Mass Shootings — What Needs To Change.

Mass shootings continue to happen even after so many communities have said, “No more!” and offered thoughts and prayers. Now, the latest re-phrase people are asking is, “What’s going to change?”

My question…

Is humanity ready and able to change even if a solution was available?

  • People smoke knowing it’s harmful to their health.
  • People drink alcohol knowing it has no value to their well-being. (Be careful… this one is habitually rationalized.)
  • People eat fast food, donuts, candy, soft drinks all the while knowing they’re not good for you.
  • People work 40+ hours/week regularly and forego vacations for months or years to their own detriment.
  • People binge watch TV, YouTube and social media for hours-on-end to what benefit?
  • People coast through life, almost like robots, without passion, purpose or drive and settle for physical existence only, believing that’s all there is.

(Believe me, I’m not immune to ANY of these behaviors either.)

Even when we know a behavior is not “healthy” we still do it. Why?

We can try to blame “mental health” but the reality is those who are truly mentally ill aren’t committing such crimes. (NY Times article, Aug2019)

  • Is loneliness a mental illness? No.
  • Is isolation a mental illness? No.
  • Is not feeling loved a mental illness? No.
  • Is not feeling like you belong, anywhere, including your country, city or even your family a mental illness? No.
  • If you don’t feel like anyone is listening to you is that a mental illness? We may “say” we’re listening but are we really? Does the other person truly feel “heard” or do they need to write a manifesto and commit mass murder? No.
  • Can any of the above have an impact on your mental health? Yes.
  • Is your mental health the root cause of the feeling? No. (Really, it’s not. Please, read on.)

What can change? What needs to change?

When a person is not nurtured emotionally it hurts, it’s deeply painful and the human brain cannot distinguish between physical pain and emotional pain. What nurtures emotional health more than anything else is our love, connection and sense of belonging. We, each of us, NEEDS to feel heard, to feel valued and to know that we matter… to someone.

When a child grows up being blamed, shamed, judged, neglected and rejected for sharing their feelings then they are quickly conditioned to NOT share or express their feelings. This suppression often begins on Day 1 of life and is reinforced almost daily and “written” as a person’s personal narrative or story. This all happens in a child’s subconscious brain, without a filter or the ability to discern what is real or not, as they are not even conscious or self-aware for at least 5–6 years of life.

We say, “I’m just wired that way.” But more likely, it was your early childhood environment that conditioned you that way. A person’s environment is much more than just their physical needs however that’s been humanity’s focus for millennia. It has had to be because we were struggling for survival!

When we “Shhhsh” a crying baby. When we ignore a baby and “teach” them to cry themselves to sleep; this is emotional trauma. It has nothing to do with their conscious thought, cognitive reasoning skills or mental abilities. It is purely emotional because that IS what it means to be human.

When we criticize and nit-pick. When we say, “you’ll never amount to anything” or “you’re no good”. When we say, “Not now, I’m busy.” When we miss an important event or do not fulfill a promise. This is ALL EMOTIONAL trauma and yes, it really DOES have an impact and it DOES change a human’s brain chemistry and worldview.

What needs to change?

Parents are people (I know, it’s a shock!) and mostly behave the way they learned based on the environment in which they were raised. If today’s parents were not nurtured emotionally (and we know they weren’t because of their own destructive behaviors — see partial list above) then all they can do is teach what they’ve learned.

If I grew up knowing moms and dads love each other and it was a “normal” occurrence for my dad to beat up my mom then, in my world, love means the husband beats his wife. What, it wasn’t like that at your house growing up?

If I grew up being criticized about everything then no matter what I do I’ve been conditioned it is never “good” enough. I can be an overachiever and try desperately to “prove” my value and worth to myself and others, like society (e.g. cars, houses, job titles, money, power, social media presence, etc.), but deep down the conditioning coded into my subconscious is that I am NOT good enough.

These are not examples of mental illness but rather emotional traumas. My behavior to a) beat my wife or b) be an overachiever are how I attempt to fulfill my reality and ease my emotional pain.

The fact is, most people struggle to nurture their emotional health because 1) it is not understood, 2) we’re stuck on a “mental” model believing we can “think” our way to “good” behavior 3) our own emotional pain creates triggers and barriers, 4) we continue to focus on the symptoms/behaviors, 5) we do not know how… and more.

What needs to change?

  • shift from a mental paradigm to an emotional paradigm. We can pull the relevant concepts from modern psychology, but most are simply outdated or follow a flawed path. (Sorry Sigmund Freud, 1856–1939)
  • recognize that emotional health drives behaviors more than anything else.
  • understand the essence of being human IS our emotions which are rooted in our subconscious mind.
  • accept that emotions are NOT a weakness but an attribute when nurtured. E.g. Intuition is a powerful resource.
  • immediately begin nurturing each other emotionally which means…
  • start connecting authentically without blame, shame, judgement, neglect or rejection and
  • focus on sincerely hearing, valuing and letting those you care about know how much they matter to you.

Of course, we must discern when and how to appropriately and effectively connect with others. (Contact me for assistance as I do not intend to leave anyone out in the cold who wants help.)

We can, most certainly, implement improved gun control laws and make available more “mental” health services (which still need an overhaul away from focusing on the symptoms/behaviors) but until we address the root cause significant improvement is unlikely. Just review our history and current trends.

Until we address the root cause of how humans are raised, in the home and by society, we will continue to struggle to “predict” or “profile” a potential threat. Actually, that may not be true.

Once we, as a species, recognize that behavior is primarily an expression of a person’s state of emotional health (and not a mental health shortcoming or malfunctioning) then we need only observe and intervene as soon as any behavior becomes destructive or borders on being “extremely” constructive (e.g. marathon runners, triathletes, etc.). Even a constructive behavior can be detrimental when practiced in its extreme. (Speaking as an 18-year Ironman triathlete and coach.)

Can’t we ALL do better? Can’t we all listen without shame or judgement? Can’t we all pay attention when someone is showing they need attention? Of course, but we can not do this for everyone, all of the time. I do believe we can do it for the people who matter most to us. You know who they are because when all is said and done, it’s probably less than 50 people.

This is what I believe needs to change and you… WE, can start right now!

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Kevin Strauss

Kevin Strauss

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Fan of the "rabbit hole"… how far will I go? KevinRStrauss.com - balanced wellness, emotional health, endurance sports & more