Most of those who know me today would never guess that I have as much violence in my history as I do. Throughout my adulthood, I’ve hidden my history of both committing and being a victim of violence in order to be socially acceptable to others. With this book, I am “coming out of the closet” as someone who has both committed and been a victim of violence.
The first part of this book is composed of my own stories about violence. As transparently as I can, I share my recollections of the events and how I felt at the time. I also share as vulnerably as I can how I feel and what I think about the stories today. The names of the people involved in the stories along with key identifying details have been changed to protect the privacy of the others involved in the stories, but in all other respects the stories are told accurately and completely to the best of my recollection.
Sharing my stories about violence is intended to bring male-on-male violence and its impacts on the lives of boys and men out of the shadows into clear light and open discussion.
I invite you to consider what similar experiences with violence you might have in your own history as you read my stories. My stories are intended as a stimulus for you to do your own reflecting and journaling about your own history of violence. Perhaps my stories can bring into your own awareness how you felt when you were a victim of violence or when you committed violence and how you feel about it now.
To spark your process of introspection, questions for you to reflect upon are provided at the end of each story. Please consider these questions as invitations and jumping off points for your own healing journey.
I recommend that you write your stories and your reflections in a journal. While narrating the events as you remember them is important and healing, even more meaningful and healing is describing how you felt, sensorially and emotionally, at the time when the incident happened and how you feel now as you write your story. In addition to your narration of the events, include these personal reflections in your journaling.
As you’re reading the stories in this book, be aware of your sensations and stay present in your body. If you find yourself triggered by a story, losing awareness of your body as you’re reading, or feeling overwhelmed by sensations or emotions as you read a particular story, please put the book down, take a break, and take care of yourself. Perhaps work with one of the body-based healing practices recommended in Part 2 of this book, or do whatever you know will stabilize you.
Before you come back to the book after something in it triggers you, consider for yourself what it was about the story that was so activating to you. When (and only when) you feel sufficiently resourced and you have had some insight into what was triggering for you about the story, you might try coming back to the story that triggered you and see what comes up the second time you read it. Working through a story in this way can be deeply healing.
If you find yourself extremely upset by a story or repeatedly triggered by the stories in this book or by a story in particular, this may suggest to you that reading the stories in this book is not supportive of your healing at this moment. If this is the case, I strongly recommend that you seek out a listening professional to support your process of healing.
By “listening professionals,” I mean social workers, psychologists, psychotherapists, counselors, and certain coaches. If you have not already worked with a listening professional and you are looking for one for the first time, a psychotherapist who has experience working with men and violence would be a good place to start.
Even if you are doing well with reading these stories and journaling about your own experiences, I would still recommend that you work with a listening professional if you have never done so before. It can be deeply healing to share your stories about violence with someone who can hear them, receive them, and accept you exactly as you are, without judging you, analyzing you, diagnosing you, or pathologizing you. This mode of listening is the way of the most effective and skillful listening professionals. The most healing aspect of sharing your stories of violence with another person is to bring the violence out of the shadows and into the light. We can transform our secrets and darkest moments into shared understanding and connection.
When you share your stories with your listening professional, I recommend that you bring an orientation towards exploring how you feel as you share the story, how you feel about what you shared, and how you remember feeling at the time the stories took place, where “feel” in this case means both your emotions and your sensations in your body. A good listening professional will prompt you with such questions as you’re sharing, but it can nonetheless be helpful for you to bring this “felt-sense” orientation to your sessions yourself.
This book can be read and explored alongside doing work with a listening professional or as a healing guide and resource on its own, but it is not intended to be a replacement for working with a listening professional.