“Running Amok”

Individuals perpetrating unspeakable acts of violence is not a new phenomenon. What’s new, rather, are the altered states of consciousness induced by … drugs well-documented to promote homicidal and suicidal behavior in susceptible individuals.

Although semi-automatic weapons have enabled the infliction of mass casualties at an unprecedented scale, massacres perpetrated by lone individuals are not new phenomena. Rather, these tragic and inexplicable events may represent an incarnation of a more ancient phenomena called “running amok,” formerly believed to be a culture-bound syndrome isolated to certain societies.

The Resemblance of Mass Shootings to Running Amok

Used in colloquial verbiage to indicate an irrational individual wreaking havoc, the linguistic origins of “running amok” stem from the description of a mentally perturbed individual that engages in unprovoked, homicidal and subsequently suicidal behavior, oftentimes involving an average of ten victims (1).

Although it was not classified as a psychological condition until 1849, amok was first described anthropologically two hundred years ago in isolated, tribal island populations such as Malaysia, Papua New Guinea, Puerto Rico, the Philippines, and Laos, where geographic seclusion and indigenous spirituality were hypothesized to be cultural factors implicated in this culture-bound syndrome.

1. Saint Martin, M.L. (1999) “Running Amok: A Modern Perspective on a Culture-Bound Syndrome”. Primary Care Companion to the Journal of Clinical Psychiatry, 1(3), 66-70. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC181064/?tool=pmcentrez

We all need to demand that Congress start the process of instituting sensible gun ownership laws. Not that I want to take anyone’s guns… as most of my family own multiple guns.

I know that NOT having a gun in the house has personally saved my life on more than one occasion as my first husband and I had a very volatile relationship and I may have injured or killed him several times, and the reverse was also true.

My family also has a tragic link to suicide by firearm.

 

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