We transmit to you the study “Some clues for nonviolence” carried out by Philippe Moal, in the form of 12 chapters. The general table of contents is as follows:

1- Where are we going?
2- The difficult transition from violence to nonviolence.
3- Prejudices which perpetuate violence.
4- Is there more or less violence than yesterday?
5- Spirals of violence
6- Disconnection, flight and hyper-connection (a) Disconnection.
7- Disconnection, flight and hyper-connection (b- Flight).
8- Disconnection, flight and hyper-connection (c- hyper-connection).
9- The different ways of rejecting violence.
10- The decisive role of consciousness.
11- Transformation or immobilisation.
12- Integrating and overcoming duality and Conclusion.

In the essay dated September 2021, the author expresses his thanks: : Thanks to their accurate vision of the subject, Martine Sicard, Jean-Luc Guérard, Maria del Carmen Gómez Moreno and Alicia Barrachina have given me precious help in the realisation of this work, both in the precision of terms and ideas, and I thank them warmly.

Here is the sixth chapter:

Disconnection, escape and hyper-connection

a- Disconnection

I find that I tend to disconnect from a person, a particular topic, a situation selectively: “I don’t want to hear any more about so-and-so, this is a topic I don’t want to talk about…”. However, I can find myself in a state of global disconnection when my whole consciousness is disconnected.

In this state, even when present, my sensations related to perception are inhibited and my internal representations are immobilised, as if the images that lead to action are no longer doing their job. I also notice that my images lack tone and clarity and that their emotional charge is at best neutral, if not negative.

Without going into a detailed psychological description, I notice that the register[1] accompanying the disconnection is expressed as a lack of interest in the world, a withdrawal into myself and my personal interests, an individualistic view of events accompanied by a lack of motivation for everything social, a state devoid of emotion in which I can no longer feel the slightest compassion for others, nor for suffering, misery, injustice, until I sink into a state of indifference to everything and no longer feel any interest in anything. Little by little, I become detached from my own feelings and ideas, i.e. from myself.

Apart from the risk of sinking into a state of existential meaninglessness, of interpreting and expressing myself in the world in a cynical and nihilistic way because I no longer believe in anything, the feeling that accompanies the disconnection from the violence I see, suffer or provoke, makes me withdraw into my values and beliefs, with the risk that these turn out to be the seed of violence.

I can be disconnected from violence when I do not see that it is normalised and legitimised in society, so it does not affect me and, obviously, I do nothing to prevent it. I can also be disconnected from violence when I justify it in order not to admit that I cause it. I can also be disconnected from violence when I cannot stand the scenes I see, because they are too strong and unbearable; I try to ignore them, to think of something else, or I frantically immerse myself in an activity to divert my attention in order to forget. I can be disconnected from violence when, in the face of repeated and accumulated violent situations, I become hardened, numb and anaesthetised, gradually but irretrievably disconnected from violence. I can be disconnected from violence when I do not take into account the purpose of my actions, even though they may generate violence. There are many situations that make me disconnect from violence in an attempt to run away from it, but of course this does not solve it.

Failing to question the consequences of my actions prevents me from connecting with the registers they produce and can have the effect of making me complicit in them. I can also feel so powerless and unable to respond to violence that I remove it from my field of perception. It no longer exists… At least for me.

The vast majority of people live in a state of disconnection that has become a value: we look the other way so as not to get involved, we ignore others so as not to be bothered, we pretend that nothing happens in the face of injustice, we pretend that we are above it all, and so on.

Disconnection prevents us from seeing violence and acting to eradicate it, but it also allows it to be exercised unscrupulously, producing the worst cruelties, including those that lead to cold-blooded murder. Disconnection from violence is a decreasing adaptation to the world as it is; it has become codified and normalised and leads to a kind of submission to the violent conditions of life whereby everyone can use violence in turn and exercise it without even realising it.

If people do not rebel against the violence they inflict on others, there is a risk that they will end up accepting it as an inevitability. And accommodation to violence is nothing other than indifference to the suffering and misfortune of others. Only compassion makes it possible to recognise the pain of others and generates the will to stand by their side in an attempt to resist the violence that humiliates and crushes them[2].

However, in a state of disconnection, the conscience sends out alarm signals, indicating that there is a contradiction, a discordance between what I think, what I feel and what I do. The philosopher Simone Weil expressed this experience as follows: “Contradiction is what tears, drags the soul towards the light[3]”. For her, contradiction is the signal that can help us to free ourselves, to change direction and to look for a way out.

But we still have to be able to recognise this signal. The neurologist Viktor Frankl gives a response to this question in his work on logotherapy, a therapeutic method that focuses on the meaning of life: “Man’s freedom consists simply, and only, in choosing between two possibilities: to listen to his conscience or to ignore its warnings[4]”.

How many times have I felt or heard an inner voice telling me “Don’t do that! Don’t go there! Don’t say that”… and I do it anyway, only to discover that I should have listened to myself every time.

Disconnection from oneself also leads to unwarranted blind obedience. “If he can only obey, man becomes a slave”, wrote Erich Fromm[5]. As I no longer refer to what I feel or think, the risk of dependence is very high, for example, that of submitting to an evil authority and complying with the worst cruelties. Throughout history, enormous suffering has been generated by obeying orders, as the philosopher Hannah Arendt demonstrated in her Report on the Banality of Evil [6]. 6] She pointed out that any individual is capable of the worst kind of violence, by shifting responsibility onto others. Conscience on the run in the face of the unacceptable eliminates any possibility of self-criticism.

The concept of civil disobedience, which only exists if one relates to oneself, leads to refusal to obey in the face of the impermissible, but is currently the subject of much debate. The powers that be try to question its legitimacy, no doubt because it puts the finger on the real problems. Disobedience to the established order seems to be the last resort in the face of the social anomalies and injustices created by the economic order. Henri David Thoreau, who coined the term civil disobedience, developed the concept in his book of the same name, which begins with the motto: “The best government is the one that governs least”. This book was a continuation of an earlier collection of five essays entitled Resist, which urged against giving in to the temptation of laissez-faire[7].

On the other hand, some experiences are so difficult to integrate that they lead to a growing disconnection from the world, while at the same time producing the need to cathartically evacuate the tensions they generate, or to imaginatively turn over painful, unintegrated scenes, still at the surface of one’s skin.

I remember that my paternal grandfather, who had lived through horrific scenes in the trenches of Verdun during the First World War, was never able to integrate this terrifying battlefield experience into his life. For the rest of his life, he lived permanently disconnected from reality, often drunk, in a kind of permanent flight from himself, a flight from his obsessive images. Behind his pipe, behind his big tortoiseshell glasses, behind his friendliness and joviality that kept him alive, the co-presence of the horrible images of war that haunted him escaped no one, not even my grandmother, who had to attend to the needs of the household while running the school in the village of Festubert in northern France.

Disconnection is a kind of refusal to see the violence that my senses perceive or receive, or that which I gender. Violence is on the periphery of my space of representation[8] and I don’t let it reach or penetrate me, fleeing from it like the plague, and I end up not seeing it, not recognising its manifestations, neither in society nor in my surroundings, nor in what is my own, making me insensitive to everything and everyone.

The fact of observing myself, of trying to capture my registers, of observing the images I perceive, associated with those I represent internally, allows me to become aware of my disconnection and of the consequences it can have. Being aware of my own violence allows me to see it from another point of view and to demystify it. When I look at it without fear of myself, I humanise myself.

Without the act of recognising violence, any action to eliminate it is useless; the inner connection with violence allows me to reject it, to act to counteract it and to awaken solidarity. Moreover, recognising violence as soon as it occurs allows us to act as soon as possible to stop it.

The choice to let it reach me and touch me in the depths of my cenesthesia[9], at the risk of being affected myself, can make me suffer. This choice is more painful than indifference, but it is the only one that is not inhuman, the only one that makes me feel solidarity with the humanity of the other – which is also my own.

It is important to see how we can connect with the register of violence without identifying with it, so that we can counteract it without being trapped by the suffering it causes, which we will talk about later.

The process of helping others to connect with their experience of violence makes a lot of sense. In a nonviolence workshop in which each participant was asked to recall a recent personal experience of violence, one participant, Maria, said that she saw no trace of violence in her current life. The others ignored this and continued to share their experiences. At one point, Maria spoke again and said that she had a lifelong friend who worked with her in the same company. Recently, the company’s management had decided to offer one person the opportunity to take early retirement. Maria was on the list of candidates, but her friend went ahead and took the opportunity offered by the management. Without informing Maria, she suddenly left the company. This shocked Maria at the time, but she did not tell anyone about it. During the workshop, the memory of her friend’s dishonesty, the betrayal she had felt and her own guilty silence came back to her with a vengeance. Until then she had run away from the situation so as not to create an incident with her friend. This reconnection with the violence she had experienced allowed her to become aware of her flight and to re-examine what she wanted to do with this experience of suffering.


[1] Register: experience of sensation produced by stimuli detected by external or internal senses, including memories and images, Self-Liberation, Luis Ammann, Ediciones León Alado, 2018 (© 1980), p. 282.

[2] The Courage of Nonviolence, Sal terrae Publishing House, 2004 (Le courage de la nonviolence, Éditions du Relié, Paris, 2001, p. 111), Jean-Marie Muller, French philosopher, director of studies at the Research Institute for Nonviolent Conflict Resolution.

[3] Collected Works, Volume VI, Trotta, 2013, Simone Weil (1909-1943), French philosopher, humanist and writer.

[4] El hombre en busca de sentido, Herder Editorial, 2021, Viktor Krankl (1905-1997), Austrian neurologist and psychiatrist, creator of logotherapy, which takes into account the need for meaning in life and the spiritual dimension of the person, also called existential therapy. Read also Logotherapy, theory and practice, Élisabeth Lukas, Ediciones Paidós, 2003.

[5] On disobedience and other essays, Paidós 1984, Erich Fromm (1900-1980), German-born American humanist sociologist and psychoanalyst, one of the first representatives of the Frankfurt School, was one of the first thinkers in the 20th century to speak of the idea of an unconditional basic income.

[6] Eichmann in Jerusalem. El concepto de la banalidad del mal, Editorial Debolsillo, 2021, Hannah Arendt (1906-1975), German political scientist, philosopher, phenomenologist and journalist, naturalised American, known for her work on political activity and totalitarianism.

[7] Civil Disobedience, Independently published, 2019, as well as Resist, Mille et une nuits, 2011, Henry David Thoreau (1817-1862), American philosopher and poet whose writings and actions are considered the origin of the contemporary concept of nonviolence and who influenced, among others, Leo Tolstoy, Gandhi and Martin Luther King.

[8] The space of representation: a new theory conceived by Silo and developed in his book Contributions to Thought. The space of representation is a kind of mental screen on which images are projected, formed from sensory stimuli, memory and the very activity of consciousness as imagination. In itself and in addition to serving as a projection screen, it is formed by the set of internal representations of the cenesthetic sense itself… it registers as a kind of second body of internal representation. Self-Liberation, Op. Cit. p. 266. See also the study Approaching the space of representation, Philippe Moal, August 2021, forthcoming.

[9] Cenesthesia: Sensation that registers when a stimulus from the external or internal environment is detected and the working pitch of the perceiving sense varies. Nothing can exist in consciousness without having been detected by the senses. Even the contents of memory and the activities of the consciousness and the centres are registered by the internal senses. What exists for the consciousness is what has been manifested to it, including itself, and since this manifestation must have been registered, we say that here too there is sensation. Cenesthesia provides data concerning pressure, temperature, humidity, acidity, alkalinity, tension, relaxation, etc., and all other sensations from within the body. It also registers the work of the centres (emotions, intellectual operations, etc.), as well as the level of work of the structure through indicators such as sleep or fatigue; and finally, it registers the work of the memory and the register apparatus.