power are frequently found in the literature as an influencing factor in
sexualized crimes such as rape (Groth, 1979) and homicide (Geberth, 2003).
These variables are so well related that I often introduce them together
when presenting the Fantasy Wheel.
Anger is an emotion that when not controlled by the individual can lead to
acts of aggression toward others. In the anger management groups I have ran
over the years, the most common themes I have seen for feelings of anger
are: being disrespected by another person, not being believed when being
honest, and being challenged on authority issues. Of course there are many
other examples and each person has unique triggers that come with varying
degrees of reaction.
When viewing serial murderers, these same themes are many times an aspect of
their fantasies, which relate to the crimes being committed. Individuals
often deny being angry because admitting to anger is equated to losing
control. Power is associated with control in sadistic acts, which in serial
murderers is very often a vital aspect of their fantasies. It is also
demonstrated in the literature (Hickey, 1997; Egger, 1998) that control is
often at the core of the serial murderer's criminal and non-criminal
thoughts and behaviors. It can be said that the criminal behavior of serial
murder are an outgrowth of the individual's violent fantasies, which include
the emotion of anger and the desire to control or obtain a powerful
Crime scenes may clearly demonstrate anger through overkill type injuries to
the victim such as excessive mutilation of the body or numerous stabbing
wounds. There may also be attempts to devalue victims by staging them in
ways that are dehumanizing. Each of these behaviors can be interpreted as
anger, however mutilation can also reflect exploration or curiosity, and
staging can be used as a symbol of the offender's domination over the
victim. Anger as it is relates to fantasy can be viewed as the offender
ruminating for extended periods about real or perceived threats in the form
of rejection by the victim or victim type. In offender typologies, this
offender may be viewed as retaliatory or displaced where the anger leads to
fantasies of destroying the victim. Again, this also relates to power in
that when the victim is destroyed, the actions are fueled by the offender's
need for power, which leads to anger, which then leads to action.
By destroying the victim through deadly acts of aggression, the serial
murderer regains his sense of power and returns to a state of equilibrium.
After the act, a victim is destroyed and no longer poses a threat to the
offender. Power has been reestablished, yet the cycle begins again when the
offender feels threatened in some way. Directly after killing a victim,
several serial murderers have reported a sense of calm, or release. David
Berkowitz described this well when he stated, "The tension, the desire to
kill a woman had built up in me to such explosive proportions that when I
finally pulled the trigger, all the pressure, all the tensions, hatred, had
just vanished, dissipated, but only for a short time." (p. 178 in
Abrahamson, 1985). Although the offender may deny feelings of anger or a
need to have power, the crime scene behavior will demonstrate something
completely different. Overkill injuries, torture, or devaluing of a victim
paint the picture of an offender that was so overwhelmed with anger or a
need to dominate that he performed actions that went above and beyond that
which was necessary to actually kill his victim.
Anger and power also seem to be related to the variables self-perception,
paraphilic, situational and reality-testing. As each of these variables are
covered on other pages, I will not cover them here, but it should be noted
that the primary concept for the Fantasy Wheel is to demonstrate how
variables such as anger, power, situational and reality-testing correspond
to one another and thus can tell us a great deal about the offender.
Abrahamson, D. (1985). Confessions of son of sam. New York, NY:
Columbia University Press.
Egger, S. (1998). The killers among us: An examination of serial murder
and its investigation. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall.
Geberth, V.J. (2003). Sex related homicide and death investigation:
Practical and clinical perspectives. Boca Raton, FL: CRC Press.
Groth, N. (1979). Men who rape: The psychology of the offender. New
York, NY: Plenum Press.
Hickey, E. (1997). Serial murderers and their victims, (2nd ed).
Belmont, CA: Wadsworth.