DynaPsych Table of Contents

Chaos Shadow Theory

by James Lindner


This paper is directed at theory building. I've drawn on key propositions from Jack Katz's phenomenological theory to form the framework for the theory that I'm presenting in this paper, which I call "Chaos Shadow Theory." This theory explains the nature of a serial murderer's multicidal experience. In this paper, I discuss the nature of the sensual dynamics that create the experiential foreground of his multicidal experience.

Chaos Shadow Theory is an explanation about the nature of these sensual dynamics, from a theoretical perspective, that takes into account the development of a state of consciousness that's characterized by these primary dimensions of his experience.

Keywords: criminal psychopathology, criminal psychology, criminology, Katz, psychodynamic, serial murder, Chaos Shadow Theory, sociopath

I feel that any single perspective for explaining any form of criminal behavior is inadequate. There are always competing sociocultural, psychological, and biological factors underlying any explanation for a given form of criminal behavior patterns. In cases involving psychopathology, however, I believe that the weighting should go towards psychobiological and psychiatric explanations for explaining a given set of criminal behavior patterns. Most sociogenic approaches, with the exception of Social Bonding Theories, are inadequate for explaining the phenomenon of serial murder. However, even Social Bonding Theories are inadequate as an overall explanation for the phenomenon. Objective approaches to studying criminological phenomena use a predominantly sociocultural perspective, whereas subjective approaches tend to draw on biological, psychological, and psychiatric perspectives. A subjective approach is used in this paper.

This paper is directed at theory building. Jack Katz's phenomenological theory serves as the framework for my theory, which I'm presenting as an explanation for the development of a state of consciousness that characterizes the sensual dynamics of a serial murderer's multicidal experience. I've incorporated elements from Chaos Theory within this design, and I've drawn predominantly on psychobiological and psychodynamic explanations for explaining the phenomenon in question. I've developed this theory by using the grounded theory method.

In the context of putting this theory forward, which I call, "Chaos Shadow Theory," for reasons which will become apparent, I've drawn on literature about phenomena that will support the propositions that structure this theory. They'll be obvious, therefore they won't require elaboration when they're put forth in support of my theory.

The following quote is by the serial murderer Dennis Nilsen. It relates to a state of consciousness that he experienced while committing his murders. What's ambiguous about his statement will become clearer, when it's reflected upon within the context of Chaos Shadow Theory, because it addresses such phenomena.

I cannot bring myself to keep remembering these incidents over and over again.
These are ugly images totally alien to me. I seem to have not participated in
them, merely stood by and watched them happen--enacted by two other players--
like a central camera (Masters, 1993, pg. 137).


I'll present Chaos Shadow Theory after I compare and contrast the following theories about the phenomenon of serial murder: a psychobiological theory, a psychiatric theory, a psychological theory, and a sociological theory. (You'll note that I make reference to a serial murderer as 'he,' because most serial murderers are men, and because a lack of clarity will be avoided in presenting the theory by continuously referring to a serial murderer in a manner such as he/she.)

A Psychobiological Theory About Serial Murderers

Research has shown that serial murderers have organic disorders of their central nervous systems, which can result from biochemical imbalances, genetic disorders, or injuries to the brain. Disorders of the hypothalamus, the temporal lobe, as well as other limbic structures of the brain, have been found to be key factors underlying the syndrome of psychopathology that's present in serial murderers. An organic disorder of the limbic region of the brain can impair the way primal neurological circuits function.

Damage to the hypothalamus (which is the emotional voltage regulator of the brain) can short-circuit the brain's ability to measure emotional and physical responses to real or perceived threats (Norris, 1988). 

Dr. Jan Volavka has shown that vertical spikes interrupt the EEG brain wave patterns of violent felons. This is an indication that powerful discharges of electricity are being activated from deep within the limbic areas of their brains. In many cases, these voltage spikes are so great that they’ll make the stylus of the EEG shoot across the chart as if it where recording the impact of a bullet. These discharges of electricity originate in the most primitive area of the brain (Norris, 1988).

Dr. Vernon Mark has demonstrated that certain disorders of the temporal lobe are characterized by certain behavior patterns that are commonly found among serial murderers. These patterns begin with an aura phase, which is characterized by hyperstimulation. This may be caused by neurons (deep inside the primitive brain) beginning to fire, which will cause him to experience an upheaval of primal emotions. When this occurs, he'll be driven by primal instincts. This will precede the onset of specific fantasies, in which he'll act out the complete crime in his mind with a victim.
In the next phase (the trolling phase), he'll begin to seek out a victim.
A serial murderer's trolling pattern mirrors the activation of a primal circuit that lies just below his conscious awareness (Norris, 1988).

The preceding psychobiological perspective is significant, because it translates biological processes into psychological affects that are experienced by a serial murder. As such, it becomes a significant piece of the puzzle in the etiology of a serial murderer.

A Psychiatric Theory About Serial Murderers
Multiple Personality Disorder
(Dissociative Identity Disorder)

Dr. Carlistle is a psychologist who has had daily contact with serial murderers in a prison setting. He feels that they have a multiple personality structure, and an overwhelming urge to kill, which becomes unbearable and takes them over. Serial murderers, who have been interviewed, have stated that in the midst of committing murders, they felt as if their personalities had been taken over, whereby they became like witnesses to the murders they committed (Lunde, D., 1976).

An individual with multiple personality disorder has learned to deal with emotional stress by repressing traumatic memories and emotions into his unconscious mind. He'll have used defense mechanisms to create an area in it (a dissociated energy system) in which he could repress negative emotions (such as hatred, anger, and murderous urges), attitudes, and potential behavior patterns. This creates a continuous build up of these emotions, which gained strength over time as negative emotions, etc., were continuously repressed into it. It eventually developed a structure, identity, and purpose of its own. When it was needed for protection and survival, it made itself known as a hostile protector, striking back at the child's identified enemy. His Ego (basic personality) is amnesic when it makes its presence known.

If this alternate personality is about to go too far, a rescuer personality may be created to calmly deal with these negative situations, which means that three personalities are then sharing the same body.  At first, these alternate personalities have a protective function towards the Ego, but after a while they may develop interests and activities of their own that the Ego knows nothing about. The defense mechanism of denial is used to ignore this reality.  When specific emotions are aroused, they're triggered.

Activities get done, and the Ego doesn't remember how this happened (Allison, 1982).

Both serial murderers Ted Bundy and Dennis Nilsen have each referred to their alternate personality in a singular sense. Also, they've acknowledged being aware of it.  In an individual with MPD, the Ego is unaware of an alternate personality that is manifesting itself. Norris (1988) states that Ted Bundy knew that he didn't have a split personality, because he knew what he was doing and where he was. He also knew that what was inside of him was a part of him. Also, there's no mention of any other helper personalities. There's only the recognition of one other personality.

I'll discuss the significance of these factors later on in another section of this paper.

A Psychological Theory About Serial Murderers

Sean Hill states in, "Nurture-Born Killers: The Motivation and Personality Development of the Serial Killer," that a serial killer's mind is characterized by sociopathic features (Abrahamsen,1973), and that there are traits that are commonly found in sociopaths that overlap with traits that are commonly found in serial murderers. He states that the difference between the two may lie in the tension-reduction cycle in the methods that are chosen to reduce tension. He further states that the Nihilistic killer derives pleasure from killing, and that these motivational dynamics are characterized by patterns that correspond to the adult serial murderer, who kills many victims over a period of time for no apparent motive other than that of satisfaction and the release of tension (Hill, 1994).

Hill goes on to state that Liebert (1985) suggested that a serial murderer is the product of very primitive emotions, and that violent and impulsive sexual behavior is the organizing force behind his personality. In the serial murderer, the pleasure principle takes the dominant role in personality development, and hate and revenge become fused, which causes the serial murderer to see the world in psychopathic colors (Hill, 1994).

Hill recognizes that psychodynamic factors are important in the etiology of a serial murderer. He also recognizes the importance of considering the pleasure principle in a serial murderer's multicidal behavior. These factors are important in accounting for a serial murderer's multicidal behavior.

They're a key piece of the puzzle, therefore these factors need to be considered in any overall explanation for the phenomenon of serial murder.

A Sociological theory About Serial Murderers
A Social Bonding Theory

Travis Hirschi's, "Social Bond Theory," (A Social Control Theory) focuses on how individuals bond to society. An individual develops social consciousness depending on the quality of his attachments to others (his interest in others). According to this theory, if the individual's attachment to society is weak, he/she may defy the moral codes of his/her society.

Research has demonstrated support for aspects of, "Social Bond Theory."

The FBI had agents conduct interviews on a subsample of 36 sexual serial murderers who were selected for gaining insight into the development of profiling strategies. It was discovered that their early attachments to significant others showed a general lack of bonding with them, which characterized how they related to bonding with others later in life.

The men in the study experienced low social attachments, and they felt detached from family members and peers. Also, they didn't experience the forms of bonding through which people develop empathy towards others

(FBI Bulletin, 1984).

As a child, a serial murderer used fantasy to escape from a negative family environment. In the fantasy, he entered into a world that he was in control of. One in which he acted out abuse against others, rather than being the target of it. These fantasies gave him feelings of perceived control, and they came to be his primary source of emotional arousal. These fantasies later structured his multicidal activities, as a kind of architecture, in which he could experience an environment that he could fulfill his multicidal motivations in. When these factors are combined with aspects of bonding theory, a structuring process develops that informs later multicidal behavioral patterns. These factors are significant, but they're only a part of the puzzle in the etiology of a serial murderer.

The Experiential Foreground

Jack Katz (1988) states in, "Seductions of Crime," that in a given situation, an individual will have to arrange his/her environment so that it pacifies his subjective awareness, in order to submit to forces that transcend it, in order for him/her to experience the emotional extremes of eros (the instinct for pleasure and sex) and thanatos (the death instinct, which motivates aggression and destructive behavior). The result of this is that he/she experiences a different world. These propositions are important, because they serve as the framework for, "Chaos Shadow Theory."

Katz's phenomenological perspective emphasizes understanding an individual's motivations. It also emphasizes understanding the individual's experiential foreground (Williams and McShane, 1988), which in itself requires one to understand a situation from the view of the offender.

This is important, because an explanation for the phenomenon of serial murder would have to take into account the development of a state of awareness that characterizes a serial murderer's multicidal experience.

This is done in, "Chaos Shadow Theory."

The Grounded Theory Method

I created Chaos Shadow Theory as a result of applying the grounded theory method to different forms of data that converged on the same phenomena. The Grounded Theory Method is a qualitative research method.  It's goal is to construct theories in order to understand phenomena. There's a focus on understanding action from the perspective of the actor(s). In using this approach, one gathers data from a variety of sources.  Once collected, the data is analyzed by using coding and theoretical sampling procedures. The intent is to develop an account of a phenomenon that identifies the major categories, their relationships to each other, the context that this takes place in, as well as processes that are involved in this (Becker, 1993). 

A theory emerges from these data sources in accordance with the method of making constant comparisons. The process is inductive, however, theories are also abductivly derived from data patterns, which are then elaborated upon through the construction of models that are based on their explanatory coherence (Haig, 1996). Pattern-matching techniques can be used to link data to one's propositions (Tellis, 1997). As patterns emerge, and as concepts are spotted that could fit together, they're linked together through an analytical framework (Kinach, 1996). In using case studies with this method, generalizations are made to theory and not to populations (Pandit, 1996), and conditions are explained through the perspective of the actors. Closure is reached when the marginal value of the new data is minimal. When one is satisfied that the theory is satisfactorily integrated, the theory is presented either in a discussion, or as a set of propositions (Kinach, 1996). The term, 'data,' as I use it in this paper, refers to different forms of technical literature on the subject, theoretical and philosophical papers that are related to it, and other forms of data, such as quotes that were made by serial murderers (which have been derived from literature on the subject).

Jeremy Anderson states that unconscious drives are present in the multicidal actions of a serial murderer, and that these drives are shrouded in darkness. The actual origin of the serial killer is still mostly mystery
(Anderson, 1994).  It is known that stress is the triggering stimuli for most serial murders (Ressler, 1988), therefore, any explanation for the phenomenon of serial murder must be able to account for it in terms that are related to these other factors. This is done in, "Chaos Shadow Theory."

Psychodynamic Structures

In using a psychodynamic approach, to understand an individual's underlying motivations for his/her behavior, the focus is on the influence of his/her unconscious mental processes on his/her behavior. The interplay of these unconscious processes is what determines his/her thoughts, feelings, and behaviors. An individual's primary motivation is the rationalization of his/her drives and instincts, or the reconciliation of the conflicting claims of his/her Id, Ego, and Super-ego. (Due to the nature of sociopathy, which will be discussed, the role of the Super-ego isn't important throughout this discussion.) In an unconscious part of the psyche, memories and desires are hidden from an individual's conscious awareness because of Ego constraints. The contents of the unconscious may only be brought into consciousness through the removal of these Ego defenses.

When an individual pushes abnormal psychic states (Psyche refers to mental dynamics as they pertain to energy, motion, and forcefulness.) down into his/her unconscious, the energy creates a drive that starts pushing up from the unconscious to the surface of the conscious. If enough negative energy builds up in the unconscious, and the Ego pushes it down (represses it) to keep it out of conscious awareness, its force will grow stronger, and it will eventually want to come out and manifest itself at a conscious level of awareness, be it through displaced emotions, catharsis, etc. (see Figure 1). This energy feeds the structures of the unconscious.

The Shadow is a structural component of the psyche.  It's the darker side of our unconscious self. The Shadow is a part of the personality.

It's the dark side of the personality that contains the animal instincts, therefore it's intimately connected to the Id and its structures thanatos and eros.  It's the part of the personality that's repressed from the Ego.

It's in conflict with the Ego, therefore it's forced out of mental awareness by the Ego's defense mechanisms.  It's built up of emotionally laden thoughts that can influence an individual's behavior. The Shadow can manifest itself at a conscious level of awareness, in the case of a serial murderer, because of his sociopathic character and personality structure, the organic disorders that exist in his limbic brain, and the extreme nature of phenomena that his Ego is repressing, which has been developed from the unique psychodynamic influences that have structured his unconscious, hence his Shadow. My theory is based on these factors.

The Structuring of the Shadow

As a child, a serial murderer used fantasy to escape from a negative family environment.  In the fantasy, he entered into a world that he was in control of. In this world, he acted out abuse against others, rather than being the target of it.  He received pleasure from revenge through turning the tables by exercising power over another. These fantasies gave him feelings of perceived control (Sanes, 1995-1998). As an adult, the crime itself becomes a fantasy played out by the murderer. He usually plays out a violent fantasy at the crime scene, in which the victim is inserted into a role. He'll engage in behaviors that establish that he's in control, and he'll behave in ways that provide for later reenactments (Simon, 1995). Depending on his individual makeup, he may experience an attack as a form of sex, and the excited reaction of the victim as a kind of sexual response (Sanes, 1996-1998).

(It should be noted, however, that not all serial murderers are sexual serial murderers.) His dominant emotional state acts as a filter through which he interprets external events, which are then reflected in his patterned responses (Ressler et. al., 1988). The murder is an act, which has underlying themes that reflect violence, sexuality, and death. Simon (1995) states that the fantasies of serial murderers link sexual and destructive acts. Anger fuels these violent acts (Turvey, 1995).

The preceding factors are reflected in a serial murderer's crime scene behavior. The physical and psychological evidence of a crime scene is used to profile the murderer in a serial crime. The physical evidence tells one what behaviors occurred. A sense of motive is constructed from the murderer's behavioral patterns and behavioral traces, because the murderer's premurder fantasy is constructed from this. He has probably lived out the crime in a fantasy before he actually committed it.

The planning of the murder is reflected in the murderer's actions, which tends to reflect ritualized behavior, which itself reflects his multicidal fantasy. The crime scene echoes elements of this fantasy (Turvey, 1995).

A serial murderer has a sociopathic character and personality structure. He's impulsive, and he feels little if any guilt. From a lack of guilt comes a lack of anxiety, which is reflected as a coolness and calmness when committing a murder. He'll have a lack of remorse and shame, and he tends to have a lack of empathy for others (Turvey, 1995). His multicidal behavior flows from a mind-set with the following features: a persistent motivation to kill, an expressive orientation that reflects this, and a sociopathic character structure (Holmes, R., and De Burger, J., 1988). He's also influenced by unconscious drives (Turvey, 1995). 

According to Norris (1988), the symptoms that underlie a serial murderer's psychopathology usually fall outside of a traditional psychiatrist's expertise, and they can't be evaluated by traditional criminological techniques. During a serial murderer's development, a unique set of defense mechanisms emerge that are composed of the same factors that make for sociopathy and MPD. These factors interact with any pre-existing organic disorders in his brain during his multicidal experience.

It appears that the same mechanisms that are used by an individual with MPD, in creating an alternate personality, are similar to the mechanisms that produce the Shadow in a serial murderer. However, there are significant differences that indicate that a serial murderer couldn't have MPD, and that indicate that an individual with MPD couldn't be a serial murderer in the proper sense of the term. This will be discussed later.

The Role of Chaos Theory:
The Field of the Ego and the Field of the Shadow

Chaos Theory is the study of complex nonlinear dynamic systems.
Its principles are used to study the nature of the feedback loops in nonlinear systems.  Its focus is on emerging patterns in the ecosystem, as they’re reflected in the patterns in conditions that produce given forms of crime through their effects upon the individual. In contrast to Chaos Theory, Chaos Shadow Theory focuses on the individual. Never-the-less, certain principles from Chaos Theory hold true for feedback mechanisms that operate on an individual level, which are reflected in the psychodynamic factors that structure Chaos Shadow Theory.
These factors include its focus on a complex interdependent matrix of causality, the structures that are emerging from this process, and the recognition that one structure can occupy the same time/space region as another one. The later point is reflected in the following analogy:

               An important aspect of atomic theory is the void between
               atoms.  In quantum mechanics, particles aren't believed
               to have a definite boundary between the particles and the 
               void, nor are they believed to have a definite location and
               momentum. Their wave functions are thought to be
               continuous in space. This extension of the particle's
               wave function means that the particle is everywhere.
               If two particles (the Ego and the Shadow) are not identical, 
               then they’re their wave-functions (their fields). Therefore, 
               they can occupy the same space. This allows for motion. 
               When a particle moves, it is merely changing the amplitude 
               of its wave function (Smith, 1994). Einstein put forth the 
               idea that a material point could no longer be the basic 
               concept in his theory. It would have to be something that  
               continuously covers all of space, such as fields 
               (Krogh, 1994).

These factors serve as an analogy for the psychodynamic mechanisms involved in Chaos Shadow Theory. In the same way that two particles (that are not identical) can occupy the same space, the Shadow can occupy the same space as the Ego, because they're different mental structures.

This is explained below.

The Hydraulic Affect

Serial murderers have a sociopathic character and personality structure.  This predisposes them towards having a mechanism that induces Ego displacement (see the appendix). A sociopath will displace his Ego to a preconscious state of awareness when certain forms of stress are anticipated. This gating out mechanism, that's unique to a sociopath, has an inverse relationship to the mechanisms that are amplifying the Shadow's field. However, both kinds of mechanisms simultaneously displace the Ego to a preconscious state of awareness. The gating out mechanism decreases the amplitude of the Ego's field, while the Hydraulic Affect's mechanisms (which are also unique in a serial murderer) amplify the Shadow's field. When a serial murderer (who is a sociopath) perceives a situation that's characterized by impending negative stress, he'll disassociate (his Ego will enter into a preconscious state of awareness), so that he can successfully deal with the impending stress. This preconscious state of awareness exists is experienced by serial murderers during their multicidal experience. This is reflected in the following quote from an FBI Bulletin (1984):

          Motivation operates on many levels. We are referring here to the conscious or
          preconscious awareness of the murderers, the structure of their fantasies, and
          the resultant act of murder. We use the term "preconscious" since many of the
          interviews with the murderers reveal this level.

During a state of Ego displacement, its defense mechanisms are inhibited while it's temporarily displaced to a level of preconscious awareness.

At the same time, the stressor has triggered the Hydraulic Affect.

This opens up the way for the expression of unconscious structures at the level of conscious awareness. (Jung (1964) states, "Just as conscious contents can vanish into the unconscious, other contents can also arise from it.") They're propelled by psychic energy that's been building up, and is building up, in his unconscious, which are emotional states that are expressed through thanatos and eros (and which partake of their natures).

The Hydraulic Affect  itself (see Figure 1) is caused from the build up of repressed psychic energy. This may trigger electrical discharges in a serial murderer's brain, which will propel and amplify this field forward.

(This becomes clear when one reflects upon this in the context of the nature of specific brain mechanisms as they relate to the nature of specific psychic mechanisms.) The Ego's defense mechanisms are overridden by the structures of the unconscious, as they're propelled by the Hydraulic Affect to the surface of conscious awareness. In such a state, the Shadow will come to the surface of consciousness, energized by the unconscious’ psychic energy that was formerly repressed.  

When the Ego’s displaced to a preconscious state of awareness, the structures of the Id are manifested through the Shadow, which acts as the mechanism that comes to the forefront of consciousness when the Ego’s temporarily displaced. In such a state, an individual will experience the emotional extremes of thanatos and eros (which were previously repressed by the defense mechanisms) as they come to the surface of conscious awareness.

These psychodynamic factors are reflected in themes in the following statement which was made by the serial murderer Dennis Nilsen:

I believe my offenses are motivated by emotional disorders under unique
conditions of extreme mental pressure which releases areas in the subconscious
when I have lost control... (Masters, 1993,  pg. 179).

These factors are also reflected in themes in the following quotes by the serial murderer Ted Bundy:

        There’s a certain amount of tension, uh, struggle, between the normal personality
        and this, uh, psychopathological, uh, entity...The tension between normal individual 
        and those demands being submitted to him via the competing...this condition inside
        him seems to be competing for more attention...And it’s not an independent thing.
        One doesn’t switch on and the other doesn’t switch off. They’re more or less active
        at the same time.  Sometimes one is more active...” “...a point would be reached 
        when we’d had all of this, this reservoir of tension building.  Building and building.
        Finally, inevitably, this force--this entity--would make a breakthrough...
        (Aynesworth and Michaud as cited by, "The Collectors, 1998).

These themes are also reflected in the following quote about the serial murderer Andrei Chikatilo:

          Kostoev (the Chief Inspector) observed that Chikatilo made a point of using  
          passive and impersonal forms in his speech. It was not something he'd done 
          something had happened to him. His throat would go dry, forces would 
          overwhelm him. Then he, a man whom his son had described as someone "who 
          went pale at the sight of a drop of his own blood," would become a maniac for 
          whom blood was the most exciting of sights. The compulsion would come over 
          him any time.  He had murdered on the way to visit his dying father and on his 
          way to his son's trial for petty theft (Lourie, 1993, pg. 220). 

The preceding factors result in unconscious material, such as repressed emotions (operating through thanatos and eros, which operate through the Shadow structure), being manifested at a conscious level of awareness, through the Shadow structure, as a result of this transformation in consciousness. In such a state of awareness, a serial murderer's Ego

(which is at a preconscious level of awareness) will view itself through the Shadow (which is at the conscious level of awareness), and the Shadow will be experiencing the emotional extremes of thanatos and eros at a conscious level of awareness. In such a state, his Shadow will exert more force on his psyche than his Ego will.

The Hydraulic Affect (see figure 1) acts as an amplifier of the Shadow.

Stress triggers the Hydraulic Affect, whereby the Shadow overrides the Ego's consciousness field, which is experienced by the Ego as a dissociation of itself to a preconscious level of awareness, which inhibits its defense mechanisms. This enables the Ego to experience the emotional extremes of eros and thanatos, because it's in a state of oneness with the Shadow as a result of its field being submerged in the Shadow's field.

The Shadow's field overpowers the Ego's field, therefore it becomes what the Ego was, prior to its displacement to a preconscious state of awareness, which is the center of consciousness. Thus, the Ego is displaced by a powerful field, which overrides it (which creates an affect in the Ego of a preconscious state of awareness) as the Shadow takes over the center of consciousness. This is reflected in themes in the following material about the serial murderer Ted Bundy: 

"There is something the matter with me," Ted Bundy told his girl friend, Liz Kendall, after his arrest in Florida. He admitted to a force within him that had begun sucking in his living personality...He tried to suppress this force that was building in him, but it was too strong.  The more energy he applied against it to keep it normal, the more the force grew in him (Norris, 1988, pg. 201).

The Hydraulic Affect causes a time lag mechanism (see figure 3) in the chain of events in which the Shadow would have a channel in which to act.  This would occur as the Ego is displaced to the level of preconsciousness, while simultaneously the Hydraulic Affect is propelling the Shadow to the center of consciousness. This would explain why the Shadow would exert more force on the psyche than the Ego would in a Shadow state of awareness. Conscious experience is based on sensations and feelings, and combined with the fact that a thing acts according to its specific nature, one can conclude that the Shadow would express its specific nature at a conscious level of awareness in a manner that is consistent with the sensations and feelings that a serial murderer experiences, which should be ones that reflect the emotional extremes of thanatos and eros. This is reflected in a serial murderer's multicidal behavior.

The Shadow becomes his primary state of consciousness. The Ego has been forcefully overpowered by the Shadow, which it experiences as a displacement of itself to a preconscious state of awareness. However, both the Shadow and the Ego share the same field of awareness, because the Ego has been submerged in the Shadow's field; therefore the emotional force of the Shadow is experienced by the Ego in what's akin to a state of oneness with the now more powerful Shadow. The Shadow controls the consciousness mechanism in a Shadow state of awareness, therefore the Ego will feel itself overpowered by the Shadow. It's greater force temporarily overcomes the Ego, which is overwhelmed by its force when it (the Shadow) is propelled to conscious awareness (to the center of consciousness), which the Ego was at prior to its displacement to preconscious awareness. These themes are reflected in the following statement by the serial murderer Ted Bundy:

         In an interview, Ted Bundy stated the following when asked how his "Entity" 
         developed. He stated, "More or less, it takes over the whole, it takes over the basic 
         consciousness mechanism, and more or less dictates what's going to be done...I 
         think that there's more an integration here, an interrelationship, which when the 
         malignant portion of my personality or consciousness, call it what you will--the 
         entity--is more or less directing the mood and the action.  I'm still on another level 
         conscious of this, I'm not totally unconscious of, or unaware of it" (Nelson, 1994,  
         pg. 292-293).

In summary, the Ego experiences the emotional extremes of eros and thanatos through the amplification of the Shadow's field across its field, wherein the experience of the Shadow is felt by the Ego as the Ego is overwhelmed by it. This amplified field operates across the Ego structure, which means that the emotional extremes of eros and thantos also operate across the Ego's field of awareness. Therefore, the Ego (from a preconscious level of awareness) experiences the emotional extremes of eros and thanatos through the Shadow (which is at the center of consciousness) through the Shadow's overpowering field (the amplified Shadow Field).

Triggering Mechanisms

Simon (1995), states that serial murderers seem to become addicted to a high that they experience as a result of committing murder. The serial murderers Dahmer and Kempar described it as being almost addicting.

It's believed that some serial murderers may have an unrecognized, atypical form of mood disorder. According to Holmes and De Burger (1988), Ted Bundy stated that murder is a psychological high that serial killers need to repeat (Anderson, 1994).

Serial murderers are sociopaths, and research has shown that sociopaths measure high on levels of dopamine activity (Zuckerman, 1989).

Dopamine is a neurotransmitter that's thought to bring about feelings of bliss. These chemicals play a role in the limbic system, which is the seat of emotions. Emotions, such as wrath, hate, and joy originate in the limbic system. Mechanisms for aggression (that take the form of instinctive reactions) are located in the primitive brain, which is where brain stem structures are located. Within the brain stem there are dopamine-secreting neurons, which affect the mesolimbic dopamine pathways. Pleasurable sensations are produced when they stimulate neurons in that region of the brain. Psychomotor seizure-like discharges of electricity are being triggered in the deep structures of the limbic brain in serial murderers during their multicidal experience. This originates in the primitive areas of the brain. These seizure-like discharges may activate systems that trigger increases in dopamine activity, which may trigger the high that a serial murderer experiences when he's committing a murder.

Shadow Dynamics:
These Dynamics Summarized

The processes involved in what I refer to as Shadow Dynamics can be summarized as follows. Stress triggers the Hydraulic Affect, which triggers electrical discharges (seizure-like discharges) in the primitive areas and limbic areas of a serial murderer's brain. The Hydraulic Affect varies directly with these electrical discharges. These electrical discharges operate like a negatively charged field upon the Hydraulic Affect's field.  (The presence of a field indicates that energy is being stored.) This could occur as the Hydraulic Affect's field triggers these electrical discharges, which causes it to amplify and propel this field forward. This provides the force for the Shadow to overcome the Ego's defense mechanisms, which means that it can overpower the Ego's field. This, in a sense, buries the Ego's field within its field, as the Shadow is propelled to conscious awareness.

While this is occurring, the mechanisms that enable a sociopath to gate out sensory input (based on perceived impending stress), are acting upon the Ego like a positively charged field, pulling it inward. This creates an inverse relationship between the Shadow's field and the Ego's field. The Ego's defense mechanisms are inhibited by this process, which causes their fields to attract each other. However, because the Shadow's field is overpowering the Ego's field, the attraction between their fields becomes the mechanism that causes the Ego to be locked in the Shadow's field, which the Ego experiences as a preconscious state of awareness. In such a state of awareness, the Ego will experience the emotional extremes of thanatos and eros through the Shadow as the Shadow experiences them.

This will create a phenomenological affect, which will be experienced as a sequence of events. This sequence of events is represented in the three attached diagrams (Figures 1, 2, and 3). In addition to these factors, because a serial murderer is a sociopath, he should have high levels of dopamine (see the, "Triggering Mechanisms," section), which means that he should be able to experience a "high" in a Shadow state of awareness as a result of electrical discharges being triggered in his brain, which will affect primal circuits and certain limbic structures in his brain.

These factors are overwhelming, because of the forcefulness of high levels of repressed emotions, the catharsis from their release, and the high that reinforces the serial murderer's multicidal behavior. These diagrams (Figures 1, 2, and 3) have been simplified so that the mechanisms involved in the seizure-like discharges of electricity (which are being triggered by the Hydraulic Affect) are not shown, because they overlap the processes in the diagrams. However, these seizure-like discharges may amplify processes that are represented in the diagrams, such as those processes that propel the Shadow to the center of consciousness, whereby a preconscious state of awareness is created in the Ego's field by the amplification of the Shadow's field across its field. This will also inhibit it's defense mechanisms which already started to weaken as the serial murderer/sociopath began gating out sensory input in relation to the stressor. The gating out mechanisms have an inverse relationship (in the way they affect the Ego) to the mechanisms that are amplifying the Shadow's field. However, both

kinds of mechanisms simultaneously displace the Ego to a preconscious state of awareness.

Contrasting Shadow Theory with MPD (Dissociative Identity Disorder)

In MPD the Ego is characterized as absent while an alternate personality takes the individual over. Individuals afflicted with MPD experience Ego blackouts. This is not the case for a serial murderer. He may experience lapses in memory, but in general he's aware of the Shadows presence.

His Ego is in what is akin to a state of oneness with his Shadow during a Shadow state of awareness (which is a Shadow state of consciousness).

Also, the Ego's aware of the Shadow's overpowering influence, from what it perceives as a preconscious state of awareness. A serial murderer has a very developed Shadow. He isn't fragmenting.

Consciousness is the product of biological mechanisms. Although there are no good neural network models for explaining MPD, research has indicated that there may be an nRt mechanism involved it the switching from alter to alter that's probably mediated by projections from paralimbic regions. Perhaps Newman and Grace's model comes the closest to explaining this episodic splitting of memory and self, but much basic work remains to be done on this, because it's one of the most puzzling disorders of consciousness (Putnam, 1992).

Ted Bundy recognized that he didn't have Multiple Personality Disorder

(Dissociative Identity Disorder). From both his and Dennis Nilsen's descriptions, it's clear that their alternate personalities were in control of them when they committed their murders, and it's also clear that they were aware of its presence by the descriptions that they gave, such as where they state that they felt like witnesses to the murders that they were committing, etc. Also, one can note in the following quotes, that Ted Bundy is describing a sort of collaboration between what he refers to as his, "rational normal self, " and his "Entity," and a similar sort of collaboration is occurring with Dennis Nilsen with what he refers to as his, "inner me."

It should be noted that both Ted Bundy and Dennis Nilsen are describing one being, one other personality, and not multiple personalities. 

What each one of them is describing is his Shadow, however, they were not aware of its true nature.

These themes are reflected in the following quotes by the serial murderer Ted Bundy:

      ...I would envision a continuation of this kind of collaboration... between that one
      part of this person's self. Which demands certain gratification, and the more 
      dominant, law abiding, more ethical, rational normal self--which was sort of forced 
      to become a party to this kind of conduct. Basically you might say there was a 
      shared division of responsibility (Aynesworth and Michaud as cited by, "The 
      Collectors," 1998).

These themes are also reflected in the following quotes by the serial murderer Dennis Nilsen:

       I have always covered up for the "inner me" that I loved.  He just acted and I had to
       solve all of his problems in the cool light of day.  I could not turn him in without 
       also destroying myself.  In the end he lost.  He still lies dormant within me...When I 
       was on my high, Bleep would become sometimes frightened.  She was only a 
       simple dog but even she could see that it was not the real Des Nilsen...She would 
       go off to a quiet corner and hide. She would greet me the next morning as though 
       I had been away...dogs know when your mind has been changed in a drastic way... 
       (Masters, 1993, pg. 275).

The only significant factor that, "Shadow Theory," has in common with MPD, is that the Shadow appears to be developed through the same processes that are involved in the creation of an alternate personality in MPD.

Simon (1995) states that as with Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, most serial murderers can appear quite normal, however, as in the story of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, what happens is that Mr. Hyde gradually takes over. 

It becomes harder and harder to bring back the kinder Dr. Jekyll.

It's apparent that many serial murderers, specifically organized ones (a typology), plan their murders carefully in an effort to avoid getting caught.

This is reflected in the patterns that emerge in data as a result of applying geoforensic profiling techniques to a serial murderer's behavioral patterns and traces. The patterns that often develop appear to be ones in which the murderer is rationally calculating his murders. However, his rationality serves irrational impulses, therefore it's more of a case of bounded rationality. In such circumstances it appears that the serial murderer's Shadow is exerting more force on his psyche (from an unconscious state) than his Ego is. This is reflected by the fact that the rational aspects of his psyche are serving the irrational aspects of his psyche by creating a situation in which his Ego will displace itself so that his Shadow can manifest itself at the center of his consciousness, which is a Shadow state of awareness. (He's not consciously aware of these underlying motivations though.).  This is reflected in his behavior patterns that precede and follow his multicidal experience.


Most people are influenced by the unconscious contents of their minds to some degree, which is reflected in their behavior. However, they don't disassociate under negative stress (They're not sociopaths.), nor have their Shadows been developed from the extreme phenomena that has structured the unconscious of a serial murderer. They don't have the psychic mechanisms in place to propel their Shadows to the center of conscious awareness. Nor are their Egos displaced under negative stress, which means that their Egos' defense mechanisms will prevent them from entering into a Shadow state of awareness. Sociopaths are rare, and serial murderers are even rarer, and unlike most people, their Shadows are very developed.

I’m not attempting to explain any other type of crime through this theory other than that of serial murder.  I’m only attempting to explain how, "Chaos Shadow Theory," can explain the nature of the sensual dynamics that characterize a serial murderer's multicidal experience, from a theoretical perspective, that takes into account the development of a state of consciousness that's characterized by these sensual dimensions.

Serial murderers are a product of both nature and nurture. Therefore, any explanation for serial murder should bridge factors that are related to both of these dimensions as reciprocally related explanations for the phenomenon of serial murder. These factors need to be considered within a phenomenological framework, such as Katz's, which can capture the true nature of this phenomenon.


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Hare, R.D. 1978.  Electrodermal and Cardiovascular Correlates of Sociopathy.  In R.D.

Hare & D. Schalling (eds.), Psychopathic behavior: approaches to research.

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Holmes, R., and De Burger, J.  1988.  Serial murder.  Beverly Hills, CA: Sage Publications.

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The following publication has further information on Bonding Theories:

US Congress.  (1984). Serial Murders:  Hearing before the subcommittee of juvenile justice of the committee on the Judiciary US Senate, 98th Congress, 1st Session, on 'Patterns of Murders Committed by one person, in large numbers with no apparent rhyme, reason or motivation. Washington: US Government.

Biological and Psychological Variables in Sociopathy

Both biological and psychological variables have been considered in the search for the causes of sociopathy. It's believed that a sociopath may have a disorder in his autonomic nervous system that's thought to play a central role in states of emotion. Therefore, researchers have examined sociopaths for both their resting levels of autonomic activity and their patterns of autonomic reactivity. Most studies have shown that they have lower levels of skin conductance when compared to nonsociopath test subjects, and they're also less reactive to aversive stimuli. The heart rate of sociopaths are also similar to the heart rates of nonsociopaths in resting conditions, and they're similar to the heart rates of nonsociopaths in their reactivity to stimuli.  However, in situations where they anticipate stressful stimuli, they show greater than normal increases in their heart rates (Oltmanns, et al., 1991). Hare (1978) states that their increased heart rate is an indication of lowered cortical arousal and a gating out of sensory input, which indicates that they are tuning out anticipated aversive stimuli.

Their lowered levels of skin conductance indicates that they have successfully coped with it by gating it out (Oltmanns, et al., 1991).

Further research (Jutai and Hare, 1983) has shown that sociopaths are adept at ignoring stimuli. Evidence suggests that the disposition toward sociopathy may involve a problem in their autonomic nervous system (Oltmanns, et al., 1991). These factors indicate that a sociopath will disassociate under stress, which is in effect a suppression of the Ego to a preconscious state of awareness. According to Linda Mealey (1995), primary sociopaths have a diminished ability to experience anxiety, which diminishes there ability to form conditioned associations between antisocial behavior and the consequent punishment. Therefore, they'll be unable to progress through the normal stages of moral development, because they'll have deficits for the development of the following emotions: empathy, shame, guilt, and love.