Sunday, July 22, 2012

Identifying Those At Risk for Lone Shooter Syndrome

It's often easy to see the insanity in the faces of those who have committed these terrible mass murders, but how can be pre-emptively identify the insane who would act to kill others with guns, knives, tainted water, what-have-you, in advance of such an act ?

   I have a fair number of opinions on a great many matters, but I don't have a solution for this one.   Last evening, experts, mostly psychiatrists, who work for the FBI and other agencies, were talking about the syndrome of the "Lone Male Shooter".     Apparently, people like the man in Norway, who killed some people and teen-agers on an island at a recreational camp, and yesterdays assailant in Colorado and the others have a profile with a good deal in common. The same can be said for the man who acted alone at the Virginia Tech shooting, and the physician who shot people at a US base, and the man who shot people at the event where Gabrielle Giffords was shot.    Many of them are fairly intelligent, but have not been able to formulate strong friendships or deal with groups when they were in school or work situations.  Many of them have low abilities to understand the perspectives of others or to have empathy for them. They have adapted to lives of relative isolation, and ultimately furthur depersonalized human beings. They are highly intelligent, but have no perspective by which to deal with challenges or their own momentary failures.  When I fail to secure a job I wanted, I tell myself that someone more qualified must have applied, or perhaps that I didn't stay as focused as I should have during the interview. I might drift down the path of self deception later by saying to myself.....  "He probably hired someone he knew,or  who was related to him", but I understand that is speculation, and that I will likely never know why I wasn't selected."   I have the self esteem to know that although I am good at what I do, that I am not right for all circumstances, and situations, and that when my services for something are rejected that although I am disappointed, it does not alter my perspectives of myself or of the world.    Apparently, this is not what happens in "Lone Male Shooter Syndrome".  They develop rage as a consequence of disappointments, when not selected for something, for example.  The Colorado shooter is said to have been possibly angry over having been a Phd student who was unable to get the job he wanted as a lab technician for the summer. He had to accept a position at McDonalds instead.  Lets examine this for a moment.  If you and I were getting our Phds this year, and the economy coupled with our social skills were such that the only way we could get through the summer before returning to complete that Phd in the Autumn were a position at McDonalds, then I would be disappointed.  I like working independently, and McDonalds emphasizes teamwork, which is a different skillset. This would not be my first pick. However, I would understand that God is leading me, and perhaps humbling me to be more open minded about others, to learn how to work cooperatively and perhaps more gracefully with others. I also would know that from prior experiences in my life that many times, great learning can come from the positions in our lives which might appear to offer the least to us at the outset.  These men also cultivate rage. They blame human beings for their own lack of success or progress.  Over time, they put great effort and passion into a plan for revenge which includes the violent destruction of human beings, their lives, and the lives of their families or children.    Another feature of this syndrome as described, is that these individuals derive great satisfaction from going from unnoticed and total obscurity to famous and infamous mass murderers. They are said to find the aftermath of these occurrances both joyous, exhilarating, fulfilling and satisfying.  Of course, a normal person would be mortified to realize that we had overreacted in any manner whatsoever, and hurt someone in any circumstance, but these are not normal people.  This is one reason that I don't list them by name.  One should not be able to obtain fame and in some circles some adulation or even curiosity in media, by committing a heinous act.  In a very real way, these people, following conviction of such heinous acts, need to disappear into prison obscurity, without interviews, letters from the public at large, or weddings to the equally nutty, etc.

( Painting by: )

           Without getting into the labels for these people, such as paranoid schizophrenic, schizoid personality, psychotic or profound psychosis with narcissism, it would be beneficial for us to identify at which point they departed from normal behavioral parameters, prior to destroying lives.    It can be normal to be a "loner:"   Lots of people enjoy their own company.  They shop alone, spend time at home alone, read, etc.  Some of us simply require less time with our friends than do others, and this is ok.   We don't have to have scads of friends, as a few really good ones are worth much more than many acquaintances.   Most of us also have some ability for self assessment and self correction.   If I am filled with rage about something, I might express my anger in writing, in a phone call to a friend, or by taking a run despite a sore knee.  If I notice that my rage has not diminished or given way to a more constructive set of actions, then I would get help, as it would ultimately be destructive to me, and to my family, if I went around nurturing rage to a boiling point, on anything approaching a regular basis.   Without becoming a Nanny-state, how do we encourage our citizenry to monitor themselves and those close to them for unresolved rage and for loss of the perception of reality ?  Before the Obama administration starts sending assessment officials out to anyone with an IQ over 160 on a monthly basis, is there anything we can do, to help those especially the young, who are drifting into mental health issues, to get mental health help ?   If we decide that we, or a friend or a child or young adult male acquaintance need mental health help, is it available ?   In my lifetime, I have helped several friends seek help for suicidal ideas, and I have to tell you, even with insurance it can be very hard to get rapid entry mental health help in many locations.  When mental health help is obtained,  the quality varies widely.   Some practitioners are very competent within some areas, and are marginally competent within others.  As I said earlier, I don't have the answers to the identification of those at risk for violent outbursts.  I would love to hear what others think on this.


Gorges Smythe said...

Just a couple thoughts only remotely related to your subject - I doubt if it really WAS a lone male shooter, though it will never come out that he was probably supplied and encouraged by others. Plus, after all is said and done, insanity should NEVER be a defense (though the category "justifiable homicide" needs expanded). Anyone that crazy needs put to death the same as any other mass murderer.

russell1200 said...

Some of the killings you listed had clear political motivation, and if they had been in the middle east we would have labelled them terrorists. The FBI profiling skills have not impressed me. The Europeans, the British in particular, seem to have gone about it in a much more rational manner.

JaneofVirginia said...

I think your point is well taken. Where does a 24 year old who is on unemployment get $20,000. worth of tactical supplies and weapons ? I can't buy a kevlar vest and full SWAT suit myself as a non-LEO. How did he ?

JaneofVirginia said...

The British are very methodical in a lot of things they do. However, they do have an easier job. They are policing an island which is the size of one of our Eastern States, and they have a choke hold on all the information about their inhabitants. They also have cameras in any area which is likely to be travelled by a fair number of people, and these real time cameras are monitored by police 24/7. England is where the entire concept of "police" originated and was implemented, and I think this may be why they have innovative ideas on it. They do have a very different task in detecting "crazies ready to blow" than we do.
I agree with you though. I have met an FBI profiler, and I thought the tv people were more impressive. I had a few insights he didn't, and I haven't had nearly as much psychology as he, including the layers of abnormal psychology he must have had to have landed that job. Thanks for your comments. You have made good points, Russell.