Monday, December 7, 2015

What Do the Root Cause of Gun Violence and its Solution Have in Common? One Word: ENOUGH

Banner design a collaboration of Laurie McCammon, Ann Smith and her grandson Sacha

It’s on everyone’s lips these days: Why do such horrible mass shootings keep happening? What can we do about it?  

We assume that fixing the world has to be overwhelmingly complex, otherwise we would have fixed it by now.  Too much damage has been done.  We don’t have enough time, money, will, or genius to change the mega trends destroying our world. Humans aren’t capable of changing or rallying together fast enough.  But what if these are only true because we insist on focusing on symptoms rather than on root cause?  

Through three years of research for my book, Enough!  I discovered that humanity’s skewed orientation toward the word “enough” was responsible at a hidden root cause level for most of what we do not want, including scarcity itself.  Here’s what I learned:

                 1.       Even when we use the word “enough” we are more likely to actually
                experience feelings of deficit associated with “never enough.”  

Enough is such a commonly used word that it has an effect on every aspect our lives, whether our self-concept (Am I enough?), relationships (Does he love me enough?), career (There are never enough jobs.), money (How do I get enough, have enough or keep enough?), business, education, politics, and so on.  Our current global culture reinforces the idea that there is not enough and we are not enough – ever.  If we were perceiving “enough” evenly, the word would just as likely generate feelings and actions associated with satisfaction and abundance as fear and lack.  What we tend to see culturally, however, is that scarcity mentality has become an overarching lens of lack through which we interpret the entire world, including ourselves.   We perceive a world in which we are under constant threat of either not having enough or of losing what little we do have.  If we chase to its root each social ill whether terrorism, gun violence, economic insecurity, addiction, climate change, disease, corruption or debt, I believe we find an underlying core belief that we are not enough and do not have enough  - and never will.

2.        Never Enough physiologically distorts our ability to perceive accurately, selecting for the least sophisticated behaviors available to us.  

Never Enough has a cascade effect on our emotions and behaviors: anger that breeds violence; fear and stress that disempower us; deep insecurity and paranoia that lead to greed, aggression, revenge and tribalism.  It is not a far leap to see how any of these paths could lead to gun violence. 
Brain science tells us that when we feel we are under imminent threat, we tend to revert to the most primitive, "reptilian"parts of the brain, the brain stem and cerebellum which are responsible for quick, and usually polarized decision-making and actions known as “fight or flight.”   We become susceptible to leaders who offer simplistic answers and either-or arguments to further polarize people and issues.  When in scarcity mode, we are less likely to access the more sophisticated reasoning capabilities of the neocortex.  We are fooled into thinking that fast and decisive action are better at ensuring our safety than careful consideration, negotiation, fact-finding, collaboration and listening.   
But the neocortex is what distinguishes us as human.  It is responsible for language, abstract thought, imagination, and consciousness.  We should be highly suspicious of any cultural norm  which causes us to be less than we truly are – less curious, less conscious, less imaginative, less in control of our destinies.  Anything that halts consciousness cannot be part of a viable future.  

3.       Enough is the cure to eliminating every social ill.

What surprised me most while researching for the book was that the shift from Never Enough to Enough is already abundantly evidenced in our world,  in the sharing economy, green solutions, technological advances, new sciences, and in spiritual and storytelling wisdom traditions from all over the world.  You start to notice how a belief in Enough leads to better outcomes: innovation, healing, connection, peace, understanding, compassion, creativity, engagement, genius, resilience and yes, even joy.  Whereas the idea of Never Enough causes us to feel fearful, we become more open, trusting, alive and daring when we believe we are enough.  We ask more questions and seek to understand complexity and nuance. We grow in compassion and wisdom.  We feel compelled to speak up for truth and justice. We occupy our more of our brains and hearts, and by doing so, become bigger and more powerful than we have ever been.

4.        Humanity is the last to know the universe is telling an “Enough” Story.

What does the nature of Earth and the universe have to tell us about Enough and Never Enough?  No creature, no living being or system has ever prevailed by adopting a Never Enough strategy.  Every ecosystem we know of is instead an intimately interdependent delivery system of Enough for all, forever.  I take this to mean that humans, as part of nature, are actually Enough creatures by design. Our DNA contains instructions for how to co-create an Enough world.  We’ve simply forgotten.  We’ve spent too many generations locked in the reptilian brain, too used to the norms, rules and structures that have kept us tightly focused on scarcity, devoid of heart and connection. In such a culture, the anguish which would allow a human being to commit mass murder indicates alienation from one’s own divine enoughness.  

The symbol of the anti-gun movement is the hashtag  #ENOUGH.  Let’s make sure we consciously shift the rage, blame and indignation inherent in the old version of  “Enough is enough!” into the more empowering  “We are enough!” and “We have enough!” of today.  Enough attracts and creates enough while a “war against” always engages us in more war.    I vote for a world in which we and future generations know we are enough, where we feel seen and know we are precious and essential, where we no longer need to hurt others in order to assuage our own deep hurt.  

How about you? Do you see the connections between enough as a root cause and a solution? Share your stories on my Facebook or Twitter

To learn more about Laurie McCammon's upcoming book (April, 2016), Enough! How to Liberate Yourself and Remake the World with Just One Word, go to

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