For all intents and purposes, Graham Dwyer the father, the architect, the aviation enthusiast, seemed to be living a completely ordinary life.
But beneath the surface of his well-maintained façade of normalcy, a hidden malevolence was lurking — and Dwyer fed these dark desires until they grew so large they could no longer be hidden.
Now, with the murderer’s sentencing looming, many are questioning how someone could lead a double life for so long.
The answer, according to a psychology professor at Trinity College Dublin, largely lies in compartmentalisation — the brain’s ability to allow conflicting ideas to co-exist.
“Every human being has a capacity for compartmentalising in this way. We operate on splitting and denial — these are psychological defence mechanisms,” said Professor Ian Robertson.
While this ability is by no means unusual, Dwyer seems to exhibit the tendency “in an extreme way”.
“He clearly was not a normal personality before this. He’s not someone, a normal man, who developed this isolated fetish for stabbing and then acted this out. He’s a man capable of violent rages.
“He trashed — if we believe what you read in the papers — he trashed two colleagues’ work stations, he stalked and hunted his ex and terrorised her for 10 years,” Prof Robertson told RTÉ radio yesterday, adding that Dwyer is a man with incredible delusions of grandeur.
While Prof Robertson argues against the theory that BDSM has become ‘normalised’ in recent years, he does say the internet could have had a huge effect on already “abnormal personalities” such as that of Dwyer.
“There’s clearly a lot of people who are attracted to these kind of sexual fantasies, and the success of Fifty Shades of Grey is testimony to that, but that is almost entirely 95% game playing. It’s a way for people, through these fantasies, to release inhibitions and increase sexual arousal, perhaps by combining it with fear,” he said.
“Because what happens is emotions like fear and anger produce a common set of physiological arousal which can be connected to other emotions like sexual arousal, and can heighten that.
“But what we have with Dwyer is the combination of that with a particularly callous and unusual and violent personality. It is that awful combination that results in this ghastly case.”
With these usual personalities, exposure to explicit BDSM content on the internet can have an effect. Through a process called classical conditioning, these people can start to associate violence with sexual arousal.
“In particular personalities that becomes a very dangerous combination. And the more these people are exposed to this, through the internet for instance, the more likely it is, unfortunately, to get people like Dwyer.”
© Irish Examiner Ltd. All rights reserved