This past semester, I taught General Psychology at LMU to mostly freshmen and sophomore non-psych majors. It was a delight to engage with them, hear their perspectives, and share all that the field of psychology has to offer, well as much as I could cram into 27 hours. Although I am (and I’m sure they are) glad the semester is over, the events at Newtown last week made me want to reach out. I can only hope that the class provided them some tools with which to interpret and understand this tragedy.
1 week ago, a troubled young man wreaked havoc on a suburban community in Connecticut. Since that day, the event has dominated the news, our conversations, and our collective consciousness. You have heard many talk about issues of gun control, mental health, media violence, masculinity, and parenting. One of the most eye-opening articles, “I am Adam Lanza’s Mother,” describes a mother’s plight of coping with a mentally ill child with violent tendencies, and highlights how the aforementioned factors can conflate into a common dilemma without a solution.
I am not writing to tell you what I think, who or what to blame, or recommend policy changes. I am writing to remind you of the multitude of factors that brought us to this moment, and that it is impossible to attribute this incident to any single factor. Remember, in the social sciences, you cannot prove anything; you can only provide evidence for a theory. I am sure that all of you have a theory, and everyone you know has a theory, and this event has provided evidence for those theories; but you must remember that it also provides evidence for a dozen more. After events like this, we are often only left with questions.
I implore you to consider these questions, research them, and take the time to reflect on as many angles as you can. The purpose of the short assignments was to encourage critical thinking around complex questions, and all of you have evolved as scholars, researchers, and thinkers over the past 15 weeks. More importantly, please realize that this event was not the first of its kind, nor will it be the last; horrific and senseless violence happens everyday around the world, and only a handful of these stories make it into the American news cycle. When Obama addressed the nation, he listed mass shootings that were in the national headlines and added, “a street corner in Chicago,” acknowledging that not all of our lost children receive the same coverage.
As we approach the New Year, and take time to be grateful for what we have, remember that nothing is simple, and there is no cure-all for what ails humanity. I encourage all of you to think critically, consider everything, and be supportive of yourself, your loved ones, and your surroundings. Therapy is for everyone, and everyone can be someone’s therapist.
“If we change ourselves, we can change the world. We are not the victims of the world we see, we are the victims of the way we see the world. This is the essence of Compassionate Listening: seeing the person next to you as a part of yourself.”
– Dennis Kucinich, (D) U.S. Congressman