Robert Hawkins...A Case Study in the Effects of Unresolved Abandonment Issues J. Ray Rice, M.S.W., A.C.S.W.
Robert Hawkins left behind a note saying that he did not want to be a burden to others and that he wanted to be famous. His planned shooting spree at an Omaha Mall has left nine people dead including Robert Hawkins. Today we are trying to understand why he did it. I believe it is our failure to understand how experiencing three divorces by age 14, moving from place to place, placement to placement, relative to stranger to relative, school to institution to school, never having the opportunity to learn to bond or when he did loosing that connectedness. These experiences and events resulted in the actions of a person whom his mother described as "without hope, without faith, and without courage." I want to give another assessment…it is all about abandonment! Robert Hawkins experienced one severe unresolved abandonment issue after another starting with his birth at a Air Force base outside of London and up to his killing eight innocent people and himself at age 19.
Abandonment issues are feelings and experiences we encounter when we lose somebody or their affection, approval, protection, or friendship. Abandonment is about the loss of love itself, that crucial loss of connectedness to another person, or object of our affection. Abandonment can also be about the events that cause that crucial loss of connectedness. These feelings and events come about with normal interactions: birth, death, loss, separation, rejection, or the effects of social policies. Abandonment often involves betrayal, displacement, breakup and aloneness. These experiences can be real or feared. Some of them affect us immediately and others cause us to react to them years later.
When we experience these feelings and events as infants, toddlers, and children we cannot fully begin to process their impact upon us until we have reached adolescence and for some adulthood. During pre-adolescence and adolescence these behaviors are often misinterpreted as being defiant and not wanting to accept authority. In most cases this is opposite of the truth. Adolescences are masters of reverse psychology. They often withdraw, are depressed, act without giving thought to the outcome and sometimes have suicidal thoughts. Adolescences rebel because they don't have coping and problem solving skills fully developed. They want the adults in their life to proof to them that they love them. They will test and complaint about limits and when they have satisfied the issues that affect their sense of self and their self-worth many will settle down. This doesn't mean that they will not continue to test the waters or fear that they have done something that will cause you to withdraw your love and support. Understand that all behaviors have meaning and experience has taught me that when we take the time to understand the behavior this gives us the solution.
Abandonment feelings and events affect each of us daily. Many of us have never recognized on a conscious level abandonment feelings that are created within us, nor understood how these experiences and events left unresolved can damage our interpersonal relationships and our sense of self-worth. This is not the same for individuals that experience abandonment feelings and events in their lives and grow stronger because of them. These individuals had "corrective learning experiences and/or individuals" in their lives that provided them the opportunity to bond, trust, and love.
In the last thirty-six years, I have been examining these issues within individuals, groups and societies worldwide in 19-countries. This learning will be reflected in a book series this year titled, Thank You for Loving Me…The Psychology of Loving and Healing! It is my belief that unresolved abandonment issues, events, actions, and policies are causing people and societies to act violently toward others and themselves. My goal is to establish learning community and study groups worldwide to understand and act to resolve these events whenever possible. Robert Hawkins' life needs to be in the textbooks as a case study on the severe effects of unresolved abandonment issues. It is not my intent to place blame on anyone, but to assist in the understanding of how we create and neglect resolving abandonment issues in our children, adolescences, adults, and societies everyday.
We can't treat what we don't understand! The life events of Robert Hawkins were written by Karen Spencer, Cindy Gonzalez and Paul Hammel, Staff Writers of World-Herald http://www.Omaha.com/index.php?u_page=2798&u_sid=10205217. They are reinterpreted by me; again it is not to place blame on anyone, but to understand these milestones in the context of the effects of unresolved abandonment issues. There are probably more, but what is important is to realize the impact these actions and events had on Robert Hawkins and the impact of our interpersonal relationships on our children and each other.
Events before birth:
Father was 20-years old and in the Air Force when he married his wife who was 16-year old in TX
They moved and lived around the world
Older sister was born in Athens, Greece
Robert was born at an Air Force base near London
Effect of events before birth:
A pattern of moving and having short-term relationships had been established
Children may find it difficult to bond because they moved often
Extended family are not available to provide support to parents and children
Events @ 2-years of age
Roberts' mother and father separated and the father moved from MA with his children, but without his wife
Father filed for legal separation
Father was on active-duty in Saudi Arabia
Effect of events @ 2-years of age
Two major abandonment events that a child this age cannot understand or accept and it is experienced by the child and forms his "core abandonment issue" for the rest of his life
Robert would feel abandoned by his mother
Robert would feel abandoned by his father
Events @ 3-years of age
Father was granted his divorce
Father was granted custody of Robert and his older sister
Allegation of drug and alcohol abuse by his mother were cited in records
Effect of events @ 3-years of age
Robert would feel abandoned by his mother who wasn't available to him because of her involvement with drugs and alcohol
Each time Robert saw his mother he relived this abandonment experience at the end of each visitation with her
Adults would have a difficult time providing nurturing to a child who cries his mother and cannot understand nor accept her not being present
Events @ 4-years of age
Father remarried for the 2nd time
Mother remarried for the 2nd time
Mother relocated to Japan where her husband was stationed in the Air Force
Effect of events @ 4-years of age
Robert would again feel abandoned by his mother for forming a new family
Robert would feel abandoned with her leaving him
Robert would feel abandoned by his father giving him a new mother
It was reported that "Robert was very angry"
Events @ 6-years of age
Mother was fighting for custody of Robert and his sister allegations of abuse by his stepmother
Robert was seen as depressed
Hitting, biting, and kicking his teachers
Robert experienced his first hospitalization for psychiatric treatment and placed on medication
Effect of events @ 6-years of age
Robert was failing to effectively bond with his stepmother
Robert was feeling increase abandonment of his mother
Robert abandonment issues were being shown in his depression, hitting, biting, and kicking behaviors
Robert was showing difficultly in bonding and allowing caregivers to nurture him emotionally because of unresolved abandonment issues
Roberts' hospitalization possible seen by him as rejection by his father, stepmother, and mother
Events @ 7-years of age
Robert has 2 half-sisters with his mothers' new family
Robert has 2 half-brothers with his fathers' new family
Effect of events at 7-years of age
Robert was feeling increased abandonment failing to successfully bond and be a member of either family
Robert was feeling increased abandonment not being nurtured by either family, he could do no right
Events @ 8-years of age
His mother divorced her second husband
Robert experienced his second divorce and break-up of his family
His mother's husband said that she was doing drugs in front of her two daughters, age 5 and 3
Effect of events at 8-years of age
Robert's second divorce within his family in five-years intensifies feelings of abandonment
Robert's feelings of abandonment increase as he sees that no one commits to anyone
Mother's emotional unavailability due to drug use increases Robert's feelings of abandonment
Events @ 10-11-years of age
Children picking on him
Robert not being accepted and bonding with other children
Effect of events @ 10-11 years of age
Increased feelings of alienation and abandonment because peers picked on him
Increased feelings of alienation and abandonment because Robert didn't know how to bond
Events @ 14-years of age
Robert threatened to kill his step-mother
Robert was hospitalized, the day after his birthday, for the second time, this time for nine-months
Robert made a ward of the state
Effect of events @ 14-years of age
Robert's inability to successfully re-establish a new family with his step-mother after his parents 1st divorce
Roberts' increased feelings of abandonment with his step-mother
Roberts' increased feelings of abandonment with his father and mother for not protecting him
His threats of violence toward himself and others
Removal from his home and placed into treatment in another state away from his family increased his feelings of abandonment
Events @ 15-16 years of age
Robert had multi-placements outside of his home in group homes and foster-care.
Robert was picked on by more aggressive youth in placement because they were feeling abandoned and needed an outlet
Effect of events 15-16 years of age
The multi-placements outside of his home affected his ability to bond with others
The multi-placements outside of his home increased his feelings of abandonment because he could trust no one
The failure of adults to protect him increased his feelings of abandonment
The failure of adults to interpret his behavior as a reaction to unresolved abandonment issues increased his abandonment feelings and abandonment events, e.g., "you rejected me so now I am going to reject you"
The failure of parents to visit him often increased his feelings of abandonment
His lack of problem-solving and coping skills decreased his feelings of self-worth and increased his feelings of abandonment because he was unlovable
Events @ 17-years of age
Robert returned to his father after 4-years outside of his home and protection
Father was in the process of getting a divorce from his second marriage
Roberts' older sister excelling in school
Robert drops out of high-school because he is three-years behind
Mother become regular in Robert's life
Effect of events @ 17-years of age
Robert's third divorce with in family
Robert's failure to successfully live with an intact family increased his feelings of abandonment
Robert's failure to successfully live with an intact family destroyed his sense of self and any positive feelings of self-worth
Robert's unsuccessful relationships with peers in his multi-placements
Robert's self-esteem lower with his dropping-out of high-school
Robert's increase sense of abandonment with failing to succeed in school like his sister who excelled in school
Robert's increase feelings of abandonment due to his inability to bond with parents and peers
Events @ 18-years of age
Leaving his father's home
Mother telling him to "go"
Being homeless and staying with friends
Not having the means to eat
Being depressed and withdrawn
Feeling alienated and abandoned by his parents
Threats of jail for violations of law
Failure to successfully complete drug treatment
Effect of events @ 18-years of age
Feeling abandoned by his father
Feeling abandoned by his mother
Feeling abandoned by his friends
Feeling abandoned by society
Completing his GED...a sign of how smart Robert was
Being smart increases abandonment feelings and events because you are more aware
Feeling a failure that he needed drugs and alcohol to cope with his increased feelings of abandonment
Events @ 19-years of age...until death
Depressed, nervous, withdrawn, and sometimes curling into a fetus position...like a baby in the womb
Living with friends and a family in the neighborhood
Threatening to kill a 16-year old girl and her family two-weeks before the mall shootings
Breaking-up with his girlfriend, two-weeks before the mall shooting
Losing his job and feeling abandoned over his cash register being $17 short
Stealing an AK-47 from the home of his former step-father after dinner with his mother and two step-sisters
Knowing that his former step-father was on vacation with his new girlfriend in Thailand
Showing the AK-47
Talk of killing others
Feeling that he was a burden to all
Wanting to be famous or known for his pain and actions
Killing eight innocent people
Effect of events @ 19-years of age
Robert's depression and feeling of abandonment were relieved in his drug and alcohol abuse like his mother's, this is why he didn't see himself as giving them up...for what? Pain!
Robert was reported to be like a lost puppy, looking for acceptance, love, shelter, and nurturing.
Robert had suicidal and homo-suicidal feelings due to serve unresolved abandonment issues.
The termination of his relationship with his girlfriend reinforce his viewpoint that you can't count on people and increased his feelings of rejection and abandonment (his girlfriend knew that their relationship wasn't healthy, but this may have been his first love and we all know that is difficult).
Planning and stealing an AK-47 from his former step-father's home gave him the means to act on his homo-suicidal and suicidal thoughts, feelings, and behaviors.
Knowing that his former step-father was vacationing with his new girlfriend, while his mother cared for their children in his home, reinforced his experiences in relationships that people will abandon you.
Robert's threats to kill a 16-year girl and her family was because he believed that she had broken into his Jeep and taken his "stuff" and therefore he resorted to behavior like a kid in the ghetto who has lost his family and everything he loved and the only thing he has left is his property resorting to threats to kill someone for taking it.
In Robert's increased feelings of abandonment he saw no future and had no hope of bonding with anyone in society, he feared losing the home he was staying in.
The loss of his job increase the idea that he could do nothing right and increased his feelings of abandonment.
Robert's feelings of hopelessness...that he failed to bond with his families, he failed to be lovable so his parents would want to provide a secure and nurturing environment for him to grow-up in.
Robert had low self-esteem because he failed to excel like his older sister, he had come to believe that something was wrong with him.
Robert sensed that as a person he lacked importance to his family, friends, and society and that they all had abandoned him.
Robert was anger at the world that he had traveled and lived in, but saw no one loving him.
Robert wanted it known how angry he was about being abandoned by everyone in society therefore he shot and killed as many people as he could before killing himself!
Robert Hawkins felt that his pain was too great and his greatest achievement would be in doing the unthinkable. Please join the discussion on how unresolved abandonment issues affected Robert Hawkins and others, at my blog. Again, this is not written to make his parents or love one feel bad, but to understand how unresolved abandonment issues affected Robert Hawkins.
Everyone need to understand that when they have sex and produce a child they are responsible for providing that child with a stable home environment with both parents to nurture him or her, provide love, understanding and emotional support. Both parents are responsibility for providing time, food, shelter, education, health care, clothes, spending money, counseling services, and opportunities for their child to grow into adulthood knowing that they have a purpose in life and they are valued. Parents cannot reject their child's sexuality because that is whom GOD made them. Parents cannot place their wishes in life above their child's. They must stay together for the purpose of raising that child until adulthood and if they are not willing or capable of providing all of this then they should not be producing children!
Robert Hawkins was not born to kill, but grown to kill in a society that was not acknowledging how many times it had abandoned him and how those unresolved abandonment issues where getting ready to cost them more innocent lives! Someone cannot give what they do not have. Just look at the unresolved abandonment
issues in any school or highway shooter, mass murder, or serial killing and you will find the unresolved abandonment issues that developed their pathology! It is all about abandonment.
Copyright 1997-. J. Ray Rice, M.S.W., A.C.S.W. All rights reserved.