Unit for the Study of Personality in Politics

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Cho Seung-Hui: Personality Profile

[In Progress]

Aubrey Immelman

 June 2007


The Insular Paranoid

Notably hypervigilant, the insular paranoid type is extremely moody and apprehensive, overly reactive to criticism, particularly in response to judgments made of the person’s status, beliefs, and achievements. In earlier stages of their pathology, these patients often are avoidant personalities, frequently withdrawn from the world, increasingly reclusive and isolated. Extremely vulnerable, many insular paranoids seek solace in a variety of self-focused ways; for example, some engage in abstruse intellectual activities to enhance their fantasied self-esteem, others indulge in alcohol or drugs as a way of calming the frightening nature of troublesome fantasies, still others pursue sexual escapades with prostitutes, not only to provide a measure of physical relief from their insular state, but also to purchase a willing ear to listen to their fears and grandiosities.

More than other paranoid types, insular variants seek to protect themselves from a world judged to be both threatening and destructive. As are other paranoids, they are hypervigilant, exceptionally observant of their environment, especially the judgments others make regarding themselves. In this way, they apparently spot problems in their earliest stages, quickly anticipating what could be troubling, and defending themselves against both real and imagined dangers. As evident in the preceding, these self-protective insular types share certain core features with the avoidant personality. Typically, these subtypes come to premature conclusions about rather incidental and trivial events that are given meaning largely by projecting their own anxieties and hostility. The natural complexities of their social world are narrowed to signify one or two persistent and all-embracing ideas; in this way, paranoids can effectively deal with the problems they face by “knowing” that everything represents basically one or two variants of the same thing.

Part of the reason for insulating themselves stems from their need to prevent anything or anyone from influencing them. Insular paranoids have an unusual fear of being controlled. Not only do they seek to divert or preclude external sources of influence, but they have a strong desire to remain autonomous, to keep to themselves and to rely solely on their own ideas and beliefs. Ultimately, this isolation, this unwillingness to check their thoughts against reality results in the insular paranoid becoming more and more out of touch with reality. As a consequence of believing that the only reality is the one they have created, insular paranoids have no defense against external forces because their world is a product of their own imagination. Hence, they not only have difficulty in accurately observing external reality, but have no escape from the false reality that inheres within themselves.

As with their precursor, the avoidant personality, their inner thoughts may become so painful and terrifying that they must undo or destroy them. Their intense feelings of insecurity and threat have escalated as a consequence of their own defensive actions. Everything is now seen as parts of a general assault intended to destroy them. But the conspiracies and the persecution they perceive are self-created. To defend against these frightening feelings, insular paranoids intentionally disrupt their own thoughts, seeking to distance themselves from their own mind. Their inner world becomes a void, a chaotic mélange of distorted and incidental thoughts. It is at this point that they regress into the decompensated paranoid state. They have become detached from themselves, empty vessels devoid of the cohesion and focus that dominated their life until their own imagination made existence so painful as to require that it be ultimately purged.

From Disorders of Personality: DSM–IV and Beyond (pp. 141146) by T. Millon. Copyright © 1996 by John Wiley & Sons, Inc.


Va. Tech shooter seen as ‘Collector of Injustice’

Cho had vendetta against society, federal agents suggest

Washington Post
June 19, 2007

WASHINGTON - Federal agents investigating the April 16 shootings at Virginia Tech think Seung Hui Cho displayed many of the same characteristics of a criminal behavioral profile called the "Collector of Injustice," or someone who considers any misfortune against him the fault or responsibility of others. ...

"It is always someone else's fault, and the world is out to get them," Bart McEntire, the resident agent in charge of the ATF's Roanoke office, said in describing people who fit the profile. Eventually, the person's compilation of wrongs becomes overloaded, and he lashes out violently to right them and get even with those who he believes have caused him misfortune and ridicule. ...



Details of a troubled life emerge
The Virginia Tech shooter seemed like a ‘typical, clean-cut college kid,’ according to the owner of the store where gun was legally purchased. Chris Hansen reports.
"MENTALLY ILL": Cho declared "danger to self or others" after 2005 psych exam

Court Found Cho "Mentally Ill"

Outpatient treatment recommended after December 2005 psych evaluation

APRIL 19--Virginia Tech killer Seung-Hui Cho was judged "mentally ill" and a possible "danger to self or others," according to a court order that led to a brief hospitalization in late 2005. An evaluation of Cho was performed in December 2005 after campus police took him to a psychiatric facility when a pair of female students complained that he was stalking and harassing them. According to District Court records, copies of which you'll find below, psychiatrist Roy Crouse found Cho's affect "flat" and his mood "depressed." But Cho, Crouse added, denied suicidal thoughts and did not "acknowledge symptoms of a thought disorder. His insight and judgment are normal." As a result of Crouse's exam, Judge Paul Barnett concluded that Cho "presents an imminent danger to himself as a result of mental illness," but that an involuntary hospitalization was deemed "unsuitable." Instead, Barnett recommended that outpatient treatment was warranted. It was during this period that Cho, an English major, was becoming a concern to professors as a result of his bizarre and violent writings, one of which, a one-act play called "Richard McBeef," can be found here. (6 pages)


Virginia Killer's Violent Writings

Play told of pedophilic stepfather, murder of 13-year-old boy

APRIL 17--The college student responsible for yesterday's Virginia Tech slaughter was referred last year to counseling after professors became concerned about the violent nature of his writings, as evidenced in a one-act play obtained by The Smoking Gun. The play by Cho Seung-Hui, a 23-year-old English major, was submitted last year as part of a short story writing class. Entitled "Richard McBeef," Cho's bizarre play features a 13-year-old boy who accuses his stepfather of pedophilia and murdering his father. A copy of the killer's play can be found below. The teenager talks of killing the older man and, at one point, the child's mother brandishes a chain saw at the stepfather. The play ends with the man striking the child with "a deadly blow." (10 pages)
Mass & Spree Murders
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Quiet and disturbed, Cho Seung-Hui seethed, then exploded

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Page maintained by Aubrey Immelman

Last updated November 24, 2007