The Trigger

Don’t worry about the motive.  Look for the trigger.

I can explain the pathogen’s structure and variants, the issue becomes why did this brain trigger.  There is damaged empathy – lots of brains have that and they don’t trigger into acts of pathological violence.  There is damaged social morality – lots of brains have that, and they don’t trigger into pathological violence.  There is sadistic gratification in causing suffering…

That’s not common.

In fact, that’s very uncommon.  Our brains are naturally wired to feel-with the pain of others, activating a revulsion, the disgust tracts in the nervous system that make us draw back in horror, or activating attachment bonding networks motivating us to reach out and comfort in compassion.  When we see immense pain and suffering, we either pull away in horror (our disgust system), or we reach out to comfort (our empathy response).

We don’t… enjoy… the suffering of the other person.

That’s the sadistic line.  It has strong sexual abuse factors.  Shame is central on this line.  Sadistic shame is not a feature of many traumatized brains, I suspect the trigger is along this domain.  That’s where I would look.

Why?  Not why, the reason why the person did it.  Why now?  Why not yesterday, or the day before that?   Why not tomorrow?  Why… now.  When did that happen?  What was that like?

Look for the trigger, the activating trigger.  Why, no not that why; why this, why now?

There will be a lot of general reasons given – the reasons of justifying awareness.  They aren’t true.  He doesn’t know the trigger.  He’s not that self-aware.  You need to locate it.

We lost the Dayton shooter.  The suicide line is a strong-strong line with the pathogen.  It has to do with both despair and redemption – the sacrifice.  When a brain activates into pathological violence… and lives… that’s a valuable brain.  Don’t look for motive, look for trigger.

Why now, why today?  What’s the structure for triggering.

The reason we need to identify the triggers has to do with the solution, how we are going to deactivate the pathology.  We won’t be able to predict one-by-one which person is going to trigger into pathological violence, to then apply one-on-one interventions, not because we won’t be able to do it, we will, but because it will be way-mega too expensive to assess every child, and entirely impractical… and unnecessary.

If we understand the pathogen… and the trigger… we can develop prophylactic interventions in workshop activity formats that can be broadly delivered to address specific features of the triggering link… deactivating it on the child’s side, all children, through the workshop activity.

It wouldn’t be a psychotherapy designed to cure or heal pathology… it would be a prophylactic mental health trauma vaccine, in a workshop activity format.  A prophylactic curriculum designed to deactivate the triggering link, and prevent the pathogen’s eruption into malignancy.

Understanding the structure of the pathogen, its meme-structures, is analogous to identifying the properties of a public health virus in order to develop a vaccine, a set of countering and deactivating meme-structures that can be successfully delivered in a workshop curriculum.

But to get there, we need to know the triggering structure, not the motivational press.

This is not a pathology of fear and domination, those are superficial features in the service of sadistic gratification in causing suffering.  This is a pathogen of grief and shame, a trans-generational transmission of trauma.

Absence of empathy tells us where the damage is.  Absence of shared morality tells us what the damage is.  I suspect we’ll find the triggering meme-structures in the sadistic satisfaction found in causing suffering in others.  It’s the triggering structure we need to target for deactivation.

Interventions deactivating the triggering structures would be delivered in the context of attachment interventions (empathy) and intersubjective shared social connections (shared social morality), creating the comprehensive context for change.

Identify the triggering structures.  If we don’t deactivate the triggering, we won’t be able to deactivate the pathology.

Craig Childress, Psy.D.
Clinical Psychologist, PSY 18857


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