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School Shootings Are Not Senseless: Gunmen's Actions Make Sense to Them

School Shootings Are Not Senseless: Gunmen's Actions Make Sense to Them

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Published by Jane Gilgun
Murderous rampages may be senseless violence to outsiders but to the gunmen their violence has a clear logic. This article discusses the murders of 20 first graders and six adults in Newtown, Connecticut, on 14 December 2012. Mass murderers do to others what they believe others have done to them. Violence gives them great relief. They often rehearse the violent acts over and over in order to feel that relief. Persons who commit violent acts have poor relationships with others, have difficulty managing their emotions and behaviors, and have beliefs that hurt others. Logically, violence prevention programs that are effective will foster healthy relationships, foster regulation of emotions and behaviors well, and promote beliefs that enhance the well-being of self and others and counter beliefs that hurt others and the self. Logically, then, the prevention of violence involves the promotion of healthy relationships, good self-regulation, and prosocial beliefs. People with these qualities are happy. Happy people do not commit mass murders.
Murderous rampages may be senseless violence to outsiders but to the gunmen their violence has a clear logic. This article discusses the murders of 20 first graders and six adults in Newtown, Connecticut, on 14 December 2012. Mass murderers do to others what they believe others have done to them. Violence gives them great relief. They often rehearse the violent acts over and over in order to feel that relief. Persons who commit violent acts have poor relationships with others, have difficulty managing their emotions and behaviors, and have beliefs that hurt others. Logically, violence prevention programs that are effective will foster healthy relationships, foster regulation of emotions and behaviors well, and promote beliefs that enhance the well-being of self and others and counter beliefs that hurt others and the self. Logically, then, the prevention of violence involves the promotion of healthy relationships, good self-regulation, and prosocial beliefs. People with these qualities are happy. Happy people do not commit mass murders.

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Published by: Jane Gilgun on Dec 16, 2012
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1
 SchoolShootingsareNotSenseless:Gunmen’sActionsMakeSensetoThem
ByJaneGilgunountlessofficialshaveonceagainlabeledamurderousrampage“senselessviolence.”ThistimethemassacrestookplaceatSandyHookElementarySchoolinNewtown,Connecticut,USA,on14December2012.Twentychildren,ages6and7,and8adultsdied.Aparentasked,“Whowoulddothistoourpoorlittlebabies?”That’sagoodquestion.Answeringitwillleadtopreventionofviolence.Whoindeed.Thegunman,whompolicehavenotidentified,isamanwhodidtothesechildrenandadultswhathebelievedhadbeendonetohim.It’sthatsimple.Hewasgettingbackatothersinthemostterriblewayimaginable.Oneofthepersonshemurderedwashisownmother.Ihaveinterviewedmorethan150peoplewhohavecommittedviolentactsincludingserialkillers.Throughtalkingtothem,Ihaveseensimilarpatternsrepeatedly.
TheLogicofMassMurderers
Theiractsofviolencearelogicaltothem.Thefollowingisprobablywhathappened.Theyoungmanwhocommittedthesemurderssnapped.Somethingsethimoff.Itcouldhavebeenanything.Hismothermighthavescoldedhim.Agirlfriendoraboyfrienddumpedhim.Hegotfiredfromhisjob.Hefailedatest.Someonelookedathimfunny.Anythingcouldhavesethimoff.Whenhesnapped,hewasfloodedwiththoughts,emotions,andimagesthatweresopowerfultheyoverwhelmedhiscommonsenseanddecency.Hemayhavefeltshamedanddisrespected.Fearsthatheisworthlesscouldhavearisen.Whenhefeltlikethis,hewantedtodosomethingtomakehimselffeelbetter.Herevertedtoblueprintsforactionetchedinhisbrain,laiddownovertheyears.Hemayhavethoughtaboutmurderingothersmanyothertimes,sometimesforlongperiodsoftime.LastFriday,heacted.Hedidwhathisblueprintforactionguidedhimtodo.He
C
 
2killedothersandthehekilledhimself,oritleasthemayhavekilledhimself.Policehavenottoldthepresshowthemandied.
Peoplewhocommitmassmurdershaveaclearlogicbasedonwhatisobvioustothem:DoUntoOthersWhatIBelieveOthersHaveDonetoMe.
_________________________________________________________________________________________________Thethoughtneveroccurredtohimtofindsomeonetotalktoabouthislatestshame,rage,andfeelingsofworthlessness.Neverinhislifehadheworkedthroughhisragethroughtalkingthingsout.Doingsomethingconstructivewithhishurtandragewasnotetchedinhisbrain.Notforhimwastodealstraightonwithwhatwasbotheringhim.Talkingabouthurtfulthingsareforsissies,fags,fems,punks.Notforhimrelaxationtechniqueslikeyoga,meditation,andtaichi.Thosethingsarelame.Instead,hefollowedhisversionoftheGoldenRule:DoUntoOthersWhatIBelieveOthersHaveDonetoMe.Hemayhavebeenaquietyoungman,whommanypeoplelikedandrespected.Othersalsocouldhavethoughhewasabitstrangeattimes,moodymaybe,butprobablynotdangerous.Massmurderershavemorethanonepublicface.Sure,hewasquiet.Henevertoldanyonewhatwasonhismind.Heprobablyhadmanyhardtimes.Maybeheexperiencedaseriesoflossesthroughdeathordesertions.Heprobablywaspreoccupiedwithviolence,perhapsspendinghoursatatimeplayingviolentvideogamesandgettingabigchargeoutofviolentsongsandothermedia.Hemayhavefeltalienatedfromprosocialpeerswhodidwellinschool,whotalkedtoothersabouthisproblems,andwhodidnicethingsforothers.Thegunmanneverworkedoutwhatthosehardtimesmeanttohim.Instead,hebelievedthathewasnogood,inadequate,andafailure.Hewasfilledwithrage.Hetoldnoone.Hesoothedhimselfthroughengaginginviolentthoughtsandimaginingviolentactions.Heprogrammedhimselftobecomeamassmurderer.Noonehelpedhimunderstandthatrealmentalkabouttheirfeelingsandsharetheirragewithothersinconstructiveways.Realmendealforthrightlywithwhateverisontheirmind.Thisyoungmanprobablylivedincircumstanceswherethiskindofmasculinitywasunknown.
InHisOwnWorld
Sincehedidnotsharehisinnerexperiencesandemotionswithothers,therewasnoonetohelphimtoconsideralternativestoshootingchildrenandadultsatanelementaryschool.Hewasinhisownworld,withthesamekindofself-centeredtunnelvisionthatothermassmurdererslivein.Hewascaughtupinhisownideaofwhattheworldislikeandwhathehadtodotosetthingsright.Massmurdersareaboutsettingthingsright.Massmurderersarepoorproblemsolvers.Theydonot
 
3consideralternativetotheirviolentactions,andtheyareshort-sightedabouttheconsequencesoftheiractions.
_________________________________________________________________________________________________
Thisyoungmanwasawalkingandtalkingbagofmiserywhocheeredhimselfupbythinkingaboutmurderingchildreninanelementaryschool.
_________________________________________________________________________________________________
Theyoftenfeelchills,thrills,andgratificationwhenthinkingaboutmurderingothersinapublic,dramaticway,buttheydonotthinkaboutthelong-termconsequencesforthepeopletheyharm,theirfamilies,andtheirownfamilies.Theyarecenteredonthemselvesandwhattheywant.
ThreeIdeasRelatedtoViolencePrevention
Thisyoungmanwasawalkingandtalkingbagofmiserywhocheeredhimselfupbythinkingaboutmurderingchildreninanelementaryschool.Happypeoplearenotmassmurderers.Thisyoungmanwasmiserableandmurderousbecausehedidnothavegoodrelationshipswithothersanddidnot managehisemotionswell.Anybeliefsthataboutpromotingownwell-beingandthewell-beingofotherscollapsedwhenhegottothinkingaboutcommittingviolenceandcheeringhimselfupwiththoughtsofdestruction.Inthenextsection,Iwilltalkaboutwhatmakespeoplehappy.Theyoungmanwhomurdered20schoolchildrenandsevenadultswasnothappy.
BuildingRelationships
Humanbeingsthroughouthistoryhaverecognizedtheimportanceofrelationshipsandhaveactedthatwaymuchofthetime.Throughrelationshipswithotherswebuildfamiliesandcommunities.Happypeopleenjoyintimacyandcloseness.Wevaluecooperation.Wenegotiateforwant.Whenweareunhappyweturntoothersforcomfortandtodevelopstrategiesfordealingconstructivelywithwhateverisattherootofourunhappiness.Whenhappypeoplehavegoodrelationshipswithothers,wefeelgood.Wetreatotherswell.Wearecreativeandrelaxed.Whensomethinggoeswronginimportantrelationships,wearesad,stressed,andangry.Happypeopleseektorepairbreaksinrelationships.Researchhasshownconsistentlythatthechiefqualityingoodrelationshipsisnottheabsenceofconflictbutcapacitiestorepairbreakdownsinrelationships.
ManagingEmotions
Happypeoplemanagetheiremotionswell.Managingemotionsmeansthatwehavecapacitiestoregulateouremotions.Muchofthetime,ouremotionsareonanevenkeel.Nomatterhowstablewethinkouremotionsare,therearetimes

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Leslie N.T. Annan added this note
Jane, I'm very glad to have taken the time to read your script, it really helped me to understand some behaviours i have to put up with certain students i have. I will further request that you furnish me with a link or information on how to deal with violent people especially teenagers.
Jane Gilgun added this note
Thanks, Jed. The young man's actions were the result of a perfect storm whose influences are becoming well-known. That is a step toward a wide-spread prevention strategy, many elements of what are already in place.
Jed Diamond added this note
Jane, thanks for sharing your expertise and knowledge. At times of confusion and anger, its important to hear from people like you who truly understand what causes violence and what we need to know to prevent it.
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