October 26, 2017
© Source: Chiara Sommer
How is information passed on over generations? How can physical awareness help uncover violence? And what can you do in practice to live a violence-free life?

The Second World War isn’t over yet.

Violence does not always have to be experienced by oneself in order to exist in people. Hidden violence often comes from previous generations who pass on their frightful experiences in one way or another.

As a facilitator of company processes, I regularly encounter the Second World War and its consequences, because as part of my work I see not just the person opposite me, my client who comes to me with his/her concerns. I also see the world in which this customer moves.

I view the systemic path his or her thoughts follow; the consequences of this way of thinking on his/her actions and what develops as a result. The world that develops is the system that surrounds the client, and this system is full of information and automatic procedures.

Each piece of information has a history. It is important to know my client’s age, because age determines the history of the system, whether we’re talking about an entrepreneur born in 1990 or a manager whose parents experienced the war.

These two people react differently, because parents who consciously experienced the war confront their children with a different reality than parents who were born later, into a Germany that had been rebuilt.

Events are the ghosts of our past.

Experiences have a considerable influence on us, even if we didn’t go through the events ourselves. If our parents’ attitude to life is based on bitter experiences, they will pass these on to their children, because their experience determines their attitudes to life.

The experiences generate physical reactions that indicate the consequences of the event. This automatic reaction ends when the fear hidden behind the experience is worked through. As long as it remains unprocessed, it is part of the system, regardless of how far back in the past the original experience may be.

How is information passed on from generation to generation?

The fear lives in information that is passed on automatically without being considered. For example, if someone was aware that an execution was taking place behind the oak forest near a little town during the war but never processes this event, oak forests will involuntarily become the trigger for bad feelings.

At the time, the observer reacted with an acid stomach. If at some point the information about the background event – the shooting behind the oak forest – gets lost, the next generation will be surprised by their reaction to oak forests. He/she doesn’t understand what the acid stomach is trying to tell him/her as soon as he approaches an oak forest. So perhaps he/she has tests for allergic reactions – without results.

In other words, if the original experience is far in the past and was never resolved, it still lives on but is hardly recognisable because much of the explanatory information has now been lost.

In my work it is only rarely war-generation parents themselves who embark on this change and development work, although I have also worked with people in senior management who had had enough of continuing to live with the limitations that had originated in the war.

They find the explanation to their signals through personality development. Their new awareness leads to a decrease in automatic reactions. Their natural life can take place, that is, their way of feeling, thinking and acting, without feeling the shadow of violence breathing down their neck.

In most cases, however, it is the children of the war generation, now in positions of responsibility in various fields, who come to INSTITUT SOMMERINSTITUT SOMMER is not only the name of our company, but also the expression of the approach we take towards the requests we receive. Read more here.... Read more in order to experience further development of themselves and their entrepreneurial activity.

War gives birth to many forms of violence

Basically it is violence that constitutes the remnants of wartime, and it still weighs down post-war generations even today. The longer the violent experiences remain unprocessed in the system, the harder it is to identify their origin.

So the children of parents who experienced the war are still grappling with types of behaviour that, strictly speaking, originate in their parents’ wartime experiences.

Unprocessed scenes of horror lie behind their sharp words, but they aren’t aware of this; or they are confronted with a lack of feeling in an otherwise healthy life. The longer the violence persists through the generations, the smaller the scale of the violent behaviour.

But violence remains violence, whatever the size of the dose. A metaphor makes this easier to understand.

No place without a spark of violence. Awareness helps.

Imagine you’re a member of a team of experts on a research ship that has the task of sailing across the oceans to examine the amount of plastic they contain. Twenty years ago, there were samples that didn’t contain a single plastic particle, but over time the probability of finding plastic-free samples has decreased.

There is a reason for this: the plastics industry is now so advanced that all kinds of materials contain plastic, and the mass of plastic fibres means that every clothes wash transports miniscule particles into the Earth’s water supply. Eventually they end up in the sea. The effects are inevitable: plastic has become a permanent part of our environment whether we like it or not.

The only way to counter this constant pollution of the environment is a more conscious approach to using plastics. Checking our clothing to ensure that it is free of artificial fibres, avoiding buying plastic goods for the kitchen and household as far as possible, and refusing plastic carrier bags.

All these actions give us at least the feeling that we are no longer thoughtlessly contributing to the tidal wave of plastic. In order to do this, we need to be aware of the consequences of plastic for our environment. It’s the same with violence.

It increasingly becomes part of our daily lives unless someone in the system in which we live and work starts to recognise this small-scale violence and gradually distances themself from it.

Violence is ubiquitous.

Like plastic particles, violence is now to be found almost everywhere. We need to be very aware if we want to live free of violence as far as possible. Violence has become a permanent part of our networked lives, becoming visible in our families or our everyday working lives.

It is concealed in unfeeling behaviour towards others or ourselves, as well as in power games and possessiveness, intrigues and bullying, hostile glances and repressive behaviour.

If you think that violence is only expressed in shouting and hitting, torture and suffering, you couldn’t be more wrong. What really strains systems is the highly diluted violence that no one really recognises for what it is. It is poisonous, because hardly anyone notices it; in this way, violence is tolerated as a normal part of life.

It is taken for granted as an element in films, plays, series and books and can also be part of sophisticated sarcasm. Arrogant treatment of staff, or endless conflicts with colleagues, are indications of hidden violence, if the cause is not otherwise recognisable.

Somatic awareness helps us to identify violence.

What actually reacts to the hidden violence, regardless of how far we are consciously aware of it, is our physical well-being. Our somatic awareness reacts to hidden violence like a traffic light. The reaction manifests itself in feelings or in pain, and works on the other hand as a trigger.

The trigger, like the original experience, causes you to react subconsciously with violence. In other words, the hidden violence can trigger the original experience existing in your system, even if it was your father, for example, who experienced the event, not you yourself.

As a result, you live out the violence your parents or ancestors experienced, unless you take active steps to counter this automatic reaction. Someone who has developed an eye for these hidden signals can see it at once.

So these signals are also the access point to resolving old stresses in the system that are hard to see, whether in the company or at home. Once you open yourself to this viewpoint, you discover the hidden violence, thus taking the first step.

If you discover the hidden violence then you too are in a position to move your personal behaviour out of the reach of violence. You can do this by distancing yourself. That doesn’t necessarily mean that you have to separate yourself from the area of violence; after all, where can you find an area free of violence?

Even if hidden violence exists within your family, a separation is not the solution we aim for. It’s better if you hone your awareness and thus prevent yourself from becoming part of a violent cycle, then at least you are no longer an amplifying factor. This step is an immense relief for companies, families, and relationships.

If you want to achieve this, it means that you must start seeing actively. If you see the violence around you, you can be actively involved in no longer being part of the violence. In the long term, this is the path that enables you to live fairly free of violence.

It is not by fighting but instead by practising the art of distancing yourself that helps you to remove violence from your life. Fighting against violent structures, on the other hand, draws you into violence. You become part of the structure that maintains hidden systems of violence.

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