Once again in the United States, we are confronted with a horrendous and unthinkable tragedy. In an elementary school designed for learning in a safe environment, 26 innocent people were killed by the bullets of an individual who had given up his right to be called a member of the human race.
Making this tragedy even more unsettling is the fact that 20 of the victims were children. Not only did they have promising lives ahead of them, but think of how the lives of their parents have been shattered. The law of averages suggests that in some cases parents had difficulties in conceiving, while some children were undoubtedly products of high-risk pregnancies, and others may have battled childhood illness and conditions to reach school age.
Furthermore, no child should have had to go through the traumatic experiences that will remain in the memories of those children who are fortunate enough to have survived the ordeal.
Mass tragedies like this test the faith of those of us who believe in positive psychology. I’m not one of those who like to do long distance speculation about what motivated the behavior of someone I didn’t know and didn’t evaluate. I do know that people can be influenced to change in a positive direction when a problem is identified and appropriate intervention is implemented – but I won’t attempt to guess what could have ben done in this specific situation. Hopefully meaningful information in this regard will be forthcoming.
At a time like this, I prefer to remind us of what we can do to make this world a better place. President Obama spoke of hugging our children a little tighter –which is a recommendation that has symbolic as well as practical meaning. It is important that we let all our loved ones know that we care – even if hugs are not part of our normal interactions with them. The same applies to our friends, employees, patients, and others with whom we have meaningful relationships.
It is important that we let others know that we have time for them if they need someone to lean on and to listen to them. And it is also important to recognize that emotional support and a positive attitude is necessary but not always sufficient. Sometimes our own problems, or the problems of those who look to us for help, are greater than our level or expertise. In such cases, don’t be too proud or passive to get or recommend appropriate professional help.
If each of us in our own way responds to horrendous acts by continuing to promote the lessons of positive psychology, we can make the world a place where fewer people will think about doing the unthinkable.