Cyn­i­cal shy’ may ex­plain school killers

The Weekend Australian - Travel - - Health -

AN ex­treme form of shy­ness that mainly af­fects males can lead to vi­o­lence and mass mur­der, psy­chol­o­gists claim. The per­son­al­ity de­fect, dubbed ‘‘ cyn­i­cal shy­ness’’, could be to blame for high-profile school shoot­ing in­ci­dents in the US.

Th­ese in­clude the killing of 14 stu­dents and a teacher at Columbine High School in 1999, and the Vir­ginia Tech mas­sacre in April this year in which 33 died.

Ber­nado Car­ducci and Kristin Neth­ery, from In­di­ana Univer­sity, stud­ied cases in­volv­ing eight in­di­vid­u­als who had com­mit­ted shoot­ings at their high schools be­tween 1995 and 2004.

The psy­chol­o­gists looked for indicators of ‘‘ cyn­i­cal shy­ness’’ — lack of em­pa­thy, low tol­er­ance for frus­tra­tion, out­bursts of anger, re­jec­tion by peers, bad fam­ily re­la­tions and ac­cess to weapons.

In a pa­per pre­sented to the an­nual meet­ing of the Amer­i­can Psy­cho­log­i­cal As­so­ci­a­tion in San Fran­cisco, they wrote: ‘‘ Our re­sults in­di­cate that the in­di­vid­u­als in­volved in the seven deadly high school shoot­ings within the last decade clearly had char­ac­ter­is­tics of cyn­i­cal shy­ness.

‘‘ Most of what we see in in­di­vid­u­als with this ex­treme form of shy­ness is that they tend to be male and des­per­ately want to be so­cially en­gaged with other peo­ple.

‘‘ But of­ten lack­ing in so­cial skills, th­ese in­di­vid­u­als get re­jected by their peers and then avoid so­cial con­nec­tions be­cause of the re­sult­ing pain.’’

Re­peated over time, this sense of re­jec­tion could ul­ti­mately turn hurt into boil­ing anger, said the sci­en­tists.

To come to terms with their feel­ings, those af­fected of­ten cre­ated a ‘‘ cult of one’’. ‘‘ They end up alone and start hat­ing the peo­ple who re­ject them,’’ said the psy­chol­o­gists.

‘‘ This al­lows the cyn­i­cally shy per­son to dis­tance him­self from the hurt but also makes it eas­ier for him to re­tal­i­ate with vi­o­lence, as in th­ese school shoot­ings.’’

At Columbine, stu­dents Eric Har­ris and Dylan Kle­bold shot dead 12 stu­dents and a teacher, and wounded 24 oth­ers, be­fore com­mit­ting sui­cide.

Af­ter­wards, peo­ple spoke of the pair’s iso­la­tion from the rest of their class­mates, their feel­ings of in­se­cu­rity and de­pres­sion, and their strong de­sire for at­ten­tion.

It was re­ported that the boys

were ex­cluded from the cliques that ex­isted at their school and were picked on by the pop­u­lar ‘‘ jocks’’.

The Vir­ginia Tech mas­sacre at the cam­pus in Blacks­burg, Vir­ginia, was the worst shoot­ing in­ci­dent in mod­ern Amer­i­can his­tory. On the morn­ing of April 16, South Korean Cho Se­ung-Hui, 23, armed him­self with two hand­guns and killed 32 stu­dents, lin­ing many of them up against a wall be­fore shoot­ing them. He then killed him­self. Two of the vic­tims were for­mer pupils at West­field High School, which Cho at­tended. The mis­fit, who was iso­lated, shy and inar­tic­u­late, was said to have been tar­geted and bul­lied by his pupils at the school.

In home-made video clips re­cov­ered af­ter the killings he was seen com­par­ing him­self to Je­sus Christ and rant­ing about ‘‘ rich kids’’.

Car­ducci said it was im­por­tant for teach­ers, par­ents and men­tal health pro­fes­sion­als to look out for stu­dents whose shy­ness was marked by anger.

‘‘ Most young peo­ple who are shy do not ex­pe­ri­ence their shy­ness as a source of anger and hos­til­ity,’’ he said.

‘‘ But for those shy stu­dents who are seem­ingly iso­lated and an­gry, we need to pro­vide ways for them to learn how to en­gage with oth­ers and cre­ate a sense of com­mu­nity for them­selves. This is es­pe­cially true dur­ing times of tran­si­tion, like go­ing to col­lege.’’ PA

Cho Se­ung-Hui: Killed 32, and him­self

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Australia

© PressReader. All rights reserved.