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A Psychologist's Thoughts on Clinical Practice, Behavior, and Life

Murder, Mayhem, and Evil

During my first job as a psychologist at a psychiatric hospital, I told my psychoanalyst/supervisor my adolescent patient's statement. "That's psychotic," the doctor replied. Though able to define "psychotic," until that moment I hadn't grasped the power of this condition.

Similarly, when mass murder horrors become public, the perpetrators are often viewed with surprise for these men had seemed so normal. They lacked the twisted features of horror film characters and spoke coherently though of bogus beliefs. Columnists asked the usual question of "why," and provide their usual answer that "no one knows." But this is not true!

 

While predicting violence cannot be certain, it correlates highly with several factors: failure in life; substance abuse; the ego capacities governing thinking and behavior being inadequately developed; and having a fragmented "sense of self," sense of who they are. The killer's frequent decision, to suicide in "glory," is considered preferable to their continued painful existence.

 

Though their act was horrendous, these individuals are not often considered "insane." The legal definition of insanity is determined by state statute, most usually whether a person can distinguish "right" from "wrong," and rarely succeeds as a defense. But to describe them as sane does not imply that they possessed "normal" control over their behavior though, except for those with extreme limitations, this should not influence their punishment. There is evil in the world and some succumb to its temptation. Yet even for the rest of us, the unconscious is very powerful and one must respect its power.

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Is Barnard College Responsible For Their Student's Murder?

The recent murder of eighteen-year-old Barnard College student, Tessa Majors, during an armed robbery in a nearby park at nightfall was shocking but unsurprising. Common sense is that one should not walk alone (or even with someone) at that time in that place. My statement is not meant to place blame on the unfortunate victim but rather to assert that Barnard should have educated its students, many of whom are new to New York City, about City ways. Or, in other words, given them "street smarts." Would doing this have saved Tessa's life? Perhaps not since teenagers can be impulsive. But, having done so, Barnard's administrators might now sleep more easily.

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Police-Community Distrust, the Crisis in Policing, and Crime in America

An excellent review by Edward P. Stringham, a college professor, author, and economist, of four books on policing in America (July 30-31, 2016, Wall Street Journal) made the following points: (1) Citizen confidence among all Americans in the police is the lowest it has been in twenty years; (2) Being a police officer is no more dangerous, when comparing  Read More 
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