Senseless in Sandy Hook

My heartfelt thoughts and prayers are with every member of the community in Newtown, CT. There are no words…

We now must be vigilant as a society to end these senseless acts. Step 1: We must gain understanding to why this happened. Unfortunately, this also happens to be the biggest area of debate. Agree or disagree, This is why this, and things like this, happen.

What leads up to such a senseless and depraved act? The way we live in society today? Chemical imbalance? Ok. But what creates that? Nature versus nurture, the question remains and will always remain. There have been some correlations to heredity for mental illness but nothing that has been determined statistically significant. So the question remains, what causes mental illness/emotional disturbance, sociopathy? Adam Lanza was a born “monster”? I refuse to believe that anyone is “born that way.” If you believe this you believe in the theory of inferior races. Who else had this belief? I’ll let you figure that one out. Hint hint, he was a German politician.

This type of act, a genocide/suicide, is something we’ve been seeing over the past 10 years or so. It began with Columbine, then we had West Virginia, and now most recently, the absolutely devastating and incomprehensible Sandy Hook disaster. In my view this was the worst of them all since the victims were children in Kindergarten.

We have to look at the perpetrators. W.Virginia and Sandy Hook shooters were both in young adulthood, approximately 18-22 years of age. This also happens to be the most common age for onset of serious mental illness such as Schizophrenia. Sometimes males struggle in this period trying to determine what type of man they are going to be. This also happens to be when fathers become extremely important in the development of a man. Fathers are always extremely important in a child’s development. We seem to forget that for some reason. I am unaware of the family dynamics of the West Virginia University shooter, but I do know that Adam Lanza’s parents were divorced and seemingly had little to no relationship. Adam Lanza’s father lived in Stamford, CT ( approximately 1 hour from Newtown) with his new wife and family. People will downplay this factor as significant. Maybe Adam Lanza saw his father on weekends…maybe he didn’t, even if he did, maybe that’s not enough.

As a psychotherapist I always have to “see the baby,” in a client/patient in order to counteract any initial simply human impulsive reactions I may be having. I must be in tune with my “counter-transference.” In the recent tragedy, I initially have the guttural reaction like many other Americans have, such as “let’s kill the bastard!” But I always revert back to my teachings quickly. Otherwise I would not be able to treat, or even relate to, many people. Well, in this case, we don’t even have the opportunity to “kill the bastard” because apparently he killed himself.

Sidebar; The fact that Adam Lanza committed suicide creates a whole other set of dynamics when it comes to future senseless acts of violence like this one. If the perpetrator is able to complete the act of suicide at the end of his killing spree, he is still seen as being under his own accord. He accomplished what he set out to do and no one was able to stop him. If this is observed, seen, or felt by others who may feel compelled to carry out similar acts, they will be more likely to attempt to carry it out on their own.

Back to what creates the “monster.” As a result of “seeing the baby,” I ask several questions and make many assumptions/assessments about the shooter and his immediate environment. What did his mother, father, family do to create such a powerful rage? This child, and I say child because he was merely 20 years old and had emotional issues, which probably puts him in the developmental stage of early adolescence, as opposed to young adulthood. If he truly did have Aspergers disorder then he more likely was on the emotional level of a 12-15 year old adolescent. Children with Aspergers disorder are not typically violent, however there is always room for the atypical. The culmination of many factors can often create an anomaly. What causes such a powerful emotional disturbance leading to such a intrinsically wrong act? What could possibly create such a feeling of hopelessness or worthlessness in someone that would contribute to rationalizing the logic behind murdering innocent children? How could someone’s world be so grim?

The answer is the destruction and the marginalization of the family unit. The symbol for the aforementioned is the country’s absurd divorce rate. Divorce. Yes divorce. So common, yet so devastating. I can already envision the majority of people scoffing at this claim and discontinuing reading. For those who are still reading, you are part of the solution, Thank you.

” These shootings never used to happen! What’s different these days? Video games? The Internet?”

Yes they are all different, but trivial in comparison to the significant emotional impact that the breaking down of the family unit can have on a child’s ego. “What did I do wrong?” “I must not be important enough.” Common thoughts and questions often made by children, and even older children and young adults. Why do we dismiss this as a society?

Why do we minimize the impact of divorce on children? Simply because it is so common? Or is it really because, for those of us who are married with children, are we too weak to ever fully commit? Perhaps it’s not about weakness at all. Maybe it’s because very few of us have flawless developments and as a result may have issues with bonding and intimacy. If we don’t blame divorce, we leave the option open for us in the future.

You often hear the same types of explanations of the character and personality traits of genocidists like Adam Lanza. “Quiet, kept to himself, a loner, socially awkward..” Apparently Adam Lanza’s mother was so desperate to try to relate to him that she decided it was a good idea to bond with him over target practice. We need to attempt to bond and relate to these types of people more often.

One problem we have in the mental health community is that we are often not allowed the opportunity to simply relate, or build a relationship with a client the likes of Adam Lanza. Insurance companies rarely will fully cover treatment for someone on the Autistic spectrum. We’re told that we must educate and assess for imperative need, which basically boils down to immediate suicidal or homicidal ideation. I encourage mental health providers to simply build relationships with clients, make them feel like they simply have someone that understands them and can relate to. Don’t beat clients over the head with suicide and homicide assessments. If they are asked about those topics enough, they are more likely to think about it.

Bond with each other, bond with your children, don’t be one of “everybody else.” Be different. It’s amazing that “being different” these days means staying married, seeing your kids every day, loving your wife or husband, and being genuinely happy.

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