This morning i woke up remembering her black eye from 45 years ago. The memory still haunts me. We were hippies then; she had invited my friend Bernard and me to stay overnight in her boyfriend’s barn. He was a hippie too; he made jewellery for a living, and we thought he was a cool guy. Being a hippie back then was all about peace and love and nonviolence.
An attempt at an obituary for Ahmed Tawahina by Michaela Fried (with a commentary by Peter Jakob)
My friend and colleague Ahmed died two days ago, torn from the middle of his life, out of the middle of his family in Gaza. With the event of an invitation to deliver a keynote speech in May, by our friends and colleagues in Israel, I had asked him to write a brief bio, no longer that 100 Words, and I asked him whether that was even possible, given his rich and varied life. Ahmed smiled and replied in that modest manner of his that it would not be difficult to do that – there wasn’t that much to say about him anyway.
The families I work with never cease to amaze me – their strength, their determination, their stamina in keeping their child safe. Recently, a mother shared with me some amazing practice in NVR which demonstrated her parental presence and her pledge to continue on her path to resist her son’s aggression and controlling behaviours. After a session with me discussing her concern about her son’s over use of the Xbox, playing games until late in the night, impacting on his sleeping pattern and his inability to rise in the morning for school, it was decided the parents were going to remove the XBox from the home whilst he was at school. This had been carefully planned, ensuring the availability of supporters to be present upon his return from school and stay for the night until morning. We talked about his reactions and carefully planned for this.
An Associates’ Story
I have found over time that the NVR approach has not only influenced me personally in many ways but has had a profound effect in my own family life. I am particularly taken with the ideas of using supporters, unifying, being ‘disobedient’ to the attempts of others to control you and of reclaiming personal power and agency. Understanding that my co-operation and obedience is required in order for the oppressive practices of others to be legitimised is a powerful realisation.
With its philosophical and historic roots in the framework that Mahatma Ghandi and Dr. Martin Luther King created for their political struggles, the therapeutic approach of Non Violent Resistance that Haim Omer and his team developed has gained an impressive international following over the past 20 years. One can also see it as reflecting the principles of Martin Buber’s ‘dialogical principle’. It is gratifying to witness how this approach offers families, parents and professionals much needed support when they try to cope with patterns of aggression, isolation, coersion and anxiety.
My work brings me into contact with parents who are developing their NVR skills and sometimes I am privileged to stay with these families for a long period of time, helping them embed non-violence in their world, coaching them in exploring ways to de-escalate and remain peaceful. Facing the day to day challenges that their young person presents and the emotional toll it takes on the whole family.
I have been working therapeutically with young people and their families for the last 18 years. To this day I regularly work with groups of 13-19 year olds and in our sessions we agree, by consensus, to actively practice a culture of non-violence. To make clear why non violent practice is a part of my methodology for delivering youth work, it is necessary to look back.
The adoptive parents were worried their son could be overwhelmed by shame, if they informed supporters of his violent assaults on his mother, and these people challenged him. Yet, at the same time, the parents felt isolated, cut off, completely alone with the problem. What could I say to them?
One of the amazing elements of my work is to personally share the NVR journey the parent / carer undertake whilst I work with them. I am explicitly involved in areas of their world that perhaps no other is permitted, the highs and lows, the tears and joy that each family embrace whilst embedding NVR into their world.
Every family is unique and special with their background history of events that has led them to use NVR as a therapy to support change. I treat each family with the respect they deserve, entrusting them each week to embrace something new which can be considered counterproductive and against their core values and beliefs.
Working with fathers in NVR has been an area of real interest for me. I seem to have had more success in getting fathers through the therapy room using NVR than within my family therapy practice; perhaps it is the language of ‘non-violence’, the doing approach, or perhaps it is just desperation and impotence that falls on fathers when their child is violent and they can do nothing to protect their family.