American Violence: Denying our Anger
More people have died violently in the past century than in any other. There is no basis for assuming that the next decade will be any less violent because we are not taking enough steps to make it so.
Every year, there are millions of acts of violence. Some are fatal, such as what recently occurred in Las Vegas; others result in permanent injury or mental scars. Some violent acts end up orphaning children and widowing spouses.
There are public and private agencies attempting to deal with the plague of violence in our country, but their focus seems to be on the overt act, such as firing handguns or battering spouses. If they can prevent these acts, they feel that they will have prevented violence. But the underlying issue that leads individuals to seek violent solutions has not been identified or addressed.
It is a mistake to treat violence as if it were a natural force, an animal instinct which we have no power to control. Criminals have been using this excuse for years. It exempts them from the consequences of their self-indulgent behavior. We need to stop taking these self-serving alibis at face value if we hope to break the cycle of violence.
The cycle of violence is not transmitted by the genetic inheritance from our less evolved ancestors. It was modeled for us by the significant others we encountered in our young lives. We learn to accept brutality as an efficient problem-solving technique. It requires no cerebral exertion at all.
Kids who were exposed to violence often raise their kids using violence. They feel justified in doing so, “If it was good enough for me, its good enough for them. That’s fair.” We cannot argue with this childish logic. It is not logic at all. There is no rational thinking involved. Violence is an emotional legacy passed on from one generation to the next.
However, the issue is not violence or aggression, the issue is mismanaged anger. There is no violence without anger. Anger is a part of life, a part of being human, but one should not react with violence and intimidation.
Violence is an emotional response to being hurt or threatened. Our epidemic of gang violence and murders are not senseless crimes; they are crimes of anger. Most perpetrators have been through the medical and legal system, which leaves their anger undiagnosed and untreated. The present system refuses to help. It does not seem to know what to do about anger except to use medication or incarceration. No one is learning anything.
Other countries do not understand why Americans are so violent, and neither do we. They say there are 99 guns for every 100 people. We think the issue is violence on television. But why is there violence on television in the first place? Because we demand it. Some of us think that the solution is more police. Yet, the most brutal and sustained violence in this country takes place where police cannot go until it is too late.
As a society, we are denying that we have an anger problem. We prefer to call our problem violence. Violent behavior, though, directly threatens the health and well-being of men in particular. Men are nearly four times more likely to die from homicide or suicide than women.
As a consequence of denying our anger, we are a nation with a high rate of violence. Diagnosing and treating individuals with anger problems has been an increasing concern to health organizations, clinicians, and society as a whole.
People in high places have given extreme anger a ten-syllable name, “Intermittent Explosive Disorder” which is much more impressive than angry. More than 7% of people in the U.S. have experienced “intermittent explosive disorder” (IED) at some point in their lives. This means they will respond to certain situations with inappropriate levels of anger, for example resulting in road rage or irrational, violent acts such as throwing a television out of a window during an argument with a spouse or parent. However, this term can be applied only to a tiny percentage of the population.
Most of the anger we see does not have a pathological origin. It is normal anger gone to extremes.
Tags: Anger Management, Archive