Coping with Trauma — 27 June 2016
How do we Process Human Atrocities

The recent horrific mass murder of innocent human beings who gathered to enjoy socializing and dancing in a club shocked, perplexed and horrified the public. Many questions arose about the motive, the method, the opportunity and the causes for such evil conduct toward innocent humans. Are there any possible satisfactory answers to quell our incredulity, grief and despair?

When trauma strikes, we seek to comprehend the causes for violence and explore the mindset of the offender in order to restore sanity to our minds and grief-stricken hearts as we concomitantly try to understand the incomprehensible perpetrator/s of these evil actions and their supporters. We may find fault with society’s laws, specific unsafe practices or our culture’s failure to provide greater protection to the public, or we may blame the parents or life circumstances that fostered violence and disregard for human life. We may also choose to blame those who enabled the damaged individual to obtain the weapons used in executing these murderous acts.

Though all these elements are worthy of evaluating in order to improve conditions that will prevent recurrence of similar heinous plots, there are additional avenues of exploration that may shed light on these evil acts.

The neuroscientist Wolf Singer suggested that “Even when we cannot measure what is wrong with the criminal’s brain, we can safely assume that something is wrong. His actions are sufficient evidence of a brain abnormality, even if we don’t know and maybe will never know the details.”

In “INCOGNITO The secret lives of the brain” David Eagleman states, “Criminals should always be treated as incapable of having acted otherwise since their actions should be taken as evidence of brain abnormality… The march of science will continue to draw the line between volition and non-volition.” He adds, “Child abuse cannot serve as a meaningful biological excuse: the judge must take action to keep society safe.”

So, analysis, explanations and interpretations of violent individuals’ motives, mindset, thoughts or feelings prior to and during their actions that cause major harm to many are not productive avenues for curbing future attacks or the suffering of innocent victims. The assumption has to be made that additional depraved individuals will continue to inflict harm upon innocent people due to their pathologically wired brains. Our society must become more vigilant about identifying strange behaviors and ominous words prior to the occurrence of future violence and report these observations to their supervisors or law enforcement agents.

Mental illness may be difficult to diagnose but extreme opinions, passionate hateful rhetoric and vile criticism of others MUST be taken seriously and considered as a possible pre-cursor to harming others and thus must be reported to the authorities.

Do not explain – Just report:

  • Avoid being compassionate or dismissive when you hear messages of extreme hostility, discrimination, prejudice or bigotry.
  • Use your own discomfort with extreme views as a warning sign of a potential threat.
  • Report extreme words or conduct to the authorities.
  • Know that your actions may spare others suffering and may save their lives.

Related Articles

About Author

Offra Gerstein, Ph.D. is a licensed psychologist in clinical practice in Santa Cruz, California for over 25 years, and specializes in relationship issues for couples and individuals for improved quality of life. Her work includes: mate selection, marriage, long term relationships, gay and lesbian couples, work relationships, parenting issues, family interactions, friendships, and conflict resolutions. Offra has lectured extensively to various groups, conducted support groups for several organizations, and has been writing a weekly column "Relationship Matters" for the Santa Cruz Sentinel since 2001.

(0) Readers Comments

Leave a Reply