The Courageous Women of Afghanistan

Listening to the news of what is happening in Afghanistan the past couple of weeks has been nothing short of heartbreaking. Heartbreaking for the country. Heartbreaking for women. Heartbreaking for children. I wanted to see Afghanistan move forward, flourish and succeed like many others who have been to the country and worked with some amazing people who call it home. In 2019, I travelled to Kabul as part of a ‘Thunderbird for Good’ project under the auspices of USAID as part of an initiative under ‘Promote’ called Musharikat. The ‘Promote’ project was a partnership between the Afghanistan government and USAID to secure gains made by Afghan women over the past decade while providing a new generation of Afghan women with the leadership skills to make vital contributions to Afghanistan’s development in governance, civil society, and the economy. It was a bold effort with the aim of empowering 75,000 women. The Musharikat project was designed to build a cadre of more than 5,000 activists and 300 civil society organizations from all 34 provinces to advocate more effectively for, and to advance, women’s equality and empowerment in Afghanistan.  

The women of Afghanistan are incredible, I saw this first hand. They are warm, courageous women who deeply shared their plight in Afghanistan. It was a pleasure to speak with them, work with them and get to know them. I vividly remember as they told me of the sacrifices they made to work in areas such as human rights and humanitarian causes. Some had family members murdered right before their eyes because of their work and others feared for their own lives and the lives of their loved ones. Afghan women are courageous and resilient and have been so committed to changing their society for the better. When I think of them now, following the events this past month, I become tearful. I remember their infectious enthusiasm and commitment to improving their lives and the lives of their children. Their desire to have their voices heard, both for themselves and for other women. They were so alive and had so much energy in whatever area they were working in, no matter what the cost. We can never completely know the sacrifices or the pain and suffering the Afghan women had to endure because none of us ever have lived under the difficult conditions they had to live through on a daily basis.

Today, women and children are in such a perilous situation. Any woman with a connection with the United States, or other western allies, is destroying any hint of an association and shredding any documents written in English. Many are even burying cell phones. Even contacting American or International organizations for help is a risk most Afghan women are not prepared to take. The situation that Afghan women find themselves in, having worked so hard to achieve progress, is utterly dismaying. The scenes we have all witnessed from Kabul International Airport over recent weeks show the sheer desperation of people to avoid having to live under oppressive and brutal Taliban rule yet again. 

Under Taliban rule, and Sharia Law, women have no rights to education, work, or freedom of movement. Despite Taliban leadership trying to project a new, more tolerant and progressive image to the world, these are just empty words. They have no intention of changing, and any limited rights they will allow women will be a significant reversal of course for all Afghan women and children from the progress they had fought long and hard for. Those women brave enough to have been politically active or who worked as a journalist, human rights activist, military personnel, or defenders of democracy in any way are likely have targets on their backs, very fearful that the Taliban will go after them. When previously in power over two decades ago, the Taliban would frequently patrol neighbourhoods and beat women indiscriminately. It was enforced law that women had to be completely covered, required to wear burqas. They were very limited as to where they could go and usually needed to be escorted by men. Women could not work and girls were prevented from going to school. It is a very real fear that this is now what women are facing in Afghanistan, that this is what they will be going back to.

On August 10th 2021, Ayda Pourasad reported a story for NPR about a doctor who, while working at her clinic in a northern Afghan city, got a very frightening telephone call. It was from a member of the Taliban who had been threatening her for months because she had given a 13-year-old bride a birth control shot. The caller said that they were entering her city soon and were coming to get her.

The medical doctor’s troubles began 8 months earlier when the 13-year-old first came to the clinic. The doctor learned that this girl was married to an older man, as his second wife, and he wanted her to become pregnant. This young girl was begging for help and did not want to become pregnant. The doctor, understanding the medical risks, gave her a contraceptive injection that would last three months. Soon after the doctor was on the receiving end of furious calls from the husband every day. Later, the doctor found out that this man was a leader of a Taliban group active outside her city. The stronger the Taliban grew, the stronger his fury grew. He later told the doctoe that since she belonged to the ethnic Hazara group, which is basically Shii’te and the Taliban Sunni, she was an infidel and therefore against Islam. The implication was that “we know what to do with you”.

On August 8th 2021, the doctor went straight to the airport with only the clothes on her back. She managed to get a flight out, shocked to see that the plane was almost entirely filled with women. She is now in a neighboring country staying with a friend and having only $400 to her name. She is mourning the loss of everything she had to leave behind, including her family and her career which took a decade to build. The angry husband is still calling her relatives demanding to know where the doctor is. The doctor will never be able to return to her home and to what she loves most, helping other women, especially those in trouble. 

Despite Taliban leaders promising not to enforce the harsh restrictions seen two decades ago and saying that they would still allow women to be involved in government and to be able to work in sectors such as education and health care, the women of Afghanistan know that these are likely nothing more than token words. I struggle for words when I think of the women of Afghanistan, I can never describe the feelings they must have as they watch their country being destroyed, knowing the terrible fate they are probably facing as so many of us watch helplessly. The United States, and our allies, must back up their words of support for the women of Afghanistan with actions. This is not a partisan issue. We have all seen the horrible scenes across all media in recent weeks and we must not be found wanting now. We must evacuate those who are at high risk and support all who we can. There needs to be a political will to do so. The world is watching.

The Importance of Leadership in Ending the Cycle of Violence

The Middle East is no stranger to conflict and the flare up in recent weeks was another reminder that just because the conflict does not fill our TV screens every evening, it has far from gone away. Tensions have been mounting recently following difficulty accessing various religious sites, especially during Ramadan, while a number of Palestinian families were facing potential evictions from their homes as a result of some Israeli settlers making claims to their property.

It was against this backdrop that the Hamas terrorist organization proceeded to fire thousands of rockets at Israel who responded with air strikes on Gaza. The back and forth of rockets and missiles during 11 days of conflict resulted in the deaths of more than 256 Palestinians (including 66 children) and 13 Israelis (including 2 children) with many more injured and displaced. The cycle of violence which has taken place from generation to generation continues and nothing has been resolved or accomplished with no real end in sight. How do we deescalate this situation and finally have meaningful dialogue which works towards a solution? What is needed to achieve this?

Leadership. The cycle of violence, the continuous death and destruction must end and for that to happen real leadership is required. Strong and courageous leadership which seeks to actually resolve the conflict and not just calm it for now only to have it flare up months later. There have been some breakthroughs in the past, but these breakthroughs were initiated by the kinds of leaders we are missing today. These were leaders such as Yitzhak Rabin and Anwar Sadat. Shimon Peres and even Yasser Arafat were committed to coming together to build peace. Unfortunately, today the current Israeli Prime Minister is driven by his political survival while Hamas has exploited the very people they claim to fight for. Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas has no real control over Palestinians in and is seen as an illegitimate leader by the Palestinian people.

On the global stage there has been a complete lack of real leadership and an inability to bring both sides of the conflict together to discuss all the issues and to offer a viable long-term solution. This should not be seen as something that can be a short term fix and a ‘political win’ that only lasts six months followed by more violence and more missiles being fired. There needs to be a real concerted international effort to bring about an enduring peace to the region.

What is needed from the leaders of today is a genuine political will, and a change of mindset. Most people are in support of a two-state solution as the way forward, it is the only viable solution. There needs to be a change in mindset as to how this will be approached, how it is achieved and what that process looks like.

What would this leadership look like? In an article How Biden Can Be a Leader in an Israeli-Palestinian Conflict That Has None written by Daniel Kurtzer and Aaron David Miller for Politico steps are outlined which can begin a process to end violence between the Palestinians and Israelis. The argument is made that there is a role for American diplomacy that could make meaningful changes on the ground in the Middle East. It does not involve a major initiative to resolve issues such as Jerusalem, borders or refugees, but it does increase the odds of stopping the current and future violence. They outline practical steps which can be seen as a beginning of a political forgiveness process – to stop violence and engage leaders in dialogue including:

  • Nominating a U.S. ambassador to Israel and appointing a senior representative to work the issue full time and to coordinate with the International Quartet (representatives from the U.N., EU and Russia, and the Arab Quartet (Jordan, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates).
  • Start an honest dialogue with Israel on the steps Israel must take even as the current Gaza escalation winds down including stopping the demolition of houses and stop expanding settlements in Jerusalem to preserve the idea of two capitals for two future states.
  • Reopen a consulate general in Jerusalem and appoint a consul general to intensify direct dialogue with the Palestinian Authority.
  • Pressure the Palestinian Authority to stop its authoritarian practices and human rights violations. Urge them to hold elections recently canceled by Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and to stop incentivizing and inciting violence.

There are important steps which need to be taken to set the stage for the necessary dialogues to begin. These steps begin with the importance of building trust. Leaders need to be able to step back and acknowledge their roles and their responsibility in the continuation of the conflict. They need to admit that there has been a wrong committed, that the current situation is not tenable causing more hurt on each side as the situation continues. Leaders need to talk to one another honestly and openly. They need to gain a better understanding of one another, listen to each other and together develop a framework to help resolve this conflict. There also needs to be an acknowledgment from both sides that things need to change to move to an agreed solution.  Leaders who are strong and courageous enough to do this are the real leaders.

We need visionary leadership that recognizes if occupation continues and voices of violent extremist are not marginalized, the violence will not stop. What has happened in the past must be dealt with head-on as a means of focusing all parties on the process and to put violence behind them. Leaders must honor the agreement of stopping violence at all costs and commit themselves to finding new ways of relating to one another. The reason there has never been success with this conflict is that both sides have shirked responsibility, have not admitted to the failings of the past processes, and did not approach this in good faith with an open mind. Instead, they have been approaching the conflict from their own points of interest and from a very narrow perspective, not appreciating that there is another side to this conflict and that a solution needs to work for both sides.

The human element of this conflict must also be addressed including the emotional undertow underlying the political situation which fuels the cycles of revenge. Leaders need to provide a mechanism to work through these emotions in a more productive way as it relates to the historical content of the situation. This requires leaders to respond to situations in a compassionate inclusive way that unites people instead of divides people. This needs to become a political mindset, a guidepost from which leaders act.

The human element is what will bring either success or failure to this process. You can put forth the best peace agreement which is all inclusive but this does not necessarily mean there will be any progress unless there is a change in mentality which transforms thinking so that compassion, inclusiveness, and respect outweigh the need for political gain, revenge, and divisiveness. There needs to be a change in an approach from all sides who are party to this conflict to start de-escalating the conflict and start moving towards a peaceful solution.

This will require international leadership, led by the US, Egypt and the International Quartert, and a transparent and accountable process. Leaders have the capacity to make choices based on greater wisdom and values which can help people rise to their best potential and to achieve shared ideals for a better existence. This is what we can strive for and what it will take if we want to end this conflict and finally break the cycles of violence. This is the work of political forgiveness.

 

 

The Beginning of a New Way Forward

As Charles Dickens once wrote in his novel A Tale of Two Cities, “it was the best of times, it was the worse of times.” Could this be true for us? We are coping with a pandemic and dealing with deep divisions and issues of racial injustice which are profound. Parallels have been drawn between what is happening now and during the Civil War. So where are “the best of times?”

Crisis brings opportunities. Out of our pain can come healing. We know healing begins with truth telling and accountability and fortunately we have models from around the world which we can learn from. The most notable comes from the work of Nelson Mandel and the South African Truth and Reconciliation Commission. Although this commission had many flaws it is also a model which can teach us many things. Other models are emerging such as the work being done in Colombia with their truth commission. One of the most interesting aspects of this work is how it views different forms of the truth and works with the differing perceptions. Closer to home is the work done in Canada and their truth and reconciliation commission which provided those directly or indirectly affected by the legacy of the Indian Residential Schools system with an opportunity to share their stories and experiences.

A new way forward is about transformation. It takes time and a critical mass to get there. Unfortunately, our culture has de-valued many of its citizens and so our work begins with remembering our humanity, our inner-connectedness and what it means to be a human being. It means zero tolerance for any kind of violence. In this country what we must grapple with is the ideology of racism and violence and the denial of humanity for different groups of people. The work must be comprehensive and work on all levels of society. People need to change mind sets, communities must come together and heal, and there needs to be resources and commitment on the governmental level to change structures in society so what we are now experiencing can never happen again.

Can the worse of times become the best of times? Can we embrace this moment of crisis in a healing capacity as a country so we can go forward with a new vision of who we must be as a nation and have the capacity to demonstrate empathy and care for one another, showing that we value one another? Can we transform our structures to be inclusive instead of exclusive? What I have just described is the work of political forgiveness. In practicing forgiveness politically, we can grow in compassion and empathy and out of that can develop a new culture based on our humanness. This IS our way forward and gives us an opportunity to make profound changes in our society.

For those interested in learning more about political forgiveness please go to my website www.drborris.com. Feel free to sign up for the monthly newsletter which shares information and stories on political forgiveness when you go to the website.

The Poisoning of America’s Soul

Today is MLK day, to honor not only a man who was a great civil rights leader, but also a very spiritual man who had a great soul. His speeches and writings demonstrated a depth of thinking reflecting his beautiful heart for humanity. He understood the destructiveness of violence which not only destroys the social progress in America but also destroys the nations soul as well.

Reverend King often warned about the importance of caring for the worlds oppressed rather than taking sides with the oppressor and so I want to leave you with the words of King himself who speaks of the importance of re-directing ourselves to creating a better world no matter what it demands of us along the way.

“I am convinced that if we are to get on the right side of the world revolution, we as a nation must undergo a radical revolution of values. We must rapidly begin the shift from a ‘thing-oriented’ society to a ‘person-oriented’ society. When machines and computers, profit motives and property rights are considered more important than people, the giant triplets of racism, materialism and militarism are incapable of being conquered.

“We are confronted with the fierce urgency of now. In this unfolding conundrum of life and history there is such a thing as being too late. Procrastination is still the thief of time. Life often leaves us standing bare, naked, and dejected with a lost opportunity. We still have a choice today, nonviolent coexistence or violent co-annihilation. We must move past indecision to action. We must find new ways to speak for peace and justice throughout the developing world a world that borders on our doors.

“If we do not act, we shall surely be dragged down the long, dark and shameful corridors of time reserved for those who possess power without compassion, might without morality and strength without sight.”

For those of you who are interested in learning about forgiveness on a political level please go to my website www.drborris.com. You can also sign up for a monthly newsletter whose focus is on political forgiveness.

 

What does it mean for Forgiveness to be Political?

With all the bitterness and divisiveness which has taken hold in our political world today what we urgently need to heal these divides is “the politics of forgiveness.” But you may ask: What does forgiveness in politics mean, and are politics and forgiveness related? And why is forgiveness so crucial?

I have been thinking long and hard as to what it means for forgiveness to be political. Our political world which is the public realm of our existence is fraught with conflicts, violence and all the “isms” one can imagine. How can we stop this violence and the many attacks on one another and live in a more peaceful society? When we think about forgiveness, we recognize that it is about how we choose to express ourselves and the kind of actions we will take against a perceived wrong, our choice being to choose to respond to this world with understanding, tolerance and compassion. It is tapping into the essence of who we are, what we think and what we believe in. It reveals something about us and what we hold to be true. Forgiveness becomes political when we apply this kind of thinking to our actions in the public realm. Forgiveness becomes political insofar as it is an individual political action that expresses itself first in revealing something of oneself and in the narratives that emerges and finally in how it becomes the basis in establishing new relationships.

Forgiveness is not just a personal or individual act that is limited to the private sphere. Increasingly today there is the realization that forgiveness is also necessary in the public sphere, thus also in the political realm. The politics of forgiveness is urgently needed in the United States, where the polarization is so great that it has virtually become two nations as the rhetoric surrounding our politics illustrates. The only way that equally polarized Republicans and Democrats can live together and stop their partisan sniping is through the politics of forgiveness. That may not happen any time soon but is a willingness to forgive others too much to expect from politicians, many of whom call themselves Christians?

The politics of forgiveness does work, even if it does so imperfectly. We have seen forgiveness in politics carried out in many countries especially where truth and reconciliation commissions have been established. Imperfect as these processes may have been it does not negate the healing power the politics of forgiveness can bring.

Forgiveness is a long process that requires daily reinforcement whether practiced in the personal or political realm. Political forgiveness is even messier because of the many people involved, but it is imperative that this form of politics takes root in every country of the world and especially now in the United States. Conflicts will never cease, but how people handle them is crucial. Forgiveness in politics is imperative if we want to stop doing business as usual, creating more conflict and violence and want to chose to live in a more peaceful world.

What does it mean for forgiveness to be political? I am interested in hearing about what you think. Please share your thoughts on what it means for forgiveness to be political. It is worth a conversation.

Want Inner Peace? – Here’s How: Step 7 – Gaining Inner Peace

Licensed Psychologist, Keynote Speaker, Best Selling Author, and Leader in Global Conflict Resolution

Once we have reached Step Seven in the forgiveness process, we have come to a very special place. There are certain things we have come to realize about our minds and the way we think. We may have realized that in a sense we have operated from two minds – our ego self and our spiritual self or the place of our divinity. When we function from the lower self, we believe that responsibility for whatever has taken place is outside of ourselves, not within. When we work through our higher or spiritual nature, our divinity helps us see through our illusions and misperceptions. Our spiritual essence is that part of our self that is in touch with the creative force and reminds us that this force is always within us. It is the part that tells us that there is another way we can go about living and interacting in this world. In Step Seven, the spiritual self is awakened, setting the stage for a transformation to take place that only forgiveness can bring.

This step not only asks us to understand what has taken place in another person’s life but also to recognize that what we see in them is the outer covering and not their true inner being. When we are able to see their inner light, no matter what the outer actions are, we are seeing with spiritual sight. All of us wear different outer clothes but are the same at the depth of our being, and so we look for their light and do not focus on the outer covering. When you can open your heart to others, no matter what the circumstances are, and not lose sight of their spiritual essence, a transformation within you takes place. Your life changes to a more meaningful existence and you experience the wonderful fruits of your labor. For some people these changes happen gradually, and they may not notice how profoundly they have changed. For others, their transformation can be so deep that not only is it a profound moment in their lives, what they chose to do becomes an incredible service to mankind.

When we make the commitment to forgive others, we are sometimes given a gift. If we find that we are struggling to forgive but know in our heart the commitment is there, sometimes a mysterious energy intervenes. We can experience this force as a surge of energy or the feeling of inexplicable love. Some people call it grace, and others call it a third factor that transcends anything they have ever experienced. At this point in our healing process, we open ourselves to the entirety of what is. In that opening we allow ourselves to be at one with a situation, or with life as a whole, and a profound healing takes place. There is nothing we can do to create this experience except to say to ourselves, “I take responsibility for my anger, guilt and pain and give it over to that which is greater than me.” If our request is heartfelt, we will get the help we need. This can be one of the most profound moments of our life when our prayers are answered.

With forgiveness the past, although not forgotten nor rationalized away, is not longer a haunting or burdensome issue. Instead, we experience a restoration of a sense of wholeness and of inner direction and an opening up of our heart to others. We can acknowledge that others act in a way human beings do, out of their fears, needs and perceptions, and that we are no different. This understanding makes it possible for us to live in a new and fuller way.

Last, the spiritual dimension of forgiveness cannot be over-looked. It is the transforming nature of forgiveness, coupled with what some experience; that involves more than our own will that makes forgiveness so profound. Once forgiveness is experience at this deeper level, we can realize the larger meaning of the injury. The sense of relief from the hurt itself seems to be only one aspect, perhaps even small, compared to the freedom we experience from forgiveness. The future opens with amazing possibilities, and we feel a fuller kinship with others and at the same time humbled by what seems to be a gift that only forgiveness can bring.

For your journal exercise, rewrite your forgiveness story, this time with the understanding you have gained going through the forgiveness process. Include in your story the understanding you have gained about yourself and the perpetrator. How has your thinking changed in terms of how you choose to see the world? Did you struggle with letting go of your anger and guilt and, if so, what happened or what did you need to have happen to finally let go? Did you experience a moment of grace and if so, how has that changed you? Finish your story with what you would like to do or say that you may not have been able to do yet.

Reflection: As you think about what you learned through this process what has seeing the world through spiritual sight taught you? What have you learned and gained from the forgiveness process?

And remember, forgiveness is the science of the heart. It is the anchoring of a new wisdom rooted in compassion. For those who have the courage to follow its path, forgiveness reminds us how to live wit love in a world filled with guilt and fear.

We are the ones who determine how much anger and hatred we will experience in our lives, as well as how much compassion and forgiveness we will extend to others. We have been given opportunities to hate and the wisdom to transcend our hate. Think of the personal power we much have to move beyond old choices and to respond to life from a place of spiritual wisdom. Our pain and suffering provide us with the chance to learn how to forgive and to know our truest, most beautiful nature. Forgiveness is the gift given to us to transcend our darkness and like alchemy, turns it to gold.

Please share your thoughts on : https://www.facebook.com/7-Steps-to-Forgiveness-109220899099707/, twitter @erborris or www.linkedin.com/in/dreileenborris
As always, I am interested in hearing about your experience and welcome all your comments, so please feel free to share your thoughts on this blog. I am looking forward to hearing from you.

For more information on learning how to forgive go to “Finding Forgiveness: A 7-Step Program for Letting Go of Anger and Bitterness” by Eileen R. Borris-Dunchunstang.

Ouch! The Pain Really Hurts – Step Six: Absorbing Pain

Licensed Psychologist, Keynote Speaker, Best Selling Author, and Leader in Global Conflict Resolution

As we continue our journey in learning how to forgive we finally come to a place where we deal with our pain. Pain can feel devastating. We may try to deny it or cover it up, sometimes using alcohol and drugs, but eventually, if we want to forgive we will have to learn how to deal constructively with our pain. You have already begun healing your pain by uncovering and working through your anger and guilt. The next part of the process involves mourning.

To release pain, we need to grieve, especially for the loss the offense has brought, be it the loss of innocence or some ending that needs to be mourned. Mourning is essential for healing and moving on in our lives. It is also something we would rather avoid. Sometimes we refuse to grieve as a way of denying victory to the perpetrator. To the extent that we are unable to grieve indicates how much we are cut off from an important part of our own healing process. When we allow ourselves to mourn we discover that our inner strength is indestructible. Mourning means that we will have to live tomorrow differently than before, usually with a void to fill. This is the time we give ourselves permission to cry. For some of us, this could be for the first time. Often, especially if the offense happened when we were children, we had to keep in or deny feelings concerning what befell us as a way of survival. Now we can do things differently. Only when we give ourselves permission to feel the pain can we absorb it.

Absorbing our pain is the most difficult part of the forgiveness process. Paradoxically, by absorbing the pain, the pain slowly dissipates until we are freed from it. By absorbing the pain, we accept it and, instead of being a victim, we become survivors. In accepting the pain, we discover that we can begin to handle it and we become stronger. This is how the pain lessens. Accepting pain is a pivotal step in the forgiveness process. As we learn how to do this for ourselves, our hearts begin to open, and we gain a greater ability to care for ourselves and others. When we finally begin to hurt and grieve, we free ourselves of those emotional burdens. This is how we heal. In taking responsibility for our emotional life, as difficult as this may be, we become stronger and more complete.

Part of our healing is to give our pain meaning. It brings us peace when out of tragedy something good comes from it. Many organizations have been formed in the name of a loved one, usually with the hope that their work will make a difference in the lives of others. By helping others heal, we are developing “spiritual currency” for ourselves, which has a dramatic effect on our healing process. By giving to others and helping to create a better world, we give meaning to our life. This spiritual currency helps to fill a void that many tragedies bring. Often when we make these kinds of decisions a spiritual transformation takes place within us. Even if we don’t begin something new, by creating something positive, however small, it will begin to give us peace.

For this journal exercise, allow yourself to feel your pain and grief and whatever it is that is festering inside of you. Explore these emotions and ask what they want to tell you. What does your grief need to be healed? What does your pain need to be healed? How can you give pain meaning? What will your life be like once you are able to absorb your pain? If you are having difficulty absorbing your pain, what is getting in the way? Explore the resistant part of yourself. Ask your resistance what it wants and needs from you. Examine all these emotions until nothing is left. Then describe what your life would look like if you could accept your pain, heal your grief, and bring new meaning to your life.

Reflection: As you think about mourning and letting-go think about what does it mean for you to accept your pain? Can any of your beliefs help you in this process? Are there feelings you are holding onto that nurture your pain? Is there something you can do that will symbolize the acceptance of your pain?

Please share your thoughts on : https://www.facebook.com/7-Steps-to-Forgiveness-109220899099707/, twitter @erborris or www.linkedin.com/in/dreileenborris
As always, I am interested in hearing about your experience and welcome all your comments, so please feel free to share your thoughts on this blog. I am looking forward to hearing from you.
For more information on learning how to forgive go to “Finding Forgiveness: A 7-Step Program for Letting Go of Anger and Bitterness” by Eileen R. Borris-Dunchunstang.

Got Anger? Step Three: Now is the time to let it Go!

Licensed Psychologist, Keynote Speaker, Best Selling Author, and Leader in Global Conflict Resolution

Got anger? To be human is to have anger. It is an important emotion. Anger tells us that our circumstances need to change. IF we can’t let go of our anger it is also telling us that we need to change. This is the time when we get into the trenches of our emotions and have the difficult dialogue with ourselves about what happened and how we will choose to deal with it in a healing capacity. It is the time when we roll up our sleeves and become very honest with ourselves. Our tendencies are to want to feel sorry for ourselves and stay stuck in a victim role. By playing “poor me” we disempower ourselves or continue to play the blame game and not take responsibility or positive action in our lives. Instead of seeing the situation as the good guy versus the bad guy, we would be better served to learn the lessons our emotions are trying to teach us and to understand what is making the person behave that way.

This is a difficult phase because it requires introspection and honest soul searching. Although we may think we are angry at someone else if we are having difficulty letting go of anger it is an indication that we are in the need of healing. Don’t be afraid to dialogue with the anger inside of you. Ask your anger what it wants whatever comes to mind or sharing what is inside of you with someone you trust. Honor what your anger says to you. You may need to journal many times focusing on your anger. You can also draw it. There may be multiple meanings to your anger. Your anger could be protecting you. It could also be telling you what you need to do to heal.

For your journal exercise rewrite your story. Focus on your anger and give your anger voice. Ask your anger what it is trying to tell you. How is your anger protecting you? If you are having difficulty letting go of your anger, ask yourself what are you accusing the offender of? Deep down inside, you are secretly accusing yourself of the same things. For example, if you are accusing someone of betraying you, you may have never betrayed someone in the same way but perhaps you have betrayed yourself or others in some other way. Ask yourself, have I ever betrayed (or whatever the issue may be) someone else or myself in a different way and journal with whatever comes up. Explore your anger until you find out what needs to change inside of you and, possibly, what outer changes you may also want to make. Ask your anger how it can be used in a healing capacity.

Reflection: To get a deeper understanding of your anger ask yourself, “what are the lessons my anger is trying to teach me?” Repeat this question at least five times so you can get beneath the surface of your anger to what is happening deep within yourself. Also ask yourself, “what do I emotionally experience as I tell my story?” As you gain greater understanding do you begin to experience your emotions differently. Please share your thoughts on www.facebook.com/7steps to forgiveness, twitter @erborris or www.linkedin.com/in/dreileenborris

As always, I am interested in hearing about your experience and welcome all your comments, so please feel free to share your thoughts on this blog. I am looking forward to hearing from you.
For more information on learning how to forgive go to “Finding Forgiveness: A 7-Step Program for Letting Go of Anger and Bitterness” by Eileen R. Borris-Dunchunstang.

 

Another Brexit Surprise? Salvaging Peace in Colombia after 52 Years of Conflict

erborris_colombia-voteThe vote to reject the peace agreement with the FARC and the Colombian government has been compared to the fallout from the United Kingdom’s “Brexit” referendum.  The rejection was totally unexpected and the failure to ratify the peace agreement has left Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos and the government of Colombia and the leadership of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (known as the FARC) uncertain as to the future of the peace deal which has taken four years of negotiations.

By Dr. Eileen Borris    –  @ERBorris  –    http://DrBorris.com

(Scottsdale, AZ – October 4, 2016) Colombians vote NO!  The vote was rejected by the slimmest of margins 50.2% No versus 49.8% to approve the peace agreement.  This shocking development has people wondering what will happen next sending the rebels and the Colombian government back to the drawing board.  President Juan Manuel Santos is sending Humberto de la Calle, Colombia’s Chief Negotiator, back to Havana to continue negotiations with the leadership of the FARC including Rodrigo “Timochenko” Londoño, the Leader of the FARC.

“The desire for peace is universal and unanimous,” said de la Calle.  “I will continue pursuing the objective of peace in what remains of my life.”

It has been estimated that 250,000 were killed in the 52-year conflict which displaced as many as 8 million people.   Despite reaching the peace agreement, the issue that was the most contentious was the issue of justice.  In the weeks leading up to Sunday’s vote, many Colombians were angered by what they saw as insufficient punishment for those who committed a variety of crimes against their people. Out of more than 13 million votes cast, a margin of less than 54,000 votes decided the defeat of the peace initiative.

How did the majority of Colombia view justice?  Those who voted “no” are holding on to a very narrow view of justice, thinking of justice in a very punitive way. They felt the FARC deserved a lot more jail time and not the minimal jail time proposed in the peace agreement.

re·stor·a·tive jus·tice


noun
a system of criminal justice that focuses on the rehabilitation of offenders through reconciliation with victims and the community at large.

Despite historic peace deal, over half of Colombia was not ready for an alternative form of justice – restorative justice that focuses on the victims by proposing punishments such as community service and restitution, rather than simply putting perpetrators in prison. At the same time, it attempts to bring armed combatants back into society. That may help avoid what has happened in the past – in both Colombia and elsewhere – when former combatants were unable to find new job skills or build homes and returned to organized violence.

Forgiveness sometimes comes at a high price.  For many Colombians, the FARC’s past crimes are too much to forgive. President Santos, who focused so much of his energy in ending the war, is unpopular at home which possibly hurt the acceptance of the peace accords. Former President Alvaro Uribe, who led the “no” campaign, was very opposed to the peace accord especially given that his father was killed by members of the FARC. He garnered many supporters to his side. Others have challenged the legality of the peace agreements especially where it concerned the guaranteed seats in the Colombian Congress for the FARC.

Why should the US care about what happened in Colombia?  Anger is being expressed on the streets of Colombia.  The cease-fire with the FARC is delicate at best.  Peace negotiations have been going on for decades.  Does this sound familiar?  In Colombia, there is so much anger that has not been addressed in an effort to heal this nation, employ multi-track diplomacy, and move forward with peace initiatives. There is a lesson here in the United States. If we don’t start addressing the anger felt by so many Americans, peace will be elusive in this country.

There is a lesson to be learned about the meaning of justice as well. Just like the Colombians, people in the US are crying out for justice, but what kind of justice are they really calling for? Are we just calling out for punishment, looking through a narrow lens of what justice stands for or is there something we can learn about restorative justice? Holding onto an inflexible understanding of justice does not lead to a transformation of the conflict. The way people think needs to become more flexible so that the voices of everyone can be heard and adapted to what is feasible and realistic in the process of resolving the conflict.

Clearly there is a rocky road ahead. In a society where violence has been embedded in its DNA for the last 50 years, and where violence is expected, this monumental shift in what has just happened has caught the attention of all those involved, taking Colombians down a new path in their history. The unpredictability of the situation could still lead to the opening of the doors of hope where forgiveness can take the place of anger with a forward motion towards a peace and reconciliation process in the next phase of Colombian history.  Colombia cannot stay in limbo for very long.

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ABOUT Dr. Eileen Borris

IMG_5070_ppe1INTERNATIONALLY RECOGNIZED AS THE WORLD’S LEADING EXPERT ON THE HEALING OF NATIONS, POLITICAL FORGIVENESS, AND MULTI-TRACK DIPLOMACY.

For over three decades, Dr. Eileen Borris has stood on the front lines of forgiveness from the personal to the political. A renowned psychologist and consultant, Dr. Borris rebuilds countries by ending the cycles of abuse and revenge from centuries past. She leads the charge by training high profile individuals and groups including diplomats, peacekeepers, and humanitarian organizations.  Dr. Borris has been invited to create and instruct peace-building programs in more than fifteen of the most unstable and war-torn countries. She has taught at the most prestigious universities in the world, including Thunderbird School of Global Management, where she works today, delivered multiple addresses to the United Nations, and has written two highly acclaimed books on the topic of forgiveness. A native New Yorker, Eileen Borris received both her Masters degree (1972) and her doctorate in psychology (1985) from Columbia University. @ERBorris DrBorris@DrBorris.com
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BBC Video Coverage

Is there a Typical Homegrown Terrorist?

Is there a Typical Homegrown Terrorist?

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Terrorism is like a cancer of the soul of humanity. It is metastasizing everywhere. This year we have seen what terrorism has done in Syria creating the world’s greatest refugee crisis and now we have seen terrorism in San Bernardino and most recently in Orlando, Florida. What prompts an American citizen to succumb to ISIS ideology and to act out by killing innocent people. Perhaps it is not what we think.

Homegrown terrorism or domestic terrorism is commonly associated with violent acts committed by citizens or permanent residents of a state against their own people or property within that state without foreign influence in an effort to instill fear on a population or government as a tactic designed to advance political, religious, or ideological objectives. The definition of homegrown terrorism includes what is normally considered domestic terrorism. Since the September 11 attacks in the United States, and U.S. military actions in Afghanistan and Iraq, the term has often been applied to violence that is perpetrated against people or property by their own citizens or permanent residents of a state under jurisdiction of that state in order to promote political, religious, or ideological objectives. Domestic terrorists have identical, or nearly so, means of militarily and ideologically carrying on their fight without necessarily having a centralized command structure regardless of whether the source of inspiration is domestic, foreign, or transnational.

The Congressional Research Service report, American Jihadist Terrorism: Combatting a Complex Threat, describes homegrown terrorism as a “terrorist activity or plots perpetuated within the United States or abroad by American citizens, permanent legal residents, or visitors radicalized largely within the United States.”

Under the 2001 USA Patriot Act, domestic terrorism is defined as “activities that (A) involve acts dangerous to human life that are a violation of the criminal laws of the U.S. or of any state; (B) appear to be intended (i) to intimidate or coerce a civilian population; (ii) to influence the policy of a government by intimidation or coercion; or (iii) to affect the conduct of a government by mass destruction, assassination, or kidnapping; and (C) occur primarily within the territorial jurisdiction of the U.S.”

We know that the Internet and social media have been used to radicalize and recruit Americans but is there a typical pattern found as to why an American-born person would become a jihadi? Peter Bergen, the national security analyst for CNN and author of “United States of Jihad” has spent two and a half years researching this. What he has found is that the more you look at each individual case, the more individual the case becomes. His research has shown that it is not about someone necessarily following a bin Ladenist ideology but more about one’s personal life and what may be lacking in it. Sometimes personal disappointments or inner conflicts drive someone’s behavior. Perhaps it is a need for recognition to fill a very empty life, or a need to belong somewhere or to something like a cause. And although horrific crimes are committed, mental illness is found to be lower than what is found in the general public. It takes quite a bit of planning to pull off a terrorist attack.

If anything, what you are really looking at is someone coming from the middle-class. They are not necessarily young hotheaded people that we might imagine them to be. On the contrary many are married, with kids, and in their late 20s. We have seen this with one of the attackers in the San Bernardino shooting who was 28, married, with a child. The male perpetrator had a job earning $70,000 a year. They were very much solidly part of the American middle class. So why did they turn to violence and kill 14 people just arbitrarily? It truly is a mystery which may never be explained. Perhaps we need to understand the nature of evil itself and even that would be difficult to understand no less predict when it would rear its ugly head.