As information becomes available about the shooter who killed 17 people at the Stoneman Douglas High School in Florida, I’ve been listening out for clues that could reveal Nikolas Cruz’s craving for connection and belonging – When an individual’s need for connection and belonging ARE being met, they’re exceedingly UNLIKELY to harm themselves, or any other person, intentionally, and when these needs are not being met, humans tend to act ‘erratically’.

As someone estranged from his biological parents, Cruz was predisposed to manifest symptoms that would indicate a craving for connection and belonging (parents who adopt, need to overcome immense connectivity challenges). Cruz was, apparently, particularly unhappy with his life and was so emotionally-distressed and reactive that police were regularly dispatched to his home in an effort to address his unmanageable and chaotic behaviour.
According to press reports:

  • One student told The New York Times Nikolas Cruz was abusive towards his ex-girlfriend, and was expelled after getting in a fight with her new boyfriend.
  • Cruz’s former math teacher told the Times that he was taken with another student to the point of stalking her.

Viewed through a “Lens of Connectivity and Belonging”, these examples strongly suggests an attempt to secure or to restore lost Connection and the Feeling of Belonging (to a couple).

Cruz’s participation in online groups discussing violence and terror can be understood to indicate a desire for belonging (outside of the mainstream, since his anti-social behaviour apparently disqualified him from belonging to more mainstream groups).

Based on my research into Behavioural Loop Patterns, I believe that the magnitude of pain that a person experiences as the result of acute isolation and social exclusion is equal in intensity to the pain that one might experience while having one’s wisdom teeth extracted without anaesthesia, though there is an important difference: The pain caused by a dental procedure eventually subsides, while the pain of acute isolation and social exclusion tend to persist until Loving-Connection is achieved. Sadly, that pain returns as soon as Loving-Connection becomes threatened or lost.

Communities that commit to emphasising Connection and Belonging, by identifying and discouraging disconnective patterns of interaction, are able to immunise themselves against the harmful effects of acute isolation and social exclusion.

To do so the community needs to:

  1. Establish policies that discourage the expression of criticism, sarcasm, blame, aggression, rejection, abandonment, projection of judgements, passive-aggression, ghosting, disappearing, deception, lying, ignoring and hiding.
  2. Train adult and youth mentors in the ‘art’ of Secure and Unconditional Acceptance and Loving
  3. Allocate resources to addressing Internal Distress through Community, Connection and Secure Loving (Creating ‘Centers of Love and Connection’ that are accessible to anyone who is experiencing emotional distress, for example)
  4. Reframe the expression of criticism, sarcasm, blame, aggression, rejection, abandonment, projection of judgements, passive-aggression, ghosting, disappearing, deception, lying, ignoring and hiding in terms of Inner Distress

It takes roughly three years for the effects of such a program to propagate through a community. Those exposed to it are much less likely to harm others, to require medication for anxiety or depression, to depend on compulsive behaviours or substances to manage the pain of (existing or anticipated) isolation and alienation, or to harm themselves in any way.

This straightforward and simple approach to the creation of Peace and Harmony would liberate considerable human and financial resources, making these available for identifying and assisting those facing the greatest challenges, before they reach a point of expressing their pain by planning, organising and committing a massacre.

According to Everytown for Gun Safety, the Stoneman Douglas attack was the 18th school shooting this year, which means that there’s been a school shooting on average every 60 hours, in the USA, so far this year. This trend will continue as long as ‘we’ allow it to.

If you’d like to know more about immunising communities against violence and emotional distress then please take advantage of the following resources: