As details begin to emerge about the horrific acts of violence that Elliot Rodger committed, I think many of us may be feeling a duality of emotions, both utter shock at the brutality of the attacks, but also a bit of frustration that these acts of violence continue to happen in the country without any real meaningful attempts to stop them. Without a doubt, the acts that young man committed were absolutely terrible and my hearts goes out to the families who have suffered a loss as a result of this tragedy.
His story though, more than some of the other mass shootings that occurred, has a strong theme of loneliness in it and the shooter himself used the word in his YouTube video. People often link these mass shootings to the theme of a loner, solitary person. However, there are also some other characteristics that are thematic including the fact that they are generally young males, utilizing guns that are legally obtained to perform these acts of violence. To say that being a loner, or suffering from loneliness is the sole reason for these mass shootings would be misleading. However, it certainly appears to be a factor. Indeed, feeling separated from the rest of humanity removes one barrier to committing these crimes. If you don’t feel a part of the human race or worse, you feel injustice from others, you probably feel less guilt about killing them.
After looking through Elliot’s story, there were some very strong themes of loneliness in it that I typically see in those that are chronically lonely. Individuals who are chronically lonely, often experience a constant, overwhelming feeling of loneliness in which there is little relief. The loneliness themes include:
When I continued to explore Elliot’s story, these loneliness themes stood out to me. It was clear that he was chronically lonely, not just cause he said he was lonely, but by what he said and wrote. Unlike some previous shooters where there was a clearer case of mental illness, Elliot just seemed to be really isolated, lonely, and rejected by others. Unfortunately in our society, if all you are is just lonely, then you are simply labeled as a loser and rejected. Without a doubt, Elliot probably felt the brunt of that prejudice early on, and this rejection contributed to his devolution into hateful beliefs and violent actions. Chronic loneliness is not even a recognized mental illness according to the DSM-IV. If you went to see a therapist about feelings of loneliness, chances are your therapist may begin to treat you for depression, because in the mental health community, loneliness is often thought of, quite incorrectly, as a subset of depression.
The purpose of this blog post is neither to justify Elliot Rodger’s actions nor to elicit sympathy for him. He made a conscious decision to commit these terrible acts of violence, to commit mass murder. There is no excuse for it. It is my hope instead to raise awareness about the issue of loneliness. For those who are chronically lonely to realize that they are not alone in the way they feel, to raise awareness about the awful stigma society places on those individuals who are lonely (#lonersarentlosers), and to advocate for greater services for those individuals for experience loneliness. People are going to commit mass murder one way or the other, but if more people feel connected to others and less lonely, taking the life of another is going to be more difficult to do.
More on loneliness here: http://www.webofloneliness.com/