Latent murderousness : an exploration of the nature and quality of object relations in rage-type murderers

Cartwright, Duncan James (2000) Latent murderousness : an exploration of the nature and quality of object relations in rage-type murderers. PhD thesis, Rhodes University.




In this dissertation I investigate the intrapsychic make-up of rage-type offenders and explore the psychodynamics of the act of murder itself The dissertation begins with a discussion on the defining features of the act of rage-type murder. I then consider the role of personality characteristics and psychopathology in individuals who have committed such offences. With the basic features of the offender and act itself outlined, the following section reviews key areas of debate regarding the psychodynamics of violence and the intrapsychic make-up of the rage-type murderer. I first explore the nature of aggression as debated in psychoanalysis and conclude that the views expressed are often unn,ecessarily polarized regarding the origins of aggression and suggest that the specifics of particular types of aggression require consideration in order to assess their intrapsychic nature. The specifics of rage and violence are discussed with this in mind. In the second chapter of this section I develop a number of intrapsychic dimensions to be used in understanding how different types of violence are constituted. Psychodynamic contributions towards understanding rage-type murder, as a specific form of violence, are then discussed. Following this review, a number of directive ~uestions are formulated regarding (1) the intrapsychic dimension of rage-type murder; (2) the pJ;esence of the borderline personality in such offender~ and its intrapsychic nature; and (3) the_ specific psychodynamics that lie behind what is argued to be a defensive act of murder. A multiple case study approach, using nine imprisoned rage-type offenders, is used to further explore the above issues. Court summary reports, the Thematic Apperception Test and the Psychoanalytic Research Interview comprised the research material, with particular emphasis placed on the interview material. The interview is approached from a psychoanalytic perspective and I develop some theoretical, technical and analytical guidelines to try to broaden Jhe use of psychoanalysis in the research domain. Findings of the research reveal a specific kind of defensive organization that is characterized by a constellation of object relations that I term the 'narcissistic exoskeleton'. I suggest that these findings best fit the description of a particular kind of borderline personality organization typified by apparent 'normality'. Other prominent aspects of the dimensions of violence observed in these cases include: (1) a poor representational capacity; (2) an interactional style characterized by uncontainable projective exchanges between victim and offender; (3) a collusive primary object relationship combined with the absence of an internalized 'third object'; (4) a 'two-faced' superego structure; (5) the internalization of traumatic experience that has become associated with a bad object system; (6) phantasies of restoring ideal good in external objects alongside conscious fantasies of annihilation. Within the context of these factors the intrapsychic events that lead to the act itself are discussed. It is found that a collapse of the 'narcissistic exoskeleton', the intrusion of the bad object system and the unbearable shame that this evokes in the offender are prominent features of what culminates in an act of explosive rage and projective identification. Some of the implications of my research are briefly discussed in the concluding chapter.

Item Type:Thesis (PhD)
Uncontrolled Keywords:Murder, Murderers, Psychology, Narcissism, Violence, Anger, Aggression
Subjects:B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BF Psychology
Divisions:Faculty > Faculty of Humanities > Psychology
ID Code:2483
Deposited By: Mrs Carol Perold
Deposited On:17 Feb 2012 13:13
Last Modified:17 Feb 2012 13:13
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