Last updated 7th July, 2018
Ted Bundy for example, who became one of America’s most notorious serial killers was what you could call a classic narcissist. This was a man who once caught and being assessed by a psychological profiler from the FBI, offered to go to the FBI Behavioural Science Unit and teach investigators about his crimes and motives, an offer which the FBI refused. According to Robert Ressler, a profiler who assessed some of the worst serial killers in American history, Ted Bundy was a ‘master of his game’.he appearance of narcissistic traits within those who kill has been on the table for a long time.
Narcissists, by their very nature, don’t take responsibility for their actions or events around them. They do not admit they have any faults or could be at fault because they genuinely don’t believe that they are. They would not call themselves a narcissist and they certainly wouldn’t believe that they had a personality disorder. Cult leaders are typical examples of pathological narcissists. They believe they are special and powerful and they show the level of control and dominance such beliefs can achieve.
The case of Brian Blackwell
Brian Blackwell was one such individual whose behavior and actions defied the belief of many. Brian was 18-years-old and appeared to be the nice boy next door, but this teenager had all nine traits possible; he was volatile, unpredictable and dangerous.
In July 2004, Brian Blackwell killed his parents in Liverpool and then went on holiday with his girlfriend and his parent’s credit cards. Upon return to England, he maintained the story that his parents were away until a horrified neighbor discovered the truth, weeks after the crime. Brian denied any knowledge of the murders and was adamant police were wrong that he was involved.
The mounting evidence against him told police otherwise and he was charged with double murder. After being psychologically tested he was diagnosed with narcissistic personality disorder showing all nine traits on the scale. Brian had created a false self with reality intertwined with fantasy.
He had enticed his girlfriend by claiming to be an international tennis player, promising her money, gifts and holidays and gave her a ‘job’ as his personal secretary.
Needing to show some evidence of his wealth he used his father’s credit card to pay for flights to America and on being confronted by his furious father, Brian Blackwell snapped and exploded in rage. It was a vicious attack on both his parents.
Heinz Kohut was an American psychoanalyst who focused on psychoanalytic theory. In his book, ‘Thoughts on Narcissism and Narcissistic Rage’ he coins the term ‘narcissistic rage’, highlighting the risk of violent rage from narcissists if they are challenged or perceive rejection.
Brian Blackwell’s murderous actions were attributed to a narcissistic rage after being confronted and questioned by his father, reducing his charge to manslaughter. Narcissistic personality disorder was used for the first time in the United Kingdom in his defense and provided mitigation to his crime.
The UK has seen other cases of teenagers who kill their parents, and children who kill other children, but this is the first time narcissistic personality disorder, and specifically, narcissistic rage has been the focus in such cases. Brian Blackwell was sentenced in June 2005 to life imprisonment and it is unlikely he will ever be released.
Mass Murders and Narcissism
There have been a number of high profile mass shootings in recent history. The Port Arthur Massacre in Australia in 1996, The Columbine High School shootings in 1999, the Norway attacks in 2011 by Anders Behring Breivik and the Colorado movie theatre shootings in Aurora in 2012.
In an article focusing on mass shootings and a possible link of narcissistic rage between different cases, Dr. Winston Chung, a psychiatrist with Sutter Pacific Medical Foundation, discusses the work of Kohut in light of the various mass shootings which have taken place in America. Comparing such cases brings some interesting points where narcissistic behaviors and a lack of empathy can clearly be seen.
A common theme among such tragic incidents can be the notion that such actions will bring them fame and glory and they deserve this attention. Grandiosity, uniqueness, and lack of empathy, all traits which feature within the narcissist. Furthermore, the idea of revenge against those they feel have done them wrong also appears to be a trend in mass shootings.
In cases such as Elliot Rodger aged 22, who carried out a shooting near the University of California in July 2014 and Seung-Hui Cho aged 23, in the Virginia Tech shooting in April 2007 for example, both talked of revenge on those who had not included them or noticed them.
In their daily lives, narcissists behave in a manner that is expected of them rather than truly feel and express emotions. They are immune to feelings of empathy and do not relate to others. Narcissists, you could say, operate more automatically and mechanically than most. The difficulty is, as they see nothing wrong with their personalities and behaviors they are not going to reach out to the medical profession for support or admit they have a problem.
Treatment of narcissistic personality disorder is thought to be possible, however, the traits that make up this condition are a fundamental part of the individuals’ sense of self. These traits and resulting behaviors are what makes them who they are and who they believe themselves to be.
While there are many in this world who could be said to have narcissistic personalities to some degree, there are only a few true narcissists. This is a personality which while can be highly beneficial to the individual, can be highly dangerous and damaging to those around them.
- BBC News (2005, June 29) Killer Blackwell’s Fantasy Life.
- Chung. W. (2014, June 10) Killers in Mass Shooting Linked By Narcissistic Rage. SFGate.
- Kleinfield. N.R. (2007, April 22) Before Deadly Rage, a Life Consumed by a Troubling Silence. New York Times.
- Liverpool Echo (2013, May 8) The Day I Killed Mum and Dad.
- Navarro. J. (2017, Sept 01) Inside the Mind of a Narcissist. Spycatcher Blog. Psychology Today.
- Ronningstam. E. (2011) Narcissistic Personality Disorder in DSM-V – In Support of Retaining a Significant Diagnosis. Journal of Personality Disorders. 25(2). pp248-259
- Woolf, N. (2015, Feb 20) Chilling Report Details How Elliot Rodger Executed Murderous Rampage. The Guardian.
Guy, F. (2015, Jul 21) When Narcissistic Rage Ends In Murder. Crime Traveller. Retrieved from https://www.crimetraveller.org/2015/07/narcissistic-rage-cold-blooded-murder/
The Everything Guide To Narcissistic Personality Disorder A comprehensive resource including identifying symptoms, different types of narcissists, living in and recovering from a narcissistic relationship with a parent or spouse.
Narcissists Exposed Answering every question about narcissists, revealing the inside secrets to the frustrating and crazy-making games narcissists play and reveals the ins and outs of how (and why) they do what they do.