Two simple concepts can explain the cycle of violence that existed between Johnny Depp and Amber Heard. Various aspects of human behaviour on display during this trial has left many viewers pondering “why”. The compulsion to lie, the compulsion to minimise the unflattering and magnify the flattering, the compulsion to maintain illusions, the compulsion to protect the self in all ways; all these compulsions have been laid bare for us to scrutinise, but the violence is always the most perplexing.
Before this spectacle was placed in front of the world, there was a cycle of violence taking place in private between Depp and Heard. I am exploring the cause of that cycle of violence in this article, because the drama between Amber Heard and Johnny Depp can be found mirrored in relationships across the world. If people can see with empathy how these interpersonal dynamics occur, then they will be able to break the cycles of violence in their own lives.
The “Love Is Violence” Belief
“If you love me, you will care enough about me to get angry. If you really love me with a fiery passion, then you will risk losing me by expressing how intensely you feel about me, even if that means being violent. If you love me so much that you can’t physically contain your passion for me, then of course I forgive you, because you must love me more than anyone else does. In return, I will show you how much I love and appreciate your passion for me. I will accept your apologies so we can come together in happiness and greater love than before, because now we know that we have tested our love to the limits of pain, and despite the violence, we still want each other. I know I can stay with you because any time I doubt your love for me I can test you. Testing our love together is a deeply satisfying experience. The feeling of seeing you risk losing me by expressing your raw passion is intoxicating. The feeling of melting into the peaceful love of resolution is deeply soothing. I love knowing that I elicit an uncontrollable violent passion in you, because it means I can be sure that you care about me more than anyone else does. When I feel our love grow stronger through the resolution, I want to stay with you more than ever.”Someone who believes “Love Is Violence”.
I imagine that we can all relate to that description in some capacity. When you care about someone, you do put yourself on the line for the object of your affection. Love is often expressed through enduring situations that you would avoid if not for the love of another. However, that is not the only way to express love, and it is certainly not healthy to deliberately choose those forms to express love. Such things should only be a by-product of true expressions of love, such as compassion, forgiveness, and truth.
For those who were raised by parents who were frequently angry or violent, it is easy to develop this perception of love:
“The Tough Love Illusion”
“My parents love me more than anyone in the world, and they are the people who are the most angry with me. Therefore they must care a lot about me to get this angry with me, instead of being indifferent. They must feel safe to be angry with me because they believe that my love for them will always be greater than their anger could destroy. I will always be grateful when my parents are angry with me because I know they are doing it out of love for me. I will make sure that everyone is happy afterwards, and make sure everyone knows I will try to do better next time.”A child deceived by “The Tough Love Illusion”.
With both these simple concepts illuminated, it becomes easier to understand how the behaviour currently on display for the world came to be: A violent father taught his daughter that real, strong, passionate love is expressed through violence. From then on, if she wants to make sure a relationship is strong and worth continuing, she will test it by provoking the other person to express their deepest uncontrollable passions. She believes that if she can provoke an uncontrolled expression of passion, including violence, it will prove the other person has great love for her. She believes the other person is always hiding these passionate feelings inside, but they are just too afraid to express them in case she will not forgive them afterwards. When the other person does eventually express passionate (even violent) feelings, she rejoices and enters the resolution phase. She now feels she can show how amazing and lovable she is by forgiving and nurturing the other person for being violent towards her. Although it may appear that she provoked the other person to violence, she actually feels that she helped the other person to work through their hidden feelings. She feels she helped them express themselves honestly, and guided them to a good clean healthy resolution in the end. The loving time of peaceful resolution is taken as evidence that this is true.
The other person may be enjoying the cycle of violence if it mirrors their own belief that “Love Is Violence”. Otherwise they may be totally baffled by this cyclic behaviour, and try desperately all manner of techniques to solve the problem, while never managing to do so.
With this understanding, we cannot condemn someone as evil.
Everyone is acting from within their own world of ignorance. Seeing relationships through the lens of belief that “Love Is Violence” is equal to a fish unaware of the water it swims in. People don’t see they are trapping themselves in a cycle of violence when they hold the belief that love should be tested and proven through violence. In these relationships, both people are victims of the cycle, regardless of whether they both hold the “Love Is Violence” belief or not.
Real love is forgiveness. In the cycle of violence, only one person gets to enjoy giving love in the form of forgiveness. However, if they want to transcend the cycle of violence, both must be able to give love to each other. This means both must give the other forgiveness, both must give the other compassion. If both cannot give love to the other, the one who is able to give love must give it without requiring love in return. The other is currently unable to give love, so intentionally expecting love in return simply means that you have drawn a line where you will feel justified in not loving them any more.
If you can forgive the other person completely, you will find you have endless compassion for them. At this point, it won’t matter to you whether they forgive you or not, because your compassion for them transcends your need for their forgiveness. You understand why they can’t give you forgiveness, and you can feel their pain as if it were your own. From this perspective, there is no need for forgiveness as there is transcendent compassion in its place.
Forgive them, for they know not what they do.
We must speak the truth, and always stand for the truth.
The truth needs no anger or violence to defend itself.
Jesus is Truth.