“Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.”
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
The morning of the Charlie Hebdo terrorist attack I was in a Skype meeting with three couples therapists in different parts of the world. We met in a three-year international Master Class led by the renowned couples therapist Hedy Schleifer. Since 2011, we’ve been connecting monthly to deepen our work as relational healers in a world profoundly needing repair. We share the view that our work helps heal the planet one couple at a time.
Judith, in Paris, arrived to the Skype meeting late with a frozen face of fear. She had just watched the horrific news of what had occurred just miles from the sanctuary of her home office. The rest of us had already heard the alarming news from our own local news stations. She asked us to close our eyes and take a few minutes to meditate silently for the victims, their families and for the people of Paris. I opened my eyes for a moment during the meditation to take in the sacredness of the moment; the four of us, little faces in boxes on a computer screen, synced up by the miracle of technology and of our own humanity. Four little faces in boxes on a computer screen with hearts connected in a bond of compassion in the wake of a violent act of hate.
This stark juxtaposition of my group's healing connection with the violent attacks led me to think of Dr. David Hawkins’ groundbreaking book, “Power vs. Force”. After 20 years of research using methods to measure frequency levels of consciousness and emotions, Hawkins shared his perspective that actions and intentions that arise from lower consciousness levels, such as shame and fear, manifest in the world as divisive, limited, destructive and polarizing effects of "force". The motivation behind these lower levels of consciousness is personal survival. Actions and intentions that originate from positive higher consciousness frequency levels such as reason and love manifest with "power" and are motivated by the desire for the well-being of humanity.
Power manifests in expansive, constructive, unlimited and unifying ways. Power is generative and can continue to build on itself with little effort. This kind of power manifested four days after the terrorist attack when an unprecedented four million men and woman of multiple colors and creeds along with 40 world leaders marched in the Unity Rally to honor the lives taken by terrorism. This same generative power caused the Charlie Hebdo subscriptions to rise from under 60,000 to over 5 million in one week. As Hawkins states, “Power arises from from meaning and doesn’t need to justify its cause.” Sources of power are self-evident and understood collectively as givens - such as life is preferable to death and that peace is preferable to war, and connection is preferable to isolation. Power creates a sense of wholeness.
Force, as we know from the basic laws of physics, will always create a counter force. Force is always moving against something and therefore is inherently limited and destined to remain in a contracted state. Force is in constant need of energy to maintain, justify and feed itself. To exist, it must always be in opposition to something and therefore can never reach a state of wholeness or unity. Unless we are aware of it, we might unknowingly collude in actions of force when responding to a terrorist attack in our own city. We then become active participants in the destructive match of action/reaction ping pong by responding to terror from a low levels of consciousness ranging from helplessness and hopelessness to rage and retaliation.
The only way to transcend the action/reaction ping pong match is for at least one party to behave from a higher consciousness level. I’m intentionally posting this blog on Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday to honor him and the great leaders of our century who lived aligned with principles of power versus force. These leaders didn’t collude with force. As Hawkins states, “Winston Churchill never needed to use force with the British people to win the war, Gorbachev brought about total revolution with the largest political monolith in the world without firing a single shot and Ghandi defeated the British Empire without raising a hand in anger."
While we all can’t be Dr. King, Hawkins makes the critical point that we have a lot more impact on the world around us than we likely imagine. Our levels of consciousness have enormous impact on our relationships and beyond. Hedy Schleifer, my mentor and friend, refers to the invisible space between a couple as the relational space in which our relationship lives. She describes it as “the playground in which our children live, play and grow.” When we throw toxins into our relational space from the level of "force", such as a nasty glare or harsh criticism, we pollute the space. When enough pollution accumulates, the space becomes dangerous and we no longer feel safe within it.
When we behave from the higher levels of consciousness, such as reason, love and compassion we generate clean, flowing, connected and open space. The space can’t be seen but it is surely felt and experienced. This is the invisible space from which we feel safe to be who we truly are in our essence. It is within higher consciousness space that we feel alive, vital, connected, creative and joyful. The power of higher consciousness partnerships can extend beyond the space of family, into our communities and into the world at large.
By the end of our Skype meeting Judith’s frozen face of fear had melted into a soft, warm and open expression. She shared her sense of amazement at how her feelings of despondency and fear had transformed into feelings of compassion, love and gratitude as a result of our supportive and meaningful Skype session. She felt energized to help heal the hurting hearts of her city knowing that the only way to drive out darkness and hate is to meet it with the light and love that comes from powerful connection.
Post Script: Judith read this blog entry before I posted it. She emailed me back:
"Our Skype conversation inspired me and prompted me to connect with others in a deep and meaningful way in the days following." She went on to share that she started and led the first session of an ongoing peer group of therapists who use mindfulness in their practices. She also organized a meeting with five other therapists to process the impact of the terrorist acts. She shared, "At the end, our shock, hate and fear had dissolved and our compassion was extended to the young men who had done these terrible acts of killing and how they had acted from hate and fear." Judith ended her email with this quote of Burt Hellinger's, "Until victims and perpetrators can face each other, there can be no healing."