Evil is among us! How do you make sense of evil? Why is their evil? What can be done to prevent evil? It is these questions that many are asking after the horrific tragedy that took place at Sandy Hook Elementary School this week. A 20 year old male shot and killed so many- what a massacre of huge proportions! While on The O’Reilly Factor I shared that violence is indeed all around us as a culture. Does this violence play a role in the creation of evil? It is this concept that was addressed during this discussion with myself; Psychotherapist Dr. Karen Ruskin, as well as Forensic Psychologist Dr. Brian Russell. I explained that many factors affect who we are. During this LIVE interview on Friday December 14th 2012 I stated: “We Can’t ignore the fact that our environment absolutely affects us. Everything affects everything and the violence that we’re experiencing is systemic. We need to put a stop to it by everybody playing a role”.
The examples below are just but a few that affect who we become as an individual and how violence is woven within each of these factors. We as parents, as educators, mental health professionals, pediatricians, friends, family, video game makers, toy makers, TV creators, etc., everyone must consider what role they play in our culture and the development of our children within this culture.
- Violent video games.
- Violent television shows, uncaring characters interacting with one another in emotionally and/or physically hurtful ways to one another.
- Violent toys that we are not taught “how to play with” (e.g., from a young age- toy guns that fire no bullets if you are going to have them in your home do teach the importance of never aiming it at another).
- Lack of parental involvement, availability, attentiveness, and nurturing of children- especially young boys. Often girls experience physical and emotional warmth but boys do not because of fear from the parents that they will turn into a “wuss”. Quite the opposite is true. Boys need love, respect, attention, to be nurtured, and to learn to express their feelings – if they are to feel whole.
- Children being mean to one another (bullying, exclusivity).
- Our culture of instant gratification creates a lack of impulse control (e.g., twitter, texting, FB, email, and other technological resources that have created the sense of urgency and immediacy).
- Our culture that has become far more of an “I deserve” philosophy rather than an “I must take ownership of my mental health and wellness philosophy”. (E.g., I deserve to have nurturing parents, I deserve to have a job, I deserve to be happy, I deserve to have money). Yes- we all deserve but we cannot control the cards that are dealt to us thus we must learn from a young age to take ownership of our choices and make healthy ones. A few examples include; if you are hurting – YOU get help, if you are unhappy – what can YOU do to feel better that is healthy, if you do not have money – YOU work for it; no one is going to give it to you. “I” must take responsibility of my mental health and wellness and well-being is an important lesson that is lacking in our culture.
- Psychopaths: Psychopathy stems from a physiological defect in the brain that results in the underdevelopment of the part of the brain responsible for impulse control and emotions. Sociopaths: Sociopathy is more the product of childhood traumas and abuse. Thus, some may be considered born evil (as suggested when explaining Psychopaths), and others develop into the monster they become from an ongoing pattern of childhood traumas and neglect (as suggested when explaining sociopaths).
Important Note – Parenting Is The Key
Although there are factors as listed above that contribute to who a person becomes, when it comes right down to it; parenting is the key factor in the development of a person. Video games, television shows, the internet, music videos, childhood relationship issues, academic challenges, divorce, drugs . . . the list goes on of things that affects a person. Although, it is how parents help their children navigate all of the outside variables that in the end is what really matters. It is parents who are the difference that makes the difference in who children become. Parenting matters and there are many parents who need real training, real guidance for how to help their children with whatever born challenges and predispositions one’s children has. It is up to parents to help children to help themselves to be the best version of themselves. Parenting is hard, and not all parents are equipped to handle the many issues that arise through out the journey of parenthood. Some children are born with a set of challenges that make parenting difficult. Some parents do not have the set of skills to deal with those challenges, at times it is not because they are “bad” parents, rather they just don’t have what they need to help their children. That is when those parents must take ownership of getting the help they need. Do not sweep it under the rug.
Murder – Mental Illness
Murder is horrific, it is evil, it is a crime. I also say that when a person looses perspective and all they can think about is their pain that needs release, their wants, their needs, and their ‘ID’ takes over to the point where murder is what they view as their only option, their choice- and they act upon that free will – I say they are ill, yes, they are sick in the mind. Murder is a brutal and savage crime that is a product of a deep mental and emotional disturbance. Thus I view evil behaviors as a crime and the evil mind as mentally ill.
Being ill mentally does not necessarily mean you lack the capacity to get help, being mentally ill does not necessarily mean you lack the understanding that you are ill and you need help – thus it is not an excuse to deteriorate. If you are not well mentally it is your obligation to get the help you need and fight everyday for YOUR mental wellness. If you are a parent and something seems “off” to you about your child, or your child reports not feeling well, not feeling like they fit in, you get reports from others that something does not seem right; it is YOUR responsibility as a parent to get your child help and get help as a parent to learn strategies to help your child.
- If you wish to read this Psychotherapist’s ‘Q & A’ blog where I address additional important topics as it relates to this horrific tragedy, please do: Sandy Hook Elementary School Massacre – Psychotherapist Answers Questions.