Mass Shooter Believed He Had a “Broken” Brain and Therefore No Hope


The man charged in the 2012 mass shooting at a movie theater in Aurora, Colorado believed that he was mentally ill with a “broken brain” that could not be truly fixed. After “neuroscience” had failed, James Holmes wrote in his journal which has been posted on BuzzFeed, the only possible escape would be through “mass murder at the movies.”

Holmes has been charged with 12 counts of murder and 70 counts of attempted murder. “The notebook was mailed to Lynne Fenton, a University of Colorado psychiatrist whom Holmes had been seeing in the months leading up to the shooting,” reported BuzzFeed.

In a section of his journal titled “Insights into the Mind of Madness,” Holmes wrote that he had dysphoric mania, Asperger’s syndrome or autism, ADHD, schizophrenia, generalized anxiety disorder, psychosis, and restless leg syndrome, and noted that he’d first become obsessed with killing people 10 years earlier.

Holmes also wrote, “So anyways, that’s my mind. It is broken, I tried to fix it. I made it my sole conviction, but using something that’s broken to fix itself proved insurmountable. Neuroscience seemed like the way to go but it didn’t pan out. In order to rehabilitate the broken mind my soul must be eviscerated. I could not sacrifice my soul to have a ‘normal’ mind. Despite my biological shortcomings I have fought and fought. Always defending against predetermination and the fallibility of man. There is one more battle to fight with life. To face death, embrace the longstanding hatred of mankind and overcome all fear in certain death.”

Here’s What James Holmes Wrote In His Notebook Before The Aurora Theater Shooting (BuzzFeed, May 27, 2015)


  1. Great job psychiatry:
    “he had dysphoric mania, Asperger’s syndrome or autism, ADHD, schizophrenia, generalized anxiety disorder, psychosis, and restless leg syndrome”
    I can see some common side effects of SSRIs and “anti-psychotics” here. Indoctrinated and drugged.

    I don’t know if he would not become a mass murderer if not for psychiatry but I’m sure it didn’t help.

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  2. I can count maybe three or four of those ‘symptoms’ that might have been applied to me. I don’t expect to have a perfect life, but I feel I have been fixed.

    My Recovery was definitely outside of Psychiatry, and if I had stayed in Psychiatry I would more than likely be dead.

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  3. The shooter was an imbecile to believe in the (power of) psychiatric diagnosis he had received.
    He could not look at the objective science? What brain chemical imbalance(test)?

    What you choose to do , IS who you are.

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    • Mark, So what we choose to do is who we are, but also, unfortunately, what is done to us as children and young people is also a large part of who we are, and limits the range of choices we are able to be aware of and make, much as we would like to think otherwise.
      There are many forces that are not under people’s control… This young man Holmes had no control over the poor parenting he likely received, the lack of healthy friendships he would have developed as a result of his upbringing, the fact that he was in a society that makes it a nightmare to be emotionally distressed (via medication/hopeless diagnoses etc), etc.
      In the likely depleted, desperate, enraged, un-self-aware state that this man would have been in at the time he killed his victims, his action is still is a choice, but a much less free choice than if you or I made a similar choice in a clear-minded state.
      And he may or may not have been an imbecile, but it’s not easy to challenge and research the prevailing view on “mental illness” and realize that diagnoses are unscientific fabrications and there is nothing wrong with one’s brain. If you’re told over and over that your brain is broken, some people, especially ones who are vulnerable to begin with, and are already overwhelmed with other stresses, start to believe the hopelessness.

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      • What makes you so sure that this young man received poor parenting? There is nothing in the story to suggest that this is the case, even if he did, it really doesn”t explain his actions since many people receive poor parenting and the vast majority never commit heinous crimes.

        Also I question your statement “that there is nothing wrong with one’s brain.” This young man probably has a better idea whether there is something wrong with his brain than anyone else. Just because science has not been able to discern the cause of this man’s distress does not prove to me that there was nothing wrong with his brain. He writes of fighting and struggling with unsurmountable shortcomings. He sounds to me like a person who definitely knew he was different and struggled with his feelings. To say that there was nothing wrong with his brain sounds absurd to me.

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        • If you reread the above, I didn’t say I was sure, I said he “likely” had poor parenting. I surmised that because poor parenting including neglect/abuse is frequently correlated with criminality and violence.

          But, one can also read about his case online –
          An attorney for the Colorado theater shooter has cited a history of mental illness on both sides of James Holmes’ family, including an aunt with schizophrenic affective disorder.

          Daniel King said during opening statements Monday that Holmes was a normal child through elementary school but began to have mental health problems in middle school. He says Holmes attempted suicide at age 11.

          King adds his client had “intrusive thoughts” in high school, and they continue to this day.

          So, unsurprisingly, he was apparently a troubled child with a troubled family. Whether that includes one or both parents, and how troubled they were or were not, one cannot be sure, but they were likely poor parents.

          And regarding his brain, I’m sure there was a lot wrong with his brain chemistry. Being lonely, depressed, trying to commit suicide as a preadolescent, having delusional beliefs, etc. all of that is inevitably going to involve serious emotional distress which will be reflected in disturbed brain chemistry.

          My point, which I should have been clearer about, was that there is no evidence that his problems were caused by bad brain chemistry or a “disorder” based on misfiring brain chemicals. I was trying to refute the biological/genetic origin of mental illness notion, not to say that his brain chemistry at and before the time he committed his crime was not messed up. Surely, his brain chemistry was messed up by all the distress he felt.

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  4. I think “imbecile” may be too strong a word to use for the shooter. He just tragically for him and his victims did not know any better and had lost all hope. This is something so horrific; it is beyond anything to say in the English language. I do not like to use word the blaim; but psychiatry and its medical model and the horrific psych medications must bear a good deal of responsibility. This shooter was not an imbecile; just a very tragic victim; as are those he killed and injured from this very sick, broken, and psychopathic model of “mental illness as brain disease and the horrific drugs we use to think we fix and enslave it.” This makes me to very sad; not accusatory.

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      • The murders were likely a way of acting out his undiluted rage toward the world, psychiatrists, his parents, etc. everyone who failed him. Just my hypothesis. It makes no sense from a rational standpoint, but I have had these kinds of murderous impulses and can imagine how in worse conditions they could control a person’s behavior (many more people have them than act on them, the difference is I always had enough ego control not to act impulses out).
        In a perverse sense the murders would represent revenge on society/projected parents-treaters, and having final control over other people and his destiny. Of course this is largely delusional, but it can feel that way to a psychotic person.

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        • “…acting out his undiluted rage toward the world, psychiatrists, his parents, etc. everyone who failed him…”

          Indeed, while extreme in this case, even ordinary “angst,” or anxiety (worrying about things), or depression (sadness in one’s life), can lead a person into the downward spiral of the bio-psychiatry trap.

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  5. Additionally, I do not believe that what we choose to do is who are. Sometimes we are forced beyond reason or circumstances to do things we would not otherwise choose to do. Abuse can cause this. Also can these horrific medications and even the beliefs of a world that locks people into unfounded beliefs about themselves such as the error belief of “mental illness and the broken brain.”

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  6. He also wrote in his journal how the SSRI antidepressant Zoloft (Sertraline) made him feel.

    “No effect when needed,” he noted. “First appearance of mania occurs, not good mania. Anxiety and fear disappears.”

    So, the SSRI took away all of his anxiety and fears. It took away his fear of consequence and fear of death. Along with all other emotions too I’d assume.

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  7. How terribly sad. And of course, nothing was ever proven to be biologically or genetically wrong with this young man.
    But I know first hand how (falsely) believing you have a life-long brain disorder can create a very strong hopelessness and make one believe that being emotionally well is impossible, so desperate measures are needed.
    The subset of psychiatrists who promote this approach are partly responsible, via spreading this view that affected Holmes, for the deaths of the 13 people he killed at the theatre that day.

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  8. Mark, lest you forget killing oneself is just as horrible as killing other people. It is tragic that he killed other people. It would be just as tragic if he took his own life. Each person is of value to God. In the end; there were many victims here; the shootist and those he injured or killed and those that witnessed this terrible event and those that were left behind. siw2f3; please have more compassion. Yes, he is guilty and yes; he should be required to make “payment” for his crimes. He hurt many people and he hurt himself. Perhaps, in the end, the guilt and the responsibility rests with all of us who bought into the dangerous concept there are mental illnesses, they are caused by some brain malfunction; and can be relieved or maybe subdued by harmful drugs that in turn cause the same effects as we allegedly thought were supposed to stop. There is no easy answer; except to get these drugs off the streets and out of doctor’s hands; just as we would heroin, LSD, or cocaine. Also, we need to return love, compassion, and understanding. If this man had met with love when he first became troubled, perhaps all this resulting tragedy might never have occurred and thirteen lives would have been saved. There is a reason the spiritual truths of the world speak of love as so important. Love is the glue that heals everything. All I ask is that you who seek to judge; find love and leave the judgements to God.

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    • I started considering suicide at age 21 not just because of excessive stelazine, but being stigmatized and branded by a psychiatrist as “schizo-affective.” Many times I wished he had killed me instead of ruining my life the way he did. But you can’t sell pills to a corpse!

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  9. The Marshall Project for some reason asked Jeff Lieberman annotate to annotate the notebook. He didn’t mention the part where the drugs made Holmes manic. The Marshall Project was founded by Neil Barsky and its editor is Bill Keller.

    Holmes listed his history with therapy. #2 is the one he gave the notebook to, I’m pretty sure.
    2. Immediately prescribed antidepressants (fast acting benzos, long lasting SSRIs – Sertraline). Sertraline primarily antidepressant not anxiolytic.
    3. Anxiety and depression both serotonergic system anyway though.
    No effect when needed.
    First appearance of mania occurs, not good mania. Anxiety and fear disappears. No more fear of failure.
    Fear of failure drove determination to improve, better and succeed in life. No fear of consequences.
    Primary drive aversion to hatred of mankind.
    Intense aversion of people, cause unknown.
    Began long ago, suppressed by greater fear of others. No more fear, hatred anchored.
    Can’t tell the mind rapists plan.
    If plan is disclosed both “normal” life and ideal enactment on hatred foiled.

    Someone transcribed it the notebook.

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