Saturday, September 5, 2015

The "Injustice Collectors": How to Understand Vester Flanagan’s Grievance-Filled Manifesto

Flanagan was a classic "injustice collector." Retired FBI profiler Mary Ellen O'Toole, who is widely regarded as one of the smartest people alive on these cases, described Flanagan as such on an appearance on CNN last week. And it was an easy call — Flanagan could be the case study. O'Toole published a primer on injustice collectors in the journal Violence and Gender last year, and many of her descriptors could be lifted right out of this case: "nurses resentment ... accumulating real or imagined slights, insults or putdowns ... could not get along with his co-workers ... disproportionate and aggressive response." Collectors magnify petty "injustices" and perceive them as intentional and purposeful. Over time, he forms a worldview of himself as victimized, bullied, discriminated and disrespected.


Chiu ChunLing said...

The key question is whether "collectors" are born or made. I think that it has to be a little bit of both. After all, the narcissistic tendency to dismiss the feelings and perspectives of others as insignificant or view them as mere intractable obstacles to getting one's own way has a fairly fixed distribution in the human population, regardless of culture or nationality. But most narcissists find ways to cope with the fact that other people do have their own motives that exist independent of the narcissists desires. They don't perpetually dwell on grievances because they have other things they'd rather do, recognizing that constantly nursing slights does nothing to help them achieve anything they want.

And, for clinical narcissists, learning strategies to get their way often enough is largely a matter of good circumstances rather than personal character. There are two sides to that. First, and most significantly absent from the life histories of most grievance collectors, they need to be told, early and often, that the best way to get their own way is to negotiate with others rather than make unilateral demands. Such thinking doesn't occur naturally for clinical narcissists because they can't normally perceive others as having their own desires and experiences, but it can be taught, particularly if the associated behavior of mutually favorable exchange is consistently modeled to reinforce the didactic explication (clinical narcissists need the formalized didactic in order to make sense of the demonstration, whereas most normal humans absorb these lessons more naturally).

Second, they must actually have experiences of getting what they want by doing what others want. The sad truth is that, while most cases of clinical narcissism which result in total interpersonal dysfunction arise because the fundamental idea of reciprocal exchange has never been formally taught at all, there are cases where the lesson was taught but consistently betrayed by parents or guardians who only used it as a way to get their own way with a recalcitrant child. This is particularly likely to be the case with children raised by or among criminals, and while those born within the normal range will only tend to develop borderline personality disorder, a young clinical narcissist will almost certainly become obsessed with revenge against the world at large for the many betrayals they've suffered.

The second category of grievance collectors are probably more dangerous than the first, because they are highly likely to become relatively successful as career criminals. But for this very reason, they are unlikely to engage in the kind of high-profile mass slaughters for poorly reasoned motives. Still, I imagine the majority of murderers (for my purposes meaning those who kill for reasons other than the defense of innocent life), aside from psychopaths, fall into this category.

As a society we can so a lot to reinforce the cultural value of reciprocity in human relationships and ensure that most children are explicitly taught the golden rule, "do unto others as you would have them do unto you." We can reinforce that concept by modeling it, both in our personal behavior and in our popular narrative art (necessarily including depictions of the just fate of those who first resort to violence and deceit to have their own way as well as the just reward of those who do good). But eliminating the possibility of children being raised in situations where such expectations are continually betrayed is not so easy, because it is by nature out of the hands of the majority of people who engage in 'fair dealing'. The majority can dramatically influence and even dominate the public discourse if they so choose, they can do little to impose much control on the private behavior of the criminal class.

MikeH. said...

If it weren't for the fact that I would fear some highly malicious form of retribution from the powers that are; I would be subject to opine the feelings that I am an "injustice collector", due in large part to the afore mentioned powers.

I really don't give a rat's furry ass what name the "experts" want to apply; injustice collector, manic, psycho, socio, bipolar, etc. The bottom line is, it is nothing more than a lable provided by an alleged professional that gives license for anyone to be a societal asshole.

I can remember a time when families, or governments, took responsibility for their "mentally challenged" members, which no doubt curtailed such incidents in the past.

This, like many other such injustices against the innocent, can find it's root cause in the mentally challenged being free to run for (and win) seats in public office.

A Geriatric Threeper

Anonymous said...

We'll much more of this. The federal government now plays different constituencies against one another, telling each to document their grievances, and let their inner hatred grow as the lists expand.

Anonymous said...

It may be a genetic defect in some instances.

However, when we have a "community activist" in the White House, who has made a lifelong political career out of telling people like Flanagan that they are in the right, that their irrational hatred of their betters is justified, we have to expect more of this kind of behavior.