Personal Health  
comments_image Comments

Preventing Future Isla Vistas — Sucking Out the Poison

How to drain the pus out of an unstable mind before it explodes.

Photo Credit: screenshot


This is a work in progress…

As I become older, rather than becoming more used to awful events such as the mass murders at Isla Vista, I become even more sick to my stomach.

After watching the in retrospect chilling  video by Elliot Rodger (viewer discretion strongly advised, not suitable for young children) laying out his plan for retaliation and mayhem, I lay awake most of last night feeling that sickness and finally fell asleep only to have  nightmares that I can’t remember.

As a former clinical psychiatrist,  suicide specialist/interventionist, out of the box trainer of FBI and police hostage negotiators and someone who’s passionate about  neuroscience, I was hoping to be able to make sense of such shootings and more importantly how to intervene effectively with such troubled individuals before they act on their imbalanced minds.

You can read about some of my thoughts on the subject from this 2005 ebooklet,  Change This: About Teenage Violence: It’s the Rage, following the Virginia Tech mass shooting.

Essentially, my current view is that mentally imbalanced individuals are reduced to acting from their most primitive, fight or flight, reptile brains. As such they are nearly completely reduced to acting on reflex, with the addition of the ability to be “cunning” to inform that reflex.

And Rodger’s reflex? Put Down + Pushed Away = Get In + Get Even.

We have heard about some conversations that law enforcement had with him prior to this where he came off as “polite and timid,” but judged to be a “non-threat.”

Sucking the Poison and  Rage Out

I’m not sure how often this happens, but most of us have seen or read about the need to suck the poison out of a poisonous snake bite once a person has been bitten.

Assuming that most of these mass shooters have been bitten by rejection and  humiliation that led to outrage that led to them becoming enraged, what might be ways to suck that poison out of them?

Over recent years I have become an avid fan of the work of  Dr. Matthew Lieberman and Dr. Robert Cialdini.

Lieberman is a PhD in psychology and Director of Social  Cognitive Neuroscience at UCLA and author of  Social: Why Our Brains are Wired to Connect and has done a great deal of research on “affective labeling.” In essence he has said that when people accurately attach the correct emotional word to their true underlying feeling (vs. a reaction to their underlying feeling) it reduced amygdala activation by as much as 33%. The amygdala is located in our middle, mammalian, emotional brain and when it becomes over activated it will hijack us away from using our prefrontal cortex and prevent us from being able to objectively and more accurately assess a situation we are facing. When people have “flipped out,” “become unglued,” “become wigged out,” “snapped” or gone “out of their mind,” their amygdala has hijacked (a term coined by inventor of  Emotional Intelligence, Daniel Goleman) them.

Cialdini is a PhD and Professor Emeritus of Psychology and  Marketing at Arizona State University and author of:  Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion and many other books on that topic. He has spent his  career studying what persuades people to do what they do. One of Cialdini’s Six Principles of  Persuasion is “Commitment and Consistency.” By that he means that once you get someone to declare their commitment to something by saying, “Yes,” they will then act in a way to be consistent with it.

Taking both of these research findings into consideration I developed something called the “Magic Paradox” which I have used in training hostage negotiators and explained in my book,  “Just Listen” Discover the Secret to Getting Through to Absolutely Anyone.