Where behavioral science and humanism get out of the ivory tower, and into the world.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Are Terrorism and Borderline Personality Disorder a Difference of Scale?

Right off the bat let me state three things.

1.) I do not support terrorism, I do however think exploring its cause can lead to an understanding of why it is used, how it can be dealt with, and how it can stopped before it starts.

2.) I am not implying in any way, shape, or form that have knowledge of the mental status of people who are involved in terrorism. I do, however, think that there may be parallels “terrorist activities” as a concept and behaviors that can be used to identify some psychological disorders.

3.) I fully admit to making glib statements and gross generalizations about extremely complex, multi-faceted issues that have people many many many many different ideas and opinions on.

And now! On with the show!

“Once upon a time a famous pirate prisoner was brought in front of Alexander the Great. Alexander asked him: ‘Why do you infest the seas with so much audacity and freedom?’ The pirate answered: ‘For the same reason because you infest the earth; but because I do it with a little ship, I am called a pirate; because you do it with an armada you are called an emperor.’”
De Civitate Dei, Augustine of Hippo

The Parallels that I see:

Purpose of terrorism

To disrupt the environment in a manor that cause people and nations chaos so that; they will be noticed, their distress and grievances heard, in hopes that they will receive what feel they need from the global community to lead a good life.

Purpose of “acting out” by a person with borderline personality disorder (BPD)

To disrupt their environment in a manor that cause the people in their lives chaos so that; they will be noticed, their distress and grievances heard, in hopes that they will receive what feel they need from them to lead a good life.

Causes of terrorism

Some research shows that a good way to get a revolution going and radicalize groups of people is the following: do not allow moderate levels of decent. This tends to push people towards the poles of thinking. “Pangea is the best place in the world!” “Pangea is terrible” because all the people who start saying “Well, Pangea is nice, but I’d like to see some improvements,” Get disappeared and the grievances and concerns of the people become ignored because “hey, it’s only words, besides we’re in charge!”

Now the only voices not being 100% pro-Pangea are the ones who want to tear Pangea apart. The ones who are really upset, and the ones that have been taught that words are not enough to be heard by the powers that be. Their logical course of action? Ramp up the volume. Ramp it up till it’s loud enough that people take notice and work with them to fix the problem.

Causes of “Acting out” by people with BPD
(NOTE: this is not the cause of BPD, just a general idea of why they act out.)

People with BPD feel extremely distressed and need help from the people around them. At some point they learned that saying “I’m upset and could use some support,” would get them in trouble. As such they learned to stay very quiet and not express themselves, but that only works to a point. Once that’s been reached they lash out destructively either against themselves, others, or objects so that people will know how upset they are and have the hope that someone will come in and fix the problem.

Therapy for BPD:
The course of treatment that seems to do the most food for people with PBD is modality called “Dialectic Behavioral Therapy.” Which, at its core, is a combination of having strong boundaries, and teaching the person with BPD how to express themselves moderately, which ideas and expectations they have of others are realistic and which aren’t (along with “traditional” and other types of skill building). Over the course of many months the client and therapist build trust and a rapport. Often during this time the client will act out, to which often the response is “I will not work with you if you are being destructive. We can continue working when you’re calm, and can talk about your problems.” With the key being that the person with BPD knowing and trusting that they will be heard when they communicate correctly.

Potential therapy for “terrorism”
Any terrorist act immediately shuts down communication with the powers that be. No negotiation, no trades, no communication until there has been X months of non-violent activity. The people involved in the terrorist acts must believe that there is an entity that will hear their grievances, and help with support their ideas with in reason.

“No you cannot have your own nation, besides, the land you want doesn’t have an independent infrastructure and ya’ll would be in the dark and hungry with in the week. However, you do make up 3% of the population, so lets work on getting you representation in the government.”

Would it work? Who knows, at best I’m an arm chair political theorist. I do know that the parallels seem strong to me, and I know at least on the scale I’m used to working on it works well. Often people with BPD make you want to pull your hair out and go screaming into the night, but they’re still a great group of people to work with and can have such amazing positive results in the end.

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