Dec 01 2009

Violence and Twisted Psyches

By admin

The massacre at Fort Hood was shocking and bewildering. The questions and issues raised by the heinous acts of violence are complex and extremely challenging.  In her article on Major Nidal Hasan’s terrorist attack at Fort Hood, Aimee Liu makes some valid points.  I agree with Ms. Liu that violence among us should not be related to the color of our skin or the name of our religion. Ms. Liu wonders what effect horror stories have and suggests that they have the power to ‘twist the psyche.’

The exposure to horrific stories of war and violence that exists in our culture and others – is something which has been encouraged and sensationalized in the media. Indeed, it has become more and more the norm to show images which portray explicit violence and blood.  This poses an interesting question – does exposure to stories of horror lead to violent acts?  This seems parallel to the notion that children observing aggression or violence on TV  become more violent and aggressive – an outcome which has been shown in many research studies.

It seems likely that exposure to horror stories has the potential for inducing traumatic responses or even pain and empathic grief in the therapist or caregiver  but I’m not certain about ‘twisting their psyches’ and leading them to violent acts.  This seems to me a leap of reason.

Psychologist Carl Jung suggested that innate sensitiveness predispose some individuals to be particularly affected by negative childhood experiences so that later, when under pressure to adapt to some challenge, they retreat into infantile fantasies based on those experiences and become neurotic.  Such a response as Major Hasan’s was beyond neurotic.  If we flip the coin, it is reasonable to assume that some of the individuals would hope to resolve their considerable childhood traumas in more productive ways. (This may be fertile ground for investigation.)

Suggesting that “twisted psyches” are so attracted by these stories that they enter this field of work (psychiatry, psychology, counseling) seems a another stretch – I can certainly think of many more likely avenues that would be pursued by individuals “attracted” by horror stories.  To assume that those individuals would be able to pursue and pass a rigorous course of studies is questionable, as well.

Many of us do fall into Jung’s category of “stimulation seekers” – some of us are fascinated by horror.  Does this mean that we will have a greater propensity to or engage in acts of violence?  What do you think?

Categories : Trauma


  1. I am not a psychiatrist nor do I play one on tv, but I have an intense fascination for the horrific. Does all this intense graphic imagery make me want to go out and kill someone? No. As illustrated in some of the scary movies I watch, there is a line that one crosses between good and evil. For example, I do not own a gun however, I think I should get one for protection. I have a lot of respect for guns and actually feel safer not having one. It is because I know that the gun’s effect is permanent. I do not want to have to use it because I really don’t want to cross that line. I think that people who routinely use guns for sport or war have been initiated to that level. Not because of graphic imagery but because of on-hand usage and getting used to it. Like slaughtering cattle, the first time is the hardest.

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