This week Maj Nidal Malik Hasan killed 12 and wounded 31 people in Fort Hood, Texas. Fort Hood is an army base which covers a total of 340-square miles with multiple units, a corps headquarters and a robust mobilization mission. Fort Hood is a huge base and is known as being the largest active duty armoured post in the United States Armed Services. It is nicknamed ‘The Great Place’ because it offers an exceptional quality of life for those soldiers and families posted in the area.
Hasan is an army psychiatrist trained to help soldiers in distress. In this case he turned on the soldiers he was trained to help. What makes a person do what they do? In my work with clients, a persons deep religious and spiritual beliefs can account for many behaviours, both helpful and unhelpful.
No matter how much the training an individual has had, our early learning will in the end come out. It seems to seep out no matter what we do or say. Our childhood environment and what we have learned in childhood is of exceptional importance and should never be underestimated.
No doubt people in the military think ‘military training’ will wipe out all former training. This is not possible. It would mean wiping out every former memory and event which has occurred in a person’s life in order to do so, then replacing each individual memory with a new one.
What does happen with any training is that the training itself – is attached to former learning we have accumulated and this then is organised and re-organised in the mind of an individual. If the new learning matches the values of the past learning then it sits easily. If it does not then problems can occur.
The individual and their own psyche are in the end always going to be there at the core. Our core beliefs are central to what and who we perceive ourselves to be. We protect them at all times and to delete, wipe out or eliminate the core belief will feel as though we are killing ourselves. It is itself our own death.
Understanding and changing our core beliefs are what is involved in much deeper psychological work and this requires the client’s willingness to let go and move to different and healthier beliefs. Hasan was in the end working for himself and his own motives. His deep core belief believes he is right.
The killing of others is not acceptable in the Muslim religion yet he killed. This is when the core belief – has been justified in order to maintain the belief. We can do it in everything we do. From the person who shoplifts and justifies it as being acceptable to steal from large corporations because they earn a lot of money. To the person who prangs a car in the car-park and drives away without leaving a note because they justify it as being acceptable because the other car must have insurance, or a car which must have belonged to someone rich.
Hasan’s act also was a violent expression of his core-beliefs being challenged. It serves as a reminder for us to think of our own deep core beliefs and how we may use them to maintain our own healthy and unhealthy behaviours. We may have some of our own deep-seated core-beliefs that are holding us back from growing and developing.
© 2009 Y