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Life According To Lenson

What Made Christopher Dorner So Hateful?
Posted by Eileen Lenson on Feb 23, 2013 - 3:10:25 AM

(The author did not interview Mr. Dorner for this article, but draws from her professional experiences as to considerations for his behavior.)


UNITED STATES— Southern California was gripped in horror earlier this month when Christopher Dorner, a fired LAPD officer, went on a revenge-filled killing rampage. Dead from a self inflicted gunshot wound, Mr. Dorner no longer terrorizes society. Yet, we will be remiss if we do not perform a psychological autopsy of what made him view the world with hate. By understanding Mr. Dorner's emotional state, we may have the opportunity to prevent a future senseless mass tragedy.


Mr. Dorner's 5,000 word manifesto provides insights into his psychological wounds. He recalled perceived injustices stretching from his first days in elementary school through his unsuccessful career at the LAPD. Based on his manifesto, it is likely that apparent repeated cruelty or indifference from others resulted in Mr. Dorner developing a belief early in life that he was not good enough. Instead of viewing other people as having shortcomings, Mr. Dorner likely became judgmental and disapproving of himself. When this was happening, his view of the world became distorted. Although not based in reality, he perceived other people as being a threat to his emotional well being.


To protect himself against not feeling acceptable to others, he developed protective armor. The armor, which consisted of walls of fear and hyper-vigilant protection against possible mistreatment, was a double edged sword. It protected him from feeling vulnerable around others, because he remained in control. But because he avoided taking risks in relationships, the armor most likely prohibited him from being able to trust in others.


Sadly, he continued to live with his perception that he wasn't good enough. These self perceptions influenced how he viewed the world around him, and the actions he took. It probably accounts for his lack of intimacy with others, as evidenced from reported estrangement from his family and friends.


People who are holding onto their anger based on the way they have been treated by others can be helped. Mr. Dorner's focus was on blaming others. If he had changed the focus, and had examined himself instead of blaming others, he would have stopped being the victim. As a victim, he essentially gave all his power away. By examining the situation openly and honestly, he could identify what was at the core of his upsets.


Often the identified incident is not what upsets an individual, but what it symbolizes. If his psychological armor was protecting a fear from early childhood that he wasn't worthy, then every negative experience he had in life would risk validating this painful fear. By dropping the armor, he could have looked at exactly why each incident caused him such distress. He would have been able to develop a clearer perspective, and more realistic evaluations of each circumstance.


Mr. Dorner's distorted perceptions of the world resulted in sabotaging his life. As a result, he probably never learned to successfully deal with disappointments, frustrations, or unfairness. Changing his view of the world could have enabled Mr. Dorner to have more happiness and less bitterness. Redefining his experiences could have helped him feel differently. For instance, instead of labeling others as being vindictive or hateful, he could have chosen to view them as lacking the ability to do anything differently. He could have realized that others were doing the best they knew how. He could forgive others for not knowing more, and accepted people for who they were, flaws and all.


In the end, the protective armor Mr. Dorner established for the purpose of protecting himself from feeling hurt, betrayed him. The armor enabled him to continue harboring the incorrect image of himself, based on beliefs he developed from negative encounters with others at an early age. With intervention, Mr. Dorner could have learned to drop the armor and discover that he did have value. Instead, his distorted view of himself and life resulted in a life of troubled relationships, the assassinations of police officers and their family members, and in the end, his suicide.


Eileen Lenson, MSW, ACSW, Board Certified Coach, is a life and business coach in private practice. She was a guest on KABC radio Ledger On The Law, speaking about the psychological makeup of Christopher Dorner. Prior to becoming a life coach, she was a licensed clinical social worker for 20 years. For further information, write to her at, or visit her website at


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