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After Orlando, Deflecting Fear One Person at a Time

Photo of child and mom with cupcake. © Katherine Broadway, Raleigh Psychotherapy, Orlando shooting

Alisha came in with a look of fear and anxiety. “What is wrong with the world? Another mass shooting and no-one there to stop it. Why are the police not doing their job and protecting us? I can’t make sense of what is happening in the world. I feel so powerless, what can I do?”

Alisha was the first of many people, both male and female, to express these thoughts about the shooting in Orlando, both in and out of my office. In many ways, I am speechless and feel as powerless as everyone else.

The temptation is to follow the path of anger and violence: when in doubt, strike back. We all want something done so we can go back to what we see as the safe cocoon of the 50’s and 60’s. That is an illusion. I vividly remember the Bay of Pigs, waiting on the school playground to hear whether we were going to war. Was my daddy going to have to go to war? My best friend Kay and I held hands crying and trying to console one another.

That war did not happen, but we did live with a “threat” next door. Now, the violence and attacks have arrived on our shores. At times, they even come from within our own nation.

Life as we knew it, changed radically with 9/11. An event so infamous that it is known by two numbers and nothing else. That date – not even a year, just the day – can conjure up memories of fear, terror and unbearable heartbreak.

Yet, we are still here and we did bear the pain and horror of that event. We picked up our collective pieces and returned to live our lives. Did we bury our fear and simply move on? Some did and some didn’t.

The question I am left with after the latest event of living horror, is how do we move forward, stay with reality and not live in constant fear? How do we create a positive force within the life we currently live?

We cannot say exactly why these people perform these acts of destruction and violence; however, we do know that these people have some common characteristics. They are misfits and loners. They feel isolated, in need and despair. They feel angry because they have been let down by people who were supposed to protect them and they believe violence is their only recourse.

They are pathological teenagers who grow into violent adults. Some do not wait until they are adults to perpetrate violence. They feel that the only way to be heard is to kill and maim.

What can we do to make a difference in our own life and the life of others? I believe that the way to work toward peace internally and in the world is to focus on building a positive future. A lesson learned from the 60’s and 70’s is that people can make a difference.

  1. Start with yourself. Anger begets anger. Look inside and ask yourself how you can heal the wounds that created this anger inside of you.

  2. Strengthen your family, marriage and relationships. Create a community and spend time with those you love and are important to you. Include people in your life who are alone.

  3. Offer kind words and encouragement to the ones who are struggling. You do not have to fix problems in order to help. Spending time with someone and listening to them is invaluable.

  4. Teach your children to value kindness and peaceful living. Teach them to show their friends and classmates consideration.

  5. Empower your children to recognize bullying and to confront it by telling you and trusted adults when it happens.

  6. Look for that child or teen who is hurt and troubled. Invite them to join your community; find them safe places to go. If you know of a child living with an alcoholic, offer to take them to an Ala-teen meeting. If you are a member of a church or spiritual community, invite them to join. Learn about community programs designed to help children.

  7. Teach your children about diversity. Show them the value in different people, customs, races, cultures and beliefs. With modern communication, the world is all around us and we are all human beings.

Above all else, do not lose faith in the goodness of people. For every act of violence and destruction, there are a million acts of love and kindness. There are many people in our world and in our life who want to help and to give. Be one of those people for yourself and for others.

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