The tragedy yesterday in Aurora, Colorado, is heartbreaking. The cauldron of feelings it must have stirred in people in the theater, those left in grief, and those watching and hearing about it . . . also heartbreaking. But the cauldron of feelings in the ones who commit the acts of violence and destruction are also necessary to consider. We need to let those feelings break our hearts, too.
How many times are we going to have violent, destructive attacks – in our country and our world – and not look for the deepest root? How many times are we going to just look at why the shooter did what he did? How many times are we only going to look at computer games, television shows, movies – or other superficial things – as possible causes? How many times are we going to call them “bad” and that’s it? How many times are we going to split hairs about who is mentally ill and who is just looking for revenge? Revenge is a sign of something unhealed.
Any person (male or female) who commits an act of violence and destruction is deeply wounded and needs help. No one is born destructive. Nobody is born violent. Not even Hitler. We are born and wounded by our families, communities, society. And we all need to look at this, to understand this.
Any person who commits an act of violence and destruction is deeply wounded and needs help. He needs help with feelings he has never had the help to build the capacity to feel and know what to do with. And how is he going to get that help in a family where the parents don’t have that capacity – were never helped, themselves, to be able to feel and use their feelings well. And how is he going to get that help in a society that doesn’t have that capacity to feel and use feelings well. A society in fact, that is complicit in numbing feelings, burying feelings, moving away from feelings any way possible. A society, for example, that supports taking medication to stop the emotional pain, instead of working to find the root of the pain and heal it. A society that allows its insurance companies to limit the kinds of therapy and the number of sessions for someone to do their healing. Limits that are bizarre in terms of any real healing being done. And therapies that can only possibly, perhaps, help the symptoms temporarily – like bandaids – never truly resolve the wound and its inner and outer consequences.
How is he going to get that help in a society that calls certain people ‘mentally ill,’ and refuses to look at the wounding in us all and in our society?
If we want this violence to stop, we’re going to need to find a way to look at our own wounding – individual and societal – build our capacity to feel our feelings healthily and tell which feelings we need to safely explore for healing and which feelings we need to act on safely, and do the deep inner work to heal our wounds that caused us suffering, continue to cause us suffering, and will continue to cause us unnecessary suffering until we heal them.
NOTE: If you have read this and think I’m making excuses for those who are violent and destructive, or not holding them accountable, you have completely misunderstood or distorted the purpose and meaning of my words. I hope you will read it again and open your mind and your heart, so that you can see and feel my efforts to help us go beneath the surface to the levels from which we can truly help ourselves heal this kind of destructiveness in our world.
© Judith Barr, 2012