In light of the horrendous tragedy occurring in Newtown, CT and others all around the globe, I got to thinking about how violence seems to be the ever-present reality in today’s culture, and has violated whatever remnants have lasted from the innocent perspective that so many of us have had. That is not to say that innocence can or should be lost. But the notion that many people believe all school buildings across the country should have armed police officers in them at all times is a testament to the role that Fear has in our world.
The new laws proposed on gun ownership and legislation preventing unstable individuals from owning and possessing a weapon is a controversial political issue that I will not address here, though I do believe that therapists have a role within the political sphere and can offer a keen insight. I reflect instead on how the opponents of these laws hold the 2nd Amendment as a justifiable defense. I think how these issues affect us, our families, and our communities. If we live in constant fear, isn’t that what contributes greatly to our competitive nature?
When fear is an emotion that is a basic and ubiquitous as it exists in our society today, it seems a natural human reaction to clump together in smaller units and go into survival mode. People have been doing this from an evolutionary perspective far before there was anything like “terrorism”, and grouping into couples and family systems seems to be what we’re programmed to do. So, what happens next when we shrink away from those in our community, and sink deeper into our fear?
People retain the macro-level emotion, and take the large response to societal fear and apply it to our day-to-day relationships. We fight with one another, sometimes even violently, mimicking that which we fear the most. We feel out of control of our fate and our lives, and attack those whom we believe we feel safe to attack without real reprisal, unlike if we attacked outward into the unknown, those who could attack us without knowledge. So, we live lives of fear and violence, in avoidance of what we’re really concerned about.
I suggest a new approach. Utilize the collective fear in a healthy manner. Use the power of joining together both in safety and support and rather than attack those whom we come in contact with, fight fear with its opposing emotion – compassion. How would our worlds change if we cared deeply for one another, both in small units of couples and families and in societies at large? Can fear even exist in that environment? This is a large task, not easily accomplished. Love your neighbor, love yourself, and even love your enemy. Those who commit these atrocities are clearly disturbed, and likely have been this way for a long time.
Proposing legislation to lock them away may help the overall good, but only after an atrocity has been committed. Instead, if we offer help, compassion, treatment, and aid to those identified as disturbed as early prevention measures, we fight the notion of fear directly. If you’re sick, we want to help you. That is a way that competition utilizes the overall society as one system, one unit. To fight not between one another, but fight for one another. Fight against a life of fear.