This podcast discusses domestic violence, criminal behavior, murder and adult themes, while not explicit listener discretion is advised.
I do need to be treated well. That's probably one of the most important considerations in relationships. Josh Powell recorded audio journals are one of the most unique and bizarre aspects of the Susan Powell case.
When discovered by police, they provided nothing in the way of evidence, but they said so much about who Josh was and how he thought. This is a bonus episode of Cold Anatomy of an audio journal. I'm Dave Corley and I'm speaking with Dr. Matt Wolly, a clinical psychologist based in Salt Lake City, Utah. At my request, Matt reviewed one of Josh's audio journals from December 2000. Now we're going to talk about it. Susan has been really sweet to me.
It's been overall a pretty good relationship and in. In many ways, possibly the best relationship overall I've been in. You and I are in a small group of people who have actually had the chance to really listen to one of these Josh Powell audio journals in whole. Yeah. What was that experience like for you? Kind of a mix of of very interesting and tedious, right.
Because he does spend a lot of time just cataloging and kind of talking about the mundane aspects of his day and what he's doing. The one we share, the one I listen to, you know, he talks about moving into his apartment and then he kind of describes the various things in his apartment, that apartment, 11 016 Wall, a road east apartment F three or four.
It's a very comfortable apartment. It's big enough to have parties with a lot of people to eat comfortably, to watch movies comfortably, and I've been thinking lately that that that apartment might be sufficient to start off a marriage.
And if I were to get married and said some interesting even how he says those things are interesting, perhaps to a trained listener, like a psychologist, because it reflects certain aspects of his personality. But as far as them being full of juicy details, it's just, you know, he's excited that he has a complete DVD collection of Disney.
And, you know, the the the the reasons behind why he's talking about those things may be more interesting, but I have to admit, it got a little tedious at times, as anyone's daily journal would think.
Right at this point, I I'm honestly satisfied with my DVD collection, you know, with a few exceptions. I've got a lot of Disney cartoons. I've got the Rodgers and Hammerstein collection, some holiday and festive videos, Christmas Mickey's Christmas Miracle. It's A Wonderful Life. How the Grinch Stole Christmas. Rudolph Christmas Story of Nightmare Before Christmas, the Charlie Brown Holiday Series With Christmas, Thanksgiving and Halloween.
One of the things that kind of blew me away about it when I first heard it is this recording starts with Josh Powell saying, continuing on from here it is December 13th, year 2000.
Still, I ran out of space on the card in this recorder. So I'm going to finish up this journal entry here.
So he's been talking before and now he's going to talk for another hour and 20 minutes. Yeah.
I mean, so he's committed a significant portion of his day to recording this material.
And you would think if you were going to invest that much time and effort, it would be today was a really big day.
And here's why.
And instead, what we hear is, uh, you know, I want to talk about my dad and, you know, what I'm doing with my credit cards and.
Right. And if you notice, I'd be interested if you saw this as well. But my feeling was the way he describes a lot of things are sort of literature like instead of just casual conversation, the way you might efficiently speak about what you did that day, I think it's where you were going with that is he instead describes things in in unnecessary detail, in and in sort of a narcissistic way, as if somebody is ever going to care about this, that it's somehow important, precious information about him and that someday future generations or other people might take a real interest in what he was doing that day.
Just the mundane. Everything would somehow be interesting and important.
So I felt like it was a very much a you know, it's a narcissistic activity. It reflects back on himself, his own self-importance that nobody truly would ever really care about.
So I need to spend a little more time taking care of this. I kind of scan a lot of papers to get get rid of the actual paperwork. And I've got to organize a bunch of files in my computer. And I'd really like to reformat my hard drive and reinstall things a lot cleaner to him in his mind in this.
And this is fairly young in his before his marriage, kind of this developing delusion of his grandiosity.
My current financial system of using multiple debit cards is something I came up with a few months ago. It seems like it was probably back in May or June when I came up with the idea.
And is this something because I hear the question a lot from people who have listen to the podcast and they're surprised at all of these journals. You've got Josh keeping this audio journal. You have Steve writing just, you know, all of these pages and pages of his journal.
You even have Susan journaling a little bit, you know, and and so where does it cross the line from being? Hey, that's a little unusual to. Wow, that's really strange in your mind.
Well, first of all, you have to put it in context. So they both grew up in the LDS faith and in the LDS church. Journaling is highly encouraged. So, you know, the fact that Susan kept childhood and adolescent journals wouldn't necessarily be unusual persay. But this this complete cataloging of his life, which is what he did, not what she did, that's where it kind of crosses over. Typically, journaling is a mundane activity for the Journal LUR.
And so people tend to be fairly efficient with it if they journal at all.
He liked technology and so he was drawn towards this new technology. Well, not necessarily new, but he was on the edge. Yeah, digitally. Hoarding audio and video, but where it becomes, I think, kind of crosses a line from kind of odd to very strange is the number of hours that that that are involved, which, like you said, an hour. I don't have an hour and 20 minutes in my day to do something fun.
I don't think I don't think many of us do right. And write.
And so that just the sheer minutes and hours, literally hours involved in his audio and some video is incredible.
And then the fact that they really are about very mundane sorts of things, he does get into describing what you might see in a journal a little bit more often, like feelings and thoughts about things. However, then it becomes even more kind of this, as if he's reading a book and he extends out his descriptions of things well beyond what you'd want to do if you were trying to efficiently record your thoughts and feelings. And so I would say those sorts of things combined, plus the fact that it's really egocentric, meaning the self.
It's all about him and his thoughts and his feelings about everything, which, of course, somebody listening, saying, well, it's his journal, but there's very little indication that he is contemplating or processing the thoughts and feelings and behaviors of other people, other people's motives in his life or what how they think and how they feel. There's really no indication that he's thinking, I wish I could make someone else happy today. You know, it's all about his his own things, his his description of how great his I remember he said he spent three hundred dollars on a DVD player.
And I remember when they used to be expensive like that. Right. So he's wanting to, you know, kind of highlight that. He has very nice things I don't really regret.
The DVD player, it was about a three hundred dollar purchase. And now I've got, you know, hundreds of dollars worth of DVDs that I have accumulated over the last couple of months. I don't think that was really a problem.
I totally credit it all there at times is kind of a poor me sort of picked on, you know, attitude that I'm I'm special, but people aren't recognizing it.
So I think all of those factors together really tip the scales into the fact that this is well beyond a typical journal. But the highlight is just the number of hours is, you know, I doubt, you know, the president has quite so much audio on him. Right.
I'm glad you brought up the point about how he seems to lack this empathy for other people.
There's one particular passage in my mind where he's talking about I'm trying to be more active with friends.
After the Seattle, it was really you became a no, I didn't like that environment down in Tacoma. I feel like I have an opportunity to make friends with people where I never could up in Seattle except in church.
It's better now that I'm in Tacoma and I'm hosting these get togethers where people come over and isn't this great? I started a tradition of inviting people over every Sunday and after a few weeks that progressed into a tradition where we just get together as a group, pretty much the same color.
And then a little bit later in the recording, he comes back and says, people come over to my house and instead of eating what I'm offering them, they come in and say, oh, they look in my face, Oh, I want to make orange juice to go with dinner. And I want to put this with our dinner. Well, eventually when they start doing that, it gets extremely expensive to have these dinners. And so I felt like that has been a burden that I can't take these days.
There might be some normal annoyance that most of us would feel it going, you know, I'm kind of a poor college student, I don't have the resources. But at the same time, there's almost a shift in the way his voice sounds in my ear, that this is more than just annoyance like this is how dare they?
Yeah, I think you're absolutely right. It's they've gone out of bounds of his expectation and he wants to put them back in those boundaries. So I think specifically he said people will get something out of the fridge and say, oh, I'd like to add this to the meal. And we don't know what those things were. But but most likely, since he was a poor college student, it might have been salad dressing for all we know. Nothing like, you know, people aren't, you know, untying his meat supply.
It's not steaks. Yeah, exactly. And so I think absolutely there's a shift in his tone and temper, in his voice when he talks about this. This really bothers him that how dare they? Is definitely a good way to describe the feeling you get when you listen to that shift. How dare they do something in my home that I didn't intend? You know, they're here to become my friends. And so there's no reciprocity there. And there's also no acknowledgement that maybe he was popular for a minute.
People enjoy being there. They're comfortable enough to go into his fridge. A different alternative perspective would be like, oh, it's awesome. You know, people come over and they they help themselves to stuff. I'm really making real friends. But no, it was he can't control what they're doing in his environment and it bothers him at this point.
Of course, I'm only saying Susan and I have been for about a month now.
This also is really important in my mind because we know that it's during one of these Sunday dinners that he hosted that he and Susan really hit it off.
He didn't go into it as much in this particular recording, but in some of the others that were used in in court, you hear him describe, you know, Susan, after the meal got up and was cleaning the dishes and that's when we fell in love, I think I might have asked for help doing the dishes.
And she volunteers. So we were doing dishes together. And I guess she liked that so much that she decided she really likes me.
It's so hard for my mind to understand a 24 or 25 year old guy who meets this, you know, cute nineteen year old. And in none of these recordings, this one included. Does he ever say anything about, you know, she is. So I'm head over heels for her. She is.
So this, that or the other. It's typical language is how she serves me, how she takes care of me. Oh yeah.
Very specifically he I, I have if you listen to what this, this section and then you know, the cold episodes, you obviously see that he has a plan, he is attending church functions, social functions put on by his church with the primary goal of dating, trying to find somebody complains that girls don't call him back.
I sometimes have difficulty finding girls who are willing to return my phone calls go out with me. I've had over the last three or four months, I've called a number of girls who never returned my phone calls or who always said they were too busy to go out with me.
He's very much in on the hunt, so to speak, for finding a girlfriend. And I assume then later a wife. And when he finds Susan, she has these traits that he just has been looking for. She's very kind. He said she does, you know, nice things for him.
She's the first girl I've known that I've been dating who has had a car, who comes to visit me. You know, in the past, I've always been the one to pick up a girl. Whether she's visiting me or I'm visiting her, I'm always the one to do the driving. So that's a great thing. He specifically mentions that she jumps in and does the dishes, that she washes her hands and puts everything back after she uses the bathroom, and it only takes a minute to do that.
She also tends to help me clean up, like after we have a party or after we have dinner together at my place or something. She helps me clean it up and keep the kitchen clean. Like when she washes her hands in the bathroom, she wakes up the sink, which I do too. I like to keep all that clean. It only takes a second to keep things looking really nice.
And it really is all about her serving him, her doing things for him, her making him feel good and special, respecting his things the opposite of what the other guests were doing in the home. She's putting things back, cleaning up, doing the dishes and then doing nice things for him. And then in this journal that we listen to, there's also a section where, I mean, this is a hardworking girl. She works very hard. She goes to a beauty school all day, works at J.C. Penney, and then drives to his house to meet him and and serve him again.
It really shows that she cares for her to come over here after her long day and make it a point to see me every day.
And so he's just, I think, found the ideal in his mind person to feed his narcissistic self perception that he's special and deserves to be treated that way.
Yeah, there is, I recall is a particular section where he talks about when they started dating and he almost sounds a little defensive in saying, well, this was really Susan's idea.
And, you know, I wasn't sure that I wanted to give up all these other options.
When I started getting serious with Susan, it was mainly her idea.
I was very hesitant to get into a relationship because I was finally feeling confident about dating and I didn't want to let go of all my relationships that I could potentially develop right after he told us that he really has no other options because girls won't give him the time of day.
Right. Sometimes I feel like I can't reach any girls anywhere that for some reason or another they won't give me a chance to even go out with them.
But in his mind, being a special, precious person that's deserving of adoration, he must have many, many options. He just hasn't found them yet or convinced them yet. You're convinced them? Yeah. Yeah. Let them or given them the privilege. I mean, it's all of that sort of self-absorbed, narcissistic thinking. And and he even kind of brushes her off at one point when I think, was it the roommate or the friend was interested in her, you know, he's like, well, you know, I just, you know, he could have her, you know, he was very nonchalant about it.
Tim and I were sort of flirting with her and. Tim got her phone number and eventually called her I was. I gave her my phone number, I didn't you know, everyone was teasing me and I didn't want to really get her phone number and do what everyone is teasing me that I always do. I didn't want to be the second person to get it after Tim already got her phone number. Whatever the reasons, I just kind of let it go to some extent.
But of course, at that point, when he's saying that she had already come around to liking him. So it was a no risk way of brushing it off. He knew she was hooked on him.
Yeah, that's that's a great observation because there was a competition happening there, I think, for a short time for Susan's attention between Josh in this particular friend. Yeah.
And it's interesting to see the way he goes back and describes in some other recordings, you know, when he and Susan met, that friend was there and, you know, was she paying attention to me? Was she paying attention to him?
And this kind of this kind of tug of war about, you know, if she pays attention to him, then she's worthless. I don't care about her. Absolutely not worth going after where? You know, I mean, that that, you know, male competition for a girl when you're in college, of course, happens all the time. But you would probably have somebody in Josh's position who's a normally functioning person have a very different approach, which is like, what can I do to win her?
Like, what can I do? You know, she's seeming to pay attention to my roommate or my friend more than me.
But I really like her. You know, she's the light of my life I got to have or I'm going to do this and that.
None of that. None of that from Josh. Josh is just like, oh, well, you're worthless. You have no value if you're not all about me.
I was feeling very frustrated about dating in general. I didn't want to have anything to do with any girl. I was feeling like I might have too difficult time finding someone who will treat me the way I want to be treated.
There was a section in the recording that I want to ask you about in particular, because it really hit me when I listen to it the first time and it hasn't really dulled as I've gone back and listened to it on, you know, repeat listens.
And that is this section where Josh describes Susan and her anger.
I've seen her upset like that day we were moving. And I certainly wasn't thrilled about that. I want to see that that she keeps those kind of things under control and also the way you treat other people like she comes up, she has an attitude with some people like her sister or some of her friends, that she just needs to keep that under control, which I just want to see that she's doing that for quite a long time before I even feel comfortable with her completely.
And partly I'm concerned about how she would treat me if she would pull that attitude on me, which would be completely unacceptable. I wouldn't. I wouldn't accept that at all. And secondly, I wouldn't want someone to come up with some any kind of attitude with with our kids. That's the essence of it.
It really isn't about the kids. A part of a narcissist is they feed themselves their own story over and over again and kind of reinforcing their own self-worth in their own self-importance.
And part of that is being like a good person, like I am better than the rest of you. I'm smarter in this case. You know, I'm more righteous and moral. I'm above the rest of you. And so he would say things, in my opinion, in these audio journals, they're really messages to himself like, oh, I don't know that I should choose a woman like this because it might be bad for my future children. But then he goes on to talk about what the real underlying thrust is, is.
I want to get a woman who will serve me all the time, be subservient, and she has a little bit of her own gumption.
And and I think that if we were if we had been able to see, you know, examples of what he's talking about, it probably would have been a normal 19 year old girl. Oh, I think he uses the word attitude. She has an attitude. Well, of course, she's 19 and she's an individual person. She's going to have a little attitude when people when things don't go her way.
And especially dealing with a personality like Joshes, of course, is very controlling and rigid. And and so, yeah, when she pushed back on him a little bit, we don't know what exactly that was in dating, which I would assume was very normal and typical, the average person would probably look at that and say, oh yeah, that's she's just being she's asserting herself as a normal human. He he he was worried about that.
He was worried that I mean, you know, I may not be able to control this woman the way I want to control her because she's got a little bit of an attitude. But then he turns it into this whole morphing of maybe she'd be abusive to the future children.
I think that would screw up my kids to have someone to have a mother who isn't stable enough with them.
That sort of theme plays out later when after she's gone missing. And the investigation is on when Josh and his father, Steve, are going through her childhood journals trying to prove that she was abused and that she was abusive to the kids and making up these stories, just fabricating stories about her abusiveness.
And you can see that he was toying with that idea before they were even married as sort of an an out or an escape, a way to blame her for problems, right?
Yeah. Rather than self reflect and go. Maybe she's upset with me because ABC said it's just because she has this problem. Right. And she's got to get that solved before, you know, I will ever consider.
So Susan is always talking about marriage with me. The other day, she said something like what you let me propose to you. And I didn't really know what to say, so I didn't say anything that I first of all, I wouldn't want the girl to propose to me at all. I would find that probably very uncomfortable. And secondly, I'm not really ready to to get engaged with Susan anyway. I at least want to get to know her over the long run and see how she is if if her personality changes, like, I want to see how she can handle stress and and whether she has patience and stuff in the long run.
I think if people who have listened to your podcast, they'll recognize a theme, and that is that he sees things as kind of a zero sum game is plus and minus. Things are either an asset to me or they're a liability to me. And there is very little, if any.
I don't recall anything I've read or heard that would make me indicate he has true empathy. He fakes sympathy and empathy.
At times I was helping her move and she was in a really stressed out mood and she wasn't really being very nice well afterwards. And I was just somewhat understanding, I guess I wasn't being really rude to her in response, but afterwards she felt really bad. So she was going out of her way to just make it up to me and do a little nice things for me.
The way normal, typical healthy adults interact is we may be upset with each other in our marriages or relationships, but we can, you know, calm down and empathize and realize, OK, I understand what he or she was thinking this way or that way or feeling this way or that way that helps us compromise and work with people and make real, genuine connections. But he he didn't have that. There is nothing that I am aware of that is an example of him doing that.
It's just she needs to serve my needs. And if she's not serving my needs and I can't make her serve me, then she goes from an asset to a liability. And that's exactly what we see happen over time. As she found her own voice, so to speak, started contemplating the idea that maybe he wouldn't change, maybe they did need to divorce. And I'm sure there were lots and lots of conversations. None of us would ever will ever be privy to that planted ideas in his mind that she's going to become a liability.
She is a liability. Now, I need to eliminate that liability. But that goes way back. Yeah. To this audio journal of shortly, just what weeks after they met when Josh recorded this audio journal.
They've been dating for about a month and they're about a month away from being engaged.
Yeah. And it's stunning to me that you hear Josh in this recording say, you know, Susan's kind of been the one driving this and I don't have this.
And less than a month later, he is he is all in.
I realized that she was serious, that she wasn't going to just start something and walk away. And at this point, I am confident that she that she is sincere.
He recognizes that at some point during that span of time that she meets those criteria that you're looking for, as you described. And if you don't lock her in, she will leave. Right.
And maybe it's you and I talked a little bit about this kind of idea of a narcissist having a a protective front.
And maybe there is that that, you know, little piece inside that voice that's going you got to commit her before she finds out who you really are.
Yeah, I think that's that's absolutely the truth. I'm sure he was worried about. He's found the perfect girl for him, meets all his criteria, his check check list, and that she could get away.
I had to make a decision, either get with her exclusively right then and there and let all these other girls go that I have tentatively scheduled dates with or that I've been talking to and that I've been planning to ask out any day now.
I either had to let all those girls go or get with her to get with her or let her go to continue to things the way they were. So that was very. Scary step. One way to think of a narcissistic personality, and I'll just take a sidestep and say personality, as the psychologist thinks of it, is our way of perceiving, understanding and interacting with the world.
And it's kind of on autopilot. It's how we do what we do. And we're not thinking about what we're doing. It's just us. And so it's a very ingrained part of who we are. It is who we are. So most of our personality traits, quirky as they may be, are healthy and capable of us reflecting on them and realizing we may need to improve in certain areas of our life. And if you've been married, then you know that there's someone there to help you reflect on that.
And that can be a hard process, but a good one and a narcissist.
Typically, you may think of them as somebody who's not building a genuine personality structure. It's kind of this facade, at least at first. It's kind of this facade of competency. I'm special, I'm important, and it has to be perfect and pristine and elevated above everyone else because it's false. You know, he has a lot of people have told me, oh, wow, he is very intelligent. We look through the things, we look through the report and we say, OK, he's above average in intelligence, but is a particular kind.
It had nothing to do with really creativity, flexibility, fluid. Intelligence wasn't his thing. Interpersonal intelligence was not his thing. It was very much this kind of mathematical type of intelligence. And it was so kind of fits that cold exterior, his narcissistic armor, so to speak, this facade, that's what he would invest all his time in. And that's who he's talking to. A lot of the time on these tapes is just building up this sense of I'm special and precious.
So you think of it as kind of a facade and the real person underneath kind of shrinks year after year after year. But at some point, you know, when you're still younger, you're in your 20s.
There may be some of that left that goes Josh, you got to lock her down or she's going to get away. She's going to find out that you're really not that great. And so over time, that voice gets smaller and smaller as the narcissistic personality develops a thicker skin and then the person essentially becomes that false person in a way.
And so I think absolutely he he probably jumped on getting her locked down in marriage as quickly as he could, because during the short period of time of dating, she was demonstrating. She needed she could be who he wanted.
She seems like someone I could.
Be with because she's got the same values and conserving energy and keeping the house clean, which is important to me, and what we know about Susan is she was attractive, vivacious, energetic, probably somebody that had a lot of offers for dating.
And she was just at 19 kind of entering that phase in her life where you would transition from maybe, you know, boyfriend girlfriend into into some of these more serious relationships.
And I think a lot of young adults in that in that space, they go through a few relationships that that fail and they learn along the way and they develop some of those skills.
And I personally look at, you know, Susan and Josh and see that in some ways, marrying Josh when she did appears to have stunted Susan's development.
And it's not until later in her in her later 20s after she's kind of had a gutful of it, that she begins developing a little more independence and stepping out. And that puts her in conflict with her husband.
Oh, yeah, very well said. That's one of the as as a psychologist and working with people, I'm always concerned when an 18, 19, even 20 year old says they want to get married that, you know, can't work out.
I know, however, that person is giving up regardless of whether the marriage works out or not, which may be a product.
More of the two people developing a good dynamic together and and one of them not being a psychopath, that that you give up that personal development, that young adult experience you've gone.
And we actually have a term for it's called individuating or becoming your own self. And you've been raised and learned all the good things and had all the support from your family, your community, etc. And now you're on your own. To some degree. You're off to college being more independent and you need several years of experience with taking care of yourself, managing your own finances, and maybe most importantly, relationships. How do you handle friendships? How do you handle intimacy?
And so developing competency in your ability to have intimate connection with other people requires practice. It's not something we're born with necessarily.
Some people might be a little better at it than the rest, but we need practice. And unfortunately, the time that she could have been practicing that in dating through college, unfortunately, she got married and she got married to somebody that had very ill intentions for her.
In the worst case, I would probably end up moving back in with my dad. Putting all my stuff into storage would probably pay 150 to 200 dollars a month to store everything I own. And. Of course, that wouldn't be ideal either. Let's talk about the broader Powell family dynamics that I think are kind of hinted at in this audio journal. You hear Josh talking about some of his interplay with his dad.
What did you take away from that?
So I think there's that competition between father and son. And, you know, like most boys growing up, he when he was younger, you know, probably wanted his father's attention and approval and that sort of thing. But when the divorce happens, then something different kind of takes over and takes place. And that's often referred to as a closed family system. And what I mean by that is there was a divorce and the very contentious all the kids, except for Jennifer, I believe, went with with the father, with Steve, Josh.
There was maybe a few weeks or months there where he was trying he and his younger brother were trying to spend some time with mom, but she was trying to set some what seemed like appropriate limits and boundaries to establish she's come from this chaotic situation, establish an appropriate home life and hoping that Josh would give in to and so he wouldn't do that. And he went back into this family system with his father. And a closed family system is kind of like circling the wagons.
You know, it's us versus them. The rest of the world is bad or wrong or evil, typically, and we only can trust each other. There's a lot of indoctrination of kind of delusional, paranoid beliefs typically that are happening, which we know boundaryless. Steve appears also to be a true narcissist with, you know, a lot of sexual deviances.
And so he would be kind of primed to have no boundaries with his children, that they were a possession of him. He owned them and could do with them what he wanted. And so as they were younger, I'm sure there was a lot of abuse and very questionable things that happened to those children in that home, exposure to pornography maybe being the least of the concerns. And we know there was reports of sexual abuse and fantasies and things that were just very inappropriate for a child's development.
Josh pushes back as a teenager would. And so there creates this competition. And as soon as Josh quits just following Dad's word to the letter, then Josh becomes an enemy or a liability instead of an asset to Steve.
And then Josh becomes maligned by his father as as soon as his father sees his fiancee and then Susan becoming his wife, he wants to possess what Josh owns.
And because he's a sexually deviant narcissist, then it's it's a sexual obsession that is just remarkable.
I mean, it's it's unbelievable the documentation and the self aggrandizing that he has around this. He'll even tell everyone about it and he puts his son down. So there's this tug back and forth.
During the early years of the marriage, Josh feels, I think, a rebellion against his father and does a very odd rebellion. And that is that maybe going to church and becoming an active member of the church was actually a rebellious act against his father.
Right. I also have been praying almost every night and reading the scriptures at some point every day with, you know, a few exceptions on. When I haven't for one reason or another, that overall I think I've done very well with those over the last many, many months. His father at this point was a self-described anti Mormon, very taking every opportunity to run the church down publicly, personally. So the perfect rebellion against Steve at that time for Josh would be to become an active member of the church.
No. One, No.
Two independent from his father. So back to the audio journal that we reviewed. He's talking very, very detailed, very a lot of detail in his conversation about his independence, so to speak. He has food, he has an apartment. He has things. He's planning to decrease his debt and be self-sufficient. And so he's rebelling against Steve, whereas most fathers typically functioning father would be.
That's what you hope. You hope your kids would be praising them, but I'm sure Steve wasn't. Steve wants Josh to be dependent on him because Josh is just an extension of the narcissistic father.
I keep a substantial food supply. I probably have the largest food supply of anyone in my ward.
The rebellion going to church, the rebellion by being individual, an individual who's independent plays into that relationship. But then Josh has to eat crow several times and move home. And there's that tension. However, over time, Josh tends to develop and become more like his father. He takes on those harder narcissistic traits and starts to align himself more with his father against his own wife.
Eventually comes out that Steve propositioned Susan. And Josh does very little about that, if anything, whereas most husbands would be they'd be ready to fight dad.
Right. Like you kid me. Your dad is, you know, propositioning. And and then it's the music he writes in the videos he shoots in the fantasies he shares. I mean, this is just really sick focus. But it's he wants to possess what Josh has and push Josh out.
Josh is now a liability. And so Josh is fighting back. But eventually Josh loses and Josh's personality becomes more like his father.
He aligns with his father against Susan. Susan now becomes Josh's liability. So it's it's it's an interesting study in generational narcissism and how narcissistic parents can influence narcissistic children. And they eventually become aligned in their narcissism, maybe not in all of their behaviors and attitudes, but it is certainly in their narcissism.
In my head, I'm thinking about, you know, two ends of the of a magnet. Right. If you take two negative polls and try to push them together, they're going to repel each other. But yet there's also there's seems to be this attraction between them.
Yeah. Yeah. It's a Push-Pull, very conflict based. But kind of like you can't tear them apart. Yeah.
Sometimes it feels to me like I do too much time giving away more than I can afford, like giving people rides up to Seattle and who knows where else. What I really can't even afford the gas, we can draw this out and see what happens after Steve gets arrested, where now Josh almost becomes the the Alpha in a way.
And this is going well beyond the audio journal. But I do think it's because we're talking about this interplay relationship that when Steve goes to jail and Josh becomes kind of the de facto head of that household, now he's the one who's calling the shots.
And I've talked to a number of people who were privy to, you know, the jail phone calls and things of that time who said Josh really asserted himself as being the one who was in authority at that point, which I found interesting.
And, yeah, definitely an interesting observation. And but but maybe somewhat predictable because he's been vying for that position. There's not a healthy father son relationship where your dad becomes kind of a wise mentor and as you and is proud of you for having your own life, there's none of that. The only way Josh gets any real validation is at first by pleasing his dad and then later by taking over becoming his dad.
And so once Dad's out of the picture, he's like my is you know, it's my turn to shine as the the narcissistic alpha of this family.
One of the final things I wanted to kind of touch on is if we look at if we look at Josh, especially, you know, in this early time frame, I've had the question listening to these audio journals and reviewing, you know, the divorce file.
Do you think there was a point in time or could there be? You know, if somebody has a child who's exhibiting narcissistic behaviors as they're growing?
Is there a way to step in and direct or channel that in a way that's more positive?
That's a great question. And something that came to my mind often listening to to the podcast episodes and then the journals that we reviewed. So you have to look at what is personality. Personality is developmental. It develops through childhood and adolescence and starts to become more solidified in adulthood. In that context, the answer would be yes. You can see developing traits of maladaptive personality early in a child's life, sometimes back to elementary school. So narcissism and, you know, interpersonal coldness, you know, lack of empathy.
Those things can can be seen early on for for any clinicians listening. You know, most clinicians will say we want to rule out other causes of that.
You know, there often can be things like abuse and neglect involved in that process. So certainly, you know, interventions that reduce or eliminate abuse and neglect, provide support, healthy self-esteem and concepts early on should be employed. I personally work a lot with older children and adolescents and primarily for the reason that they're in this developmental period where things like whether it's an anxiety issue, a learning disability or their personality structure is those things are developing. It's a great time to get in and make interventions to reference current research.
We know that some personality disorders tend to have a fairly high loading of genetic predisposition. So we know that with narcissism specifically and antisocial personality and others, there seems to be a fair amount of heritability. Now, that's not destiny. Heritability is not destiny. But some of these kids who are born to parents who obviously have met those criteria are at much higher risk for exhibiting those behaviors. So from a teacher's point of view, a parent's point of view, other people involved, we would want to pay attention.
And as those tendencies are exhibited, it's a great time to consult experts, pediatricians, therapists, people that can help with normal life development. Getting kids kind, of course, corrected.
However, the problem is one of the other generational factors may be chaos. And so a lot of these kids who are born to parents who are personality disordered in this way, narcissism, antisocial, they may have parents in jail or in trouble with the law who don't live a calm, normal lifestyle.
And so they're also in not just having a genetic predisposition, but they're being raised in a chaotic environment.
And I think we see that with the Powell boys. Unfortunately, the potential for them having a normal, healthy life was there.
But Josh and his family's influence wrecked that, you know, created chaos, created a stressed out mother who was riding her bike on the freeway to work and back and not having enough to eat.
And this sort of abusive, chaotic, uncertain environment is the perfect environment to grow narcissistic personality. So listeners, people who are teachers, aunts and uncles, parents, grandparents. If you are concerned at all about that, instead of just wondering and worrying, you know, talk with a professional like your pediatrician, for starters, that's usually easy access and then maybe consult with a child or adolescent psychologist. And there's a lot that can be done early in life to help a person grow and develop.
Dr. Mattioli, thank you so much for taking time to speak with us about this. Fascinating. We could go on for hours, I am sure.
Yeah, definitely. Maybe we should go out to dinner and continue the conversation. Fantastic.
Thanks, Dr. Lloyd. Thanks again for listening to Susan Powell story. I'm excited to say I'm less than a month away from dropping the first episode of Cold Season to where I will bring you the same deep reporting on a different case. I should also remind you cold season two is going exclusive on Amazon music. So to find it, download the free Amazon music app and follow cold. They're no paid subscription required. Or just ask your echo device to play the cold podcast.