The Devil You Know

From a pioneering psychiatrist and psychotherapist comes The Devil You Know, a perspective-shattering work into the minds of violent criminals which reveals profound consequences for human nature and society at large.

As a forensic psychiatrist and psychotherapist, you could say I am a student of evil. I see it as a performative term, like beauty; it conveys judgement, rather than an objective truth about the subject. I have spent decades working with people who have caused horror and grief to others. The horror and the grief are part of their stories, but so is the theme of redemption. I will tell horror stories in this book, but I will also tell stories of change and recovery. It may surprise the reader that this is possible.

In The Devil You Know, Dr. Gwen Adshead reminds us that before destroying another life, those reviled as ‘monsters’ at Broadmoor were ordinary people with whom we shared, and continue to share, common ground. In fact, we are more alike than we are different: that is the central argument of this book. Through three-dimensional case studies she restores humanity to these patients and in each story she shows how she and her patient try to gain some understanding of how their violence came to pass, what was going on in their mind at the time, and what might help them live more safely in the future. As she argues ‘Punishment doesn’t change minds but psychological space does’.

As well as exploring her patients’ minds, Adshead examines her own learning curve and psychology – how she deals with revulsion and hopelessness, boundaries and personal risk. She reveals the ethical dilemmas at the heart of her work. The Devil You Know is a compassionate book – challenging assumptions and changing minds, questioning our conception of human nature itself.

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