The Violent True Believer as a "Lone Wolf" - Psychoanalytic Perspectives on Terrorism

The existing research on lone wolf terrorists and case experience are reviewed and interpreted through the lens of psychoanalytic theory.

A number of characteristics of the lone wolf are enumerated: a personal grievance and moral outrage; the framing of an ideology; failure to affiliate with an extremist group; dependence on a virtual community found on the Internet; the thwarting of occupational goals; radicalization fueled by changes in thinking and emotion – including cognitive rigidity, clandestine excitement, contempt, and disgust – regardless of the particular ideology; the failure of sexual pair bonding and the sexualization of violence; the nexus of psychopathology and ideology; greater creativity and innovation than terrorist groups; and predatory violence sanctioned by moral (superego) authority. A concluding psychoanalytic formulation is offered.
Last updated on: Wednesday, 11 June 2014

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