I met this nice lady by the name of Winona at a counseling center in Dallas. I asked her could she help me with what was a difficult adjustment returning to Dallas from Tucson. I was getting angrier and angrier at the driving habits of people in Dallas. I felt on the edge of violence. Winona thought I had PTSD from watching serial acts of violence when I was young.
I made the comment that I was hardwired for aggression. I said that because it has been my default position for so long that I assumed its truth. I have experienced so much violence but more so imagined so many acts of violence. I would draw upon the fantasy life I have, from the teaching of deadly force to others, and to revisits of my own real life experiences. Winona replied. It was something she said which I probably heard others say in other ways. But this time it sunk in. Winona said, “it is not a hardware problem, it is a software problem.”
And I knew its truth and I have been working diligently to reprogram. I had a good start with my Buddhist studies, my background in social work and my upbringing in Hyde Park in the late 60s and early 70s. It was there that LSD and the hippie movement introduced me to universal love and respect. It was then and there that I learned to resist killing others in the cause of spreading democracy and freedom.
But something was terribly wrong in my head. My heart was good. But man oh man could I go to dark places, hang with rough crowds, and slip in and out of violence as readily as some people sat for lunch. I thought nothing of threatening violence. I thought nothing of having it threatened upon me.
When I was 19 or so, a man working as a cook at the Medici in Hyde Park threatened retaliation against me for threatening him. I scoffed at his threat. He replied by suddenly taking out a gun and pushing it into my forehead. My response was “you better shoot me now or I will find you, take your gun and shove it so far up your ass it will blow out your throat.”
I was scared but my street ethic prevented me from responding with fear. That ethic served me well at times. Kept me safe in dangerous situations. Made me formidable as a social worker and as a lawyer. In the main, as a life attitude and response it did me poor emotionally. But I didn’t know I was writing the script to my own play. I didn’t realize I could change the way my stories unfolded. I didn’t believe there was a more appropriate or more sensible approach. I believed my own lies about my life and my lies became my truths. Hard and fast did I cling to these values and behaviors.
So I know another truth. I can change the story.