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psychological explanation for Ted Bundy's personality. It has 9 sources.
Theodore Robert Cowell commonly known as Ted Bundy is acknowledged to have been one of the most notorious serial killers in American history. The fascination he holds for the public and scholars alike arises from the fact that his deeds and his personality as it was known did not correspond. It is incomprehensible why an attractive, intelligent, man from a seemingly conventional background would feel the need to commit anywhere from 36 to 100 grisly murders (Simpson 2003).
Since then several attempts have been made to somehow explain Ted Bundy's motivations but as one of his biographers stated, his "mask of sanity" was impenetrable unless the inference was first made that he was a killer. Then various aspects of his personality and life could be made to fit. The fact that the conclusions still remained suspiciously flawed may stem from the fact that the whole truth may be missing. This includes the actual facts of his upbringing and origins and his perceptions. Most of the information is gathered from Bundy himself...and how reliable a source is that?
Bundy was a necrophile along with being a murderer. His victims were usually young, attractive women whom he accosted in a bid for assistance and then clubbed on the head with a crowbar. He would then rape, sodomize and torture his unconscious or comatose victims. He often kept the bodies or body parts for days, enjoying his 'possession' and control or dispose them and revisit the burial sites. This was Bundy's signature (Fadiman and Frager, 2002).
He executed these heinous acts while at the same time maintaining not one but two long-term and relatively loving relationships with mature and intelligent women, studying at law college, and dabbling in politics. He managed to be well-liked and even admired in this period of his life by the majority of people he communicated with. He was acknowledged to have an intelligent, funny, and assertive personality that both men and women found attractive. The question everyone wanted answered; was Ted Bundy a psychologically ill man or simply consciously bad?
To discover the answer a person inevitably explores his life history in search of a clue or nuance that would hint at the source of the forces that motivated him. They are difficult to discover in that though his birth was not absolutely typical it was not obviously traumatizing so as to explain the rage and mania that Bundy depicted. He was an illegitimate child born of an intelligent and otherwise conservative woman and an unknown man, perhaps the war veteran often implied. The fact remains he was ignorant of this until much later in life. A suspicious element in his life was his Grandfather, Samuel Cowell, who was deemed by many to be an aggressive and violently deranged man. There are however no explicit claims of abuse towards himself or his mother.
Bundy grew up knowing his grandparents as his parents and his mother as his sister; the convenient way the unwed yet pregnant status of his mother was handled in an era when single mothers were unheard of. He remembered these early days as an 'idyll' and resented and was confused by their move to Tacoma. From an early stage it is noted that Bundy was very sensitive to material things and appearances. He had a disdain for his new, bland and common surroundings and later for his unsophisticated southern stepfather. Ted conveyed feelings of deprivation in terms of social status and material possessions (Fadiman and Frager, 2002).
His feelings of inferiority when it came to matters of social interaction made him a withdrawn, reticent child with few friends or mentors all through highschool. He admitted to feelings of inadequacy due to his lack of athletic ability, and social etiquette. He had a minimal social life and no interaction with the opposite sex, in the sense of dates or affairs. Matters of sexual interaction that interested his peers were professedly incomprehensible to Bundy. This then was the boy that grew into a man who became the most wanted serial killer in America. Why?
Did this background contain enough sources of trauma to form an unconscious mind that could lead to the crimes Bundy carried out? It must have, at least in the beginning. Bundy was thought to be an otherwise intelligent man and interacted with society in a manner that did not raise suspicions of another persona in the most intelligent of minds. Not until that is, his crimes were proven unequivocally. In accordance to Freud's theory, Bundy's desires for material possessions and social prowess may have instigated a chain of events that started off as an unconscious fulfillment of a need to a conscious process of self-actualization (Fadiman and Frager, 2002).
His mother was a constant figure in his life, even under the guise of his 'sister'. After the revelation of her true status apparently Bundy's attitude remained the same towards her but he became antagonistic with his step-father the two often engaging in verbal combat at which Bundy was sharper at. The situation can be explained by Freud's Oedipal theory fraught as it was with a mother figure Bundy obviously loved and admired, and a man that had been barely accepted in the status of father cum brother in law but was discovered to be an even greater interloper when his actual relationship was unveiled.
Since Johnnie Bundy held his mothers affections and was also an adult the young Bundy may have harbored feelings of possessiveness and recrimination as he considered Johnnie to be a 'common' man. As trite as it may sound, his anger at his mother's betrayal may have been displaced onto Johnnie Bundy.
He displaces his sexual impulses from his mother to girls and, later, women; and he identifies with the aggressor, dad, and attempts to become more and more like him, that is to say, a man. After a few years of latency, he enters adolescence and the world of mature heterosexuality.
We didn't talk a lot about real personal matters," says Ted. 'Certainly never about sex or any of those things. My mom has trouble talking on intimate, personal terms.'" (Rule 2001)
Displacement is the redirection of an impulse onto a substitute target. If the impulse, the desire, is okay with you, but the person you direct that desire towards is too threatening, you can displace to someone or something that can serve as a symbolic substitute.
Someone who hates his or her mother may repress that hatred, but direct it instead towards, say, women in general. Someone who has not had the chance to love someone may substitute cats or dogs for human beings. Someone who feels uncomfortable with their sexual desire for a real person may substitute a fetish. Someone who is frustrated by his or her superiors may go home and kick the dog, beat up a family member, or engage in cross-burnings.
Ted Bundy never managed to displace his anxiety towards anyone in his personal or social circle in his younger years. Throughout his childhood he had been forced to accept and agree with repressed his thoughts. One of the reasons that could be attributed to this suppression had been his grand father, who according to experts had been violent and abusive. Ted Bundy although respected and revered his grandfather, during his younger years witnessed him abuse Ted and other family members. At school too, he had been subjected to ridicule and the butt of everyone's jokes. Shy and introvert, he found building confidence to fight against such social ridicules difficult B.F. Skinner's theory of operant condition is useful in understanding such response to the environment. Ted's environment not only acted as the parameters for operant conditioning to his learning mind but it also stimulated violent behaviors, albeit at that time suppressed (Ressler 1988). Reinforcement was in the form of constant ridicule while the result of the conditioning had been that Ted Bundy turned reclusive and alone. All this while, no one noticed that the stimulus has played its part and reinforced violent tendencies within him (Skinner qt. Boeree 1997).
Had his parents noticed it in his tell-tale behaviors of being extremely shy; not participating in social activities like dating or interacting with other children of his age, they would have realized the gravity of such reclusive behaviors. As one understands from Skinners' operant conditioning and reinforcement theory, the environment plays an important role in simulating the behaviors of the individual as they are growing and learning. Ted Bundy's reinforcement was gradual but nevertheless effective as from an early age he developed a fetish for pornography and violent detective stories. In diversifying and channeling his interests to such a cloistered activity, Ted managed to veer from the curious external monitors such as his grandparent and his parent. Instead, his quiet behaviors merely complemented his mother's new family of four siblings and a step father, who he never liked (Skinner qt. Boeree 1997).
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