“We just don’t know where, but they will occur more frequently unless we understand the pattern to these events. Ironically, it appears that we are creating the problems we’re trying to solve,” says Eddy.
For the past ten years, Eddy has been studying people with “high-conflict”
In case of tragic mass shootings, Eddy points to clear patterns: young men (15-25), who are socially isolated, often children of divorce, who have some mental health problem that is untreated. The solution to their frustrations, failures and fantasies is violent power. They have easy access to weapons.
“It’s only a question of who will be their target of blame,” warns Eddy. We know that personality development is partially affected by one’s biology, but also one’s family and cultural environment. “As I wrote in the book, It’s All Your Fault, many of today’s young adults have grown up in a culture of blame, from watching their parents in high-conflict divorces to watching political leaders and celebrities routinely attack and blame each other, without taking responsibility themselves. Since some personality disorders are characterized by lack of impulse control, lack of empathy and lack of remorse, it’s not surprising that we may see an increase in cold-hearted violence by a very few but increasing number of young adults. While some may have other mental health issues which are not associated with violence (Aspergers, schizophrenia, etc.), it appears to be the personality disorders which allow them to commit such horrendous acts.”
Eddy offers thoughts to prevent the next mass shooting:
1. Don’t allow social isolation. Teenage boys – especially from divorced families – are at a higher risk of becoming socially isolated and absorbed in fantasy video games of great power and violence. Today’s families are much smaller and in the case of divorce, often one child lives alone with one parent. In many of the mass shootings over the past 30 years, the young man has been a child of divorce with the other parent almost totally out of his life. The problem isn’t in having a single parent; it’s the tolerance of social isolation for the young man.
2. More youth social activities. In the 1970’s, I was a school teacher and the director of a summer recreation program that was federally funded for low-income youth. Some of those children had divorced parents and the kids really bonded with the staff and parents involved in the program. Of course, those funds ended with the 1980’s government budget-cutting trend that continues today. Where should our priorities be? Yachts or youth?
3. More mental health services. In the 1980’s I worked in a psychiatric hospital with adolescents, including some who were physically abusive toward other children or their parents. I remember one 13-year-old boy who weighed more than his mother, and he had grown used to hitting her when he was upset. Yet with our intensive hospitalization for him, including individual therapy, family therapy (that was my job) and activity therapy, he learned to control himself much better and as far as I know he has lead a positive life. However, such services have been cut. Neither insurance companies nor governments care as much about kids like this anymore. Until this changes, we will have more incidents of out-of-control youth who feel vulnerable acting out in dramatic and desperate moments. Some will simply kill themselves (adolescent suicide is way up right now) or others.
“While I agree that mental illness is a driving force in these killings – as it is in many killings - most mentally ill people aren’t killers,” said Eddy. “The problem in my mind is that it’s too easy for the high-risk age group to get weapons. Mentally ill people are much more susceptible to the drama and power of news events like the one in Connecticut, and they too often struggle with impulse control – especially young adults who are just becoming mentally ill. Having easy access to assault weapons and semi-automatic weapons is a problem. And people with personality disorders (perhaps 15% of the population) look and act normal much of the time, yet some of them will commit murder without any empathy or remorse. How are you going to screen them out from the lawful gun owners?”
Preventing the next shooting is going to take a serious shift in national priorities. Eddy urges to focus on the youth deficit and on understanding how to handle High Conflict People. In his book “It’
“There is no ‘cliff” more important than this one,” adds Eddy. “Our nation is standing on a major cliff and the only way we can escape it is by first understanding what is taking place.”
“It’s All Your Fault” is a must read for anyone who is disturbed by the current situation. Published by HCI Press, $28.95 paperback, and available in all digital formats, “It’
About Bill Eddy:
William A. ("Bill") Eddy is a well known author and Co-founder and President of High Conflict Institute in San Diego, California. He is also the Senior Family Mediator at the National Conflict Resolution Center in San Diego, California. He is a Certified Family Law Specialist attorney in California with over fifteen years’ experience representing clients in family court. Prior to becoming an attorney in 1992, he was a Licensed Clinical Social Worker with twelve years’ experience providing therapy to children, adults, couples and families in psychiatric hospitals and outpatient clinics.
Bill taught Negotiation and Mediation at the University of San Diego School of Law for six years, and currently teaches Psychology of Conflict at Pepperdine University School of Law. He has provided seminars on managing high conflict personalities for attorneys, judges and mediators in over 25 states, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and Sweden. His articles have appeared in national law and counseling journals.
He obtained his law degree in 1992 from the University of San Diego, a Master of Social Work degree in 1981 from San Diego State University, and a Bachelors degree in Psychology in 1970 from Case Western Reserve University. He began his career as a youth social worker in a changing neighborhood in New York City in 1970, and first became involved in mediation in 1975 in San Diego. He considers conflict resolution the theme of his varied career.