“You must unlearn what you have learned.” -Yoda

A few weeks ago I spoke with a man who mentioned that he had just seen Ray Rice at a football game.  He referred to him as “Ray-Ray” and spoke about him in a very endearing manner.  You remember, Ray, don’t you?  He’s the former NFL player, who fell from grace after he knocked out his fiancé in an elevator at Revel in Atlantic City.  Many out there have expressed contempt with Ray after seeing the video showing his violent act.  I do not think Ray is a monster, but after TMZ released a video of his violent act, that’s pretty much what many chose to label him.I prefer not to judge but look to attempt to understand.

As we watch the NFL on Sundays, and we learn more about concussion related injuries and how they might affect those who participate in the game of football, do we take a moment to consider the residual affects of the traumatic brain injuries and how they might have impacted players? Heaven forbid we look to find a plausible explanation for the violent actions, that might offer something other than the man’s an a**hole because then it might seem that we are excusing the actions.  Yet, understanding one’s behavior does not mean it’s excusable.  However, if we do not look to understand, we will get nowhere in the battle against domestic violence.  Looking at the variables that can cause one to commit domestic violence, including traumatic brain injuries, misuse of anabolic steroids, learned behavior and or biological elements is very important.  It’s not good to simply label someone a monster and shun that person into the shadows and pretend it never happened.  In fact, perhaps it’s better to talk about what happened in an intelligent forum, maybe even at Rutgers where it’s very likely that they have classes about this very matter. Taking down posters of Ray on campus is not going to make domestic violence go away.  Listening to Ray speak about the matter, and learning about the variables that caused him to behave violently might help so many understand they are not alone when they feel rage.

This past weekend I had an argument with my son.  I raised my voice and he walked out of the apartment.  The argument started when I noticed that he was taking things out of his room and placing them in other areas of the apartment.  I had placed these things in his room when he had moved into his dorm at school knowing that he would not be using his room.  He came home for Thanksgiving and became frustrated by the cluttered manner he found his room.  One thing leads to another and soon we were engaged in an argument and I was angry.  I was angry that he was placing things in random spots all over our home.  He was angry that his room was being used as a storage room.  What if someone heard us arguing?  Well, actually they would not have heard us arguing because my son remained silent and walked out of our home the moment I raised my voice.  That’s because when he was young I always told him anytime you find yourself in a situation where things get heated, walk away even if it’s me who is upset.  Never strike a woman and always leave until things calm down because cooler heads prevail.  I am so happy to see my son listened and works at controlling his emotions in an intelligent manner.  Why is he able to do this and some are not?  Could it be that everyone is able to but choose otherwise?  What do our schools teach students about the art of self-restraint?  Do parents have a greater influence?

What do you think it was that might have caused Ray Rice to lack the self-restraint to walk away when he was frustrated by something that his partner had done?  Maybe his behavior had nothing to do with brain trauma brought on by concussion related injuries.  Maybe his rational thought processing might have been impaired by due to the hard liquor he had consumed.  Or maybe he was raised in a world where he was never taught the art of self-restraint.  Given what he has learned from the programs involved in the Pre-Trial Intervention program he was fortunate enough to receive in lieu of a more severe punishment, what are the odds that Ray Rice would act violently toward his intimate partner ever again?  I’m going to say, “Take the under.” You see sometimes our criminal justice system gets it right.

I was never so proud of my son than when I watched him walk out the door this past weekend.  I felt badly that I had not cleared the items I was storing out of his room but I also felt he could have waited before moving them.  Had he simply asked me I would have helped him clear the things out and we could have placed them up in the attic.  Sometimes the simplest things are not always so simple at the time and we all get frustrated.  When the frustration is not dealt with in a way where we are free to express our feelings, it can lead to anger.  All kidding aside, eating Snickers might help but odds are it’s going to take more than that to resolve most matters.

When my son was younger he suffered a traumatic brain injury and doctors were monitoring his behavior as he got older to see how the injury might have impaired his ability to be a good citizen.  I learned so much about the way the brain works and how injuries to the brain can impair one’s ability to reason.  When my son was in the first grade he was frustrated by the way he was being treated by one of the other kids at school.  I remember someone saying to him that he should just go punch the kid in the face, and I did my best to explain to him that although I understood the desire to do that, there might be other ways to deal with the problem.  I remember giving him a pillow and telling him to act like the pillow was the kid who was bullying him.  To my surprise, my son beat on the pillow to a point that was almost scary.  I realized that my son had pent up anger and that his anger was at the point that it was on the verge of rage.  I explained to my son, after he took his frustrations out on the pillow, that the pillow was just a thing and although it was unfortunate that we might have to replace the pillow, people can never be replaced.  I did my best to tell him that when he gets frustrated he needs to try to recognize this frustration, and use appropriate methods for seeking to remedy whatever the problem is that needs fixing.  When it came to dealing with a bully at school, perhaps there were ways he could address the problem without using his fists.  We discussed what those might be.

I can also recall standing in a classroom one time when I was substitute teaching for a first grade class.  There was a student who was visibly angry and upset.  His face was red as he shared that he did not have anything to show for “Show and Tell.” A young girl raised her hand to tell me that every time she walked by this particular student [the one with the red face] he tripped her and she did not like the boy.  I recall how I carefully responding by telling the young girl that although it was not okay for anyone to trip her, that perhaps there might be alternative routes to take when the one you tend to take is problematic.  It’s not that it was okay for the boy to trip her but I wanted the young girl to know that she had a choice to avoid the problem, as well.