Film Review: We Are Monster (2014)

This film directed by Antony Petrou is rich in forensic psychological detail. It really shows the dark side of the criminal justice system (CJS). Based on a true story, We are Monster tells the story of the murder of Zahid Mubarek by Robert Stewart.

Psychoanalytic film theory: It is clear that many of the attitudes Stewart displayed were inherited from his father’s personality. In other words, the film captures the phenomenon of introjection, a defence mechanism which consists of internalising and adopting personality traits and/or behaviour of other people, especially authority figures. The film shows Stewart recalling a memory of his father arguing with his mother about her having been sexually involved with a person of a darker skin. From this scene it is clear that his father had an extremist and antisocial attitude towards people of different skin colours, and he is heard using racial slur. Consequently, Stewart came to associate a darker skin with ‘filth’ and ‘evil’, having internalised his father’s attitudes. The film constantly shows him having a conversation with a hallucination of himself similar to the way his father used to speak in general. In psychoanalytical terms, it could be said that the film shows Stewart’s ID talking to him all the time. The ego or self is shown to negotiate with this hallucination, and to be led and manipulated towards specific behaviours. It is difficult to say whether the introjection was accompanied by reaction formation, because it is difficult to differentiate Stewart’s criminogenic attitudes and/or actions from those of his father. The film portrays his childhood as self-less, cold, and full of trauma. Therefore, it is unclear whether these behaviours constitute an exploration of his father’s ego through a primary regression to a narcissistic state in which the superego is formed based on values learned from the world; or whether it is his self that has become established as a personality (i.e. whether this would be his behaviour if he was not experiencing a psychotic break). The film captures his schizophrenic crisis quite well. It allows the viewer to enter the criminal mind from thought to action. Petrou manages to illustrate the criminal insanity perspective by placing emphasis on the hallucination as the drive towards criminogenic activity.

Political anchors: This case was a huge scandal in the year 2000 and many inquiries were launched at Feltham Young Offender Institution in order to investigate the steps the government of the UK could have taken in order to prevent this tragedy, and what steps could be taken to prevent it from ever happening again. It was concluded that legally, there was much more the system could have done to prevent this re-offending, and the death of Zahid Mubarek. This case was a scandal when it occurred, and it is perceived as a double-edged cumulative failure.

Categories
Apps Opinion Review

PM-cube: The Best Android Mental Health App for Academics

For a while, I had been looking for an app that immediately had a foundational, cognitively constructive effect on my experience. I must say this is not an app to go to if you are having a mental health crisis. Instead, it is an app that works wonders for anyone with a workload. Since human memory can be so unreliable as demonstrated by Loftus’ work on eyewitness and episodic memory, and being a student of Forensic Psychology, I wanted an app that soothed the academic in me, and that helped me successfully make sense of my thoughts, which are many; I mean, let’s be honest, I am a student, and I am an artist; and I have to think a lot about my future because I am trying to implement my plan of action to upgrade my quality of life, and to improve my mental health in the evergreen way. And well, that entails absorbing a lot of information. This is why I would like to recommend the app PM-cube. Every single time I use the app, there are immediate constructive results. 

Relevant Questions & Answers

Here are some questions you might be wondering in relation to what I mean about academic mental health.

Is this a ‘relax and meditate’ app?

No, at least not in the conventional way. I am a university student, I don’t have the time, money or luxury to relax. If I relax for too long, I freak out. The only thing that gives me inner peace is to learn more about lifeology, and to develop the skills necessary to sustain myself in peace with people and the environment. If you, like me, have been feeling stuck in uncertain times; then this app might help you premeditate, and boost your executive functions.

But, is this app designed for mental health?

I don’t know at this stage what the intent was with the creation of the app; however, I assume that it was designed to help people manage their lives and projects better. I have found it very helpful when I am feeling stuck. It makes a difference, and gets me out of the cognitive paralysis that can happen when I have 99 problems and finding an app that works for me is just 1 of them.

Will it work for every academic?

Probably not, although I assume that most academics are very busy people, so maybe it will soothe them.

What is an academic?

Funny you ask. According to the Macquarie Dictionary (2017), an academic is a person who is “a teacher or a researcher in a university or college”. For instance, Professor Loftus is an academic who is very much loved and respected internationally for all of her contributions to psychology and criminology (and who gave expert testimony for Ted Bundy‘s defence in court).

Should I meditate?

Meditation does not work for me, but premeditation does. Nevertheless, just because it does not work for me, it does not mean that it will not work for you.  However, if meditation apps are NOT what you are looking for, then you should defo try PM-CUBE (Marxer, 2015).

Are you okay?

Absolutely. Thanks for asking. Life is going relatively steady, and PM-Cube really helps me make it better. 

Is this an ad? 

No. I actually think this app is truly helpful. Hopefully you will find it helpful too. 

References

Butler, S. (2017) ‘Academic’, In Macquarie Dictionary, 7th ed [Online].Available at http://libezproxy.open.ac.uk/login?url=https://search.credoreference.com/content/entry/macqdict/academic/0?institutionId=292  (Accessed 2 February 2020).

Loftus, E. (2020) Professional Profile, UCI School of Social Ecology [Online]. Available at https://faculty.sites.uci.edu/eloftus/ (Accessed 2 February 2020). 

Marxer, C. G. (2015) The Project Management Cube [Android App]. Available at https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=ch.cubisma.thepm_cube (Accessed 2 February 2020). 

Categories
Opinion

Book Review: Ted Bundy: Conversations With a Killer

Because simply watching the docuseries on Netflix is not enough, I decided to read the book by Michaud and Aynesworth (2019) which contains the transcripts from conversations with Theodore Robert Bundy, also known as the All-American Boy (Loftus and Ketcham, 1991).

This book provides real insight into Bundy’s psychological discourse, and it can be observed that his superego mainly served as a reminder not to get caught. He could not control his impulses, and this is why he left such a high death toll. His moral degeneracy can be appreciated in his described thinking process, where he expresses how he felt it was not difficult at all to maintain such secret life hidden away from the consciousness of those who were part of his personal circle: “I became expert at projecting something very different. That I was very busy. It is clear now, I think, that a huge part of my life was hidden from everyone – secret, as it were. It didn’t take much effort” (p. 16). One thing that can be noticed throughout the conversations is that Ted Bundy had a form of self-serving bias which was compounded by his belief about what he called the psychological “condition”. He expressed his states of narcissistic melancholia mixed with helplessness in relation to what can be described as his criminogenic, sadistic needs and the satisficing of these. He expressed that at times he would lay with the corpses he created until these were putrid.

What I find particularly difficult to comprehend when it comes to studying Ted Bundy as a prototypical psychopath is that at times some of the statements he made about his experience posited that he had the capacity to feel fear, which goes beyond the scope of primary psychopathy: “I thought I was going to die every night the first few days I was in jail back in October of 1975. I was scared to death! Daily. I thought they were going to kill me” (p. 23). Was he saying the truth? I don’t know. However, some of his other statements did reveal his malignant personality, such as when speaking about the way in which he perceived his victims as objects: “Except he is not killing a person. He is killing an image” (p. 65). Whose image? is the question I have. Psychodynamic theorists would of course instantly say that perhaps he wanted to recreate the image of the woman who he had the most contempt against, his own mother.

Bundy truly believed that this “condition”- as he called it- was to blame for all of his behaviour; nevertheless, unable to meet the M’Naghtan rules, he was not found to be eligible to claim criminal insanity and even prominent expert witnesses and forensic psychologists such as Elizabeth Loftus (1991) describe having been disturbed by his sophisticated mannerisms and inappropriate body language and responses to contexts. In other words, Bundy had a theory of mind (ToM) deficit, and a surplus of self-esteem. Moreover, his construct of reality was based on self-justifications and false beliefs. The way in which he described his “disease” in third person was as follows: “what’s happening is that we’re building up the condition and what may have been a predisposition for violence becomes a disposition. And as the condition develops and its purposes or its characteristics become more well defined, it begins to demand more of the attention and time of the individual” (p. 71). Such cluster of personality traits and behaviour is classed in the DSM-5 as antisocial personality disorder (ASPD).

What’s interesting is that Bundy describes having been influenced by his peers’ concepts of the attractive woman when choosing his victims. This was perhaps the case because as a malignant narcissist, his desire to have complete control over such beautiful images meant that he needed to kill them in order to control everything about their interaction. According to Bundy he murdered his victims because he wanted to leave no living witness of his sexual atrocities. As the moral imbecile that he was, he even washed some of his victims’ hair and did their make up in order to have sex with their corpses until the rotting nature of death made it impossible to do so. This shows the utter perversion of this individual, and this is synthesised by his own words: “A certain amount of the need of that malignant condition had been satisfied through the sexual release. That driving force would recede somewhat, allowing the normal individual’s mental mechanisms to again begin to take hold” (p. 90).

What makes this a great book is that it is made up of transcripts mainly and this allows the reader to see the pathetically perverse side of Bundy that is so easily forgotten when watching his charming ways on camera right until the evening before he was finally executed in 1989. It truly feels like talking with this serial killer. A truly recommended reading for anyone interested in this particular case study or in understanding antisocial personality disorder more deeply.

References

Michaud, S.G. and Aynesworth, H. (2019) Ted Bundy: Conversations with a Killer, London, Mirror Books.

Loftus, E. and Ketcham, K. (1991) Witness for the Defense: The Accused, the Eyewitness, and the Expert Who Puts Memory on Trial, New York, St. Martin’s Press, pp. 61-91.