(How to) End Violence Now
In 1967 Abba Eban, an Israeli politician and diplomat, observed that Americans will always do the right thing, but only after they have tried everything else. When it comes to reducing and deterring violence in America, the Transcendental Meditation technique is the “right thing” and should be used widely.
In America, parents and teachers commonly instruct children to “use your words” in order to deter them from expressing their emotions and getting what they want through rough or even violent behavior.
When adults see children as young as preschoolers being violent, they may hope the child “will grow out of it” and that “they are just going through a phase” but their behavior should always be taken seriously. The American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychology lists a wide range of tell-tale behavior: having temper tantrums; being physically aggressive; fighting, thinking about or threatening to hurt others; using weapons; being cruel to animals; malicious destruction of property.
Whether the cause is family dynamics, being bullied, genetic make-up, exposure to drugs in the womb, brain damage, or stressful socio-economic causes, a child whose behavior is violent is nonetheless redeemable. The solution is not discipline that is perceived by children as violence directed toward them, because violence breeds violence. Stopping violent tendencies has more to do with calming and healing the nervous system, reducing stress, and averting further danger before it arises. This is as true for adults as it is for children.
The plague of stress and anxiety in our society is one direct cause of decreased impulse control and an individual’s (or group’s) inappropriate aggression and violent overreaction.
In an “advanced” society such as the USA, why is a person’s impulse to “shoot first and ask questions later?” Basic survival instincts cause us to act by reflex and lead to aggression and violence of all kinds including gun violence. A person might behave aggressively because they are driven by negative emotions, such as anger or fear. For example, if they were enraged at another person past their point of tolerance or were–rationally or irrationally–afraid the other person would hurt them.
The brain originates and mediates all human behavioral, emotional, cognitive, and social functioning. A mature individual should express a balanced, humane tolerance of situations and circumstances–no matter how frustrating. While three-year-olds will have difficulty controlling their tempers, adults should have the capacity to modulate the urge to strike out when frustrated or angry. So we look to brain health, family and community dynamics, and any other issue that can put an individual at-risk for their behavior to be cruel and unproductive.
Gun violence is getting the headlines these days–and rightly so–but the cause of this epidemic is not only the proximity of a gun in the house. The foundational cause can also be more intimate–it is deep within the aggressor and is often addressable.
Doing what works… finally
The Transcendental Meditation technique was proven in stressful environments to reduce violence and violent relapses in individuals such as students in inner-city schools, veterans, and prisoners.
What happens in the brain during stress? The amygdala is the integrative center for emotions, emotional behavior, and motivation. It is very valuable in that it helps by activating the flight or fight response. However, it is abnormally activated in circumstances of prolonged or repeated stress. Its excessive activity triggers anxiety, anger, and rage.
Modern published research shows that people who lack impulse control or tend toward violence, have “functional holes” in their brains. During the TM technique, coherence spreads throughout the brain. A study published in the International Journal of Psychophysiology showed that university students who learned TM had increased broadband frontal EEG orderliness and optimized function.
When you’re stressed, your heart beats faster, your breathing quickens, and stress hormones such as cortisol surge through your body, wreaking havoc. Research shows that during TM, the effect is the opposite: the heartbeat and breathing slow, and serotonin and other hormones associated with well-being spread throughout the brain and body. TM provides such a profound state of rest and heightened awareness that it creates a domino effect of positive change.
In the same way that lowering the heat keeps a pot from boiling over, Transcendental Meditation prevents violence by calming the mind, mitigating stress, and preventing anxiety. We may not have “tried everything else” but now is the time to do “the right thing” and end this epidemic of violent behavior in our society by implementing the teaching of the TM technique in institutions and throughout the population.
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About the Author
Vanessa Vidal is the national director of TM for Women in the USA