The need to make this mental connection will become critical in prevention.
As the tragedy and pain of what transpired at the Sandy Hook School in Connecticut continues to unfold, reverberating throughout our nation and beyond – it causes me to wonder about the mental processes that take place in a tortured soul, and specifically:
What is the connection between despair and the sacrifice of small children?
We have seen incidents like these through the years, in which someone arrives at the end of a desperate rope and finds himself entering a school or community with the intent of ending his own life – while simultaneously taking with him the lives of small children Why? What is the connection? What is in his mind that somehow deduces this resolution?
Many of us can understand how utter despair can lead to the unfortunate taking of one’s own life, or the man killing himself in such a scenario; but why the children? Why the Amish girls in 2006? Why so many others?
It is the little ones we normally strive to protect the most; therefore, such acts signify a horrifying breach in the human instinct.
As the President calls for an end to such American tragedies, the need to make this mental connection will become critical in prevention.
In my work of recent years the phrase “trauma informed” has become increasingly central. What it refers to is the understanding of what behaviors emerge in adulthood when someone has been traumatized in childhood. Possible outcomes are expansive and can range from addiction to suicidal tendencies to inflicting the same trauma on others.
Taking Sandy Hook into account, I would like to know what happened to the shooter, the young man, as a child – something that was perhaps left unaddressed somehow.
If that is the case, then we may be able to begin to identify that it was the traumatized child in him who acted in the classroom, the tortured inner child focused so harshly on his mother. Perhaps that would begin to explain this tragedy in some small way. In his wake, the abandoned traumatized child finally does the same to other children - his peers.
The field of trauma studies is one that is emerging as a powerful resource. Our awareness of PTSD and treatments including EMDR and other methods may give relief to those who are able to participate. But we must start to realize that PTSD does not only happen to war veterans. It happens to many people for a variety of reasons, from growing up with sexual molestation to violence in the home and more.
Other considerations are being raised: Do we need to revisit our gun laws regarding automatic weapons? Was the shooter on prescription medications that had an ill effect? There are many factors that could have contributed to this tragedy.
That said, whether the tragedy can be explained through psychological, legal or biochemical means, the underlying foundation of this challenge is surely spiritual.
As a society we must look at our values and priorities, and not only at holiday time, but all the time.
We must look at the material pressures we place on people in a large country with economic problems, and the punitive consequences that ensue; we must look at the relationships we form (or do not form) in our busy lives, where people can find themselves isolated; we must question how important it is to text and FB and Tweet constantly when we could be looking in the face of a friend and making a human connection; we must take seriously our young people’s struggles with bullying and other pressures.
We must begin to see with our heart and live through our heart. In the end, it is our spiritual values and compassion that define us.
We grieve for the children’s lives lost, pray for the families in Connecticut, and join the President in pledging to do our part in helping to prevent future tragedies.