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Dr. Hanscom's Blog No Action in a Reaction – The Need for Gun Control

Discussion in 'Mindbody Blogs (was Practitioner's Corner)' started by Back In Control Blog, Dec 9, 2018.

  1. Back In Control Blog

    Back In Control Blog Well known member

    Anger is body’s reaction to regain control of a situation that you perceive as threat. It is the most basic of survival reactions. It is only about your survival and by definition is destructive. In an enraged state of mind, you will do whatever it takes to take care of yourself. It doesn’t matter whether the danger is real or perceived. Your body’s neurochemical reaction is the same – adrenaline, cortical, histamines, etc. In addition to the many physical reactions to these hormones (rapid heart rate and breathing, sweating, widened pupils, etc.), they also decrease the blood supply to frontal lobe of your brain. You can’t think clearly and see all the options when you are trying to “escape.” Many, if not most acts of aggression and violence, occur in while in this state of mind. It is truly temporary insanity and is dangerous.

    Steve’s story

    This situation was highlighted to me by a friend of mine, Steve, who is about my age. We were discussing the pros and cons for gun control. He told me a chilling story that occurred while he was in his early twenties and recently married.

    At the time, he felt strongly that it was important to keep a gun in the house not only to protect himself, but also his new wife. He had been around them and was comfortable with them. He knew all the safety rules. His wife felt had equally intense feelings about not having firearms in the house.

    They had been out for the evening a few weeks earlier at a bar. An acquaintance of hers started to talk to them and became somewhat inappropriate in his comments. She and Steve left early to avoid an impending confrontation. There didn’t seem to be much more to it.

    Two weeks later, this “acquaintance” knocked on Steve’s door and asked to speak to his wife. That was the last straw for him. They began to exchange some harsh words and Steve, according to his account, “Lost it.” He went running to the bedroom to get the gun and settle this once and for all. He said the jealous rage that hit him was indescribable. He fully intended finish this guy off – except that his wife had hidden the gun. Still wasn’t a pretty ending but it was game over as far as using a gun. He was able to regain his senses enough in the few minutes of searching for the weapon, that he figured this was going to be a really bad idea.


    The next 40 years

    Forty years later, he and his wife have raised a beautiful family. He owns his own business and enjoys talking about the Golden State Warriors with us. There is no question in his mind that he came extremely close to spending those 40 years in prison.

    Humans have a serious problem in that thoughts and belief systems become embedded in our brains the same way the any other object such as a chair or car. There nothing inherent in your eyes that defines that a chair is a chair. It’s only by your brain processing and interpreting sensory input that anything is defined. For example, if you have a stroke in the vision center of your brain (occipital lobe), you will be completely blind although your eyes work perfectly fine. The problem of consciousness is that your thoughts are similarly embedded and are as real as the chair.

    Connected to the past

    When you are anxious or angry, your brain just connected with some unpleasant experience in the past, your nervous system is saying, “Danger and take action – now.” Rational thinking is not part of this part reaction and things happen quickly.

    It’s critical not to suppress the reaction because it fires your body up even more. Over time, people become ill from the sustained chemical assault of stress hormones. So, if you experience anger, it’s problem and suppressing it is even worse. What do you do?

    “No action in a Reaction.” You must allow yourself to fully be immersed in the upsetting feelings and emotions and then discipline yourself never to engage with anyone or anything when you are in this state of mind – ever. It is tough because the reactions are so strong and there is never an endpoint. You will fail at different levels, but the skill improves with time and repetition. The key is to create some space between the perceived threat and the automatic survival reaction. In that “space”, you can choose a different and more appropriate response. Your brain changes structure and shape every second and eventually the automatic reaction will be more appropriate.

    Steve was lucky. His wife hiding the gun gave him that “space”, which was first of all not have access to the gun. He was also able to calm down quickly enough to resolve the situation. This story illustrates the need for limiting access to guns. When you are angry, it doesn’t matter what your mental health is. You will act in a self-protective manner regardless of the costs. Steve is about as a good-hearted person as you will meet. Having him spend his life in prison (or anyone’s life) based on a 15-minute reaction isn’t logical.

    Improving society’s mental health is a great idea, but first of all, is just rhetoric. Nothing can be implemented on a grand enough scale to make a difference. Secondly, it still doesn’t solve the problem of the actions we might take in a fit of rage. Forget about guns for a second. What about the levels of verbal, sexual and physical abuse that are so rampant in American families? Gun violence is the tip of a mammoth iceberg.


    The other profile, where someone is a “cold-blooded killer” is a completely different scenario and defines a psycho or sociopath. Although, the kilerl may have global anger at some societal or racial perceived wrong, the actual act doesn’t usually occur in a fit of rage.

    The bottom-line is that there is no other logical solution to violence by guns other than strict gun control. With any other proposal, you might as well say, “We are OK with the level of gun violence as it now stands”. That would be healthier than pretending that there are other solutions.

    Any form of violence within the family also a major public health issue, and many programs are working on improving this problem. However, the same principles hold. It’s important to be aware of when you are upset and NOT suppress it. Learn to “be with your pain” and resolve to take no action when you’re in a reaction. We’re happy that Steve is around and enjoy spending time with him.

    Related posts:

    1. Your Unconscious Brain
    2. My Call to Action
    3. Action Not Apologies

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