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?