David Earl Johnson, LICSW

5 minute read

Knoxville Police Chief sheds a little more light on the motivation of Adkisson’s murderous tirade. He blamed liberals from keeping him from a job. []1CBS News

“He felt he was being kept out of the loop because of his age and because he was not liberal.”” It seems unlikely that this belief has any basis in rationality. The thought would probably qualify as a paranoid delusion. I have found it quite common for themes of religion and sex in delusional thinking. I suspect because both of these topics inspire considerable passion in most people. A person prone to paranoia, down on his luck, will look for someone to blame around him, a victimizer who has it out to get him. Adkisson demonstrated the essence of paranoid projection. He was the one with aggressive intent towards liberals and gays. The “liberals” presented no identifiable threat to him. Elizabeth Raney Burman in her blog []2Almostgotit.com may well have summed up a major principle about how alienation that inspires violence. Both Adkisson and Cho, the VA Tech shooter clearly were mentally unstable and tragically alienated and angry. The NIU and Omaha shooters clearly were mentally unstable and, given their life circumstances, may have experienced alienation as well. One of the common contributors to alienation is feeling invalidated, feeling that one’s personhood, perspective, and value as a human being is being attacked.

“Yesterday morning, two miles away from my house, a man named Jim Adkisson burst into a church and started shooting people. Today we found out that Mr. Adkisson has not been able to find a job, and that he’d hoped to die in the shooting, too. Last Friday, another man named Randy Pausch did die, after first inspiring an entire nation with his positive approach to life even as he was battling terminal cancer. [..] Telling a hurting, rejected person that he needs to stop feeling what he feels and feel something else instead (“stop wallowing,” etc.) is like rejecting that person all over again. We are a seriously repressed people, and we repress each other, too. I think most of us are afraid that being angry and upset, or even showing that we are angry and upset, metaphorically may be the same as killing people in a church. It is not.“ In my clinical practice, I’ve worked with many people with anger control problems and histories of violence. With perhaps the exception of those who relish how anger intimidates those around them, people with anger problems I’ve met were afraid of their anger. They have witness and sometimes experienced the results of violent anger and learned that anger is controlling, vengeful and dangerous. Effectively, they learned that their anger controlled them, would compel them to revenge and violence. In a dramatic example of a self-fulfilling prophesy, they lived their lives allowing their anger to make certain decisions for them with predictable results. Being angry is not bad, evil, awful or even unfortunate. It is in fact an opportunity. Some of the most creative people in the world are also very angry. Anger is one of the most powerful motivators in our lives. It gives us the power to pick ourselves up from the perception of defeat and try again and again until we are successful. Anger allows us to find the value in our lives. Randy Pausch, who died last Friday from pancreatic cancer certainly understood the value of his life. Here is his last lecture.

To Randy, chasing his childhood dreams valued his life, especially the dreams he didn’t reach. Greg McKendry understood his value in life. In a fleeting moment before Adkisson shot into the crowd that included children. Greg faced the shotgun and died so many other’s could live, allowing other parishioners to wrestle the gunman to the floor.

CBS News

<blockquote>
  &#8220;Greg McKendry stood in the front of the gunman and took the blast to protect the rest of us,&#8221; Barbara Kemper said. McKendry&#8217;s foster son Taylor Bessette watched it happen. &#8220;He stood in front of the bullets between the child and the gunman and actually took the bullets to save the child,&#8221; said Bessette. &#8220;
</blockquote> Barbara Kemper and Taylor Bessette and 200 others in that church will be changed forever by these events. Unfortunately, I know from experience, not all of them will find meaning and purpose in their experience. Finding meaning and purpose is the only way to go forward positively. Another UU congregation summed up what might have prevented Adkisson and Cho from their fate if it had come early enough and often enough in their life. 

<a href="http://www.kitsapsun.com/news/2008/jul/29/145we-pray-that-the-compassion-here-will-spread/"></a>Kitsap Sun 

<blockquote>
  &#8220;With their fingers touching and shoulders pressed, about 60 people bowed their heads in downtown Winslow to affirm that the violence that tore through a Tennessee church can be overcome, one pair of joined hands at time. &#8220;Feeling the touch of another person who is not going to hurt you and who is going to care for you, we pray that the compassion here will spread into the world,&#8221; said Cedars Unitarian Universalist Church co-minister Barbara ten Hove at the City Hall plaza Tuesday evening. &#8220;It&#8217;s a baby step, but it is important.&#8221; [..] Even more dangerous is the hatred that pulled the trigger, he said. &#8220;We wonder what taught him to hate a religion that for 400 years has preached love, acceptance and hope,&#8221; he said. &#8220;Sadly, there are <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/rj-eskow/a-murderers-bookshelf-han_b_115497.html">those in our culture who do teach hate</a>, even if indirectly.&#8221; Hove urged his congregation to meet hate with love, even for those that open fire in churches. &#8220;
</blockquote>

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