Thursday, November 12, 2009

It came out in the news yesterday or the day before that Major Nidal Hasan's lawyer plans to cite Major Hasan's mental health as an issue in his violent outbreak a week ago today. One of the questions that has loomed in our heads since that fateful afternoon is, "How can a mental health professional, a psychiatrist, do something so insane?" Apparently his lawyer agrees that this is at issue.

One answer I heard was easy: "All mental health professionals are just crazies, anyway, crazy people trying to feel better about themselves. None of them are to be trusted."

On the other hand, having a therapist was so common in New York City in the 90's that it became a household joke. You had a lawyer, you had a doctor, and you had a therapist!

So what gives?

I read a book several years back about marriage by a marriage therapist and family counselor. Marriage is in its most basic form a form of insanity. You choose to live with someone who sees the world differently, responds to stimuli differently, is cast in society differently, smells and looks differently...who in their right mind would try to create the world's most intimate relationship with someone so strange? The answer this book gives is, I believe, quite insightful. His studies show that we tend to choose a marriage partner who is most like the parent with whom we had the most a hidden desire for redemption. Maybe we can do it better this time. Maybe with this person we can work out the kinks in the system and get along.

So yes, many mental health professionals go into the field in an attempt to find health themselves. Many people go into the helping professions in order to redeem their own need for help. Many people go into the ministry in order to learn how to pray.

Perhaps it's supposed to be that way. After all, we're driven by what most galvanizes our attention, and a kink in our soul is a primary candidate. Truth is, none of us is perfect, all of us have strengths and weaknesses, and the line between the two is often a very thin one. Perhaps redemption is possible after all, if we just face our fears and discover there our greatest gifts.

So is Major Hasan crazy? Sure he is, just like you and me. Does he deserve to be let off the hook for that? Absolutely not, just like you and me. Should he grow through this to become a more compassionate and wiser person? No question about it, just like you and me.

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