Saturday, April 21, 2007

Seung-Hui Cho - The Transformation From An Innocent Kid To A Mass Murderer Requires Just This ...

Convocation Service at Virginia Tech

... Negative Thought Patterns Going Over And Over In The Mind

Expectedly, polls have begun being conducted on the pros and cons of a stricter gun control policy. Experts are analyzing the statistics on people's opinion on whether enforcing gun control could or could not have prevented Cho do what he did. Message boards are flooded with vitriolic comments, sad comments, philosophical reflections, I-told-you-so's; the entire spectrum of dialectics that humans are capable of producing in such events (eventualities?) is on display.

Magdalena Kaszubowska, stock.Xchng

The boy's video will enter the curriculum of psychology courses across the universities of the world. Psychoanalysts and their fraternity in academia will come out with lengthy discourses on why things happened with Seung-Hui the way they did.

pic by yohan hmmm, stock.Xchng

The current, ongoing postmortem of his character profile (wonder why his character profile couldn't have been so comprehensively built up while he was alive and before he started the shooting?) shows that he:

- was a shy kid, acutely conscious of his alien background. Migrating from a rented basement apartment in the Dobong-gu district of Seoul, South Korea, to the vicinity of an affluent community in Virginia - can be a big cultural shock for an eight-year old child that Cho was, in 1992. Coping with this shock requires a mindset that is molded in oodles of self-esteem. Which Seung-hui apparently lacked. Busy parents. A successful elder sister who must have been held up as a benchmark worth emulating, must not have helped his own worth of self any better.

image by Steve Woods, stock.Xchng

- used to be intimidated and picked on by peers as a high-school student. The peers found his accent and his personality very funny. An already low-self esteemed boy touched further depths in his own eyes. Anger and frustration towards his peers, and by extension, the world around him, must have kept growing in his mind.

image by Sue R B, stock.Xchng

As is the public wont, such incidents spark an ephemeral hue and cry about a low counselor:student ratio, the problem compounded further by the fact that the counselors apparently spend more time administering tests and filling up forms than actually doing what they were hired for: spending time with the kids - and 'counseling' them.

[Why didn't the Student Affairs cell take cognizance of the English Department Head's alert about the kid's behavior, as early as in 2005? Surely, a counselor could have been put on the job? Or did they naively expect the child to walk into the counselor's chamber on his own?]

Hannah Boettcher, stock.Xchng

- fantasized about the opposite sex. His being a loner and introvert didn't help things when his surging hormones drove him to seek the company of fellow female students. His inner conflicts: a low self-esteem and insecurity putting him on the leash on the one hand, and his urge to satisfy his natural, carnal demands on the other, led him to do what young boys in his circumstance do: stalk the girls. Ultimately, his first victim was a girl.

pic by Sylvia Neugebauer, stock.Xchng

- successfully hid his inner anger and sense of revenge against the "injustice" that the world meted out to him, when he was psychologically evaluated. Surely, the tests that are routinely administered in such cases, at Carilion's Saint Albans Behavioral Health Center themselves need re-evaluation? That an apparent lack of emotional reactivity at the superficial level, may actually be concealing a simmering, seething volcano of perhaps self-destructive lava which may explode anytime? Which only a deeper probe can reveal?

Sigh. The kid withdrew into a shell and created his own hyperreal world where he was the sole inhabitant - and not having to bear anybody's insults or mockery, and where he could extract his own revenge against his alleged tormentors, just like Woo-jin did in the OldBoy movie.

Image of Yu Ji-tae

In hindsight, Seung-hui seemed to have given enough signs of warning, to his seniors and teachers, at least of mental illness, if not of possible erupting violence against the others around him. Through his behavior, through his writings. If only one of them had proactively taken the initiative and got him started on a consistent counseling session to rebuild his self-esteem, and instill in him respect - and not hatred - for the world he cohabited.

image by Murat Cokal, stock.Xchng

All - because once a negative set of thought patterns are formed, one tends to repeatedly walk down the same road again and again. It takes but a simple shift of perspective, to move from negative to positive, from low self-esteem to high self-love - to change direction. A simple shift. Which Seung-hui didn't make.

pic by Sharlene Jackson, stock.Xchng

As we grieve for the people who faced the bullets that were suddenly sprayed at them, not even given the chance to know why they deserved this fate; as we shed tears for the young who had their entire life spread out before them, life snuffed out before they could live it to their full potential; as we share the hopelessness and helplessness of Seung-hui's parents (Seung Tae and Hyang In) and sister (Sun Kyung), the nightmare and soul-searching that they must now be going through is palpable: let us also reflect on how our society developed the circumstance which shaped this kid's thoughts, and how we couldn't stretch out our helping hand to lift him - when it was still time - as he was sliding deeper into his morass of negativity and self-destruction.

image by huseyin bakir, stock.Xchng



  1. Very thought provoking. Thank you, Sanjay!

  2. Your comments were so in line with our society, what we teach our children and how devastating rejection can enters one's mind and one's soul. I grieve for all the lost young people, their families, their friends and how they have to face the future without that loved one.
    I have to comment on his mental illness and how people do slip through the cracks.When someone is as sick as this young man was his reaching out to anyone is almost impossible, reaching out brings more shame to the sick person and the reality is there are very few people who take the time to care for another person with a mental illness. No one wants to deal with such a person and as time goes on his thoughts only got worse until they were totally out of control. Shame is an awful feeling for every person but for the Asian culture it's even worse. He gave many cries for help through his writings according to his English Professor, yet it seemed no one wanted to get involved with his life. Hurt people hurt people! Also unless you are a rich person or come from a rich family can you realistically get good mental health help. Our society has turned a blind eye to the needs of the mentally ill. Most people are so un-educated in this area and our government has put forth little funding for this illness. My comments go out to the people that are still alive suffering with this illness, and to the people suffering from their losses when I say we are our brothers keeper. It's time to get our head out from under the sand and bombard legislation for new laws concerning the mentally ill. give families and friends a real place to reach out to. Stop the miles of red tape that exists in this area and fund more money for research and training.Get rid of the stigma associated with the words "Mentally Ill." I know many people will say that focusing on Cho Suing Hui's sickness is a cop out, he doesn't deserve any compassion, he only deserves to burn in hell. That may be true, but there are other people out their just like him and unless we become more involved and more educated concerning the signs this may happen again.
    Sadly written

  3. I think this article on an online newspaper gives an interesting perspective:

    It can be very difficult to get mental health treatment in America. Insurance companies discriminate against mental illness; they don't cover it nearly as much as they do "normal" illnesses and often limit what they'll cover, and if you go to a psychiatrist in the future your rates could skyrocket. Even for middle-class kids and families, it can be very hard. Not necessarily if, say, you just see a psychiatrist to get a prescription for ADD or depression, but except for the rich it can be very hard for people who have serious psychological issues and need ongoing therapy. There have been proposals for laws in Congress legislating mental health parity (meaning insurance companies would have to treat mental illness the same as physical illness) but were defeated because of a large lobbying effort by the insurance companies. If it was easier to get treatment, and there was much less stigma associated with being treated by psychiatrists, there's no guarantee Cho in particular would have accepted it, but of course it would be much different if students with mental problems easily could get treatment.

  4. Yes, very true. I think what needs to be done is to create a groundswell of opinion that removes all stigma around mental health treatment. This can happen when all stakeholders - the governmental agencies, NGOs, and citizens work in tandem to bring mental health treatment on par with physical health treatment.

    Once this wave of public opinion is created, it becomes easier for legislation to ride this wave and become appropriate laws. Insurance companies have to go along with the general tide of public opinion, for it would be a win-win situation for them, too.

    A day will come when kids like Seung-hui will not think twice about walking into a counsellor's office and requesting advice.

    Concurrently, public opinion too needs to be molded about the need for showing sensitivity towards people who are differently-abled than the rest. When this sensitivity is created, the very reason for a Seung-hi to become what he became, is eliminated.

    But, am I shouting to deaf ears?

  5. It; strange how some kids that come form the worst back grounds can be become successful in society and other who are born with a silver spoon in their mouths can be become killers and thieves.

    Who knows what the trigger was for this man to wan to be famous. Did he think anyone would see things his way? of course not, but I be he died thinking we would.


    Tony Robbins


  7. I'm glad there was a random shooting with another random psycho to kill all those random people in a random world with millions and billions of random people living and dieing every random day, random in and random out.