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The Psychopathic Little Girl: The Sad Story of the Child of Rage

In many ways the human mind is as much an impenetrable mystery as the deepest reaches of the ocean trenches, or indeed the cosmos itself. Our mind is a vast expanse that contains a whole complicated ecosystem of thoughts, experiences, and urges, all coexisting to form the realm of our consciousness. And as with any ecosystem, if one element gets thrown out of balance the rest is liable to suffer the effects in a ripple wave that can alter the very nature of the whole thing. We have barely scratched the surface of the complexities of human thought and emotion, but one thing that is certain is that the mind can be upset and unbalanced, which can erupt to the surface to spill out into the outside world in the most spectacular of ways. One curious case of a damaged mind pushing out of the dark recesses of consciousness into the light is that of a little girl who would catapult into the spotlight as a grim example of psychosis and cement her sinister reputation as the “Child of Rage.”

Beth Thomas came into the world like everyone else, a blank slate of a future laid out before her, with the way towards the horizon branching off towards both bright and dark paths. Unfortunately for Beth, from a very early age her life would go down one of the dark ones, beginning with the death of her mother when she was just 1 year of age. Beth and her brother were sent to live with their biological father when they were barely toddlers, who constantly abused them mentally and physically and neglected them, often not even giving them food. When the abuse was discovered, the children were taken from their father and went to live with an good and kind adoptive family, and this is where things would get strange.

Beth Thomas

Almost immediately, Beth was plagued by very vivid nightmares in which she said that a man was menacing her and trying to hurt her. Her new parents were very caring and understanding people, but when they tried to talk to her about it Beth would lash out, often violently. She would curse and hit and kick as if possessed by a demon, and this was not even the end of it. Beth began routinely torturing the family dog and once killed a nest of baby birds with cold indifference. When her and her brother got into an argument one day, she bashed his head repeatedly into the concrete, which required him to be taken to the hospital. Beth would also sexually molest her brother, torture him with pins and needles, and fly into uncontrollable rages at a moment’s notice, during which she would throw things, break objects, and inflict harm upon herself and others. During these wild tantrums she would spew vehemence and threaten to kill them all, and it all got so bad that her adoptive parents would lock her into her room at night out of fear for their lives.

Beth’s frightened foster parents sought out help, taking her to a Dr. Ken Magid, a clinical psychologist specializing in children who have been victims of sexual or emotional abuse. Through his discussions with Beth he learned that both her and her brother had been sexually abused by their biological father, and it was found that Jonathan had a strangely shaped head that was almost completely flat in the back because of being left lying on his back in his cot all day as a baby. Beth admitted to all of the atrocities that she herself had committed, explaining all of this in a cold, detached manner that was chilling for a little girl who was only 6 years old at the time. Perhaps the most frightening revelation she made was when she calmly told Dr. Magid that she wanted to stab her parents and brother to death as they slept. He diagnosed her with a condition known as Reactive Attachment Disorder (RAD), in which very young children fail to form proper connections in their early years, typically due to poor treatment and within the crucial first 2 years of life, leading to a whole host of emotional problems down the line including destructive behavior, self-harm, violence, and outbursts of unbridled anger. This behavior would further ensure that the child could not form healthy relationships with those around them, and it became a vicious cycle.

Dr. Magid had rarely seen such a chillingly pronounced case, and he recommended that Beth be hospitalized and undergo treatment. One of the treatments that was tried is a now outdated and banned intensive experimental process called “Attachment Therapy.” This entails extreme behavioral modification techniques, such as strictly requiring the child to ask for permission for everything they do, intense restrictions on what they do, hugging therapy in which they are forced to hug people no matter how unpleasant they find it, and a bizarre practice in which they are smothered with pillows in order to stimulate the feeling of being born. It all sounds just as abusive and traumatic as what an abused child had already endured, but it seemed to work in this case. Beth slowly got better, learned remorse, and stopped her tantrums and self-harming, seemingly growing a conscience.

It all ended up working out for Beth Thomas, as in her adult years she would go on to become a registered, award winning Neonatal Intensive Care Unit nurse and a public speaker and the founder of a nonprofit organization called Families by Design, which deals with trying to help similarly troubled children. She is also the author of the book More Than A Thread Of Hope, and her story was also made into the HBO documentary on her life and treatment, entitled Child of Rage, in which there are several chilling clips of her expressing her desire to kill her parents. While there are many more cases like this out there, Beth Thomas was one to fully expose what a shattered childhood can do to the psyche, and it is all a spooky, very often disturbing peek into the mysteries of the human mind, past the veil of what we show to the rest of the world, diving down past the sunlit surface of the mind to plunge into the abyssal depths of madness and the untamed beast that lurks within us all.