Sunday, March 29, 2015


As of this writing, we are still getting only cloudlets of similar information on the co-pilot, Andreas Lubitz, who terrified and killed so many people because he felt bad.  The latest sound-bite is that he was “psychosomatic,” or had a “psychosomatic” illness along with depression.  The use of this term suggests that the Europeans see psychosomatic – otherwise known as Somatoform, formerly known as “it’s all in your head” and before that “hysteria” – disorder as a more respectable diagnosis than the Americans do.  Or more accurately, than the nincompoops who created the DSM-5 do.  The new psychiatric manual replaces the well-founded understanding that psychic injury can change the body – causing and worsening physical pain and disorder – with the doctors’ self-soothing insistence that there has to be a germ or a gene somewhere.  The young man who throws up before a job interview?  It can’t be his experience that made him so fragile, because you can’t see “his experience” under the microscope, or prescribe an expensive drug for it.

However, the Europeans aren’t entirely a different breed, as a quick search on the Internet shows.  This doctor -- -- apparently dislikes the idea that “medically unexplained symptoms” “are evidence of an underlying psychiatric disorder” or that they “are persistent, disabling and resistant to treatment.”  Nevertheless, there must be enough authority behind the concept for it to wend its way into the headlines.

Here I only want to look at Lubitz through the mirrored lens of empathy, which will probably always be the best way to attempt to understand the electron clouds of the psyche.  All of us can do this, actually, by looking inward and seeing if there is even the slightest resonating emotional sense when we picture sitting in the cockpit and heading toward a mountain.

Here, I sense, is a man who felt “the world”* of people as an emotional entity or force, not a fact or concept: that thing which he held a grudge against or didn’t care about, or felt had hurt him.  A racial projection and reification, exactly as one would “hate” all Jews or blacks while knowing none of them or maybe a couple of them.  How does a person come not to feel the individuality of others, see them only as a contemptible or predatory fused blur through pain-blurred eyes?  That is the question: What killed his empathy?

Whatever else you’ll read in the coming days, this will be the underlying kernel, though it lacks the sexiness, stigma-drama and outrage potential of the psychological disorders.  Immaturity, emotionality, explosiveness, "generalized anxiety," depression, even sociopathy – none of these suggests grand killing, though all make sense in a man locked inside himself, living in the world while alone, drowning in himself.  Psychosomatic illness would also fit the picture, as it is the consequence of deep pain repressed.  Poisonous emotion cannot get out, goes to vulnerable systems, saturates the body.  Lubitz, never reaching, touching, knowing and releasing his buried core injury, could not feel the pain of others.

I have seen fathers and mothers who know they do not possess the quality of empathy for their child.  They do not love and try to understand his behavior, but feel he is their microcosm, their world that once again serves them injustice.  They will spank him and remove all his enjoyed possessions so he lies on his bed, destitute, with nothing to do, and they feel this is the answer.  Can you empathize with this mother, who is both righteous and crazy?  Can you feel the fog that starts from within her history, spreads and tints the world as contemptible or predatory, comes to curve around to engulf her child?  You are Lubitz, then, on a smaller scale, in a kitchen not an airplane.  And your children – they may grow up to become your co-pilot.

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* Lubitz’s ex-girlfriend says he told her: “People all over the world will know my name” --

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Comments are welcome, but I'd suggest you first read "Feeling-centered therapy" and "Ocean and boat" for a basic introduction to my kind of theory and therapy.