The Lone Wolf


Notice how, in the 3 or so mass murder stories on any given day, the neighbors describe the suspect as “a nice guy…kept to himself,” while the co-workers/classmates say,”an odd duck…kept to himself”? These days, of course, mass-murder/suicide has become an equal-opportunity endeavor, although many of the women who do it live in sandy countries, and conceal their weapons under modest, flowing garments.

Are loners born or created? For that matter, are they all destined to commit mass murder? Of course not; but–through a combination of nature, nurture, and proximate events–they seem to be more prone to this homicidal/suicidal urge, than those living securely within the pale of a reference group. Object relations theory posits that each of us faces a Hobson’s choice between two fearful situations: engulfment [being “swallowed up” by another person or by the group], or abandonment [being cast out, to fend for ourselves in the cold, cruel world]. So, what’ll it be–the intrusion of others’ agenda, not to mention their less-than-fresh bodies, into your personal space; or the humiliation, pain & suffering, and fear of being ejected from the group? Most of us reluctantly opt for belonging to some reference group [which is the plot of Freud’s book, Civilization and Its Discontents]. These days, we’ve all seen enough nature shows to know that a shunned animal’s odds of survival are not great. Actuarial statistics show the same odds for humans. Married people, or those living in close extended family groups, live longer than those who live alone. So who opts out, and why?

Interpersonal theorists [such as Searles & Sullivan] believe that first love in adolescence can be a major factor in determining who feels “connected” to others in the long run. If the first time you “lay your cards on the table,” the other party abruptly quits the game [even for some random, external reason, like their family is moving away, or you’re a Montague and they’re a Capulet], you may conclude that they saw something sinister in your cards–that they ran away in horror from you. That you are, in fact, unworthy of love. Shakespeare’s Richard III sums it up succinctly in his opening soliloquy: if I’m too hideous to be accepted as a lover, then I’ll become a villain instead.

Life hands people all sorts of reasons to feel unworthy of love, many of them random and trivial. Color of eyes, hair, skin. Tribal affiliation. Socio-economic status. Marital status of parents. To use an animal analogy, Lili was the only pup in a litter of 10–bred of two AKC champions–to express the recessive gene for long hair, which makes her out-of-standards for “beauty pageant” showing. I don’t know how her dam or her litter-mates treated her; but the human owners of the sire, from whom we bought Lili at 4 months, definitely shunned her. While the daddy dog lolled around inside their house [the “within-standards” puppies having been sold, and the mom dog having long since flown back to her West Coast owners], Lili was in solitary confinement in an outdoor kennel. People who see her unconventional conformation ask, “Was she a rescue?” Yeah, a $600 one. Good thing, as Cesar Millan says, dogs live in the now–not where they were born & weaned.

Human outcasts can kid themselves, like Richard III, that they are not people who need people. However, they are more vulnerable to the predations of recruiters for cults and fringe outfits, than those who are lucky enough to have had their N Aff [Murray’s term for the need for group affiliation] met. In my Wild Side post I spoke of avoiding “aggressive assault,” which may have seemed redundant; but there can also be an assault of “in-your-face-affirmation”–referred to by those who study cult dynamics as “love bombing.” Celebrities get this all the time; but air travelers in the 60s & 70s will remember having been “love-bombed” by saffron-robed, finger-cymbal-playing folk; and all of us have been “lovingly” solicited by prosyletizers at the door and cold-callers on the phone. If we already enjoy affirmation from others, we are less susceptible to the “Join us…consider yourself well in…when you’re a Jet, you’re a Jet all the way” spiel, than those whose N Aff has not been met.

If the cult (or website) that the Lone Wolf becomes ensnaired in offers a plausible argument for the acting out of pent-up rage, then the Symbionese Liberation Army gains another soldier [Google it, youngsters], and the rest of us had better stay alert.

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Filed under Freud meant..., object relations theory, reference group, sharks and jets, suicide and murder

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