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Dr. Zafirides Mass Shooting: How To Deal With Senseless Tragedy

Discussion in 'General Discussion Subforum' started by Peter Zafirides, Dec 20, 2012.

  1. Peter Zafirides

    Peter Zafirides Physician

    Hi Everyone,

    Some of my PPD/TMS patients have experienced an increase in pain after the horrific school shootings in Connecticut last week. You may have noticed this yourself. This is totally understandable given the nature of this atrocity.

    I devoted this week's podcast fully to the school shooting and how we can cope an at least begin to heal from this senseless act of violence.

    You can listen to it here:


    I truly hope you find it helpful.

    Dr. Z
  2. BruceMC

    BruceMC Beloved Grand Eagle

    I certainly observed this in myself too. A little while after I heard the news, I had a bout of acid reflux while eating dinner. In any event, the acid burned my throat, which stayed sore for a couple of days afterwards. Then, I started to develop a cold in the tissue in my throat that had been burned by the acid. Sounds very likely that the cold virus found a nice spot to get going in the burned tissue in my throat. Today, the cold seems to be going down. I can see how the cold virus got into my throat, but that initial bout of acid reflux, totally out of the blue, had to be a reaction on the part of my unconscious mind when I first heard about the Newtown massacre. Really sounds like a clear example of mind-body interaction to me. My autoimmune system may have been compromised enough for the cold virus to get started too. Come to think of it, I remember having a lot of weird unexplained physical symptoms ten or so years ago just after 9/11. Haven't listened to your podcast yet, but now I will.
  3. Peter Zafirides

    Peter Zafirides Physician


    The mind-body effect on our health is indisputable, except to the ignorant or the closed-minded.

    For example, it has been a very unusual 2 weeks at the office. I have heard the most tragic stories in the personal lives of my patients in the last 2 weeks, probably more so than I have heard in the last 2 years. Quite a bit has been written about the theory of social proof and the effect that highly publicized suicides and murders have in the increase of one-car and two-car fatalities, respectively. We all pick up on the cultural and societal mindset.

    There is just so much to human behavior that we have barely scratched the surface on our level of understanding. It is just incredible to consider the knowledge we will acquire in the years to come!!!

  4. BruceMC

    BruceMC Beloved Grand Eagle

    Just finished listening to your podcast and was impressed with your measured dignity and eloquent compassion, especially as the father of children of approximately the same age as those slaughtered in the Newtown massacre. I just finished reading a very important book entitled Soldaten, which is based on private conversations between German POWs in England and the USA that were recorded secretly during WWII when some of those soldiers still believed in the "final victory" of the Third Reich over its many enemies. It's more like an extended essay on the origins of human violence and evil. Read it if you get chance. Just came out this year in English. It says a lot about autonomic, geometrical violence that is unleashed by soldiers who have been conditioned to behave according to military "group think". Too complicated to describe in detail here, but it also says a lot about unfeeling acts of revenge against civilians who have only committed isolated acts of violence against occupying forces. I suspect that we are all still living in the shadow created by the 60 million dead during WWII, the vast majority of whom were innocent civilians. It's amazing how a mild mannered banker from Frankfurt, in the space of just three days combat, can turn into a killing machine, mowing down refugee columns in neat geometrical patterns with MG 34s just to "do a good job". Once you unleash the dogs of war, it's very, very hard to get them back into their cages.
  5. Peter Zafirides

    Peter Zafirides Physician


    Thank you for your kind words about the podcast. Thank you as well for the recommendation on the book. That sounds incredibly interesting. You are so right about human behavior. Another example was the Stanford Prison Experiment study that had to be shut down after just a few days.
  6. BruceMC

    BruceMC Beloved Grand Eagle

    Peter: Here is the Amazon link to Soldaten:


    And, yes, as in the Stanford experiment, the roles of soldier and civilian do seem to condition the behavior of both the Wehrmacht landsers as well as the Polish civilians, who were soon regarded by the Germans as all "partisans" who could be shot with impunity for any imagined offense. If one German soldier was shot by a so-called "partisan", all his comrades would become so "enraged" that they would go out and kill a whole village in reprisal. However, one of the most shocking instances of submission/dominance role modeling, occurs in the chapter on sex where the little Jewish girls who cleaned their barracks in Russia developed sexual relationships with the German soldiers, but when it came time to march them out in the woods to be machine gunned, they would accept their sacrifice fatalistically while their lovers just shrugged their shoulders too. Shocking stuff and very interesting in light of that American sergeant going on a rampage recently in Afghanistan killing civilians near his fire base in a drunken rage. Behavior conditioned by assigned roles again like the Stanford experiment, which I remember quite clearly by in 1973 when it occurred near my home in Belmont, not far from Palo Alto. Thanks for the reminder.

    Seems like the automated vicarious killing that goes on in modern warfare does relate quite directly to the violent video games that the Newtown mass murderer watched before going on his rampage in that they are both dehumanize the victim and reduce him or her to a simple abstract target. The social commentary in Soldaten addresses quite specifically how modern mass production methods and the work ethic became transferred to the soldiers "work" of killing efficiently. It's "just my job".
  7. Forest

    Forest Beloved Grand Eagle

    Dr. Zafirides,

    Thank you for another great Podcast. With all of the emotions that come up around the tragedy, you help us put it all in context and think about how to feel about it, all from a psychological perspective. You show us how to process a complex emotional situation (like so many of the situations that we deal with) and deal with it in a healthy way, possibly growing in the process. This is a common experience that we are all sharing, but the emotional tools that you are modeling, like putting things in context and thinking of the emotional consequences, can be applied everywhere.
  8. Forest

    Forest Beloved Grand Eagle

    Here's the video... it's quite moving:
  9. BruceMC

    BruceMC Beloved Grand Eagle

    In light of Adam Lanza's senseless rampage, this Wiki entry for Texas mass murderer Charles Whitman (d. 1966) makes an enlightening read:


    You'll notice that not only did Whitman have a perfectionist tyrannical dad who used violence against his wife and children in the home, but an incurable brain tumor in his hypothalamus as well:

    "The autopsy discovered a glioblastoma (a highly aggressive and invariably fatal brain tumor) in the hypothalamus (the white matter located above the brain stem)."

    Have the results of an autopsy of Adam Lanza been released yet? Could neuro-science explain Lanza's apparently atypical behavior? Doesn't the hypothalamus mediate between emotions and memory? Intriguing even though it doesn't really address the broader issues of our collective grief and the problem of gun control in the US.

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