Monday, July 23, 2012

Parsing the 'Submergent' Psycho (Q&A): Part II

The malevolent punk, James Eagan Holmes, in court today


We continue now with more questions, answers:

Q. I am still not clear on where all the rage had to come from to fuel the Joker persona. Can you give the psych background?

A. Okay, first from the time the child had to sacrifice his authentic persona, he had to expect something back in return. A quid pro quo for his self-sacrifice. This includes “positive mirroring”, e.g. the mother smiling back at him when he smiles at her, and some degree of “empathic attunement”, i.e. when he skins his knee or otherwise hurts himself, his mother responds in an empathic way (putting a bandaid on) and doesn’t ignore him.

But in the most wretched cases for genesis of the submerged personality, this quid pro quo is not met. The mother’s (or other dominant parent’s) expectations are such that virtually nothing the kid does merits compensation, so the kid ends up giving away his self essence for nothing. According to Michael Lindenmann (op. cit., p. 89):

“There is a three-part strategy for defending against loss of empathic attunement and positive mirroring (the child’s early requirements for unrestricted emergence of authentic – if grandiose- ego) . The three elements are: 1) reactive rage, 2) repression of grandiose strivings of the authentic ego, and 3) accommodation to external requirements. “

Lindenmann goes on to note these elements form the basis for an unconscious mode of transaction. He goes on to emphasize:

“ This mode of reaction, thoroughly reactive and defensive in character, may be assumed whenever there is a perceived threat, in fact or fantasy, to the strivings of the narcissistic ego or its demanded narcissistic supplies. With enough reinforcement over time this will become the habitual of relating for some individuals.”

Q. Can you put the last part in context for Holmes?

A. Again the 3 elements must be understood in the context of the unconscious mode of transaction, especially the first two: reactive rage and repression of grandiose strivings. These were evidently fed since Holmes’ childhood for whatever reason. However, as long as he received positive ‘strokes’ – whether for his academic performance or other achievements (e.g. making Phi Beta Kappa)  the reactive rage was held in abeyance since his grandiose strivings were being addressed and didn't have to endure repression. This was so even if the authentic ego that demanded the grandiose strivings was submerged.

The problems would have really begun when the grandiose strivings were denied or impeded, so the narcissistic component of ego was starved.(I.e. when Holmes Ph.D. aspirations came crashing down in tatters.) At this point the reactive rage would have been monstrously fueled, though its seeds were germinated years before, perhaps by some perceived slight from peers or professors. However, since the authentic ego was submerged, and the parent pseudo ego was the cause, a rage-reactive alternate pseudo ego ('Joker') had to be created wherein the reactive rage would reside, with potential use later ....say if external conditions warranted it in the pseudo-ego's mind.

Thereby all the cumulative frustrations of the authentic ego would be transferred to the pseudo ego or what Holmes called the Joker. It’s important to grasp that neither Holmes’ authentic ego or the parental pseudo-ego was capable of the reactive rage displayed in the Aurora massacre. This had to be carried out by the rebellious, pseudo ego. This was the one created (we know not exactly when) explicitly for the purpose of harvesting all past slights whether from parents, peers, or other authorities and integrating them, before energizing the reactive rage from that basis.  Then acting on that rage, by emulating the vicious, fictitious persona he'd chosen.

Q. So, is this the idea behind the orange hair and Joker type get up seen in the recent TV news pieces?

A. Exactly! Since there is no way Holmes’ in the guise of his (submerged) authentic ego could have carried out this vicious mass murder, he in effect had to physically confect an entirely distinct aggressive alter-persona. This persona had to be radically different from the Ph.D. student and even manifest a different “strange, guttural,  cackling” voice. (The latter was reported coming through Holmes’ answering machine when a local gun dealer phoned regarding Holmes’ application for membership in a Byers gun club. Holmes' application was rejected by the club simply on the basis of the insane phone voice, as reported in today's Denver Post.)

In this aggression-laced pseudo persona, it was possible for Holmes to carry out his foul deed, since in his submerged psyche it wasn’t him (James Eagan Holmes) committing the crime, but the evil  “Joker”. Note also the “Joker” was –is the sworn enemy of Batman (see the previous film with Heath Ledger in the name role as "the Joker", and note also the eerie resemblance of the character’s hair to Holmes'). Hence, one can surmise “Batman” represented all normative successful society which Holmes’grandiose ego core now despised since his own failure (at Ph.D. level) to be an academic success. The authentic ego realized, perhaps from 3-4 months ago,  the only future on offer would not satiate the grandiose, narcissist needs. A future of working in the despised, low-wage service class sector would then emerge as the realization of  the "perceived threat, in fact the strivings of the narcissistic ego".

One can conjecture that the transference of reactive rage extended well beyond the abstract, target  “superhero” (the ultimate success) of Batman to all those humans who idolized that success, hence the choice of the theater audience. (Though in truth we may never know why he selected Theater 9, as opposed to say 8) These attendees by definition were all Batman- success ‘groupies’ and (in the warped mind of Holmes’ aggressive pseudo ego), were the chosen proxy as the alternative to eliminating the superhero himself;  the embodiment of public accolades, societal-cultural success, ego mastery and adoration by the non-submerged populace.

I surmise the "Joker" was also unconsciously selected (bear in mind according to Lindemann we are talking of "unconscious modes of transaction" ) which also conforms to the need for "accommodation to external requirements". For all we know, it was selected not only to be an embodiment of evil - to carry out what Holmes' planned - but also as a kind of unconscious mockery of his own (authentic-submerged) ego's failure to gain the Ph. D.

Q. You do realize that the FBI Behaviorists will likely have a different view?

A. Oh, for sure! And more power to them! I say the more analyses we have on this creepazoid the better, to perhaps profile likely suspects before it happens again. (Though hopefully, the analyses will eventually boil down to one  unifying theme or profile! ) Think of this logically: If the gun lobby and its hacks, puppets prevail - as we are almost certain they will (despite Mayor Bloomberg's courageous pleas) - and no limits are imposed on the purchase of assault rifles -guns or multi-capacity clips, then the only option is to pick out the plausible mass murdering perps before they carry out their fell deeds.
As to having a different view, I would not be surprised since as I noted in an earlier blog, e.g

psychology is still an "immature" science, by which I mean there are no firm quantitative models by which to make predictions -say like in physics - then most interpretations, results and empirical findings will remain subjective. On the positive side, this is also why almost anyone willing to devote himself to the research aspect, can make a valid contribution. Much like the amateur astronomers did before astronomy emerged as a mature, quantitative science in the late 1800s.

This is also why I have no qualms about putting in my 0.02  (if someone asks what gives me the "right" to offer an analysis of Holmes) despite psychology not being my speciality area. It doesn't have to be given it's still a "squishy", subjective science with no really formal quantitative basis - - apart from the occasional statistical models and formulae, and we're well aware of the defects in those! Thus, I maintain that just as in the other subjective science of economics, anyone willing to put in a decent research effort is entitled to have his input taken seriously. In the sense of immature, subjective sciences, all inputs are to a degree, relative. The professional psychologist, psychiatrist, may attract more gravitas within his peer-reviewer, publication  community, but this doesn't disallow inputs from outside, say of non-specialists. Further, I don't offer my conjectures as any firm "theory" about Holmes, only a feasible hypothesis based on my research! Hence, people are free to consider it or reject it as they wish.  I do this because I understand many people are desperate to have the 'why' addressed, and no one in the media seems to be doing that other than incidentally. Worse, most of the analyses thus far given appear to be overly generic.

Q. Gov. Hickenlooper of Colorado has said the shooter's aim was not just to kill innocent people but to try to kill or eliminate our joy at going to the movies, say for escape. Do you agree?

A. Yes, I do. Given that this forlorn creature (refer to my blog 'Deconstruction of a Psycho') was "developmentally stymied" and hence whose life was not "available for rich and authentic experience", his aggressive pseudo-ego would naturally want to extend this miserable condition to all other humans. So in the warped consciousness of the Joker pseudo-ego it would have been believed that killing so many at an innocent venue would extrapolate to people not wishing to put themselves in possible harm's way at such a venue.

Hence, the best whack in the face for this creature would be to go to as many movies as you want, especially midnight premieres!

Q. DO you worry about your blogs giving too much publicity to Holmes?

A. No. Because the rationale isn't to confer any "publicity" but to provide a psychological profile and features by which to recognize the next wacko before he or she acts! And yes, that means people must come forward, even if it means that they might be proven wrong!

Q. Can you explain the loopy, vacant stare of the guy as captured in the booking image (above - top of blog) and in court?

A. Of course! The Submerged Disorder model easily accounts for the look! Clearly, the capture of the guy and his enforced isolation (solitary at the Aurora Jail)  has torpedoed the 'Joker' (the aggressive pseudo-ago) who is thereby rendered impotent and inactive. What we are seeing is the first emergence of Holmes' authentic self and the expected SHOCK because frankly, HE doesn't know what the hell happened! After all, it was the pseudo ego 'Joker' that did the deed, then vacated or was vacated. Now, the authentic or previously submerged ego is left to wonder what the hell is going on.

Is he insane? Of course! His self has been dissociated, and the guilty perp -ego is now gone, fled the coop as it were, to leave the authentic 'James Holmes' ego and self to bear the cost. Authorities would be advised not to let this dude alone for a nanosecond, because he will kill himself at the first opportunity - once he fully recognizes his situation.

Q. Don't you feel bad at "medicalizing" his condition using these psych models? Why not just admit the guy is pure evil and leave it at that? Most Americans don't wish to see all this psych medicalizing mumbo-jumbo!

A. Tough shit. I do not process 'evil' other than as a word. 'Evil' is the realm of religious ideologues, and extremists who see the world and experience only in black-white terms, as if they themselves could never ever remotely do such a deed. But the shock experiments of Philip Zimbardo back in the 60s-70s show any of us is capable of expressing what is called "evil" by the hoi polloi. Also, any of us - if enough pressure is brought to bear - can crack given the critical catalyst. So, with this in mind, I opt to use psychological referents as opposed to 'evil', 'evil doers' and oh, doubt 'Demons', and 'Satan' and ancillary hogwash and figments of the derelict, uneducated mind. If people want THOSE sort of explanations, let them go to the Vatican - the same bunch that allowed the rape of thousands of kids by hiding the perps. I am sure they have plenty of "evil" to spout off about!

Q. What do you think will happen to Holmes?

A. I think he will end up at the "Supermax" facility in Canon City, Colorado, along with Ted Kascinszki and assorted terrorists. This may be the best retribution for the guy, as opposed to gassing him. This way, once the pseudo ego dissolves, as it must in prison isolation-confinement, he will be left with nothing but the charred remains of his life's regrets, and the acrid realization of all the unmet potential he still could have achieved......for the rest of his days.

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