I have sat back for the last few days reading the articles and posts in response to the horrendous shooting in Florida. I get that we as a people feel compelled to do something to fix the problem right away. Unfortunately, the cause as to how someone could have so much pent up emotion that they could be capable of randomly taking innocent lives, is extremely complex and has been formulating for a long time. Understanding some of the possible causes of this never seen before level of violence is a starting place. Taking that info and working backwards towards a solution, to me, makes the most sense.
Here is my opinion of what over time has added so much violence and isolation in our world:
• Violent, unsupervised video games that results in desensitizing the emotion of killing for sport and points in a game, especially during the years when the brain is being formed. Psychology Today article, ‘Yes, Violent Video Games Do Cause Aggression’ states several studies showing this to be true. In addition, inappropriate watching of not only violence, but other high level emotions on TV and in movies. All without adult conversing as to what is being portrayed as right and wrong. CONNECTION OR ISOLATION?
• Overstressed parents under pressure to work long hours to make ends meet and the nuclear family being completely disconnected. How often do families eat together? How often is the cell phone or other device the main companion? How many families talk together about joys and challenges? What family traditions are being lived and passed on? Is the family the anchor to a person’s life, a safe haven, a place where all foundation is being created? CONNECTION OR ISOLATION?
• Is there a reason that the common profile of these killers is a Caucasian male? How have the boys in our society been conditioned to handle emotion? By repressing how they feel…’don’t cry, you sound like a girl’. The New York Times ran an article, ‘The Boys Are Not All Right’ by Michael Black (Feb 2018) that points out several powerful points about society’s expectations of boys and how this leads to confused and isolated boys. Our girls have been elevated to be achievers, motivated, expressive. We have not changed as to how our boys, generally speaking, have evolved beyond archaic views of what a boy should feel and act like.
These are just 3 components I feel strongly about. However, here is the concept I feel is worth considering:
• Each person taking on the awareness and responsibility to connect in some way with those people in each of our worlds that are lonely, isolated, disconnected people. I keep hearing, “WHAT ARE THEY GOING TO DO?” Who is they? Everyone else but themselves? Is it the lawmakers? Is it about gun control? Yes, I agree, certain types of guns do not serve a purpose in society and yes, someone with a violent history of mental illness should not own a gun (another complex issue).
Is it the teacher’s responsibility? NO, teachers are expected to do way too much without being expected to learn how to fire a gun and having that responsibility! Especially when it could possibly be one of her/his previous students. I believe we have a powerful source of influence in our classrooms, actually beginning in our preschools, to develop a culture of care by teaching the components of emotional intelligence.
According to Daniel Goleman, Emotional Intelligence, Why It Can Matter More Than IQ, emotional intelligence CAN be raised in children and adults. Empathy CAN be taught. Social skills CAN be taught. Identifying and managing and expressing feelings in appropriate ways CAN be taught.
I firmly believe this is the root solution. Instead of the discussion of ‘emergency school board meetings open to the public having an agenda of deciding do we put police officers at every entrance of our school and do we train every teacher to fire a gun so she can be armed if needed or do we have routine drills what the students will do if a killer is in their school killing people?’ NO!
Has the suggestion been to shift our curriculum and priorities in our education system?
What if from the first days a child is in any level of school, an emphasis is on creating high emotional intelligence in all students. What if we added more not less recess time to develop social skills and a vent for pent up energy?
What if we actually taught teachers instead how to incorporate mindfulness such as meditation and breathing activities? Every one of those killers attended some sort of formal education. Just ‘what if’ someone had taught them to express anger?
‘What if’ someone, both the teachers and their classmates, had shown to them love, care, and empathy that maybe they did not get at home. Many of the next serial killers and mass killers may be sitting in a classroom right this minute.
‘What if’ something could be done with shifting focus to a culture of caring and helping the troubled by shifting the expectations of every single person to feel for others, take the time to include, and be the person to everyone we would want others to be for us? Instead of fighting violence with fear and more violence, let’s become a society that connects and cares more about others than about ourselves.
What a wonderful world that could be!