In Islamic radicalism, we see a similar appeal to adolescents on the cusp of adulthood. Just as Holden Caulfield and John Galt are confronted with the inescapable limitations of membership in the human race, Islamic terrorists are confronted with infidel despoilers of the perfect Islamic society.
The clash between infantile perfection and reality can be devastating for the narcissistically fragile person, inciting murderous levels of rage. This clash sets in motion, an insatiable, but ultimately impossible, quest for the restoration of perfection. Such a person experiences helpless humiliation in the exposure of his own limitations, and vengeful rage at the compromisers who ruined everything (the infantile perfection). For such an individual, perception is distorted by archaic grandiosity that does not recognize or accept the psychological separateness and independent initiative of the other. Individual differences in viewpoint become increasingly intolerable because they degrade the purity of narcissistic perfection.
Back in 2001, Ernest Wolf articulated these dynamics better than I can in an excellent article entitled: Group Helplessness and Rage. Written before the 9/11 attacks, Wolf draws upon the work of Heinz Kohut for insights into the minds of killers who identify with groups and causes. The excerpts below apply equally to those who resort to ideological murder and those whose rage falls short of actually committing murder, though the intensity of their helpless rage can be fairly characterized as murderous.
From Group Helplessness and Rage:
Talking about rageful behavior [Kohut] observed that underlying the rage one often finds an uncompromising insistence on the perfection of the idealized other. The infant experiences itself still in a state of limitlessness power and knowledge, a state that we as outsiders deprecatingly call the child’s grandiosity, its grandiose self. If for a variety of reasons this infantile grandiose state of narcissism is prevented from maturing into healthy self-esteem we meet with what looks like an adult but really is a very shakily put together oversensitive and shame-prone narcissist. The fanaticism of the need for revenge and the unending compulsion of having to square the account after an offense are therefore not the attributes of an aggressivity that is integrated with the mature purposes of the ego - on the contrary, such bedevilment indicates that the aggression was mobilized in the service of an archaic grandiose self and that it is deployed within the framework of an archaic perception of reality. The shame-prone individual who is ready to experience setbacks as narcissistic injuries and to respond to them with insatiable rage does not recognize his opponent as a center of independent initiative with whom he happens to be at cross-purposes. Aggression, when employed in the pursuit of maturely experienced causes, are not limitless. However vigorously this aggression is mobilized, its aim is limited and definite: the defeat of the enemy who blocks the way to a cherished goal. As soon as the aim is reached, the rage is gone.
The narcissistically injured on the other hand, cannot rest until he has blotted out a vaguely experienced offender who dared to oppose him, to disagree with him, or to outshine him. ..It can never find rest because it can never wipe out the evidence that has contradicted its conviction it is unique and perfect. This archaic rage goes on and on and on. Furthermore, the enemy who calls forth the archaic rage of the narcissistically vulnerable is seen by him not as an autonomous source of impulsions, but as a flaw in a narcissistically perceived reality. The enemy is experienced as a recalcitrant part of an expanded self over which the narcissistically vulnerable person had expected to exercise full control. The mere fact, in other words, that the other person is independent or different is experienced as offensive by those with intense narcissistic needs.
Thus, not being in full control over self and over a narcissistically experienced world gives the afflicted individual an experience of utter powerlessness. Such powerlessness and the sense of helplessness via-a-vis the world are unbearably traumatic experiences that must be ended by any means whatsoever. The offending other must be wiped out.
I must add that I don't regard all idealizations and all group identifications as signs of narcissistic arrest. Ideals tempered by realism are essential to a healthy sense of membership in the human race. They supply us with moral purpose, inspiration and the capacity for healthy admiration. In this post, I was only discussing the genetics of rage in narcissistically vulnerable individuals who cannot find an accommodation between realty and their own primitive sense of perfection.