Have you ever wondered whether the great crusaders for peace had been at peace themselves? Can the crusader against drunk driving ever be at peace with the fact that their son or daughter was killed by a drunk driver? Can the victim of violent sexual assault ever be at peace with what happened to him or her?
Think of internal peace as a state where all your internal "parts" are in harmony with one another. Your beliefs are congruent with your actions; your feelings are congruent with your beliefs; and your memories of things past, good and bad, are fully integrated with who you are now…
I recall meeting two different women who had been violently sexually assaulted. After a few weeks had passed, both had healed from their physical injuries.
But both were being bombarded with conflicting comments and advice: You’ll be scarred for life…get over it…the court needs to see what a basket case you are…get therapy and forget about court…going through the court process is the only way you can heal…
One woman decided to go the court route, but the last I saw her she was still traumatized by memories of the assault and the court process had further traumatized her. She had little inner peace.
The other woman, against the advice of her lawyer and well-meaning friends, decided she would do nothing regarding court until she got herself together. She sought therapy geared to clearing the trauma, that is, therapy that helped her turn all the traumatic memories into ordinary memory.
In the end she could think and talk about the rape without distress. She had integrated the memory of that awful event with the other parts of herself. She had made peace with it. She was again at peace with herself.
The interesting thing is that she then decided to go to court as a witness for the crown when her assailant was being tried. She did it, not as a part of her healing, but because it was the right thing to do. She was a rational and very credible witness.
I am not suggesting peace is an end point where everything is completely and permanently integrated. After all each of us is a work in progress. Just when you feel at peace with the universe, another old traumatic memory may surface or a new trauma may occur. And then you have to clear that before things come back into harmony and you again feel at peace.
Returning to the original question, can a peace activist, or any activist for that matter, be at peace? In my experience all of us have within us the potential to achieve internal peace, even when we are passionately for or against something.
We all know activists who aren’t at peace. I doubt very much those who will do anything to get their way have much inner peace. It is highly unlikely that acts of manipulating others through fear are consistent with their own core beliefs about respect and love.
However, a person can be outraged at injustice and take a stand against it, yet still have internal peace and harmony. If his or her actions are congruent with who they are, that is, they are not stepping out of character, then they can maintain and even bolster that sense of inner peace.
Yes, striving for inner harmony and peace using the above principles is completely compatible with being an activist in the creation of a better world.
Dr. Neill Neill, Registered Psychologist and Diplomate, Comprehensive Energy Psychology, helps capable people who feel stuck…trauma, relationships, addictions…He can be reached at (250) 752-8684 in Qualicum Beach. www.neillneill.com