Killing for pleasure is a difficult concept to grasp mainly because humans cannot logically conceptualize the taking of a life for no gain other than pleasure. A true pleasure killing is not linked to a recognized motive, such as anger, money, resentment, rage, or jealousy, or a socially understood aim, such as war. The act is too abnormal to emotionally comprehend; such actions are so far removed from a perception of reality that they are shelved or compartmentalized in the brain so that they do not seem to exist. But the acts can still be talked about because we know they do exist but such discussions are buffered by our brain’s internal coping capability; the brain can shut down anxious thoughts but can also cause anxiety to accelerate to the point of panic attacks. It seems that uncontrollable or unfamiliar situations often spark anxiety and when combined, create perfect conditions for surges. Being lost in the woods includes both lack of control and unfamiliarity; it is not uncommon to discover a lost person running aimlessly through the woods and tearing off his clothes in complete panic. The running and sweating fuels the anxiety and in such scenarios it is unlikely that one’s brain is capable of slowing the stress absent some type of positive reinforcement- say stumbling on to a trail or road. But if the person had previously shelved (in his brain) some basic ideas about getting lost in the woods, the anxiety would likely be decreased if not eliminated. For example, if one knew that getting lost in the woods would naturally cause the mind to race, and that his brain was therefore functioning “normally” (he wasn’t going crazy), he would be better equipped to more calmly plan his exit from the woods. He could pick out a tall tree and walk straight towards it and then repeat the process knowing that he was walking in a straight line as opposed to walking in circles; he could look for moss on the north side of trees; listen for traffic or other sounds of human activity. This same idea applies to our thoughts about sadistic killers- we have previously conditioned our minds to numb out the reality that they exist in our personal world even though we know they are out there. This helps us cope in general terms when we read and talk about such people- indeed it often fascinates us. But such coping mechanisms do not help in ultra- extreme cases.
A psychopathic sadistic serial killer knows about anxiety and fear and how to cause it; He or she feeds off of this fear- it gives them excitement and stimulates them. Many psychologists opine that this is an issue of control; many victims are bound and taken to secured locations- they have no possibility of escape and exist at the whim of the killer; he can slowly torture, maim and assault his victims. They are left to beg for mercy- he is their complete master and decides if, when and how they die. And yet, the killer may or may not act out in a sexual manner. Under such circumstances, it is clear that he is exercising complete dominion and control over his victims. But why does he do this- especially if sex is not involved? Some say such killers can’t help themselves- they are killing out of lust; there are examples where killers have left notes like “Stop me before I kill again”. But this doesn’t explain why they kill in the first instance. It seems likely that sadistic serial killers ironically are killing to ease their own extreme anxiety. They replace shelved thoughts with actual acts which assists them in coping within their own intense lives. They are aware that their acts are wrong but have reached a point where only killing slows or temporarily stops the anxious surge. Each act of killing later intensifies the panic not unlike the lost person running faster and faster through the woods but there are no apparent trails to stumble on- they kill until they are caught or otherwise stopped- they don’t stop voluntarily.
What is the starting point for such behavior? It strongly appears that the foundation of a sadistic serial killer’s anxiety is learned- he is not born with it. As little as one startling event could cause it. The event is sufficiently strong enough to cause the person to think he is losing his mind (going crazy). Unfortunately, when left unchecked, these thoughts increase in intensity- well beyond what is seen in even extreme “panic attacks”. Early on after the startling event, he may experience adequate relief from lesser odd behavior such as torturing animals and acting abusive towards others. His thoughts start becoming more intense and realistic. His fears may cause him to socialize less and demonstrate little empathy towards others- his thoughts are directed inwards. As anxiety increases, the killer’s acts increase in style and scope.