You may have heard that Oscar Pistorius, the ‘Blade Runner’ has had his sentence for the murder of Reeva Steenkamp increased from six years to fifteen years, less time served. This paralympian and a man who made history by competing in the Olympic games is well-known for the shooting which resulted in the death of Miss Steenkamp and thereafter Pistorius’ repeated attempts to escape the blame for her death. He is an example of a narcissist and a murderous one.
Pistorius was born with no fibulas – the smaller of the two lower leg bones – his legs were amputated below the knee when he was 11 months old. Six months later, he received his first prosthetics. From thereon began the rise of the man who would be seen as ultra-competitive and a living example of the triumph of determination over adversity. What people did not realise was that narcissism was driving this man.
He grew up in a comfortable family where he exhibited from an early age a desire to engage in adventure and risk-taking. He would go-kart and ride mini-motorbikes with a disregard for his own safety and those around him. Anecdotes from his school days reported him as never being left out, that he was always surrounded by friends and he was the centre of attention. His risk-taking was encouraged by his family since in the Pistorius household, nobody was allowed to say “I can’t”.
An early driver in the formation of what Pistorius was to become was his mother. His mother was a huge influence. She put inspirational notes into the lunchboxes of her children, and one letter she wrote for him he still keeps: “The real loser is never the person who crosses the finishing line last. The real loser is the person who sits on the side, the person who does not even try to compete.”
The young Pistorius was being pushed, the mantle of expectation placed upon his shoulders.
He found his lack of lower limbs marked him apart from others and made him feel special. He never had to wear cricket pads and he could leave his leg dangling against a hot oven and not suffer terrible burns. Children at the beach marvelled at his small round footprints, while opponents on the rugby field who tackled him were left clutching an artificial limb. There was always a reaction to engaging with Pistorius.
When still a child, his parents divorced and he lived with his mother and his siblings, away from his father. His mother then died when he was 15 years old and this impacted on Pistorius considerably.
Pistorius’ determination and recklessness was being channelled into sport and running. He wasn’t particularly successful to begin with, but then his running aspiration took off, driven by the desire to be the best and his deep-seated rage at the various humiliations that he had experienced as a consequence of the loss of his lower limbs. It was then that his sporting prowess shot into the stratosphere. Three weeks after taking up sprinting, Pistorius ran his first 100m race. With his father watching in Bloemfontein, he won the race in a time faster than any double amputee had achieved before – 11.72s. A star was born.Eight months later, he won the 200m gold at the Paralympics in Athens and his life changed forever. Before long he began running against non-disabled athletes, first in a Golden Gala 400m race in Rome in 2007, finishing second. He then competed in the London Olympics in 2012, making history.
Here was a good-looking man, with accumulating sponsorship deals, money, fame and attention. However, alongside this the traits of his narcissism were there, albeit, as ever, undetected by commentators.
In 2011 when speaking to journalists, Pistorius explained how one day he had been driving when he ran over a dog. He stopped and got out of his vehicle. The dog’s back was broken and its two back legs now useless, but it was alive. The dog’s owner came out of his house to remonstrate with Pistorius. Pistorius pulled his gun from his car and shot the dog dead. Some might argue that this was putting the dog out of its misery, but there was no hesitation, no discussion with the owner, no attempt to see if the dog might benefit from intervention from a vet. Pistorius acted decisively and killed the dog. There was no empathy for the dog or its owner.
That same year whilst being interviewed by the BBC, Pistorius was asked a question, a reasonable one, about his fight to take part in non-disabled athletics. Rather than answer, he was wounded by this neutral questioning of his entitlement to compete and with fury igniting he stormed out of the interview.
At the London Paralympics in 2012, his ignited fury appeared yet again. He lashed out at Alan Oliveira a Brazilian who had beaten Pistorius in a shock win. After Oliveira stunned Pistorius in the final 30 metres of a race the South African had never lost at a major championships, Pistorius accused the Brazilian of running on blades that were too long and made the race unfair.
“Not taking away from Alan’s performance, he’s a great athlete, but these guys are a lot taller and you can’t compete [with the] stride length. You saw how far he came back. We aren’t racing a fair race. I gave it my best.”
There was no grace in this statement of defeat but rather the complaint of the race not being fair. Pistorius sought fuel from his complaint of being bested, his pity play. He appears to be gracious, as he seeks to maintain the facade, but that is all it is. He lost the race and rather accept that fact, he accused his competitor of cheating and that it was not fair. Feel sorry for me.
The International Paralympic Committee ruled that Oliveira had not done anything wrong.
Another South African Paralympian, Arnu Fourie, told a journalist he had to change rooms in the athletes’ village because Pistorius was shouting on the phone so much, Pistorius’ ignited fury appearing on many occasions as he was unable to control it, even when somebody else was to hand observing his behaviour.
In 2013 a journalist explained how Pistorius had insisted that he pick up the journalist form the airport (exertion of control) and then whilst driving at 155 mph (250 KMH) he was checking text messages on his ‘phone, terrifying the journalist in the passenger seat. Pistorius was entertained by this reaction. Here he exhibits no empathy for the position of his passenger, a lack of accountability for the speed he is driving at and whilst checking text messages on his phone, a sense of entitlement to do as he pleases and of course gaining fuel from the reaction of the passenger.
Another journalist commented that on reading Pistorius’ biography ‘Blade Runner’ he felt none the wiser as to knowing who Pistorius is because as the journalist stated ‘there is nobody there’. Interestingly, that particular writer saw through the construct even though he evidently did not realise what this meant.
A further journalist explained that Pistorius was insistent on teaching him how to shoot and would not take no for an answer until he had taken him to a shooting range. Again showing his sense of entitlement, desire to exert control and lack of boundary recognition.
Further examples have emerged of Pistorius’ narcissism. There was a gun that went off in a restaurant and another shot through a car roof, and the odd verbal and physical fight. Journalists who questioned whether Pistorius’ blades could give him an advantage were given no more interviews.
In these examples we see
- the need to exert control over others
- lack of empathy for others
- lack of boundary recognition
- sense of grandiosity in being allowed to use guns when he chose to
- silent treatments doled out as a result of wounding
- the appearance of heated fury resulting in verbal and physical fights with people
Thus it appears that Pistorius was clearly manipulating secondary and tertiary sources and applying his ignited fury towards them. What though of intimate relationships?
By his own admission, Pistorius’ relationships with women over the years have been turbulent. In his book, he referred to a “particularly nasty argument” here, a “very fiery” relationship there. It is clear that his ignited fury would manifest in the context of these intimate relationships also, he evidently struggled to control it as a consequence of being wounded.
“He could get very furious suddenly,” says his biographer Merlo. “He spoke of a fire inside. He had tough arguments with girls and afterwards sweet reconciliation. He has always had very beautiful girlfriends. I never saw the temper but sometimes there were situations where it was [apparent]. Sometimes he can explode but I have always seen the bright part of the moon, I’ve never seen the dark part.”
Of course his biographer is looking to maintain the facade for Pistorius by saying he had not witnessed the dark side and of course it may well be the case that the truth is being told and Pistorius did not exhibit his ignited fury to the writer. However, the disclosure about his girlfriends shows :-
- repeated very beautiful girlfriends, the hall mark of an elite or somatic narcissist
- repeated arguments – the ignition of fury, these were not occasional or sporadic but the frequent behaviour of a narcissist who is wounded
- split thinking – the eruption of fury and then the reconciliation thereafter as the fuel provided will have healed the wound and thus the fury abates
Of course normal people have disagreements in relationships but they are not frequent and nor are they “tough arguments” or “explosions”. That is something else.
And then of course we come to the murder of Reeva Steenkamp, an educated, intelligent and beautiful young lady who would clearly attract the attention of a somatic or elite narcissist and so she did. She paid for it with her life.
It is unnecessary to go through the trial in considerable detail as there is a mass of comment and reporting of the same. The points which arise and which are relevant to Pistorius’ narcissism are as follows :-
The Supreme Court in South Africa judged that Pistorius has not shown genuine remorse for what he has done nor does he appreciate the gravity of his actions. This is manifestation of his lack of empathy, his sense of being untouchable of being above the law and moreover the fact that he has attempted to manifest some kind of contrition as part of his ongoing manipulative behaviour which has been seen through.
Pistorius cried in court. He was not crying for anybody but himself, a risible pity play and part of his manipulative behaviour.
His defence to the prosecution was laughably ridiculous. It would not take Columbo to pick apart (repeatedly) how his story of Valentine’s night was just not credible. This shows his magical thinking, lack of accountability and repeated lying.
The text messages exchanged between Pistorius and Steenkamp which were provided as evidence at trial showed savage exchanges between them as he lashed out, again manipulating and evidencing his ignited fury and she responded to these attacks in a hurt and angry way but challenging him and of course thus providing Challenge Fuel.
She once wrote
“I’m scared of you sometimes and how you snap at me and how you will react to me,” The couple had argued after Pistorius had accused her of flirting with another man. Sound familiar?
The murder of someone he apparently loved in such a violent fashion. This underpins he did not love Miss Steenkamp, for an empathic person who does love would not kill the person they love. Further, his reaction through using firearms, the shots fired and the manner of what happened showed he knew what he was doing and it was as a consequence of that ignited fury manifesting once again as it had done so on many times previously.
The Supreme Court commented
“Although he may have been anxious, it is inconceivable that a rational person could have believed he was entitled to fire at this person with a heavy-calibre firearm, without taking even that most elementary precaution of firing a warning shot, which the accused said he elected not to fire as he thought the ricochet might harm him.
“The accused must have foreseen and, therefore, did foresee that whoever was behind the toilet door might die, but reconciled himself to that event occurring and gambled with that person’s life.”
This evidences how the defence was a lie and how Pistorius had no empathy for Steenkamp.
Interestingly, the defence psychologist formed the view that Pistorius had Generalised Anxiety Disorder which of course formed part of the defence namely that he had “over-reacted” owing to this anxiety to thinking there was a burglar.
The prosecution psychological evaluation found no mental illness and that Pistorius knew right from wrong. Naturally, the prosecution would not want to find any kind of illness or disorder as this would potentially hinder a conviction or at the very least aid mitigation if he was convicted.
Following his conviction, Pistorius then sought various alterations and privileges with regard to his treatment, again manifestations of his grandiosity and need for special treatment. He also used his disability as a basis for this treatment – quite the shift from someone who had always insisted that his disability was never a reason previously to treat him any differently. Of course, it suited him to use his disability this way, evidencing the expedience we are known for.
As many of our victims know, little shackles us, but from time to time, the impact of the criminal law does catch up with our kind and in the case of Pistorius’ it has caught up with him not once (the verdict being changed to murder) but twice (his sentence extended). Of course, Pistorius will remain unmoved, mired in his own self-pity and still blaming the long-dead Miss Steenkamp and others for his downfall.