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Old 09-23-2008, 09:35 PM
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Serial and Mass Killers are narcissist?

Serial and Mass Killers as Familiar Figures
Guest Author - Sam Vaknin

Author of "Malignant Self Love - Narcissism Revisited"

1 - Are most serial killers pathological narcissists? Is there a strong connection? Is the pathological narcissist more at risk of becoming a serial killer than a person not suffering from the disorder?

A. Scholarly literature, biographical studies of serial killers, as well as anecdotal evidence suggest that serial and mass killers suffer from personality disorders and some of them are also psychotic. Cluster B personality disorders, such as the Antisocial Personality Disorder (psychopaths and sociopaths), the Borderline Personality Disorder, and the Narcissistic Personality Disorder seem to prevail although other personality disorders - notably the Paranoid, the Schizotypal, and even the Schizoid - are also represented.

2 - Wishing harm upon others, intense sexual thoughts, and similarly inappropriate ideas do appear in the minds of most people. What is it that allows the serial killer to let go of those inhibitions? Do you believe that pathological narcissism and objectification are heavily involved, rather than these serial killers just being naturally "evil?" If so, please explain.

A. Wishing harm unto others and intense sexual thoughts are not inherently inappropriate. It all depends on the context. For instance: wishing to harm someone who abused or victimized you is a healthy reaction. Some professions are founded on such desires to injure other people (for instance, the army and the police).

The difference between serial killers and the rest of us is that they lack impulse control and, therefore, express these drives and urges in socially-unacceptable settings and ways. You rightly point out that serial killers also objectify their victims and treat them as mere instruments of gratification. This may have to do with the fact that serial and mass killers lack empathy and cannot understand their victims' "point of view". Lack of empathy is an important feature of the Narcissistic and the Antisocial personality disorders.

"Evil" is not a mental health construct and is not part of the language used in the mental health professions. It is a culture-bound value judgment. What is "evil" in one society is considered the right thing to do in another.

In his bestselling tome, "People of the Lie", Scott Peck claims that narcissists are evil. Are they?

The concept of "evil" in this age of moral relativism is slippery and ambiguous. The "Oxford Companion to Philosophy" (Oxford University Press, 1995) defines it thus: "The suffering which results from morally wrong human choices."

To qualify as evil a person (Moral Agent) must meet these requirements:

That he can and does consciously choose between the (morally) right and wrong and constantly and consistently prefers the latter;

That he acts on his choice irrespective of the consequences to himself and to others.

Clearly, evil must be premeditated. Francis Hutcheson and Joseph Butler argued that evil is a by-product of the pursuit of one's interest or cause at the expense of other people's interests or causes. But this ignores the critical element of conscious choice among equally efficacious alternatives. Moreover, people often pursue evil even when it jeopardizes their well-being and obstructs their interests. Sadomasochists even relish this orgy of mutual assured destruction.

Narcissists satisfy both conditions only partly. Their evil is utilitarian. They are evil only when being malevolent secures a certain outcome. Sometimes, they consciously choose the morally wrong but not invariably so. They act on their choice even if it inflicts misery and pain on others. But they never opt for evil if they are to bear the consequences. They act maliciously because it is expedient to do so not because it is "in their nature".

The narcissist is able to tell right from wrong and to distinguish between good and evil. In the pursuit of his interests and causes, he sometimes chooses to act wickedly. Lacking empathy, the narcissist is rarely remorseful. Because he feels entitled, exploiting others is second nature. The narcissist abuses others absent-mindedly, off-handedly, as a matter of fact.

The narcissist objectifies people and treats them as expendable commodities to be discarded after use. Admittedly, that, in itself, is evil. Yet, it is the mechanical, thoughtless, heartless face of narcissistic abuse devoid of human passions and of familiar emotions that renders it so alien, so frightful and so repellent.

We are often shocked less by the actions of narcissist than by the way he acts. In the absence of a vocabulary rich enough to capture the subtle hues and gradations of the spectrum of narcissistic depravity, we default to habitual adjectives such as "good" and "evil". Such intellectual laziness does this pernicious phenomenon and its victims little justice.
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