Wednesday, December 12, 2007

The Inadequate Assassin

"You've got an 'inferiority complex.'"  Or so I've been told.  So it gives me pause when I read criminal profiles of inadequate loner types who fantasize and then kill.  The recent mass murder in Colorado at New Life Church and the Youth With a Mission training center, involving Matthew Murray, is an example of an extremely shy, awkward teenager, with limited social maturity due to having been homeschooled, and with an underlying psychosis:

    Richard Werner, who was Murray’s roommate at YWAM in Arvada in 2002 for missionary training, recalled Murray as an odd 19-year-old who was painfully shy and displayed extreme “mood swings.” Werner said Murray, who growled and spoke to himself in the middle of the night in strange voices, had trouble socially with other young people.

Clearly here are personality traits that are shared with other mass murderers, including the Columbine killers, the Virginia Tech killer, and the recent Omaha Mall shooter, who may have been instrumental in sending Murray over the edge. Martin Bryant, responsible for the worst mass murder in modern Australian history is described as "a quiet lad and a bit of a loner." 

What separates these types from other inadequate loner types apparently comes down to three things: 1) proximity of guns or other weapons (one mass murderer used a tank), 2) a psychopathic belief that his needs trump those of other human beings, 3) a stressor that sends him over the edge.  The stressor trigger is often "the straw that breaks the camel's back," yet also the result of months or years of slowly building rageful feelings and homicidal and suicidal fantasy. 

When confronted by an armed security guard, Matthew Murray shot himself in the head.  He needed to control the outcome completely.  While he sought out unarmed and defenseless victims, when challenged, he opted out of confrontation because it wouldn't have fit his fantasy of slaughtering a hundred or more church-goers.  He was a coward.

The two sisters at New Life Church were his perfect targets, representing other happy, well adjusted young Christians which he felt estranged from and victimized by.

    “If you’re an extrovert, and popular, then yes, there is plenty of love waiting for you in christianity,” Murray wrote May 8. “If you ask questions and want to understand things and/or desire a real and deep spirituality, or if you’re just not popular . . . well . . . you are considered as one of the horrible people and are either going to be abused or kicked out by ‘holy spirit love filled’ christians.”

One of the great treasures of my life has been connecting with other introverts.  I have sought out and bonded with people who share my interests and understand my feelings.  I have also succeeded enough in my pursuits to avoid the damning inner voice of the "critic" which would indeed motivate me to violence if it wasn't held in check.  This sometimes manifests as an interior verbal monologue of self-criticism, or of painful memories from my past, projected into my mind's eye, usually at a vulnerable moment.  I have learned to deal with this phenomenon, which is a symptom of depression.  I am not the only one who suffers.  My own treatment has involved heightened awareness of the voice, when it is speaking or showing me embarrassing or stress-causing images.  I take a moment to stop and confront the unreality of the negative thoughts.

For various reasons, the killers above did not have the coping skills necessary to avoid their violent codas.  Three things can be done: 1) Learn to recognize underachieving loner types and reach out to them.  This can be harder than you think.  In the case of the Virginia Tech killer, one of his professors took extraordinary steps, including private seminars and counseling, to reach him.  She failed.  He was too far gone.   2)  If you're introverted, seek out other introverts.  You both will benefit.  Have the courage to say hello.  3)  Don't buy guns, no matter how strong, capable, macho and in control of things they make you feel.


1 comment:

stwill61 said...

Mike, your perspective is so welcome in this area.  You've had an interest in understanding the minds and situations of these killers, and you're able to see some traits that you share with them, while also recognizing what sets you apart.  

Well done.