Yes, Murder for Hire Is a Real Thing — Here’s the Psychology Behind It

Yes, Murder for Hire Is a Real Thing — Here’s the Psychology Behind It

How big of a step is there between someone who keys their ex's car… and someone who hires a hitman?

By Jen Glantz

If you ever thought some of the stories your friends share with you over brunch about the things they've done (or their friends have done) in a relationship are shocking, a new show on Oxygen is about to make those stories seem almost quaint.

Keying cars to get back at a cheating ex or snooping through a guy's phone for proof that he's a douchebag is kindergarten-level compared to what goes on episode after episode on Oxygen’s Murder for Hire, a docu-series that dives into the crazy stories of contract killing.

From doctors to wealthy bankers to jealous lovers to military officers, the series takes a detailed look into how relationships can go wrong and end up with one of the people arranging for the other’s murder by paying someone to do it.

One upcoming episode, titled "Guardian Angel," shows a man who fails to kill his ex-wife caught on camera hiring a hitman for $5,000 to finish the job. The ending is one that will give you faith in miracles — but also make you scratch your head over how a person could ever seek revenge on an ex Murder for Hire-style.

Turns out, it isn’t so far-fetched of an idea.

Ashley McGirt, a licensed mental health therapist, says every person theoretically has the ability to murder.

Hold up! That’s pretty scary, right? But McGirt explained it’s all about how a person manages and processes their inner rage that determines what makes one person kill and another person walk away.

“Everyone has the capacity for anger and everyone also has rage stored in them. When one is hurt, feels harmed, or wronged, what is called the amygdala hijack takes place. The amygdala is the part of our brain that is responsible for emotions and survival instincts. Its job is to process incoming signals and to alert the rest of the brain when a threat is present, which triggers anxiety and fear responses,” McGirt said.

"These responses are supposed to engage when necessary and disengage when we don’t need them. Our brain begins to take its shape from our thoughts that we spend most of our time resting on," she added.

All of this, McGirt said, has individuals reacting before the rational brain weighs in on this information to let us know what we are doing is wrong.

“Many can control this or stop before they react in life-ending ways. Others are pushed to the edge and all ability to rationalize and make good judgments is lost,” McGirt said. “Someone who hires a hitman becomes set on murder and acting out their rage through someone else. The thrill sends distorted signals to their brain, creating a high that seems as though it won’t be complete until the act of murder is done.”

Dr. Rupali Chadha, a psychiatric physician, said another factor to consider is personality and personality formation.

“Personalities are formed in our mid-20s. That’s the time when our frontal lobe or decision-making part of the brain is fully developed,” Dr. Chadha said. So why would someone’s response to a relationship issue end with something as extreme as hiring someone to murder their spouse? "People who have the personality type where it's difficult to manage their emotions may not have other coping skills. They may feel hurt, develop rage, and then don’t have it in their toolbox to deal with strong emotion. These are the people who take more extreme actions.”

But the main thing to question is how big of a step is there between someone who keys a car and someone who hires a hitman?

John Michaud, the director of the School of Legal Studies at Husson University and a former NCIS federal agent with 25 years of service, says there is a big difference, unless you are dealing with someone with severe mental health issues.

“Most people realize that, unlike many other crimes, murder has a true finality. It cannot be 'walked back.' In addition, murder is very often personal, not random. If one believes in deterrence, then it makes sense that the punishment for murder be severe. Severe punishment only works as a successful deterrent however, if others, who are considering murder, are acting rationally,” Michaud explained.

Michaud said that while people may act out and take revenge because it provides them with a sense of balance in their lives and a feeling of being “equal," most people do recognize and act with limits.

"There are times when people act without reflection and this is often when the line is crossed,” Michaud concluded.

On Murder for Hire, that line is not just crossed, it’s walked over, stepped on, and completely smeared.

Murder for Hire airs on Oxygen on Sundays at 7/6c.

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