“The world breaks everyone, and afterward, some are strong at the broken places.”
I spent my summer watching a new series on Netflix, called Mindhunter, which focused on two FBI agents who were able to advance crime solving in the 1970s by exploring the psychological aspect of the crime and the criminal involved. When investigating a crime, a detective would always look at the following three things to find and answer: motive, opportunity, suspect. However, as is often said in the series, “how can we catch someone when motive becomes elusive? When the crime is more than a crime of passion and defies human reason?”
What recurs quite frequently in this series is that the criminal ends up almost always being a psychopath who has developed a fantasy, due to having experienced certain traumas growing up. Indeed, people like Ed Kemper who have been bullied for their physical appearance by other children and even their parents, end up forming odd personalities and behavioral traits, such as necrophilia. Others, to the likes of Charles Manson, become cult leaders, encouraging other people to commit crimes of passion, leading to the creation of equivalents of the New Age cult group.
There is a certain pattern we notice whenever one of those criminals is being interviewed: as soon as the person concerned starts to develop unusual and uncommon behavioral traits, the parents’ or the system’s first reaction is to send the person to a psychiatric clinic for the rest of their childhood, thinking that this is the best solution. Once the treatment is over, the patient would go back to live their ‘normal life’ again, only for them to actually embark on their criminal spree, usually starting with family before going on to strangers. The urge to do so was always there, but it was a specific chain of events which led to the breakout: absent father, abusive and uncaring mother, psychiatric clinic and so on. Other examples I could think of are Richard Speck and Dennis Rader, – also known as the BTK Killer.
And so these have grown into the criminals that history remembers them as: asserting that there was something wrong with them.
The reason behind this introduction is not to make you feel sorry for what happened to these people, quite the contrary; nothing could ever excuse what these people or other psychopaths and terrorists have committed. However, this does raise a few eyebrows on a conflict we are all faced with daily.
Things happen to us everyday that shape us in a certain way, turning us into the people we are today. Eventually, they will always have an effect on us, which is why afterwards we can never go back to being the person we used to be before then.
Then why do some of us turn into serial killers, terrorists and cold-blooded killers, whilst others remain kind and caring?
Why do some people become cold, numb and depressed, whilst others laugh, love and live as if there is no tomorrow?
“We are not what happened to us, we are what we wish to become.”
Two parents had two twin boys. Every night, the father would come back drunk from work and start hitting his wife in front of his sons. Whenever they would do something wrong, the father would place a belt, a wrench and a stick on the table, asking them to choose the weapon he would use for punishment.
The two sons eventually grew up and, twenty years later, lived different lives. One of them turned into a drunkard, jobless person who would always raise his voice on his wife and children. On the other hand, the second son became a respected and loved person by his coworkers and family. When asked about the reason behind their present situation, the two sons gave the exact same answer: “I learned from my father.” And this is the difference between vulnerability and resilience – an issue long researched by psychologists (ref. Resilience & Recovery by Emmy Werner) . How you react to misfortune and injustice defines who you are.
“If you have been brutally broken, but still have the courage to be gentle to other living beings, then you’re a badass with the heart of an angel.”