Thursday, May 26, 2011

He Wants to Hurt People - Why?

Most mornings for breakfast I like a small bowl of multi-grain flakes topped with granola, fruit yogurt and berries. Works for me.

And oh yeah, I need the San Antonio Express-News. And most mornings I'll come across a report about some crazy violent incident. And these days, I always have the same reaction.

My summary of a typical violent incident, reported by Craig Kapitan on page 2B of the Friday (May 20, 2011) edition...

About two years ago, a young man named Terrance Fletcher got a call from the ex-husband of his girl-friend. When the guy said that he didn't like it that Fletcher physically abused his son, Fletcher got angry. He got in his truck and drove to the guy's house, shouted a few choice words and threw a brick. Unfortunately, the brick hit the guy's mother, Rosalinda Vera, in the head. When she collapsed to the ground, Fletcher laughed and drove away.

Vera, a 53-year-old home care provider, fell into a coma and later died. Fletcher was arrested and charged with murder. During the trial it came to light that he had assaulted his construction boss, David Shannon, in a similar fashion. Fletcher often failed to show up for work, so Shannon wrote him a letter of reprimand. Fletcher then heaved a large boulder at his face. When Shannon dodged it, Fletcher threw another at him. Then he threatened to get a gun and kill him.

Last week, the trial concluded with a guilty verdict. Fletcher was sentenced to life in prison. One minute you're an out-of-control jerk, pushing people around. Then, before you know it, you're on the way to the slammer, where you'll be fresh meat for somebody bigger than you are. For life.

As I said, I had the my typical reaction to stories about people who do things without regard to the grave consequences - even if there's nothing to be gained by it. My reaction was this: What kind of teen journey did Terrance Fletcher have, that he grew into adulthood with these violent ways of dealing with anger?

When a child reaches puberty, he finds it difficult to make logical decisions, because the pre-frontal cortex - the part of the brain that handles logic - is "under construction." But emotional reactions not only have bad consequences, but if logical decision-making skills aren't ingrained in adolescence, then emotional reactions can become the default pattern in adult life.

When I say that the teen journey is perilous, I'm not just using words for dramatic effect.

Post by Dennis E. Coates, Ph.D., Copyright 2011. Building Personal Strength . (Permission to use photo purchased from

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