In Response to an Act of Mass Violence: Cultivating Security, Significance, and Belonging for All
Jun 04, 2019
by Cori M. Hildebrandt, MA, LPC, LPCC – FamilyMeans Therapist
I am sick of hearing about school shootings. I am sick of the media response. I am sick that most of us, do not accept any responsibility in ensuring the happiness and security of not only our family and our friends, but also our community and humanity at large.
When someone commits an act of mass violence there is often the question of “Why?” We search for answers to how someone moved to kill others. Speculation mounts that this person was neglected, abused, marginalized, or suffered from a mental disorder. To be honest, the public may never be privy to understanding why a specific individual committed a mass act of violence.
I believe as human beings that we are all capable of doing horrific and heroic things. I believe each of us has within us the capacity for the greatest good and the most heinous evil. The difference is only in the circumstances and the unique creation of self. It is not what happens to us that matters, it is what we do with what happens to us.
We all have individual styles of living (personalities) influenced by our multigenerational family history, in utereo experience, genetics, neurophysiology, early life attachment experiences, toxic exposure, exposure to traumatic events, and life experiences etc. I envision personality formation as we take all these factors plus more; whip them up together, and boom-bam this is me! We design our concept of self, others, and the world around us and this dictates how we move through life; expressed through our actions, thoughts, and emotions.
As human beings, we are social beings and rely on the group for survival. Through our interpersonal relationships, our psychological needs of security, significance, and belonging are met. If these needs are not met, we try all kinds of creative (crazy) things to get them met, some of them adaptive and socially interested, and others not so much.
The lifestyle and movement of a perpetrator of a mass act of violence is interesting, no doubt. The reasons why a perpetrator orchestrated a mass act of violence will be unique to him or her. I believe these are individuals lacking a strong sense of significance, security, or belonging. People decide to hurt other people in an effort to get needs met. It could be these perpetrators are defending against feelings of inferiority; being rejected, unloved, unimportant, insecure, or disconnected.
How can you be part of the prevention of future acts of violence and suffering? We are all responsible for what happens in our families and communities. We need to live in a way that honors the humanity in all people.
You may live in your safe home with your functional family and not realize that many people in your community suffer. The kid that waits at the bus stop with your kid, the guy you see on your running route, the person you pass on the sidewalk and don’t acknowledge, the woman ahead of you in the grocery line while you are on your phone. These people may not have loving, stable homes; they may not feel important or noticed. They may one day choose violence out of desperation and it could have been avoided if you and others chose to show some kindness, compassion, or just noticed them in a small way.
When you walk down the street, say hi to the people you pass. If you notice a kid alone on the playground, invite them to play with you and your kids. If you see someone in public treating a child or adult in a way that you think is disrespectful, find a tactful, safe way to intervene and diffuse the situation. Smile at people. Hold doors for people. When you ask people how they are truly listen to the response. Take the time to send the message to people, especially the little people that you encounter, that I notice you, you matter just because you are you, and you are part of humanity.
If you are looking for support as you work through life’s challenges FamilyMeans Counseling & Therapy is a great first step. Visit FamilyMeans.org to learn more about our programming and begin to find how better is possible.