Healing the phenomena of mass shootings is possible!

As a Nation we need to learn about how to heal from mass shootings, not exacerbate them. Learning to learn from those who remain in back wards instead of further discriminating and devaluing them may help. So can groups that examine “psychosis!”


So often the public goes to catastrophes in order to learn its lessons, not to more average stories of resilience. Healing from the man from Kalamazoo who terrorized the city while driving for Uber killing seven and injuring one, can happen.

I work in the far reaches of a city hospital: in the historical section of a sizable complex; back at the entrance where the trash compacter sits; next to the morgue; where the old steam heaters spew. Here, I have started a particular group that explores the innards of “psychosis.” I seek to compartmentalize experiences that participants have suffered. We look at experiences we have in common and teach each other about the diversity of experiences and explanations for those experiences that cause trauma and distress. I have become adept at obtaining disclosures about experiences that have been secreted for years and years, even during organized treatment.

Even though none of my clients in the group, for all their traumatic experiences, have ever acted out via mass shootings, I know that they are high up on the list of scapegoats who will be further discriminated against due to the incident in Kalamazoo.

Indeed, witnessing the true stories of human torture that are shared in the room in the back ward might help someone understand why someone might be compelled to act in this manner. However, on the whole, as a social group, people who’ve experienced “psychosis” usually don’t act violent. Individuals who experience “psychosis” are less likely to act violent than the general public and are far more likely to be the recipient of abuse.

Back when I was six years into my career and working in what seemed like very dangerous and violent street contexts, this happened to me. One day I had someone say that I advocated too much for client rights and five days later I was taken from a ditch that I collapsed in and, like a snitch, admitted to a back ward in a state hospital. I had been beaten by cops during an effort to exit the country and driven eighty miles from my car. I lost everything and no-body believed my story.

Imagine losing everything and enduring what seems like never-ending depravity and torture and having it blamed on your biology and then being treated like you are dangerous!

The tally of mass shootings in America for 2016 numbers forty-nine as the days that remain in February dwindle. The rhetoric of public officials heard spinning off the radio dial is divided into two camps. Experts who are familiar with the criminology of such acts and law enforcement differentiate the motives so we all know how to respond: which scapegoat to blame; which side of the political spectrum to support. But in this process, are we coming close to considering that what we are doing is paving the way for more incidents?

I think the more we indulge in legal entitlement, rage and revenge in our grieving process as a people, the more we will exacerbate the conflict. We all need to be able to feel our feelings in order to heal. Furthermore, I believe that the more we use threats of eternal institutionalization and ignorance to gain compliance, the more we encourage people to isolate and keep mental health issues out of the mainstream, the more we will encourage and accelerate of the social phenomenon of mass murder.

If we want to learn how to handle things differently, we need to study those of us devalued on the backwards who not only endure tragedy, but also dream of healing the world. Groups that examine “psychosis” help! I support the Bay Area Hearing Voices Network and am available for interview.


Author: Tim Dreby

I am an award-winning author and licensed psychotherapist

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