Saturday, December 15, 2012

Finding The Blessing in the Newtown School Shooting Tragedy

My heart is hurting for the children - the children who survived the shooting who were there in the school and all the children and teachers who attend schools everyday who were exposed to this news. My heart is hurting for the parents - the parents who lost their young children, the parents who's children were in the school when it happened, and the all the parents around the world who send their children to school everyday. All of these lives are forever impacted. Rather than focus on the pain of the tragedy, I hope we can focus on the blessing.  And it for those directly impacted, it will take time.

When someone is hurting in isolation, it is easy for us to look away thinking it is not my problem. Unfortunately, that is what has enabled this event and the increase in shootings in recent years. Many people are hurting so much in isolation without the support of community they feel they have no choice but to hurt themselves or others in an attempt to communicate or end their pain. Now many more people are dead or hurting, and there is nobody who has heard this news that is not affected by it. The blessing of this event is that it is a slap in the face reminding us of our interconnectedness. One person's suffering is all of our problem. 

If you have come to help me you are wasting your time. But if you have come because your liberation is bound up with mine, then let us work together.
-- An Aboriginal Australian woman - Aboriginal activists group, Queensland

I invite you to really feel into yourself the next time you see someone suffering in even the smallest way. You will feel their pain. Modern neuroscience is even showing how and why we feel it with mirror neurons, but we can still choose to detach with alcohol, drugs, TV, busyness, or simply rationalizing about it. It is easy to disconnect, but this shooting makes it next to impossible to not feel it. Don't disconnect from yourself. Stay present with the suffering you see around you and do something to help. It may be tempting to avoid feeling the grief by taking action too quickly, but avoiding your grief will only prolong it and turn it into fear.

I'm glad to see so many speaking out now on treating "severe" mental illness as a result of this event, but I feel we can't just put the blame on those people with "severe" symptoms.  These are just the people that feel our societal problems the most. They are the canaries in the coal mine. They are the ones being ostracized in the biggest way, but we all feel separate and isolated with nowhere to turn for help in our own small ways, and we can't ignore it any longer.

With this reminder of our interconnectedness, perhaps we can now focus on helping each other. Putting more locks on schools or passing laws about gun control will do absolutely nothing if we continue to ignore each other's suffering. We all have it. Let's not wait until it gets extreme enough to cause any more serious harm. Don't ignore your unhappy coworker, neighbor, cashier, classmate, or stranger. Don't ignore your own unhappiness. Get help. Be help. Get authentically reconnected with the people you see everyday. It's important.   


What do you think? Better yet, what do you feel? What do you experience? Let's continue the conversation! You can find me at or email chuck @  Want to meet?  Here's how.

Chuck Hancock, M.Ed., LPC is a National Certified Counselor and Psychotherapist in the state of CO. He has completed comprehensive training in the Hakomi Method of Experiential Psychotherapy, a mindfulness mind-body centered approach. Chuck guides individuals and groups in self-exploration providing them with insight and tools for change. He also incorporates nature as a therapy tool to help shift perspective and inspire new patterns.

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