How many times have you or heard someone say, “I’m obsessed with [whatever].” You’re trying to say that there’s something of which you can’t get enough. It could be anything from a flavour of ice cream to a reality TV show. It’s usually just hyperbole and exaggeration.
But if we get clinical, obsession can be a form of mental illness. If we open up the psychology textbooks, we learn that a true obsession is a recurring thought about something or someone. It’s always on a person’s mind, maybe even 24/7. We’re talking thoughts, dreams, urges, and fantasies. Things can get pretty dark.
These obsessions, this rabid focus, may be intrusive, unwelcome, all-consuming, and dangerous. A person may end up surrendering themselves to these thoughts, driven to focus on the object of the obsession full-time.
Take the case of John Hinckley Jr, He was from a wealthy Texas family who owned an oil company. But John didn’t fit in. He tried going to university but eventually dropped out. He moved to California with dreams of being a songwriter. That didn’t work. When he returned to Texas, he had to confess that the girlfriend he said he had out west didn’t exist.
Hinckley disappeared into himself with severe emotional issues. Antidepressants and tranquilizers were prescribed. But he also started buying guns and target shooting. He also spent a lot of time watching the 1976 Martin Scorsese film, Taxi Driver.
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If you know the film, you’ll know that Robert Diniro plays Travis Bickle, a disturbed loner who plots to kill a presidential candidate. He runs across a 12-year-old prostitute named Iris Steesmas, played by Jody Foster.
Hinckley became obsessed with Foster. When she enrolled at Yale, Hinckley moved to Connecticut to stalk her. He left her poems and love letters and called whenever he could find her number.
Hinckley became determined to attract her attention. But how? He thought about hijacking a plane. Maybe he’d just show up one day and shoot himself in front of her.
Finally, he determined the best way was to assassinate a president, just like Travis Bickle. He trailed Jimmy Carter for a while but was arrested. More psychiatric treatment followed. And then Ronald Reagan was elected.
On March 30, 1981, Hinckley pulled out a 22-caliber pistol and fired it six times as Reagan left the Hilton in Washington DC addressing a conference. Reagan survived, but it was touch-and-go. Others were badly hurt.
After a trial, Hinckley was found not guilty by reason of insanity. He was finally released from custody in 2022.
The world of music has many obsessives, although few are as extreme as Hinckley. There is one standout, though: A young loner in Florida who, like Hinckley, was determined to attract the attention of his love. In the process, he turned into a murderous hater.
Have I got a story for you. This is the tale of the Bjork acid bomber.
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