The Psychopathology of the Serial Killer

It is a generally known fact that child abusers are narcissistic hypersensitive and sexual abusers narcissistic. The same is not quite true for the serial killer.

It has been claimed that there are a number of motivations which drive the serial killer such as the missionary motivation. However, this is incorrect in my opinion. These so called motivations are rationalisations of the serial killer intended to confuse the prosecutor.

The serial killer suffers from an extreme form of depersonalisation in the strict sense of the term. The serial killer cannot feel himself or herself - feels utterly numb. This is the result of a deep seated pain which is so powerful that the defence mechanism shuts the emotional system of the serial killer down. This makes the serial killer a cold blooded and calculating machine.

The serial killer needs a victim and an audience. The victim needs to feel the pain with which the serial killer can identify. There is no point in killing the victim straight away, because the serial killer needs to engage in the process of transference and counter transference in order to access his or her feelings. The killing is then rationalized as a mercy killing but is executed in the belief that the pain of the serial killer will also be resolved through the murder. It is also an act of contempt for the weakness of the victim. The audience is needed to prove the superiority of the serial killer to the rest of society. In this sense the act is intended to fulfill three goals: Transference of the pain, restoration of power and acceptance.

The choice of the victims is interesting. It needs to fulfill two criteria. Firstly, the victim must be a strong personality (and fairly fearless). Secondly, the serial killer needs to be able to rationalize that the killing of the victim is acceptable (e.g. in the name of God). A prostitute is an ideal candidate.

In this sense, the serial killer is not narcissistic.

Dr. Ludger Hofmann-Engl 12.12.06


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