Saturday, December 15, 2012

Another Whacko & A Murderous Rampage: What Gives?

Below: The recovered worm -eaten brain of a man who went insane with a machete in Barbados, ca. 1976. The worm cysts had triggered a violent reaction by impinging on his fear centers, in the amygdala. Might Adam Lanza have been driven by such parasites? An autopsy would need to be performed.

As the murderous rampage of Adam Lanza in Newtown, CT is assessed, questioning minds are (as usual) left with many more questions than answers, including:

1) Why, in a town one named as being 'safest in America" did a teacher (and mother of Lanza) find it necessary to keep a Bushmaster .223 rifle, Glock 9mm and another handgun?

2) Why did Adam Lanza resort to using his mom's "collection'' to kill her and then 20 children and 5 other teachers at the school?

3) Was the disorder that set Lanza off on his murderous spree in any way similar to what set off the Aurora, CO killer (James Eagan Holmes) in July?

Arguably, we don't know but certain surmises and speculations can be offered based on the information we do have, including that Adam Lanza tended to want to be alone and be left alone, and that he killed kids that his mother likely taught (new info this morning indicates she was more a substitute teacher than regular).  So is this another case of submerged personality disorder?

Alexander Wolf and Irwin L. Kutash (Psychotherapy of the Submerged Personality) in their first chapter ('Historical and Theoretical Perspective', p. 13) emphasize that:

"A central characteristic quality of submergence is the need to be alone. The submerged personality cannot really reveal himself to anyone. The persons he claims as 'friends' are people who themselves, like him, have no close personal bonds. These have to subordinate themselves to his solitary need and ask for nothing in return. They must be loyal servants more than friends, providing only a listening silence for a man who has no interest in intimacy. His friends are to make no comment or to respond actively to his behavior."

This is significant because it links aspects of Lanza's behavior to why his first victim was his mother. Note that this type of submergent is called "avoidant" and is said to lack "object relatedness". (Kutash and Greenberg, 'Place in the Diagnostic Spectrum', p. 47). The authors also point out the crucial link  to later (e.g. adult) behavior in childhood:

" In infancy the child is provided with satisfaction of all the basic physical needs such as food and physical comfort, but due to either a lack of parenting ability or life circumstance, the child is unable to receive much positive emotional stimulation or gratification. This scenario may be the result of a parent who is depressed or schizoid, or it may be due to a long term illness in which the child needs to be hospitalized. As the child enters the ego-emergence phase, independent strides are met with negative consequences such as punishment or anger.

This may be the result of having a parent who needs the child to remain a child in order to feel less threatened, or who needs the child to engage in activities that they themselves cannot fulfill."

Did the mother, a teacher at the school - also purchase her stock of weapons to ensure her role as "enforcer", i.e. to inhibit or prevent Lanza's emergence into adult independence? It's quite possible,  but again we'd be rash to jump to hard conclusions until all the facts are in.

But the authors go on to note that as a result of this subjugation of innate personality to the parent's (usually the mother's) demands "ego development is thwarted". This is a result of a "complying pseudo ego" emerging which occurs as the individual's own authentic ego is submerged and is done to "stay out of harm's way". The submergent personality thereby exhibits little object relatedness since "they do not know how it feels to be gratified by another person".

In the case of James Holmes, I noted that when his pseudo-ego "Joker" was hatched, he'd received the shock of his young life by learning that - even after graduating with honors from UC Riverside in Neuroscience- the best job on offer was burger flipping at Mickey Ds! Holmes temporarily salvaged the situation (and postponed release of the murderous Joker)  by finding an 'in' at the Univ. of Colorado, where he could pursue a Ph.D. and at least had the chance at a respectable future in neuroscience research. But it was not to be. While he skated through the baccalaureate work he met his match at the Ph.D.

Within a year he found himself on academic probation at the University of Colorado-Anchustz campus. He had "academic problems" according to campus spokewoman Jackie Brinkman. It doesn't matter what the immediate or specific source of failure was, the end result is that his grandiose self-concept now faced the imminent prospect of burger flipping . No Ph.D, no postdocs, leaving Colorado in disgrace...Mickey D here we come....or wait!

It was time to release the "Joker"! In other words, Holmes' Ph.D. failure triggered the release of the aggressive pseudo self since the capacity for true creative work was denied him by the need for submergence of his authentic self - where the energy, insight and true intelligence resided to succeed.

Adam Lanza's case is clearly different, and it appears that as a 20-year old still living at home he was either a submerged captive of his mother's more dominant personality or was unable to express his independent needs and goals- perhaps because she denied them. Again, further information is needed.

What is more a rational conjecture is that - as in the case of Eagan Holmes - Adam Lanza's life was "developmentally stymied" and hence not "available for rich and authentic experience". However, his aggressive pseudo-ego would naturally want to extend this miserable condition to all other humans in his immediate sphere. If his mother was the central object of hatred then whatever kids she came in contact with would emerge as proxy symbols of her power and control. In the end, he wasn't killing his mother once, but over and over and over again.....albeit symbolically.

Many theories will be put forward in the coming days on whether Adam Lanza was a "sociopath" or garden variety "psychopath" but the one which should never be discounted ab initio is submerged personality disorder.

Another more exotic take is that Lanza was perhaps under the control of brain parasites (see photo). We know that numerous violent instances have occurred, e.g. in the 3rd world, and also that worm infestations are becoming more and more common in the U.S. A. Parasitic worms, especially which burrow into brains, aren't everyone's cup of tea - but on account of global warming or for whatever reason, they seem to be proliferating and causing an epidemic. Mainly one species, identified as Taenia solium, or the tapeworm.

Less well known is that before the worms become adults they spend time as larvae in large cysts, which may find their way into the brain (see image) and cause a condition known as neurocysticercosis. Once having migrated to a brain, the cysts can thrive there for years feeding off the nutrients in the environs. As the cysts grow they can push relentlessly against critical regions of the brain causing a spate of symptoms. Some doctors in the Caribbean believe a number of cases where islanders have run amuck with machetes arose from cyst pressure on the amygdala - the "fear center" of the brain.

Is it possible that Lanza or other mass murderers had brains full of cysts which impelled their behavior? We don't know but an autopsy of the brain in this case might shed light. However, given the more northerly location (most worm infestations occur in the South) I will stick with submerged personality disorder as the more likely cause!

In the meantime, whatever the cause of psycho inception, this country needs to do more - much more - to control the accessibility to high powered weapons, which no hunter in his right mind would really need. That includes all AR-15s and Bushmaster .223s as well as Glocks of all calibers. Chris Hedges' UP this morning showed just how far the U.S. is as an "outlier" vs. other OECD nations in gun deaths.

Instead of always appealing to "prayers" in the wake of such mass killings, our leaders need to finally get off their collective butts and ACT - even if it means going up against the NRA in swing states! Those 20 kids killed by Lanza deserved a much better fate, and at least a decent chance of being safe in their school rooms. Worms or no worms in the brain, submerged personality or not....had those powerful weapons not been available to Lanza (or his mom) many fewer would have paid so dearly.

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