Guest column by David Cuellar on ‘Talkin’ ’bout my generation’

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Consider this an intellectual shooting spree. While I appreciate cynicism and misanthropy, as much as one can without transforming into a Carlin-esque curmudgeon, and largely agree with you, your inflammatory characterization of the rampaging “last winners” grossly oversimplifies a very complex issue while obfuscating every possible solution.  

There are have been mass shootings lately, and they have been perpetrated by relatively young individuals. You made the correct observation. Although, your belittling of the role mental illness plays in these tragedies exemplifies irrationality par excellence. I am highly skeptical of the notion that parenting styles can overwhelm cognitive distortions or biochemical propensities for mental illness. If someone suffers from a mental illness, they will respond to losing differently than their “healthy” counterparts. Cognitive distortions derive their name from the effect they have on cognitive processes. They distort them. A healthy child might lose a competition and be upset, but it won’t haunt them because they do not derive their value from the outcome of that event. However, a child with a propensity for mental illness might magnify the importance of the competition to the extent that their identity is tied closely to the outcome. Losing, then, comes to identify the child in his or her mind.

Now, take off your riding boots, get off your high horse, wade through the vitriol you’ve spewed, and put yourself in the shoes of such a child, an awkward, reserved child who can’t help but view the world through a fun-house mirror that magnifies flaws and extrapolates them to a comprehensive worldview. Every loss, every failure, and every disappointment represents an attack against their being. Next time you fail, tell yourself “you are the failure and disappointment of the world concentrated in one human being.” Then, take the way you feel, and imagine that happening every single day.  

How exactly can someone who lives in a distorted, not necessarily candy-coated, reality come to healthy conclusions after failure? How can parental exposure to failure help children who deal with cognitive distortions or mental illness cope with failure when each exposure triggers a psychological crisis? It can’t. Letting a child lose or fail won’t fix chemical imbalances. It won’t fix cognitive distortions. It most definitely will not turn the child into the embodiment of perseverance.  You essentially advocate the Spartan approach to child psychology: test the child’s response to the cruel world and act accordingly. Do you know what happened to the weak Spartan children? The Spartans threw the frail children into a chasm on Mount Taygetus. In modern times, that chasm is a life of poverty, incarceration, and probably suicide. “Susie Sympson, adjunct professor, Psychology, said, ‘the majority of our homeless people are mentally ill’” (Parton 8). She continued, “the number of mentally ill in jails is super high. We don’t have the services, we don’t pay attention to the things that we can do,’” (Parton 8).  Demonizing the mentally ill will not fix the problem.

I’m not an expert in child psychology; I’m not an expert on much of anything, really. However, there is no one factor that causes rampages. In fact, “Brad Redburn, chair, Psychology, said that psychologists have yet to discover a link in behavior between violent killers,” (Parton 8). A sense of entitlement may be a part of rampages, but Redburn concludes, “these seem to happen under exceptional circumstances,” (Parton 8). Your equivocation of the roles that minor inconveniences and severe psychological trauma play in the motives of mass killers only stigmatizes the mentally ill. Portraying the mentally ill as people who will “snap” because of a failed test, employment difficulties, and financial woes only decreases the probability that they will seek help or talk to anyone about their problems, which increases the probability of their struggles to become overwhelming.

Despite this, I think you are correct in a sense; feelings of entitlement, whininess, and outright narcissism are problematic, but they constitute a minor, and easily resolved, annoyance when compared to the ongoing mental health crisis. (I call it a crisis because the lack of mental health solutions deeply affects many.) Parents should let their children fail at times. However, this character building should not supplant a genuine concern for mental health.

Regards,

David Cuellar, student

Work Cited

Parton, Jon “Alone, Fearful, Desperate: The Psychology of a Troubled Mind.” The Campus Ledger [Overland Park, KS] 6 Sept., 2012, Print.

 

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