At first I thought the Mom from Moms Demand Action was just being a bitch. When I asked her politely if we could talk for a moment she point blank refused. Tersely. Aggressively. She wouldn’t even tell me her name. This after spending twenty-minutes hanging around with an Al-Jezeera reporter at the back of the crowd at the Alamo gun rights rally, and another ten minutes answering questions on camera for a nationwide TV audience. Checking her dilated pupils and remembering her extremely stilted performance in front of the camera, I backed off . . .
When she unknowingly dropped a paper on the ground, I slowly moved forward, picked it up and handed it to her. This minor act of gallantry had the expected but nonetheless welcome effect.
“Can I talk to you as a person?” she asked a few moments later, approaching in a couple of quick steps.
“I’m a person,” I assured her.
“Do you understand why I’m frightened?” she asked, glancing furtively at the crowd of gun-toting Americans assembled in front of the Alamo.
“There’s nothing to be afraid of,” I said. “These are peaceful people.”
“Do you understand?” she repeated, pleadingly.
I understood. She had a phobia.
A phobia is what I call an inappropriate survival response. A great landing at the wrong airport. The right reaction to the wrong stimulus. Think of it this way . . .
If the people gathering for gun rights in the Texas sun had been a pride of hungry lions, Mom’s cold hands, rapid breathing, rapid heartbeat, dilated pupils, aggression and inability to speak or think clearly would have been a normal, natural response; fight, flight or freeze. An adrenalin dump prepares the individual to run away, fight the threat and/or freeze to avoid the attention of a potential predator.
By the same token, if the Alamo gun rights rally had been a conclave of neo-Nazis readying to rape and kill left-leaning Moms, all Mom’s mental, physical and emotional symptoms would have been fully justified. If the crowd was comprised of mentally unhinged psycho killers moments away from spraying the plaza with lead, again, no one could blame her Mom for being scared witless.
But they were none of these things. The men and woman at the rally were law-abiding Americans assembling peacefully to assert their natural, civil and Constitutionally protected right to keep and bear arms. Yes, they were armed. But no, they weren’t a threat to the MDA spokeswoman or, for that matter, anyone else. Which makes Mom a hoplophobe.
File this under What A Long Strange Trip It’s Been: I was a professional hypnotist for more than a decade. During that time, I cured thousands of phobics (and established The Friendly Spider Program at the London Zoo). If there’s one thing I learned about phobics it’s this: you can’t talk them out of it.
In the same way that you can’t convince an arachnophobe that spiders are shy creatures whose existence is key to our species’ survival you can’t tell a hoplophobe that more guns equal less crime. Even if they accept the idea on a rational basis, the fear remains, buried deep in their subconscious mind. Better to kill all spiders, or disarm all civilians, than cure the phobia. Because it can’t be done.
Or so they believe. They’ve tried. And failed. And so some phobics surrender themselves to their inappropriate survival response. They kill all spiders. They work for civilian disarmament. Some even band together to figure out ways to spider-proof their world or disarm all civilians. They become “invested” in their fear.
“Do you understand why I’m scared?” is another way of asking “Why the hell aren’t you scared?” Is an arachnophobe antagonistic towards someone who keeps tarantulas as pets or works to preserve spider habitats? You bet they are. Are gun control advocates antagonistic towards people who want to keep and bear arms, especially in public? Yup.
The obvious question: how do you cure a hoplophobe?
Luckily, phobics are naturally hypnotic. That’s how they got their irrational fear in the first place. At some point in their life, they were in a naturally occurring trance state. Someone or something made a subconscious stimulus => response connection between guns and life-threatening danger. So “all” you have to do to cure them of their hoplophobia is put them back in a trance state and “re-program” their subconscious mind to eliminate or replace the fear.
Unfortunately, a gun control advocate is unlikely to submit to a pro-gun hypnotist’s expert treatment. But there is an answer that we’ve discussed here before: take the hoplohobic gun control advocate to the range.
Their reaction will be the same as the one experienced by the San Antonio Action-Demanding Mom. Fear. Extreme fear. That’s a good thing not a bad thing. Extreme fear puts the phobic in a natural trance state. At that point they’re extremely susceptible to new stimulus => response patterns.
At that point they want an alpha to take control. Why else would gun-hating, RF-averse Mom approach me? She wanted me to understand. But more than that she wanted help. She’ll deny it, of course. She’ll rationalize the exchange. She’ll insist that’s not the way it happened. She may even become angry at the suggestion. So be it.
But I think this particular Action-demanding Mom does want to change. After all, she left the confines of the nice safe MDA get-together on the other side of town to stand in front of 600 or so people carrying guns. Her worst fear. By doing so, she may have cured herself of her hoplophobia. Well, with a little help. Because of the circumstances, the phrase “These are peaceful people” may resonate in ways she may eventually appreciate.
Will she remember the Alamo? I don’t know. But I will. I will remember it as the place where two worlds collided, and no one got hurt.