Psychotherapy Or Gun Control
For Violent Haters?

Gun control versus mental health intervention for the risk of extreme violence like we saw recently in Charleston? Mental health services aren’t the answer. Therapy takes too long and someone like Dylan Roof would have to know the problem is his for therapy to be effective. Clearly, Dylan Roof has serious psychological problems. The obvious one is his racism. But, what’s at the root of it? Dylan Roof feels like a loser. And what he does with those intolerable feelings is project them. He turns them outwards into hatred of others. His racist beliefs made his victims at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church the losers, instead.

Such feelings don’t always turn to violence. More often than not, they don’t.  But, Dylan Roof’s thinking is delusional. To him, they “had to go” (even though their kindness and acceptance made him waiver). Delusions serve the purpose of keeping feelings and beliefs “out there.” And, to Dylan Roof, this meant: “you are taking over our country.”

Yet, what was really taking over  – in Dylan Roof’s mind? Self-hatred. Deflected by white supremacist beliefs that, instead, made him the superior one. This is an absolutely devastating psychological defense when it results in tragic killings like those in Charleston. A defense that isn’t easily or quickly resolved in therapy even if, in the best-case scenario, Dylan Roof had walked into a psychologist’s office for help instead of into the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church.

The only way to deter the use of mass violence to express such extreme (self) hatred, turned to racism – is gun control. My heart goes out to the families who have suffered such terrible loss at the hands of a deeply disturbed man who should never have had access to a gun.

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Dr. Sandra E. Cohen

I’m Dr. Sandra Cohen, a psychologist and psychoanalyst in private practice in Beverly Hills, CA. I work with creatives in therapy, story/character development, and entertainment consulting. If you are a writer, actor, or director and want help with a character – or a chance to do some of your own personal work - call at 310.273.4827 or email me at to schedule a confidential discussion to explore working together.