Mind Matters


My dilemma for this week: write about violent acts to dogs
or to people? Or maybe not write about violence and cruelty at all. After all,
despite the daily reports of horrific acts of domestic abuse, urban violence,
international wars and bombings, most of us manage to put one foot in front of
the other without demolishing each other.

So, given how many billions of us there are, isn’t it
remarkable that we have not blown ourselves off the face of the earth already.
(Assuredly there are enough weapons of mass destruction lying around just in
the US alone to do the job.) That said: that we, in the main, feed our good
nature rather than our basest possibilities, I will now proceed to explore
violent behaviors to both animals and humans because these behaviors are
inherently connected.

Last week there was much dismay about two dogs who were, it
appears, executed. Upon reading about this, my first reaction was that this
didn’t sound so much like an act of sadistic and wanton behavior as it was
perhaps an angry vendetta against the dog owner for some “reason” or grievance,
in other words, a deplorable act, but with a motive. Now—please—I have no shred
of evidence; I merely speculate. (However, I also had a hunch several months
ago about the mother who claimed she was kidnapped and said she was calling
from her cell phone while trapped in the trunk of a car. I don't recall all the
details about her, her child, and her fictitious African-American abductors.
However, I do remember in reading this story that my antennae went wonkers
with, “Lady, you lie, this is a major hoax.” Sure enough, she was lying and it
was a hoax.)

Actually, I do hope my hunch about the dogs’ deaths is
accurate because I believe the alternative could depict a far darker
possibility. Sadistic and cruel treatment of animals, just for the warped
pleasure of it, can precede violence against humans. Such serial animal abuse
can be a precursor: Jeffrey Dahmer supposedly inflicted cruelty upon animals
before he went on to his human victims.

I recall many years ago (not here) seeing an adolescent for
therapy. The hair on the nape of my neck stood up when he began to talk about
what he did to animals. Soon after, I moved out of the area and did not hear
anymore about the outcome of this sad teen. But he certainly aroused concern in
me about what he would have been capable of.

So my concern regarding violence against animals has a
larger context. That is, what does it portend regarding violence against
humanity. Furthermore, there is a bitter irony. We need to take note that there
were laws against abuse and cruelty to animals long before there were any laws
against abuse to children. Our culture still can have a skewed sense of
priority. Yes, we need to see the interconnection of all life.

However, that interconnection does not only mean concern for
pets in the neighborhood, but also for the children who die hungry every day, a
seeming world away. Before I had children over thirty years ago, my dogs were
my children. Giving birth, my priorities changed.

Perhaps we need to put this shocking incident in
perspective. While deploring such a violent act against two pets, we also need
to deplore violence in all its forms and where ever it occurs.

* Kayta Curzie Gajdos holds a doctorate in counseling
psychology and is in private practice in Chadds Ford, Pennsylvania. She
welcomes comments at MindMatters@DrGajdos.com
or (610)388-2888. Past columns are posted to http://www.DrGajdos.com/Articles.

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About Kayta Gajdos

Dr. Kathleen Curzie Gajdos ("Kayta") is a licensed psychologist (Pennsylvania and Delaware) who has worked with individuals, couples, and families with a spectrum of problems. She has experience and training in the fields of alcohol and drug addictions, hypnosis, family therapy, Jungian theory, Gestalt therapy, EMDR, and bereavement. Dr. Gajdos developed a private practice in the Pittsburgh area, and was affiliated with the Family Therapy Institute of Western Psychiatric Institute and Clinic, having written numerous articles for the Family Therapy Newsletter there. She has published in the American Psychological Association Bulletin, the Family Psychologist, and in the Swedenborgian publications, Chrysalis and The Messenger. Dr. Gajdos has taught at the college level, most recently for West Chester University and Wilmington College, and has served as field faculty for Vermont College of Norwich University the Union Institute's Center for Distance Learning, Cincinnati, Ohio. She has also served as consulting psychologist to the Irene Stacy Community MH/MR Center in Western Pennsylvania where she supervised psychologists in training. Currently active in disaster relief, Dr. Gajdos serves with the American Red Cross and participated in Hurricane Katrina relief efforts as a member of teams from the Department of Health and Human Services' Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.Now living in Chadds Ford, in the Brandywine Valley of eastern Pennsylvania, Dr. Gajdos combines her private practice working with individuals, couples and families, with leading workshops on such topics as grief and healing, the impact of multigenerational grief and trauma shame, the shadow and self, Women Who Run with the Wolves, motherless daughters, and mediation and relaxation. Each year at Temenos Retreat Center in West Chester, PA she leads a griefs of birthing ritual for those who have suffered losses of procreation (abortions, miscarriages, infertility, etc.); she also holds yearly A Day of Re-Collection at Temenos.Dr. Gajdos holds Master's degrees in both philosophy and clinical psychology and received her Ph.D. in counseling at the University of Pittsburgh. Among her professional affiliations, she includes having been a founding member and board member of the C.G. Jung Educational Center of Pittsburgh, as well as being listed in Who's Who of American Women. Currently, she is a member of the American Psychological Association, The Pennsylvania Psychological Association, the Delaware Psychological Association, the American Family Therapy Academy, The Association for Death Education and Counseling, and the Delaware County Mental Health and Mental Retardation Board. Woven into her professional career are Dr. Gajdos' pursuits of dancing, singing, and writing poetry.

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