33 | Causality

CAUSALITY drives a story in which motivated actions cause effects that in turn become the causes of yet other effects, thereby interlinking the various levels of conflict in a chain reaction of episodes to the Story Climax. Robert McKee, Story: Substance, Structure, Style, and the Principles of Screenwriting

Impulsive actions and behaviors are only the final results of one’s acting in accordance with his or her basic personality. What may seem, on the surface as an “impulsive” act, may have been imagined, fantasized, or mentally played out countless times over the person’s lifespan. Wendell C. Rudacille, Identifying Lies In Disguise

The central characteristic of The Right Man is the “decision to be out of control,” in some particular area. We all have to learn self-control, to deal with the real world and other people.  But with some particular person—a mother, a wife, a child—we may decide that this effort is not necessary and allow ourselves to explode. But this decision creates, so to speak, a permanent weakpoint in the boiler, the point at which it always bursts. Colin Wilson, A Criminal History of Mankind

I put up with it for eight or ten years, he said. I had no reason to kill her. Bob Sendle, 1973 Grand Jury Transcript

DAs balk at cases in which a sane person commits a spontaneously violent act. If he has no record of violence and scant time to plan, how do they convince a jury he intended to kill? But violent rage and a conscious decision to be out of control are linked. According to Wilson, rage is the predicate for the decision. The juxtaposition of two apparently contradictory dynamics—on the one hand resentment and rage (“I put up with it”), and on the other a rational appraisal of his marital difficulties (“I had no reason to kill her”)—reflects the divide at the very heart of The Right Man’s nature.  

But giving yourself permission to explode has a price: it enslaves you to your emotions and creates a permanent weak point in your boiler. A killer who prizes control might fear he’ll lose it again. To master his impulses, he might be driven to examine them. He might seek vindication in a philosophy. If he had no interest in religion before, he might even join a church.

Duane was so enthralled with Ayn Rand that he made his kids read Atlas Shrugged. Rand’s philosophy is that the individual exists purely for his own sake. After Betty’s murder, Duane turned to Science of the Mind Church. Like Rand’s objectivism, Science of the Mind is more a pseudo-religion or philosophy than a real one; it is based not on the authority of any established belief, but on what it can accomplish for practitioners. Duane became so wrapped up in its teachings that they were all he read. He dominated group meetings and was asked to leave.

In 2006, Duane was still trying to come to terms with his impulses. All anger, concern, is based on fear, he told the cold case cops. Frustration makes a person do anything from fear.

Does rage make it impossible to deliberate? Can you be impulsive but still be able to plan?

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