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Aarti Aarti
25 Dec 2023

This November 26, following an argument over not serving tasty food, a 55-year-old woman was allegedly attacked by her son with a sickle and killed in Maharashtra. The accused then reportedly overdosed on sleeping pills. Though the mother and son used to quarrel over domestic issues, on that fateful day, they squabbled over food when he complained that she did not cook and serve him tasty food. The details of what happened during the squabble remain unknown, except that the woman collapsed and died after the brutal attack.

This October, a 26-year-old unemployed man was arrested in Maharashtra for reportedly killing his mother, who served him dinner late. He is said to have become furious, which resulted in a fight between them. During the fight, the son first assaulted his mother with a stick, then pulled her outside the house, assaulted her again with a sickle and proceeded to set her ablaze using dried leaves and grass. 

A 24-year-old man was arrested in Kerala last year on charges of murdering his mother by knocking her unconscious first and then killing her by hitting her head with a cooking gas cylinder. The 55-year-old woman had recently sold their house. A dispute over the accused’s demand for money from the proceeds might have been the motive. The accused is known to be addicted to drugs. 

The rise in the number of such cases is a cause for concern. Are instances of angry outbursts and short temper resulting in avoidable deaths? What would motivate a son to murder his own mother? 

Not long ago, an uncommon murder was reported from New York where a 26-year-old man bludgeoned his 65-year-old mother to death with a table lamp after his father went out for some work. After committing the crime, the accused leapt out of their 16th-floor luxury apartment. Both the mother and the son died on the scene. 

Investigators and neighbours were stunned because the accused used to attend a prestigious school, where he excelled at lacrosse. His former classmates described him as genuine, compassionate, and jovial but lacking the drive or motivation to succeed on or off the field. He had a high-achieving sister who was about to get married. His father had retired as a judge from the Manhattan Supreme Court. The accused was quite close to his mother, who was a gifted dancer. 

What is baffling is that he had never been abused, had no criminal record and never exhibited any psychopathological tendencies. According to his father, he was temperamental and could get frustrated when he didn’t get his way. 

Research suggests that three-quarters of the matricides (killing one’s mother) can occur without any warning. However, it can also be attributed to a chronically abusive parent. This untreated mental illness may be triggered by catalysts leading to the killing. There have also been instances in which an antisocial child kills for predatory reasons like to get insurance money. 

Some people go beyond verbal fights and react violently when they get angry, be it road rage, less tasty food, or unfulfilled personal desires. This anger remains the most misunderstood emotion due to various factors related to its expression and interpretation, which is a cause for worry.

Why has personal behaviour become thoughtless?

What is causing the growing hostility towards others?

There are no easy answers. One of my neighbours mentioned that her elder brother used to frequently hit their mother whenever he got angry as a kid, and the practice continued even after he grew up. 

Because her mother never reprimanded him and her father seldom disciplined him, her brother felt it was alright to vent his anger aggressively or violently, even for trivial reasons. 

When children cannot talk about their anger, they can feel disconnected and misunderstood. Such feelings of disconnection and misunderstanding may lead to violent behaviours. The anger one feels as an adult can be related to one’s past experiences. Any similarities could mean that the reaction to a present situation would be more potent than what can be considered normal. When children witness their parents or other adults being angry and out of control, they can assume it is normal and emulate such behaviour when they grow up.

Is burnout caused by stress and sleep deprivation causing hostility towards one’s own near and dear people? 

More recently, studies on the effects of sleep on emotional empathy have shown that when a person is sleep-deprived, they demonstrate a lowered capacity for empathy. 

This is in line with other research suggesting that sleep deprivation not only impairs one’s ability to recognise emotions in other people accurately but also diminishes their capacity for empathy, which is crucial to healthy relationships.

Conversations can get out of hand, turn into heated arguments, and emotions run high for many reasons. An ideal strategy that can work for all situations does not exist, and much depends on the circumstances leading to the argument. 

Psychologists maintain that one of the parties needs to change the course to de-escalate such a destructive conflict-like situation. 

Emotions can be regulated by listening and acknowledging the other person’s feelings. However, if one senses physical danger, it would be prudent to exit the place. 

Unfortunately, some angry arguments end in stalemates because neither side is open to a meaningful closure. It is imperative to control anger as it is a powerful emotion that can lead to severe problems in one’s relationships and also adversely impact physical health in the long term.

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