A Week’s Worth of Journaling Prompts: When Violence Intrudes 9

We can’t avoid it. It’s all over the news and in conversations: wars, random shootings, gang rapes, knifings and, most recently, the Boston Marathon bombings. Violence, if we are to judge by news sources, is everywhere and could even be considered “normal.” I’ve been involved in many philosophical arguments over the years about whether or not human nature is inherently violent, and I’ve always argued that it’s not, that all the history of violence can be chalked up to social conditioning. And for the most part, I’ve been able to turn my face away from the violence of the news and toward the good being done every day.

But then something like the Boston Marathon bombing happens, and the violence is in my face. As much as I might want to, there’s no way to ignore it. The face of that precious eight-year-old boy holding a sign for peace breaks my heart, and I find myself grieving for him and his mother and father and little sister — for all of us, and for all places in the world where families are not safe.

How do we respond?  Some become fearful, point fingers at suspicious ethnic groups, get angry at our government or right-wing organizations. Some insulate themselves emotionally. Others talk about it for a while, then get lost in the day-to-day details of their lives — until the next violent act intrudes. Some of us do all of the above.

Whether we have been victims of violence or are merely sympathetic to those who have been victims, at some point violence — distant or up close and personal — forces its way into our lives. It alters the way we see the world, and we can no longer shield ourselves from the pain.

What then? How do we make sense of the senseless?

One of the reasons I write is to make sense of life, to process what I see and hear and feel, and to understand how to make choices that will best serve me and my loved ones as I go forward. For me, journaling is always a first step toward understanding.

Today, I want to share with you a week’s worth of journaling prompts in the form of sentence starters. These prompts may help you process and heal from the pain of violence. Use one sentence starter each day. Complete the sentence at least five times, going deeper each time and then continue writing about that sentence starter until you feel you’ve expressed everything you can about it.

  1. I believe violence occurs in the world because …
  2. My first response to violence is … Then, I …
  3. The kinds of violence that affect me most are … because …
  4. Violence toward others triggers my memories of …
  5. The reason I’m writing about this topic at this time is …
  6. I believe the best way to reduce or stop violence is to …
  7. I can heal the violence in my life by …

I invite you to share your perspective and add to the conversation by adding a comment below.


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9 thoughts on “A Week’s Worth of Journaling Prompts: When Violence Intrudes

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  • patsy ann taylor

    Thank you for taking on this topic. All of the suggestions/prompts are good places to begin exploring our own perspectives on violence. Patsy

  • Linda Sievers

    I have no answers here, yet I ask myself for answers daily. I see crimes committed from within our country and coming to us from without. I don’t know which is worse.

    Is our struggle in coming to terms with the violence in our world an individual, slow journey that we each must take in order to evolve to a higher consciousness of the value of all human life? Is what we see today the result of past mistakes that will continue to come until all of us are of the same mind the world over? How long to achieve this and at what price?

    My husband says the world has always been violent, that there will always be wars, and the more of us there are, the faster and more violently we will experience these things. We certainly seem to see this in today’s world.

    I want better, yet , I don’t seem to know what to do that would make lasting and effective change. Maybe we need more time from the news media and Internet to emphasize what is good and right in our world. The very fact that violence sells, is to me, terrifying.

    Though I have no real answers to offer, I like to believe that where there is good, it must be honored and preserved as a light that can pierce through all darkness. If darkness can sell and be the norm as it appears today, given time, why could not light become the norm ?

    This is a large, aching subject. Thank you, Amber for having the courage to present it here.


    • Amber Lea Starfire

      Linda, thank you for your thoughtful, soul-searching comment. I am right there with you, wanting better, yet not knowing how to effect change in any meaningful way.

      We humans are fascinated with bad news, violence, catastrophy … it excites our curiosity, just as we ogle at a car accident, wanting to know what happened. I wonder what it is about our psyches that we don’t have the same curiosity and fascination with the good, the loving, the kind.

  • Janine Stubbs

    Hi Amber,
    Good topic. I responded to the Boston Bombing by trying to make sense of it with my sociology background. I thought of the classical sociologist Emile Durkheim who wrote and taught about crime and immigrants in a new modern society. He called the problem anomie. Although, Durkeheim looked at societies in the 19th century, sociologists today often use his theories to understand current social problems. I’ve read where the older brother especially felt disconnected to his environment. So, I wrote an essay about it on my blog, janine’smachine, <http://janine-stubbs.blogspot.com. Please stop by and read it.

    • Amber Lea Starfire

      Interesting theory, Janine. The idea of anomie raises the question of assimilation. Those who are xenophobic might use Durkeheim’s theory to suggest immigrants are more likely to be violent and increase their isolation, place more controls on immigrations — rather than looking at the broader issue of how to help immigrants assimilate.

  • Barbara Toboni

    Thanks, Amber. These are timely and great journaling starters. One thing, we have to have open minds, realize that not everyone sees the world the way we do here in America. We have to respect other cultures, not force our ideals on everyone. I believe this causes an imbalance. One thing you mention, pay attention to the good news. That helps one stay focused on the positive. Wish we could all practice that instead of being focused on the bad, like watching a train wreck. It’s hard to look away.

    • Amber Lea Starfire

      I agree, Barbara. If we, as a whole, respected other cultures and ideas with compassion, things like the Boston bombing might not happen, because immigrants might not feel so isolated and/or rejected. Thank you for sharing your comment.