Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

The Twisted Tale of Peter Braunstein


While there is no evidence that Braunstein actually stalked his target, aside from knowing where she lived and when she got off work, one category from Dr. Michael Zona's stalker typology sheds some light. The "love obsessional" person tends to idealize a celebrity or someone he has seen from afar and to develop an unrealistic belief that the target person will agree to a relationship. Braunstein wrote an article, even if it was meant tongue-in-cheek, about Kate Moss that indicated his propensity for this kind of fixation. He could easily transfer that to someone more attainable.

Stalkers tend to be unemployed or underemployed, but are smarter than other criminals. They often have a history of failed intimate relationships. They tend to devalue their victims and to sexualize them. They also idealize certain people, project onto other people motives and actions that have no basis in truth, dismiss what those people do to resist or discourage them, and rationalize that the target person deserves to be harassed and violated.

Some experts think that narcissism is instrumental in delusions about a love object. It's the idea that one is so important or grand that no one is unattainable for him and he will prove it. He can even persuade himself that the person he desires wants him back and will therefore welcome an advance, even a violent one. This delusion becomes a way to stabilize the grandiose self; it replaces something lost.

But decompensation can occur in which the obsessed person's inner stability erodes, melding the threat with his anger at the other person, so that the other person receives the blame and must be both subjugated and punished. In other words, "it's all about me," and the consequences to anyone else are never considered. The narcissist feels entitled to do whatever he wants, with no regard for the suffering of another. His diminished sensitivity to others and growing feeling of peril to his own ego increases the likelihood that he will act out, especially violently.

At this point, it remains to be seen just how well Braunstein actually knew his victim. Perhaps he will reveal what he was thinking, perhaps not. But his past obsession, fully revealed in his writing and behavior, shed enough light on his present alleged incident to strongly suggest that anxiety and an inability to sort out his ego from the needs of other is at the root of his recent behavior.

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