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Narcissistic Serial and Mass Killers

Uploaded 8/10/2010, approx. 8 minute read

My name is Sam Vaknin, and I am the author of Malignant Self-Love, Narcissism Revisited.


Serial killers are the liquidity and quintessence of malignant narcissism.

The narcissist's pronounced lack of empathy, his off-hand exploitativeness, his grandiose fantasies and uncompromising sense of entitlement. All these make him treat other people like objects. He objectifies people.

The narcissist regards others as either sources of narcissistic supply, attention, or as mere extensions of himself. It's the same with serial killers.

Serial killers often mutilate their victims and abscond, retrophies, body baths. Some of them have been known to eat the organs they have reached as an act of merging with the dead and assimilating them through digestion. They treat their victims as children do ragdolls.

Killing the victim and capturing him or her conforms before and during the act. That is a form of exerting unmitigated, absolute and irreversible control.

The serial killer aspires to freeze time in the still perfection that he has growing rough. The victim is usually motionless and defenseless, bound and gagged. The killer in this way attains a kind of object permanence.

The victim is unlikely to run on the killer, to flee, to abandon the killer, as the killer was abandoned in early childhood by his parents.

In malignant narcissism, the true self of the narcissist is replaced by a false construct, the false self. And this construct is imbued with omnipotence, omniscience and omnipresence.

In other words, it is all-powerful and all-knowing and everywhere.

The narcissist's thinking is magical, it's infantile. He feels immune to the consequences of his own actions.

Yet this very source of apparently superhuman fortitude, this false self, is also the narcissist's Achilles heel.

Narcissist's personality is chaotic. His defense mechanisms are primitive. The whole edifice is precariously balanced on pillars of denial, splitting, projection, rationalization, projective identification, all kinds of psychological defense mechanisms underpin the narcissist's false self.

Narcissistic injuries such as life crisis, abandonment, divorce, financial difficulties, incarceration, public opprobrium, all these can bring the whole thing tumbling down.

The narcissist cannot afford, therefore, to be rejected, spurned, insulted, hurt, resisted, criticized or disagreed with.

When he is faced with any of these reactions, he falls apart, he disintegrates.

So the threat to the narcissist is existential. It's the same with the serial killer.

The serial killer is trying desperately to avoid a painful relationship with his object of desire. He is terrified, like the narcissist, of being abandoned or humiliated, exposed for what he is and then discarded.

So what's the solution?

The solution is to render your object of desire immobile, unable to abandon you, unable to flee.

And of course, the ultimate way of doing this is killing him or her.

Indeed, many serial killers often have sex, the ultimate form of intimacy, with the corpses of their victims.

Objectification and mutilation allow for unchallenged possession. It is by killing his victims that the serial killer owns them.

Without the ability to empathize, permeated by haughty feelings of superiority and uniqueness, the narcissist cannot put himself in someone else's shoes. He cannot even imagine what it means to be human.

This idea of being human is alien to the narcissist. He's invented for himself. He's always to the fore, cutting him off from the rich panoply of human emotions.

And so the narcissist believes that all people are narcissists because he doesn't know better.

Similarly, many serial killers believe that killing is a way of the world. Everyone would kill if they could or were given the chance to do so or could get away with it.

Such killers are convinced that they are being honest and open about their desires and that therefore they are morally superior to others. They hold others in contempt for being conforming hypocrites, cowed into submission by the establishment or by society.

The narcissist seeks to adapt, to change society, to adapt it and meaningful others to his needs. He regards himself as the epitome of perfection, a yardstick against which he measures everyone, benchmark of excellence to be emulated by others. He acts the guru, the sage, the psychotherapist, the expert, the objective observer of human affairs, the narcissist's diagnosis, the faults and pathologies of people around him and helps them improve, change, evolve and succeed.

In other words, he helps them conform to his vision and wishes.

Well, serial killerslikewise, believe that they are improving their victims. By rendering them inanimate, by slaying them, they believe that they are purifying them, removing imperfections. By depersonalizing and dehumanizing them, they believe that they are saving the victims from degeneration and degradation, from evil and sin, in short from a fate worse than death.

The serial killer's megalomania manifests exactly at this stage. He claims to possess or have access to a higher knowledge and morality.

The killer believes himself to be a special being and the victim is chosen and should be grateful that he or she had been chosen. The killer often finds the victim's anger attitude for having been chosen irritating, though sadly predictable.

The sexuality of the serial psychopathic killer is self-directed. His victims are merely props, extensions, aids, objects and symbols. He interacts with them ritualistically and either before or after the act, transforms his diseased inner dialogue into a self-consistent extraneous catechism.

The narcissist is equally auto-erotic. His libido, his sex drive is directed at himself, not at others.

In the sexual act, the narcissist merely masturbates with other people's bodies.

In this case, living people.

The narcissist's life is a giant repetition complex. In a doomed attempt to resolve early conflicts with significant others such as parents, teachers, peers, the narcissist resorts to a restricted repertoire of coping strategies, defense mechanisms and behaviors.

He seeks to recreate his past in each and every new relationship and interaction. Inevitably, the narcissist is invariably confronted with the same outcomes.

This recurrence, this repetition only reinforces the narcissist's rigid reactive patterns and deep-set beliefs. It is a vicious, intractable cycle where the narcissist's behavior brings about the very results that he drains.

Correspondingly, in some cases of serial killers, the murder ritual seems to have recreated earlier conflicts with meaningful objects such as parents, authority figures, peers. The outcome of this replay is different to the original though.

This time, the killer dominates the situation. He is on top. The killings allow him to inflict abuse on trauma on others rather than be abused and traumatized. It's payback time. It's settling the scores. It's balancing the ledger.

The serial killer outwits and points figures of authority, the police, for instance. As far as the killer is concerned, he is merely getting back at society for what society did to him. It is a form of poetic justice, a balancing of the books, and therefore a good thing.

The murder is cathartic. It allows the killer to release either to suppress the pathologically transformed aggression in the form of hate, rage, and envy.

In every serial killing, sexual murder, and sadistic abduction and slaying, there are three participants.

The narcissist perpetrator, he is or her victim, and the audience, police, the media, or the public at large.

The killer actively seeks recognition and acknowledgement of his misdeeds, proved by acclimation and mention of his brilliance and daring. He preserves mementos, records his actions in detail, and revisits the crime scene. His feelings of omnipotence, all-powerfulness, and immunity to the consequences of his own actions increase.

These increase, the more victims he rapes, mutilates, and murders, and the less the police is able to respond.

The repeated acts of escalating gore fail to alleviate the killer's overwhelming anxiety and depression. He seeks to vindicate his negative introjects, the voices of his demanding and sadistic parents, for instance, by being caught and punished.

The serial killer tightens the proverbial noose around his neck by interacting with law enforcement agencies and the media and thus providing them with clues as to his identity.

When apprehended, most serial killers experience a great sense of relief.

Serial killers are not only objectifiers, they don't only treat other people as objects.

To some extent, leaders of one's own, political, military, or corporate, do the same.

In a range of demanding professions, surgeons, medical doctors, judges, law enforcement agents, etc., objectification efficiently fends off attendant horror and anxiety.

Yet serial killers are different to these people.

They represent a dual failure of their own development as full-fledged productive add-ons, and of culture and society they grew in.

In a pathological and narcissistic civilization, social anomalies proliferate. Such societies breed malignant objectifiers, people devoid of empathy. We call them narcissists, and a tiny minority of them become serial killers.

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Transcripts Copyright © Sam Vaknin 2010-2024, under license to William DeGraaf
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