Thinking Matters

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The Case of Nidal Malik Hasan's Shooting at Fort Hood

He couldn't hold the rage; he had scores to settle.

I've been blogging about anger and repression for several weeks now, and the shooting at Fort Hood can figure into this discussion.

My take on it is that Hasan was furious and he could not automatically repress this rage. The repression wasn't working because he was especially conscious of who he felt was tampering with his inner narrative. And this inner narrative was a confirming one most likely concerning something about his pride in being a Muslim and how he felt that this image of his identity-group was being attacked (and most likely in his mind, unjustly attacked).

It was a rage that was born out of a need to protect himself as well as protect or affirm those with whom he shared his pride. All of it was naturally reinforced by his confirming narrative.

There are various criteria used by any person's psyche (psychological processes) that will determine whether anger gets repressed or not. And, of course, if the anger is large or huge the probability that it will be repressed decreases and the likelihood of acting-out increases. Why is that?

The answer is in how good is the person's ego shock-absorbers. If the person can withstand strong shocks to the emotional system, then the probability of repression of anger increases. If the strength of the anger is stronger than the strength of the resilience of the person, then the anger is likely to be acted-out. This is true even under the rationalized or intellectualized condition of seeing oneself as a messenger of goodness or justice. In such a case the acting-out is given ‘permission' and the consciousness of the anger, although felt, is rather held in virtual state while an intellectualized ideological rational takes over that okays the acting-out.

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Here are the criteria that determine whether the anger is repressed and controlled, or even repressed and nevertheless acted-out, or not repressed at all and without reservation, simply acted-out.

1. What is the magnitude of the anger? That is, how much of the psyche did it cover or radiate? All of it? Most of it? Some of it? Hardly any of it? The point here is that if the magnitude of the anger/rage is too great, and the ego not resilient enough to tolerate the presence of such magnitude of anger/rage, then the integrity of the ego will be threatened and the ego is likely to extrude (push out) the rage rather than keep it in.

2. What is the intensity of the anger? How shrill is it? How dense was its explosive power? The point here refers to the issue of implosion. If the ego senses extreme implosive power and feels such power can threaten its existence, it will want to extrude (push out) such rage. In such a case the rage will become explosive.

3. What is the depth of the anger. Does it seem to penetrate to the core of the psyche? The point is that the deeper the rage is perceived to be, the more likely it is that the person's inclination will be to get rid of it.

4. What is the duration of the anger? How long has this thing been festering? At a certain point of rumination, a problem becomes chronic. With the presence of great magnitude, intensity and depth of the anger/rage, this issue of duration of the anger/rage takes on an ominous cast.

Given these criteria, it seems likely that all of it figured into the actual impulse-mechanics of Dr. Hasan's acting-out. In addition, there seems to be an ideological implication here (perhaps in religious and nationalistic terms) that constitute this man's inner narrative and that gives the entire act of such acting-out its rationale and its actual possibility to play out the fantasy of doing the deed. At such points, the difference between thinking it and doing it is obscured and such a person is in an altered state of mind although not necessarily psychotic.

Of course, in a more general sense, when someone makes threats to do something violent, it must always be taken seriously. And given these above criteria that increase the possibility of violence, then all threats need to be specifically addressed by anyone who comes into contact with a person making the threats.

Some of this material can be more extensively followed in my book:

The Psychoanalysis of Symptoms
Published by Springer Science,
New York, 2008.



Henry Kellerman, Ph.D., psychologist/psychoanalyst/ practitioner, is the author/editor of more than 20 books.


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