The symptoms of dis-ease will never disappear until we are brave enough, patient enough, and diligent enough to address the core issues that create the dis-ease. There is no question that our world is experiencing dis-ease. Various dictionaries describe dis-ease as “a harmful development,” “a particular quality, habit, or disposition regarded as adversely affecting a person or group of people,” or “lack of ease.”
If we don’t address the reason for the “harmful development” or “lack of ease,” we will never adequately solve the problem. As with any dis-ease, of course, the symptoms need to be addressed. Perhaps we do need some reasonable measures to address gun control, terrorism, the opioid crisis, but as the reverend, Dr. Wesley Shortridge, pastor at Liberty church in Bealeton, VA, said recently in an interview, “We have never been able to stop addiction by outlawing drugs.” The same goes for guns, trucks, immigrants and anything else.
We will never be able to overcome hate with hate and blame. We will never be able to regulate mental health issues in such a way as to make everyone think and act in a sane way. Yes, reasonable regulations can help, but we can never achieve and agree on reasonable measures and regulations if we continue, as people to be unreasonable.
As a therapist, I am fully aware that we will never be able to “fix” anyone else. We can provide education, compassion, and support, creating an environment in which people feel free to release old, unhealthy beliefs and rules that no longer work. This however will never happen as long as we, as individuals, deny our own responsibility to explore our own thought processes and continue to project dysfunction on others. It will never work to factionalize groups of people by race, ideology, mental health status, religion, or belief systems.
After a heartbreaking incident like the church shooting by a terribly troubled person in Sutherland Springs, TX, or a group of innocent people being massacred by a hate-filled man in a truck in New York City, each of us is horrified and want to change things so it never happens again. Of course. That’s an absolutely normal reaction to a frightening event.
This is not a time to politicize by blaming “Republicans” or “stupid gun owners,” as was evidenced by ill-informed tweets as way of expressing frustration. These kinds of tweets enhance division, insist that there is only one way to see things and put up a wall of resistance to intelligent, informed, compassionate solutions.
It must start by talking personal responsibility. There is an emptiness in each of us, longing for connection and love and value. In a misinformed, reactive effort to fill this place, we try to fill it with temporary measures that only further destroy. We fill that place with materialism like more money, power, things, which insulates us to the external problems, or substances like drugs or alcohol, numbing the pain or creating factionalism, homogeneous groupings demonizing others, which make us temporarily feel justified. None of that works on a long-term basis. That kind of thinking alienates us, drives us farther apart, and exacerbates the problem.
We point out evil and crazy thinking and lack of regulations. That is no more efficacious that being a football fan screaming obscenities from the sidelines. It just makes more noise, releases a bit of frustration and makes us angrier.
Before we react, we need to take a deep breath and step back from the drama for a moment and strengthen our own internal locus of control. This can be done as a healthy coping mechanism, as it causes the brain to operate more effectively in the moments. It helps us think clearer, and be less reactive. Creating this type of personal habit, through meditation, mindfulness principles like meditation, has been proven through recent studies, to actually change the brain. Anger, stress, negative emotions limits our capacity to function most effectively. The more we, as individuals, continue to think it’s ok to react in hatred, rage and blaming, the worse the problem will get.
The more of us that make the effort to learn and use healthy coping mechanisms like deep breathing, detachment, gratitude, meditation, respect, less judgment and forgiveness, find that our brains change in a way that makes us less reactive to stress, clearer and more circumspect in our thinking, and better able to see our oneness with other humans rather that our differences.
The world will change, not by over-regulation, blaming, demonizing, but rather by one person at a time, taking personal responsibility for our thought processes and responses, creating an environment that creates unity and solutions that work.