Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

The Twisted Tale of Peter Braunstein


It seems from the profile that Grigoriadis penned for New York magazine that Braunstein fancied himself part of the celebrity world, to the point of flaunting it and even bullying people with it. He had left a rarified intellectual world to become part of high fashion, so losing his job at Fairchild and failing to find another one of equal or better status may have threatened his sense of wellbeing and his belief that he was important. Then he lost his girlfriend, a member of that elite group, and was subsequently humiliated for his retaliatory behavior. He watched others acquire status and money whom he believed were of lesser intelligence or merit, and he probably felt a great deal of anxiety (especially as a man approaching midlife) about his future. If, as his mother indicated, he stopped his medication, the anxiety could have become a great burden. In that case, it's understandable that he might have attached to someone who symbolized what he believed he needed for relief (with the shoes perhaps being a symbolic focus of nurturing femininity). But, ironically, he would then have acted against that person as the symbolic source of his suffering.

Book cover: Violent Attachments
Book cover: Violent Attachments

Dr. J. Reid Meloy, author of Violent Attachments and editor of The Psychology of Stalking, says that pathological attachments most often occur in males and follow a predictable course:

  1. After initial contact, the man develops an infatuation.
  2. He may try to approach the object of his fixation.
  3. He may believe the target person has similar feelings about him.
  4. He may feel ashamed of his obsession and become angry, which fuels an obsessive pursuit of the person, whom he now wants to control through harassment or injury to restore his narcissistic fantasy.
  5. He devalues the person in a way that justifies his violence.
  6. He acts and gains some relief.

A person who develops a highly sophisticated fantasy with specific violence in mind is the one most likely to act on it, because he has mentally rehearsed it to the point where it seems quite real. Even people who were not abusive prior to their obsession can become so enmeshed in the throes of it that they gradually trade the uncomfortable, threatening, reality for an imaginary world that's more empowering. They may not even see where they have crossed the line from real to unreal.

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