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Updated 02 March 2016

Has Oscar lost the plot?

Is Oscar Pistorius emotionally incontinent, or has he lost the plot, asks CyberShrink.

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With the trial so often interrupted and shaped by Oscar's tantrums and storms of grief, his wails and sobs and gnashing of gums, a weather forecast is needed.

Each day is cloudy, with a chance of thunderstorms.

Many people feel instinctively there is something wrong about these episodes, ranging as they do from quivering lips and shaky voice, through whining and snivelling to full-blown sobs and howls.

Just as when a toddler uses similar tactics, you hesitate to upset him and make things worse. We feel uneasy at Oscar's displays of grief because they feel both genuine and phoney. And they could be both.

Grief as a tactic
There is a strong sense of a planned, almost rehearsed quality to them, as well as an echo of raw and real emotional lava being tapped.

I think Oscar may be deliberately keeping himself on the brink of these emotions to use them to his advantage, while they are mainly genuine emotions.

But maybe not quite what they seem.

His grief is primarily for Oscar, and for all that he has lost and expects to lose: the fame, fortune, freedom, career, respect, and bling.

He speaks of Reeva as the love of his life, but only knew her for weeks, and they hadn't yet got round to saying "I love you".

It seems to be all about him
The triggers of his grief are more about his own situation and what he did and felt. By sharp contrast, Reeva's mother, who has lost a daughter she obviously loved greatly, has contained her grief with admirable dignity and fortitude, causing no disruptions.

That's the difference between genuine adult love and grief, and an adolescent crush and a child's fierce protest when it ends.

He several times announced dramatically that : "My life is on the line!" But of course it absolutely is NOT on the line.

It's his lifestyle that's on the line, the cars, blondes, expensive watches and guns.

Just how unstable is Oscar?

There's another way in which one can see two contradictory things happening at the same time. While he is huffing and puffing, portraying himself as a helpless little birdy with an injured wing, being buffeted by powerful emotions, he is also trying to be very clever indeed, arguing with Nel, re-working his evidence and carefully assessing the potential impact of his answers, obfuscating and smoke-screening until he spots what he thinks could be an advantageous tactic.

The little bird blown helplessly hither and thither by overpowering emotions could not do that. But a carefully calculating manipulator could do both.

Without great mental strength and self-control, his great athletic achievements could never have been possible. He should have been able to apply these strengths towards coping with the undoubted stress of the trial, instead of exhibiting trembling, self-indulgent collapse.

Read: why was Oscar vomiting in court

Never forget, such emotional incontinence is never ever relevant to guilt or innocence. He has clearly spent a bit too much time in the company of lawyers, peppering his remarks with legal jargon,such as:

"I have no independent recall of that ..." so that he often speaks like an amateur lawyer rather than like an honest witness.

At one point he strayed into admitting what he has been doing, "re-constructing" and re-writing his story as he goes along, taking into account all he has read and heard from others.

Then he saw where this was going and rapidly back-pedalled, trying to take that back. He spoke almost boastfully of how he's read all witness statements, even those not used so far, and implied he used them to "reconstruct" his stories, and to fill in the blanks, which is, of course, precisely not what an accused is supposed to do. Getting to know Oscar.

If Passing the Buck, and Back-Pedalling became Olympic events, Oscar could again win gold medals. He seems to have a sense of incompleteness and appears over-sensitive to how others treat him. Maybe his guns make him feel more complete.

His grossly excessive response to his over-eager assumption there was a burglar, is blamed on what's portrayed as his large experience of crime. But in fact, little or none of it actually happened to him - they were nearby events he heard about and in only one case witnessed.

In a typically self-centred approach, he drew conclusions from the trauma of others, applied strictly to himself, rather than remaining concerned about how the real victims suffered or might be helped further. Even his dramatically planned "apology" to Reeva's mother, was all about himself, how HE was feeling and what HE was doing. He didn't mention praying for Reeva.

Is it really believable that neither Oscar nor Roux were aware of the Zombie-Stopper film clip, and had not prepared a coherent response to it ?

Oscar insisted his references to the softness of brains referred only to zombies - exactly how many zombies has he shot?

A delicate dictionary of denial 

Oscar shows a fierce preference for euphemism and dainty terminology. Guns are "fire-arms", a bullet is a "projectile". He didn't kill her, he "took Reeva's life" as though it was an item she'd left behind her, which he fetched.

Read: what happens when someone gets shot

Or, the term he stubbornly prefers, he "made a mistake", like an error in his maths which can be corrected with an eraser. Poor Oscar, as he sailed blamelessly through life, everyone let him down, most lied about him or misrepresented him.

Including his advocate and legal team, his friends, and even his victim, Reeva. Marvel Comics should sign him up, as a new kind of Superhero - his super strength is that when he is around, guns fire without him even touching the trigger.


Read more

How to spot a liar
What the psychologist is looking for in Oscar's testimony
What happens when someone is shot 
Why we're so glued to the Oscar Pistorius trial 
Are you also confused by the Oscar Pistorius trial?
The absurdities of the Oscar Pistorius trial 

Professor MA Simpson is Health24's CyberShrink. A South African psychiatrist, he qualified in medicine and in psychiatry in Britain. He has been a senior academic, researcher, and Professor in several countries. Read more of his columns.

 

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