The shooting spree outside the Empire State Building this morning reminds me of the mind-numbing fear I used to carry inside me every day — the feelings of dread that kept me indoors, away from the life I should have been living. It also reminds me of some critical lessons I’ve learned from my experiences.
As CNN reported news that Jeffrey Johnson, 58, had opened fire on a former co-worker and police outside the NYC landmark, I remembered:
- The fear that if I stuck around in public places long enough, something tragic would happen to me and/or those I care for.
- The fear that if beaten down on the job long enough, I’d lose all self control and turn on a boss.
The latter is what apparently happened today. According to reports, Johnson was apparently fired from his job as a designer of women’s accessories at Hazan Imports last year, and the 41-year-old man he shot to death may have been his former boss. Several people were injured in the crossfire before police shot Johnson dead.
Big crowds used to scare me senseless. I’d worry that if some crazy bastard came around the corner with a knife or a shotgun, I’d be trapped in the human traffic jam. I’d really freak out if I got lost in the crowd with no clue as to where I was or how to get back to familiar roads and neighborhoods. These feelings intensified after 9/11.
I also used to carry around a lot of bottled-up rage, especially over work situations. In one job I was trapped under a micro-managing viper who would blame you for everything that went wrong and take all the credit for things that went right. I can’t say I ever daydreamed about killing the man. I’ve always been either too law-abiding or too chicken for that. But I definitely dreamed up scenarios where I got to administer the beating I felt he so richly deserved.
Fortunately, I outgrew those emotions. Therapy and medication helped, but my deepening faith in God was the real game changer. I choose to worry less about other people’s motives and attitudes and focus on keeping my own in check instead.
I think the bad wiring that sent Johnson on the warpath is in all of us. It lies dormant until traumatic experiences, like getting fired, bring it to the surface and severs the rest of the brain from the part that powers our self-control.
I’m thankful that I have my own self-awareness today. I pray that you have your own awareness and that it keeps you from a tragic loss of control in the future.
Photo by SEAN SENATORE, New York Daily News