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Mass Shootings: Emotionally Numb

The Secret Service’s National Threat Assessment Center, examined 28 mass shootings, which claimed nearly 150 lives and wounded hundreds.

Between January and December 2017, 28 incidents of mass shootings, during which three or more persons were harmed, were carried out in public places within the United States.

The assessment discovered that almost half of the perpetrators of mass shootings were motivated by a personal grievance related to a workplace, domestic or other issue and over half had histories of criminal charges, mental health problems or substance abuse. It also revealed that all perpetrators had at least one significant stressor in the past five years, and almost half had indications of financial instability.

These acts violated the safety of the places we work, learn, shop, relax, and otherwise conduct our day-to-day lives. As the uncertainty they caused continues to ripple through our communities, we are left asking how could they happen and how can we prevent them from happening again?

We need a system for repairing the destruction that predisposes people to carry out violence. Many perpetrators have one negative relationship, which they generalize to the entire human race. They have painful emotions that influence them to behave destructively. They also have negative feelings towards themselves.

Yet, we are a nation of emotional illiterates, and our poor preparation to cope with emotion generates new headlines every morning. The issue is not handguns, or poverty, or jobs it is emotion. We feel inadequately prepared to cope with this emotional stuff. Our logic tells us that facts and figures are valid and feelings are irrational, therefore weak and unacceptable. Many of us were taught that some feelings are bad and others are good. In truth, however, feelings are neither good nor bad. Feelings just are.

Whether we know it or not, we use energy to keep painful feelings down below the level of our conscious awareness. When we are tired or hungry, our energy goes down. It turn, we have less energy to stay patient, tolerant and keep suppressed emotions inside.

When we conceal and suppress emotions, we set up a conflict between the part of us that seeks relief from the silent, internal pressures of our emotional lives, and the part of us that seeks to prevent the humiliating exposure of these “weaknesses”. This is not an intra-psychic conflict between the ego and the super-ego, this is a war between two goals that are mutually exclusive: avoidance and expression. One of them has to go.

We conceal our emotions because we fear the potentially devastating consequences if we express them.  We may imagine that we can wall off the negative aspects of our existence while letting the positive emotions run free.  It doesn’t work that way.  The wall that we build is not selective.  It blocks the good feelings as well as the bad.  After a while, we feel “numb”.

If we listen to our emotions and understand what they mean, then we can address them, and their intensity will fade. But if we ignore what our emotions are telling us, then our feelings build up, and we may eventually express them through destructive, violent behavior.

We can learn how to identify and understand the components of anger. Some common triggers that fuel anger are:
“I want my way.”
“I am the victim of unfairness!”
“I am not appreciated enough.”
“People don’t like me.”
“I deserve to be treated special.”

We can learn how to use focusing questions, such as “What was the worst part about it? What angered you the most when that happened? When else have you felt like that?” This will enable us to sort out and replace the negative, unrealistic expectations that encourage us to solve our anger problems with violence.

Photo by Rod Waddington

Mass Shootings: Emotionally Numb

Aaron Karmin


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APA Reference
Karmin, A. (2018). Mass Shootings: Emotionally Numb. Psych Central. Retrieved on September 24, 2018, from https://blogs.psychcentral.com/anger/2018/04/mass-shootings-emotionally-numb/

 

Last updated: 6 Apr 2018
Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 6 Apr 2018
Published on PsychCentral.com. All rights reserved.