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Welcome to CombatCounselor Chronicle, an E-zine dedicated to giving you the most current, pertinent information on cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) and mindfulness-based CBT available.

Chris Sorrentino, a.k.a CombatCounselor, is a leader and expert in cognitive behavioral therapy. He combines 30 years of experience in psychology with the discipline from having served as a U.S. Air Force officer for 20 years, 4 of those in combat zones, retiring as a lieutenant colonel in 2005.

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Saturday, December 15, 2012

The Tragedy at Sandy Hook: Goin' Postal in America - A Phenomenon Dominated by White Males

U.S. Mass Shootings since Columbine:

1. April 1999 - Columbine High School in Littleton, Colorado
2. July 1999 -Atlanta, Georgia
3. September 1999 - Fort Worth, Texas
4. October 2002 - Washington DC
5. August 2003 - Chicago, Illinois
6. November 2004 - Birchwood, Wisconsin
7. March 2005 - Brookfield, Wisconsin
8. October 2006 - Nickel Mines, Pennsylvania
9. April 2007 - Virginia Tech - Blacksburg, Virginia
10. August 2007 - Delaware State University - Dover, Delaware
11. September 2007 - Delaware State University - Dover, Delaware
12. December 2007 -  Omaha, Nebraska
13. December 2007 - Carnation, Washington
14. February 2008 - Chicago, Illinois 
15. February 2008 - Northern Illinois University - DeKalb, Illinois
16. July 2008 – South Mountain Community College - Phoenix, Arizona
17. September 2008 - Alger, Washington
18. October 2008 - University of Central Arkansas - Conway, Arkansas
19. December 2008 - Covina, California 
20. March 2009 - Several towns in Alabama
21. March 2009 - North Carolina
22. March 2009 - Santa Clara, California
23. April 2009 – Hampton University, Virginia
24. April 2009 - Binghamton, New York
25. July 2009 - Texas Southern University - Houston, Texas
26. November 2009 - Fort Hood - Killeen, Texas
27. February 2010 – University of Alabama - Tuscaloosa, Alabama
28. January 2011 - Tucson, Arizona (Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords)
29. July 2012 - Aurora, Colorado
30. August 2012 - Oak Creek, Wisconsin
31. December 2012 - Sandy Hook Elementary - Newtown, Connecticut

A friend of mine, who happens to be Italian, reminded me that mass murder seems to be an “American” phenomenon. Terrorism is rampant in other parts of the world while the U.S. remains, fortunately and relatively, untouched. Mass shootings like the one yesterday in Connecticut appear to be primarily an American phenomenon.  Incidents like the horrible one that took place at Sandy Hook Elementary are not strictly an American problem, but the majority of mass murderers HAVE BEEN AMERICAN, WHITE-MALE AMERICANS. 

Why do mass murders happen and why have there been so many recently? Murder, in which a single person is usually killed, is normally executed by someone the victim knows and based on emotion, routinely hate, revenge, or anger.  Mass murder is a different animal and, compared to murder, which is on the decline, is on the rise in the United States. White, middle-class, males are also reported to be the most frequent perpetrators demographically speaking. However, why are the vast majority of perpetrators white males? 

The individuals committing these horrific crimes, those who "go postal" and arbitrarily, it may seem, kill many individuals in a single incident, are sometimes "psychotic", delusional, believing the people they pursue are "out to get them". But many times, the shooter, the weapon of choice being large caliber, automatic or semi-automatic weapons, is described to be "a nice guy", "someone I would never believe could do something like this", or other after-the-fact perception by family, friends, neighbors, and co-workers. What could drive a seemly nice, normal, individual to kill indiscriminately as was apparently the case on December 14th, 2012? 

I believe, as does my friend, that it has to do, at least partially, with the culturally ingrained inability to show or channel emotions in a healthy manner. Many men in this country are taught from an early age "big boys don't cry" and told "shut up or I'll give you something to cry about". Sound familiar guys? 

The proliferation of and addiction to violent video games and movies most likely contribute to the problem.  When a boy grows up watching violent movies and playing games where they indiscriminately "blow people away" with high-powered automatic weapons surely desensitizes those vulnerable young minds.  I was interviewed by Kansas City's ABC News affiliate KMBC's Diane Cho last year on the subject of video game and computer addictions, telling her that ten percent of those individuals will become addicted.  When an individual spends hours upon hours, day after day, in an alternate universe where people are targets and the value of life meaningless, what else could it lead to in an already vulnerable mind?

Another problem we are seeing has to do with the fact the white, American, males are many times not taken seriously, unprotected against harassment, bigotry, racism, discrimination, and retaliation. There is a name for that phenomena and it is called "reverse discrimination".  When a person has been exposed to injustice, be it at school, in the workplace, on the internet, and elsewhere, and NOBODY CARES - MUCH LESS LISTENS, the frustration builds and builds until, unless they are extremely RESILIENT, they almost literally explode, sometimes killing themselves and, on rare occasions, others, sometimes many others. 

Oddly enough, I can relate to how these individuals, mass murderers, feel, having recently experienced multiple aversive events in my own life. Having pleaded for help from administrators, state and federal regulatory agencies, state and national-level elected officials, and dozens of attorneys, not a single one cared enough to sit down with me to find out what actually happened.  Sadly enough, if I was not white and male, and was a minority instead - a woman, Muslim, person from another country, homosexual, or other more well known "protected categories", I would likely have had officials and lawyers rushing to my aid.  However, because I am only a disabled-veteran (both protected categories at the institution where the incidents took place) and a white male in particular, I have been ignored.  You cannot imagine how demeaning and frustrating it is to not just lose a career, but to know that not a single person cares enough to assist me, likely because I happen to be both Caucasian and male.

Fortunately, I am able to separate the all too common thoughts of retribution synonymous with victimization as anomalies rather than guideposts, thanks to the resilience skills I have been able to build and maintain over the years. I am human and have suffered severely at the hands of others over the past few years, and have even had fleeting bizarre thoughts involving those who have done me harm. That is normal. What is not normal is for a person to believe that thoughts such as those are true and to be acted upon. The ability to see a thought as a thought and not a directive, is a skill that a "less resilient " individual unfortunately has not developed. 

What it boils down to is resilience, skills inherited to a certain extent, but mostly learned over the course of life. If you have built resilience skills, the ability to see right from wrong in difficult situations, acting in accordance with societal standards, values, mores and the like instead of aggressively, you are in the majority. Rather than believing the thought "I have been wronged, I need to take action against that person", a resilient person can see the thought as just a thought and can choose to act in accordance with their and/or society's values instead. 

I have talked and written about resilience and values at length recently on The CombatCounselor Channel,, and elsewhere in this blog, The CombatCounselor Chronicle. Resilience skills and well-defined, positive values are core to a healthy personality and frame of mind, skills obviously lacking in many people, particularly people like the young man who killed 20 innocent children and several adult strangers yesterday in Newtown, Connecticut

I am currently researching a book on this phenomenon, a book that will follow the life of one individual as he struggles with abuse, harassment, humiliation, discrimination, and retaliation, leading to a conclusion that will surprise many readers, being fiction and based on real events. I do not want to spoil the ending, but I can tell you that I will be interviewing one or more of the very few white, male, mass murderers who have remained alive to tell their story. 

My thoughts and prayers are with the community, families, and friends of the victims of this senseless tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary. I wish I could tell you something of this nature will never happen again, but unfortunately, the stresses we are facing as a nation and as individuals makes a recurrence of events like the one at Sandy Hook inevitable.

There have been 40 mass shootings since the Columbine tragedy on April 20, 1999, 31 in the United States, that is an average of nearly 3 each year.

There have been 13 mass shootings in the U.S. in 2012 alone!

StayPresent - BeResilient - StayTheCourse

CombatCounselor ... OUT!

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