Why Do People Kill Other People
“When someone kills another person, it’s usually out of a deep sense of rage or frustration. Sometimes, however, these killers are not acting with premeditation. They simply snap under extreme stress. Perhaps they’re suffering an untreated illness like bipolar disorder. Or perhaps they’ve been abandoned by society. Such was the case in 2005 when 17-year-old Austin Siggard killed his 19-year-old girlfriend Jennifer Schulte during a fight at her family’s home. He’d recently dropped out of school and had no stable job. “”He said he wanted to get back into school,”” Schulte’s father told police after she died, “”but he didn’t have any money for books.”” And then there are cases where people kill because they feel trapped. In 2003, David Warren stabbed his wife 27 times and shot her two sons once each as they slept. The next year, he killed himself. These are just three examples of why people kill other people. There were also many more who committed suicide than homicide — in fact, according to one study, nearly 80 percent of those who commit suicide are depressed. But what causes depression? Is it genetic? How do you stop yourself from committing murder?
In order to understand why people kill others, it helps to look at ourselves first. Why do we hate so much? Why do we hurt so much? What makes us angry? It turns out that humans aren’t rational beings; we can’t help but be emotional creatures. We’re ruled by instinct and hormones. Our brains contain millions of neurons and synapses, which connect to form neural pathways. When something happens that triggers a memory, a chemical reaction starts within us. Neurons fire off messages along these pathways and create physical reactions in our bodies. While we may think our emotions are controlled by reason, scientists have found that the brain actually has little control over them.
Let’s say you see your friend holding hands with another guy. You’re jealous, so you decide to beat up your friend. First, you grab him and hit him hard enough to make him fall down. Then, you kick him while he’s lying on the ground. As soon as you finish kicking him, though, you realize what you’ve done. Your friend could end up paralyzed or even die. So you go through with it anyway. Next time, when you come across your friend with the other guy, you want revenge. Instead of trying to punch him, though, you try to choke him. After choking him for a few seconds, you let him go. Now you’re feeling guilty.
If you asked yourself why you attacked your friend in the first place, you probably would have answered that you felt threatened. If you looked deeper, you might find that your jealousy started long before the event occurred. For instance, if you saw your friend with a new boyfriend, you might experience feelings of insecurity. On the surface, you might feel relieved that your friend isn’t dating anymore. However, underneath, you start to worry that someday he’ll find someone else. Maybe you don’t want to lose the special bond you share. Or maybe you’re afraid that your friend will leave you behind. Whatever the underlying cause, you’re likely to react negatively when you see your friend with someone new.
While we can’t completely prevent all aggressive behavior (after all, people need to compete), we can learn how to deal with it better. One technique is called cognitive restructuring. Cognitive therapy teaches patients skills to cope with negative thoughts and behaviors. Patients focus on changing the way they perceive things rather than avoiding them entirely. For example, instead of telling themselves, “”I’m too fat”” or “”I’m too lazy,”” they reframe these statements into questions. “”What does ‘too fat’ really mean?”” asks the patient. “”How am I going to get fit?”” A similar approach works with aggression. To combat jealousy, you ask yourself, “”Is this helping me to solve my problem?”” or “”Can I handle this situation differently?””
Cognitive therapy is effective for treating both depression and anxiety disorders. Research shows that cognitive therapy can reduce symptoms of depression by 50%. This means that patients who use cognitive therapy techniques can expect to show significant improvement in their overall moods. Another research study showed that cognitive therapy combined with medication treatment resulted in greater improvements compared to either treatment alone.
Self-control is key to achieving inner peace. Even if you have problems controlling your impulses, you can still choose to respond rationally instead of emotionally. Just remember, sometimes it takes longer to break bad habits than good ones. With practice, you’ll gain self-discipline and become less impulsive.
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