punishment and the alchemy of energy

I’ve begun mentioning some of my thoughts on #punishment, in various places in this server.

I’m going to attempt to tie some of those bits and pieces together, now.

We’ll see how it goes.

I think of emotions in terms of energy.

And I think of energy… kinetically.

Everything is connected, nothing exists in a vacuum.

When things hurt us, it’s not a one-time shot, with easily identifiable effects.

I think of humans as a system.

Damage one part, and the effects ripple out to other parts.

Break a leg, and you don’t just have to deal with the physical pain of healing.

You have to deal with the frustration of trying to walk with crutches, with needing help, with being reliant on others.

Loss of self sufficiency. The yearning to be well, the ‘why me’?

Even things as seemingly innocuous as acne- ever have one of those mega zits on your face, that you just know everyone is either staring at, or pretending not to?

The lines between emotional and physical pain are muddy, in my mind. They bleed.

When someone says something to me that hurts my feelings, a sort of cascade effect happens.

I begin doubting myself more broadly, and withdraw – for fear of repeating the same mistakes, or receiving similar rebukes from them, or others.

Sometimes, we respond to that kind of hurt by lashing out. And not always at the person that caused us to feel that hurt.

Ever realize you’ve snapped at a cashier, or honked at another driver, because you’d just….had a bad day?

Maybe that cashier was a manager, went on to act impatiently with one of their team. Who took it out on their family, later.

This is just one made-up example, but I feel like I’ve seen countless permutations of this kind of pattern playing out, since I began looking for it.

The subject of condescension was brought up on Twitter yesterday-

Yeah, it sucks when people are mean. It hurts when people are condescending.

But when we let that hurt fester, allow ourselves to lash out in return, and punish the offenders with our own words and tone…

Well, it’s like alchemy. That hurt turns into anger, which we wield against others.

Which hurts them.

Turns into anger, into behaviors like acting condescendingly.

This kind of alchemy, though- it can go whatever way we direct it to.

One of my favorite lines in Christian Picciolini’s TED talk is the one in which he says that the biggest factor in changing the course of his life for the better were moments when we was given compassion when he least deserved it, by the person he least deserved it from.

This resonates with me, very strongly. It’s never easy to do- but when we can summon the strength and the presence of mind to look beneath the words, look beneath the anger– and see the hurt that it grew out of….

We can use the powers of energy alchemy we all have within us, and turn that hurt into something else.

I’m not saying we should, or that we even can- fix everyone’s problems for them.

But empathy – compassion –  is enough, I’ve found. To begin dissolving anger, and healing hurt.

That moment, when between two pairs of eyes, two minds- is communicated something like “I see you”

is a moment when magic begins to happen.


I spent three years living on the street in Los Angeles. I came out of that, changed. This is my story.

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