Psychological Motives for Becoming a Terrorist Essay

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Psychological Motives for Becoming a Terrorist

Introduction

Suicide bombing, a major terror strategy of terrorists is, if not the most, one of the most gruesome acts anybody can commit. It is outright crazy and stupid. One must be beside the normal to be entertaining such a thought in mind. Ironically, fanatics who have committed and attempted suicide bombings in the past, were deemed normal until the day when the execution of their ultimate plans were made public whether foiled or completed. People who are afflicted with mental disorder may, as other people, travel for the same reasons – vacation, visiting friends or relatives, business, recreation, and sometimes for religious or spiritual focus (Miller & Zarcone, 1968). Others indeed may travel for reasons other than the normal – for reasons triggered by malformed mental state such as the men who carried out the 911 attack of the Twin Towers in New York.

Along the 911 attack, suicide bombing through aircraft came to prominence resulting in the stirring of the awareness among the international public of the fact that the regular traveler might not be that “regular” anyway. It is probable that some of them are driven by excessive anger or motivated by utopic hope as taught in the communities wherein they have pledged their life allegiance (Silke, 2003). Just a few months ago, upon the return of former Pakistani Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto to her home country, 124 were killed and 320 plus got injured as a result of another suicide bombing. The bomber threw grenades among crowds of people and afterwards blasted himself to death (CNN update, Oct.18, 2007).

It’s difficult to think of sensible reasons why a sane person (if that person was ever considered sane by his colleagues) has committed such an act in the first place. To spend and expend one’s self for a noble cause is commendable only if they benefit people outside one’s own community. It’s never an ideal to advance a religion’s cause at the expense of the lives of other people. A suicide bomber is demented in that even in the logic of religion, all religions presupposed a benevolent god who is both powerful and loving. There must be distortions somewhere within the suicide bomber’s mind to have associated the act of delivering a bomb and acts of piety.

Rationale of the argument
~Understanding mental health

The majority of theories and models of human behavior fall into one of two basic categories: internal perspective and external perspective. The internal perspective considers the factors inside the person to understand behavior. People who subscribe to this view understand behavior as psychodynamically oriented. Behavior is explained in terms of the thoughts, feelings, past experiences and needs of the individual. The internal processes of thinking, feeling, perceiving and judging lead people to act in specific ways. This internal perspective implies that people are best understood from the inside and that people’s behavior is best interpreted after understanding their thoughts and feelings (Jourad, 1963).

The other category of theories takes an external perspective. This focuses on factors outside the person to understand behavior. External events, consequences of behavior, environmental forces to which a person is subject, are emphasized by this external perspective. A person’s history, value system, feelings and thoughts are not very important in interpreting actions and behavior. Kurt Lewin for instance considered both perspectives in saying that behavior is a function of both the person and the environment (Tiffin,& McCormick, 1958). Man is a social being and as such his personality is viewed from the society and culture where he belongs. A society represents a geographical aggregate and has boundaries, similar government or a group of persons in meaningful interaction and engaged in social relationship.

Personality is the individualizing traits of man which constitute his singularity and differentiate him from any other human being. The three determinants of personality: 1] biological heritage which has direct influence on the development of personality. This includes musculature, the nervous system, and the glands; 2] E.Q. factor describes qualities like understanding one’s feelings, empathy for the feelings of others, and the “regulation of emotion in a way that enhances living (Gibbs, 1995);” 3] environmental factors. Taking everything normal, environment plays an important role in personality development.

Environmental factors are cultural environment, social environment, home and family, culture, status and role and social agent. Many of men’s pronounced stirred-up state of mind such as fear, anger, disgust, and contempt, have posed the question, why? What has caused such a reaction? What has brought a change to his/her behavior? What is the frustration that has brought about such behavior? In the world of a suicide bomber, he/she contemplates on various input or stimuli from the world he/she evolves in. There are frustrations of every form and even without these, his/her psyche or mental state functions on the basis of anything he/she receives (actively or passively) from the milieu. Life’s problems are numerous and as long as one is alive and kicking he will always be faced with problems, be they big or small. Such problems stir-up one’s emotions or feelings which maybe pleasant or unpleasant.

Physiological problems, environmental problems, personal deficiencies and psychological concerns bring on a variety of responses; some predictable, others are not. Disorganization of family life, disintegration of personality brought about by depression, great personal suffering, any of these may take any person beyond the limits of his tolerance. Man is born in a social environment surrounded by cultural norms and values. He is faced with cultural taboos and acceptable social behavior. Numerous environmental factors come to the fore which may or may not be easily overcome. One of the most difficult problems in this area is one’s cultural dos and don’ts. Environmental frustrations cannot be avoided, for there are always certain factors in a person’s growth and achievement. Psychological or internal problems are the most difficult to resolve as they are within the inner feelings of a person.

One may not be able to detect his/her concerns/anxieties through his /her overt behavior. It may only be inferred from what his/her inner thoughts and feelings are but will not know what caused such a feeling. Psychological concerns of various forms represent a more serious threat to the personality of the individual than do environmental pressures. If severe enough, they may create considerable emotional tension with accompanying behavior disorders. Reacting to pressures and other concerns such as frustration varies from person to person because of their personality differences. These reactions maybe defensive, neurotic or psychotic.

Most people are sympathetic to people who develop physical ailments, but regard an individual with mental disorder as “crazy.” At this juncture, does a suicide bomber then be considered a person with a mental disorder or deemed as “crazy?” definitions of mental health vary considerably. Freud when asked what he thought a normal, healthy person should do well replied “love and work.” Karl Menninger’s (1956) definition is quite similar to Freud’s. He states:

“Let us define mental health as the adjustment of human beings to the world and each other with a maximum of effectiveness and happiness. Not just efficiency, or just contentment, or the grace of obeying the rules of the game cheerfully. It is all together. It is the ability to maintain an even temper and happy disposition. This, I think,  is a healthy mind.”

When we therefore, try to define mental health, we have in mind the adjustment process which an individual brings into force when he is faced with a problem situation. Adjustment is defined as an individual’s manner of reacting or responding adequately to a perceived problem. From the standpoint of mental health, adjustment refers to a happy and socially acceptable response to life’s situations. Mental health therefore, is the ability of the individual to function effectively and happily as a person in one’s expected role in a group and in the society in general. It is a condition of the whole personality and is not merely a condition of the “mind” as is often supposed. It is an out-growth of one’s total life and is promoted or hindered by day-to-day experience, not only by major crises as some assume (McCllelland et al, 1973).

Mental health is the capacity to live harmoniously in a changing environment; to face and solve one’s problems in a realistic manner; to accept the inevitable, and to understand and accept one’s own shortcomings as well as the shortcomings of others. In this sense, people who develop and encourage Jihad or any “terroristic” ideas and brainwash others to do the same, are seen people who do have unrealistic way of looking at life and their experiences. They are commonly classified as people having delusions of grandeur among others. This term refers to people who experience a bloated sense of importance or missions and oftentimes associated with corresponding persecution complexes (Jourad, 1963). They therefore harbor also a sense of anxiety that some people are out there to cut off their goals and obstruct their missions.

Their resolve to deliver their target aims is even stronger the reason for their methodical and systematic way of doing things. Since they cannot accept that they must co-exist with people whose beliefs radically differ from theirs, they accept the notion that annihilation is a solution and dying a martyr’s death to ensure this goal is the ultimate sacrifice. This kind of mindset comes only from a frame of thinking that has been exposed only to a few options; in fact, only very narrow options. That option is the radical Islamic alternative and nothing else. When living in this world, co-existence is not just something that is talked about inside the halls of the academe: co-existence signifies a mindset that is healthy as well and free from disorders.

Mental health is a matter of degree. There is no hard and fast line that separates health from illness. It is not a simple matter to divide the population into two distinct groups-those who should be institutionalized and those who should not be. Many of us at one time or another exhibit traits and pattern of behavior which if, accentuated and continuous, would necessitate psychiatric care (Jourad, 1963).

Though radical a thought this may seem, and naturally sounds unrealistic, the ideal place is to set monitoring and evaluation of mental hygiene at some point in time. How to do this is going to be a big issue, expectedly. However, terrorism and the likes of suicide bombing can probably be controlled in some ironic way: by referring to them as idiosyncratic, delusional or even possessing mental disorders. Another way of classifying them is through the Diagnostic Statistical Manual IV (DSM) classification system; these people are versions of psychopaths or psychotics; because the symptoms are there and they cannot function normally among any general population.

~Towards developing a Strategy or Intervention

Since the argument of this paper stands on looking at the acts of a suicide bomber as acts emanating from someone with mental illness, it follows that approaches to its reduction or elimination be provided or examined as well. There are three ways of looking at developing and establishing a strategy or intervention: the preventive, therapeutic, and the curative Kolb et al, 1974). There are subtleties that engulf these three but it is good to explore these dimensions. The preventive approach is based on the principles that the best way to ensure a well-adjusted individual is to surround him with environmental influences that will enable him to develop his full potentialities, to obtain emotional stability, and achieve personal and social adequacy.

The therapeutic aspect is concerned with the attempt to correct minor behavioral adjustments through the various counseling and techniques of psychotherapy, or adjust to the social/or physical environment of the person in order to help him obtain the amount of emotional security and self-confidence necessary. The curative approach is sometimes called “preventive psychiatry” and is concerned with the detection and correction of serious but curative but behavioral maladjustments.

Although this is the work of a trained clinician or psychiatrist, it is helpful for the layman to have at least a fundamental knowledge of the major types of behavioral maladjustments in order that he/she may have a basis in determining behavioral maladjustments that need the attention of competent specialists. It is therefore necessary, on a serious note, that public awareness on the nature of mental illness on a scope such as that of the course taken by the suicide bombers, coupled with detection of signs and symptoms by neighboring homes and those in the community, help diminish the threat. There are of course other paths or strategies to follow, but why not take all that is available to ensure our security (Kolb et al, 1974).

References:
1. CNN, Breaking News, October 18, 2007. www.cnn.com
2. Gibbs, Nancy. 1995. “EQ Factor” Time International, October.
3. Gordon, Harvey, Mike Kingham, Tony Goodwin. Air travel by passengers with mental disorder. Psychiatric Bulletin (2004) 28:295-297. The Royal College of Psychiatrists.
4. Jourad, Sydney, 1963. Personal Adjustment. 2nd Ed. New York: MacMillan Company.
5. Kolb, David & Ralph K. Schwitzgebel. 1974. Changing Human Behavior: Principles of Planned Intervention. New York: McGraw-Hill Book Company.
6. McCllelland, David C. & R.S. Steele. 1973. Human Motivation: A Book of Readings. Morristown, New Jersey, General Learning Press.
7. Menninger, Karl in Taylor, David, 2003. The concept of mental health in children. European Child & Adolescent Psychiatry. Steinkopff. Volume 12, Number 3. Pp.107-113.
8. Miller, W. B. & Zarcone, V. (1968) Psychiatric behaviour disorders at an international airport. Archives of Environmental Health, 17, 360 -365.
9. Silke, A. (2003). The psychology of suicide terrorism. In Terrorists, Victims and Society (ed. A. Silke), pp. 93 -108. Chichester: Wiley.
10. Tiffin, Joseph and Ernest McCormick J. 1958. Industrial psychology. Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey: Prentice Hall, Inc.

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