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The Psychology of Mass Killers: What causes it? How can you prevent it?

Posted on Thursday, 12th October 2017 @ 12:03 AM by Text Size A | A | A

In Las Vegas on 1 October 2017, it appears that one man (although it
might have been more) killed 59 people and shot and injured another 241
(with almost 300 more injured while fleeing). The incident got a lot of
publicity, partly because the man managed to kill more people than most
mass killers. However, because the killer was a white American and had a
Christian name, he was not immediately labeled a terrorist, even though
his death toll considerably exceeded that achieved in many ‘terrorist
attacks’, including those that occur in war zones (such as US drone
murders of innocent people attending weddings).

According to the Gun Violence Archive, there is now an
average of one mass shooting (arbitrarily defined by the FBI as a
shooting in which at least four victims are shot) each day in the USA.
By any measure, this is a national crisis.

However, while there has been a flood of commentary on the incident,
including suggestions about what might be done in response based on a
variety of analyses of the cause, none that I have read explain the
underlying cause of all these mass killings. And if we do not understand
this, then any other suggestions, whatever their apparent merits, can
have little impact.

The suggestions made so far in response to this massacre include the

1. Making it much more difficult, perhaps even illegal, to own a gun.
See ‘Guns’.

2. Drastically reducing the prescription of pharmaceutical drugs (which
are almost invariably being consumed by the killer). See ‘Drugs and Guns
Don’t Mix: Medication Madness, Military Madness and the Las Vegas Mass

3. Recognising and addressing the sociological factors implicated in
causing the violence. See ‘violence is driven by socioeconomic factors,
not access to firearms’ argued in ‘Another Mass Shooting, Another Grab
for Guns: 6 Gun Facts’
and ‘a deep sickness in American society’ argued in ‘The social
pathology of the Las Vegas Massacre’.

4. Identifying whether or not the killer had ideological/religious links
to a terrorist group (in this case ISIS, as claimed by some). See, for
example, ‘ISIS Releases Infographic Claiming Las Vegas Gunman Converted
6 Months Ago’.

5. Identifying and remedying the ways in which constitutional provisions
and laws facilitate such massacres. See ‘Las Vegas Massacre Proves 2nd
Amendment Must be Abolished’.

6. Recognizing the way in which these incidents are encouraged by
national elites and are sometimes, in fact, false flag attacks used as a
means to justify the consolidation of elite social control (through such
measures as increased state surveillance and new restrictions on human

7. Limiting the ways in which violence, especially military violence, is
used as entertainment and education, and thus culturally glorified in
ways that encourage imitation. See ‘People Don’t Kill People, Americans
Kill People’.

However, as indicated above, while these and other suggestions,
including certain educational initiatives, sound attractive as options
for possibly preventing/mitigating some incidents in future, they do not
address the cause of violence in this or any other context and so
widespread violence both in the United States and around the world will

So why does someone become a mass killer?

Human socialization is essentially a process of inflicting phenomenal
violence on children until they think and behave as the key adults –
particularly their parents, teachers and religious figures – around them
want, irrespective of the functionality of this thought and behavior in
evolutionary terms. This is because virtually all adults prioritize
obedience over all other possible behaviors and they delusionarily
believe that they ‘know better’ than the child.

The idea that each child is the only one of their kind in all of living
creation in Earth’s history and, therefore, has a unique destiny to
fulfill, never even enters their mind. So, instead of nurturing that
unique destiny so that the child fully becomes the unique Self that
evolution created, adults terrorize each child into becoming just
another more-or-less identical cog in the giant machine called ‘human

Before I go any further, you might wonder if the expression ‘phenomenal
violence?’ isn’t too strong. So let me explain.

From the moment of birth, human adults inflict violence on the child.
This violence occurs in three categories: visible, ‘invisible’ and
‘utterly invisible’. Visible violence is readily identified: it is the
(usually) physical violence that occurs when someone is hit (with a hand
or weapon), kicked, shaken, held down or punished in any other way. See
‘Punishment is Violent and Counterproductive’.

But what is this ‘invisible’ and ‘utterly invisible’ violence that is
inflicted on us mercilessly, and has a profoundly damaging impact, from
the day we are born?

In essence, ‘invisible’ violence is the ‘little things’ we do every day,
partly because we are just ‘too busy’. For example, when we do not allow
time to listen to, and value, a child’s thoughts and feelings, the child
learns to not listen to themSelf thus destroying their internal
communication system. When we do not let a child say what they want (or
ignore them when they do), the child develops communication and
behavioural dysfunctionalities as they keep trying to meet their own
needs (which, as a basic survival strategy, they are genetically
programmed to do).

When we blame, condemn, insult, mock, embarrass, shame, humiliate,
taunt, goad, guilt-trip, deceive, lie to, bribe, blackmail, moralize
with and/or judge a child, we both undermine their sense of Self-worth
and teach them to blame, condemn, insult, mock, embarrass, shame,
humiliate, taunt, goad, guilt-trip, deceive, lie, bribe, blackmail,
moralize and/or judge.

The fundamental outcome of being bombarded throughout their childhood by
this ‘invisible’ violence is that the child is utterly overwhelmed by
feelings of fear, pain, anger and sadness (among many others). However,
parents, teachers and other adults also actively interfere with the
expression of these feelings and the behavioural responses that are
naturally generated by them and it is this ‘utterly invisible’ violence
that explains why the dysfunctional behavioural outcomes actually occur.

For example, by ignoring a child when they express their feelings, by
comforting, reassuring or distracting a child when they express their
feelings, by laughing at or ridiculing their feelings, by terrorizing a
child into not expressing their feelings (e.g. by screaming at them when
they cry or get angry), and/or by violently controlling a behaviour that
is generated by their feelings (e.g. by hitting them, restraining them
or locking them into a room), the child has no choice but to
unconsciously suppress their awareness of these feelings.

However, once a child has been terrorized into suppressing their
awareness of their feelings (rather than being allowed to have their
feelings and to act on them) the child has also unconsciously suppressed
their awareness of the reality that caused these feelings. This has many
outcomes that are disastrous for the individual, for society and for
nature because the individual will now easily suppress their awareness
of the feelings that would tell them how to act most functionally in any
given circumstance and they will progressively acquire a phenomenal
variety of dysfunctional behaviours, including many that are violent
towards themselves, others and/or the Earth.

Moreover, this emotional (or psychological) damage will lead to a unique
combination of violent behaviours in each case and, depending on the
precise combination of violence to which they are subjected, some of
them will become what I call ‘archetype perpetrators of violence’; that
is, people so emotionally damaged that they end up completely devoid of
a Self and with a psychological profile similar to Hitler’s.

These archetype perpetrators of violence are all terrified, self-hating
and powerless but, in fact, they have 23 identifiable psychological
characteristics constituting their ‘personality’. For a full explanation
of this particular psychological profile, see ‘Why Violence?’ and ‘Fearless Psychology and Fearful
Psychology: Principles and Practice’.
Of course, few perpetrators of violence fit the archetype, but all
perpetrators are full of (suppressed) terror, self-hatred and
powerlessness and this is fundamental to understanding their violence as
explained in ‘Why Violence?’

Rather than elaborate further in this article why these perpetrators
behave as they do (which you can read on the documents just mentioned),
let me explain why the suggestions made by others above in relation to
gun and drug control, socioeconomic factors, ideological/religious
connections, constitutional and legal shortcomings, resisting efforts to
consolidate elite social control, and revised education and
entertainment programs can have little impact if undertaken in isolation
from the primary suggestion I will make below.

Once someone is so emotionally damaged that they are effectively devoid
of the Self that should have defined their unique personality, then they
will be the endless victim of whatever violence is directed at them.
This simply means that they will have negligible capacity to deal
powerfully with any difficult life circumstances and personal problems
(and, for example, to resist doctors prescribing pharmaceutical drugs),
they will be gullibly influenced by violent ideologies, education and
entertainment, and they will have virtually no capacity to work
creatively to resolve the conflicts (both personal and structural) in
their life but will do what was modeled to them as a child in any effort
to do so: use violence.

And by now you have probably realized that I am not just talking about
the mass killers that I started discussing at the beginning of this
article. I am also talking about the real mass killers: those
politicians, military leaders and weapons corporation executives, and
all those other corporate executives, who inflict mass violence on life
itself, as well as those others, such as academics and those working in
corporate media outlets, that support and justify this violence. This
includes, to specify just one obvious example, all of those US Senators
and Congresspeople who resist implementing gun control laws. See
‘Thoughts and Prayers and N.R.A. Funding’.

In essence then, if the child suffers enough of this visible, invisible
and utterly invisible violence, they will grow up devoid of the Selfhood
– including the love, compassion, empathy, morality and integrity – that
is their birthright and the foundation of their capacity to behave
powerfully in all contexts without the use of violence.

Instead, they will become a perpetrator of violence, to a greater or
lesser extent, and may even seek employment in those positions that
encourage them to support and/or inflict violence legally, such as a
police or prison officer, a lawyer or judge – see ‘The Rule of Law:
Unjust and Violent’ – a soldier
who fights in war or a Congressperson who supports it, or even an
employee in a corporation that profits from violence and exploitation.
See ‘Profit Maximization is Easy: Invest in Violence’.

In addition, most individuals will inflict violence on the climate and
environment, all will inflict violence on children, and some will
inflict violence in those few ways that are actually defined as
‘illegal’, such as mass killings.

But if we don’t see the mass killers as the logical, if occasional,
outcome of (unconsciously) violent parenting, then we will never even
begin to address the problem at its source. And we are condemned to
suffer violence, in all of its manifestations, until we inevitably drive
ourselves to extinction through nuclear war or climate/environmental

If you are looking for a lead on this from political leaders, you are
wasting your time. Similarly, there are precious few professionals,
particularly in the medical and psychiatric industries – see ‘Defeating
the Violence of Psychiatry’. – who
have any idea how to respond meaningfully (assuming they even have an
interest in doing so). So why not be your own judge and consider making
‘My Promise to Children’?

In addition, if further reducing the violence in our world appeals to
you, then you are also welcome to consider participating in the creation
of communities that do not have violence built into them – see ‘The
Flame Tree Project to Save Life on Earth’,
– signing the online pledge of ‘The People’s Charter to Create a
Nonviolent World’
consider using the strategic framework on one or the other of
these two websites for your campaign to end violence in one context or
another: Nonviolent Campaign Strategy and Nonviolent
Defense/Liberation Strategy.

In summary then: For the typical human adult, it is better to endlessly
inflict violence on a child to coerce them to obey. Of course, once the
child has been terrorized into this unthinking obedience, they won’t
just obey the parents and teachers (secular and religious) who
terrorized them: they will also obey anyone else who orders them to do
something. This will include governments, military officers and
terrorist leaders who order them to kill (or pay taxes to kill) people
they do not know in foreign countries, employers who order them to
submit to the exploitation of themselves and others, not to mention a
vast array of other influences (particularly corporations) who will have
little trouble manipulating them into behaving unethically and without
question (even regarding consumer purchases).

Or, to put it another way: For the typical human adult, it is better to
endlessly inflict violence on a child to coerce them to obey and to then
watch the end-products of this violence – obedient, submissive children
who are powerless to question their parents and teachers, resist the
entreaties of drug pushers, and critique the propaganda of governments,
corporations and the military as well as the media, education and
entertainment industries – spiral endlessly out of control: wars,
massive exploitation, ecological destruction, slavery, mass killings….
And to then wonder ‘Why?’

For these terrorized humans, cowardly powerlessness is the state they
have been trained to accept, while taking whatever material distractions
are thrown their way as compensation. So they pass on this state to
their children by terrorizing them into submission too. Powerfully
accepting responsibility to fulfill their own unique destiny, and serve
society by doing so, is beyond them.

The great tragedy of human life is that virtually no-one values the
awesome power of the individual Self with an integrated mind (that is, a
mind in which memory, thoughts, feelings, sensing, conscience and other
functions work together in an integrated way) because this individual
will be decisive in choosing life-enhancing behavioural options
(including those at variance with social laws and norms) and will
fearlessly resist all efforts to control or coerce them with violence.

Biodata: Robert J. Burrowes has a lifetime commitment to understanding
and ending human violence. He has done extensive research since 1966 in
an effort to understand why human beings are violent and has been a
nonviolent activist since 1981. He is the author of ‘Why Violence?’ His email address is
and his website is here.

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