July 23, 2012

SELF HATRED TURNED OUTWARD:

Don't Jump to Conclusions About the Killer (Dave Cullen, 7/22/12, New York Times)

At every high school, college and school-safety conference I speak at, I hold up the journals left behind by the killers, Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold. The audience is shocked at what they learn. Perpetrators of mass murder are usually nothing like our conceptions of them. They are nothing like a vision of pure evil. They are complicated.

Mr. Harris kept a sort of journal for an entire year, focused largely on his plan to blow up his school and mow down survivors with high-powered rifles. Mr. Klebold kept a more traditional journal for two years, spewing a wild array of contradictory teen angst and deep depression, grappling seriously with suicide from the very first page.

Audiences are never surprised by the journal of Mr. Harris. It's hate-hate-hate all the way through. He was a coldblooded psychopath, in the clinical use of that term. He had no empathy, no regard for human suffering or even human life.

Mr. Klebold's journal is the revelation. Ten pages are consumed with drawings of giant fluffy hearts. Some fill entire pages, others dance about in happy clusters, with "I LOVE YOU" stenciled across. He was ferociously angry. He had one primary target for his anger. Not jocks, but himself. What a loathsome creature he found himself. No friends, no love, not a soul who cared about him or what became of his miserable life. None of that is objectively true. But that's what he saw.

It's a common high school malady, taken to extremes. Psychologists have a simple term for this state: depression. That surprises a lot of people. Depressives look sad, but that is the view from the outside. Of course they're sad; they've probably gone their entire day getting berated relentlessly, by the single person in the world whose opinion they hold most dear -- themselves.

Psychologists describe depression as anger turned inward. When that anger is somehow turned around, and projected outward, watch out.
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Posted by at July 23, 2012 5:41 AM
  

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