Chris Wattts is a narcissist. He was a selfish man who thought only of himself.
Chris Watts is a sociopath. He showed no remorse, and no emotion.
This seems to be the expert consensus by mainstream pundits. Dr. Phil said it. Lena Derhally said it. Catherine Townsend, expert Private Investigator, said it. That must mean that’s precisely who Watts is – a sociopathic narcissist.
True Crime Rocket Science disagrees with this assessment as crude and simplistic. What it shows is a facile disregard for the details. That’s not a defense of Watts, by the way. Saying he’s not a narcissist or a sociopath isn’t rushing to his defense. Watts and only Watts committed stone cold premeditated triple murder, and also destroyed the life of his unborn child. But almost two years later, when so many have spent so much time regurgitating the Watts case, recycling the same tired aphorisms, it’s perhaps also time to think a little more scientifically about the case, including about the psychology. And criminal psychology isn’t the same as psychology. Criminal psychology and psychology aren’t interchangeable.
On the surface, if you don’t know this case very well, the narcissistic sociopath or “covert narcissist” seems like an elegant sounding fit. It’s a great label, innit? It is a really elegant fit if you know very little about Watts, and even less about Shan’ann Watts.
If Watts was so selfish, why didn’t he go to trial like 99.9% of other high-profile criminals, and do what he does best – lie and pretend and play at being Mr. Nice Guy? If narcissists are identifiable by the key trait of lying, why did Watts admit – ultimately – to all the charges against him? Why did he admit the truth ultimately, telling investigators where the bodies were, and eventually confessing to their murders too? Isn’t he supposed to be a habitual liar? I mean, look at OJ, Scott Peterson, Casey Anthony – all of whom were partying up a storm right until the moment they were arrested. All of them went to trial and pled not guilty. Is Chris Watts exactly like them? Are they exactly like Chris Watts? Then why didn’t he go to court, roll the dice and put on a smug, conceited defense?
If Watts is a prototypical narcissist, why was this murder trial wrapped up in super quick time? And before you knew it, Watts was in prison, and had turned to God for redemption, seeking forgiveness. Why would he turn to God if he didn’t feel bad about anything he’d done? Whether you believe that’s genuine or not, that’s completely different from someone never pleading guilty, and never asking for forgiveness, and never pretend-turning to God.
If Watts had no emotion, why did he need to become standoffish before committing murder. And if he had no feelings, why did he commit the crime while he was in love?
The experts will tell you Watts is a selfish, self-centered, self-involved man who thought only of himself. Those who knew Watts, inside the family, and as friends, knew him as a considerate dad who did his family’s laundry, gave away his paycheck, babysat, even did his children’s hair. His wife, at the time of her murder, wanted to stay married to him, wanted to have his child and so did his mistress. His mother in law and father in law liked him up until the moment he committed murder.
Errr. which “personality type” are we talking about her?
It feels good to separate Watts from ourselves. He’s bad, has zero emotion and is a monster with a particular personality trait and disorder. We’re fine of course, and nothing like him. When we’re on our phones, and on social media, we are still very sensitive to the world around us, and not a narcissistic bone in our bodies. Well, except…
It makes sense, the argument that Chris Watts is a heartless monster, that he’s psychopathic or sociopathic. That he doesn’t feel the way many of us do. To our minds, it doesn’t make any sense if he murdered his family and he acted like he didn’t care, that he did care, and that he does have feelings.
But the temptation is to put Watts in a neat little box and call him a heartless monster. It’s comforting to say that because it separates him from us.
It’s the position of TCRS that this aspect is true, but at the same time, he’s not an empty vessel devoid of emotion.
It’s this aspect of true crime that makes it both fascinating and terrifying – the notion that Watts cared for his wife and children but killed them anyway. The notion that he felt bad about what he did, but tried to act innocent and nonchalant, and wasn’t particularly convincing.
In the final half hour of the Second Confession, Chris Watts speaks frankly about his emotions. Although we have to be careful taking anything he says as gospel, it’s worth reviewing how he sees his emotions, and the words he uses to describe his own inner world.
WATTS: It’s just weird how emotions process for me than for everybody else.
WATTS: Like you said, like um—you lost your kids at a grocery store for five seconds, you’d be a mess, and then like…you know…for me…I-I-d be panicked, but I wouldn’t cry. I’d be looking around trying to find them. But it’s just like, I just process it differently. I never knew why. Never know why. [Long pause]. I don’t think I’m a cold-hearted person, it’s just a matter of…I just don’t show it…show the emotions as much as other people do.
LEE: Your family doesn’t show emotion like that?
WATTS: Yeah, like you know…my dad couldn’t really speak at the sentencing hearing, because he said was kinda like…he said he was gonna lose it. Like that really hit me. Like, I’d never seen him like that.
LEE: Like, vulnerable?
WATTS: Mmhmm. I don’t think anybody’s seen me that way either.
The emotional aspect is a crucial aspect in true crime, and critical to understand this case. We can’t have it both ways. In the one scenario, Watts impulsively and spontaneously kills his wife and children, Shan’ann in a rage and his children seemingly for no reason at all. In this version Watts loses control over his emotions when he kills wife, and simply isn’t thinking afterwards. It’s not entirely unconvincing, because Watts seems capable of acting rashly and stupidly. His confessions to the cops also reinforce this impression.
In the other scenario, all the murders are premeditated. The premeditation scenario as a whole is an effort to hide not only the crime but the emotions, including the affair and the pregnancy.
One way to resolve the question of premeditation is to look at Watts’ behavior and psychology prior to the crimes and just after. After the crimes he has a checklist of things he needs to do and wastes no time doing it, even though he’s at work. He cancels his kids’ classes at Primrose, he calls the realtor, he even calls his bank.
The way he disposed of all three bodies also doesn’t speak of someone not in control, or not thinking. But the hiding of the bodies and the effort to make them disappear while sickening is also his effort to conceal feelings – like shame. He knows what he’s done is shameful and so he’s driven to dig holes and – taking a substantial risk – force the bodies of his children into the tanks to make them dissolve and disappear. He uses the word vanish immediately after the crime – that’s exactly what he wanted to happen.
There’s emotion there, in that effort to hide away his disgraceful deeds. There are many crimes out there that are executed with blood and brutality, and the bodies are left in the open.
Counter-intuitively these speak of emotion but are probably more psychopathic than a crime committed in secret and hidden away.
Why did Chris Watts do what he did? Simple – because he’s a narcissistic psychopath. Strange though, that following Dr. Phil the Weld County District Attorney didn’t hold a press conference letting America know the mysterious motive has been solved – and on national television:
CHRIS WATTS IS A NARCISSISTIC PSYCHOPATH
The news media, at least, took this breakthrough and ran with it, publishing locally, nationally and internationally the answer to the question that has hung like a cloud over this case, ever since it broke into the mainstream…
Why did Watts murder his pregnant wife and two daughters? Because…
CHRIS WATTS IS A NARCISSISTIC PSYCHOPATH
Mystery solved! Case closed!
Now let’s find out if you’re one too by taking this Narcissistic Personality Quiz. Be sure to leave your score in the comments section, so that society knows who to be aware of in future.
When you’re done, take this test to find out if you’re a psychopath. Once again, please be sure to post your score in the comments, as it’s in society’s best interest to know how psychopathic you are. In the interests of full disclosure, and the greater good, I scored a 5.
Full disclosure, I scored pretty high on the narcissist quiz, a 19. Celebrities often score close to 18. Narcissists score over 20. Having said that, I scored low on two potentially harmful indicators, “exploitativeness” and “vanity”. On the other hand, my “entitlement” score is quite high, which clearly can’t be good.
I understand the official take on authority, but I’m not sure it’s as relevant to an author. Author–ity is a kind of intellectual power, the recognition that one is a valuable, insightful, intelligent thought leader or an expert in a particular field. I’m not sure whether an author aspiring to that is narcissism or a career necessity…
On another measure there’s definitely less ambiguity. On this site, and in my narratives, I am definitely guilty of entitlement. I do expect favorable treatment and am not happy when there is criticism instead of compliance. I often feel the criticism is undue, uninformed or unwarranted. I’m not sure whether this reflects entitlement in other areas, but I will have to think about and try to be aware of that going forward.
Still looking for a Narcissistic Psychopath Test, and a definition on what that means…
Various sources confirm an unusual trait about Shan’ann – she had Obsessive Compulsive Discorder [OCD].
When Nickole Atkinson gave an interview to ABC, she was adamant that she knew something was wrong with Shan’ann because it wasn’t like Shan’ann to go somewhere without her car, or phone, or to leave the kids’ beds unmade [let alone her own].
Atkinson told ABC:
“The girls’ beds weren’t made [looks at the ceiling, then to her left]; Shan’ann was very OCD. Everything in her house had a place. Everything was labelled. If something was out of the ordinary, it was very out of the ordinary, for her…”
Shan’ann’s OCD is a big deal. It was a big deal to Nickole, and yet the term OCD appears only six times in the Discovery Documents, a relative rarity given how instrumental this was to Shan’ann’s personality, and identity.
OCD was largely who she was. It made her somewhat controlling, somewhat overbearing, somewhat regimented in how she ran her household, and in terms of scheduling her life and those around her – Shan’ann ran a very tight ship. But how much somewhat are we talking about here, really?
The combination of OCD and MLM is also central to the operative psychology of the Watts case. In September 2018 I dealt with this aspect in a post titled:
Of course it’s one thing to say someone is OCD [or a narcissist], it’s another thing to know what that means – to experience it. Nickole did, and we get a little sense of what she means by looking into Shan’ann’s pantry, and her home. But is it enough?
But, as I’m often at pains to emphasize in my books, when it comes to personality traits and dynamics, we can’t be told what they are – we have to be shown them, we have to experience them – like the Matrix – for the truth to really resonate.
Before showing you though, the OCD aspect deserves a little tell, too.
Shan’ann’s OCD was likely rooted in anxiety primarily about her health problems. Shan’ann had other anxieties too, but her health issues were fairly significant. The OCD was thus a response – arguably an over-response – to control her environment. That environment included her spouse. Nowhere’s the rub. OCD can also be rooted in narcissism, and aggravated by narcissism.
The table below from psychcentral.com provides some cursory coverage of the difference between OCD + NPD [NPD = Narcissistic Personality Disorder] and vanilla OCD.
Notice the aspect at the bottom of the table:
No concern or empathy for how their OCD behavior negatively impacts others
When there is vanilla OCD on the other hand:
Constantly feels bad for how their OCD behavior impacts others
Thus far Shan’ann’s narcissism, especially as it relates to her OCD, has been completely missing from the media narrative, or any narrative surrounding this case. The accusations that Chris Watts’s narcissism stands alone, and is central to the murders rings hollow because we haven’t contextualized it: his narcissism compared to whose? Yours? Society’s? What about Shan’ann’s?
If we refer to Shan’ann’s social media, there are countless instances where she describes her husband as someone who does whatever she tells him to do. Shan’ann has no concern for how this makes him feel; it’s simply the way things work in their marriage, and he gets it, because he gets her. That’s great, except we can tell – intuitively – that over time being a pawn on someone’s OCD board game – even within a loving marriage – has to get old at some stage.
Narcissism is a popular catch-term in true crime now, dropped by all the big hitters – Nancy Grace, Dr. Phil, HLN and so on. And the more it is used, the more it gets reused.
Most of the folks using the ‘N’ word don’t really understand how narcissism works, and even less how it relates to true crime. They have a vague sense that’s it’s a particularly ugly form of conceit, and selfishness. And so I guess Chris Watts was a particularly conceited and selfish husband and father to do what he did. Well, except before he committed the crimes no one – especially not Shan’ann- would accuse Watts of being either conceited or selfish, in fact quite the opposite.
No one, naturally, wants to talk about Shan’ann’s narcissism. That would be distasteful, wouldn’t it? Victim blaming. But here at CrimeRocket we’re not trying to win a popularity contest, or trying to use the same catch-terms as the talk show hosts.
We’re here to find out what the fuck happened, and who these people really are, at least, that’s why I’m here. Now when I say this, I say it with the greatest of respect; if you’d rather talk about only certain aspects of a case, and feel uncomfortable talking about other aspects which you feel should be off limits, please fuck off and go be schizophrenic in your selective reality on your own time, somewhere else.
For the rest, let’s answer the question: is OCD related to narcissism, and if so, how so?
So we see OCD and Narcissism are related, and that Narcissist Personality Disorder [NPD] actually exacerbates OCD. OCD and NPD aren’t the same thing however [a video at the bottom of this page explains how they differ]. But going back to additional reinforcing aspects from psychcentral.com’s table, we see there are some pretty ugly traits associated with OCD and NPD, especially exploitation, entitlement and arrogance.
How much of this is “evil” in the conventional sense of the word? In some ways, none of it is evil. It’s simply the habitual psychology of control, or the efforts at control, and how that is exerted is by putting the world [and people] into box, with nice neat labels on. The world is also reduced to timetables and schedules, along with everyone in them. So the OCD-Narcisisst may not be aware of the terror they unleash on the world in their efforts to control every conceivable aspect, they’re simply doing their thing trying to organize their shit.
On the other hand, is it okay for one person to exert a fucking tyranny over another? In that sense, it’s not evil, but it suggests there is a flagrant lack of self-awareness. In other words, do I realize that what I do habitually can cause pain to others, or do I simply not care?
Shan’ann’s nut meltdown is a good example demonstrating how difficult it may be to know where to draw the line between tyranny, OCD and common sense.
Which is it?
Shan’ann’s Pinterest profile below shows the extent of her OCD. Not all OCDs are created equal, just as there is a spectrum to narcissism and NPD. But clearly, sometimes OCD is on a vastly different scale to what could be considered “normal”.
The above profile comprises the following categories:
House Stuff [92 pins]
Photography [54 pins]
Exercise [54 pins]
Party Ideas [16 pins]
Tattoo ideas for Me [14 pins]
Organize it [11 pins]
Desserts [304 pins]
Dinner is served! [273 pins]
Salads [47 pins]
Appetizers and sides [71 pins]
Sandwiches and burgers
Food party ideas
Soups and stews
Gluten free desserts
Breads and Biscuits
Marinades and dressings
Bella [46 pins]
Good to know
Holiday baking ideas
Newborn pic ideas [12 pins]
German dishes [19 pins]
Polish food [9 pins]
Ground Turkey Dishes
Basement ideas [8 pins]
Crockpot kinda Day
Bella’s 1st Birthday [70 pins]
Kids activities [4 pins]
Kids playroom [23 pins]
Mothers/Fathers Day [3 pins]
Fathers Day [8 pins]
Baby boy room ideas [46 pins]
Man cave [2 pins]
Thirty-One [82 pins]
Dips [13 pins]
Crafts with Kiddos
Sensory Play [75 pins]
Activities for 0-18 mo
Gross motor skills play
New Years party
Super Bowl Party [20 pins]
Girl room ideas [42 pins]
Baby number 2
Motor skills play
Girls Bathroom [12 pins]
Fine motor skills play
Baby shower Girl [12 pins]
Crafts to make with girls
Healthy snack for kids
Keepsake ideas for kids
Poppop to build
4th of July
Bella’s 2nd Birthday
Dream closet GIRLS!
2 year old play
Nails [59 pins]
Thrive Experience [0 pins]
Instant Pot [25 pins]
Organization Remodel Expert
Wedding [220 pins]
*In the Love category, Shan’ann highlights various ways couples can express their love to one another, including 10 Ways to Strengthen Your Marriage, a Couple’s Appreciation Journal and 58 Creative Ways to Cheer Up a Love One. The category also includes The best days of our lives – plates with all the significant dates in a marriage. For Mother’s Day, that’s exactly what Chris Watts gave her.
Many have criticized Chris Watts for Googling when and how to say I love you. Such criticism is fine, as long as you compare it to the other side of the equation: Shan’ann and yourself.
In POST TRUTH, the 100th True Crime Rocket Science [TCRS] title, the world’s most prolific true crime author Nick van der Leek demonstrates how much we still don’t know in the Watts case. In the final chapter of the SILVER FOX trilogy the author provides a sly twist in a tale that has spanned 12 TCRS books to date. The result may shock or leave you with even more questions.
SILVER FOX III available now in paperback!
“If you are at all curious about what really happened in the Watts case, then buy this book, buy every one he has written and you will get as close as humanly possible to understanding the killer and his victims.”- Kathleen Hewtson. Purchase the very highly rated and reviewed SILVER TRILOGY – POST TRUTH COMING SOON.
TCRS MERCH available now – just in time for Christmas!
Book 5 – ALL NEW! “I have thoroughly enjoyed this audiobook…” – Connie Lukens. Drilling Through Discovery Complete Audiobook
Read the entire 9-Part TWO FACE series, the most definitive book series covering the Chris Watts Case
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Book 4 in the TWO FACE series, one of the best reviewed, is available now in paperback!
“Book 4 in the K9 series is a must read for those who enjoy well researched and detailed crime narratives. The author does a remarkable job of bringing to life the cold dark horror that is Chris Watts throughout the narrative but especially on the morning in the aftermath of the murders. Chris’s actions are connected by Nick van der Leek’s eloquent use of a timeline to reveal a motive.”