The killer narcissist

Could Therapy Culture Help Explain Elliot Rodger’s Rampage? asks Brendan O’Neill on Reason. The 22-year-old started therapy at age 8 and reportedly was seeing multiple therapists while living in Santa Barbara and plotting “retribution.”

. . . he was full of self-regard, was incredibly self-obsessed, and was utterly outraged when people, especially women, didn’t treat him with the love and respect he felt he deserved.

Could Rodger’s fury at the world for failing to flatter his self-image as a good, civilized guy be a product of the therapy industry, of the therapy world’s cultivation of a new tyrannical form of narcissism where individuals demand constant genuflection at the altar of their self-esteem?

Therapy’s children are “invited to focus” on their inner selves rather than the world around them, writes O’Neill.

We see it in university students who want to ban everything that they think harms their self-esteem, because they’ve been educated to see any attack on what they think and how they feel as utterly unacceptable. We see it in the growing cult of self-revelation and the search for validation on social networks like Twitter, where individuals’ frenetic tweeting and their desperate desire for that all-important retweet speaks to the reorganization of society around the need for recognition, the need for an “admiring audience” to make the self feel puffed up. And we potentially see it, in its most extreme form, in Elliot Rodger, the son of therapy . . .

In his murder manifesto, Rodger complains that people’s attitudes towards him “really decreased my self-esteem. . . . if they won’t accept me… then they are my enemies.”

And then he makes the key cry of our therapeutic era: “It’s not fair. Life is not fair.”

Watch Rodger’s video. The most alarming thing is how cool and well-spoken he is. This is a man used to talking about himself, following years of practice in therapy sessions. Clearly having decided to have a love affair with himself, Rodger terrifyingly declares: “I am the closest thing there is to a living god… Magnificent, glorious, supreme, eminent, divine!”

He’s not a religious nut, writes O’Neill. “It’s a therapeutic thing.”

You might call Rodger a homicidal narcissist. His own life has supreme value. Nobody else matters.

Does “therapy culture” turn loners into enraged sociopaths?

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  1. At the risk being controversial, I would add that the way many feminists have jumped on this tragedy as somehow related to the misogyny they have experienced in their own lives is also narcissistic. I scanned the kid’s 140-page manifesto. He was deeply disturbed, obsessive about a variety of things (money, the lottery, gaming, acceptance, and sex), and 2/3 of his murder victims were men. This tragedy is about mental illness (an intractable problem in far too many instances); it is not about feminists and their #yesallwomen grievances.

  2. palisadesk says:

    According to Dr. Robert Hare, one of the world’s leading experts on psychopathy (to which malignant narcissism is a near relation), therapy tends to make psychopaths more skilled at manipulating others and getting their own way (and does nothing whatever to solve their basic personality disorder), but it does not CAUSE the condition. This young man may well have been “on the spectrum” of psychopathy, and “therapy” exacerbated his delusions of entitlement and enhanced his skills in articulating his “woe is me” jeremiad, but it would not have made him the way he was. So far as can be determined there is a large biological component to antisocial personality disorders. Genetics, teratogens and brain damage probably play a role.

    Freudian psychoanalysis has passed as a fad, but obsessing over people’s early toilet training, while it didn’t apparently make them better-functioning adults, didn’t turn them into killers either; I suspect today’s “therapy culture” is a similarly useless fad but it doesn’t cause psychopathy.

  3. Parenting. Hidden curriculum.
    Like it or not, the overwhelming majority of what a person ends up as in their adulthood is passed onto them gdh

  4. Not to beat a dead horse but… Wonder what type of psychotropic drugs he was on and at what age did he start…

  5. “I am the closest thing there is to a living god… Magnificent, glorious, supreme, eminent, divine.”

    I am my own ideal. Yep, he’s seen his share of shows.

  6. Just what we need. An idiotic argument that parents who try to get help for their mentally ill kids are setting their kids up to be killers. Life’s just too darn easy on parents and kids who are struggling with mental illness, right. Let’s have a little bit more stigmatization, please.

  7. greeneyeshade says:

    Interesting point, but we can’t know whether he’d have taken religious guidance if it had been offered. It lends a melancholy resonance to the classic joke: How many clergy members (psychotherapists/social workers/parole and probation officers/you name it) does it take to change a light bulb? Only one, but the light bulb has to *want* to change.