Computer Shooter on the Couch

February 29, 2012

Perhaps you are one of the 30 million plus people who have viewed the You Tube video, Dad Shoots Daughter’s Computer.  It is certainly a compelling 8 minutes.

And while the dad has some points, his final response is terrifying.  However, since comedy is actually all about anxiety, I found myself watching with my fifteen-year-old and we were both cracking up.

You can’t analyze funny—you laugh or you don’t.  We did.

But like laughing at church or temple, and knowing you’re not supposed to, and then laughing even harder… there’s just something scary/funny about a dad who’s so torqued out that he bothers to post his rebuttal to his kid’s disrespect on her Facebook page—and then goes Clint Eastwood on her symbolic self.

And the really scary thing, at least to me (besides the thought that I could piss this dad off and he might want to put a bullet in my equipment too), is just how many parents lack even the intelligence and restraint to simply shoot the laptop rather than abuse the child directly.  And even those abusers-by-proxy are doing serious damage.  It would be better for them to learn to laugh.

I’m sure this dad wanted to be heard, and I can only imagine that having gone viral he’s now navigating between the possibility of a reality TV show and the vague embarrassment of becoming poster-man for parental rage and helplessness.

Perhaps we might deconstruct this video in terms of attachment.  Simply put, this dad behaves in a scary way.  We have every reason to suspect that he has not grown less mature over his daughter’s fifteen years under his care, and thus his personal level of self-regulation when she was an infant could reasonably be questioned.  One can tell that he is hurt, that he works hard, that he is trying to teach manners and responsibility and yet he is completely impotent in the face of his daughter’s rebellion and disrespect (and her need for autonomy, and her budding sexuality no doubt too).

Just imagine Freud interpreting “Father” shooting his “gun” into his daughter’s “laptop” and suddenly you’re not in North Carolina anymore, you’re in Chinatown. Yuk.  And then you understand the defense of projection {that’s himself he’s shooting} and reaction formation {he hates her so much because he loves her and unconsciously feels forbidden incestuous desire} and displacement {what’s he been up to with his own “laptop”?}  Big Brother undoubtedly knows.  And the going viral may be because the video is structured like porn:  a little chit-chat and then the money shot.   Show it don’t say it.  Give the people what they want.

Now if dad becomes violent, even to objects, when triggered, we can hypothesize that he may have often enough felt helpless when his girl was a baby and behaved in normal baby ways (i.e. crying even though fed and soothed), and that he might have been prone to moments of red-zone anger, frustration or odd freeze responses then too (this can happen to the best of us, I know it did to me when my kid was a colicky infant… and BTW, mother migraines and colic appear to be linked—and the new thought is colic might be best conceptualized, and treated, as if the kid has a baby migraine:  quiet and darkness).

So… if parents act in a way that is scary when babies are just forming their map of the world and their trust, or not, in it, this odd scary vibe causes a neuron short-circuit and baby, rather than becoming calm and confident, develops a propensity for terror herself (it may look like a freeze response, a deer in the headlights, but inside her head it is a riot of terror and neurochemicals).

This can leave an encapsulated pocket of freaked-out terror in a child’s mind  and later lead to sudden outbursts, breakdowns, dissociations (i.e. feeling out of body and trance-like) and moments that make more than one or two parents feel like reaching for their gun.

I certainly remember moments when I felt like smashing, or at least trashing, my kids’ video game equipment.  Perhaps the take-away here is actually the need for more understanding, compassion and support for parents who may not necessarily be helping matters when they shoot a computer (after all, the kid can only imagine that dad quasi-unconsciously, wanted to shoot the child herself), compounding both shame and her likely later sexual attraction to violent men who will inevitably hurt her, exciting and abusing her, just like dear old dad, but who nonetheless need understanding, respect, compassion and help with anger-management.

If we could support parents to work through their own unresolved terror, abandonment, losses and hurt (often stemming from their own childhood wounds of terror and/or neglect) before the kids are born, we could facilitate an entirely more manageable generation of children who would naturally and instinctively know how to manage their feelings, trust caregivers and authority figures and care about others, the group and the planet and not just their own scared and insecure selves (the ongoing megaphone narcissism/unquenchable economic hunger of our highly disturbed current culture).

The dad who shoots the laptop certainly loves his daughter (all parents love their children), and he probably gave her everything he could, everything he didn’t likely get as a child.  His child may seem “spoiled” to him because he could not tolerate frustrating her when she was younger, nor could he tolerate his own frustration or emotion, and now that she’s older she may have little gratitude for what she has.  But she also probably does not feel loved, which has much to do with feeling understood.  Thus neither dad nor daughter is feeling the love, and that’s sad because they probably do both love each other (they secretly believe they are themselves both shit, the shame born of being scared and insecure as a little kid—you conclude it’s your own fault).

But more than anything else, I think this dad is scared that his little girl is not going to be equipped for the real world and that the clock is running out on his time to ready her for reality.  Parenting hits the red zone when we are scared and out of control, very often because we love our kids so much and we’re not getting through to them.

Yet owing to the nature of the teen brain, the very best thing we can do when our kids are in the red zone is to give them space, not engage, allow them to return to “normal” at which point they are very likely to make good decisions (and prove themselves, once again, to be good kids).

This cool-down space is probably a very good idea for mom and dad too, especially when parents consider gunplay to be an appropriate component of problem solving.

{ 14 comments… read them below or add one }

Kristen @ Motherese February 29, 2012 at 12:04 pm

Although I’ve certainly heard about it, I haven’t seen that video.

Right now I’m in the middle of re-reading the chapter in your book about Self and self-esteem. I’m very glad for your reminder there that parenting and showing love to our children can be a means to building a healthy Self (or to shore up the parts of it that might be lacking).

Hmm, maybe the dad in the YouTube video could benefit from a copy? :)


Bruce February 29, 2012 at 9:06 pm

Hi Kristen, It warms my heart to know you’re reading my book :), and I could only hope that parents like the dad with his gun, who might otherwise be at their rope’s end, might find comfort anywhere, whether in my words or in yours, or in the love we try to cook up together in the full acknowledgment that family is hard going sometimes and we all need more compassion and support.


Wolf Pascoe February 29, 2012 at 8:59 pm

I think “shoot the laptop” is going to enter the lexicon. I watched it. This man was full of hopeless pain. He needs to read this post.


Bruce February 29, 2012 at 9:14 pm

Hey WP, Yes, hopeless pain—isn’t that precisely what makes it so painful, that lack of hope? Sometimes we have to hold the hope as parents, sometimes we have to hold the hopelessness. Such negative capability, the containing rather than discharging, is painful sometimes, but if we support each other to trust that even our darkest moments do not render us unlovable, or even, ultimately, alone, we come to the poetry of loving and being, the soul-making that tries our souls as it forges them.


thekitchwitch March 1, 2012 at 6:45 am

OMG, he shot the laptop? I watched it but got so tired of him ranting with that cigarette in his hand that I clicked it off before the shooting! Nuts!


Bruce March 1, 2012 at 4:36 pm

I guess it goes to show that even if you’re going to be inappropriate you need to get to the point or you lose people :)

And you probably ended up feeling a bit like his kid and tuning out, which might be why he felt he had to raise the volume so high on his message to be heard.

If freedoms just another word for nothing left to lose, then maybe nuts is just another word for scared out of our minds.


Katrina Kenison March 1, 2012 at 7:54 am

So glad you have taken on this subject — surely the reason this went viral in the first place is that at some level we can all relate to this dark shadow, this father’s helpless fury. We may laugh or judge, but as you so often remind us, we are also all connected, and his pain is ours. I know I’ve felt helpless as a parent, I’ve made mistakes, and thinking about them is mortifying. What would it be like to have my own worst parenting moments viewed by 30 million people on YouTube? I guess the very thought of that leaves me feeling a kind of tender compassion for all of us who struggle and love and do stupid things when we’re scared and hurt. Ouch. Thank you for exploring the territory with such wisdom.


Bruce March 1, 2012 at 4:44 pm

Your words embody the tender compassion that brings us into conscious village-hood. Meanwhile, or simultaneously, I’m absolutely savoring Meditations from the Mat which envelops me with perfect synchronicity in some soft veil of Truth and tender compassion, seemingly transcending time—which is what Love seems to do.


karen March 1, 2012 at 8:42 am

My first reaction is fear. It must be his too. Having a gun in the house?


Bruce March 1, 2012 at 4:47 pm

We’re wired for fear, so often, to be our first reaction. The sad part is when we stop there we fail to get to a second reaction which might be tears, and a third that might be compassion, and a forth that might be some sort of Zen. We need love and deep understanding to transcend our ancient impulses, but when we do we can be so lovely to each other and to all our collective children.


BigLittleWolf March 1, 2012 at 3:57 pm

Wow. I just watched the video, and I had no urge whatsoever to laugh. It struck me as horribly, horribly sad.

And then I watched his daughter’s response, also on Youtube, where she mentions that she followed his example and put a few rounds in his truck.

Perhaps this is the simplest of lessons that this father, in his frustration, didn’t see. We continue to be the models for our kids. He shoots; she shoots. And she leaves.

What has he accomplished? How many others will think this solves anything?

I understand his fear and hurt, but somehow hers – if you watch that clip – seems even more frightening to me, as a parent.


Bruce March 1, 2012 at 5:03 pm

I fully admit that laughing is inappropriate, but I also know that’s how a lot of people who have to deal with trauma and mayhem, such as murder detectives, manage to cope. I don’t really think it’s funny—but I couldn’t process my terror at first, and I wasn’t in the mood to weep (but usually I’m game for that if I think it might help).

At your prompt I did watch her video and while she certainly seems hurt, she seems more lucid than her father and less overtly enraged. She is speaking to what millions of kids face, suffering through wounded, and thus terrifying, parenting.

Generation upon generation this tragic fear and hurt furthers itself (just imagine if this girl becomes a parent and her fantasies of doing everything so much better crash against the reality that she has no role models and no safety in her core… and then the next generation suffers anew).

This is why I feel so very strongly that we must re-think parenting at a societal level, giving that love-infused-money to this essential issue in a science-based and compassion-informed manner. We would ALL feel so much safer, better and happier once we realize that it’s up to us and the time is now.


Jordan Dolin March 4, 2012 at 8:47 am

That’s so sad and plays into all of my stereotypes of humanity. If you are going to give a rambling video manifesto, of course you will be holding a cigarette. If you are going to get rid of your kid’s computer, of course you will use your gun (not donate to a school or homeless shelter). If you are going to record a video manifesto and shoot a laptop, of course you will refer to your weapon as a “45 with holla-point rounds” assuming that everyone understands what that means. I’m not gonna make comment on the southern accent but lets just say that I wasn’t surprised. If you squint your eyes you can see the reflection in his over-sized belt buckle of his “Santorum for President” bumper sticker.

Well at least your post explains where my humor comes from and my desire to unplug all the machines at Dad’s nursing home,


Bruce March 4, 2012 at 9:44 am

I love you, Jordan—my truest brother, and I’m sick of crying alone, so at least we can laugh together.


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