Two young boys, maybe 8 or 9 years of age, walk down the street, both free of any care in the world, at least by all appearances. Suddenly, one of the boys sticks out his leg in front of the other and turns his body sharply so that his friend is thrown to the ground, face first. The friend’s face hits the pavement hard and his nose is bloodied. The young boy with the bloody nose sits on the pavement and screams out in pain. He cries inconsolably. The perpetrator stands over his injured friend. Though he clearly tripped his friend on purpose, he now seems utterly bewildered and even shocked what he has done. He reaches down to help up his friend, but injured boy refuses the hand. He remains on the ground. Another boy arrives. He has a stick of candy, to which he gives all of his attention. Soon the perpetrator and the boy with the candy walk off. As they do, the perpetrator explains to the boy with the candy how his friend tripped over his own two feet. The perpetrator mimes again and again how his friend’s feet got tangled together and then brought the boy down on the pavement, smashing his face. The perpetrator has constructed a story, in fact a lie, that he can better live with, perhaps.
Back to the boy still sitting on the pavement, still crying. An old man comes along, bends over, and puts his arm around the crying child. He reaches into his pocket, finds a handkerchief, and applies it to the boy’s nose. He tilts the boy’s head back and says something soft in the boy’s ear. The boy stops crying. The old man is talking. The boy relaxes and nods. The old man is an angel who not only relieves the boy’s pain, but also restores his dignity.
I am standing in the window of an office building across the street, two stories up, watching the entire scene unfold. The place is Antwerp, Belgium, the date, roughly fall of 2000, but it could be anyplace or anytime. Some version of this event is played out every day among children and adults. From my perch two stories above, I marvel and feel personally touched by what I have seen. Four people, four corners of the square – the symbol of the self, or the soul, played out right before my eyes.
I’ve been all three of those boys — the victim, the perpetrator-liar, and the indifferent witness. I’ve been in the place of the old man, too. All four people are of vital interest to me. Some kind of soul-theater has been performed before my eyes. I am riveted to the events.
Why did the perpetrator hurt his friend and then lie about it? Why did the third boy act with such indifference to the events? What did the old man really do? And what does any of this have to do with transformation?
Transformation is healing, which itself means becoming whole. Becoming whole is the process by which the parts of us that have been separated from our consciousness, rejected and buried in our ancient memory, are finally restored to our awareness and our love.
These aspects of us, long banished into the darkness of the unconscious, are being reintegrated into the growing unity which each of us is. That unity, that wholeness, is a singular love, which each of us is becoming. When you and I are capable of loving ourselves totally and unconditionally, we will be fully healed, and there will be no more need for transformation.
Until then, there is work to be done. Healing is the act of bringing together that which has been separated. Thus, we finally welcome back our sexuality into the island of love, after years of rejecting it for fear that it was ugly, or sinful, or uncontrollable, or unacceptable to ourselves and others. We finally welcome back our power, after decades of rejecting it for fear of the damage it could do to ourselves and others. We finally embrace with love the parts of ourselves that are afraid, or angry, or vulnerable, or tender, or innocent, or spontaneous, or free of judgment, or simply victimized. We finally learn to live with ourselves in compassion.
What are we doing? We are becoming whole again. And the experience of bringing home each formerly separated part of our being is the experience of restoring aspects of ourselves to joy.
That which you accept and have compassion for in yourself, you will accept, understand, and have compassion for in others. In the process, the world grows in understanding, acceptance, and love as each of us becomes more compassionate beings. This is expansion of consciousness, which is only possible with love.
Learning To Love The Perpetrator In All Of Us
Back to our little friend, the perpetrator who tripped the victimized boy. The perpetrator’s act is one of rage. I am guessing that the victimized boy who was thrown to the ground was not the source of the perpetrator’s ire. On the contrary, someone else victimized the perpetrator, perhaps repeatedly, and finally that rage has surfaced and brought about an attack on another innocent being. Why attack an innocent? Because the perpetrator now gets to experience the other end of the attacker-victim motif. Having been victimized by someone else’s rage, he can now experience being the aggressor himself. Some kind of strange balance is being played out, but it’s not a healing balance. Rather, it is the process by which darkness and violence spreads out through families and society. The victim inside the perpetrator has now had a chance to strike out in rage against someone who is vulnerable and innocent.
Now he has been both victim and attacker, and neither one brings him peace. In fact, both aspects of the victimize-and-perpetrator dynamic bring him anger, fear, sadness, and disappointment. And every time he strikes out at someone as a way to release his anger, he will experience his own pain and disappointment in himself.
I doubt very seriously that there has ever been a perpetrator who was not an innocent victim first. The problem with this truth is that most of us have been trained to reject or deny the angry, victimized part of us, which means that whenever that angry victim strikes out against others, we must keep that part us hidden. Which is exactly why that part of us cannot be transformed, and why we continue in patterns of behavior that bring us so much pain and sorrow.
Thus, our little friend, the perpetrator-victim, cannot experience healing, or relief, no matter how many people he hurts, because he’s in wrong relationship with the suffering victim inside of himself. Striking out at others will never bring healing or peace to the wounded part of his being that still carries his pain. Like so many of us, our friend hasn’t learned that, even at the tender age of 8 or 9, he too has been in the places of all three of little boys in the soul drama that has played out before our eyes.
Which means he has yet to be transformed. What is transformation? It is this little boy, who now sees himself as a perpetrator, suddenly discovering the tender victim inside of himself, the victim that cowers in some corner of his being, powerless and terrified. Rather than hating that victim for his powerlessness and his suffering, the little boy embraces the victim in himself with love and restores him to a place of dignity in his consciousness. Little does he realize now, but that wounded, victimized part of himself has mysterious powers and talents – abilities that he will desperately need later in life in order to become an effective and whole human being.
Denial Means Rejecting The Opportunity To Heal
At this point in his life, transformation still awaits him. Instead of owning his action, he denies it, just as most adults deny or justify their actions when they get done beating their children or their wives, or when they steal or lie or do something that is inconsistent with their fundamental human nature. Our young friend must reject his deed, and himself. But there’s a price for such denial. By rejecting what he has done, he loses the opportunity to know himself and the root of his behavior, which is his own suffering. If he cannot know his own pain, he cannot experience compassion for himself and for all who suffer. Which means he cannot be a transformed human being.
Denial is the easy way out for all of us. Unfortunately, huge chunks of our humanity are lost in the bargain.
If our young friend continues on this path, he will become a bully and a liar and he will sink deeper into violence. He’s not a bad kid. He’s merely separated from the part of himself that is tender, compassionate, and loving, the part of him that knows how much it hurts to be attacked, especially when you least expect it.
Candy And Denial
What about the kid with the candy? Why was he indifferent to his victimized friend and all that blood? Probably because he could not bear it. This is another reaction to pain: to skip town, leave the body, dissociate from our own suffering, and the suffering of those around us. He cannot reach his own outrage; hence he is indifferent to the perpetrator’s action, and the distress of his victimized friend.
Now we discover the importance of sugar, which helps to keep us indifferent to our own pain, as well as that of others. It’s easier to choose sugar, alcohol, or drugs, than to become intimate with our own suffering, and that of our friends. But there’s a price, of course. Empathy is lost. So are solutions to problems. Sugar, alcohol, drugs — they’re all great deterrents to transformation.
What is transformation? It is deep sea diving. It is the search for the ugly black boxes that lie deep in the ocean of unconsciousness. Inside the boxes are glowing pieces of you, pieces longing to be brought back to the surface, to the island of love.
Each of us has the template inside ourselves for wholeness. It is woven into our DNA. When you have a cut, or are injured, your cells know what to do to heal. When you have been wounded emotionally, psychologically, and spiritually, your heart knows what to do to heal. Each of us is hardwired with instructions for wholeness, which means that something fundamental inside of us – our very souls – are already whole. The soul is attempting to bring the pieces of our being back together again.
All of which brings us back to the old man, who is doing what angels do – staunching the blood, healing the wounds, restoring the powerless to dignity.
What is transformation? Ask the old man. He knows.