Serial Killers Addictive Pathology it Is Difficult Term Paper

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Serial Killers

Addictive Pathology

It is difficult to understand the nature of a serial killer. The repetitive character of their murderous acts for no "justifiable" reason is a conundrum to most of us. Just what is justifiable? A motive a juror can understand such as; jealousy, greed, revenge, and the like are emotional and perhaps human justifications for a crime. The Serial Killer / Psychopath / Sociopath schemata is one of a mission, god given or devil inspired, that quite often has no other justification than itself and carried out by what seems to be an inhuman monster. In this way it is similar in nature to an addiction to drugs or alcohol. This behavior is always a mystery to the non-addict. They have no concept of what it is like to be addicted and cannot understand the impulses or drives behind it. Is serial killing an addiction and can we learn more about a serial killer by perceiving it as an addiction?

There are certainly similarities in the pathology in the repetitive nature of the serial killer and the continuation of the cycle of addition. In looking at a general view of a serial killer as a psychopath one sees that "Psychopaths are people who have severe antisocial impulses. They act on them without apparent regard for the inevitable and devastating consequences these actions may bring to themselves and others" (Simon 22). While psychopaths / Serial killers do exert a certain amount of control over their actions, they remain fated to commit them time and time again. This pattern is evident in the crisis of addiction:

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From this vantage point, addiction is viewed as a complex, progressive behavior pattern having biological, psychological, and sociological components. What distinguishes this pattern of behavior from others is the individual's overwhelming pathological involvement in or attachment to it, subjective compulsion to continue it, and reduced ability to exert control over it" (Maddox Winstead 303).

Term Paper on Serial Killers Addictive Pathology it Is Difficult Assignment

Understanding psychopathic behaviors poses several other difficulties:

Serial murderers also pose a problem of comprehensibility. Although they are unlikely to exhibit signs of psychosis, their crimes do not appear to be based on any motives that make sense to the average person. Indeed, some serial murderers have committed crimes that are so far outside the bounds of human experience that the perpetrators seem almost to belong to a different species. (Egger 74)

However, there is certainly some connection to this errant species. Biologically speaking there is certainly a link with human beings, albeit a primitive one. A prevailing theory of psychopathic behavior is that they are functioning on the level of instinct-response. That they are more directly connected with what is coined the "reptilian brain" or more precisely the brain stem. This is where the fight or flight response is also housed and is, evolutionarily speaking, the older most primitive part of the brain system. When face-to-face with a serial killer it is often noted in interviews that looking into their eyes is like looking at the unblinking eyes of a snake (Robinson). There is also a raw power there that can create the charismatic charm also often associated with this cadre.

Many psychopaths are not criminals, but they are the predators among us, chronic parasites and exploiters of the people around them. Psychopaths use cues and push vulnerable buttons to manipulate people for their own purposes. However, psychopaths are unable to put themselves in other people's shoes, any more than a snake can feel empathy for its prey. (Simon 22)

Somehow the limbic system and the neo-cortex seem to both be circumvented when processing the impulses from the brain stem. The limbic system is where the energy of emotions comes from and the neo-cortex is where our more civilized tendencies are housed. Often Serial Killers are both emotionless and uncivilized in their behavior. Although serial killers often make excellent use of their mental faculties to plan and execute their crimes it appears that the reptilian brain seems to be the dominant part of the serial killer brain system, rather than the neo-cortex which tends to civilize our baser tendencies (Robinson).

One would tend to think that serial killers must certainly be insane and fall under the purview of the plea "not guilty by reason of mental defect." But the test for this criterion is competence and the ability to distinguish right from wrong. The accused can be deemed incompetent to stand trail only if he or she cannot understand the nature of the charges against them or are unable to participate in the preparation of their own defense. They must also be unable to distinguish right from wrong (Egger). This is not the case with the serial killer. They are usually of above average intelligence and understand the concepts of right and wrong, they merely choose to ignore them.

Disassociation is another "symptom" of serial killers. They have little or no empathy for their victims and certainly view the laws of society with the same aloofness. Everything is a means of control for the serial killer. Part of their manipulative ability lies in their use of language to achieve their ends:

But the same dissociation is also manifest in their speech. Words have become detached from meaning and serve, instead, as a means of placating an enemy or fleecing an unwary victim. By the same token, they do not allow themselves to be moved by words and concepts that are valued by their fellow citizens. (Egger 82)

This disassociation is an all-pervading aspect for most serial killers. Alternatively observers are most apt to believe that the crime committed by serial killers with no remorse, must be due to the fact that they have no attachment to moral or ethical values.

No matter what theoretical orientation one adopts, the role of narcissism seems to be fundamental in understanding the personality makeup of this serial murderer, with his overwhelming need to present himself as strong, powerful, and always in control. Liebert (1985) has noted the poor level of personality integration found in narcissistic cases, predisposing such offenders to an intrusion into consciousness of primitive sexual/aggressive impulses. (Schlesinger 219)

According to Holmes and De Burger in their seminal work Serial Murder, there are four major types of Serial Killer:

Visionary: This category is composed of those who hear voices or see visions that tell them what to do. Usually these visions are attributable to a higher power, God, the Devil, etc. And are also a form of detachment in that the killer is being told to do this by an unquestionable authority, so he or she is off the moral hook so to speak. These killers usually also have the coexistent pathology of a psychotic or schizophrenic behavior. David Berkowitz, the Son of Sam, is a member of this group.

Missionary: This group feels that it is their duty to remove a certain specific group of people from society. They are on a mission, somehow reasonably arrived at through analysis of the world or literature or by following a specific leader. Charles Manson is an example of this type of serial killer.

Hedonistic: This group is composed of several sub-groups. In this category the killer derives some sort of pleasure or gain from the killing. The sub-groups here are:

Thrill Killer: Takes lives because they enjoy the experience of killing, the more danger the better:

True psychopaths habitually rush in where angels fear to tread. The more dangerous an undertaking, the more irresistible it becomes...There is some evidence to suggest that psychopaths have unusually high thresholds for perceptual stimulation. Certainly, their overt behavior suggests that only in situations of threat and danger do they feel truly alive. (Egger 82)

Thrill killers are not by nature impulsive and although they plan extensively, it is only to accomplish the task not to mitigate the risk involved. The usual motive of taking chances because one wishes to get caught may or may not play a role in this.

Lust Killer: Motivated by sexual or other visceral pleasures. This killer uses rape and torture and often cannibalism as their chief form of pleasure. Jeffrey Dahmer is certainly a member of this category.

Gain Killer: This killer commits their crimes in order to gain control or power financially and even politically. This is a crossover killer in many ways since this category allows for a certain degree of justification as regards homicide. Greed is at least a human desire that can be understood by others. Female serial killers described as "Black Widows," women who marry and kill for money or power, are associated here, as long as they are repetitive.

The last major category is:

Power/Control: These killers enjoy controlling their victims in every aspect, physically, emotionally, psychologically and often sexually. While the latter may be confused with the lust killer, these sexual encounters more have to do with the power and control nature of this category and have little to do with the actual sexual pleasure on the part of the killer.

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