Around here, we talk a lot about Cycles. Lunar Cycles, Sleep Cycles, Wellness Cycles; Cycles that generate the Rhythm. For years my work has been helping people understand their daily life, productivity and health through the visual representation of tracked, cyclical awareness, which honours all of nature and living. This piece includes my first published thoughts on an alternative Cycle to Violence.
A Cycle against the Rhythm
Today we’re talking about a Cycle that, rather than supporting life, goes against creating a life that sets you free. This Cycle, is used in instances where someone is creating entrapment, control and on-purpose limitations, usually as a power struggle in response to their own insecurity and lack of decency as a human being. Unfortunately, in my work with people, this Cycle is discussed as often as the others.
The Cycle of Violence, you’ll notice, travels in the opposite direction to our Rhythm (which flows in alignment with the momentum of the Sun through the sky). Violence is not life affirming. The Cycle of Violence by it’s very definition does not support the Rhythm of Life.
As a Counsellor I see many people who identify this Cycle in their intimate relationships, whether that be partners, ex-partners, or from growing up in their Family of Origin (FOO), ie. parents, siblings, grandparents. I’ve done the stats, and at anytime there are 80-90% of people on my caseload who have had to, or are currently dealing with, significant Domestic and Family Violence in their lives.
Saying No to Violence : a societal issue
If you’re reading this, you’re probably already on board with No Violence when it comes to women, children and families. Have you thought however, that the Cycle of Violence is foundational in every major mainstream part of our society. When we’re saying No to Violence, we absolutely have to talk about that too.
The Cycle of Violence is also witnessed in institutions, like schools, workplaces and even sporting groups. As a Martial Arts and Movement Coach, it’s something I’m constantly aware to; conscious of teaching in a way that promotes autonomy, choice and freedom, rather than performance, expectation and intimidation. (I talked about this in the Fight Back Project Podcast).
Domestic Violence as one of many
Coercive Control is a term we use in Domestic and Family Violence work because it highlights that abuse is not limited to the act of physical and sexual violence. Any pattern of behaviour that uses controlling and manipulative strategies to get someone to do a particular something, is coercive control. These behaviours can include acts of assault, threats, humiliation and intimidation or other abuse (name calling, taking away resources, forcing the person to do something difficult or stopping access to something they care about). These behaviours are used to harm, punish and frighten an individual, to ensure the abuser gets their desired outcome.
Stereotypically we might think of this as a man, who comes home drunk (intimidation), yells at the family members (stand over) and when they don’t scuttle away fast enough he pushes his wife, slamming her face into a wall (assault). The next morning, when he sobers up and sees the woman’s black eye, he might beg for forgiveness, saying he didn’t mean it and will never do it again (false remorse). Over the course of the following couple of days, he’ll tell the family how stressed he is at work, and having to pay bills and how difficult things are for him (justification) only to go out next Friday night after work for a few drinks – you know, to blow off some steam with the guys (intimidation)…
It’s a Cycle because nothing changes from one “Remorse” phase to another – and that’s why, in the picture above, you’ll see it’s called False Remorse. If the remorse were real, there wouldn’t be a cycle.
Normalised Violence : Systemic and Acculturated
But the above example is only the most media-common one. It’s stereotypical and cliche, and although very valid in the statistics of how often it happens in our society, I invite you to think about these scenarios as Cycles of Violence too :
EXAMPLE : A busy mum has had a crazy day at work, she’s cranky when she gets home and whenever the kids talk to her she gives them the death stare (intimidation). At dinner time the noise of the ten year old’s open-mouth chewing makes her crazy. She tells them all to eat in silence or else she’s going to blow (stand over), and when bed time comes, the evening ends with an explosive theatre, after the fourth ‘I’m thirsty’ routine to “Go to fucking bed” (assault). After she’s had a couple wines, she’ll be calm enough to rationalise that that was a terrible evening and something has to change (false remorse). She’ll tell everyone she’s sorry in the morning, and promise pizza for dinner (justification)… If something like this happens again, whether it’s tomorrow or in three months – we have a Cycle.
EXAMPLE : Your Boot Camp Coach has promised to help you level up, but you’re going to have to listen to him – he’s got the answers if you do the work (justification). In Class he tells you you’re slacking off, and if you really want to meet those goals, you’d better front up, grow some balls, get into it, or else you’re not going to get there (intimidation). On the fourth round you put your head between your knees, quite sure you’re going to vomit. He stands nearby, shouting “Come on just one more round Do IT!” (stand over). You say “I just have nothing left” and he tells you “You’re wasting my time” (assault). Which by the way, you’re paying him, so you don’t come back to class for a few days. Eventually he sends you a message to find out why you’re missing class (false remorse), you tell him you haven’t been feeling well, he offers you a free session to get back into it (justification)… if the same PT model of yelling, bullying and threats continue the second time round, it’s a Cycle.
EXAMPLE : You’re an informed parent who is aware of immune concerns in your family, and makes an active choice not to immunise your child who has a known health-based vulnerability, mostly because you’re concerned about the effects of the pharmaceuticals on your child’s already struggling physicality. Your media gives you a list of emotive based arguments as to why you should put these dangerous-for-some concoctions into your child’s bloodstream (justification). Your Government, without providing a single other alternative, tells you if you don’t take your child for the immunisation, you will lose Family Payment benefits (intimidation) and threatens your family’s ability to access school and other public services (stand over) if you don’t comply… To some people this may seem like a controversial and irrelevant issue, but to people who value autonomy, choice and informed decision making, this scenario is a clear example of Systemic Violence.
And some other examples,
- A manager who yells at the staff at peak rush hour, tells staff to ‘fuck off’ and generally verbally abuses people with less power than themselves, as the kitchen gets busy.
- Many (but not all) School Classrooms.
We are living inside a system that is built upon and perpetuated by the Cycle of Violence
Domestic and Family Violence is born out of a system that promotes the cycle by its own use. Wherever there is coercion, threat, and manipulation we must ask, who is abusing their power, and do I benefit?
If you find any of the above scenarios confronting, AND you don’t like a world that stands by as the perpetuation of the Cycle of Violence continues, you could speak up. Not speaking up is being a bystander; A bystander is someone who remains silent in the face of bad things happening. In other words, staying silent as a witness to Violence is consent to allow it to continue to exist.
Working to stop Violence
When I work with people experiencing DFV at home, it’s complex. These people are not bystanders, they are either active or forced participants in a situation that is anti-life, difficult and painful. Nothing is straight-up or simple. And yet, there are some common themes, where we consistently refer back to the Cycle of Violence.
Similarly, bystanders to the Cycle of Violence in society can use the same framework.
Name the Issue
Violence is not okay. In the people I work with, this is often an awareness shift. Where there is Violence there is a lack of respect, for the individual, for autonomy, for the whole Self.
For you as a societal non-bystander, naming the violence and articulating the lack of respect, is the first step to change.
This is complex, can take months and even years, and might be in conjunction with trauma work or otherwise. I’m not trying to suggest that this is simple. And, developing an inner strength, confidence and trust in your own presence is important for anyone who chooses a non-violent way of being. Boundaries and Emotionally Intelligent Communication go hand in hand. In a society that does not celebrate open, honest and direct discussion about conflict, and has been perpetuating threat, fear and punishment since before the Roman Empire… it’s difficult for anyone to unravel. It all comes to practice. Practice will never make perfect, yet it can make for permanency in a committed individual.
Notice your Body
Safe and regulated embodiment is a tool to standing against violence. For some people, being in their body is frightening. Past experiences can give very good reasons to not want to be with yourself. Working with someone to practise being in your body is a key to developing resilience to violations of your boundaries. As an individual becomes more comfortable being inside the Self, holding boundaries becomes more possible.
For you as a bystander, noticing how systems, institutions and situations feel in your body could be the first incidence of acknowledging the Cycle of Violence herein.
Just like someone who is healing from violence in the family, bystanders benefit from having a supportive someone who understands the situation, recognises the difficulties and is wiling to stay by your side, even when shit gets hard. Find people who also say No to Violence, and educate where you can.
Model appropriate behaviour
Once you know, you can’t unknow – and you can become a model for a better world. If you say No to Violence, check yourself in your interactions with anyone where power imbalance may exist. Where do you use your power for an ‘easy’ outcome? How do you use words or behaviour to get a result that suits you, but may not suit others. This work is a dedication to power-with, rather than power-over.
Cycles of Emotionally Intelligent Communication
I’ve been thinking about what it would look like to have a Cycle of Emotionally Intelligent Communication, as an alternative to the Violence Cycle. This is the prototype, and I’m open to other ideas. Email me if you have anything to add.
What would the cycle of emotionally aware communication look like?
Live Your Best Life
Imagine if the norm was a world where everyone is able to live their best life, free of anyone else’s trauma and drama, free to choose what is meaningful and life affirming to them as the unique and wondrous individual they Be.
Difficult Topic / Conflict
No matter how great the world is, inevitably opportunities for conflict will arise, and sometimes we must have difficult conversations. In the Emotionally Intelligent Communication Cycle Model, the aim is not to avoid conflict, but to deal with it in a mature, honest, respectful way.
Emotionally Aware Conversation
When the difficult stuff arrives, we can choose to be in a shared space of humility, respect and centred-ness. Conflict doesn’t have to be a win/lose goal. Everyone can win, if we are willing to face our vulnerabilities (sometimes called shadows) and commit to finding a win for all. Techniques that have evolved out of Non-Violent Communication and Parent Effectiveness Training, as well as Dadirri Deep Listening, can provide skills for this phase of the Cycle.
Emotionally Aware Conversation is not the same as talking over the other person. Making your voice louder than the other is not part of the Emotionally Intelligent Communication Cycle – rather, it is an act of Intimidation and Standover.
To find negotiation, we must be truthful to our vulnerabilities. What’s so uncomfortable about this that in the past you might have chosen a path from the Cycle of Violence? Can you “stand in the centre of the fire with me and not shrink back”? (quoted from Oriah’s The Invitation)
In the end, everyone is entitled to their own opinion. Can you be okay with differing points of view, while still offering the respect that every person deserves, simply because we are all equal in the Planetary Family. When you hold the boundaries that are right for you, and you meet your own needs both physically and metaphysically, accepting both your strengths, powers and the vulnerabilities… that is acceptance.
It’s still a cycle, because life has conflict, difficulties, you might have to duck out of the cycle and do your own work. In the same space as the reflective aspect (the space where exists in the Rhythm – Autumn, 6pm, Week 4, wise woman, flow, reflection and transformation) and yet, within the Emotionally Intelligent Communication Cycle, there are on power struggles, dictation or abuse of force.
This cycle invites everyone to do their own work, acknowledge insecurity, face the dark half of the Self (as in the Rhythm there is a dark half and a light half) and to be a fucking grown up.
Can the two cycles exist together?
People who attempt to merge the two cycles, or systems where the two cycle models are used over the top of each other can’t exist. Each Cycle has momentum in opposite directions – one is life and one is anti-life – if you put the two of those together, you create a vortex!
The Emotionally Intelligent Communication Cycle requires an individual to meet their own vulnerability, and be willing to meet another person in the same place. It takes a willingness to Be your whole Self. The Cycle of Violence allows for the individual (perpetrator) to stay far away from vulnerabilities, to use positions of power and influence to protect from the vulnerable places, and to ultimately disrespect the unique individual upon whom they are overlording power.
What will you choose?
The Emotionally Intelligent Communication Cycle is an invitation to living your best life. It’s an invitation to call out socialised violence and act in alignment with your core values as Self Crafted individuals who are part of an equal, sound and unbound community. It’s a suggestion to go out and learn new skills in communication if you don’t already have them. Behaving in this way is not taught on our society. Choosing to learn the new skills to take you to Emotionally Intelligent Communication is an act of rebellion against a system that causes harm.
Calling out Violence doesn’t have to look like another aggressive act. It must not involve using your power over another. Calling out Violence can be simply choosing to live in a way that does not perpetuate the Cycle of Violence, and instead activates another way of relating – realating.
Today, and everyday forward, will you choose to face difficult topics and conflicts with Emotional Intelligence, Aware Conversation, Truth and Acceptance, in order to live your best life – to create a life that sets you free?
Working with Violence
Hollie Bakerboljkovac is a counsellor and coach, with training relating to working with people who use domestic violence and people who have had violence used on them (perpetrators and victims). She is the chair of Braidwood Says No to Violence, a local group committed to providing education and resources to the community. Hollie has presented lectures for the local community, teaching people how to recognise, respond and refer individuals who are experiencing Domestic and Family Violence. In 2019 a series of articles were published in the local newspaper, and later turned into an eBook, which you can find here >>> As a Martial Arts coach, Hollie is active in the trauma-informed space, and passionate about using martial arts as a method for building confidence and internal resilience.
If you would like to work with Hollie as a perpetrator or victim of violence, see the Session Offerings. If you’d like Hollie to speak about Violence and the Emotionally Intelligent Communication Cycle at your event or on your podcast, see the Speaker Page.
If you’re going to use the Emotionally Intelligent Communication Cycle in your paper, please make contact.
The article Anti-Rhythm and an alternative to the Cycle of Violence was published by Hollie Bakerboljkovac, for the Institute for Self Crafting.
Feel free to share this article with your friends, by using the url : https://instituteforselfcrafting.com/alternative-to-the-cycle-of-violence/.
Where to next?