The questions are straight forward: "Is it possible to understand psychopaths and serial killers?" And: "Can they be treated?" There are a lot of controversies in this field; Are we talking about mental illness or evil? Mental illness should be treated, while evil doings should probably be punished. Imprisonment will surely not rehabilitate a psychopath, quite the contrary, but do they deserve our attention and effort for better treatment strategies?
The intention with this work has been, through illuminating a wide variety of aspects, the problem formulations: “Is it possible to understand serial killers?” And: “Can they be treated?”
4.0.1 Summary – Understanding serial killers
The first part was intended to give an interpretation regarding why serial killing happens. In exploring why it happens, the method that was considered most applicable and valuable in an understanding, was to analyze a serial killer case. Taking Kohut’s self psychological approach, it was understood that the chosen case-person, D.B., had experienced several significant losses and failures from selfobjects. These losses and failure seem to have affected the grandiose pole of D.B.’s self, as it seems to have involved lacks of his needs to gain attention and being mirrored. This lack of mirroring the grandiose self, are likely to have prevented a consolidated core self to develop. What happens in relation to other people, when the self has been fragmented, is that the others are functioning as (archaic) selfobjects. This way, the person with a fragmented self, with injuries in the grandiose self, will continue to search for the missing recognitions that were not achieved in childhood. From what D.B. is explaining, it does not seem like he ever got to experience this. When thus he grew older, there seems to have been a great amount of incidents that had not fulfilled the need that his grandiose self had. Probably, what might have led up to his killings was that he, in many ways approached the unbearable (too many repeated selfobject losses that failed to mirror his greatness and exhibitionistic need). He had earlier used fantasies and also “conduct behavior”, like setting fires, but for his self to keep gathered, these occupations were probably not longer enough for D.B. The killings then, were more intense and extreme, so that they satisfied his grandiose self, in which this was a way for him to prevent his self from going in the direction of being disintegrated. The killings were also probably functioning as a way for D.B. to take revenge against the insults he has experienced towards his self from so many people, in which the women he killed were symbolizing. This is named narcissistic rage and is aimed at repairing the insulted self by getting back on the offender, because the insult is experienced as a threat of a destruction of the core self. Narcissistic rage is characterized by a lack of empathy, which can explain his actions that are of the public often termed “macabre”.
The analysis seem to make sense, and it is found to have been of great value, as With the use of this theory, a suggestion to the riddle of what it is, that can make an individual become a serial killer, have been given. However, to illustrate how self psychology is not the only way to understand a serial killer, a psychological analysis that has previously been made of D.B., was presented. The self psychological and traditional psychoanalytic differ in several aspects. Among other things, the psychoanalytic oriented interpretations of Abrahamsen suggest that the killings are primarily motivated by sexual drives, whereas the self psychological understanding would be more concerned with the interpersonal aspect, in that it was more a matter of recognitions and attention than “sex” in it self. When D.B. is talking about what a relief it was after the killings, Abrahamsen sees it as drives and urges needed to be released, whilst the self psychological interpretation is that it felt like a relief because it was preventing the self from being totally disintegrated. Representatives for each of these theoretical perspectives will necessarily be critical to the other’s point of view. However, in this, the self psychological interpretation was found to incorporate interpersonal dimensions, whereas the psychoanalytic was more focused upon intrapersonal conflicts in the early years of life. This way, because of the many conditions in interpersonal relations as D.B. from childhood to adulthood, the self psychological perspective seemed to be more adequate in the understanding than the traditional psychoanalytic one, and it is therefore also used in the subsequent part. It is to be emphasized that the understanding is not only relevant to be able to solve the mysterious riddle of serial killing in itself, but it is also of crucial importance to have an understanding, so that one is able to know how to handle them and be able to professionally consider the consequences there ought to be for them.
4.0.2 Future directions in an understanding of serial killers
It does seem necessary with more comprehensive studies of serial killers. This is because this area seems to have been neglected, and that studies will enhance the understanding of the nature of the personalities behind serial killings. This is important as there are enormous controversies and ignorance in the view upon these killers, as some claim that they are evil and others, that they are sick. Additional self psychological case studies, might potentially improve the validity of the case study in this book. This is if other studies demonstrate that the findings in this book can be transferred to other cases. However, additional studies conducted differently from this study, within for example a quantitative approach, can illuminate aspects that the nature of this study has not been able to enclose, and thus, they can contribute to further improve understanding of serial killers. This is because understanding is important. No matter whether an enhanced understanding will have consequences for the legal rights and the aspects with treatment, the most important is that professionals who are considering and making these decisions, have a clear construction of what serial killing is really about, and how the potential outlooks for changes are
Only, if this is clear, it can be justified how serial killers are handled in today’s legal and psychological fields. It does seem, in relation to this, a need for a solid bridge between psychology and law, so that there are clear guidelines for who is, and who is not mentally ill, and consequently who ought to get punishment and/or treatment.