of Male Violence
Abused boys become abusive and violent men
It never occurred to me that my lifelong anger and depression, and later my two broken marriages, had anything to do with my past. All of that changed in 1998 when I found out I had 4 aces. Let me explain. ACEs stand for Adverse Childhood Experiences and the concept was developed by Dr. Vincent Felitti and Dr. Robert Anda developed.
Since then, they have conducted more than 70 studies showing the link between negative childhood experiences and later physical, emotional, and relationship health.
Participants were asked about different types of childhood trauma identified in previous research literature, including the following 10 ACEs:
- Sexual abuse
- Emotional abuse
- Physical neglect
- Emotional neglect
- Exposure to domestic violence
- Substance abuse in the household
- Mental illness in the household
- Parental separation or divorce
- Household member imprisoned
They found that every ACE a person reported increased their risk of a variety of physical, emotional, and relationship problems in adults. ACEs are common and I’ve had four of them. Four aces are great as a poker hand, but very bad for our health. Drs. Felitti and Anda found that those who had 4 or more ACES compared to those who did not had:
- a 4 to 12 fold increased health risk for alcoholism, substance abuse, depression, and suicide.
- a 2 to 4 fold increase in smoking, poor self-assessment of health, more than 50 partners having sexual intercourse, and sexually transmitted diseases.
- a 1.4 to 1.6 fold increase in physical inactivity and severe obesity.
To understand male violence, we also need to understand the systemic forms of wounding and humiliation, which include poverty, racism, sexism, economic inequality, climate catastrophe and the loss of basic needs for life including clean water. As Scott Harrison, founder of Charity: Water, reminds us “Dirty water is responsible for more deaths than any form of violence worldwide.” Of course, the destruction of our planet’s life support system can be the ultimate form of violence. These systemic problems affect our lives through our families.
After I was born, my father became increasingly depressed when he couldn’t find a job to support his family. I still remember the day I heard my mother and her friends talk about their husbands. They all had complaints about the shortcomings of men. I can’t remember the exact complaints, but I will forever remember the ridiculousness, contempt, contempt and pity I heard in their voices. I was ashamed of my father and humiliated as his son. When I was four years old, I was angry. I swore I’d die before I ever let a woman talk about me like that. It was a vow that almost killed me.
Shortly after I turned five, my father overdosed on sleeping pills. He didn’t die, but our life was never the same. More layers of humiliation were added when my father left, my mother went to work full time, and I was left with others and learned to take care of myself. It took me many years to realize that my childhood ACEs led to humiliation, which manifested itself in anger and depression that caused health problems and broken marriages. It was many years before I got the help I needed to heal.
I share my own wounds and those of other men I’ve worked with over the years in my book The Irritable Male Syndrome: Understanding and Treating the 4 Main Causes of Depression and Aggression. I offer instructions on healing in 12 rules for good men.
Our partnership roots and the origin of systemic male violence
I met the internationally recognized scholar and futurist Riane Eisler in 1987, shortly after The Chalice and the Blade was published. She juxtaposed two human social systems. “The first, which I call the Dominator Model, is popularly known as either Patriarchy or Matriarchy – the ranking of one half of humanity over the other. The second, where social relationships are primarily based on the principle of linkage rather than ranking, can best be described as the partnership model.
She has deepened and elaborated this model in numerous books, including her most recent book, which she co-authored with peace anthropologist Douglas P. Fry: Nurturing Our Humanity: How domination and partnership shape our brains, our lives and our future. They describe our nomadic ancestors of the gatherers, who lived on the planet for two million years before large-scale agriculture began, as the “original partnership societies”.
They describe how these four characteristics of partnership systems or partnerism have been key characteristics of our human heritage for more than 99% of human history:
- General egalitarianism
- Equality, respect and partnership between women and men
- Non-acceptance of violence, war, abuse, cruelty and exploitation; and
- Ethics that support human care, prosocial collaboration, and bloom.
If violence, war, abuse, cruelty, and exploitation are not inherent in being human but have occurred more recently, I’ve always wondered when Dominator cultures began and why. One convincing theory comes from the research of Dr. James DeMeo. “Saharasia is perhaps the most important book I have ever written, but it is certainly not the most popular,” says Dr. DeMeo. “It is an important discovery on the role of early human armor in the origins of war and social violence in the mid to late Neolithic of the Old World around 4000 BC. The results in Saharasia challenge almost all conventional theories of human behavior and the origins of violence, including those of ‘violent genes’, ‘naked apes’, ’empty slate’ and ‘original sin’. “
Dr. DeMeo goes on to say that his results “confirmed the existence of an ancient, worldwide period of relatively peaceful social conditions, when war, male domination, and destructive aggression were either absent or at extremely minimal levels. In addition, it has become possible to determine both the exact times and the places on earth at which human culture first changed from peaceful, democratic, egalitarian conditions to violent, warlike, despotic conditions. “
DeMeo refers to the place as “the regions of the ancient world (particularly in North Africa, the Middle East and Central Asia”, the time “around 4000-3500 BC” or 5,500 to 6,000 years ago and the cause that “were” . Great environmental changes, from relatively humid to dry conditions in these regions. “
He even links his findings with specific theories of the Austrian doctor and psychoanalyst Wilhelm Reich. Dr. DeMeo says, “Reich’s theory, which evolved from and deviated from psychoanalysis, identified the destructive aggression and sadistic violence of Homo sapiens as a completely abnormal condition. Reich claimed that people became violent for two main reasons: first, through abusive and negligent treatment of infants and children, and second, through repression of juvenile heterosexual feelings. “
DeMeo also saw the connection with Riane Eisler’s work, published shortly after his own. “After I had completed and published my research results between 1980 and 1986, I then found out about Riane Eisler’s work The Chalice & The Blade, which advocated similar cultural transitions in Europe and the Mediterranean.”
Healing people, healing relationships, healing the planet: the work we are now called to do
My book, The Warrior’s Journey Home: Healing Men, Healing the Planet describes how dominant culture harms men and the women and children they love. It shows how dominator culture is both addictive and destructive. The time for unified action is now more urgent than ever.
Says psychologist Sam Keen, “The radical vision of the future rests on the belief that the logic that governs either our survival or our destruction is simple:
- The new human calling is to heal the earth.
- We can only heal what we love.
- We can only love what we know.
- We can only know what we are touching. “
Now is the time to go back to the future. We have to fall back on the wisdom of the “original partnership societies” of our two million year old history, heal the humiliation from the last 6,000 years of violence in the dominator culture and create the new partnerism for the future. As Riane Eisler says on her website Parnerism.org, this is a time for “power with, not power over”.
Thomas Berry was a priest, “geologist” and historian of religion. He spoke eloquently about our connection to earth and the consequences of our failure to remind us that we are a member of the community. “We never knew enough. We were also not familiar enough with all of our cousins in the great Earth family. Nor could we listen to the different creatures of the earth, each with their own story to tell. However, now is the time when we will listen or die. “
To end male violence, we must tell the truth about the humiliation we inflict on men in our families and in our world. This has been my job for fifty years. Humiliated men, humiliated women, children and other men. For information on how you can help stop the cycle of humiliation and return to our partnership roots, send a message to [email protected] and include “healing male violence” in the subject line.
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