Watch Dr. Sylvia Gearing on CBS 11 discuss the terrible shooting at a school in Connecticut - click here.
Does the shooter fit the profile of a mass murderer?
Mass murderers intend to inflict suffering and death on as many people as possible—a lethal strike—and may have no articulated agenda except to inflict death.
Sense of Revenge: Mass murderers kill for revenge. They are convinced that someone or something has wronged them, and their acts of violence are retribution against others. This kind of “punishment mentality” stems from a pattern of systematic grandiose thinking and narcissistic tendencies.
Grandiose Thinking: Grandiose thinking is a reflection of a narcissistic personality disorder, where a person believes that they are special and infallible. When they perceive an abuse, they overreact and lash out. Such revenge can become violent as we saw in the shootings at Columbine and Virginia Tech.
Scale and Single Event: Mass murderers have a specific target and want to take down as many people as they can. They often realize that their murderous acts will most likely be the last thing that they ever do. They plan to inflict as much suffering as possible. In a delusional mind, this was a manly exit and a final statement of revenge and anger.
Why would he turn the guns on the children?
The children were regarded as collateral damage and he justified their slaughter through his deranged and delusional thinking. Obviously, he regarded the children as an extension of his mother’s influence. To kill the children, in some awful way, was to hurt his mother in the most fundamental manner.
You are most likely wondering, “Why would someone engage in such irrational behavior?”
Highly Regressed Thinking: Clearly, he was not thinking with a clear mind. His online diary indicates fragmented thinking, cognitive distortions, delusional ideation and paranoid thinking.
Anger As An Approved Emotion: Anger is a socially approved emotion for men. You can’t be sad but you can be angry. Anger is also energizing. Anger feels empowering and it protects them momentarily from the shame and self-loathing so many of them experience.
Normal Façade: It is important to remember that severely mentally ill people can assume a normal façade. This is especially true when there is paranoid ideation of any kind. They may harbor delusional beliefs that they carefully hide from others. Skillful at promoting one version of themselves to the public, they tend to engage in a private world of fantasy, defend themselves from perceived threats and even commit violent murders, as in this case.
Pervasive Distrust: The essential pattern is a pervasive distrust and suspiciousness of others. They assume that someone—and individual or a group (as in this case) will harm or exploit them even if there is no evidence to support their argument. Reality simply disappears.
Under the Radar: They generally do not come to the attention of the mental health system since they consider themselves perfectly normal. They fly under the proverbial radar.
If you are worried about the potential violence of those around you, here are some warning signs to look out for:
People need to know that forensic psychologists argue that mass murders come with warning signs. There are predictive characteristics to these crimes including the following:
- Typology of Language: Meaning and perspective behind words are the chief indicators of murderous intention.
- When someone is planning to commit violence, they tend to use one of these types of words or statements.
- Attention Seeking
- Irrational Attachment (Behaviors like Stalking)
Reasoning for Murder: When someone is about to commit a violent act they perceive four issues in a justifying light.
- They believe that they have justification
- They have no alternatives for the outcome they want
- The consequences for their actions are acceptable
- That they have the resources and the abilities necessary to carry out the mass murder.