©2008, Ramona K. Silipo. All rights reserved.
HELPS PEOPLE TRANSFORM VIOLENCE INTO CREATIVITY
The World Wall for Peace transforms the lives of people, children and adults, through the Peace Empowerment Process® (PEP), taught by its creator, Carolyna Marks. The process comprises two distinct sections, the PEP®, and the Blueprint of Emotional Wisdom®. The PEP gives people simple, repeatable techniques which allow them to dissipate anger and the impulse to violent reaction, and to respond to violence or the threat of violence with creative thinking and compassion.
The PEP focuses not on unlimited freedom of the self, but on the free choices available to the whole individual in the context of a vital and responsive community. In many programs, self- esteem is often overemphasized to the detriment of responsibility and service. We are one with other people, and in the PEP self esteem is not emphasized to the exclusion of these things. The objective is for people to grow together; to be interrelated, not singular; to live creative individuality without sacrificing community.
In nearly thirty years of peace work, Carolyna Marks has observed lasting changes in attitudes of both children and adults with whom she has worked building peace walls; and participants who have learned the Peace Empowerment Process relate moving experiences of recognizing the transformations in their own consciousness and emotions.
The listing of Peace Powers, one of the first exercises in the PEP, leads children to redefine, as valuable abilities, qualities often seen as weak or “wimpy.” By writing down and reading them out, children see and own as powerful skills such as listening, drawing, or being persistent. In one school, a very quiet girl at the back of the classroom amazed her teacher by raising her hand, eager to read her list of Peace Powers to the class. The girl had never seen her quietness or her thoughtful nature as powerful until then. The teacher told Ms. Marks that the girl was the shyest child in the class and was literally transformed by learning the PEP.
The Walk-a-Mile exercise opens compassion and empathy. The procedure is to pair off from the circle and listen very closely to the story of another person’s experience; then return to the group and become the other person, to relate your partner’s story in the first person. In a recent PEP workshop, an African American man and a sixteen year old Chinese boy were partners.
The boy related that he had come to the United States when he was about five. He said that, although his whole family, seven children and his parents, all lived in one room, they were a close, happy family, even though they were poor. His father, who regularly went out with friends on Saturday night, one night went out as usual, and was shot and killed in an argument with his friends. It completely changed the boy’s life: He began to steal and was arrested, but fortunately was placed in a program, in which he learned from career prisoners what it would be like if he did end up in jail. The experience woke him up and started him back toward a more constructive life.
The African American man had been raised in minister’s family, and rebelled dramatically against his father as a young man. As he matured, however, he found great respect for and began to understand the power of his father’s ministry and ideals. The black man and the Chinese boy were from a neighborhood where friction between their two races was a daily fact of life. But they bonded instantly and intimately when they realized their experiences of loss and family conflict were not all that different from one another. Both had a fundamental change of attitude through experiencing the other’s story.
In working with the second component of the PEP, the Blueprint of Emotional Wisdom®, children learn to look at their emotions and identify the source of their anger. Marks’ work is based largely on the concept that underlying all violent actions is anger; and under anger are fear, guilt and grief or disappointment.
In one PEP session, children began spontaneously to share their grief by telling stories about the deaths of dogs and cats, grandparents, an aunt. They were very emotional stories, filled with anger, fear and guilt. Soon a wave of tears swept through the room. Everyone was crying because the schoolroom had suddenly become a safe place for them to express their feelings. The teacher reported that for the next several days the children were extraordinarily kind to each other. One boy had a foster sister who had died, and didn’t know what to do with his feelings about it. After this PEP training he decided to draw and write about it. Children do make creative choices when they have permission not to be violent.
For more information on the World Wall for Peace, go to http://www.wwfp.org. Marks’ book, Creativity in the Lion’s Den, is available from the organization.