The Conscious Motivations.
The most important of Jeffrey Dahmer’s conscious motivations was his own pleasure. But he wanted to find sexual gratification without having to satisfy his partner. He was completely obsessed by his own egoistic desires.
To do so, he would not look at his partners as people, but just as objects that would have no other goal than to satisfy his own pleasure. This feeling of domination and control would add up to his sexual pleasure. His motivation was knowing that he had control over his victim and that he could do whatever he wanted with them.
« The hardest thing for the public to accept is that these men (serial killers) see humans so inferior to themselves that the death of another is trivial compared to the momentary pleasure of the killer. His orgasm is more valuable than your own life. » Patrick Dietz, Forensic Psychiatrist
He never hated any of his victims and never wanted to make any of them suffer. At the contrary, the more he liked them, the more he wanted to spend time with them, and of course the more gruesome his actions toward the victim got.
He could not stand to be abandoned or rejected, that is why he used the con approach, proposing them to pose for photographs or sex in exchange of money (he would select young men who would need money and would not refuse his offer), and why he used to drug them to be sure not to have to communicate with them and not to have them resist him.
But his cannibalism underlined a pathological loneliness: by eating parts of his victims, these would become part of him; he would become one with them. He tried to find any ways possible to keep his men with him, to make them a part of him or of his environment (skulls, skeletons), or of his memory (photographs).
The unconscious motivations.
I will base my analysis of Jeffrey Dahmer’s unconscious motivations on a theory developed by Schraber (1970) on the attachment deficiency. In his theory, Schraber describes exactly the motivations that were pushing Jeffrey Dahmer to kill:
- Affective life based on himself with an important desire to possess, to incorporate the desired object, to lead to numerous relationship break ups, causing a feeling of reject and abandonment.
- An aggression that has roots in the affective avidity of the person and his feeling of constant frustration in his need of love, as well as no feeling of being worthless.
- Doubting, they develop self hate and lack of confidence
In his book, « A father’s Story » Lionel Dahmer explains that at the same period Jeffrey starts to develop his fantasy, he would also start to be more shy, more introvert, and would show a lack of confidence and self esteem. Moreover, it is at the same time that Jeffrey discovered he was attracted by men, which would, as we saw earlier, also affect the opinion he had on himself.
Shaber concludes that this leads to « non-construction », or in Jeffrey Dahmer’s case, to the destruction of the image of others inside of him. The perception of others being a constant interaction between what others represent in our mind and what we think we represent in other people’s eyes. It is what happened to Jeffrey, who spent a lot of his time in High School trying to get his peers attention by any means possible, looking for affection and recognition. To do that, he did also identify himself to fictional characters that are strong, dominant, and have the power to control others.
As he started going to gay places, looking for some company, he would avoid too much social contacts, and even start to drug his partners in the saunas. At this point, he already started to dehumanize his victims, considering them as objects that are only there to satisfy his own pleasure.
Still according to Shaber, these people are often incapable to compose with their partners in order to enable the relationship to survive the cognitive dissonances that exist within the couple. Jeffrey tried to have a normal relationship with some of his victims, like Jeremiah Weinberger, with whom he lived four days before killing him. But he always ended up disappointed to his relationships with the living, first because he stills carries the rocky relationship of his parents, and second because the partner would always have expectations that he is not ready or willing to consider.
Jeffrey presents a personality that is:
- Paranoiac: he spent a great deal of money to install an alarm system in his apartment, additional locks (main entrance door, bedroom, bathroom), a fake video camera (which he pretended would turn on automatically when the front door was opened and the alarm system not turned off). He did not trust anyone, and was careful not to attract attention when would go home with his victim (no victim with cars, trying not to get noticed by the bar owners, the taxi drivers…). He would not have trusted anyone, and would keep his secret under any circumstance. He also thought that nobody could help him. His obsession was so strong that it would control his life.
- Narcissistic: he was very egoistic, focusing more on the satisfaction of his own desires than on the life or death of his victims. He treated his victims as objects, objects that would not only give him pleasure, but also become the main material used to build a shrine dedicated to him, that would give him more power, recognition and super powers.
- Passive aggressive: Tracy Edwards, in his court testimony, described Jeffrey Dahmer as a man with two different personalities. One nice personality and suddenly a Jeffrey that was frightening and aggressive, as if he was someone else.