Violence and the Need for Tribalism

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It is at least 130
degrees, muggy, pitch black, and so crowded I am touching the strangers around
me. In this absolute darkness, I smell the sage smoke and wet soil, and the
stink of the repulsive man seated behind me — he is my shadow. Feeling the
humidity of the sweat dripping from his meaty body, I vigilantly listen for his
movement, to sense where he is in this tiny, crowded space. I can't stand it, I
want to run, to get some fresh air. I have to escape him. Why is he here?
Anyone but him, with his backwoods dialect and his brutish, scarred face. My
mind is racing. I am dizzy with fear and hate and panic. I heard he killed
someone. "Open your heart," I silently chant," You should be past this…come on!
You're a therapist!"

Before us, in the
center, hot, melon-sized rocks pulse with an almost imperceptible glow. Water
is thrown onto them and the steam and heat force me to drop to the cool earth.
My shadow bends forward as well, his arm leaning against my flank. The heat is
overwhelming. It is breaking us. My judgment and fear subsides into the
immediate threat of suffocating heat. The heat becomes the enemy, and we all
psychically band together against it in order to survive. The man hacks and
then sighs a low moan. My heart finally cracks open, and I feel the connection
to him and everyone else in the lodge, as we all sweat, heave and wrestle with
our inner demons. The sound he utters builds into a pitiful, mournful wail. My
thoughts suspend and I listen…no, I hear. He sounds so lonely. "Momma, I'm so
sorry….Mommy?" He sobs like a child; his shoulders curl forward and heave. My
anger falls away, and the fountain of my own isolated sorrow rises. My breath
catches with an animal wail, and I join in a harmonizing cry.

In a tribe, even
this temporary one comprised within a sweat lodge, the shadow cannot be
"othered" by turning it into an enemy or scapegoat but rather must be faced and
worked, turned like a grit of sand in the oyster turned over and over until it
is polished into a pearl. In a small tribe, the population density doesn't
allow one to push the shadow out of one's awareness. He shows up at the
campfire night after night. The shadow as I experienced it had a physical
form — Joshua, a convicted murderer and gang member on the path to
rehabilitation. The sweat lodge maintains an ancient tradition deeply relevant
to the healing of alienation and disintegration.

In the sweat lodge, we all cook in
the womb and own up to the parts of ourselves that are ex-cons and murderers.
The lawyer talks about his secret cocaine addiction, the CFO admits being raped
as a boy. The midwife, two Native American elders, and homemaker all reveal
their personal torments. But these shadows are not labels; they are verbs,
events that happened to these heroes along the way. And we are all in the
process of changing, unfolding along our paths and discovering meaning along
the way. We all suffer and hate, love, hurt, connect, withdraw, and grow.

We need tribe. We
need to belong. This is hard-wired into us. And in modern life, there is a
disconnect. We live in little fenced-in square shelters, not only isolated from
the collective shadow — the murderers and rapists, but also the desirable parts
of community — the sense of tribe, belonging and a collective purpose. The more
docile among us attempt to satiate this need to belong by staying in and
locking our houses and communing with our television alone, watching episodes
of Seinfeld and Friends. Or maybe we keep up with the latest Hollywood love trysts
as if Angelinia Jolie is our B.F.F.

I'm finding that
many of us have been on a long quest to find and co-create a deep community — a
tribe — somewhere to belong. The modern experience tends toward isolation and
loneliness. Alone in offices, we peer through windows of pixels to connect to
one another via Facebook. We drop our kids off at daycare to drive to work
alone in a metal box. Then we work in that cubicle for eight to ten hours a day,
come home, flop on the couch and crank the volume on the TV. We glean meaning
from sitcoms and myth systems from film. We are desperate for meaning — and

Our desire for tribe has been hijacked
by Hollywood and I've often wondered if we would be less apathetic and more
involved with local community if TV had never been invented. Worse than that
isolation, perhaps, are the generations born into this isolation, latchkey kids
so desperate to feel alive, and to fill that essential need for rights of
passage and belonging to tribe, that they join violent gangs and act out their
projected rage upon one another and the neighborhoods where they live..

Many primordial
languages in the Americas had no words for guilt
or shame. For example, the Apaches
say those words were developed by white men to control one another. Actions
that we think of as unforgivable actions were considered by many native
cultures as mistakes which created opportunities to discover more about
themselves and growth toward deeper wisdom.

Anthropologist Rupert
Ross said that primordial languages often center on the use of verbs rather
than nouns. Native Americans for example, tend not to label individuals, but
look at people as a process rather than a static thing. Ross says, "When we
apply such labels to real people, however, they tend to stick. And when they
stick, they cause us to start denying the complexity and wholeness of the human
beings we are speaking of."

The belief that we
create our lives (as masters of our own fate) rather than being the victims of
events which happen to us involves overcoming guilt and shame and speaking our
own truth. The meaning, and therefore our reality, created by us through our
actions fills us with a sense of purpose and self-actualization. But creating
reality from within a framework of shame or guilt stunts growth. Shame combined
with lack of opportunity can lead to social apathy at best and violence at
worst. We are social, story-telling organisms, propelled by an archetypal drive
to create tribes and community. Tribes are bonded through a sense of meaning.

When living close
to nature, everything is in a constant flux of change. Nothing stays good or
bad forever. Judgment and expectation get us in trouble. They become shorthand
for a dead-end label that some thing or some one is good or bad.

most, I have a deep fear of murderers and rapists. Whenever I am in the
presence of someone I know has committed a violent act, I am engulfed by fear.
In most sectors of my life, I avoid these situations, but when my therapy
practice brings me in contact with such people, it seems street-smart to
maintain cold detachment and distrust.

A few years ago, I
volunteered to teach art classes at a lock-down center for homeless drug
addicts in mandatory rehabilitation. I entered the position with a gung-ho,
hopeful attitude.  I thought I
could go in, roll up my sleeves and genuinely connect with each of them,
providing the love and mirroring they never had. I believed this would somehow
immunize me from dipping down into their dirty world.

I was eaten alive.

They were wise to
my naiveté, and my blind enthusiasm enraged them. On the second day of class, I
trembled as a huge, toothless gangster named Chola hurled herself toward me and
screamed three inches from my face, "Don't you be dis-re-specting ME! I aint
your dog, your f*cking project! You can leave…. self-righteous BITCH! I can't!"
Her spit sprayed my face. I started to cry. She flopped back into her chair
with a nonchalant grunt. I stood there, not knowing what to do. I desperately
wanted to disconnect from the situation. I wanted to defend and save myself
from the visceral reality she had articulated.

that, I was much more cynical and careful. I had a new kind of respect. But I
remained determined to stay real with these people. And within all the
crazy-making drama, darkness, and defeat, some shining moments sparkle in my
memory. One night, the women were all working on a large mosaic together. The
scene rekindled a feeling of the tribe within me. A southern woman started in
her low, gospel voice, singing, "Lean On Me." One by one, the entire group
joined in. Once again I cried, this time for the beauty and tenacity of the
human spirit. She sang the song of community, of tribe, of connection.

of us individually struggles with the paradox of good and evil within, but a
tribe creates a container that holds these disparate elements. Tribalism is a
perennial archetype that re-emerges whenever it is absent in the dominant
culture. In our decidedly non-tribal culture, the archetype may appear as
belonging to a gang, being a Dead-Head, or talking about what Jerry Seinfeld
did in last night's episode with the coworker in the next cubicle. In all these
cases, the tribe creates a feeling of belonging through unified meaning. This
meaning, implicit or explicit, becomes the group's mission statement and raison d'etre. And the mission statement
can be anywhere along a spectrum of possibilities. They can be syntropic,
healthy, and positive or destructive, dystopic and entropic.

Gangs are tribes.
It is not tribalism which creates the problem of gang violence, nor is violence
inherent to gangs. It is using violence to create meaning which is the problem.
This raises the question, why would anyone choose violence as a source of

Violence is the
lowest common denominator. Perhaps it's a rite of passage spun out of the web
of projected rage these isolated kids have toward our alienating society.

What do we do with
those whose drive for meaning is based around risk and violence? Rather than
taking away all opportunity for growth and change, such as school suspensions,
denying voting rights, and refusing to employ ex-cons and recovering addicts,
our society would benefit to help establish a positive meaning for gang members
that creates syntropy rather than entropy.

For many former
bad boys who are good men today, some sort of spiritual experience turned the
direction of their lives. So in paying full homage to good parenting,
education, counseling, real justice, community support, and economic
opportunity, it would be remiss not to acknowledge the power of a spiritual
community or teacher to restore a child's moral compass to working order.

In creating
meaning, and thus reality, our internal compass of morality guides our choices,
rather than an externally imposed didactic moral code.

To clarify this internal
morality, we need to experience our edges. We need to be pushed in experiences
and mirrored in that journey. This is why rites of passage like the sweat lodge
or peyote vision quest are essential to realigning the compass of those who
have lost their way — whether in gang life, addiction, or just on the day-to-day
journey of life in American culture. 
For ex-con Joshua, participating in sweat lodges, exploring rites of
passage facilitated by a medicine man fills his need to belong to something
with a higher purpose. He told me later that the sense of belonging he feels in
the sweat lodge tribe creates a container for him to explore honesty,
vulnerability, and personal responsibility.

As with tribes,
rites of passage must be activated by a sense of meaning, and that meaning
travels along a spectrum of possibilities. Childbirth and prison tattoos seem
to have no similarities, but both are rites of passage. Getting jumped into a
gang, peyote vision quests, running a marathon, Bar Mitzvahs — these are all
archetypal rites of passage. One primary rite of passage is the boy's journey
into manhood. A medicine woman once explained it to me this way:

A woman's vision quest is always
childbirth… there is no other vision quest for men or women as powerful as
childbirth. But for men, it is different. The vision quest is the sacred sweat
lodge. Vision quest is suffering. It brings you to your knees. No more lies. I
don't care how old you are. You are not a man until you go on your vision

The remaining
essential factor in creating and sustaining a functional tribe is mirroring by
elders. Without the witness of someone who has been on the path, the meaning
and the importance of ritual are lost. The psyche acts out the rite of passage
in endless repetition until it is witnessed. For example, in the rave,
participants seek ritual ecstasy through ingesting "X" (Ecstasy or MDMA), which
produces a cathartic merging and sense of belonging. This emulates a rite of
passage, but often the meaning is lost when the psychedelic pilgrim sobers up
because no shaman witnessed, digested and reflected the meaning for the seeker.
The same is true for gangs. Drive-by shootings, hazings, school yard
bullying — all  these acts are repeated
and escalated until someone takes notice. Elders and mentors are essential to
de-escalating violence. For troubled youth one of the most important ways
through which to receive that guidance and wisdom is a caring and capable
adult. Many kids just need someone to guide their journey toward responsible
manhood and illuminate them to the fact that each of them has a unique gift to
give the world.

Racism, lack of opportunity, culture and
socio-economic stress create a culture for inner city kids in which fathers are
often absent or abusive. A strong, grounded and positive masculine hero maps
the path for lost souls. Bad boys can see that another reality is achievable.
Participating in a positive tribal community, building love and a sense of
growth and possibility, can create a hopeful future.

don't want to negate the very real concerns of serious psychological disorders and
abuse which complicate rehabilitation for "bad boys." There are psychopaths and
sociopaths, but in differing times
and circumstances, people are people. 
All of us need to be witnessed in a space in which such labels can be
set aside.  Some part of the spirit
remains unbent by circumstance and regret and yearns to connect, to shine in
its own way and have its contribution acknowledged. 

intentional tribes and rites of passage can restore a sense of purpose,
belonging, respect, and morality. Regardless of the method, the ultimate
success depends on whether the tribal morality can inspire. Then it may be
assimilated and accommodated into the psyche, to emanate from within to create
a lasting frame of relevance for the individual's gifts. The tribal morality
must be able to allow and integrate the intrinsic diversity of personalities
and how they react to the stages and challenges of the life journey.

Joshua and I get
something from the sweat lodge medicine that we can't find in mainstream
culture. There is patience and a slower rhythm in the intentional witnessing.  I left the lodge that day feeling that
connection to a tribe and longing to cultivate that in my daily reality.


Image by andrew_j_w courtesy of Creative Commons license. 

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Ayahuasca Culture: Indigenous, Western, And The Future
Ayahuasca has been use for generations in the Amazon. With the rise of retreats and the brew leaving the rainforest how is ayahuasca culture changing?


Ayahuasca Guide: Effects, Common Uses, Safety
The Amazonian brew, Ayahuasca has a long history and wide use. Read our guide to learn all about the tea from its beginnings up to modern-day interest.


Ayahuasca and the Godhead: An Interview with Wahid Azal of the Fatimiya Sufi Order
Wahid Azal, a Sufi mystic of The Fatimiya Sufi Order and an Islamic scholar, talks about entheogens, Sufism, mythology, and metaphysics.


Ayahuasca and the Feminine: Women’s Roles, Healing, Retreats, and More
Ayahuasca is lovingly called “grandmother” or “mother” by many. Just how feminine is the brew? Read to learn all about women and ayahuasca.

What Is the Standard of Care for Ketamine Treatments?
Ketamine therapy is on the rise in light of its powerful results for treatment-resistant depression. But, what is the current standard of care for ketamine? Read to find out.

What Is Dissociation and How Does Ketamine Create It?
Dissociation can take on multiple forms. So, what is dissociation like and how does ketamine create it? Read to find out.

Having Sex on Ketamine: Getting Physical on a Dissociative
Curious about what it could feel like to have sex on a dissociate? Find out all the answers in our guide to sex on ketamine.

Special K: The Party Drug
Special K refers to Ketamine when used recreationally. Learn the trends as well as safety information around this substance.

Kitty Flipping: When Ketamine and Molly Meet
What is it, what does it feel like, and how long does it last? Read to explore the mechanics of kitty flipping.

Ketamine vs. Esketamine: 3 Important Differences Explained
Ketamine and esketamine are used to treat depression. But what’s the difference between them? Read to learn which one is right for you: ketamine vs. esketamine.

Guide to Ketamine Treatments: Understanding the New Approach
Ketamine is becoming more popular as more people are seeing its benefits. Is ketamine a fit? Read our guide for all you need to know about ketamine treatments.

Ketamine Treatment for Eating Disorders
Ketamine is becoming a promising treatment for various mental health conditions. Read to learn how individuals can use ketamine treatment for eating disorders.

Ketamine Resources, Studies, and Trusted Information
Curious to learn more about ketamine? This guide includes comprehensive ketamine resources containing books, studies and more.

Ketamine Guide: Effects, Common Uses, Safety
Our ultimate guide to ketamine has everything you need to know about this “dissociative anesthetic” and how it is being studied for depression treatment.

Ketamine for Depression: A Mental Health Breakthrough
While antidepressants work for some, many others find no relief. Read to learn about the therapeutic uses of ketamine for depression.

Ketamine for Addiction: Treatments Offering Hope
New treatments are offering hope to individuals suffering from addiction diseases. Read to learn how ketamine for addiction is providing breakthrough results.

Microdosing Ketamine & Common Dosages Explained
Microdosing, though imperceivable, is showing to have many health benefits–here is everything you want to know about microdosing ketamine.

How to Ease a Ketamine Comedown
Knowing what to expect when you come down from ketamine can help integrate the experience to gain as much value as possible.

How to Store Ketamine: Best Practices
Learn the best ways how to store ketamine, including the proper temperature and conditions to maximize how long ketamine lasts when stored.

How To Buy Ketamine: Is There Legal Ketamine Online?
Learn exactly where it’s legal to buy ketamine, and if it’s possible to purchase legal ketamine on the internet.

How Long Does Ketamine Stay in Your System?
How long does ketamine stay in your system? Are there lasting effects on your body? Read to discover the answers!

How Ketamine is Made: Everything You Need to Know
Ever wonder how to make Ketamine? Read our guide to learn everything you need to know about the procedures of how Ketamine is made.

Colorado on Ketamine: First Responders Waiver Programs
Fallout continues after Elijah McClain. Despite opposing recommendations from some city council, Colorado State Health panel recommends the continued use of ketamine by medics for those demonstrating “excited delirium” or “extreme agitation”.

Types of Ketamine: Learn the Differences & Uses for Each
Learn about the different types of ketamine and what they are used for—and what type might be right for you. Read now to find out!

Kitty Flipping: When Ketamine and Molly Meet
What is it, what does it feel like, and how long does it last? Read to explore the mechanics of kitty flipping.

MDMA & Ecstasy Guide: Effects, Common Uses, Safety
Our ultimate guide to MDMA has everything you want to know about Ecstasy from how it was developed in 1912 to why it’s being studied today.

How To Get the Most out of Taking MDMA as a Couple
Taking MDMA as a couple can lead to exciting experiences. Read here to learn how to get the most of of this love drug in your relationship.

Common MDMA Dosage & Microdosing Explained
Microdosing, though imperceivable, is showing to have many health benefits–here is everything you want to know about microdosing MDMA.

Having Sex on MDMA: What You Need to Know
MDMA is known as the love drug… Read our guide to learn all about sex on MDMA and why it is beginning to makes its way into couple’s therapy.

How MDMA is Made: Common Procedures Explained
Ever wonder how to make MDMA? Read our guide to learn everything you need to know about the procedures of how MDMA is made.

Hippie Flipping: When Shrooms and Molly Meet
What is it, what does it feel like, and how long does it last? Explore the mechanics of hippie flipping and how to safely experiment.

How Cocaine is Made: Common Procedures Explained
Ever wonder how to make cocaine? Read our guide to learn everything you need to know about the procedures of how cocaine is made.

A Christmas Sweater with Santa and Cocaine
This week, Walmart came under fire for a “Let it Snow” Christmas sweater depicting Santa with lines of cocaine. Columbia is not merry about it.

Ultimate Cocaine Guide: Effects, Common Uses, Safety
This guide covers what you need to know about Cocaine, including common effects and uses, legality, safety precautions and top trends today.

NEWS: An FDA-Approved Cocaine Nasal Spray
The FDA approved a cocaine nasal spray called Numbrino, which has raised suspicions that the pharmaceutical company, Lannett Company Inc., paid off the FDA..

The Ultimate Guide to Cannabis Bioavailability
What is bioavailability and how can it affect the overall efficacy of a psychedelic substance? Read to learn more.

Cannabis Research Explains Sociability Behaviors
New research by Dr. Giovanni Marsicano shows social behavioral changes occur as a result of less energy available to the neurons. Read here to learn more.

The Cannabis Shaman
If recreational and medical use of marijuana is becoming accepted, can the spiritual use as well? Experiential journalist Rak Razam interviews Hamilton Souther, founder of the 420 Cannabis Shamanism movement…

Cannabis Guide: Effects, Common Uses, Safety
Our ultimate guide to Cannabis has everything you want to know about this popular substances that has psychedelic properties.

Cannabis and Ayahuasca: Mixing Entheogenic Plants
Cannabis and Ayahuasca: most people believe they shouldn’t be mixed. Read this personal experience peppered with thoughts from a procannabis Peruvian Shaman.

CBD-Rich Cannabis Versus Single-Molecule CBD
A ground-breaking study has documented the superior therapeutic properties of whole plant Cannabis extract as compared to synthetic cannabidiol (CBD), challenging the medical-industrial complex’s notion that “crude” botanical preparations are less effective than single-molecule compounds.

Cannabis Has Always Been a Medicine
Modern science has already confirmed the efficacy of cannabis for most uses described in the ancient medical texts, but prohibitionists still claim that medical cannabis is “just a ruse.”

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