Every time there is a terrorist attack everyone asks the same question: “How could they do such a thing?” Is it necessary to have some kind of psychopathology to perform such acts? What profile do these people have? How is someone capable of losing their life for an ideal?
The factor of the terrorists’ apparent irrationality is what most confuses the victims, who fail to find logical explanations in the actions taken.
Terrorism and mental illness: myth or reality?
To begin with, it is important to know that there is no mental disorder specific to these people from the point of view of clinical psychology. They are not psychopaths. Therefore, in the legal sense, they are fully legally accountable persons. They are aware of their actions, both in responsibility and in the ability to govern their will. However, some psychologists speak of social or political pathology. They tend to feel guilty because of their beliefs. They are considered martyrs. In them, the dichotomous thinkingIn other words, “either you are with me or you are against me”.
His ability to kill or lose his own life may be due to a historical or ideological context, promises of ascension to heaven, social ratification, or simply well-being for himself and / or his family. The terrorist’s intention goes far beyond simple multiple murder. His goal includes provoking the psychological effect of chaos, producing helplessness, despair, terror, Fear, insecurity. The terrorist believes he has a goal, he may even come to see himself as a savior of society.
The typical terrorist profile
The profile is usually a young boy, aged 20 to 35. The difficulties of social adaptation of these generations can favor these provocative acts which reach the point of giving life to values, without this being a psychiatric disorder in itself. These are usually the children of immigrants who now live in the West, but have failed to adapt (or have not left them) in the Western system.
They are no different from us. In fact, human beings in extreme situations are able to perform such activities with absolute normality. An example? The World Wars or the Spanish Civil War. Not to mention social and political situations like the Nazi Holocaust. In them, you could kill the neighbor just by being on the other side. This is where the concept of social categorization arises, where categorization makes us “us” and “them”.
As for the group, there are group pressures and group perception distortions. There is an over-generalization, in which everything revolves around their beliefs and their thoughts. Their ideology may come to dominate what they do and what they think. They consider their group superior and the need to earn control and power. They feel their group status, they have moral, religious or nationalist links.
Ideology, dogmatism and unrealization
They undergo a process of slowly disconnecting from reality, as well as a loss of empathy with their victims. They have a strong sense of belonging and group cohesion. These are individuals who do not act in isolation and individually. Within the group, personal needs that society has not provided for them are met. They bring them values, motivations and even hope. As well as the possibility of playing a role in group actions. All of this can even lead to the recognition and prestige they never had, becoming an existential motivation and a search for group acceptance.
The group covers their communication needs, to be heard. They therefore end up creating shared ideas within the group and therefore strengthening the cohesion of the members. that means greater identification of the group, greater obedience, through the need to continue to belong to the group and even the ability to engage in some sort of conduct that produces visible results within society to show their commitment to “theirs”.
Fanaticism and the psychological factors that trigger it
It can appear in times of maximum pressure what is called in psychology “tunnel vision”, that is to say in a situation of danger or high activity, with physical and mental pressure, the vision is simply focused on a common object or a danger that presents itself (in this case, it would be Western society). Hierarchies, discipline or respect for authority are part of the group rules that are established. The same group pressure demands the absence of doubts and criticism.
The subject sometimes he sees himself as a victim of the system, showing serious identity problems. Many were born in the West, where they do not feel integrated. They don’t feel either. This, along with social networks, promotes the recruitment of young people who need to obtain an identity, a future, a meaning in their life.
Are they fans? Perhaps. We Westerners are too. We also bombed their cities without any problem, just because we were “them” and not “us”. All of this should not be confused with brainwashing. The simple feeling of belonging can lead to radicalization of subjects, a great basic example are the radicals of football teams.
In short, the suicide bomber is made, not born.