All forms of life begin as a seed. Even the mightiest of oak trees took root from a small seed. Nourishment from water and sunlight allowed it to grow to magnificent heights providing us with oxygen, shade, absorption of carbon dioxide, and even a habitat for numerous species. Hatred also begins as a seed. When nourished in ways such as insecurity, paranoia, blame, fear, ignorance… it can erupt into a fit of uncontrollable anger. One such explosion of hatred and bigotry occurred this past Sunday in Orlando, Florida as innocent people seeking nothing more than a night out on the town were left traumatized, injured, and killed.
A man named Omar Mateen went on a violent rampage a few days ago in what is said to be the worst mass killing in U.S. History. For decades professionals will seek to understand what could drive a person to commit this horrendous crime against fellow human beings. For me the answer is simple. Unfortunately, many people will now use this tragedy in a way that continues to nourish the roots of hatred against people of Islamic faith.
Love is a natural part of the human experience. Any parent can look into the eyes of his/her newborn baby and see unconditional love reflecting back. Although underdeveloped in most people, hatred also appears to be part of the human experience. While hatred may be a human trait, acts of hatred are certainly nourished from the environment: whom to hate, why to hate, when to hate and how to hate is all learned behavior. Our environment affects us both consciously and unconsciously, thus much of who we are has developed from what our environment has taught us.
One look at any local, national or world event will reveal evidence of this statement: murder, violence, addiction, greed, corruption, power, racism, fear mongering … etc. What has caused this shift in societal values? I believe that some of our most powerful social influences have taught us to act in aggressive ways. For example, many of the highest grossing movies ever made have some of the most violent themes within them. The same can be said of today’s most popular video games that are full of adrenaline pumping aggression and violence for thrill seeking gamers. Much of today’s entertainment is packed with conscious and unconscious messages of violence and aggression that serve to excite as well as desensitize our country as a whole towards increasingly violent behavior.
Clinical mental health counselors are professionals trained to help individuals with mental health stressors of all types from the mild to the severe. We spend years learning how the mind is designed and operates, why it makes certain choices (both negative and positive) and how those undesirable choices can be changed to more desirable outcomes. If the stigma of mental health care were diminished, more people would probably feel comfortable with seeking out professional, highly qualified and degreed counselors. If more people could sort out their inner demons, the chances of living in a safer society would increase substantially. Unfortunately, some of our most powerful government officials do not understand this fact as evidenced by the many critical mental health programs viewed as nothing more than a burden on the budget.