1.0 Understanding the psychopath

Is it a question of evil or mental disorder when someone intentionally kills, rapes or abuses others? Next question; should they be punished or treated? These are among the fundamental questions we address in this psychological analysis of the psychopath.

There exist substantial disagreements in relation to whether serial killers ought to be referred to as mad or bad individuals. This thesis will examine this controversial topic, by first making a self-psychological case study of the serial killer, David Berkowitz. This is aimed at giving a thoroughly understanding concerning why serial killings were conducted. That understanding will be underlying in the second part of the work, as understanding gives rise to the ability to discuss the relationship there are between serial killing and evil (badness) and/or mental illness (madness), and also to investigate the possibilities there are for psychological treatment.

What is argued in this work, is that David Berkowitz seems to have had had an upbringing characterized with substantial losses and failures from selfobjects, which have caused fragmentations in his self with an attendant narcissistic personality. This way, it is further argued that these aspects seem to characterize as psychopathology, in which it is raised question to the general assumption that serial killers are responsible for their actions. In relation to psychological treatment with serial killers, it is argued in this thesis, that the widespread tendency to conceive criminal psychopaths as untreatable, is mainly due to the countertransferences, and the induced lack of empathy that is likely to emerge in the therapist. This way, self psychological treatment with its essential focus on empathy is suggested to contribute positively in treatment with serial killers and also with narcissistic personalities in general.