Before doing a deeper dive into the pathology of the terrorist mind, I need to establish a structural ground by identifying the differing variant strains of the pathology.
There is a specific set of damaged information structures that creates the pathology of the terrorist mind (pathological hatred and pathological violence), but the pathogen expresses itself in variant forms based on the extent and nature of damage to additional surrounding information structures.
So while there is a core set of damaged information structures that remains consistent across all variants strains of pathological violence, it is whether or not specific surrounding information structures remain functionally intact or are also damaged that expresses as the different variants of pathological hatred and pathological violence.
I want to identify the variant strains, and then I will begin to unpack each in turn.
The pathological violence of the terrorist mind is created by a specific set of damaged information structures in the attachment networks of the brain.
The attachment networks of the brain (along with a related relationship system for a shared state of psychological connection, called “intersubjectivity”; Nova-Mirror Neurons), are the brain networks responsible for governing all aspects of love and social bonding throughout the lifespan, including the processing of sadness, grief, and loss.
The damaged information structures in the attachment networks of the terrorist mind are revealed in a set of three characteristic features of pathological violence:
The absence of normal-range empathy;
The absence of shared social morality;
The desire to create immense suffering in others.
However, there are variants of how these damaged information structures creating the core symptom features are expressed. The variant strains of pathological violence are manifested in the causal attribution that the terrorist mind makes to justify the pathological violence. It is these variants of the underlying pathology that are creating confusion in terrorism “experts” who are unable to identify the cohering linkage among the various forms of the pathogen.
As far as I can tell right now, there appear to be two primary variants of the terrorist mind, with each primary category having additional subtypes.
The “Warrior” Terrorist Mind
The first variant type is the “Warrior” terrorist mind that sees itself as a soldier fighting for a cause. The three subtypes of the “Warrior” terrorist mind are:
The Freedom Fighter/Dictator: The justification for violence offered by the “Freedom Fighter” variant of the terrorist mind is that the person is fighting to establish a national or ethnic homeland. Examples of this category would be the Tamil terrorists in Sri Lanka, the Basque ETA, and the Provisional Irish Republican Army.
When the “Freedom Fighter” variant is successful in achieving control of a political state, it can transmute into a “Dictator” variant of oppression and violence turned against the people. Examples of the transmutation of the “Freedom Fighter” variant into the “Dictator” variant would be Mao and the Cultural Revolution, the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia, the Nazis Third Reich, and Bashar al-Assad in Syria.
I am currently of divided mind as to whether to sub-classify the “Dictator” state-sponsored terrorist violence as a form of the “Freedom Fighter” terrorist mind who has gained control of the state, or whether to classify it in its own distinct category. I’m leaning toward the latter, but I could go either way at this time.
The state-sponsored violence of the “Dictator” form of the pathogen can create the complementary “Freedom-Fighter” response in the population. The violence of the “Freedom Fighters” then leads to increased oppression from the “Dictator” pathogen, which then leads to a cycle of increasing violence. When the pathological violence of the terrorist mind has gained political control of a state, it can be difficult to disentangle the role of state-sponsored violence of the “Dictator” form of the pathogen from the self-defense violence it creates in response.
This is the most complicated variant of the pathogen because of the circular causality to the pathological violence and societal acceptance of the “war” justification for pathological violence.
The Holy Warrior of God: This form of the pathogen sees itself as a righteous Crusader or jihadist fighting a religious “holy war” on behalf of God. Examples in this category would the Christian Crusaders of the 12th and 13th Centuries and the current Islamic jihadists of Al Qaeda and Isis.
This is an extraordinarily malignant and very primitive and primal-exposed form of the pathogen. While other variants of the pathology may be amenable to intervention, when this form of the pathogen activates it likely requires the complete removal of the pathogen from the social population through the death (or lifetime imprisonment) of the host organism to prevent the pathogen’s ability to manifest and spread its pathological “viral code.”
This version of the pathogenic structures in the attachment networks creates the strongest delusional system and contains the most primitive structures of hostile-aggressive sadistic violence. This variant of the pathogen enjoys (is gratified by) the suffering of others. This version of the pathogen is on a line from the burning alive of women as “witches” in the 16th to 18th centuries and the tortures of the Spanish Inquisition.
The violence index expressed in the desire to cause immense suffering is extremely high in this variant of the pathogen, which is suggestive of a possible origin for the pathogenic structures of the “Holy Warrior of God” variant in incest and sexual abuse moving through generations. Since the “Holy Warrior of God” pathology tends to be expressed by males, it is possible that the incest/sexual abuse entered with the childhood sexual abuse of the mother, and the high-violent information structures in the attachment networks are moving through generational transmission in the sensitive mother-son relationship. Based on the high-violence quotient of the “Holy Warrior of God” variant and its surrounding features, my estimate is that it was the mother of the jihadist who was sexually abused as a child (incest). This may account for the current expression of the “Holy Warrior of God” variant primarily from the patriarchal misogynistic Muslim culture.
Let me be clear, Islam is not inherently a misogynistic religion. Muhammad was a supporter of women’s rights in his actions and pronouncements (PBS Muhammad Legacy of a Prophet). However, the current violent jihadist version of Islam is emerging from within a sub-cultural perversion of Muhammad’s teachings and the Qur’an, and this sub-cultural expression of Islam is profoundly oppressive of women. This prominently misogynistic sub-culture is highly suggestive of significant mother-son (father-daughter) pathology in psychological development.
My point is not to engage in a religious discussion, it is to raise the possibility of Islam’s oppressive patriarchal sexual-gender attitudes creating a climate for incest and sexual abuse of the daughters/mothers within Islamic culture which then serves as the psychological origin for the immensely primitive and violent nature of the “Holy Warrior of God” pathogenic structures.
The Revolutionary: This variant adopts a supposedly altruistic motive of fighting a revolutionary struggle on behalf of oppressed people. In the 20th Century, this has typically been expressed in the form of Marxist-leftist revolutionary ideals. Examples of this variant would be Italy’s Red Brigade, Germany’s Baader-Meinhoff group, Shining path in Peru, and FARC in Columbia.
The “Revolutionary” is likely one of the least malignant variants of the pathogen. This variant represents an infectious-spread (a resonant-response) of the pathogen in the brain of the “Revolutionary” mind to the perception of social injustice manifesting from pathogenic structures within the broader society. Their empathy for the victimization of the “oppressed” (the injustice) activates the latent pathogen of pathological violence in the attachment networks of the “Revolutionary.” As the pathogen is increasingly cleared from broader society, this variant is likely to become less prevalent.
Identity-Based Pathological Hatred
The second broad category is a more individualistic variant of the pathogen. While all variants strongly distort identity networks of the brain (the attachment system is foundationally critical in the development of self-identity), the “Warrior” terrorist mind tends toward society-based justifications as a “warrior” fighting for a societal cause, whereas the “Identity-Based” terrorist mind offers more individually-based justifications.
Even though these justifications are more individually-based rather than societal attributions, the “Identity-Based” variant can still exhibit the characteristic feature of the pathogen generally of its tendency to form a group-mind state, representing a collective aggregation of the pathogenic structures and its social infection across minds.
The “Identity-Based” variants of pathological violence are often not classified as “terrorism” but instead appear as “mass shootings” that have an individual-psychological foundation rather than a political motivation. However, these individual variants share the same core features of the absence of empathy, absence of shared morality, and intent to cause immense suffering that are indicative of the same damaged information structures in the attachment networks of the brain. Prime examples of this expression of the pathogen are Columbine, Sandy Hook, and Las Vegas.
Whereas the classification of the variant strains of the “Warrior” terrorist mind are based on the outward justification offered by the pathogen for the violence, the classification of the variant strains of “Identity-Based” pathological violence are defined through their causal origins.
Degradation-Dignity: The psychological importance of human dignity is a central and foundational psychological need. When dignity is damaged, pathological hatred directed against a targeted group can act to restore and stabilize the damaged dignity structures. Self-shame and exposed degradation are associated components of this variant. Lower socioeconomic White supremacists are an example of this form of pathological violence, where targeting other ethic-racial groups for degradation and violence restores and stabilizes the damaged dignity structures created in this pathogen.
The Alienated Soul: Pathological violence emerging from this variant strain of the pathogen develops through profoundly damaged social-bonding networks that create an extremely painful emptiness of core-being. The immense suffering of the “Alienated Soul” leads to the intense pathological anger and pathological hatred the person displays for socially bonded humanity. The Sandy Hook shooter and the Las Vegas shooter are likely variants of the “Alienated Soul” variant of the pathogen.
Cleanliness-Purity Variant: This variant of pathological violence has strong disgust and self-shame overtones. In this regard it is associated with the “Degradation-Dignity” variant, as evidenced in the desire of the racist to maintain “racial purity.” The “Cleanliness-Purity” variant carries stronger visceral disgust themes and a greater visceral hatred (reflecting self-loathing turned to the targeted group), and the “Cleanliness-Purity” variant has an exceedingly high propensity for excessively brutal violence, whereas the “Degradation-Dignity” variant carries less visceral disgust and stronger themes of power and domination.
The 1940s Nazi mind of antisemitism that arose in Germany represents an example of this variant of the pathogen. This 1940s Nazi antisemitism also evidences the “Degradation-Dignity” themes in the humiliation of the World War I defeat, so these two variants may represent the same core structures, and I may wind up combining the “Degradation-Dignity” and “Cleanliness-Purity” strains. But for the time being they seem to have sufficiently differing expressions as to warrant separate classification.
The extremely high brutal-violence index of the “Cleanliness-Purity” variant also suggests that it may be strongly related to the extremely high brutal-violence index of the “Holy Warrior of God” variant. As I delve deeper into both the “Cleanliness-Purity” and the “Holy Warrior of God” variants I am fully expecting to identify the same core sequence of damaged information structures linking these variants. I already suspect which information structures are the likely links, I just need to work out the exact path.
A few key damaged information structures in the “Cleanliness-Purity” variant appear to divert the pathogen’s outward expression into more obsessive-compulsive domains, whereas a different set of key features in the associated damaged information structures of the “Holy Warrior of God” variant appear to divert the pathogen into stronger delusional pathology. I just haven’t had time yet to identify the exact path of these key differences.
My Current Focus
My strongest current focus is on unlocking the deep pathology of the “Holy Warrior of God” variant, as this represents the greatest threat of actively brutal violence. The Manchester bombing, Nice, and Paris attacks all stem from this extremely malignant variant.
My second current focus is on identifying the triggers-to-violence for the “Alienated Soul” variant. Many brains carry social-alienation vulnerabilities, yet only a few brains with social-alienation trigger into violence. Identifying the triggering information structures is critical for disabling the activation into violence for this variant strain of pathological violence.
For my own clarity I am working up a coding system for the various strains of pathological violence, similar to the coding system I’m working on to categorize the various forms of parent-child conflict in families. The Terrorist Mind coding system would identify the Primary Category and Secondary Contributing Category, along with a set of Modifiers:
001: The Warrior Terrorist Pathology
W-01: Freedom Fighter
W-02: Holy Warrior of God
002: Identity-Based Terrorist Pathology
I-02: Alienated Soul
003: ??? Dictator/State-Sponsored Terrorist Pathology
M-01-x: Oppression Index: Response to Surrounding Oppression
1 = No oppression
3 = Social oppression
5 = Violent oppression
7 = Genocidal oppression
M-02: Charismatic leader
M-03: Loyal follower
M:04: Societal validation
M-05: Limited sub-cultural validation
M-06: “Lone-wolf” individual action
Craig Childress, Psy.D.
Clinical Psychologist, PSY 18857