“One man with a gun
can control 100 without one.”
Another tragic school shooting…another desperate search for answers, scapegoats, and solutions.
It’s fine to debate these things every time some wacko commits a massacre…but our desperation to remove these tragedies from our lives will once again remain unsatisfied.
Let’s take a look at the familiar scapegoats…
Humans have been committing massacres long before the technology of guns.
The one or two massacres per year that ‘shocks’ us now pales in comparison to those of the past.
During the Roman empire..people committed such violent atrocities every day that the term ‘Barbarian’ was used to describe those living an uncivilized existence.
Thankfully…in today’s world…’barbarians’ have largely become extinct.
However, maximum security prisons house the modern day equivalents and offer a perfect lab for the effectiveness of gun control in America.
Current tragedy aside…most gun violence is carried out by juveniles and young adults in urban areas where gangs and poverty exist.
If we could magically make all guns disappear in these areas with a gun control law, then it would be worthy of consideration.
However, most of the people committing gun violence are ALREADY violating a gun control law.
It’s sheer folly to think that additional laws will be any more effective than existing gun control laws.
Isn’t marijuana banned? How successful have those laws been???
As the Lenin quote above implies…the debate is a catch-22 anyway. You definitely can save some lives with gun control, but you can also prevent tragedies if innocent people aren’t defenseless against a wacko with a gun.
Would you feel better protecting the children from a crazy gunman if you… a) had a gun or b) didn’t have a gun?
Thankfully this guy shot himself because he could have killed many more defenseless people.
Only someone armed could have stopped him.
Song Lyrics and Video Games
The massacre in Norway last year was partially attributed to games like Call of Duty: Modern Warfare and World of Warcraft. Many of these games were removed from shelves after the mass murder.
In the U.S., a song like Pumped Up Kicks by Foster the People references a school shooter. Some argue that it subliminally glamorizes the scene with a peculiar choice of an upbeat tone.
In both cases, millions of people play these games and songs WITHOUT killing others.
Even if there was a definitive link…would we be able to ban everything that has a .1% chance of inspiring somebody toward violence???
Mental Health Services
Anyone who’s studied psychology knows that no cure has been found for someone with the capacity to kill his mom, 20 children, and himself.
Even if everyone was forced to be diagnosed by a mental health professional, are we going to lockup all those diagnosed with a proclivity toward violence?
As of today (the day of the shooting), we don’t know the mental health of the Connecticut shooter.
Suppose we learn he was schizophrenic and mentally ill. Suppose he was already getting treatment too.
What should/could be done differently? Would we follow him 24/7, force him to take drugs, arrest him?
Every bizarre action by a person does not indicate a mental illness; every person with a mental disorder is not violent.
Why we NEED answers?
Our thirst for answers after a tragedy is motivated by the same psychology that dictates our actions in relationship break-ups (and other traumatic events).
We have an insatiable need for control.
From infancy, our brains motivate us to control our environment, other people, and even our future.
Whenever we lose control…we become unhappy and can experience emotions such as helplessness and depression.
Our passion for control is so great that we often act as if we can control the uncontrollable.
We will even buy the “illusion of control” to avoid experiencing the negative emotions and fear of no control.
A common example is people believing in superstitions (i.e. someone thinks wearing a particular shirt ‘controls’ whether their team wins a football game.)
After a heinous tragedy like this, we envision it happening to us and desperately try to control our future.
As a result, we try to ascribe blame and demand methods to stop it…regardless of their practicality or cost.
Even our politicians try to comfort us by implying some “meaningful action” can be taken to control it in the future.
We have a desperate need sit in the driver’s seat of our lives…not the passenger seat.
Unfortunately…we might know where we want to go…and the car may respond to our steering…but sometimes we can’t control the accident that caused traffic, the nail that popped our tire, or the weather that flooded the road.
This is the case with tragedies like the Connecticut massacre.
Just because a few wackos killed innocent people this year doesn’t make it a probability.
We can NEVER control occurrences that are rare.
How to Cope?
We acknowledge that maintaining proper perspective is difficult when in the midst of any event that threatens your sense of control.
People frequently need emotional support after tragedies like this, but don’t receive it.
Churches and spiritual leaders do a great job of helping many people.
However, some people start to question their faith and ask logical questions such as…
“What God would allow something like this to happen?”
“If God can’t prevent something like this, why do I pray?”
“If God can prevent it and didn’t, how is he good?”
Mental health professionals can help people deal with the emotions, but they can’t be with you 24/7 and inevitably you will be faced reconciling things on your own.
Step One to coping with a loss of control is realizing there is no CURE for every bad thing that happens.
Regardless of whatever gun control law or mental health service is added after each tragedy…bad things will still happen.
Step Two is learning how the brain works, so you can help accelerate its capacity to gain ‘control’ back versus letting it spiral into further helplessness and despair.
Our minds have a tough time imagining a tomorrow that is different than today.
If you’ve ever gotten drunk and puked all night, you probably remember making a promise to never drink again while hugging a toilet.
Of course, you eventually drank again.
You may be hell-bent right now thinking that gun control, mental health services, or video game violence needs to be addressed immediately. You may even be posting these thoughts on social media and arguing these points vociferously.
The somewhat good news is that you are just a prisoner of the moment. You mind can’t feel good about the future when it’s busy being unhappy about something in the present.
If you’ve even been dumped in a relationship, gone through a divorce, or experienced bad things in your personal life…you likely felt a similar loss of control and felt a desperate need to gain it back.
When afflicted with a loss of control…your brain stops operating on a normal level.
Your imagination will exaggerate the loss by…
1. Filling your view of future with an unreasonable amount of negative thoughts.
2. Omitting positive thoughts that may counteract the pessimism.
(As angry or sad as you may be, their grief is unthinkable and horrendous, so it highlights this phenomena even more.)
Now…imagine how they envision their life 5 years from now.
Unquestionably, their thoughts are filled with a morbid view of their future without their child.
Odds are good they don’t see themselves smiling, laughing at a joke, enjoying a great meal, etc in the future.
These things will NEVER replace the loss or completely heal their scars, but they WILL happen.
We don’t have the technology to go back in time and erase tragedies like this…but our brains DO have the capacity to cope.
We just need to stay in the driver’s seat and try not to let the tragedy doom us.
If you maintain proper perspective and not become a prisoner of the moment, you can accelerate your brain’s capacity to cope with challenges.
Ironically…the cure for coping with these tragedies is the same as the cure for those who commit these tragedies.
People become mentally ill largely when they lose perspective and let desperation, helplessness, and depression spiral them into irrational behavior.
Sometimes this irrational behavior includes violence…sometimes it involves drug use…sometimes it involves other destructive emotions/actions.
Sometimes it happens so quickly that no amount of new laws or healthcare can stop it in time.
At Optimacy, we believe the problem is too great for any government or mental health industry to tackle on its own.
The more people who learn proper ways to cope with tragedies like this…the less susceptible they will be to losing control…and the easier it will be for them to identify warning signs and help others.
Only then will we have the resources to materially reduce the number of these heinous events to make them rarer than they already are.
We will have more articles on the subject in our member’s section in the upcoming weeks, but let’s pause here for now and hope everyone finds the help and strength they need to properly cope with this tragedy.
(To our members…We acknowledge that this article is outside our normal realm of relationship psychology, but you should be able to see how the tangents discussed in this article can be applied to previous lessons.)