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Mark Freestone

My Journey Into Seven Dangerous Minds

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24 Min.

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Making a Psychopath by Mark Freestone is a compelling exploration of the factors that shape the minds of individuals who commit heinous crimes, presenting insights from neurobiology, psychology, and criminology.


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    Psychopathy is a mental health condition that is a risk factor for violent crime.

    To start things off, there’s someone you should meet. His name is Ben.

    When Ben was a young man, he and a few of his accomplices got themselves arrested after attempting a raid on an armored money truck – a rather ill-thought-through scheme concocted by Ben’s stepfather. Needless to say, things didn’t go according to plan.

    Ben served his sentence and was eventually released. But, after only two weeks of freedom, he immediately began plotting revenge against his stepfather, who he believed had set him up. Ben got a bag and filled it up with a whole toolset’s worth of hammers, saws, and knives. Then, he went to pay his stepfather a visit.

    But, as luck would have it, Ben never arrived at his stepfather’s place because, along the way, he bumped into an old friend from school who convinced him to go out for a drink. After a few pints, Ben spilled the beans about his murderous plans, and upon hearing this, his friend, fortunately, managed to persuade him to reconsider.

    The two friends drank late into the night, and eventually set off cheerily for home. Before they parted ways, in a moment of profound misjudgment, the friend teased Ben for being, as he put it, “a pussy” for not going through with the murder. At which point, having taken offense at the slight, Ben pulled a hammer from his bag and proceeded to beat his friend to death with it.

    Now, Ben, if it isn’t already clear, is a psychopath. All the signs were there: he showed little remorse, never taking responsibility for his crimes; he committed a heinous act of violence for little more than a bruised ego; and, he exhibited a warped sense of self-righteousness by feeling entitled enough to hurt those who wronged him.

    Stories like Ben’s are exactly why psychopaths have such a fascinating appeal to the public. Ben’s behavior was so inexplicable, that the story’s almost unbelievable. How is it possible that someone could casually commit such an atrocious crime when the rest of us would feel guilty just thinking about it?

    Well, the short answer is that psychopaths like Ben lack something very important that normal people possess – they lack the ability to feel that other beings have value in their own right. From this one little shortcoming, we can explain all the typical characteristics of psychopaths from their lack of empathy to their tendency to hurt and manipulate others.

    Still, the fact that Ben was a psychopath doesn’t explain everything. It explains how he could murder his friend in cold blood, but it doesn’t really explain why he did it. To understand that, you’d have to look at Ben’s particular psychological makeup, such as his super-brittle ego and hair-trigger impulsivity.

    The fact that Ben was a psychopath made him far more disposed to commit murder than a healthy individual. But, to explain why he decided to kill this particular person on this particular day, just saying “he’s a psychopath” doesn’t cut it.

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    Worum geht es in Making a Psychopath?

    Making a Psychopath (2020) is a thrilling foray into the disturbed workings of the psychopathic mind. With the help of a series of case studies, it addresses many of the misconceptions about psychopaths that we often see in the media. Taking an empathetic approach, it humanizes the people who have this disorder and considers their prospects for recovery.

    Wer Making a Psychopath lesen sollte

    • Fans of the show Killing Eve
    • Lovers of true crime
    • Anyone who wants to know whether their boss really is a psychopath

    Über den Autor

    Mark Freestone is a reader in mental health at Queen Mary University of London. He’s a leading expert on psychopathy, with over 15 years of experience working in some of the UK’s highest-security prisons, alongside the most notorious and violent criminals of recent times. He was also brought on as a consultant for the TV series Killing Eve, where he helped to craft the personality of the show's antihero, Villanelle.

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