Gun Violence: It’s Not Hopeless

There are certain situations, conversations that will cause us to unconsciously react. LaShelle Charde refers to this immediate and conditioned behavior as a trance. This is a pattern that we have developed over many years as a result of something that happened long ago. Once we have become stimulated our reaction is rooted in the past. We aren’t seeing the present clearly because of the often-unconscious memories that we have now connected with the event. I believe this is what we are seeing now in our nation’s conversations about guns.

We truly believe that our emotions in that moment are about the other person or situation, when in reality much of what we are experiencing is about the past. We are in a reactive trance. This will often stimulate the person we are speaking to as well. They will also fall into a reactive trance. We all tend to have a consistent pattern in our communication when we are in the trance. We have a type of body language, a tone of voice, certain phrases we use, that signify we are in the reactive trance.

The recent shootings at Umpqua Community College put many of us in a trance. I felt angry, very angry, and I took to Facebook. I have friends all along the spectrum of opinions about gun control, as I’m guessing many of you do too. My family members span the spectrum. So I immediately began reposting gun control/anti-gun posts. I became involved in emotional discussions about guns. At one point I posted I was afraid of guns. That was actually an opening for empathy for others for me.

The purposes of identifying a reactive trance are to either become more self-aware, and start to unravel the unconscious past influences on your present life; or to be able to react differently to someone else having a reactive trance. In this instance I started to have more self-awareness. I didn’t grow up around guns; my family didn’t hunt. My knowledge of guns comes from movie violence and my memory of a teen committing suicide with a gun that I knew from church. Although I have been afraid of guns I felt safe because I never saw them in my environment, nor did I imagine they were there. That started to change when my children became old enough to visit friend’s houses, and I started to worry there might be guns at those houses. But I was still able to talk myself into thinking the guns probably either weren’t there, or were locked up. So I still felt safe in most of my world. That has changed recently with the frequency of continuing gun violence in public places. It’s getting harder for me to pretend that there aren’t any guns at the grocery store, at the theater, at school, when I not only see gun violence happening there, but become more aware that many people want to carry concealed weapons. So my knee-jerk reaction to my desire to be safe is to want all guns gone.

But as I watch conversations on Facebook and the news, I’m becoming aware that there are people who want the same thing I do, safety, but having a gun helps them feel safe. They are in a trance as well. I imagine their history involves lots of experience with guns in a good way. Maybe they had a family that hunted, and a gun was helpful in providing food for their family. Maybe they have had fun at a shooting range with guns. Most importantly they have become used to the idea that a gun will protect them from what they see as an often-violent world. This need for safety and the use of guns to ensure that is a core belief for them. So when they think that might be threatened they fall into a trance, like me.

When they are speaking to me in a Facebook conversation, they are really caught in and reacting to past experiences. They, like me, are falling into a trance. How do I know? Because we both have very strong feelings and want to defend our positions, that’s a trance. I read something recently that compared kids dying in a swimming pool to gun violence, and it supported my defense of my beliefs about guns. So I rewrote it as a moat, because I understood that guns provide some people with a sense of safety, and posted it on Facebook. Now I was still in my trance because I posted it as a defense to my idea that guns just don’t belong in our society. And I really thought that some of my Facebook friends who are pro-gun would understand my reasoning. I was shocked when they didn’t. One friend said that moat was for the safety of her family and if people kept drowning in it, that was their problem. No matter how I kept wording it to try and show “innocent” people were dying in the moat to get her to finally agree to get rid of the moat, she never would agree. Of course not. Both of us were in a trance.

I believe the editor of a local paper in Roseburg was in a trance when he declared President Obama would not be welcome due to his “politicizing” of the tragedy. I’m not saying this as a judgment about the editor; as a matter of fact suggesting to someone that they are in a trance won’t help the conversation at all. It will probably stimulate more defensiveness. I’m presenting this as an explanation as to why someone wouldn’t want the President to come and visit victims of the tragedy. When you are in a trance it’s very hard to hear anything that doesn’t support your trance. This is why I don’t believe we are ever going to have meaningful conversations about how to decrease gun violence in our country, unless we can come out of our trances. This is going to require some of us to become aware of the trance and self-connect so we can hear others. At that point we can have an open heart for what is happening for both of us.

These are some of the voices that we are hearing right now:

“What if everyone had empathy and we could just go ahead and do the right thing? But apparently the soulless gun nuts are devoid of anything resembling empathy…”

“They really have no one to go get them (guns) and even if they did the vast majority of gun owners really mean it when they say you’ll take my guns when you pry if from my cold dead hands.”

“I get sick to death of gun-rights advocates putting up their straw-man and crying about how no one is going to take their guns!!! How is it these people are so dense?”

“Concealed carry is the answer along with removing gun free zones. Sorry liberals, guns are here.”

These are voices in a trance. I think perhaps the most helpful thing to do in our gun conversation right now would be to offer reassurance.

This reassurance might look like this:

“What if everyone had empathy and we could just go ahead and do the right thing? But apparently the soulless gun nuts are devoid of anything resembling empathy…”

I want to be sure we find an answer that is considerate of everyone.

“They really have no one to go get them (guns) and even if they did the vast majority of gun owners really mean it when they say you’ll take my guns when you pry if from my cold dead hands.”

I want to find an answer that supports your belief about guns.

“I get sick to death of gun-rights advocates putting up their straw-man and crying about how no one is going to take their guns!!! How is it these people are so dense?”

I want to find an answer that makes sense to you.

“Concealed carry is the answer along with removing gun free zones. Sorry liberals, guns are here.”

I want to find an answer that lets you choose what’s right for you.

This situation stimulates in all of us feelings of fear and a very strong desire to feel safe. If we can be open to that, we can continue to reassure others that we want to support choices that help us all to feel safe. By doing that I believe we can develop that trust we need to work with each other to find a solution. With enough creativity we can find a solution that we all can live with.

“I choose to believe that the failure of our needs to be fulfilled results from insufficient dialogue and creativity rather than scarcity.” Marshall Rosenberg

Please like & share:

Speak Your Mind

*