We learned the shooter’s name is James Holmes, ex-Ph.D. student in neuroscience. In the news, Holmes was described as “quiet” by his classmates, “a bright young man,” and a “top student” with a “merit-based scholarship.” How could such an intelligent student have such a low emotional IQ? He left the Ph.D. program in June and, I wonder, under what circumstances.
Almost every shooter since Charles Whitman, the UT Tower sniper, has been a student. The pursuit of a degree, from high school to a Ph.D., is a very stressful undertaking, but with little inherent support. It is likely he was ejected from the program for odd behavior. We have to ask how this may have affected him.
How much training in interpersonal remonstrance (confronting, consulting, counseling?) do professors and administrators receive? Almost none.
This was painfully clear in the Sandusky child abuse case. Not one of the administrators at Penn State was able or willing to meet with Sandusky to assess his mental health and attitude. They just covered it up.
“Beautiful Boy” (2011) chronicled the devastation two parents experience when their son kills 17 fellow students in a rampage. The film was exquisitely executed but lacked the depth needed to explain how the boy got to that depressed state.
“We Need to Talk about Kevin” (2011) laid out the process of psychopathological development in greater detail. The movie reveals how a mother who used drugs and alcohol during and after pregnancy set her son up for an egocentric personality, which deflected the love that she yearned to give him as he grew up. She tried so hard, but it was too late.
We can use an acronym to list the poor environmental conditions that lead to this kind of psychopathy. It is “T.R.A.U.N.C.I.L:” trauma, rejection (lack of warmth), abuse, unloving/uncaring words, neglect, indulgence, and, possibly most important of all, loss. Losing a caregiver after bonding is devastating to a child.
The answer to the dilemma of “spontaneous” (he had no criminal record) psychopathy is to assess the mental health of all young people who are under duress. The GOAL would be to aid and empower the positive traits in each student, but the OUTCOME would be the ability to identify the shooters early on.
These two movies and the midnight movie massacre point out the absolute necessity of training young mothers not to smoke, drink or use illicit drugs during pregnancy.
We desperately need to mandate or, at least, provide parenting classes for young mothers and fathers. It is difficult to make the connection to early childhood because the damage is not made manifest until years, sometimes decades, later.
“Children do not come with instruction manuals,” I have heard several times. Jamie Raser of Houston, author of “Raising Children You Can Live With,” once told me there were 2,000 child development and parenting books available.
“Why,” you ask, “did this happen?” Planned rampage behavior can be traced back to the Deadly Triad: 1. Poor parenting or early environment, 2. Brain maldevelopment or brain trauma, or 3. Brain alteration due to drugs and alcohol. These shooters are not just “bad seeds” – they have maldeveloped or altered brains and they need to be identified and treated.
Our hearts break, our souls grieve, and our minds struggle to understand.
Cedric Wood, Ph.D., L.P.C. 7424 Greenville Ave. #104 Dallas, TX 75231