The Confederate Flag and Psychological Red Flags: How to Avoid Becoming a Mass Murderer

... although the vast majority of us don’t make it all the way to the bottom of the ladder like Dylann did, if we have his personality type, we’re going to experience similar inner red flag moments, only at a higher level.

Last week, I blogged about Rachel Dolezal, urging her to take a step from her heart to her body, and just notice what physical sensations came up at the thought of her white biological heritage- perhaps rage at her parents, frustration at not feeling understood by society, disdain for her whiteness, any kind of jealousy.  When she thinks about who she is as a white woman as opposed to a black woman, I asked her to notice the sensations in her body without judging them- a tensing up of the muscles, heat in the throat, a change in breathing.  I thought she might be an Enneatype 4 in the Enneagram personality typing system.  This type confounds suffering with authenticity, and therefore value, so I looked at the psychic structure of a Creative/Romantic personality type who had gone too far.

With that, I decided to start a weekly series about people in the news to give readers an insight into the psychology behind whoever's currently being highlighted in social media.

Roof being taken into custody.  Image from NBC news. 

Roof being taken into custody.  Image from NBC news. 

This week, I'm looking at Dylann Roof, the 21-year old gunman who shot nine members of the African Methodist Episcopalian Church on June 17.  It seems pretty clear that he will receive the maximum penalty (either life in prison or the death penalty, depending on if he's tried at the State level for murder or Federal for a hate crime.  According to a New York Times article from June 26, it will probably be a Federal trial.) (Source). 

Red flags for a Type One:

Shockpoint at level 3: That my principles are not having enough effect (others are indifferent/ unresponsive)

Red flag at level 6: That my standards are questionable or actually mistaken.
— The Wisdom of the Enneagram

It's important to understand the psychology of those who have completely made a break from society because, although the vast majority of us don't make it all the way to the bottom of the ladder like Dylann did, if we have his personality type, we're going to experience similar inner red flag moments, only at a higher level. 

Our response to those red flags can determine where we go on the ladder of emotional intelligence.  We can either react to the fear (thus descend further), or notice the fear and bring awareness to it (allowing us to ascend).

Although there is very little information about Dylann's inner life to go on at this point-- he didn't have many friends, nor did he open up much to those few he did call friends-- it appears from various reports that he might be an Enneagram Type One.  I'm going by his online manifesto, witness accounts of what he said while gunning down the victims, and descriptions from his friends and family.*

This episode of High Maintenance is a great character study of an Enneatype One.  Scott gives himself a highly disciplined daily regimen of sleep, nutrition, and exercise to achieve a higher state of being.  His stringency leads him away from relationships and ultimately reality.

Enneagram type Ones are called the Perfectionists or the Reformers of the Enneagram.  Benjamin Franklin embodied the Type One objective to attain moral perfection by devising an experiment where he worked on one virtue a week, slowly incorporating more virtues until he was completely free from selfishness, greed, and laziness at the end of the experiment.  This is not to say that all Type Ones consciously go through a list of virtues like Franklin did, only that self-perfecting or perfecting others and society is utmost in their minds. 

Riso and Hudson call them "crusaders, advocates, critics"; they embrace 'causes' and point out how things 'ought' to be". 

They keenly feel the struggle between good and evil, the flesh and the spirit, the ideal and the real.  For Ones, the battle lines are sharply drawn between the chaotic, irrational side of their natures and the clarity of their convictions, between the dark, libidinous impulses and their self-control, between their metaphysical aspirations and their human needs- between their heads and their hearts. (Riso and Hudson, 1996).

As they descend down the ladder of emotional intelligence, they "become impersonal, rigid, emotionally constricted." 

"...given their fundamental premise, they are locked in conflicts between opposing forces that cannot be reconciled either in themselves or in the universe. 

According to his step-mother who did most of the child-rearing, Dylann was a sweet child as a four-year old, and very attached to her, as opposed to his father who was verbally and emotionally abusive.  Predictably, as he grew up, he became more cold and drawn into his inner world so that by the time he was an adult, she worried because he spent most of his time in his room in front of his computer, while her coaxing him to get a job went ignored.  On February 22, 2015, he registered his website under his name and posted pictures of himself looking directly into the camera, posing with his .45 caliber Glock, holding a Confederate flag in the other hand. 

On the outside, Ones can appear sweet, dutiful, and hard-working; whereas on the inside they are being flogged by an overactive superego that orders them to keep their impulses, emotional responses, and desires in check.  In response to their superego's strident demands, they are continually striving to attain a state of perfection they have in their minds as the universal transcendant standard that only they seem to see.  The intense pressure their superego puts on them to achieve this state of perfection often leaks out into their relationships with others, making their friends, family, and colleagues feel judged, diminished or hassled for not being good enough. 

In Dylann's case, he had an aversion to African-Americans because, he said, they were "stupid", "violent", and "very slick".  He felt white neighborhoods were being taken over by Blacks, and typical of a One's bitterness at "cowards" for leaving them with all the work, he called out those he thought were "running away" to the suburbs instead of standing up and fighting for their neighborhoods.  Ones are frequently exasperated that they are the only ones who see the work that needs to be done and complain bitterly that they're the only ones qualified enough to bring it up to standard. 

Who is fighting for these White people forced by economic circumstances to live among negroes? No one, but someone has to.

White supremacy illustrates an impulse for cleanliness from "impurity". Cleanliness was indeed an issue for Dylann, as family members said he developped OCD in his teenage years.

Although the Enneagram Institute provides two examples of Type One comedians (Jerry Seinfeld and Tina Fey), and the type generally tries to mask these "negative" feelings of disapproval of their surroundings with ones they deem more positive, it's not hard to notice the severity with which they approach life.  There is an intense inner drive to transcend the mortal appetites and emotional weaknesses. A witness to the attack reported on what Roof said during the shooting.

... A survivor of the mass killing had told her Roof said he “had to” keep shooting, as another churchgoer attempted to talk him out of firing his weapon while he reloaded.

“He just said, ‘I have to do it,’” she said. “‘You rape our women, and you’re taking over our country, and you have to go,’” she said.  [Source]

Compelled to bring their inner and outer lives into order, they pride themselves on being able to bring a high level of control to their emotional life.  Emotions, in their mind, cloud judgement and weaken resolve to do what is right in a stressful situation.  We see Dylann say more than a couple times, "I have to do this."  In his manifesto, we see the exasperation frequently exhibited by Ones for having to correct the world's "wrongs" by themselves:

“I am not in the position to, alone, go into the ghetto and fight... We have no skinheads, no real KKK, no one doing anything but talking on the Internet. Well someone has to have the bravery to take it to the real world, and I guess that has to be me.”

Dylann later admitted that he almost didn't go through with the killings because the Bible study members were so nice to him- a way out that a low-functioning One would see as a trap.  The irony for a One is that by adhering to rationality as their standard at the cost of their emotional lives, they end up making very irrational decisions that isolate them further and further from society.  

Because anger has a negative association with Ones, they rarely acknowledge their anger- instead they experience it as energy that compels them to action.  Gandhi was also a type One, but by acknowledging and embracing his anger, he was able to do great work:

I have learnt through bitter experience the one supreme lesson: to conserve my anger, and as heat conserved is transmuted into a power which can move the world. (Mohandas K. Gandhi, The Words of Gandhi, quoted in Personality Types by Don Richard Riso and Russ Hudson)

The Type One archetype in Homer's Odyssey is represented by the Phaeacians of Scheria, the second last stop on his way home.  The Phaeacians are described as "disciplined and proper, orderly and conventional" to the point of being judgemental and "bloodless do-gooders".  From The Complete Enneagram by Beatrice Chestnut.  Image from navigatingtheodyssey.pbworks.com. 

The Type One archetype in Homer's Odyssey is represented by the Phaeacians of Scheria, the second last stop on his way home.  The Phaeacians are described as "disciplined and proper, orderly and conventional" to the point of being judgemental and "bloodless do-gooders".  From The Complete Enneagram by Beatrice Chestnut.  Image from navigatingtheodyssey.pbworks.com. 

Social media was also critical last week about how the police handled him, a white man, during his arrest, as opposed to how black people have been brought into custody.  Certainly, if you watch the dashcam video of his arrest in Shelby, NC, it has to be one of the gentlest arrests of a mass murderer out there. 

It is possible that having gone all the way for the sake of "perfection", he was finally able to get some relief from his superego, and therefore was in a very calm state at the time of arrest.  On the other hand, and this is probably equally true, but his terrifyingly cold stare into the camera was probably a look into the smugness in a low-functioning One, based on the belief that they alone can see a standard of perfection that the rest of the world is too cowardly to acknowledge, and only he had what it took to do the deed.  He has made no appology to date, which shows just how out of sync he is with reality.


If you feel that you might be a type One, some things to watch out for are a sense of superiority that you have a higher moral code than your peers, and especially "numbing out" when you feel yourself going into correct a colleague's mistakes.  A mindfulness practice will help you stay in  touch with your body when your ego starts aligning with your superego.  You are not your superego- that's an important distinction to make.  My guess is that when Dylann committed those murders, he was very out of touch with his physical sensations.  Recognizing the whole self as worthy and necessary to being a full human being-- the physical, mental, and emotional-- is one of the first steps to healing for Dylann and all the world's Ones.

 

*Only you can really type yourself, as you alone know what's going on inside your head, so I'm suggesting a Type 1 for Dylann based on what I'm seeing, but I'm opening to changing my view as more information emerges.