A few weeks ago I was on the internet and came across a story about one of the last terrorist attacks. The feelings of sadness and uselessness still shock me, but just recently both personal and professional acts of ‘terrorism’ took me completely by surprise as well. Fed up and overwhelmed, this science geek did a little research on the subject and leveraged lessons learned from a trusted friend and psychiatrist who specializes in problems within families and our communities….
Why is terrorism so powerful and impossible to eradicate?
It’s power comes both from the fact that anyone can commit terrorist acts with or without an army AND there is no way to stop it. But if that’s not scary or pessimistic enough for you, I feel that there is only one way to contain its viral nature since we cannot eradicate it.
In essence, terrorism is a choice. And choice is a freedom we fought for and cherish daily. Terrorism is also driven by an emotional act – one that gives the terrorist a reason or reason for their actions. Ironically, the ‘reasons’ for these acts are the key to stopping them.
Vengeance is the both the fuel and engine for this unstoppable hate machine. Couple this with a convincing leader with a personality disorder, a stressful environment, and promises of a better life for everyone and their families….. and now you have the ingredients to bake up an Adolf Hitler.
What makes terrorism today so frightening is that there really is no individual or group to fight and they use family and country not as a goal, but as their hypocritical fuel. ‘Victims’ whose family members were hurt or lost to the hate machine are the highest octane on the planet – one that mutates like a virus and then becomes a unique drug where the addict has no idea they are addicted.
Indeed, unstoppable. And that is the first step towards ‘the cure’. Individuals and society not only must want to put in the time and effort into understanding where the fuel comes from, but then agree unanimously and act in unison to stop all terroristic actions. Lastly, and the hardest step is to keep it only in the history books with a hard, global no-tolerance agreement backed with a plan for its inevitable resurgence.
Sounds impossible, but a good start is to be more aware and open to conversations concerning this era. My optimistic version is that the world has been telling us where the problem lies for decades. Our families. All we have to do is listen. But really listen, then apply intelligent, constructive, solutions to both the toxic individuals, their harmful actions as well as the mundane, insidious ‘family environment’ situations as well.
All parents have challenges, some greater than others. In a perfect world, it starts with communication and ends with love. If you’re not a narcissist, emotional terrorist or sociopath……
Dr Jung’s view of communication was via the unconscious mind using abstract imagery. Then, of course, there is your traditional counseling and other forms of psychological treatment. In my opinion, all good. Whatever works.
My individual style is to blend realistic transparency while dampening my anger with sarcasm using metaphors, similes, and movies. Yes movies, because like many successful business ventures, award winning and hit movies that connect with people do this by bonding with our emotions. That combined with my earlier rant about listening, the entertainment industry not only keeps their ear to the ground, but does so within many genres and venues. Then produces and promotes the ones that are going to be the most profitable. Not all, but some films (mostly from books or other media sources) weave stories within their production that move the audience and expose real life scenarios.
Your child may not understand what emotional terrorists or narcissists are nor the infinite forms that continue to exist in our world, but they can recite all the scenes of their favorite movies. Like a great song or impactful piece of art, if you can project the emotion and somehow blend it correctly with a real story, you can bet most of humanity has a direct connection or similar experience.
For example, Star Wars was produced well, casted well, and of course written well. There are other great movies that utilize “good” and “evil” for their emotional connection, but the “force” and “dark side” are brilliantly cloaked as powerful, intangible entities with colorful titles.
Where am I going with this? Darth Vader.
It’s easy to loath this guy in the first few series since he seems to robotically use his dark side power to destroy planets and hurt people. Your basic super villain. But as the series takes you to his child hood, it paints a different picture – one that encompasses a plethora of emotions and life experiences that all connect to family….
All the main powerful characters are connected to family and there’s always someone not only on the dark side, but constantly recruiting others to join. But the recruiting is done differently. The ‘force’ is simply bestowed upon those who have it and connect with a more harmonious culture. The ‘dark side’ is a place, culture, and group as well. You elect to join as an outcast from the force or after a disastrous event – one that produces a hateful emotional state and breaks your spirit or leaves you at ‘rock bottom’. The dark side is not only willing to accept these recruits and their anger, but they provide a place to validate their hateful actions and blame those within the force for their actions.
This new cult also gives a type of rationale or excuse for their emotionally corrupt condition….. As well as a group and environment to belong to – a new ‘family’. Bringing us full circle to the terrible stream of news stories and subsequent discussions that happen all over the world. Why do people continue to hurt their friends, family or co-workers? Or worse, those who can kill and somehow get off the hook?
In one of the series, Darth Vader is about to kill his son for not joining the dark side, but then ends up killing the dark leader in response to his son’s painful plea…. “I know there is good in you”. Now the entire audience is sobbing as “dad” dies in his son’s arms asking for forgiveness. Bam! Just like that, he’s a good guy.
And if that is not enough, the brilliant story goes back to his past hitting the emotional checklist below:
- √ highest sympathy emotion – His mom gets killed by the terrible dessert people
- √ Top revenge emotion – He goes on a killing rampage to make them pay…
- √ Ultimate sacrifice emotion -Then when he is about to lose the only love of his life, the dark side lord offers him a chance to save her life….. if he joins the dark side….
Booooo Yah! The best emotion of all – Validation. And even better, a Hollywood happy ending using validation as dessert with an added ‘to go’ order of Conflict.
Now they have the not so nice people in the audience who have done not so nice things in their lives to both their families and communities are feeling pretty good about themselves – connecting them with this ‘victim’ and then validation for these actions. And at the same time, the honest, ethical and honorable families in the audience are conflicted. An equally ‘entertaining’ emotion connecting with both facts that killing and hurting people are still wrong, but feeling empathy for the killers and their ‘difficult’ pasts.
The validation-conflict connection is so significant, because it’s the emotional Hollywood engine that connects us with real life. And connects us without the painful reality of accountability or labeling. Narcissism is not a fun or attractive form of entertainment, nor popular conversation at happy hour, or anything your children want to chat about at the dinner table. The same goes for the more dangerous sociopath….. This personality disorder disconnects completely with others – no guilt, remorse, morals, or ethics. Those with this disorder and a drive to hurt or kill cannot be stopped nor respond to any deterrents. Thankfully, they are more rare than the NPD (Narcissist Personality Disorder), but can of course have narcissistic traits and vice versa…….
Is it the dry, psychological definition that makes these disorders so unpopular? Nope. To a degree we all have one or two narcissist symptoms when we look in the mirror. Nothing wrong with a little self-admiration here and there. But for those who meet the 5 or more symptom criteria for NPD, they see and react to a ‘house of mirrors’ – one that fuels their selfish acts and provides the rationale for their actions. For those outside this house of mirrors, even the entitlement or need for admiration can be ignored or excused from time to time. It’s the exploitation of others and lack of empathy where things go off the ethical rails.
But as we discussed earlier, it’s not the killing that anyone is disputing, it’s the ‘trigger’ and rationale behind it. And since it’s an easy, negative word to label someone with, the true narcissist can easily label his or her accuser as being one as well (see #2, 3, 4 and 7 below).
Narcissistic Personality Disorder
The hallmarks of Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD) are grandiosity, a lack of empathy for other people, and a need for admiration. People with this condition are frequently described as arrogant, self-centered, manipulative, and demanding. They may also have grandiose fantasies and may be convinced that they deserve special treatment. These characteristics typically begin in early adulthood and must be consistently evident in multiple contexts, such as at work and in relationships.
People with NPD often try to associate with other people they believe are unique or gifted in some way, which can enhance their own self-esteem. They tend to seek excessive admiration and attention and have difficulty tolerating criticism or defeat.
Individuals with Narcissistic Personality Disorder, according to the DSM-5, exhibit five or more of the following, which are present by early adulthood and across contexts:
1. A grandiose sense of self-importance
2. Preoccupation with fantasies of unlimited success, power, brilliance, beauty, or ideal love
3. Belief that one is special and can only be understood by or associate with special people or institutions
4. A need for excessive admiration
5. A sense of entitlement (to special treatment)
6. Exploitation of others
7. A lack of empathy
8. Envy of others or the belief that one is the object of envy
9. Arrogant, haughty behavior or attitudes
I wouldn’t say that our society embraces this personality, but they sure as hell do not do anything to make them accountable for deleterious actions. It’s the time and energy it takes to fight them that most of us do not have, but what’s worse is every attempt to right their wrongs does not stop their actions. Like the rise in violence at our children’s schools, the media and public recognition of these actions give them the platform they seek. In fact, simply engaging with them gives them validation as well as a platform to recruit more who are looking to cover up their actions and blame others as well. Unfortunately, many narcissists are quite successful, most likely due to the amount of energy they put into validation of their actions as well as a consistent preoccupation of power and money.
Emotional Terrorism is something I have not claimed as my own ‘discovery’ or entity that I have researched. Like most catchy phrases, I am sure it is out there somewhere. I am using it for personal reasons and hopefully clarity for a better understanding of this intangible enemy. I also believe this is the ugliness that truly forms the foundation of our family and community dysfunctions. If these immoral and selfish acts go unchecked, those who wield them will continue to use them within and outside their families.
Why not use others or your children to get what you want, then get them to buy in, join the culture, validate your actions, and keep your disciples from leaving the kingdom? Simple survival. And since it works, why would they stop? Especially since they have no ability to feel the pain and remorse their actions create.
And like a virus, these selfish acts get passed down to the next generation and accepted as tolerable. Or worse, the norm. And finally, when someone outside the culture poses a rational opposition, there is no law, deterrent, or penalty in place to help them. Frustration eventually causes the opposer to fight back without poise, sometimes lowering themselves verbally or physically to the emotional terrorist’s ‘level’….
And ta da! The lines where who started the process or whose “fault” it is get very blurry. A well rehearsed, well crafted, and never ending game of “hot potato” where it’s always someone else’s fault wins every time due to the inevitable forfeit from those who see its futility.
Where it really gets ugly is the more serious Sociopath or ‘B’ personality disorders.
If they are genetic, nurtured, or created, these people have no conscience – completely detached from society and any reasons for their actions. And funny how this portion of the disorder’s definition gives the pathologic, dangerous sociopath a ‘reason’ for their condition. But ironically for this science geek, it is an odd type of relief that gives evilness a signature stamp. Hopefully, for our families, our communities and the rest of the world, our medical research, educational system, and political parties can work together to find a solution.
Will it come from a simple genetic alteration? Probably not, and the more aggressive attempts, like incarceration, death row, or war have all failed.
We simply cannot kill all the terrorists out there like weeds in our lawns. Nor can we give narcissists a whopping dose of narcissism or lock up all the sociopaths. Neither will care or even understand.
And not to get too deep into philosophy and the future, but this hopeful caretaker and medical research enthusiast believes that both the IT age and unstoppable data mining might be the cure.
Is transparency the answer to accountability? I feel that I have nothing to hide and to a degree do not mind law enforcement or the government keeping a distant eye on things. Knowing that terrorist attempts are stopped in this country (sometimes daily) without us knowing makes me and many others feel safe. But even if law enforcement or other ethical entities had this information or access to these resources, it won’t stop these communal, family, or even national atrocities from happening.
All we can do is lead by example, but this time do it with a hard edge. Like this transparent prose. Tomorrow is Father’s day and we all secretly want to be pampered and ‘recognized’ by our families. I would like to celebrate by recognizing those who continue to lead the ethical charge, have those uncomfortable conversations with their loved ones and pound that ‘do the right thing in times of stress and crisis’ stake deeper in the ground. If this blog clarifies or even creates some form of awareness for someone else, their family, community, or country blind to their misery or plight……then the time spent this morning was worth its weight in gold for this weary citizen. My dad is not with us anymore, but left behind a legacy of ‘working harder’ in times of crisis.
Thank you dad, I will pass this solid foundation on to my family and add a bidirectional layer of ‘working smarter’.