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LAX Shootings - Part 2 - A Psychology of Retaliation

What might cause someone to retaliate against people they don't know?

In a prior blog regarding the LAX shootings we read how Karl Menninger believed that the suicidal mind, or more accurately "mindset," has three components: 1. the wish to kill; 2. the wish to be killed; 3. the wish to die.

As more information comes in about the shooter, Paul Ciancia, it appears he wrote a note where he stated his intent to kill as many TSA agents as he could and that he felt that they were part of a NWO (New World Order) bent on controlling people.

Since Ciancia was not killed, we will hopefully learn more about why he did what he did and why now and be able to use that in our understanding and future prevention and intervention in such horrific events.

In the meantime, something that does seem clear is that he acted as some kind of retalliation for something he perceived as wrongdoing. In fact it appears that in his mind he was trying to correct a wrongdoing.

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What happens to the mind that causes it to snap and retalliate? In many such cases of mass shootings, it seems to me that from their POV they have felt or thought:

  1. hurt
  2. powerless to make the hurt go away
  3. wounded
  4. attributed that wounding to people or forces outside themselves (which will hopefully answer the question regarding Ciancia, "Why this?")
  5. experienced some last straw that pushed them into taking action (which will hopefully answer the question, "Why now?")
  6. believed this action would somehow make their powerlessness or wound go away or perhaps elevate them from insignificant, unimportant and forgettable to being a powerful, significant, important and memorable martyr

The note has been called a suicide note and although it doesn't appear to be about committing suicide, it does seem that there might have been some belief by Ciancia that he would not survive the attack.

I have heard this kind of tragic event referred to as, "Revenge of the Nobody," where some people that in their mind feel put down or pushed away or out by the world, find a way to get in and get even.

If there is truth to this, perhaps a preventive measure might be to identify those individuals that might have such thoughts and to care enough of about them to talk to them and elicit from them if in fact they are feeling in some way put down and pushed away and powerless to make the hurt or wound from that go away. 

You don't have to be a rocket scientist to identify them, they are often the people you try to ignore because their situation and their suffering is something you don't want to empathized or deal with. 

However, more an more events like this are telling us that if we don't care and pay attention to these people sooner, we are going to pay a tragic price later.

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

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