I just finished watching a movie about the mass shootings in the 80’s called “Murder by Proxy: How America Went Postal” with my husband. I was way too young to really grasp what was going on in the world back then, but I can see a distinct parallel between the workplace and school shootings.
Instead of gun control and better access to mental health care, the topics at the forefront of my mind right now are bullying and dehumanization. The aforementioned documentary drew parallels between the shooters and their past treatment in work environment.
Although bullying has gotten a lot more attention in the past years, I still see and hear about it on a fairly regular basis. Although those of us with different forms of learning disabilities are more likely to experience it than some groups, I wager almost everyone has experience with it in some shape or form.
We can all understand how that extra stress only makes it harder to make it through the day. When it builds to intolerable levels, people will naturally break. Some become harmful to themselves, to others or to both. Really, it’s common sense.
What happens when we’re backed into a corner? We try finding any way out possible, right? Unfortunately, if the situation is bad enough, that can lead either to suicide, homicide or both. Combine that with rage, access to easy to use weapons and you’ll have someone primed to go on a murder spree.
There is a lot of hand wringing going on right now. It’s understandable, but I don’t think people realize quite how much power they have to prevent at least some of these future events from happening in relatively simple ways.
Yes, you can speak with your vote, get involved with anti-bullying programs, bicker on the internet and write letters, but there’s a simple way to work on the problem in every day life.
This is a doozy. Prepare yourself.
Pay attention to our mental health and that of the people in our lives.
Revolutionary, isn’t it?
Something else the documentary and study after study highlights in these cases is the sense of isolation and rage shooters experience for long periods of time before they take action.
Although we all need time to ourselves once in a while, too much can be just as harmful as not enough. I’m not saying to intrude on someone’s personal time, but if you know they’re having a rough time, why not check in with them once in a while just to see how they’re doing?
If you’re able, offer a shoulder to cry on or an ear to bend. Sometimes, small acts of kindness can go a long way to saving another person from devastating mental and emotional anguish.
It really doesn’t take a whole lot of effort to at least extend a helping hand.
By the same token, if you’re experiencing a difficult time in your life, go to a trusted friend or family member for a shoulder. There are also mental health hotlines available if you don’t feel comfortable going to someone you know.
You are not alone.
Again, this is just common sense stuff.
Before I get accused of being over simplistic and idealistic, stop and think for a minute about how you treat yourself and others.
Only someone who is in deep denial will think that they have nothing to worry about. We can all do more to be more compassionate others in our lives and to ourselves. Yes, and that’s me included. No one is perfect.
Granted, that doesn’t mean that if you are being threatened that you shouldn’t defend yourself in some way, but living in fear will do absolutely no good either. Your mental health is just as important as anyone else’s.
One of the problems with bullying is that the victim is at being actively dehumanized by the bullies. When it starts getting too bad, they may start to be unable to see their bullies as being human at all. When left alone with their suffering for too long, this attitude may spread to an entire population associated with the tormentors.
Even if you’re the single voice in their lives of genuine, caring respect, it reaffirms in their minds that at least someone else sees them as a person, and not everyone is out to hurt them.
Negativity can start off small and work to something huge, but so can positivity. Why not start that cycle of positivity off yourself?
It seems to me that our culture needs more rational thought and compassionate action, and less knee-jerk fear before any permanent solutions can be reached.
Although simple acts of compassion on their own won’t stop all violence in our communities, they might prevent at least one person from acting on those urges.
So, take a step back, think for a while and then take action. I hope that action will bring some light into your life and that of others.