I wrote the first article a year ago and the second one ten months ago. art
On Why They Kill Themselves at the End
Almost every week now, there is a story of a mass killer that fires on many people, kills a few, then turns the gun on himself and commits suicide. Why do they do that? Why not just kill? Because then, the neurologic sequence would not be run off. Let me explain:
I use the sequence of my patients in their reliving as an example. First they feel amorphous pain and suffering, then they attach a scene to it such as “they don’t love me. “ “You bastards, why don’t you love me (fury) ?!” Then the patient begs, “Please love me.” And finally, “It is all hopeless.” If we think of the gunman who seems to follow the same sequence. Often the wife has left and taken the kids who give him love. He is furious and wants to kill (in Primal) but actually does kill in real life. Then there is the ultimate hopelessness and giving up (in therapy the truth is finally felt and sets the patient free) but in life the gunman stops at hopelessness and kills himself. He has gotten rid of his anger but there is nothing left, nowhere to go with his feelings and no resolution. Life has lost its meaning.
Patients feel that way along the route to full feeling but they do not stop there, and if they do leave therapy too soon they will be stuck with those feelings forever. What gives the kick to those feelings is very early trauma that digs up rage plus a lifetime of no love from the parents and then finally, the loss of love in the present. The stalker cannot stand the feeling and checks up all of the time on his wife. The killer is more emerged in the feeling and kills. Both cannot stand the loss of love; the difference is, I assume, that the pre-birth and birth traumas add a layer of extreme feelings to the mix, which cracks the defense system and places the person out of control. And it is those early traumas that compromise the part of the cortex that controls feelings and create the out-of-control sequence. This happens very early on when the cortical cells are just being evolved and proliferating.
This analogy isn’t theoretical; I have seen this run off in patients, and the more unloved and deprived they were earlier on, the more violent the tendencies. Happily in therapy it all remains internal and benign. Outside of therapy it is a catastrophe.
On Murder Again
I am going to explain what happens when someone “snaps” and kills. Specifically, regarding Scott Dekraai who killed eight people recently in Seal Beach California. He says now, some three weeks later, that “I know what I did.” So how is that possible to know what you are doing and still do it? The catch is he didnt’ know what he was doing when he did it, only later.
Is that possible to know one minute and not know the other minute? Absolutely.
Let’s talk about the crackup. But before I do that let me offer a little reminder; There are three levels of brain function. The top level is the thinking, comprehending one; externally oriented. Lower down is the feeling brain that adds emotion to the mix, and still deeper there is the instinctive reptile brain that processes the same instincts as the reptile. It adds urgency and power to emotions and to beliefs. All three have separate functions and yet are interrelated. And they communicated with each other by chemical means and also by electrical frequencies. And when something happens in the present it resonates with similar feelings from the past and they join forces. When defenses are weak, something in the present can trigger off allied sensations and feelings and then we get a powerhouse response. All three levels are involved in a conjoined reaction. Normally, there is a good defense apparatus so that the resonance does not reach too far deep down, thus limited the force of the reaction.
Here is how resonance works in the domain of anger. Something in the present makes me very angry; my wife is divorcing me and trying to keep the kids. My money is running out and she still wants more. She refuses to see or talk to me. She turns the family against me. I have been let go at my job due to injuries and I have no prospects for a new job. All looks bleak and I have no alternative. All these are assaults on my defenses. And they weaken so much that it all crumbles and there is no barrier holding back deeper pain. The problem is on the feeling level there are powerful emotions, but as it resonates still deeper anger turns to rage and fury. Human emotion because murderous feelings as the deepest animal level has access to the higher level. That is, in my lingo, the third line gives way to the first line reptilian brain where killer feelings reside. And for that moment the third line inhibitory brain is ousted by the first line instinctive brain and there is murder. The deepest brain level becomes the highest one temporarily. There is nothing left of the top level of the brain whose main function it is to inhibit. But that can only last minutes. Once the rage is expressed the pain level diminishes and some of the third line thinking, reflective brain returns to function. And Scott can now say, “I know what I did.” And he knows now but at the moment of crisis he did not know what he was doing; his rage machine took over and he became the reptile spewing out fury indiscriminately. After all, it is the top level that discriminates. It was usurped for that moment, the critical moment when he murdered eight people.
I have seen this rage over and over again when very disturbed patients begin to relive on the emotional, feeling level and suddenly are impacted by the lower levels. They begin to pound the mattress and the padded walls with an enormous fury that can go on for thirty minutes to one hour. In therapy they can direct the rage, connect with it and not be overwhelmed by it. Not so, on the street. I have filmed this rage, and those interested will see it when we release the film. The patient seems to be out of control because he is in the grip of powerful deep forces. But it is a controlled situation and is not acted out. It is becomes acted-out when the person has no idea that there are feelings deep in the unconscious, is helpless before them and has no idea about how to control them. His unconscious has taken over. And he kills.
And we can say of these people who are sometimes out of control that they may be pre-psychotic. All that really means is that their defenses against the deepest level of the brain are very weak due to the constant onslaught of pain early on in their life. And what do so-called anti-psychotic pills do? They dampen the lowest brain levels from responding. They help hold back the first line. They do this by souping up the top level so that it is more active and effective; and at the same time there are inhibitory medications in it that block the lower level pain; thus, we get a more active cortex and a less active brainstem and limbic/feeling brain. And in this medication there are chemicals that we should produce ourselves, such as serotonin. But we don’t because very early trauma has exhausted supplies, and we cannot make enough to blanket the pain. So when our inner pharmacy cannot do the job we need help from the external one. We can call it anti-psychotic medicine but all it is doing is making up for what we can no longer manufacture ourselves. Poor Scott had so many current assaults coupled with a lifetime of them that he could no longer inhibit nor defend. His defense system was not up to the job. Now when it is far too late he probably has a somewhat weak defense system that can inhibit. That won’t do his victims any good.
The lesson we can take from this is that when deprivation and severe trauma exists while we are being carried, the first-line defenses are already in a weakened state. As a kid he may have had uncontrolled temper tantrums which evolved into murder. Was he responsible? Yes and no. But we can go a long way to avoid murderous rage by making sure there is as little trauma as possible when we live in the womb. No drinking and drug-taking by the mother. No fights with her husband. No crazy diets while carrying. It is easy for me to say. I am only the messenger. It is up to all of you to listen to the message.