Our world is full of impulsive behavior, and it makes one think how many lives would be saved if we, the collective society, took the time to recognize the issue and create some early preventative ways to stop and learn more about it? Just about everyone has an impulsive urge from time to time, but most know how to manage it. Sadly, many don’t.
A few years ago a friend asked if I would like to accompany him on a visit to a state penitentiary. A childhood friend of his was spending the rest of his life behind bars for murder and I happened to be writing a screenplay with a similar situation. I told him I would appreciate tagging along and arranged for all the permits, approvals and paperwork needed for the visit.
I must share, there is nothing like hearing those steel doors slam shut behind you. I make movies and help create sound effects, but nothing can match the real thing. We met in a cafeteria, which surprised me even though there were lots of guards all around us. I thought I’d be sitting at a bench looking at a guy through a glass wall. No such thing at a real prison. Many convicts sat around with their visitors, and for a minute or two I forgot we were at a prison.
As we chatted, the man we were visiting explained to me why he was there. He had one of those impulsive behavior moments. He got angry, and the anger took over and got out of control. Before he could control his emotions, another man was dead. He hated the guy but didn’t mean to kill him. Up to that single moment, he had never been in trouble. He didn’t use drugs, liked a glass of wine or a beer but had never been drunk. The more we talked I realized I was sitting with a man found guilty of murder in the first degree who prior to the time of the crime had never been arrested for anything, and was for all practical purposes, a normal guy.
We had lunch and a very comfortable conversation developed. The guy we were visiting introduced us to two of his cellmate friends and, at first blush, I thought they were both extremely nice guys. Easy casual conversation until we started talking about why they were incarcerated. The smaller man was athletically built and talked about how easy it was for him to climb walls, go up the sides of buildings using his fingertips, and how he mastered the art of burglary. He started when he was a teenager and then graduated to bigger, more daring acts, and larger crimes. Of course, they all came with some risk, and that led to him terrorizing an entire affluent neighborhood. He stole millions of dollars in artwork, jewelry and other collectibles before someone tried to stop him and was severely beaten. Because of the instant choice, run or fight, he made the wrong decision. That impulsive beating slowed him down enough to get caught. The man he robbed almost died. I asked him why he did it, and what he planned on doing when he got out. He laughed. All his crimes were impulsively done without planning. He said he was an artist, had several of his paintings in galleries before he was arrested. He had paintings in the prison store where his artwork continued to sell well. When he said he only had two more years to serve, I assumed being an artist he would go back to painting. He laughed. “No,” he said, “I now know what mistakes I made. Next time they won’t catch me.” I felt my head nodding while the brain didn’t comprehend a word he said. I made a note to check the prison store before we left.
The other man suffered as well from an impulsive moment. He remembered it as if it were yesterday. He had a fight with his wife, stormed out of the house when she said she was leaving him and drove around for hours. He took a gun he kept in his trunk and walked down one neighborhood block knocking on doors. When total strangers opened their door, he shot them. He wounded three and killed a dozen people before the cops arrived. In less than an hour, his impulsive behavior changed the lives of many. He too had never been in trouble before. He told his story without remorse. He was sorry, but no other emotion was expressed. He said what was done was done, and afterwards it didn’t matter. He was serving multiple life sentences and would never be released. I was silently horrified. I know we all have impulsive moments. Parents get angry with children and even say things later regretted and do it frequently. Impulsive behavior happens every day in every walk of life. The difference is almost all of us know when we’re losing it and are able to pull it back and control things before they get out of hand.
Impulsive behavior is simply giving in to the moment rather than recognizing the need for thought. I was sitting with three men who lost control for the first time in their lives and created the ultimate nightmare for their victims, the surviving families, their families and themselves. Before we left the prison, I had to visit the store. On the shelves, we found beautiful painting by the famous night burglar, and intricate, detailed woodworks from the man who killed all those people. My buddy's friend had studied law and served other inmates with legal advice. I couldn't help but think of three wasted lives all brought on by impulsive behavior.
In watching and reading about some of our world events, happening all around us, now and seemingly every day, you have to wonder “what if” things had been thought out first? Can we change impulsive behavior? Is there any treatment? Are their early signs, any childhood reactions that might warn us? It’s way beyond time we start looking for a solution. Children are impressionable. Put them with the wrong person and they can easily be molded into something they’re not. What do you do after they change? Is it too late? Do we just give up?
How many fabulous minds have we lost? How many doctors, musicians, writers, politicians, teachers and scholars have been swept away because of impulsive behavior?
We know a bully starts early in life. He starts with some issues, usually to prove something, or that he can be dominant over someone else, and it festers from there. Many bullies out grow their attitudes and are able to function and move on. Many do not. Some of those who bully, end up doing horrible acts against society. Could they have been stopped? The sad answer is yes. Many behavioral issues can be corrected if caught early because there is usually a better way of dealing with issues if they are thought out.
I’m a filmmaker/author and know I don’t have all the answers. I write stories about situations. Some are stories that contain subject matters like crime, violence, humor, family, laughter, animals and love. I mix it up on purpose, so I don’t get caught writing about one subject, theme or genre. While there is a gray area on solutions, one thing I know is the problem exists, and we need to do something about it.
Our society has become cold and uncaring. We are in a hurry, and it doesn’t seem to matter if we have someplace to be as long as we get there first. We’ve misplaced love, the simple act of hugging, and the warmth and joy a smile creates. Parents forget to say, “I love you,” to wives and children every morning and every night. If they are still alive, we forget to call our moms and dads just to say hello. We push God away because we don’t want others to think we have become fanatics, after all, to believe in God is dated. Many governments need to take God away from us because they fear we might wake from a bad dream and turn the clock back a little bit. When times were sane, travel was safe, and it was okay to leave the front door unlocked. Going to a church, a synagogue or temple brought peace to our hearts, souls and homes. God was good. In short, we have lost our way, and that peaceful feeling that once existed in our minds has been replaced with worry, stress, anxiety, medicine, and ugly behavior. We have become an impulsive society. The goal of becoming successful is slipping away from the hope we once had.
Some say, "What difference does it make? Get over it and move on,” but moving on isn’t the answer or solution. The need to want more for family and self is not only important it’s imperative for our survival.
As my grandfather used to say, “It’s never too late” and he was right. Life is good if we learn to live it. Time is precious if we learn to use it. Love is great if you can see it with both eyes. Hugs are meant to comfort and share the electrical part of our heart and mind. Family is something we all need. Living in the South reminds me of how much I missed growing up in the big city. In the South, like in the country anywhere, God and family come first. To help you, a total stranger will bend over backwards, and in the South, paying forward is the norm. In the big city, it’s a dogfight. Everyone is looking out for themselves, and they tend to forget there are others around them. We lose touch with our inner selves and forget how to live and how to help others live their lives. Many of us have become tainted, careless and distant. We have forgotten how good it feels to help a stranger. We don’t wave to the people driving by because it’s embarrassing and so we miss that large and happy smile when they wave back. In the big city people walk with their heads down, mind their own business and live a quiet empty life. No one wants to rock the boat. Stress and fear seem to be the rule and that’s a sad way to life.
All of that can be changed with a little thought. Each day we live, each moment that passes never comes back. There are no do-overs in real life. Many of us make mistakes and in some cases there is no taking them back. Impulsive behavior is not the way life should be. Life is well worth thinking about. Thoughts can be wonderful and a saving grace.
I try to work on my life every day and hope you will try to do the same. It goes by quickly.
William Byron Hillman © 2013
Web site: http://www.williamhillman.com
Author Page: http://www.amazon.com/author/williamhillman
Let’s Sue ‘Em http://www.amazon.com/dp/B009M9E790
Veronique and Murray: http://tinyurl.com/8xrmmu7
The Hard Way: http://tinyurl.com/86hgtz6
Zebra’s Rock and Me http://tinyurl.com/7b28qu6
Quigley’s Christmas Adventure http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00ANVNQ6G
Rollie Kemp Books
Bad Rap: (Coming May 2013)