I believe in the past year or year and a half I’ve read three stories about teenagers who have killed because they want to see what it feels like, if they’d feel anything, or to prove they wouldn’t feel anything. Most recently, a teenager says he watched a Halloween movie remake and thought he’d feel like Michael Myers – killing without any feeling or reaction. When it came time to kill, he did it. In fact, he killed two people: his mom and sister. It sounds like he was consumed by the idea of killing, and paced around considering it and being overwhelmed by not doing it. Then he did it frantically. Almost as if he was trying to get it over with so he wouldn’t have to think about it anymore. How we’d compare standing at the top of a high dive or staring down a hillbilly hooker shot. Just do it so it’s over with!
However, after he “killed” his sister, then his mom, he came back to find his sister still alive and apologized to her for being in so much pain and shot her again, then shot his mom again to be sure she was dead. In fact, he chose to kill them with a gun as opposed to the original weapon of choice, a knife, in order to make the killing faster and less painful.
Clearly he was thinking logically and knew exactly what he was doing. The act was pre-meditated. And obviously there’s something wrong here. And no, it’s not the guns. Or the movies.
The strange thing, to me, is how these teenagers seem to feel void of emotions. I remember high school (and college) as the time in my life when I felt most alive. I was finally tasting freedom, really discovering and accepting who I am, finally making bonds with friends that seemed deep and meaningful, having real crushes on boys and finding things I was both talented at and passionate for. Were there times life was so overwhelming I didn’t think I could take it anymore? Yes. There were lots of spontaeous tears. In fact, I think my junior year of high school I cried more than I have the whole of my existance since! But those feelings and emotions were real and raw and I wasn’t embarrassed to feel them. And if I had been, there were so many emotions flooding over me, I don’t know how I coudln’t! The last thing I wanted was to GIVE myself feelings or test the waters of how I’d feel by introducing something else.
This feeling of being dead inside or being void of emotion seems to be tied to a lot of medications now. Specifically, I know bipolar medications make people feel like nothing gives them a reaction. And many anti-depressants seem to do something similar, “Sure, I’m not sad anymore, but I also feel like I’m never REALLY happy. I’m not so overwhelmed by sadness that by comparison, I feel happy. But sometimes I just want to FEEL everything.” I can imagine how frustrating it is to never feel happy. But also how frustrating it would be to not feel sad. If a moment is sad and you know you’re sad but can’t FEEL it? I’ve had moments both ways where I know I should be happy, but I can’t be happy (normally because something else is going on that’s bumming me out – so normal), but I’ve also had events where I know I should be sad, but I simply am not. Sometimes I feel like this comes from anxiety and pressures of everyday life. Other times I think it’s because we’re desensitized to everything becuase of social media and being buried in story after story of heartbreak, or even happiness. I also think that comes a little from sad emotions being tied to “weak women” so I have had to push those feelings down, mostly at work, and my body’s natural response is to not react anymore. Don’t show your cards and don’t show a reaction to anyone. It’s safer that way.
So I realize there’s a lot of that going on. That said, I never felt like that at seventeen. In fact, I didn’t have that much social expections pushed on me. I had a pretty average upbringing too. Small town, middle America, middle class. Same as most of these kids. And I’ve never chased something this big, and I wonder if there’s any type of correlation to between medications so readily prescribed now. Medications to keep over-active kids less-active. Medications to make people feel good all the time, even though happiness is and should be fleeting. If you’re happy all the time, it’s just “normal.” And when things happen to make you happy, you wouldn’t even register or appreciate them. Same thing with being sad. Being sad sucks. And no one should be constantly sad. But being sad helps me appreciate being happy. And I also never get in a bout of sadness I feel like is infinite.
I guess the concern is in an attempt to make everything in this life easier, more accesible, more approachable, we’re also turning off the ups and downs of life we’re meant to feel. A lot of times with drugs. Somewhat with social expectations and steroetypes of what’s weak.
But I think someone saying they don’t feel anything is a huge red flag. I hope to never be void of emotion. What’s the point of living without the thrill of happiness, or the potential for heartbreak to be just around the corner? To me, there’s not much point. And maybe that’s what these teenagers feel, too. Or don’t feel. Which means it’s not surprising they figure, “Why not?”