Where does violence come from?

This is a question that asks for more reflection and comprehension: where does violence in humans come from? It is opportune, a priori, to understand better the concept of violence. The World Health Organization defines it as: “the intentional use of physical force or power, threatened or actual, against oneself, another person, or against a group or community, that either results in or has a high likelihood of resulting in injury, death, psychological harm, maldevelopment, or deprivation.” It is emphasized that there is not only the explicit violence such as gunshots, stab wounds and bodily injury. There is, alongside and to a greater extent, the invisible and psychological violence, which promotes, in the metaphorical relationship with icebergs, the disastrous conditions of psychological damage and the deprivation of human development. Tenzin Gyatso, the Dalai Lama, used the phrase that aptly characterizes this situation: “Words do not use weapons, but wound the heart.”

It is important to realize the extension of the concept of violence. However, it is fundamental to understand how it appears. Our mind holds thoughts and emotions. We experience many emotions in our day to day lives and, generally speaking, we easily distinguish two very basic feelings. The first is that of satisfaction, which happens when our desires, aspirations, and needs are met. We are thirsty and there is water, we are hungry and there is food; we are needy and someone comes to talk to us and welcomes us. This is satisfaction, a feeling that promotes internal warmth, a positive accommodation that leaves us calm due to the fulfilling of our expectations. We all know this feeling in our physiological, psychological, and philosophical dimensions and we understand its importance. However, we also experience, every day, an opposite feeling, that of frustration. I am thirsty, but there is no water; I am hungry, but there is no food; I am needy but nobody looks at me; I phone and send flowers but nobody answers. This is frustration. We all know this feeling and we know the discomfort resulting from it. At the end of the day, the month, a period of life, or even an entire life, we could calculate whether we are more satisfied or frustrated.

Frustration leads to aggressiveness. The aggressiveness is born from the state of frustration. It is natural that sometimes life says “no,” and therefore, the frustration is natural and also the aggressiveness. Etymologically, the Latin verb aggredior means to stand up and go in the direction of something. Therefore, especially for educators, it is important to understand that aggressiveness is not necessarily a bad thing. There is a good, positive, and constructive aggressiveness, which makes us stand up and go in the direction to search for solutions and alternatives to break down obstacles and to carry out our needs and dreams. The aggressiveness takes us off the couch and places us on the path.

The reality says no and I say yes, I want it. I stand up and go in the direction of what I seek. We do not want a child or an adult not to be aggressive. The aggressiveness is fundamental; it promotes the continuity and the development of life; young persons who do not pass the university entrance exam cut out the excesses of pleasure, the late nights, and concentrate and reorganize their time to study in a new constructive approach. Similarly, in the ninth month, the pregnant mother is uncomfortable, and anxious, and therefore becomes frustrated. The child, also bothered by the lack of space, is also frustrated. From this situation of frustration for both, expressed in physiological and psychological responses, arises the aggressiveness that promotes life. Therefore, our own life is linked to the capability to express the aggressiveness constructively.

There is, however, another aggressiveness that is not good, but evil; which is not of the light, but of the shadows; which is not constructive, but destructive. We call this aggressiveness violence. It is an energy that is perverted, which deviates to different forms of destruction, including self-destruction. There is a basic question: why is the aggressiveness sometimes directed constructively, and sometimes towards destruction or violence? The significant imbalance between satisfactions and frustrations and the impossibility of aggressiveness to express itself creatively and productively can give us the answer. When a profound imbalance between satisfactions and frustrations happens in the life of a person, and where there are many more frustrations than satisfactions, the aggressiveness is channeled towards violence. It deviates from its natural condition and is channeled towards destruction. 

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