The Struggle For Meaning In A World Of Violence – OpEd


What is the measure of a human being? Is it their wealth? Their wisdom? Their spirituality? Is it something that can be measured from the outside? What if it is something else altogether?

Each human being is genetically programmed with a drive to seek and find meaning in life and it will endeavour to do this throughout its life if it is allowed to do so. What constitutes ‘meaning in life’ varies from one individual to the next and is dependent on many factors (including the genetic endowment, social context and the natural environment) but the ultimate outcome would be what is sometimes described as consciousness or Self-realization in a form that would be unique for each individual.

Tragically, however, this innate drive to search for meaning and thus achieve consciousness of the Self has been destroyed in virtually all human beings as a result of the violence inflicted on them throughout their childhood and the (unconsciously) terrorised state in which this leaves them throughout their life.

In a life that is devoid of the deep satisfaction that derives from the search for meaning, any number of pale substitutes might emerge to ‘fill’ this aching gap. The individual might become ‘content’, for example, to seek attention and/or approval; to become wealthy; to succeed in some intellectual, physical, spiritual or commercial endeavour; to experience sex and romance exhaustively; or to ‘see the world’.

In short, the individual may become addicted to seeking one or more of these things, or something else, as the fearful compulsion to fill the aching hole in their Self-hood drives them relentlessly.

But none of these things can ever compensate an individual for not becoming, and thus knowing, their True Self.

What, precisely, does it mean to ‘destroy the Self’ of an individual? It means that violence in all of its forms – visible, ‘invisible’ and ‘utterly invisible’ – destroys the components of Self-hood of the child, including its Self-awareness, Self-will, Self-power, Self-memory, Self-approval, Self-worth, Self-respect, Self-judgment, Self-authority, Self-governance, Self-defence, Self-reliance, Self-belief, Self-trust, Self-faith, Self-consciousness and, most importantly, Self-love, thus thwarting the realisation of its True Self.

The individual that is left, having been stripped of its Self, is now (unconsciously) terrified, self-hating, powerless and violent (particularly towards itself but also towards others and the Earth) and is readily manipulated into becoming a passively obedient student, worker/soldier and consumer. See ‘Why Violence?’

How do we restore the highly individual search for meaning in life (which will also better enable us to deal powerfully with the enormous challenges to human survival)?

The Self of each human individual can be resurrected by restoring each of the components of Self-hood, and particularly the component of Self-awareness, specified above. This can be done by each individual consciously feeling all of the feelings (including the fear, pain, anger, sadness, jealousy, dread, guilt…) that have been suppressed throughout their life.

This will obviously take considerable time and require many feeling sessions although each individual’s journey will be unique. The process will usually be facilitated by having someone else listen quietly and calmly, occasionally reflecting a feeling or connection that the subject has not consciously identified although it becomes apparent to the listener from the words, appearance, posture, behaviour and/or gestures of the subject.

One very useful aid in this process is for the subject to describe a dream in detail but to then focus intently on any clear feelings and the imagery causing them that occur as the dream is described. This may be difficult in the case of a nightmare but, if they are able to focus on the fear and other difficult feelings for long enough, the person will invariably interpret the symbolism and reveal a deep truth about their own life.

Another useful aid in this process is for the person to focus intently on any pains in the body and the feelings and images that arise from these. (For more details of this process, see ‘Fearless Psychology and Fearful Psychology: Principles and Practice’

Despite claims that other approaches can work, my own research and experience over several decades leaves me convinced that the emotional healing of individual human beings is the only way to resurrect the Self and is a central component of the strategy to end human violence.

This is unlikely to happen on a wide scale in the short term. Nevertheless, those who undertake this journey of healing will be the most powerful individuals and will inevitably play a central role in confronting human violence in all its contexts.

They will also be highly Self-aware and thus able to avoid inflicting visible, ‘invisible’ and ‘utterly invisible’ violence on children. Hence, there may be a time in the future, assuming that extinction can be averted in the short term (see ‘The Flame Tree Project To Save Life on Earth’, when children will not be terrorized and tortured in the first place and, therefore, no healing will be necessary.

Imagine, then, a planet populated by powerfully Self-aware individuals who live in harmony with themselves, with others and with nature. If you wish to join the worldwide movement to end all violence and create these individuals, you can sign online ‘The People’s Charter to Create a Nonviolent World’

Know thy Self
Love thy Self
Honour thy Self
Be thy Self

Robert J. Burrowes

Robert J. Burrowes has a lifetime commitment to understanding and ending human violence. He has done extensive research since 1966 in an effort to understand why human beings are violent and has been a nonviolent activist since 1981. He is the author of ‘Why Violence?‘ . His email address is [email protected] and his website is at

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