July 21, 2012

A suggestion for those of you who are tempted to devote time to understanding the psyche of the Aurora massacre madman.

Contemplate the psyche of someone you know and can speak to and relate to in your immediate life.

What if you had known James Eagen Holmes, and you could have interacted with him at a time when you were, in fact, preoccupied reading on-line articles about Anders Behring Breivik, or if you had known Anders Behring Breivik, and you might have spoken with him, reasoned with him, but you were distracted by some intriguing articles about Jared Loughner....

Are you really interested in psychology?

48 comments:

deborah said...

I think you need a new tag.

edutcher said...

Demons might be good.

I don't think these people can be reached unless confined for a long time.

Dante said...

People always want an explanation when strange things happen and a lot of people get killed. It's part of human nature.

The explanation doesn't even need to make sense, merely be plausible. Some might think its violence in the media, and that might be good enough. Still others might think the gun made him do it. Some might think it was voodoo, or spirits.

Whatever works, people are willing to give up a bit of control over their lives for an explanation of something that probably doesn't have an easy explanation. Maybe it will turn out the guy has a tumor, and that effected his brain. It's been used as an explanation before:

Post-mortem autopsy of his brain revealed a glioblastoma multiforme tumor the size of a walnut, erupting from beneath the thalamus, impacting the hypothalamus, extending into the temporal lobe and compressing the amygdaloid nucleus (Charles J. Whitman Catastrophe, Medical Aspects. Report to Governor, 9/8/66).

http://brainmind.com/Case5.html

wyo sis said...

People also want to feel assurance that it wil never happen again. So we go around making laws that can't work.

Roger J. said...

laws do not prevent people who are deranged from doing deranged things.

phx said...
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Schorsch said...

Apparently I met James Holmes, although I cannot remember him. He interviewed with my Neuroscience PhD program, while I was in the middle of writing my thesis. I met all of the interviewees each year I was there, though, so I'm sure I met him. Many of the people we meet seem off, or quiet, or strange, but these incidents are so rare we simply cannot make that judgement. When I was the student representative on the admissions committee, a faculty member told me he felt it was his sole responsibility to identify the crazy ones. Most applicants are smart and capable, but those with mental problems will make life hard for everyone around them. This doesn't mean he's right, and I have no idea whether James Holmes was invited to join our program or not.

We can only treat everyone around us with respect and kindness, and offer help if it's requested. I don't like to think about the awkward but wonderful people who are rejected because they seem crazy, or the "quiet" ones who have some horrible inner conflict that we meet and don't remember. I hope more people get help because of incidents like this.

Lawler Walken said...

I think we always want to try and figure out this kind of thing, why a 24 year old man who came from what appears to have been the stereotypical "good family" and who graduated Phi Beta Kappa from UC-Riverside and who was pursuing his doctorate in one of those difficult areas of academic endeavor, neuroscience, something most of us don't have the brain power to do, what makes him decide to plot and carry out this horrific act?

We want to know so we can spot the signs in the people we do know or interact with in our daily lives. Is the next James Holmes sitting in the cubicle beside me at work? Is it my cousin's kid? Is it me?

And when we've sliced and diced all the possible explanations and found most of them insufficient, we're left with this: Some men just want to watch the world burn.

Lem said...

I was thinking of a dog chasing his tail.. while it might be interesting to look at..

What?

You don't find it interesting to see a dog chasing his tail?

Then.. you.. yes you.. are a shooter in waiting.

There you have it.. now.. give me my Nobel Prize in psychology.

sydney said...

I am still guessing it was schizophrenia. And why does that happen? No one knows. When I see his picture in the paper, I feel as sorry for him as for his victims. He looked so innocent and happy (before the break.) It's heart breaking that someone with such potential lost his mind.

Mitch H. said...

How would we know he was a Holmes if we had no way to measure him against other armed lunatics? Was he torturing cats? Hawking copies of the Watchtower? Obsessively collecting back-issues of Detective Comics and World's Finest? Ranting on a streetcorner about something no-one could understand, like government-directed grammatical tyranny? Hell, is that crazy man who goes shouting through the holler behind my condo complex another Holmes in the making? Probably not. Should I go try and talk to him, and get screamed at in person rather than anonymously across a parking lot?

Don't you really mean we ought to be committing our crazies before they do something irrevocable?

fivewheels said...

I already don't know what to do with people who are probably harmless. There's a guy I work with who has a temper and general emotional control problems. If you polled all of us in the office and asked, "If someone were going to snap and shoot the place up, who would it be?" the answer would be unanimous.

But he's generally nice and really just a garden-variety melvin that you just don't want to talk to. Until maybe he isn't. What is any of us supposed to do about this? Nothing, I think.

cokaygne said...

You're all wrong.
Breivik was an aberration Norway is a peaceful society and Norwegians are peaceful. The Viking raids on Europe were an aberration.

Loughner was driven to kill by Palin and Limbaugh. Palin created a Manchurian Candidate with her targets. Limbaugh stokes the rage of the crazies every day.

Holmes is a typical American. Americans are gun nuts.

There should be background checks for people who buy movie tickets. To save its Hollywood donors the next Obama administration will issue an executive order requiring all Americans to buy movie tickets. those who fail to buy movie tickets because they failed their background check will be killed by drones.

John said...

I've watched a good amount of coverage and interviews of those who survived.

I am not taken so much by the notion that a young man went wacko so much as I am interested in why there are no accounts of selfless action to end the slaughter. To be sure there were those who tried to guide others to safety or to shield others. But no one confronted evil?

I find that to be strange and unnatural. At least it is so in circles where I travel.

Erika said...

"A suggestion for those of you who are tempted to devote time to understanding the psyche of the Aurora massacre madman."

What's it to you how I devote my time, Professor?

I'm not particularly interested in understanding the guy's psyche, but if I were, how does that affect you, exactly?

And, given that I were "interested in psychology," or psychopathology, couldn't I wonder both about the people around me as you suggest, and about Mr. Holmes?

Lem said...

But no one confronted evil?

Well.. I'm going to go on a limb and say that maybe, if someone, other than Holmes, had been packing that night, some lives might have been saved.

Just saying.

Lem said...

I'm speculating that the shooter used gas to hide so as to make it harder for a potential opponent to take him out.. among the other reasons for using gas.. terrorize people.

The attack was thought out.. premeditated.. nothing crazy or mad about it.. mad in the classic sense.. or something.

ricpic said...

Actually, cockaigne, those who fail to buy movie tickets during the 2nd Obama Administration will first be tried and then made to publicly declare their guilt for either wrecking or sabotage before the sentence of death by drone is carried out.

Daniel Fielding said...

On a Milbloggers post on Facebook, a commentator had posted pictures from a Occupy Wall Street protest somewhere in California. San Diego, I thing. It had pictures of the assailant, James Holmes, protesting, and also, being arrested and being carried off by riot police.

Leo said...

@Lem

Wasn't the movie theatre a gun free zone so no-one was allowed to pack heat anyway. Is there some sort of liability for the cinema for this? If they take away the ability to protect yourself then don't they have a responsibility to provide protection?

MaggotAtBroad&Wall said...

Let the conspiracy theories begin! The first one I've found is that he was being controlled by someone else, perhaps using a combination of hypnosis and drugs:

http://www.naturalnews.com/036536_James_Holmes_shooting_false_flag.html

JAL said...

@ Daniel Fielding -- Link?

And apparently he was not arrested, as his only police record is a ticket.

JAL said...

If there was concealed carry, even with the gas, Holmes would not have killed 12 people and wounded the other 50+, not to mention traumatizing the other 100+ who escaped.

Michael K said...

"We can only treat everyone around us with respect and kindness, and offer help if it's requested. I don't like to think about the awkward but wonderful people who are rejected because they seem crazy, or the "quiet" ones who have some horrible inner conflict that we meet and don't remember. I hope more people get help because of incidents like this.
"

And have a .40 caliber with a large capacity magazine in case you are wrong. Just quietly keep it nearby.

phx said...
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traditionalguy said...

Without revealing too much, yes I have known believers in Nazi strong man theory just like Herr Breivik.

I believe it is their defense mechanism for explaining why they are losers in many areas of normal human interractions. They are loners with revenge on their minds.

Their evil is banal because it wants superficial things, like material luxuries and self esteem of always being right. It has no further goals and purpose than that. No love.No social life. And the way they imagine getting what they wants is threatening unstoppable murder to intimidate the weak people, like Neville Chamberlain.

But they cannot be reasoned with, because they believe you are the fool for believing in a meek Hebrew/Christian God of love that to them is a fictional slaves God, not a real Norse god of conquest of the superiors over the inferiors.

And do not expect anything except unforgiveness and bitter hatred to the end from them.

Back in the 1950s and 1960s the John Birch Society was gathering place for these admirers of the German Nazi's powerful conquests that had only ended when a tough Communist named Stalin used Mother Russia to beat them back. Ergo: Communists are their #1 enemy.

There are times the Conservatives blend some of that thinking into their ideas. And that is a huge mistake, as Bill Buckley so powerfully pointed out. We need to conserve the good and throw out the evil.

phx said...
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Alex said...

The Viking raids on Europe were an aberration.

LOL! Good one. I do respect the original Vikings. the current people calling themselves "Norwegian" are impostors.

Alex said...

My recommendation from now on - don't pay any attention to those signs that say "no guns". If they won't allow you in - then don't go in. Refuse to be a sheeple.

paul a'barge said...

Are you serious?

Have you no idea that this guy was possessed by a demon?

Have you not compared the faces of the Colo. shooter with Jared Loughner, the Arizona shooter? Look at their pictures.

When you come across someone like this do you really think you're going to use psychology to interact with them? You'll be talking to Satan.

Get a freakin' grip.

Pogo said...

Clearly, we need TSA screens at every movie theater, public school, hospital and mall.

And bars.
And grocery stores.
And public parks.

TWM said...

All I know is that, in retrospect anyway, he has crazy eyes.

Wally Kalbacken said...

Not that interested in psychology. But, I have made the observation that among those who are, say psychology majors as undergraduates, a large proportion are motivated by the desire to understand why they and/or their families are so screwed up.

My first wife was diagnosed as bipolar during an acute psychiatric episode that had her in the lock-down ward at UW Hospital for several weeks. A few years later, after we divorced, I learned that the diagnosis was corrected to schizophrenia, which I then learned had expressed
itself in branches of her father's family and among her own siblings. [Nice little family secret at the time I married her.] When I learned about the corrected diagnosis, a memory came flashing back to me from what was then 4
years earlier. My then wife suddenly went in to anger mode in the small galley kitchen of our microscopic apartment, and picked up a 12 inch Henckel knife (for carving something large) and waved it in my direction.

At the time there were a few microseconds of fear, but then I rationalized, nah, this is merely an expression of immaturity
(she was 24 at the time), she can't be serious.

Now, nearly 30 years later, I think I can say that was the closest to death I may have been.

Dealing with crazy folks isn't easy, but it is the operative part of this latest episode, not gun control per se.

I agree that concealed carry could have helped. But then again I see conflicting aspects - i.e., he chose the theaterbecause he knew they would be sitting ducks, but he also took the time and effort to get the body armor together and wore it. For dramatic effect or because he
expected to confront the cops? I still haven't heard how it ended, was he out of ammo, or just satisfied? There was a very unusual blood spatter pattern outside of the rear door to the theater. You can't tell if a wounded victim made it out the door a limited distance, or if one of the bleeding victims was carried out the back. Very messy.

How much the parents knew or understood of their son's derangement will be an interesting issue, reminiscent of the
Laurie Dann case (mostly in Evanston, but she was a known crazy person in her days in Madison.) Some of the victims in that fandango sued Dann's wealthy parents. I don't recall the outcome. If this guy bought the guns and ammo on daddy's AMEX card, look out. It seems he had a lot of money to spend for a graduate student (the ammo mentioned could have cost him $5,000.)

On the other hand, I wonder if that accounts for the ambiguity in the statements the he was "withdrawing" from graduate school. They make it seem like that is a long process, when it should be short and sweet and definitive (as in "I quit!") I wonder if he left it ambiguous (incompletes in the spring semester) so as to get access to student loan proceeds for a subsequent summer semester (even though he was not enrolled) and blew the money on his arsenal? Only time will tell...

Ignorance is Bliss said...

What if you had known James Eagen Holmes, and you could have interacted with him at a time when you were, in fact, preoccupied reading on-line articles about Anders Behring Breivik, or if you had known Anders Behring Breivik, and you might have spoken with him, reasoned with him, but you were distracted by some intriguing articles about Jared Loughner....

Hey, garage-

How are you doing today? Is there anything in particular bothering you that you would like to discuss? I'd be happy to reason with you, if you like...

Lyle said...

The New York Times, I think, was pointing out his "quiet demeanor", as if that means something.

What a joke.

They need to write SOMETHING though.

fivewheels said...

Ignorance is Bliss is joking of course. No one has a reasonable fear of garage.

But we have all seen angrier, more troubled souls here at this blog and others. What do you make of them? Is merely looking away the right thing?

I don't try to understand madmen, but I do sometimes wonder about those who frequent a place where they don't like anyone, and make themselves angry by immersing themselves in what they hate.

I do think a lot of stupid thoughts at times like these. I don't let my knee-jerk musings morph into instant calls for ill-considered laws, but that's a separate topic.

The Crack Emcee said...

Are you really interested in psychology?

Sure, but from the perspective of looking at a self-flattering population that drives individuals to lash out, without considering their own role in it.

My answer to the question, "Why did he do it?" is to point out this is a feminized nation - as unnatural as anything that's ever happened in the history of man - filled with quackery, cultism, misinformation, mysticism, and more. All blithely accepted by the majority as though it's having no negative effects on anyone and never will. Even after it's obvious people are being hurt, there's an insistence it shouldn't be so, because - hey - most of you "don't care" and that inhuman Nazi-like reaction is now considered normal, so get over it already.

Yeah. Right.

I've found a few articles on how limited the thinking is out there, but nothing that really digs into what a crock this "culture" has become. It's as though thinking is outlawed, and the only responses left are submission to the narrative or,...well, you know.

So - you guys want to elect a guy whose "church" has been followed, for decades, on every cult-watching site in the world. Great. Go ahead.

I'm sure that's going to work out juuuusst fine.

And if it doesn't - unlike certain Obama supporters - be sure to look in the mirror, first, this time,...

Paul said...

Interested in psychology? Sure.

But I'm also interested in JUSTICE.

This 'batman' nutjob needs to face justice. Swift justice.

If not the death penalty then lock him up in solitary forever. Maybe he can be a cell mate to Charles Manson or some other ogre.

Alex said...

Why can't we have a 2-day trial and summary execution? Oh wait, we live in a democracy and rule of law. You armchair judges will just have to get your rocks off some other way.

jf said...

"What if you had known James Eagen Holmes, and you could have interacted with him at a time when ..."
From what I've read, "interacting" wasn't in his repertoire of regular behaviors. There's a *hint* of it, perhaps, in what his neighbors of his family home said about picnic get-togethers, but nothing specific. I'll be interested to hear from some of his teachers who dealt with him face-to-face; was he capable of anything approaching "relaxed discussion"?
I'm betting he had some therapy somewhere along the way, perhaps medications? I, too, suspect he's schizophrenic; into neuroscience hoping to discover what was going on inside his head; wanting to find ways to control whatever he perceived as "not normal"; able to manage himself by focusing on performing well in his area of study and satisfying his parents in that way. But that whatever control he was able to have in his familiar and structured environment fell apart when he moved to CO, with grad school probably much different from undergrad, in unfamiliar country full of strangers. Controlling himself became monumentally beyond his capability, so that accumulated anger and shame energized his fantasies of power in the world.
Anyway, that's my guess.
"Interacting"? No, his withdrawal from soccer and then from running were big signals, but relating to someone, even a tiny piece, about what he was experiencing wasn't going to happen unless he was diagnosed and pinned down physically and medicated carefully. But he had enuf control (i.e., energy to appear "normal" and stifle any displays to the outer world of shame and anger about himself) to keep that from happening.

Methadras said...

As I said earlier. Evil serves only to perpetuate itself. It's that simple. The fact that all of these sub-humans are psychopaths stands to reason that they are more easily influenced by evil than the rest of us are. Brehvik thought by killing the next generation of marxists he would be saving his country from them.

Methadras said...

As I said earlier. Evil serves only to perpetuate itself. It's that simple. The fact that all of these sub-humans are psychopaths stands to reason that they are more easily influenced by evil than the rest of us are. Brehvik thought by killing the next generation of marxists he would be saving his country from them.

Methadras said...

Blogger Schorsch said...

Many of the people we meet seem off, or quiet, or strange, but these incidents are so rare we simply cannot make that judgement.


Maybe you should. Maybe a mental evaluation before entry into your programs should be deemed necessary and proper.

yashu said...

fivewheels, I thought of other commenters here too.

Moneyrunner said...

Description of a mass murderer: "super nice kid," "kinda quiet" and "really smart." This is how Holmes is described by a classmate to the LA Times.

We know so little about what motivates people, but we think we know so much. It’s called projection. We assume that there are universal aspirations and that they match our own. That error is the cause of both personal and global tragedy.

The foolishness never ends. The “Arab Spring” was interpreted by opinion leaders throughout the West as if the majority of Arabs shared the values of the West. Even the West – despite its cultural heritage – today lacks a uniform belief system, thanks in large part due to the Left's takeover of many of its cultural institutions. It has come as a shock to the chattering classes that only a small and powerless minority in Egypt shared their views and a large majority did not.

Thre is an automatic assumption that Holmes had "mental Problems."

Holmes who has spent the majority of his life in the process of being educated, fostering his intelligence, developing "rational thought." A PhD candidate at the University of Colorado Denver/Anschutz Medical Campus. From his actions we may conclude that he decided that it was rational to enter a crowded movie theater at midnight and kill as many people as he could. This does not pass for what most people would define as a rational thought, but to James Holmes it certainly did. What if, based on what Holmes has been taught, it was totally rational? Just as rational as Mohamed Atta, graduate of Cairo University and the Technical University of Hamburg, knew himself to be?


It will be interesting, as time passes and more information is made available, to see what Holmes' value system is, and where he acquired it. One thing we know, it wasn’t with the Tea Party.

Rusty said...

I don't try to understand madmen, but I do sometimes wonder about those who frequent a place where they don't like anyone, and make themselves angry by immersing themselves in what they hate.



I think in most cases it has to do with emotional immaturity. I actually work with someone who is exactly as you describe. Everything that happens to them is personal. It is a plot to keep them down. Every response is viscreal and violent. 'If I found them in a dark ally I'd beat them to death." kind of thing.
Maybe I should start packing at work?

I don't think Garage falls into that territory. I don't think he's altogether unintelligent either, but rather incurious enough to go along with the narrative that allows him to feel part of the outrage group. Outrage as a catharsis.
Whatever.
He's still an asshole though.

Dante said...

When I was in high school, I met a guy who off the edge. He was very smart, and manipulative. It took me a while to understand what was going on.

The best way I can describe the guy is from this suggestion he made to me. "Have you ever done hooding?" When I asked what it meant, he said it was a way to get revenge on the meanness of others in high school. Like, blowing up someones motorcycle, as revenge for the persons using their popularity and power to demean weaker people. He had interesting ideas, like making a religion based on some idea.

This guy ended up doing some really bizarre (illegal) things with his cult following. So bizarre, I could imagine that having escalated to about anything.

Unknown said...

Like Sydney, if I had to guess Holmes had a psychotic break. Ideely someone close to him would have noticed Holmes' decline and tried to convince him to seek help. But, if he refused, he's over 18. He wouldn't be placed on a psychiatric 24 hour hold (for assessment) without clear threats being made to harm himself or others.

I've treated people who had their first psychotic break, and with medication, counseling and time many make a full recovery. It's heartbreaking to think Holmes may get on meds and a few weeks later, when his delusions clear, he'll become fully aware of what he did.

It's heartbreaking all around.

I'm sick of hearing about gun control. Why is there not more discussion about mental health – detection and treatment?