Friday, March 1, 2013

There is no “why”

Ripped from the headlines: murders are rampantly occurring throughout the world but rarely do the articles identify these atrocities as domestic or family violence. Just this morning there were four murders that I found at a quick glance: one of a mother who shot her children and herself, one was an adult son who murdered his aging mother two years after he assaulted his aging father, one was a cold case involving two sisters, and one was an adolescent who killed his sibling while in fostercare placement.

People don't see domestic and family violence as a serious problem because these cases are not presented in the most obvious light for people to become outraged. Often there are warning signs that tell us there is impending danger; many of these senseless deaths could have been prevented. Unfortunately, the subject is extremely uncomfortable and the average person cannot wrap their brain around the deviant thinking of the murderers. The perpetrator's cognitive distortions and their potential lethalities are dismissed. I hear repeatedly in the news that authorities don't know the motive. Here's the simple truth, there is no reason, there is no why. There is no rational explanation that we can accept for why a mother kills her kids, an adult son kills an aging parent, a prominent and success man kills his beautiful wife and successful sister-in-law, or a teen kills a precious little child. We're spending too much time addressing the problem rather than finding the solutions.

There are normally precursors to violence; far too often these get overlooked, minimized or dismissed as irrelevant. In each of these cases, it doesn't take a far stretch of the imagination to see that these murderers were boiling under the surface like a pressurized geyser ready to blow. My experience has shown me that pent up rage, in conjunction with poor coping skills, festers over time. Eventually, the perpetrators give themselves permission to take what they think is theirs and do what they want. It's also about entitlement and lack of accountability. They equate relationships with ownership.

My take is that anyone can change when they recognize they need help, but our society has to acknowledge that these maladaptive behaviors need to be adjusted . I work with a full range of clients from incarcerated substance abusers to convicted child abusers. In almost every case, the clients have experienced some type of adverse childhood experiences (ACE) or traumas. If you have an interest in traumatized people, I suggest reading the ACE Study – you'll find the reports amazing.

Another erroneous conclusion that many have subscribed to is that power and control are the problems. In my humble opinion, power and control are the solutions. My rational? When people have power and control over their lives they don't need power and control over others. When profiling perpetrators we need to see that they have been emotionally stripped of competence and confidence and what they are doing is referred to as learned helplessness, essentially “I'm going to get you before you get me.” They feel scared, defeated, worthless and vulnerable. The end result is consistent: hurt people hurt people—period!

We welcome your comments or questions.

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