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…
The “N” word has become one of the most popular words in true crime today. It’s taken over from psychopath, in that regard, as a sort of of catch-all catchphrase label which basically explains who the criminal is and why he committed the crime.
Except it doesn’t.
In reality, our social media-infused society is more narcissistic, conceited and vain than ever – we as consumers are so self-absorbed in our own customized color-coded wants and desires for convenience we’re more narcissistic than ever – so to point the finger at a criminal and blame his narcissism for the crime is not only hypocrisy of the last resort, it’s blindingly disingenuous on our part.
IS THERE A PSYCHOPATH IN YOUR SOUP?
In the same way that the word psychopath was sticky and popular for a while, because a lot of the traits of psychopathy do translate directly into criminality [heartlessness, lack of empathy and pathological lying], narcissism also has a feel-good stickiness to it. Both terms are sticky because they resonate to some degree. It is invariably somewhat true that a crime is going to be, and appear to be, cruel, heartless and selfish. But the fact is, many people in ordinary society are selfish and cruel. Many others are high-functioning psychopaths and pathological liars – certain professions attract these psychopathic personalities: chefs, lawyers, CEO’s, salespeople, television reporters, surgeons, cops, journalists and members of the clergy.
So to call a criminal a psychopath is really to associate a criminal with a vast swathe of society. You’re not really narrowing it down by using the term, instead by using a cliche, you’re invoking a stereotype, and probably incorrectly.
Narcissism is similar. To brand a despicable criminal a narcissist feels pretty gratifying, doesn’t it? The word has a powerful zing to it, like atheist or pedophile. A narcissist is characterized by extreme selfishness, he craves admiration, he has a grandiose or exaggerated view of his own abilities, and his self-centeredness may be so extreme that he struggles to differentiate himself from external objects [say, a large house, trophy wife or mistress, bank balance or pot of gold].
And like the psychopath, an extreme narcissist is a pathological liar. Thus, the real criminal character-trait we want to look out for is habituallying.
And so, this is where the “N” word breaks down in the Chris Watts case. If you’re going to accuse Watts of being grandiose, never wrong, wanting to be the center of attention, addicted to something [or someone], arrogant, lacking in sympathy, controlling and/or manipulative, two-faced etc, to be fair you’ve got to apply those traits to Shan’ann as well.I know, I know, that’s victim blaming. But I’m not going to let those attached to the “N” word wriggle out of it that easily.
Blame Chris Watts all you like for being a narcissist, apply those traits to Shan’ann – or don’t – but before you’re done, apply them to yourself as well. That’s the real litmus test.
If we’re being honest, if the Narcissistic label describes Watts best then it also describes plenty of us too, and many people we know, doesn’t it? I’m not at all sure, for the majority of Watts’ life prior to the crime, whether he can be genuinely associated with grandiosity, arrogance, provoking others, putting others down, blaming others, or wanting to be the center of attention.
Some aspects do ring true, like his being potentially irresponsible with money, as well as with his wife’s pregnancy, and with the lives of his loved ones. But how many among us are loyal to a fault, have never cheated, and have solid bank balances right now?
How are your finances? How often do you lie? How do you [or I] respond to criticism?
None of this is intended to defend or justify Watts, it’s an effort to make the case for the applicability and appropriateness of the “N” word. I hope that much is clear. By now it should be obvious that the Narcissism label is about as apt as the Psychopath label, which is to say not apt at all. It’s a generalization. If we want to explain who Watts is, and why he did what he did, narcissism isn’t the diagnosis.
WHO ARE THE TRUE NARCISSISTS IN TRUE CRIME?
The poster boy for a narcissistic murderer is Oscar Pistorius. There is a huge amount of arrogance, conceit, self-centeredness etc, and much of it is based on massive attention and adulation in the face of massive inadequacy and insecurity. OJ Simpson is arguably also a classic case of a narcissistic criminal. Both these men are – or were – celebrities. That’s the level or dose of narcissism we’re talking about when it’s relevant to true crime, and guess what – our own narcissism and voyeurism played directly into the hero worship that created these celebrity personas.
In reality, every psychologically healthy human being is a narcissist. We all have to maintain a healthy level of narcissism. It’s a minimum level of self-love we have that causes us to take care of things like personal hygiene, and basic socially acceptable behavior.
When a sibling sees another get a slightly bigger piece of cake, or a few more drops of soda, or a slightly more expensive toy come Christmas, they go crazy, demanding equal treatment. This is actually healthy narcissism; it protects them from being trampled on and taken advantage of. It reminds the parents not to favor the one over the other, or there will be hell to pay, and there should be when there is unfair favoritism.
So when it comes to true crime, who decides how much narcissism is excessive, and when it plays into criminal psychology when we’re all narcissists to some extent, and we’re a more narcissistic [selfish, vain, materialistic] society than we have ever been!
Who’s going to do it? Who’s going to decide this or that criminal is too narcissistic. Relative to who, or what?
IDENTITY IS THE KEY TO THE AUTHENTIC NATURE OF CRIMINALS
In order to fathom who a criminal is or why they do what they do, we have to do the much harder job of figuring out who they are. We have to get to know them. We have to construct a narrative. We have to find out about their history, life story, love life, backstory, family, friends, enemies, personality, attachments, failures – all of it. That takes time and effort. It’s through their identities that we figure out the who and why. It’s through spending a lot of time deciphering their language, behavior, body language, semantics, preferences, likes and dislikes etc. that we start getting into their heads. We listen to their music, examine their tastes [in clothes, food, sex], all of this tells us far more about a person than the “N” word.
If you’re a true crime fanatic and you’ve been banding the “N” word around a lot lately, please stop doing it. If everyone calls every murderer a narcissist, all we’re doing is agreeing that we have no fucking clue who or what we are dealing with. The “N” word, as far as I’m concerned, is almost as bad as the “he just snapped” explanation.
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
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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.”