Saturday, May 31, 2014

Therapists Analyze Elliot Rodger

Now that we will never have the chance to study Elliot Rodger or to offer him any more psychotherapy, the nation wants to understand what made him do what he did.

At the least, the psychologists assure us, sex would not have solved Rodger's problems. 

Presumably, they were responding to this question: if the chronically isolated and sexually frustrated Rodger had actually had sex, would he have been less inclined to slaughter his roommates and shoot down some sorority girls.

For all the money his parents were spending on therapy, why didn't they hire an escort to teach him about the joy of sex?  Isn’t that the idea behind the girlfriend experience?Obviously, they would not have had to tell him that they were doing so.

Apparently, the idea never crossed their minds. Considering how disturbed Rodger was, the chances are very good that it would not have helped him.

On that the psychologists interviewed by Regina Gorham of CBS Hartford are correct.

If, in fact, Rodger was schizophrenic, he was beyond the ministrations of even the most capable escort, or for that matter, therapist.

While the psychologists see Rodger as anti-social, they do not consider the possibility that his problems were more physiological than psychological. Surely, if Rodger’s own therapists had failed to recognize a psychosis or a brain defect—deserving medication and/or involuntary commitment-- they could not have done a very good job.

Unfortunately, expert therapists do not bring a great deal to the conversation. They declare the Rodger was lacking in empathy and that he was narcissistic.

In truth, today’s therapists say exactly the same thing about almost anyone. These are the go-to explanations for every form of social inadequacy.

In truth, they are using the occasion to show off their own theories. Most seem to have no real sense of Elliot Rodger.

Their efforts to cure all problems with empathy is clearly in error. Even if we assume that Rodger could have been taught empathy, the attempt to rejigger his feelings, to feel everyone else’s pain would have been for naught if he lacked social and conversational skills.

And what if he liked feeling pain? Nothing about empathy prevents an individual from causing pain because he likes to feel the pain himself.

CBS reports the views of one therapist:

“If Rodger had the capacity to be in a real, loving relationship I would imagine that he would have been much less capable of such callous behavior towards others,” clinical social worker and psychotherapist Laura Miller told CBS Hartford. “His disconnect from the humanity of others and their inherent worth would likely preclude any such relationship from occurring, however. So I don’t think having a girlfriend or sex is the issue here, but rather a direct result of his lack of self-awareness and lack of empathy towards those around him.”

For Miller the problem is psychological, not medical. She assumes that if only Rodger had been able to feel the right feelings he would have been able to interact with other people.

Dr. Krystine Batcho read Rodger’s manifesto and gleaned the following:

“There are several recurring themes in the manifesto and I would say that one of the most predominant features of it is narcissism,” she said. “Much of his arguments and perceptions are based on being narcissist. He didn’t appear to have a way of viewing reality from other peoples’ points of view. The entire document seemed to show that he only viewed it from his own perspective. He would attribute motives to other people or blame to the popular people when in reality, he had the major role in it.”

In truth, most male beings are slightly deficient in empathy. If you want to compete in the arena you do best not be too sensitive about the pain you are going to inflict you your opponents.

As for Rodger’s supposed narcissism, it ought to be evident that many other conditions can produce this kind of asocial character, like they Asperger’s syndrome, schizophrenia or even a brain tumor.

CBS calls Dr. Michael Broder a renowned psychologist, so we are naturally very interested in hearing what he has to say:

“If I have to guess there is something that created barriers between him and women that made dating not work and then of course he has this extreme reaction,” Broder said. “The thing that strikes me more than anything else is that behavior like this does not happen just like that. With killers like Adam Lanza, James Holmes, and Rodger, there has to be warning signs that these extreme actions can take place. There has to be something, some kind of social distancing such as Asperger’s syndrome in play, but an extremely tiny number of people who have it have those kind of behavioral issues.”

“Antisocial personalities like these mass killers need unfortunately a kind of help that they are least likely to seek out, which involves a real human connection with a therapist who can also monitor their behavior closely enough to protect them from becoming dangerous and take necessary precautions when possible.”

As it happened, Aurora shooter James Holmes’s psychiatrist did see it coming. She understood that he was schizophrenic. She alerted the authorities. They could do not do anything about it.

Broder is correct to say that therapy patients do need to form a meaningful connection with their patients. Most competent therapists know this and do their best to establish such a connection.

But, some therapists do not. Among them, the more orthodox Freudian psychoanalysts, who make a virtue out of disconnection.

We know that Rodger was seeing a therapist nearly every day when he was in high school. To me, this suggests that he was undergoing orthodox psychoanalysis or some variation thereupon.

Perhaps Broder is intimating that we cannot understand Rodger without knowing what was happening in his psychoanalytic therapy? Many of Rodger's thoughts sound like reconstituted Freudian theory. They may not be true to the letter of Freud's text, but we can certainly speculate about where he learned them.

Could it be that his analyst taught him that the meaning of his pain was his failure to have sex?

Could it be that his analyst taught him that good sex would solve his problems?

Did psychoanalysis teach him that other men were obstacles to his sexual gratification, to be eliminated by a man who had fully embraced his Oedipus complex?

And, did psychoanalysis turn his “narcissism” into high self-esteem, thus convincing this sad young man that if women did not want him, the fault lay with them, not with him. 

Doesn’t high self-esteem teach people that they need do nothing to improve themselves, because the fault lies with other people?


Anonymous said...

It's funny that a society that endlessly promotes self-esteem should be complaining about narcissism.

And what is the homosexual agenda if not narcissistic? If men who indulge in anal penetration or opt to their penises cut off to become 'women' should deserve to feel so great about themselves, it appears narcissism is our national cult.

Look at the current Time mag cover.

It's a major adventure in narcissism. Not just physical but moral narcissism. It says even freaks should feel like gods and goddesses. It's not about civil or human rights but the right to feel as gods. Even silly freaks should feel as the most beautiful and sanctimonious deities.

There is a 'gay' sensibility behind this since homos are the most aesthetically obsessed and bitchy people on Earth. Rodgers wasn't a homo but he was feeding on 'gay sensibility' of aestheto-narcissism that is all over the media.

When homos apply it to art, they can create remarkable stuff. When applied to life, it causes problems since reality doesn't conform to fantasies and ideals.

Or take Oprah. Just some frumpy fat black woman. But she's been promoted and hailed as someone almost divine. And she teamed up with Dr. Phil the shrink.
Funny, aint it?
A 'no-nonsense' therapist in cahoots with some charlatan woman who peddles fantasies.

And take a look at this.

Oh, her foundation was so irresistible to stars and starlets since Somaly Mam looked like a fashion model herself.

If Rodgers didn't kill, he'd be just another specimen of the 'new norm'.

Anonymous said...

Paradoxically, he had a huge self-esteem problem because he didn't have one.

He was so full of self-esteem but then realized others didn't share in his esteemed view of himself. His excessive self-esteem couldn't handle the lack of agreement among others.

What we need to teach is self-estimation than self-esteem. Teach kids to accept reality and their place in it than look to celebs as 'role models'.

Anonymous said...

Ares Olympus said...

So much speculation, I don't know what to think.

Could therapy itself encourage narcissistic thinking? What sort of therapy, attached or detached better help someone who is overly attached or detached or split down the middle from his own shame?

I never dated until after college and if you asked me why, I'm not sure there's a better answer than pride - I didn't want my bubble burst that told me I was a good and worthy person no matter who liked or didn't like me, that is I never bet my self-esteem on the threat of rejection, and my revenge was to see the innumerable unstable and unkind relationships and the way men and women treated others after a breakup, and I was sure I was above that.

I admit I have no idea what causes a male to set his sights on the "highest" females, those who already have more than enough attention.

To me that's an exercise of futility, but on the other hand, perhaps if you know you're over your head, you have to be a quick learner, and the rewards seem high, and the costs low, if you are willing to make a fool of yourself, and not take failure personally? Participation in sports also helps young men deal with success and failure, and not take it personally.

And I guess I agree, it would be incredibly foolish for a father or friend to set him up for a one-night stand with a prostitute or whatever. (I think I remember that story happened in Game of Thrones, with the dwarf character.)

Pride and status are such funny things, not what they seem without looking past surfaces. For me the key psychological ideas are like projection and compensation, and to see we're not rational creatures most of the time, and we are our own worst enemies when fall for our own self-deceptions.

Every story we tell ourselves gives us courage to act can be good and try something that scares us, but bad if we reduce other people to roles who are expected to play fairly within our hidden rulebook which they don't see and haven't agreed to.

Mark McGreevey said...

This fellow Elliot's problem is also that he never did anything for himself. No one gets self-esteem just on the take from family or government or begging. When Elliot would have decided (someday....over the rainbow!) to get involved in real (paid) work and use his not inconsiderable thinking power to the good of others, he might have been proud of himself, therefore happy, and therefore attracting all kinds of women that he never would have considered.

Incidentally I was just watching some of those group dancing videos from Korea, boy groups and girl groups. In the boy groups there is often a cool car, with one very pouty boy at the wheel, resembling remarkably our dear dead narcissist Elliot Rodgers. Who knows where he got his ideas?

But there is no doubt that part of his problem was his own nonacceptance of his Asian face and slight build. He would have been so much happier in Malaysia, China, Hong Kong, et al where he could shine as a Eurasian.

But alas, he didn't want a woman who looked like his sweet mother.

Anonymous said...

I feel sorry for the guy, growing up as a eurasian male in the states is tough, especially when it comes to dating. Not white enough for whites, not asian enough for asians. Everyone deserves to belong somewhere. At least he has found peace now.

Anonymous said...

Elliot Rodger began showing disturbed behaviors at around age 8, because his mother (she had custody, after the divorce) requested more money to cover the cost of therapy for Elliot. ER was obviously a deeply disturbed young adult, and although his parents kept insisting that he continue with therapy as long as he was a minor, it seems clear in retrospect that the therapy was ineffective. The disorder that seems most likely to me to be the culprit, is schizotypal personality disorder, which is sort of like "schizophrenia lite" and can degrade into full-blown schizophrenia. I wish that Elliot's parents would disclose their son's full psychiatric workup and history with the public, so we can learn more about how and why a person can devolve into a spree murderer.

Anonymous said...

"At least he has found peace now."

Couldnt he find it on his own?