A blog on “What Mass Killers Really Have in Common” asserts that to prevent domestic terrorists and mass killers we should scrutinize those who commit domestic violence. It posits that it is the patriarchal attitudes these men have toward women that also cause them to be violent toward large groups of men and women.
While I do agree there are similar behavioral and psychological traits between domestic abusers and mass killers, completely lacking from this article is any understanding of the psychology of people who lash out in a rage at others, whether it is at their wife or a random group of strangers. Even many experts on domestic violence do not understand why these abusers behave as they do.
As I explain in “Self-Acceptance Psychology,” the real reason these men became violent is they lack an ability to tolerate shame in healthy ways. The connection between anger and shame is clearest in violent people.
Domestic abusers and mass killers are extreme examples of a personality type I have labeled an Other-Blamer. Likely due to childhood trauma, these individuals have low self-worth and are hypersensitive to shame. Any perceived or real criticism is felt as devastating.
Trauma also makes them more likely to over-react and lack cognitive control of their emotions. When they become fearful of being denigrated, humiliated, rejected or abandoned, they react with the “fight” response. They attack emotionally or physically, often by criticizing and blaming others. They generally lack accountability for their actions. Anger is used as a psychological tool to protect them from feeling shame, which is unbearable to them.
In extreme cases, Other-Blamers can become so ashamed and then enraged that tragedies can occur.
Anger is an emotion essential to survival and can be helpful if it is used as a self-protective response to boundary violations in relationships. If someone does something morally wrong, you should get angry. It is actually healthy for you, the other person, and the relationship.
However, anger is often used as a defensive response to feelings of shame. The root cause of the shame/fear connection is an intrinsic sense of low self-worth combined with a natural fear of exclusion or rejection by the social group.
I am certainly not a fan of patriarchal attitudes if, rather than leading men to be protective of others, they instead lead to denigration of women. However, shame and anger are far more potent causes of violence than patriarchal attitudes.