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 ninth chapter:

The visceral rejection of violence

The violence I provoke produces sensations in me, of which I have records. Without the recognition of these records, no action to stop the violence is possible, because if I am not aware of it, it does not exist. To put it another way, in the form of a truism: “I am not aware of what I am not aware of”. It is not part of my reality.

The act of awareness is inescapable in order to reject violence, however, there are several levels of depth in this rejection.

Emotional connection and reflection lead me to reject and condemn violence and to reflect, inform myself and seek solutions. However, the emotional and intellectual rejection of violence can be random, variable according to various factors that make me relativise, qualify, minimise, postpone, etc., depending on my interests, beliefs, values, moods, priorities, etc. Thus, I can disagree with situations of racial discrimination and feel compassion for those who suffer from them and yet say nothing, do nothing to express what I feel and think.

But when the rejection is visceral, when I feel the violence in my gut, not only at the level of ideas or emotions, there is no escape possible, I am chained to the body; it is impossible to escape, the violence is unbearable for me physically, at the kinesthetic level.

When being violent, I am becoming viscerally aware of the damage caused to the other person, then I am able to put myself in their place. I am feeling the violence I am giving as if I were the one receiving it, I am becoming aware of the pain and suffering of the other. The image of what they are experiencing acts on my own body; I put myself in their place and it is impossible for me to continue being violent, unless I completely disconnect from the situation and thus lose all my humanity.

An astute reader will say: “How can I induce visceral rejection if the kinaesthesia works involuntarily? Indeed, I do not choose to have a lump in my throat or in my stomach, but when at the level of my ideas and emotions violence exceeds a threshold of tolerance, it becomes physically unbearable. Images that were previously visual, auditory, tactile, on the surface, become kinesthetic and affect me through internal sensations. Then deeper kinesthetic sensations make me viscerally reject violence.

Let’s do an experiment: close your eyes and imagine that a man insults a child who starts to cry. What do you feel? … Now imagine that the man hits the child who writhes in pain from the blows. What do you feel? … Finally, imagine that the man kills the child and cuts him up. What do you feel? … In the first case I can express my disagreement on the level of ideas; in the second, the feeling of rejection goes down to the level of the chest, to the emotional level; and finally in the third case, I feel a kind of inner discomfort, a visceral disturbance.

Not only physical violence can be unbearable and produce a visceral rejection, but also racial discrimination, religious intolerance, sexual abuse, perverse psychological blackmail, economic exploitation or simply a lack of respect for the other, for his ideas, values, beliefs, way of life. It all depends on the charge of the images.

Violence can affect me emotionally and intellectually, but when I also experience a physical reaction of visceral rejection, of disgust, the sensation is more profound, to the point of nausea and vomiting.

As an anecdote, at the 2001 Toronto Film Festival, during the screening of the film Ichi the Killer by Japanese director Takashi Miike, paper bags were handed out to the audience so that they could vomit during the screening, as the scenes in the film are very gruesome.

Aurel Kolnaï, in his book Disgust, Pride, Hatred, describes precisely the sensations felt in the body in a situation of violence.

Hatred can be generated by an object of strong moral disapproval, by the hostile behaviour of a being, by a rejected love, etc. In similar circumstances, other dominants may appear: contempt, desire for reparation, fear, grief, mourning, etc. Hatred goes towards its object spontaneously and selectively. But disgust usually emerges unequivocally as the only possible reaction, immediately provoked by the object. The object behaves in a provocative way, approaches and clings more closely to us than an object of hatred[1].

Hatred produces violence that translates into images, for example, of revenge. These drive me to action and finally make my violence erupt in a destructive way. Disgust, on the other hand, generates a more diffuse visceral aversion and produces an almost paralysing nausea. The violent act towards the other is almost impossible. Of course, I reject and condemn violence, but above all it has invaded my space of representation and I want to get it out of there, first of all.

I also find that I strongly reject some violence and some not so much. Those that are related to my own experience or that affect people close to me, i.e. those with whom I have a close emotional connection, make me react more strongly.

The deeper violence enters my kinaesthesia, the stronger the response of my consciousness to reject it. The more a conflict intensifies, the more I feel aggression entering me. There is an invasion. The sensation penetrates deeper and deeper into me.

When I instinctively feel that my physical and mental integrity is threatened, I reject violence like a poison, like an intruder. Even before there is a moral notion, an instinctive reflex makes me reject violence.

Aurel Kolnaï describes how disgust, which produces a feeling of revulsion, is in reality a defence against the advance of something lukewarm, viscous, vitally diffuse, which approaches until it sticks to you. For him, the gag reflex in the face of disgust is, in effect, a rejection, a visceral expulsion of a sensation that has intruded into the body.

Close to disgust, we place the pair of opposites contempt-nausea. Hatred and anger are less linked to the body than disgust; while anger is accompanied by more vehement physical manifestations, in disgust sensory impressions play a more intrinsic role, as well as the outline of a somatic reaction (vomiting), which is more specific and concrete than the act of struggling, hitting, throwing objects. All disgust, including moral disgust, is, if not more physical, at least more physiological than anger[2].

Jean-Paul Sartre, in his book Outline of a Theory of the Emotions, speaks of flight behaviour and the distance that shrinks between an object of fear and the body, through the well-known example of the ferocious animal locked in its cage: “Even locked behind strong bars, when it leaps threateningly towards us, it impresses us as if the distance that separated us from it had disappeared[3]”.

In the universal children’s game of making faces, the reaction is very different whether they are made ten metres away or ten centimetres from the face. In the latter case, children are frightened by the intrusion of the image of fear. On the other hand, at a distance, they laugh out loud, cathartically, at this supposed grimace of fear, as if they had been saved from something that could have touched them, penetrated them.

Silo specifies the registers related to the bodily sensation of visceral disgust when the distance between the self and the perceived object narrows and thus alters consciousness.

But the immediate reaction goes beyond the motor reflex that responds to the dangerous, as it engages me viscerally by provoking a rejection that can end in the disgust reflex, in gagging, in excessive salivation of my mouth and in the extraordinary register of the distance that has been shortened between me and the object, or between me and the disgusting situation. This shortening of the space in the representation places the object in a kind of existence that allows it to touch me and enter me, provoking the arcade as a rite of expulsion from my intrabody[4].

It is almost impossible to make a person invaded by violence come to her senses. In fact, the priority for them is to expel this violence, which they perceive as poison, from themselves. Everything must go out, nothing can come in; she does not and cannot listen. In this extreme situation, we feel the need to touch her so that she becomes aware of our presence, so that she feels us; we want to touch her to penetrate her, so that she is moved internally and comes to her senses. But sometimes, just by touching her, we produce the opposite and she reacts disproportionately, as if we had penetrated and violated her even more, causing her fury to redouble.

A case of extreme violence, which unfortunately is increasingly appearing, is from people who are dominated by racial hatred, fascist blindness, religious intolerance, fanatical condemnation of hot-button issues such as sexual orientation, abortion or euthanasia. The visual images that assail them are probably associated with kinaesthetic sensations linked to deep tension systems. Their motives are often related to fear, possession, revenge and/or traumatic experiences that they have not been able to overcome.

What answers can be given to these people, and to the leaders who influence them, to get out of the often extreme violence they provoke? How can they get out of the visceral world and take the path of heart and reason? Undoubtedly, they will have to free themselves from the deep inner tensions that bind them and change the oppressive burden of the images that haunt them, moving towards reconciliation, mobility of spirit and faith in the future.

We can respond at the social level by being attentive to their statements and showing the danger and contradiction of what they say, by putting in place laws that protect citizens, by proposing pedagogical education that neutralises the possibilities of violence.

It should also be noted that while some forms of violence produce a rejection that can become visceral, others that are unacceptable in human terms continue to be admitted, tolerated or even hidden in society, such as machismo against women, child exploitation or racial discrimination.

Although we have come a long way compared to the violence that was accepted even a short time ago, such as torture displayed in public squares or slavery, which was an object of pride just a few years ago[5], there is still a long way to go before all forms of violence are expelled from society, expelled from the social body.

What will be the next step in this exciting human journey? Probably, it will consist of a real inner transmutation involving the definitive abandonment of any form of violence, not only because of a rational conviction but also because violent acts will produce a visceral repulsion in us[6].

I have had the opportunity to listen to several people who are working on themselves to resist and free themselves from violence, and they comment that the contradiction has become impossible to bear. Their process of seeking unity and inner coherence has given them a degree of sensitivity that has been honed to the point of rejecting the slightest violence. These comments perfectly illustrate Silo’s words in his book Psychology Notes: “It is possible to consider advanced configurations of consciousness in which any kind of violence will provoke repugnance with the somatic correlates of the case. Such a structuring of non-violent consciousness could become established in societies as a profound cultural conquest. This would go beyond the ideas or emotions that are weakly manifested in today’s societies, to begin to form part of the psychosomatic and psychosocial fabric of the human being[7]”.

In the face of the phenomenon of visceral rejection of violence, it is worth going deeper into the search for non-violence. This rejection is an indicator that goes beyond ideas and emotions, i.e. beyond acquired ideas/thoughts, theories, beliefs and prejudices, because it is a direct experience, a sensation expressed with the body.

The mass demonstrations that have erupted on all continents in recent times on fundamental issues such as the defence of women’s full rights and the fight against gender-based violence, the rejection of racial discrimination, the responsible care of the environment, the establishment of real democracy or the right to make choices and choose lifestyles, go beyond demands: they bear witness to deep aspirations of great significance.

The clamour of millions of people, mobilised on a permanent basis for months or even years, expresses the intentions of a profound change in society. Powerful kinesthetic images are at work, pushing humanity in a direction where the use of violence has no place.


[1] Asco, soberbia, odio, Ediciones Encuentro, 2013 (Les sentiments hostiles – Le dégoût, Éditions Circé, Paris, 2014, p. 33), Aurel Kolnaï, Hungarian philosopher and phenomenologist inspired by the thought of Frantz Brentano, was a student of Husserl.

[2] Ibid. p. 22.

[3] Outline of a theory of emotions, Alianza Editorial, 2015, Jean-Paul Sartre (Esquisse d’une Théorie des émotions, Éditions Herman 1965, p. 43).

[4] Psychology notes, Silo, Ulrica Ediciones, Argentina, p. 328.

[5] It was not until 1999 that slavery was abolished worldwide. Niger was the last country to abolish it, Politique Africaine 2003, N° 90, Roger Botte, p. 127.

[6] The end of prehistory, a road to freedom, Tomas Hirsch, Tabla rasa, 2007, p. 129.

[7] Psychology notes, Op. cit, p. 328.