With the frequency of mass shootings in the country, especially the frequency of those occurring recently, is this our new normal?
What are the implications if this is true?
Is this our new normal?
In some respects this is our new normal. Just as anything that happens with great frequency, we naturally adapt to it. This is called “habituation” and is a normal process of the brain and allows us to do mundane things like drive to work without thinking too much about it.
This brain process also frees us to focus on unusual, novel and strange things, so that we can bring to bear all our mental capacity to the circumstance we are not familiar with.
Shootings in public places is no longer an unusual occurrence in our country.
We are paying less attention to these events. They are no longer pressing water cooler discussions and events we follow closely in the news.
At the same time, this is still a very unusual experience for most people.
- It’s still scary and still traumatizing.
- We still don’t believe it can happen to us.
In a sense we are in denial about the increasing danger of random gun violence in our country. But this denial allows us to live our lives with calm and purpose. If we are over-focused on the dangers in our world, especially hypothetical dangers, we would not be able to function as well as we do.
I think we are all feeling helpless and perplexed by the frequency of these shootings. And most of the time the perpetrators also kill themselves so we have no way to make sense of their thought processes. Are they mentally ill? Do they feel socially marginalized? Are they desperate to matter in some way. We just don’t know.
But, it is my belief that mental health professionals must weigh in on what is happening and work with community leaders, the media, and schools to begin a national conversation about this epidemic.