(I wrote this some time ago and never published it, thinking it was not the right time. Now, following a shooting at a church in Maryland, the time it seems, is at hand.)
It has been ten days since a gunman, Frank Smith, held hostages at Verso Paper in Jay, Maine. By all accounts, he had an “anger” problem. The media reported whatever they could snatch to make a story, much of which was inaccurate, but hey, they were first with inaccuracy.
I am bothered by the incompleteness of the story. The only media follow-up being the hostages were released and the gunman surrendered. Simple. Of course, had anyone been physically injured I’m sure it would have been covered differently. Violence sells. Tragedy, in general, sells.
Anger is a cover story for an unmet need. I came to this as I fired off a response to a comment to a media report that said, in part, “who cares if the information through the day was accurate, as long as no one was hurt”. In spite of my best intentions, I fired off my response, referring to the stress caused to those needing accuracy to deal with a situation over which they otherwise had no control. I wish I could have said “I understand why you would feel that way (and I do), but the reality is inaccuracies cause their own harm.”. My cover story for an unmet need.
My unmet need was to express distress over not being in control of the situation; the build-up of worry over the plight of my husband, whose life is closely tied to food and medicine – running out of both; my daughter half way across the country hearing false and conflicting stories; that this gunman, whom I had never met, could have more control than I; and finally, that the gunman was known to have anger management problems and nothing was done.
Would there have not been this story had someone thought of reaching out to him sooner? There had to have been opportunities.
I am not making excuses for Frank’s behavior. I am not a professional counselor who has any clue why some people can deal with anger better than others. I have experienced being dismissed with a wave of the hand and have seen friends and co-workers treated the same. I have seen co-workers verbally attacked when they have had no cause being treated in that manner. The only conclusion I can derive is my theory anger is a cover story. A cover story for fear. Fear of the unknown. Fear we are not being heard or of no consequence. A fear of not being in control and no idea of how to get it.
How many times have you let your anger show through words and action, later followed by regrets, but had no explanation for your lack of control. You needed someone to hear you. Take you seriously. And offer the right response. The more you don’t get the right feedback, the more the anger builds; each of us with a different threshold.
“Anybody can become angry – that is easy, but to be angry with the right person and to the right degree and at the right time and for the right purpose, and in the right way – that is not within everybody’s power and is not easy.” ~ Aristotle