A few days ago, I came across a video that went viral where a man in Rawalpindi is ruthlessly hitting his mother. The video was made by the stepsister and was followed by the man’s wife narrating another version of this incident, claiming that the mother has physically abused the son and daughter-in-law. I am not interested in figuring out what the truth in the story is, but want to attempt at sharing my two cents on the matter.

Firstly, I strongly condemn the violence inflicted by the man on his mother. It is wrong on so many levels; an inhumane act of one human being on another, especially one who is weaker and most importantly, is his mother. Nothing can justify this barbaric and violent act.

Having said that, let’s deconstruct what we saw and try to make sense of it. When a human being feels threatened or afraid, the amygdala, the part of the brain which is responsible for the emotions in us, automatically activates the fight-or-flight response in us. This response is triggered by emotions like fear, anxiety, aggression, and anger.

The frontal lobes in the brain, part of our rational mind, allows us to process and think about our emotions and prepare the logical response to danger. Unlike the automatic response of the amygdala, the response to fear from our frontal lobes is consciously controlled by us. When the threat is mild or moderate, the frontal lobes override the amygdala, and we respond in the most rational, appropriate way.

However, in acute danger the amygdala acts quickly and may overpower the frontal lobes, automatically triggering the fight-or-flight response.

A daughter witnessing her mother being beaten so violently has her senses intact to make a video of it. How does that work? The thing is that mind and body both respond to a real threat and the video shows what a violent situation it was. If it was the first time or a repeated event, the video-making raises some questions in my mind. Of course, there is the possibility that she made the video to gather evidence to defend herself and her mother.

I also want to throw light on the son’s violent beating of the mother. Such a violent act doesn’t come out of the ordinary. For him to lose sense of his rational thinking and forget that he is hitting his own mother convinces me that he was completely overtaken by the emotional mind. There is also a possibility that he may have a personality disorder with aggressive tendencies. It’s also possible that this was an extreme reaction to years of being subjected to abuse. Again, for those of you who are raising your eyebrows at these questions, I am just trying to explore probabilities and not condoning violence.

What is important for us to consider here is that before we start making these videos viral, we need to open our minds to all kinds of possibilities and try to ask ourselves what’s the motivation of forwarding these videos? Is it to seek justice? Or is it for kicks?

When we watch something, we need to open our minds beyond the obvious. A son hitting the mother is the headline. Is that enough? No! We can’t make a judgment based on a single incident. We don’t know what kind of a dynamic exists between that mother and son for something like this to emerge.

As a parent I take full responsibility for how I raise my children. I have to draw boundaries and teach them what a healthy relationship is. I have had clients where mothers have violently beaten their children all their lives for them to eventually turn around and start hitting the parents back. But it’s also true that many families raise children with undiagnosed mental health issues where violence is one of the presentations. And making a video to seek justice is all they can do.

I have no idea what happened here. But I invite you to question what you come across rather than swallowing a ‘truth’ as a whole. Such violence doesn’t emerge just like that. There has to be historical relational issues that might have brought it to this point.

Where the police need to be involved in such cases, I think it is high time that a psychiatrist or therapist is involved in such cases to give their analysis of the mental state of parties involved so that a fair judgment can be made.