What's Up With That? ~ Katy Byrne

Katy Byrne Katy Byrne, MFT is a Psychotherapist in Sonoma, editor and animal lover. Her private practice specializes in: life transitions, couples communication, eating issues, moving forward, conflict resolution and the kitchen sink.


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Facing a violent world

Posted on July 21, 2016 by Katy Byrne

The world is coming undone right in front of our eyes? Why so much anger everywhere? Is it the fight or flight impulse? Poverty? Is it fear or beliefs or deep wounds? Unmet needs? Not getting laid?

Resentment’s a sticky wicket. It can come from distorted thinking or believing it protects you. Revenge can originate in being treated horribly as a kid, entrenched conditioning, or the brain’s response to fear. But humans always seem to hate or judge someone or something.

The violence in the world is just too much. I wonder how to write something different about it. After hearing about the terrible attacks in France I flew to some of my old reading about what causes rage. Konrad Stettbacher asks: “What makes a killer?” He answers, “Life, for a child like this, has been caused by hostility to life inculcated in childhood”… The deeds of mass murderers like Stalin and Hitler are, “The raging despair of abused children blindly directed against everything and everyone.” This results in lack of empathy.

I sit in shock, scratching my scalp. My mind wanders to life as a kid in Seattle, when black people still rode on the back of the bus. When I saw a black person’s hands, I got scared — until I met Clancy. He shined shoes in my dad’s barbershop.

When I hopped into Clancy’s chair, the whole world gleamed. Every year, at Christmas, he brought me lifesavers – you know, those round, brightly colored ones with the holes in the middle? I loved Clancy.

Maybe the lifesavers were wonderful because they were all kinds of colors – just like us. And that’s when I first learned about prejudice and how wrong it was.

Ironically, it was in that same hometown of mine that another kind of killing happened, in Chief Seattle’s tribe. In 1854, he wrote to Franklin Pierce: “We do not understand when the buffalo are all slaughtered, the wild horses are tamed, the secret corners of the forest heavy with the scent of many men, and the view of the ripe hills blotted by talking wires. Where is the thicket? Gone. Where is the eagle? Gone. The end of living and the beginning of survival.”

How do we stop fury, terror, rivalry? We’re mean because we don’t identify our deepest unmet needs or know how to get them met or heard.

Christiane Amanpour reported about Rwanda: “People say that it was an even more rapid killing than the holocaust… People with machetes and clubs attacking their neighbors, their friends. One million Tutsis slaughtered, 75,000 survivors orphaned, 50,000 widows left.”

Why? What’s the underlying issue? Getting rid of guns won’t end these urges. Underneath anger is a scared little kid wanting to be liked, to be safe and to belong. Fear and allegiance to distorted beliefs is at the root of evil. The limbic brain says, “get ‘em.” Ever had road rage? It lurks in us all but how to get a handle on it?

Here’s my view: therapy changes family systems through deep conversation and bringing raw wounds out into the air so they can heal. What if groups were obliged to work it out? Telling our stories and finding solutions could happen in homes, courtrooms, town hall meetings, through writing, Facebook or film, even the United Nations and affordable counseling everywhere, including prison systems.

For example, Richmond, California had among America’s highest per capita rates of gun violence. Richmond developed an innovative program: They identified the 50 people most likely to shoot someone and engaged with them. The city provided money, career help, training, resume writing and health care. It asked people what they feared and helped them create plans to mitigate those fears. It worked. From 2007 to 2012, the city experienced a 61 percent reduction in homicides.

People come to counseling to learn about their impulses, to thrive and to deal with conflict. It’s not easy to stop reacting when you’re triggered.

Couples’ therapist Harville Hendrix, says that in a good relationship, we learn to communicate with each other instead of feeling like we are at gunpoint.

He’s got a point.




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