Dear Life Matters,

I have been over-the-top upset by this recent mass murder in Santa Barbara.

I simply do not understand why the police and you and your co-workers in the mental health field cannot realize that a guy like this could just go off his rocker and kill people?

I suppose I’m partly upset because I have a brother who has Asperger’s and he is very withdrawn and sometimes seems irritable, if not angry.

How do I know he might not do something like this? It would devastate my family and I would hate to see people killed.

I don’t think he’s going to do anything like that but is there anything I can do; are there any clues?

 

Signed,

Scared

 

Dear Scared,

This weekend massacre was indeed horrific. I can understand why you would be so shaken up.

I think to some degree or another everyone is right now.

Now first off, people with Asperger’s are not generally prone to violence of this kind. Social awkwardness, yes but not generally brutal

violence. Perhaps some outbursts out of frustration but that’s much different than what we just witnessed in Santa Barbara.

I’m not an expert in this type of violent character but I will give you my thoughts given what I know and think!

Now the police, their hands were tied. These laws were enacted to protect people, believe it or not. Back in the seventies and before, relatives could have their loved ones locked up and medicated even if they were not truly sick.  Parents who could not deal with an unruly child or folks that did not want to put up with an elderly relative; If you had enough money and knew the right people, you could have them put away. Now the pendulum has swung way over to the other side and hopefully we are beginning to see that we need a change. Not back to the way things were but something that is a little tighter than what we have now. Because now, it is nearly impossible to get someone into a psychiatric hospital when they truly need it.

In terms of the mental health professionals, I don’t know what they saw or did but I can tell you that we cannot control the patient.

If this young man did not want treatment, he did not have to have it.

The problem with Asperger’s is that social interactions are likely to be very awkward and subject to rejection or criticism.

Just like Adam Lanza of the Newtown shooting, Rodger had a dark side that seemed to consist of a lot of resentment. This is what is dangerous, not the Asperger’s. We can see how Asperger’s might lead to this but it doesn’t in all cases and I am wondering if anyone noticed how deeply resentful both of these young men were?

Obviously Rodger’s was able to smile and make good and say the right things. He was smart enough to know what to tell the police and perhaps the therapists.

It is not just Asperger’s but many different mental or emotional conditions can lead to deep resentment. Bullying is an obvious one that we still need to stop from being so prevalent

Many years ago I learned from the twelve-step programs, a beautiful poetic line that captures something very critical here. “Resentment cuts us off from the Sunlight of the Spirit!” This is so true; resentment darkens our soul or spirit and the more we have the more myopic we become!

If we keep collecting them, we eventually live in a very, very dark world where there’s no light & there’s no hope. You can only see what you can see & that is your resentments.

Whatever other mental health problems these young men had, they clearly fall into this category. Out of revenge, this can lead to homicide or suicide & surely at the very least, a very miserable and bitter life.

My advice is to just pay attention to your brother. If he seems to get rejected a lot and you think he is building resentment, have your family get him help, not just for Asperger’s but for his resentment.

Anyone with deep resentment can be vulnerable and dangerous. Often they are more recognizable by what they don’t do than what they do. The anti-social, isolated, pleasant but uninvolved friend or neighbor might have waters that run deep, resentfully deep.

How often is it that after a shooting, neighbors say how surprised they are; “he seemed like such a nice guy.” He was pleasant and quiet.

 

Dr. JoAnne Barge is a licensed psychologist and a licensed marriage and family therapist with offices in Brentwood. Visit her at www.drbarge.com or send your anonymous questions to newshrink@gmail.com

Got something on your mind? Let me help you with your life matters because it does!

 

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