The founder of Nonviolent Communication (NVC), Marshall Rosenberg, was even more forthright. Quoted in the book Say What You Mean by Oren Jay Sofer, he states,
“If we use Nonviolent Communication (NVC) to liberate people to be less depressed, to get along better with their family, but do not teach at the same time to use their energy to rapidly transform systems in the world, then I am part of the problem. I am essentially calming people down, making them happier to live in the systems as they are, so I am using NVC as a narcotic.”
Instead of referring only to NVC, Rosenberg could have mentioned techniques and practices such as; counselling, mentorship, mindfulness, various religious practices, psychology, psychotherapy, and many other forms of the helping professions.
As our world tumbles into a mess of inter-enhancing and mutually reinforcing environmental, social, cultural, and personal harms and troubles, the need to steer clear of providing narcotics becomes of ever greater significance.
For in attempting to help someone or heal them, without acknowledging and concurrently addressing these issues and troubles, all we do is help prop up the very roots of how people come to be seeking help and healing in the first place.
By helping, assisting, or guiding someone to adjust to social norms we, unwittingly sometimes, help to return them to a social expectation of what is normal, or usual. And that, in turn, serves to maintain the sick (or insane) society spoken of by Krishnamurti.
There are some within the helping professions who understand the magnitude of Krishnamurti’s counsel. The Canadian physician Gabor Maté is one of these. He has posited four healing principles (based on the letter A) for individuals – Authenticity, Agency, Anger, and Acceptance. These, he notes, are healthy qualities corresponding to human needs.2
However, Gabor Maté recognises Krishnamurti’s counsel and adds two further As that help in the pursuit of social and cultural transformation – Activism and Advocacy. Advocacy, he declares, includes using ‘whatever privilege we may have to amplify the voices to whom society denies a voice.’
With activism and advocacy, we have the means to escape the narcosis of modern society. We must use them to escape the snare we find ourselves in.3
1. Although attributed to Krishnamurti, I have been unable to locate the source, except in a reference in a book by Mark Vonnegut (son of the author Kurt Vonnegut) – The Eden Express: A Memoir of Insanity, 1975.
2. Gabor Maté with Daniel Maté, The Myth of Normal, Vermillion, London, 2022
3. It is revealing that the word narcosis (a state of numbness, insensibility, or unconsciousness) is related etymologically to the word snare (a trap, net, or noose.)