We Are All Adam Lanza

In the wake of the tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary I have witnessed every conceivable reaction. Some want to rage about gun control and security; others want to discuss mental illness. Many want to promote peace and focus on the good. Countless are putting their energy into prayer and espousing religion while others get busy with donations. There are even a few who want retaliation against the NRA. All if it… every. single. last. thing. we are doing is a feeble attempt at making ourselves feel better. They are our personal ways of grieving, coping, looking for answers, explanations, somewhere to place the blame and something to apply a balm for our worst fears come true. All are attempts at control.

I can understand the urge to climb, stand, and die on each of these mountains. I ache to make sense of this random senseless act because I know as humans, if we can contextualize it, if we can fit it neatly inside a label in our heads we can go back to feeling safe again. We can relax a little and cuddle up with a nice, reasonable explanation of why it won’t happen to me.

And then we can all go on ignoring the real issue at hand– the condition of humanity.

Why do we hurt each other, and ourselves? This basic question of self-inflicted human suffering swirls around in my thoughts daily. I ruminate to sleeplessness over human behavior, motivations and masochistic tendencies. My friends frequently implore, “Shannon, stop analyzing everything?!” My reply is always, “Damn it! I wish I could.” These thoughts are second nature to me and it is the fuel for why I write. I know that stories of humanity hold enough power and weight to change the world… hopefully like the one I’m going to tell you now.

My marriage is struggling. I don’t know what’s going to happen. I’m in therapy. A close relative is falling down the hole of addiction tethered to a spouse and three precious, young children. My 60-something parents lie awake at night, knotted with worry. This was the pain and suffering in my personal life before twenty children and six women were mercilessly murdered by a man whose been described as, “just a kid” an,”ordinary guy” and “seemed normal.”

I’m not saying Adam Lanza was “normal.” For sure there is a degree of mental illness involved, the extent of which has yet to be revealed, but please keep two things in mind: 1) Research suggests that most perpetrators of “rage killings” do not appear to have active psychotic symptoms at the time of the event, and very few have histories of prior contact with mental health services.  It would appear that Adam Lanza did not. And 2)  Mass “rage killings” are a relatively recent phenomenon in human history.

Mental illness aside, doesn’t it make sense to look at what is happening in our society through a much broader lens than mental illness, gun control and/or the prevalence of religion? Aren’t there truths about the human condition that are universal? Things that lead to a collective nodding of heads instead of more battle lines being drawn? Shouldn’t we start by asking the hard questions about our own human condition, first? Maybe, instead of what makes Adam Lanza different from us, we should ask what makes us all like Adam Lanza?

There are parallels in all human suffering. No one is free of heart ache and pain and right now, RIGHT NOW it feels paramount to dig as deep into the root of these things and investigate all possible causes and solutions so that no one else has to die… on mountains, in schools or otherwise.

I’m not talking about the families of the victims. They are victims themselves. I hurt for them physically and emotionally. I am talking about the “painfully shy” Adam Lanza’s, the alcoholic relative insistent upon destroying their life, and yes me, the anger addict struggling to connect with my spouse.

The writing of this essay started before December 14th. It started with this picture of a meth addict. I was compelled to use all my faculties of left-brain creativity and right-brained analytics to discuss what could possibly make a person do something like this to themselves:

face of meth woman

This is a progression picture of a meth addict over six years. It is part of a campaign to create awareness of the physical effects of meth use over time. When I saw these pictures, I did not see the drastic deterioration of a physical person. I saw the drastic deterioration of a human soul.

But then Sandy Hook Elementary happened and I couldn’t help but draw the parallels between what this young woman has done to herself, and what Adam Lanza did to helpless children.

Humanity suffers from the same affliction in varying degrees. Not all of us will commit heinous crimes, be alcoholics, meth-heads or anger addicts; but the same affliction lies at the root of our self-inflicted pain and the urge to self-destruct. The affliction is disconnection.

I have written many times of the light and dark, ups and downs, the yin and yang of life. There is a balance to nature and energy in this world. It is an ancient spiritual wisdom correlated by the laws of science.

In our world today our ability to numb, distract, disconnect and ignore has never been so easy. With the swipe of a finger across the screen of a smartphone we can avoid our lives, have an illusion of connection, while sitting comfortably alone. This ease at which we are able to keep the world at arm’s length behind a screen has had an equal and opposite effect of desperate disconnection from each other and our inner lives and of whatever one calls God.

Sounds almost counter-intuitive right? How have we become so disconnected in a world where it is so easy to connect?

The answer is shame. Shame is a powerful and painful emotion. Shame is what makes us hide, duck, shirk, defer and numb. Never has there been so much to be shameful about when connected to a world that is so big, so glossy, that has so much to desire and so much to compare ourselves to. It’s quite easy to feel hopelessly insignificant and ordinary in this world. Shame is the by-product of one central, core belief we all have in varying degrees about a variety of ideas:

I am not enough.

The reason we feel that we are not enough? We look at this big glossy world and we feel inferior and alone. Lonely. We do not see past what we want to see. We do not recognize the divinity that lies within ALL of us. That divinity that makes us the same; connects us to each other; the part that tells us that we are not alone, never alone; that we are not so different, that we are all basically the same and that we are all loved no matter our flaws. The divinity that tells us that we need to be nothing other than who and what we already are. In a word (that means so may different things to so many people) we are disconnected from God.

This human condition of shame and disconnection is a vicious cycle. It is one that I have traced and re-traced a million times in my life. The more I disconnect, the more I feel alone. The more I feel alone, the more I self-destruct.

In light of what is happening in my own life, and now, in darkness of the events in Newtown, Connecticut, my hyper-active analytic right/left brain kicked into overdrive. I sat down one day, when I should have been doing something else, and what poured out of me was the following flow chart of The Human Condition. It was my attempt to understand my own disconnection and the cycle of toxic thinking that plagues my life, my relatives, the meth-addict you see above, and perhaps, too, the painful shy (i.e. painfully alone) Adam Lanza.

The Human Condition Flow Chart

It has taken me years to come to these conclusions. I could provide a bibliography along with the number of hours spent analyzing human behavior, but would that make this any more, or less true? The true test of its validity does not lie in a text-book but if you can see yourself on this treadmill of pain. If you do, then I welcome you here. I welcome you to connect with me to explore our humanity together. I have worn path after path along these lines and I am trying, with stories, awareness, yoga and seeking a God-centered life to stay connected to my life; to heal my own pain and if I am so honored, help others do the same.

This isn’t about religion. Religion can be a road map to God but it is not the same as God. It’s a road map that has been helpful in my life. But religion does not own the only connections to divinity and anyone who insists their religion is the only way, is continuing to draw lines that divide and disconnect humanity. I’m not interested in that, but I will respect you all the same.

I am also not a professional. I do not have a list of letters behind my name. I am just a person who thinks a lot about people and is willing to share my stories.

daring greatlyI also read a lot of books on the human condition. Lately, I must give credit to someone with an impressive resume whom I’ve been connecting to; the incomparable Brene Brown, Ph.D.  I have watched her Ted talks and I am reading her book, “Daring Greatly.” This woman, she is brilliance. She is the perfect mix of left-brained, creative, compassionate wisdom, and right-brained, structured analysis. This happens to be the exact dialect I speak.

If you are reading this and you can hear me; if you can connect with anything I have written, then know you are one less lonely person and now, so am I. If we can create a collective web of less lonely people, no matter their dialect, no matter their religion, perhaps no one will slip through the cracks again.

You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye. ~Matthew 7:5

Pain removes the veil; it plants the flag of truth within the fortress of a rebel soul. ~C.S. Lewis

All that we are is a result of what we have thought. The mind is everything. What we think, we become. ~Buddha

Grief can be the garden of compassion. If you keep your heart open through everything, your pain can become your greatest ally in your life’s search for love and wisdom. ~Rumi

And we say Namaste: the divine in me honors the divine in you.

7 thoughts on “We Are All Adam Lanza

  1. I find myself asking a question today: when a normal person has a heartache, who do they turn to?

    You talk about connection, and maybe I’m foolishly something-or-other but I hope by sharing my responses to your posts — which always seem to speak to me — that a fragile beginning one is being built, but then again, I am just a name out here on the internet, so maybe that is silly.

    I don’t usually make tragedies “about me” that are in the news. I may talk about how horrific they are, and how horrible the victims are suffering, but I try to keep the words “I” and “me” out of it — not how much I cried, or how horrible it made me feel: and that’s because I have a mentally ill, narcissistic mother who does that, but without any real feeling at all, because she’s incapable of true connection and empathy.

    But Sandy Hook — I can’t escape how much I was plowed under by the sheer weight of the grief of it — the impact was deep and it was personal, and I know it’s so much worse for those families, but it’s torn me up, too. So usually when I don’t let it be about me, this time I don’t seem to be able to avoid it.

    Maybe that’s connection, I don’t know. It smacks too much of my mother for me to be okay with it, though.

    I knew you were going to talk about shame next. I was afraid of it, but certain that would be your next topic. I have to admit, you didn’t hit it as hard as I was afraid you would. Because shame — shame is .. it fills everything, it can fill the world.

    I was afraid that whatever you wrote would make me look at my shame and see it.

    Anyway, I don’t know. I don’t know what I’m trying to say, other than you offered a fragile tendril of connection, and I reached for it.

    • Keep reaching Linda. We’ll find whatever I’m reaching for together, because most days, I just don’t know. All I know is I can’t stop reaching. I can’t stop wanting to understand and I can’t stop connecting to the small group of people here who keep saying… “I hear you! I hear you!” In a lonely time in my life, you, this, being vulnerable is what is keeping me connected. Thank you.

  2. As always you have brilliantly put into words what I feel but didn’t have the words to share, and I thank you for that!

    In a response to one of my past comments you said “connection is therapy” and I couldn’t agree more. Yes, we may live on different continents but I couldn’t feel closer to you if we were sitting at the same table sharing a cup of coffee!!

    Words can wound but words can also heal … both the act of writing and reading connects us.

    What I have come to learn (since I joined World Moms Blog) is that there are many more of us in the world who believe the same things than I thought possible! I thought I WAS alone in my way of relating to the world and now I know I’m not!

    I admire your bravery for admitting to things that most people hide from the rest of the world. I admire you for your honesty. Namaste’

  3. what a wonderful and enlightened perspective! i wholeheartedly agree and have made it my lifes work to live in peace and joy one moment at a time. some days are easier than others but anyday is always better than living in shame and contempt for myself and the world around me. Also i truly agree too that shame is a big issue here on all sides and an issue that has not really been addressed.. thank you for sharing your experiences and wisdom. namaste

  4. “The words you speak become the house you live in” ~Hafiz,

    I feel you’ve hit the nail on the head. Our outer world is but a projection of our inner reality, warring factions are merely mirrors of the wars we rage on ourself; shame, fear, being afraid to be real, to share the personal as it relates to universal, the belief of being enough, living in a culture of scarcity… when do we say enough is enough and continue these crucial conversations rather than turning another cheek, applying a label that provides certainty in this uncertain world. But then you touch on this as well… our divinity, this breath of life connects us all, connects us within and our human spirit can guide us through. I wrote oodles of poetry from my creative left brain from my teenage years to now, back then that “half” was so desperately trying to get the attention of my right brain which was to busy to notice. I have letters after my name but they did not equip me with what I needed to make it through the last few years of my life, only the connection you speak of has. My finally being open and honest with myself, having those crucial conversations with myself…in the wake of the Sandy Hook shootings I blogged as well, it’s called Hug-O-War and it’s was my way of holding the space needed, to not rush in and “fix” but truly sit together and reflect, search for the awareness that eludes the society we live in…the “why” we all search for.

  5. Pingback: It’s the Petri Dish of Evil | Shannon Lell

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