The Criminal Mind

Commentary by Dr. Ursula A. Falk


The Psychopath:  His Religion, His Personality, His Attributes

Psychopaths have no religion.  We cannot find practicing orthodox Jews among the categories that follow.   Psychopaths lie, cheat, steal, and even kill, then they move on to the next victim or victims.  Adolf Hitler, who was responsible for the annihilation of six million Jews, is the ultimate example of a psychopath.  He went so far as to kill his friends if it got him the tiniest advantage.  He killed without mercy, and without the least pangs of conscience.  He did not know the meaning of that concept. He was the total narcissist.  Psychopathy is a personality disorder characterized by deceit on an unimaginable scale.

A closer example of a psychopath was a 13-year-old Western New Yorker, Eric Smith (he is now 32), who killed a four-year-old boy for “no rhyme or reason.”  This individual looked like an adorable young teen with red hair, freckles, and glasses that were a bit too large on his young face.  He looked like an innocent angelic youngster who would not think of swatting a fly.  Instead he was a monster who brutally killed a little boy, Derrick Robie, the four-year-old innocent victim who was walking to a recreation program. Eric grabbed him, beat him to death with stones, and sodomized him with a stick.  When he appeared in court he had no remorse nor a reason for the crime he had committed.  He saw no cause for regrets!  Very fortunately, Eric has not been paroled and is in prison to date, since in the good judgment of the parole board they realized that Eric Smith is a psychopath and cannot be trusted to refrain from repeat performances.

Dr. Samuel Yochelson, a prominent psychiatrist and researcher, moved from Buffalo, where he had a lucrative practice, to Washington, DC, to study the criminally insane at St. Elizabeth Hospital.  He and his protégé partner, Stanton Samenow, a young psychiatrist/researcher, spent years examining the inmates of that institution to discover the personality traits of the individuals therein. Much to his consternation, Yochelson discovered that, despite the genuine appearance of reformation, the patients had not changed their criminal ways, as they were continuing to commit crimes.  They were violating hospital rules, using alcohol and drugs, stealing hospital supplies, and committing a plethora of other offenses.  The inmates involved had attempted to bribe the researchers by having parties for them to get advantages from them (like being released or getting special favors from their keepers through the influence of their “guests” the researchers).  It was discovered that the parties that the patients threw for them were done with supplies stolen from the hospital.

It became evident that the patients manipulated the sessions with Yochelson and Samenow  in such a fashion as to provide fabrications of causation that the researchers were diligently looking for in their “therapy sessions” with the inmates.  The patients were using the sociological and psychological techniques to their own advantage to provide excuses for their criminal ways and to offer false answers to the researchers with the intent of avoiding any feelings of culpability.  The patients hoped that the appearance of self-change would yield them a shorter path to freedom.  It was evident that the patients were offering information about their pasts in self-serving ways.  The criminals used their feelings to justify all of their actions.  “None of them were actually mentally ill.”

Valuable and copious information had been gathered from the patients over years of study; it needed to be seen from a different perspective.   It was realized that all of the patients exhibited certain common personality and behavioral traits from an early age, regardless of their background.  Traditional analytic techniques and methods were insufficient  to enact change in criminals, for their depressions, tensions, and anxieties were significantly different than non-criminals.  Focusing upon parent-child and child-environment interactions only reinforced the criminal’s blame of others as well as his position of claiming to be victimized.  The search for causes need to be replaced by the search for the thinking patterns of the criminals.  The only commonality among the two hundred and fifty-five patients studied were certain patterns of thinking.

There is the possibility that psychopathic behavior is seen very early in a child’s life.  A child stealing is done because it is found exciting.  The criminal or psychopath removes himself early in life from society's expectations.  The first to be victimized by the criminals are their parents.  Parents are not exempt from the habitual exploits of the psychopath.  The offender perceives people as being beneficial or detrimental to achieving their wants.  Parents, like other people, are objectified.  The criminal does not see things from another’s perspective; his emotional investment in family is minimal.  Though the psychopaths are very selfish and demanding, they will often try to ensure that their parents have at least a decent concept of them in the event that their parents’ devotion can be exploited for the need of money, material wants, or help avoiding punishment from the law. If parents try to effect a positive change in the individual thus described, the psychopath has few reservations about misrepresenting the parents' intentions by blaming them for his problems.

Researchers and students of human nature have not yet found a therapeutic tool or method to change the psychopath into an acceptable and trustworthy human being. 


Dr. Ursula A. Falk is a psychotherapist in private practice and the author of several books and articles.

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