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LAX Shootings - Connecting a Suicidal Mind to Mass Shootings

What is the connection between being suicidal thinking and a mass shooting?

In Man Against Himself, Karl Menniger wrote that there are three components to the suicidal mind: 1. the wish to kill; 2. the wish to be killed; 3. the wish to die.

How might his hypothesis explain the connection between the LAX shooter being suicidal and his mass shooting?

Menninger spoke a great deal about the mixture of active and passive components in the suicidal mind. By that he meant that such a mind feels passive about the despair they feel and that they can do nothing about it. On the other hand when it reaches a point where it is unbearable an active part of the mind wants to make that pain, or what my late and cherished mentor, Edwin Shneidman, referred to as Psychache go away.

But given how powerless the person has generally felt in life that led up to their suicidal thinking, it's possible that they feel unable to kill themselves. So instead they take the hatred that is welling up inside them and then go out to kill others hoping to trigger what is referred to as: "suicide by cop" where they take an action in which they hope they will be killed by someone else.

I know this sounds confusing, but to a suicidal mind it makes sense perhaps along these lines: "I want to kill myself, but I am too passive and powerless a person to do that. The world outside me is not powerless and to add to that the world outside me has rejected me and abandoned me, so I will do something to cause that world outside me that has the power to kill me to do so. And finally, I just want the pain to go away because as long as I am alive, I will be in that pain so the only way for it to go away is to die."

Of course this is all conjecture and we won't know how much of it applies until the facts come in and a thorough investigation is done.

It's possibly a stretch and those of you who take this too literally will be offended by this, but to understand a little of what is going on in that hostile, powerless, wracked by pain suicidal mind consider the analogy of being trapped in an extremely unhappy marriage and feeling powerless to do anything to get untrapped. It is not unusual for a person feeling such thoughts to think: 1. I want to get out of this marriage but I am powerless to do anything; 2. Because I am so powerless I will make my spouse so unhappy that they ask for the divorce; 3. I just want the pain of having been in love with someone turn into not being able stop hating them to go away.

Have you ever experienced feeling trapped in pain and suffering that was unending and unbearable? What did you think? What did you do?

Mark Goulston, MD, is the author of the new bestselling book Just Listen: Discover the Secret to Getting Through to Absolutely Anyone.

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