Mental Health Expert Dr. Todd Grande discusses Psychopathy, Narcissism, Rage, Infidelity & Murder Related to the Chris Watts Case

I appreciate that this licensed professional counselor of mental health, and also a licensed chemical dependency professional has taken the time to familiarize himself with the minutiae of this case.

Interestingly Dr. Grande said he formed and recorded an initial prognosis but felt, on second thoughts, that it didn’t sit well with him and so he went back, did additional research and reconsidered.

The Chris Watts case seems perfectly simple.  It’s not.

Your thoughts?

11 thoughts on “Mental Health Expert Dr. Todd Grande discusses Psychopathy, Narcissism, Rage, Infidelity & Murder Related to the Chris Watts Case

  1. This guy is very reasonable and not given to excess (as contrasted with say, a Dr. Phil type).

    He does accept the 2nd confession as factual (I don’t).

    He rightly views Shannan as perplexed and Nichol as growing in confidence.

    He’s moderate in saying Watts had some vulnerable narcissism characteristics, and some psychopathy , while still recognizing that he’s an introvert in the midst of an affair. Nothing we cannot figure out for ourselves, but kuddos to him for not acting like Dr. Phil.

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    • Thanks for your feedback CBH. He also made a point, not Rocket Science by any means, but worth pondering – that Watts was attracted to Kessinger not necessarily because he liked her or was attracted to her but because she was “pursuing him”.

      That’s quite an interesting observation and I think it shows Watts’ low self-esteem. I don’t think that aspect has been addressed much. Low self-esteem has some classic connections to narcissism and how they artificially project confidence.

      A lot of the discussion so far has been at face value, that Watts pursued Kessinger and Kessinger pursued Watts. But there’s little thought around why she did, and why he did. It’s taken as a given. But it’s very different to pursue someone out of a position of strength or attraction, than weakness. In this case there’s an impression that both Watts and Kessinger pursued one another for the wrong reasons – envy on her side [possibly], egoism on his.

      One could take it further and say Watts wouldn’t have felt flattered by Kessinger’s attention if he wasn’t feeling diminished somewhere else. We know that he said he could be himself when he was with Kessinger. Does that sounds about right?

      I was surprised to learn he wasn’t allowed to park his truck on the driveway [ever] because it might leak oil or wake the kids. It’s hard to imagine a status quo like that – just that – wouldn’t be a source of resentment, especially for a mechanic and a petrolhead.

      One also has a sense that having three members of law enforcement hanging onto his every word [whether what he was saying was true or not] was a new experience for him. In his marriage maybe he got used to being dismissed and not listened to.

      The dynamic between Watts and Kessinger reminds me of a relationship I observed not that long ago. The woman was pursuing a man who made a lot of bold and frankly not credible claims to having money, and the man was pursuing her because she was the daughter of wealthy parents. In other words, they both had no money of their own but were interested in one another in terms of the other’s apparent claim to wealth. Both were in it not to give something, and not because they were necessarily recognizing who they were in terms of the other, but because of *what* they thought they might get out of it.

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      • Agree! I’ve always questioned the story that Chris was the one who relentlessly pursued Shanann from the start. I think they recognized in each other the things they would get out of it – exactly as in your example.

        Chris recognized Shanann as a strong woman who would stand up to his mother (he certainly couldn’t or wouldn’t), and that was probably thrilling to him. SHE wasn’t afraid to tangle with Cindy! Shanann probably recognized him as a pliable and steady provider. All those times she pushed him away were just a test to see how far he’d go for her. Apparently he went the distance.

        When things got unbearable for him with Shanann, how convenient that there was another bossy woman to take charge of his mess!

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  2. Great insights as always.

    Yes, I did pause at the psychologist’s statement about Kessinger pursuing Watts. To me, it lends an extra thrill (and no, men don’t always want to play the aggressor.) Not necessarily anything to do with self esteem.

    I think we can safely say that in the end, Shannan’s being so controlling would be enough to make anyone sick. Imagine even having her as a roommate. Ugh.

    The couple you describe in your closing sound just awful: They were scamming each other. How charming.

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  3. I like Dr. Grande’s analysis. I think he’s taken the time to think about it and acknowledges that not everything fits, but it’s the intersection of several aspects in this case, psychopathy, narcissism, rage, fantasy and infidelity and a bad relationship that contributed to the root cause(s) of the murders. Narcissism not so much though. He’s analyzing Watt’s second confession, treating it as true, and working within that framework. He hit all the main points of psychopathy, but the one that was the most interesting was “criminal versatility” – two different kinds of murder – impulsive rage with Shan’ann (and again, he’s going with what Watts himself said), and a cold calculated murder of his daughters. He states that fantasy is dangerous, and that Watts was indulging in this, as was Kessinger, but he didn’t say Shan’ann was as well, only that she had a failure to understand what was going on with Watts and I would tack on that that failure to understand her husband until it was too late, had to do with Shan’ann herself living in a fantasy world. He used another word I hadn’t heard of – “low neuroticism”, which is calm under stress. Certainly Watts did exhibit that behavior in the aftermath – texting his girlfriend, calling the realtor, the Primrose school and I would add the porch interview. He stammered several times but his smiling inappropriately and that he wasn’t convincingly stressed, sad, or anxious about his family missing was a huge tell and what we all saw.

    Psychopathic behavior doesn’t suddenly appear in your mid 30’s though. Although I’m sure shallow affect (superficial charm) was likely evident to many but many likely bought it as real.

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  4. It does make sense that Watts fell for her because he was being pursued by her . He supposedly had little to no experience with women before Shanann. So when a woman makes it known she’s into him , it made it that much easier for him , plus the fact his wife was making him miserable and he’s an introvert who had just started to become a bit more confident on himself but not quite there yet , it makes sense that he would need that little push that she initiated . Him not having much life experience with women and all of a sudden having one that was nice to him , helped expedite his infatuation with her to great heights to the point he felt he was in love but I’m actuality it was really something more fleeting .

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  5. I like the fact that he made a video and reconsidered-shows integrity-and he makes a few good points. However…

    He is not using the items from the PCI-r in their right context. It’s supposed to evaluate the person’s life in many areas over time. For example a high score for “criminal versatility” would be someone with a record for for theft, credit card fraud, assault, robbery, and murder. Not “he killed her this way and then this way.” I also don’t think Chris is particularly impulsive nor sensation-seeking (which often is shown by frequent moving of relationships, places, jobs, as well as drug/alcohol use.) The affair wasn’t the norm, rather than being part of an ongoing, nomadic lifestyle. What is evident is callousness and lack of empathy, failure to accept responsibility, shallow affect (“Cleckley observed that they never experience grief, honesty, joy, or genuine despair. They don’t ruminate on anything. If you ask if they’ve ever worried about leaving the stove on they will stare at you in stunned disbelief.”) He has no juvenile delinquency, early behavioral problems, and many short-term marriages.

    With the vulnerable narcissism, it’s much the same-some things, like showering someone with attention and then devaluing, discarding them while showering someone else with attention, being passive-aggressive and resentful, saying “yes, sure, that’s fine” then not doing it or sabotaging, are like him. Other things, like needing constant attention, always needing help, anger outbursts-do not.

    I think this is why the FBI is wanting to “study” him. He is shockingly callous but would not qualify as a psychopath. The brains of psychopaths also all look the same. I’d love to see an MRI of his brain! I bet it would be frustrating-just the brain of “an ordinary, helpful kinda guy.”

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  6. It’s so very tempting to explain Watts as exhibiting psycho-pathological tendencies as Dr. Grande pointed out the obvious – 1) pathological lying; 2) shallow affect; 3) criminal versatility; and 4) low neuroticism (calm under stress). The affair would then be seen as a symptom – he wasn’t in a good relationship, he chose to stray – and he was indulging in fantasy. But once he met his wife in NC I think the fantasy part of it was over. He continued to give NK hope, which was also wrong. Watts wore a mask with virtually everyone in his sphere.

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