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Jewish Journal

Fighting Against the “Terrorist” Within

by Beit T'shuvah

July 18, 2014 | 2:07 pm

By Rabbi Mark Borovitz

As I sit here at the computer thinking about what am I going to write about, I am conflicted. As always, when conflicted, I speak to my wife, Harriet Rossetto, and she gives me her advice and take on things. I know that Harriet wants me to enthusiastically say YES, dear, you are right. Yet, I am not always sure Harriet’s ideas and mine are exactly the same. So, my conflict grows☺.

Harriet’s thoughts today were on terrorism and, after some thought, I agree that this is an important topic and one I think about often. I looked up terrorism on the web and found this “definition” from Wikipedia,  “violent acts that are intended to create fear (terror); are perpetrated for a religious, political, ideological goal; and deliberately target or disregard the safety of non-combatants.” I find this definition to be descriptive rather than definitive. And, I am going to use it for this blog.

One of the problems with terrorism is that what is terrorism to one is “freedom fighting” to another. To make one group terrorists and another freedom fighters is very subjective. What is not subjective to/for me is the interpersonal terrorism that happens all the time.

I have been (and some say still) a terrorist. I created fear (terror) in the hearts and beings of family, friends and others with my actions when I was a practicing alcoholic and criminal. I “took no prisoners” and held everyone who loved me hostage. I cared nothing for the safety of others and only wanted to promote my own ideological goal of “where’s mine.” In my work, I see this happen often. It has to stop!!

Children strike terror in the hearts of parents when they totally disregard their teachings and standards/morals. When children act in ways that are unsafe, parents are overcome with fear. Are these acts by children violent? It depends! Whenever we disregard and go against the morals/standards of our parents (when these morals/standards are moral and ethical) it is an act of violence. Not overt, for sure, but violent none the less. As children, we don’t want to admit this, yet we know that we are putting fear in the hearts of our parents and we use the excuse of “I have to be me” to assuage our own guilt. What is it that causes us to do this?

I believe, in looking at my own life, that we don’t know how to individuate and we want to be “part of the crowd of our peers” at the same time. Individuating from parents is necessary and healthy. Individuating from our peers is necessary, healthy and scary. We want to be individuals and we want to belong! These two ways seem to be contradictory, so we resort to “violence” to achieve our means. Addicts/Alcoholics, etc. are the extreme of this type of violence. We want to escape the pain of living in the tension of individuation and belonging. It is our way of “not caring,” which is also a violent act.

Parents are also terrorists. They say: “ my way or the highway.” They use money, love, guilt, shame, etc. to get their children to “behave” in the manner they want, not caring to speak to their child according to the way the child understands, not caring about the song of the soul of their child. This is also a violent act. Helicopter parents are the extreme of this type of violence. They want to escape the pain of seeing their children “fail” and not being able to brag about them. It was very difficult for my family to talk/brag about me as a criminal and drunk!

I am defining violence as any act which goes against the melody of the soul of an individual and/or other person. I am defining violence as any way that stops the self or other from living their authentic way that is different from the way “it is supposed to be.” The caveat is that whatever the individual, authentic way is, it is still moral and ethical.

This is the great challenge of today (and yesterday). In being “Addicted to Redemption” I have to continue to do T’Shuvah so that I can repair the damage of my terrorist ways, continue to learn and live in my unique, authentic, and decent manner, be a parent that honors my daughter’s uniqueness and help guide her to hear and live by the melody of her soul (not mine), be supportive of my wife’s soul’s voice and not have to “give in” to her way, and honor it none the less. I have to be a “boss” and hear the melody of the souls that work for me, while guiding them and changing the course of things when their voices are more right than mine. I have to stop using violence and withdrawal of love as a weapon. I have to continue to persuade, command, cajole and be moved to change by my interactions with others. I have to “welcome all that arises,” as my friend John Ott says. I have to make sure that my intentions are aligned with the Creator and the melody of my own soul.

If we all become “addicted to redemption” in these ways, we can continue to grow and return to ways of peace, individuation, belonging and love.

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