Two of my passions were recently united through an article in The New Yorker (March 17, 2014) called “The Reckoning: The Father of the Sandy Hook Killer Searches for Answers.” The article included an interview with the father of Adam Lanza, the young man who went on a horrific killing spree at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut on December 12, 2012. Those passions include psychology and our efforts to understand inexplicable madness.
The article spoke to the humanity of one of those whose life was forever altered though he was not present; the pain, grief, and loss suffered by Peter Lanza, Adam’s father. It spoke of the peculiar challenges which Adam suffered from a very young age including the delayed development of language skills, hypersensitivity to physical touch, and the apparent manifestation of extreme anxiety by the sixth grade. It also discussed the efforts made by Adam’s parents to obtain help for him and the frustration of both them and the professionals they encountered to find a solution. The author offered insights about the complexities and uncertainties which arise when a psychologist and psychiatrist seek to ascertain that which offers no easy or clear answer; seeking to understand the depths of the human mind which is often beyond our reach.
As an old Star Trek fan, I am reminded of the mission to “boldly go where no man has gone before.” Sometimes it seems that is precisely what we are called upon to do in our clinical practice; to go upon a journey to places within the human mind that have been previously unexplored, even by the client. The tragedy at Sandy Hook will never be forgotten, and for many the choices made by Adam will never be forgivable. The article raises profound questions about the nature of those choices. It also, hopefully, offers a sense of some relief for the father and brother Adam left behind, and some forgiveness for the mother who was also killed, but was, perhaps wrongfully, blamed for what occurred.
By: Dr. John Brennan, JD, PsyD, Associated Faculty at MSP