Trauma Recovery Is Essential in Understanding the Mass Shooter

Kathryn Bumgarner

Trauma Recovery Is Essential in Understanding the Mass Shooter

Trauma Recovery is Essential to Understanding the Mass Shooter

Understanding, “standing under” with humility and compassion
The Trauma Informed Leader is key to preventing mass shootings. As a coherent leader, willing to attune to the presence of trauma eruptions, we notice something seems out of sync, a red flag. As trauma informed leaders, teachers, healers, parents, friends of parents, parents of friends, rather than ignore or turn our back, we stay with what is showing up and we stay curious about it. We say something to someone that you sense, are attuned to, feel into, this red flag that is arising that needs attention. Understanding, standing under, with humility and compassion, for what arises. To turn a back, with “it’s not my problem” is a symptom of living in a culture of collective trauma that we don't see.

Characteristics displayed of the young men (98% are males), who carry out mass school shootings are a physical presence of “undesirable” biological factors, superficially short stature and low muscle tone, and particularly how these biological factors are considered a disadvantage, are allowed to influence the child’s self evaluation and self esteem, leading to lower self esteem, compared to their male peers, internalizing ‘shame’. Difficulties with identity and insecure masculinity develop, and are amplified by repeated long term trauma that catalyzes the violent outburst when triggered at a pivotal time - repeated failures in life, including romantic rejections - leading to seeking and engaging in behaviors and activities that enhance a sense of ultra masculinity with the use of violence and firearms, emulating particularly militaristic role models.

Understanding mass shooters is key in preventing mass shootings. A recent article, “Characteristics Shared by the Young Men Committing Mass Shootings”, published in the July 5, 2022, Psychology Today, by Dr. Fabiana Franco is disturbing. What is most disturbing is that the focus placed on mental health is displaced. An overwhelming majority of the perpetrators who commit mass shooting do not meet criteria for a mental illness diagnosis. Being emotionally disturbed with a fixation on mass violence, yes. A worldview as one of anger, resentment, victimization, narcissistic grandiosity, increased propensity for violence, yes. Yet without the psychiatric markers considered to be of concern.

Repeated exposure to trauma in adolescence does put the young male at high risk for violent and gun related mass shootings. Sexual identity and masculinity are key components present in almost all, if not all, male perpetrators of mass violence. Repeated rejections and failures as an adolescent leading to feeling “inadequate” compared to peers, creates long term insecurity. Victims of unwanted sexual experiences, and early sexual abuse at a very young age, also puts an adolescent at very high risk.

Understanding the characteristics of the mass shooter can help us focus care and treatment Addressing the effect of traumatic experiences would include individual trauma recovery, collective trauma recovery, and ancestral trauma recovery - specifically war trauma in the United States. The prevention of future mass shootings needs a collective response of “we” care. This work of trauma recovery can not be done alone. Recovering from trauma happens in relationship, a shared coherent safe space.

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