Dreams and Violence
Acts of violence do not just spring spontaneously from nowhere. Thoughts of attack and revenge for believed affronts often build for many years before finally finding physical expression. They come from a psyche with a dark side that reveals itself through dreams.
In my books, I mention a European study in which it was found that a higher degree of violence occurred in the dreams of people in the United States compared to those of people in certain similar highly developed nations in Europe. We cannot constantly feed our minds with thoughts of violence and expect no impact. We pattern our lives through our thoughts. That is how we create. “Entertainment” in the form of movies, TV shows, and video games is saturated with violence. I can no longer watch most movies or popular TV shows. The carnage that occurs serves no artistic purpose and is meant to shock and horrify. The producers have discovered that violence sells, so now they seek ways that are ever more bizarre to glorify violence and the slaughter of humans.
From the earliest age, children watch their superheroes act as killing machines. The answer to the world of evil is to have greater powers to destroy those of evil intent. So is it surprising that some people with feelings of persecution and a desire for revenge pick up assault weapons and become the avengers for all of the real and imagined offenses against them.
I am aware of studies that indicate there is no correlation between the violent content of video games and movies and physical violence. One argument to support this view is that entertainment in the way of movies and video games is sold internationally and not just a US phenomenon. That is certainly the case, but many years ago when I was in France, I decided to watch a movie in my hotel room. The movie was one I had seen before and I soon realized that all of the most violent parts had been edited out. So just because entertainment, at least in the case of movies, is exported widely, it does not mean the extreme violence in some of the movies remains when viewed in other countries. In the United States, movies shown on network TV have the nude scenes edited out. In Europe, I found that the opposite was the case; the nude scenes were left in and the violent ones were edited out. Obviously, these are my personal thoughts and observations; I do not have carefully conducted studies to support any general conclusions. However, I did find it very interesting as a cultural difference in the approach to violence.
There is another aspect to consider here as well. There could well be a lag effect. It took some time for the American diet to affect other countries, but we now see a growth in obesity in many other countries, especially those where American fast food has become popular. There might be a lag before we see the effect in other countries of the increase in violence in our entertainment. Of course, the ready availability of guns in the United States makes it easy for those with homicidal tendencies to actually carry out their fantasies of vengeance. In many countries, they would have a difficult time acquiring weapons for mass killings.
I believe the causes of violence we are witnessing in our society are complex. What led the German people to follow a psychopath who took the nation into ruin and was responsible for the murder of millions? Most experts on social behavior point to the humiliation of the German people after World War I and the effects of the Great Depression. The people no longer had faith in their government and wanted change. They also wanted someone to blame for their dire condition. And that blame fell on the Jews.
In this country, we are seeing a greater divide between the rich and the poor with a disappearing middle class. Many are frustrated that they are unable to participate in the benefits of technology and find themselves struggling to survive. An undercurrent of frustration has been building and those who feel neglected or ostracized by society look for people to blame. And in deranged individuals, this blame may fuel violence against those they believe are responsible for their condition.
The fast pace of life in the United States leaves many behind, and even those who are highly successful often decry the demands of keeping up with all the voicemail, email, and messages. Now, few families can relax for a quiet dinner together without constant interruptions and distractions: one or more of the family members spends the dinner hour on the phone or a computer instead of interacting with other family members. The very technology that is supposed to make our lives better is enslaving people who have become controlled by their devices. And those who don’t understand or use the new technology may feel confused and helpless, and they often find themselves relegated to lower paying jobs. I fear that in this country we have lost our connection to our inner selves and made technology the answer for everything.
Many people are worried about their second-amendment rights being violated by any change in gun laws. I wonder how many have actually read the Second Amendment to the United States Constitution. Here is what it actually says. “A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.” In this statement, I don’t see any intent of the writers of this amendment to let a psychologically disturbed person with violent tendencies obtain a weapon. When this was written on December 15, 1791, people who served in the Militia much like the National Guard today would keep weapons so they were ready if called to duty. In fact, lower courts have repeatedly found that this Second Amendment does not give someone the right to bear arms.
However, in June of 2008, the Supreme Court in a 5-4 decision ruled that it does give individuals the right to bear arms, although in the majority opinion, it was stated that this does not give someone free reign in terms of manner of carry and use. Clarification is still needed on what they consider the limitations.
In any case, I am not writing this to enter into a debate on gun rights, although I think it absurd to not have mandatory universal background checks for the purchase of guns. The issue I want to address is how we have gone from a society where murder in the schools was a rare event to what now has become commonplace. When I was growing up, I encountered some individuals who seemed quite disturbed psychologically, but I did not think any of them would murder their schoolmates. But I can also remember the teachers in elementary school constantly emphasizing the right way to treat other people and that it was wrong to engage in physical violence against another person. The heroes in the movies were not characters who could kill better, but they were ones who had a moral code and did what was right, no matter how difficult and how great the cost to them personally.
Our dreams reveal our subconscious minds and the lives that we are building from day to day. Events that occur in our lives first occur on a psychic level and they are revealed in our dreams. If you have an argument with someone, it does not just happen spontaneously as most people think. You experience that argument in your dreams at night before it ever occurs in the material world. If you don’t believe me, you should start remembering and recording your dreams. You will soon see the correspondence I am describing. Of course, it is not just an argument that is reflected in this way; it is every significant event in our lives.
If we want to change the violence we see in society, we must change what is in our minds because the violence occurs there first. Unfortunately, mental issues are often just treated by pills such as anti-anxiety medications, if treated at all. We have a broken society where many of our youth are growing up without guidance, often in households where there is no responsible adult. We are now beginning to see the real result of so many dysfunctional families and broken homes.
Society must change course to avoid disaster. The influencers that include the role models and producers of the entertainment consumed by our youth need to reassess their own values and the effects of their actions. They need to ask themselves the following: are we taking the moral low ground to only increase our wealth, or we taking the moral high ground to increase the wellbeing and mental health of our youth? The course we are currently on as a society will not end well.
We need only look at the published statistics for violence by country to see that we have a problem in the United States. The difference is not small; compared to many countries in Europe and Asia the difference is enormous. In terms of gun violence, we are not as bad as Honduras or El Salvador. But we have twenty or thirty times the rate of gun-related homicides as some countries in Europe like Germany (based on a review of multiple sources for several recent years). And we have a thousand times the rate of Japan. I find this interesting because these countries were the violent nations that brought us World War II. Perhaps their destruction taught them well that gun violence is not the answer. (The comparisons between the United States and Europe or Japan vary considerably with the year, but the conclusion is the same: we have a much higher rate of gun-related homicides and homicides overall.)
The population of Japan is about 127 million. The number of homicides in 2014 was 395 (https://knoema.com/atlas/Japan/Homicide-rate). According to a January 6, 2017 BBC report How Japan has almost eradicated gun crime by Harry Low (http://www.bbc.com/news/magazine-38365729), the number of gun-related homicides in Japan in 2014 was “six”—yes, only six. The population of the United States is about 324 million. The number of homicides in 2014 was about 12,000. The number of gun-related homicides in the United States in 2014 was about 8,000. These numbers are taken from a FBI report.
Many years ago, I was in Tokyo on business for several days. One evening I decided to take the subway to the entertainment district and explore the area. When I boarded the subway around 8:30 pm, I was quite surprised to see young children on the subway by themselves after dark. Later, I learned that Tokyo is considered a safe city. In fact, in a recent list of the safest cities in the world for 2017, The Economist ranked Tokyo as the number one safest city. No US city made the top ten.
While working in a corporate job, I made a number of business trips to Israel. I was part of a group that would meet in in the evening in the small bar/lounge of the hotel to decide where to have dinner. One evening, while waiting for the others in the group, I began to talk with a young female server who had recently finished her compulsory military service. I asked her if she had ever visited the United States. She acted surprised by my question and said, “Oh, I could never do that.” I, in turn, was surprised by her answer, so I asked, “Why not?” She said, “It is too violent there.”
If we want to understand violence in our society, we must start with ourselves. We must see how violence begins, which we can do by studying our dreams. Our dreams reveal what we really are, not what we think we are or idealize ourselves as being. What will become physical is first expressed there. The isolated acts of violence we are witnessing are a reflection of society. We cannot fill our minds with thoughts of violence through TV, movies, certain sports, and video games with no effect. We meet what we have created as individuals and as a society.