Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

The Rise and Fall of Thomas Capano

Narcissism 101

Capano had believed that taking the stand for eight days to explain his side of the story would work in his favor.  It appeared to work against him, as jury members were repulsed by his arrogance, defensiveness, need to blame others, and apparent lack of concern about Anne Marie.  How could he have been so blind to how he affected them?

The answer is an extreme case of narcissism, or self-love.

Tom Capano displayed all the traits of a person who cherishes himself above all others, cannot bear to be blamed for anything, thinks his ideas are better than anyone else's and needs above all to control every facet of his world.  He wanted things to go his way and only his way; he might have broken up with Anne Marie at some point himself, but the fact that she initiated it was intolerable.  She belonged to him.  Her act damaged his belief in his omnipotence.  He couldn't live with that.

While the prosecution put forth the motive that if he couldn't have her, then no one could, it's likely more profound than that.  It's not even about others; it's about the fact that she violated his view of himself.

A narcissist pursues his own gratification through domination of others, and generally sees others as less then him.  Narcissists are in love with themselves, view themselves as perfect, and cannot abide the opinions of others that fail to support that.

In psychiatry, Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD) is known as a character defect, based in self-grandiosity.  Such a person will exaggerate his accomplishments to the point of outright lies, demand to be viewed as superior, indulge in fantasies of unlimited success, and is convinced that he is unique.   Only those of similar uniqueness or high status can possibly understand him.  He needs excessive admiration and he feels entitled to special treatment.  Whatever he wants, he gets, and others must rush to satisfy his needs.  He will freely exploit anyone for his own ends, has no empathy, and generally adopts an arrogant attitude of contempt for others.  If his wishes are frustrated, he will meet this with rage and attempts to manipulate until he gets his way.

Generally these people gather around themselves those who need a dominant figure in their lives, such as the submissive women that Capano attracted.  Such people get attached and end up doing things they might not ordinarily do because they fear losing this person' love and affection.  That's how narcissists can manipulate them.  Narcissists want only those nearby who will affirm their own self-view, and anyone who dares to disagree or think for herself gets punished.

While narcissists are highly dependent on hearing how great they are, they also resent being in this position, so they tend to torment those they need and blame others for anything that goes wrong.  So if they don't get their narcissistic supply, someone is going to pay dearly.

In order not to feel weak, the narcissist becomes a control freak.  He finds others who will do what he needs and keeps them in a position of endlessly feeding him. He will also try to control their lives.

Often narcissists are self-destructive.  Their neediness makes them paranoid, and they fear that they may not be as great as they think they are (although they tend not to be too self-aware).


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