Monday, March 31, 2014

Psycho vs. psychotic (part 1)

I had an interesting discussion with a reader on the relationship between the psychopathic and psychotic. I was expecting to see almost no relationship, but was surprised to see at least a few parallels, particularly in that we both experience the world in a way so different than neurotypicals and consequently are treated differently for it (unless we're pretty expert at hiding it):

I greatly enjoyed and admired your book. So much that I’d be reckless enough to call it important, given how it counters the standard model of the sociopath and gives a voice to others like you. 

Thanks to your book, I’ve concluded that I am not a sociopath. The question has long been there, and maybe - were I to go into detail about my life - my conclusion could challenged. 

Some years ago I was given the diagnosis which saved my life: ‘Bipolar Affective Disorder with Cyclothymic Tendencies” and a prescription for lithium carbonate. After a whole life of depression, violent outbursts, alcohol abuse, self-harm and one potent suicide attempt; I finally had something approaching an explanation. 

I’m grateful to be high-functioning (social workers have expressed surprise at this), and to be carving niches in life and work. I’m more focussed and hugely confident (with an ego my younger self would’ve been affronted by); though increasingly analytical, cold and emotionally detached. I work in retail and relish being able to alter my environment and personality, in order to sway my superiors (or indeed by-pass them altogether) as well as manipulating the buying decisions of customers. In my somewhat kaleidoscopic wetware I love the idea of “bending their will to my own.”  

In my head I maintain an almost comic book sense of personal mythology and continuity. My life and experiences cast in the light of my “emerging powers.” The fear and doubt and servility that characterised me is long dead, and now my concerns centre wholly upon increasing my own sense of achievement, in demonstrating (to myself I must stress) how much I can do, how much I can handle and how well I continue to evolve. 

I exist in a near perpetual state of hypomania (occasionally peaking into irrational ranting/noises inside my head) entwined with a calm, centred “mixed state” where cutting out an eye or slicing open my arms will quell some internal conflict/pain or simply because...reasons. [Un]logic I call it. 

It seems to me that some of what I describe could be considered sociopathic in nature. The difference between sociopathy and sociopathic traits is intriguing to me, because I now wonder if my continued evolution is in part down to adopting (consciously or not) such characteristics. Having to step back, take longer to assess what’s happening, increase the emotional distance. Forcing myself into calculated risks and being willing to follow my gut when boundaries become too much. 

I appreciate how unconcerned you seem with justifying or seeking sympathy for your sociopathy. How it is not a disorder needing a cure.  Perhaps another reader would raise an eyebrow about now, but I can only stutter from where I stand. 

He concluded with two questions: "How thin do you consider the line between psychopathic and psychotic can be? What can the “coping strategies” of one offer to the other and vice versa?" To which I replied:

I have myself often wondered about the beneficial aspects of sociopathic behaviors, particularly evolutionarily or as defense tactics against a hostile world. A lot of people that visit my site are from eastern europe. Is it because they've had to become gradually less emotional in dealing with harsh circumstances? I actually don't know that much about psychotics. So you would consider yourself a psychotic? You would probably be a better person to ask then, what is the difference?

Sunday, March 30, 2014


A reader recently suggested a reason why people are so upset to learn that someone they know is a sociopath: "The normal person figures out they have been dealing with a sociopath only after they have been screwed and they see that the person they thought they were dealing with never existed. The distaste is both for the deception and also recognition that they were "had"- never pleasant."

It reminded me of this Radio Lab episode "What's Left When You're Right," which starts off with a segment on the game show Golden Balls. The end segment to each episode ends with a classic game theory prisoner's dilemma. So the deal is that if they both choose split, they split the money. If one chooses steal, the other split, the person who steals gets the money. If they both choose steal, no one gets the money. This clip is one of the craziest versions of it:

To me, this seems like an easy choice. I would split, because unlike most prisoner's dilemmas where it is much worse to cooperate/split when the other person defects/steals (20 years in prison for you) than to both defect/steal (10 years in prison for both of you), you end up with nothing if both of you split. The game show gets to keep its money. To me, that seems like the bigger waste. I would rather ensure that someone besides the show got the money, even if it meant giving it all to another person. And I don't actually get upset when someone gets one over on me. People manipulate me all of the time. I've been led into some pretty terrible situations (seen or heard a couple of my worst media appearances?), been conned, cheated, or whatever, but it doesn't really bother me. If anything, I'm often impressed, or at least try to learn something from the situation. (Although if it was less of a one time thing and more of a continuing power struggle, I'd probably try to figure out some way to hit them back).

I don't think most people think this way, in fact the Radio Lab episode tries to explain why so many people choose split (apart from the obvious greed) by interviewing previous contestants. The interviewees seemed to suggest that their main motivation in stealing was to avoid the feeling of being conned, tricked, or otherwise taken advantage of.

The problem with that is extreme efforts to avoid being "conned" often end up hurting yourself and others. The whole Cold War was basically built on this fear. From a New Yorker review of a book about nuclear almost disasters, "Nukes of Hazard":

On  January 25, 1995, at 9:28 a.m. Moscow time, an aide handed a briefcase to Boris Yeltsin, the President of Russia. A small light near the handle was on, and inside was a screen displaying information indicating that a missile had been launched four minutes earlier from somewhere in the vicinity of the Norwegian Sea, and that it appeared to be headed toward Moscow. Below the screen was a row of buttons. This was the Russian “nuclear football.” By pressing the buttons, Yeltsin could launch an immediate nuclear strike against targets around the world. Russian nuclear missiles, submarines, and bombers were on full alert. Yeltsin had forty-seven hundred nuclear warheads ready to go.

The Chief of the General Staff, General Mikhail Kolesnikov, had a football, too, and he was monitoring the flight of the missile. Radar showed that stages of the rocket were falling away as it ascended, which suggested that it was an intermediate-range missile similar to the Pershing II, the missile deployed by nato across Western Europe. The launch site was also in the most likely corridor for an attack on Moscow by American submarines. Kolesnikov was put on a hot line with Yeltsin, whose prerogative it was to launch a nuclear response. Yeltsin had less than six minutes to make a decision.

The Cold War had been over for four years. Mikhail Gorbachev had resigned on December 25, 1991, and had handed over the football and the launch codes to Yeltsin. The next day, the Soviet Union voted itself out of existence. By 1995, though, Yeltsin’s popularity in the West was in decline; there was tension over plans to expand nato; and Russia was bogged down in a war in Chechnya. In the context of nuclear war, these were minor troubles, but there was also the fact, very much alive in Russian memory, that seven and a half years earlier, in May, 1987, a slightly kooky eighteen-year-old German named Mathias Rust had flown a rented Cessna, an airplane about the size of a Piper Cub, from Helsinki to Moscow and landed it a hundred yards from Red Square. The humiliation had led to a mini-purge of the air-defense leadership. Those people did not want to get burned twice.

After tracking the flight for several minutes, the Russians concluded that its trajectory would not take the missile into Russian territory. The briefcases were closed. It turned out that Yeltsin and his generals had been watching a weather rocket launched from Norway to study the aurora borealis. Peter Pry, who reported the story in his book “War Scare” (1999), called it “the single most dangerous moment of the nuclear missile age.” Whether it was the most dangerous moment or not, the weather-rocket scare was one of hundreds of incidents after 1945 when accident, miscommunication, human error, mechanical malfunction, or some combination of glitches nearly resulted in the detonation of nuclear weapons. 

Finally, Radio Lab discusses a contestant who comes up with a strategy that successfully avoids people's fear of being conned:

So I guess this explains why the people I've told myself about my diagnosis take it drastically better than the people that hear it from other sources? They feel like I've conned them? Here's the trick, though. You start indiscriminately telling people you're a sociopath and see if they still treat you well. 

Saturday, March 29, 2014


A lot of socios have been asking me recently about how they can get themselves to do things or stop doing things. Today I'll address doing things. I'll address how to stop doing things in another post.

First, acknowledge your strengths in this area. Sociopaths are natural doers. More than most people we are able to act without thinking. This decisiveness can mean good things, like efficient execution of what needs to get done in a professional setting, but it can also mean bad things like food poisoning or a black eye from an ill-considered risk.

What are your weaknesses? We're naturally worse at planning ahead than other people. We may want to do great things like climb the corporate ladder, become a crime lord, or otherwise acquire a position of power and influence, but when it comes down to it, a lot of times we just can't be bothered. We'd rather keep sleeping on our parent's couch, bumming off our friends, or otherwise staying under the radar.

How do we do things that are actually worth doing? I think the key is playing to our strengths. In AA they say you can't think of sobriety in terms of never taking a drink again, you have to think of it in terms of, "I'm not going to have a drink today." If you break up whatever it is that you are trying to accomplish in little tasks and rely on your decisiveness to actually execute those tasks, you can trick yourself into accomplishing long term goals.

A good example for me is saving for my retirement. I have always loved money, and it seemed like a good idea to have money to retire with, just in case everyone hates me by the time I'm old, or I've been fired multiple times from multiple different jobs, or I end up becoming disabled somehow and I don't feel like becoming a ward of the state. Most people would think that a sociopath would never be able to accomplish the amount of deferred gratification necessary to save for retirement, but I did. I fully funded my retirement by the time I was 30 because every time I even thought of retirement, I would transfer as much money as I had in my checking account into a retirement account, an account that I set up so that I can't withdraw money without going through a lengthy process. Losing that money feels bad, but like everything else, it only hurts for a moment and then I quickly move on to other things. And of course I never have the patience to try to withdraw the money. It's like my own socio financial version of Chinese fingercuffs.

The process is similar to what happens in the movie Memento. In Memento, the protagonist suffers from acute amnesia, where every 10 minutes or so his short term memory is lost. He doesn't remember anything from after the brain injury that he suffered when his wife was murdered, but he is determined to find her killer despite his condition. His workaround is to write himself notes, even tattooing certain pieces of information on his body. If he reads a note in his own handwriting telling himself to do something, he does it without question. Spoiler alert, but as we continue to watch him in the movie, we realize that he is not always honest with his future forgetful self. He will intentionally mislead himself, knowing that his future self will unquestionably follow orders, and he does all of this for one purpose -- not to find his wife's killer, it turns out, but just to be happy, to give his otherwise empty life meaning. It's a movie and it's not an exact analogy, but it's the same idea -- use your foreshortened vision to force yourself to do things that you otherwise would not, to do things that other people cannot.

Friday, March 28, 2014

A sociopath's intimate

I liked this comment from a past post:

I had a friend who was a sociopath... learning about sociopathy in general was one of the most fascinating experiences. This person was incredibly perceptive, with a piercing intellect and spontaneous creativity, and seemed to excel at all he turned his hand to. However, life was ultimately unfulfilling for him because he felt so surrounded by idiots and imbeciles, and was himself so free of emotional inhibitions that he knew he could do more or less whatever he wanted. I always appreciated his complete and utter disdain for social norms, and the ways we would become each other's mutual psych experiment, even if it was difficult to learn that not one iota of his interest in me was emotional in nature. Sociopaths may be bereft of the empathic emotionality that constitutes the core of the neurotypical human experience, but I also feel there is much in the plight of the sociopath that is mirrored in 'normal' people, too; in essence, it is like gazing into a looking glass, seeing our basest, most ugly and unrestrained desires staring us back in our faces.

However, I feel so deeply sorry for people who had been in intimate relationships with these people. Honestly, I harbour no malice towards the sociopaths because they don't operate on the same emotional paradigm of most of humanity. Their actions are not 'evil' insofar as they are not malicious in intention, merely selfish, as they cannot be anything else. However, there is even an inherent selfishness to the most deeply emotional and sentimental of people - that we are not lied to, that we are never deceived or manipulated, that our feelings are viscerally understood and reciprocated. The sociopath, by nature of their very being, is unable to fulfil this requirement. I have no doubt that they do 'love' in their way, but never the twain shall meet. My heart goes out to everyone who has been unwittingly hurt by these people. Ultimately, I can't say that I hate them, as in many cases they are fascinating, beguiling and seductive existences, however I am quite content to watch that brilliant, chaotic maelström from a safe distance, never becoming swept up in its immediate vicinity. 

Thursday, March 27, 2014

An aspie's view of sociopathy

From an Aspie reader reader:

I found your blog by chance, a week or two ago, and can't help but feel intrigued. I have Asperger's syndrome (or as the next version of the DSM has it, "autism spectrum disorder") and the experiences you describe seem to have as many similarities to as differences from my own. 

We both find it necessary to mask ourselves for daily life because most people, most of the time, don't want to know what we're really like. They want an interface they know how to use, and an impression they can easily categorize. I don't switch masks with the fluidity of a sociopath, nor do I have as large a repertoire to choose from. I'd be willing to bet that I have to put more conscious effort into each one, so once a given mask passes I have greater incentive to stick with it and practice until perfect. (I don't know what you look like without yours, but at times when I can't maintain a mask I've been told that I either don't emote, or that the other (neurotypical) person doesn't know how to interpret my body language.)

Changing contexts, some facets of my personality behind that mask may fold away and others unfold such that people in either seem to form substantially different impressions of me, but I don't make a conscious decision to change what aspects I have on display, nor bother with deception. I simply omit what isn't relevant.

On the other hand, I'm pretty sure that I lack the typical sociopaths' need for stimulation and excitement, nor do any of your examples mention sociopaths with a typical autistics' sensory hypersensitivities. Sitting in a quiet room with dim lights, my experience is finally not *over*stimulating.

In that vein, there's one thing that I really don't understand. What do sociopaths get out of manipulating or otherwise having power over other people? What about it interests you? To my view, people are mostly boring and interacting with them is a nontrivial drain on my resources. (There are rare exceptions to that rule, and I've married one. He describes me as "asocial".) And so I have to ask: Why bother?

I look forward to your answer.

My response:

Thanks for this! I think that sociopaths get a lot of things from power. They get a sense of connection and intimacy with another person. They get a sense of purpose or sense that they are a being in the world that acts, not just gets acted upon. I think for a lot of sociopaths there was some sort of childhood trauma that made them feel like they weren't the masters of their own destiny. Not everyone is bothered by this, but I think for sociopaths it goes too strongly against their megalomania. But these are sort of just guesses. For me I have felt the need for power as a basic need, like the need for love or acceptance must be for most people, but I'm not sure why. Thoughts?

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Knowing right from wrong?

Some of you may have seen this article, "UC Santa Barbara professor steals young anti-abortion protester’s sign, apparently assaults protesters, says she ‘set a good example for her students" from Eugene Volokh writing for the Washington Post (originally from the Santa Barbara Independent). The short story is that anti-abortion protesters were on UC Santa Barbara campus with graphic photos of aborted fetuses:

Joan said that at around 11 a.m., Dr. Mireille Miller-Young — an associate professor with UCSB’s Feminist Studies Department — approached the demonstration site and exchanged heated words with the group, taking issue with their pro-life proselytizing and use of disturbing photographs. Joan claimed Miller-Young, accompanied by a few of her students, led the gathering crowd in a chant of “Tear down the sign! Tear down the sign!” before grabbing one of the banners and walking with it across campus.

Joan said she called 9-1-1 and Thrin started filming, and that the pair followed Miller-Young and two of her students … into nearby South Hall. As Miller-Young and the students boarded an elevator, Joan said that Thrin repeatedly blocked the door with her hand and foot and that Miller-Young continually pushed her back. Miller-Young then exited the elevator and tried to yank Thrin away from the door while the students attempted to take her smartphone. “As Thrin tried to get away, the professor’s fingernails left bloody scratches on her arms,” Joan claimed. The struggle ended when Thrin relented, Miller-Young walked off, the students rode up in the elevator, and officers arrived to interview those involved.

When I read about this, I thought of two things. First, in a recent post about how a culture of morality often leads to people having self-justified feelings of hate, a lot of people suggested that right-wing conservatives or religious people were the only ones who moralized issues and acted accordingly, even in defiance of the law or rights of others. Second, and more generously than I think a lot of people are willing to be on this issue, I think it is honestly harder to know what the right thing to do is than most people will admit to themselves. A conscience is not infallible. Your feelings about right and wrong can easily lead you astray. From the police report:

Miller-Young went on to say that because the poster was upsetting to her and other students, she felt that the activists did not have the right to be there.
I asked Miller-Young if she felt anything wrong had happened this afternoon. Miller-Young said that she did not know enough about the limits of free speech to answer my question. Miller-Young went on to say that she was not sure what an acceptable and legal response to hate speech would be. Miller-Young said that she was willing to pay for the cost of the sign but would “hate it.”
I explained to Miller-Young that the victims in this case felt that a crime had occurred. I told Miller-Young that I appreciated the fact that she felt traumatized by the imagery but that her response constituted a violation of law. Furthermore, I told Miller-Young that I was worried about the example she had set for her undergraduate students.

Miller-Young said that her students “were wanting her to take” the sign away. Miller-Young argued that she set a good example for her students. Miller-Young likened her behavior to that of a “conscientious objector.” Miller-Young said that she did not feel that what she had done was criminal. However, she acknowledged that the sign did not belong to her.

I asked Miller-Young what crimes she felt the pro-life group had violated. Miller-Young replied that their coming to campus and showing “graphic imagery” was insensitive to the community. I clarified the difference between University policy and law to Miller-Young and asked her again what law had been violated. Miller-Young said that she believed the pro-life group may have violated University policy. Miller-Young said that her actions today were in defense of her students and her own safety.
Miller-Young said that she felt that this issue was not criminal and expressed a desire to find a resolution outside of the legal system. Miller-Young continued and stated that she had the “moral” right to act in the way she did.

I asked Miller-Young if she could have behaved differently in this instance. There was a long pause. “I’ve said that I think I did the right thing. But I acknowledge that I probably should not have taken their poster.” Miller-Young also said that she wished that the anti-abortion group had taken down the images when they demanded them to.

Miller-Young also suggested that the group had violated her rights. I asked Miller-Young what right the group had violated. Miller-Young responded, “My personal right to go to work and not be in harm.”

Miller-Young elaborated that one of the reasons she had felt so alarmed by this imagery is because she is about to have the test for Down Syndrome. Miller-Young said. “I work here, why do they get to intervene in that?”

I explained to Miller-Young that vandalism, battery and robbery had occurred. I also told Miller-Young that individuals involved in this case desired prosecution.

I later booked the torn sign into evidence at UCPD. I also uploaded the audio files of my interviews into digital evidence.

I request that a copy of my report, along with all related supplemental reports, be forwarded to the District Attorney’s Office for review.

Along similar lines, The New Yorker reported (paywall) about an art forger who donated all of his forgeries, and consequently didn't break any laws, and the vigilante art curator, Matthew Leininger of the Oklahoma City Museum of Art curatorial department, who would stop at nothing to end his reign of terror (tongue in cheek):

Leininger wanted "to get him thrown into the slam," he told me. "The guy's a crook. Fraud is fraud." He contacted the F.B.I., where he spoke to Robert Wittman, the senior investigator of the Art Crimes Team, who is now in private practice. "We couldn't identify a federal criminal violation," Wittman told me. "if he had been paid, or taken a tax deduction, perhaps. Some places maybe took him to dinner, gave him some V.I.P. treatment, that's their decision, but there was no loss that we could uncover. Basically, you have a guy going around the country on his own nickel giving free stuff to museums."

What does this say about how people's individual sense of morality actually tracks the dominant sense of morality (can't really say "objective morality" here, because there's no such thing, right?), I don't know. Maybe it just says that it's hard to know what's right and wrong and even if it seems easy for you to know in a particular instance, it may be hard to convince others to see things your way. This is why I'm not sure how useful a concept like morality is on the macro, policy debate level. See also the vaccine debate?

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Quote: Psychopaths

“There are people who have the capacity to imagine themselves as someone else, there are people who have no such capacity (when the lack is extreme, we call them psychopaths), and there are people who have the capacity but choose not to exercise it.”
― J.M. Coetzee, The Lives of Animals

Psych survey

From a reader:

Hi M.E.,

I read your book a few months ago, and I really loved it.  I created a psychology survey that looks at different psychological disorders for science fair, and I'm having a little trouble getting the link out to the masses.  Would you mind putting the link in one of your blog posts?  It would be very helpful.  the link is here:

If you do decide to put it up, mention that only people with ASPD should participate in the survey.  

Thank you for your time!

Monday, March 24, 2014

Child sociopath: Early intervention as treatment

Sociopathic children represent a unique quandary for people who love children and hate sociopaths. They are also the most impressionable, which some see as an invitation to target them with attempts at early intervention. From Fox News:
Criminologist Nathalie Fontaine of Indiana University studies the tendency toward being callous and unemotional (CU) in children between 7 and 12 years old. Children with these traits have been shown to have a higher risk of becoming psychopaths as adults.

"We're not suggesting that some children are psychopaths, but CU traits can be used to identify a subgroup of children who are at risk," Fontaine said.

Yet her research showed that these traits aren't fixed, and can change in children as they grow. So if psychologists identify children with these risk factors early on, it may not be too late.

"We can still help them," Fontaine said. "We can implement intervention to support and help children and their families, and we should."

Neuroscientists' understanding of the plasticity, or flexibility, of the brain called neurogenesis supports the idea that many of these brain differences are not fixed.

"Brain research is showing us that neurogenesis can occur even into adulthood," said psychologist Patricia Brennan of Emory University in Atlanta. "Biology isn’t destiny. There are many, many places you can intervene along that developmental pathway to change what's happening in these children."
How do you accomplish this early intervention?
"You don’t have to do direct brain surgery to change the way the brain functions," Brennan said. "You can do social interventions to change that."

Fontaine's studies, for example, suggest that kids who display callous and unemotional traits don't respond as well to traditional parenting and punishment methods such as time-outs. Instead of punishing bad behavior, programs that emphasize rewarding good behavior with positive reinforcement seem to work better.

Raine and his colleagues are also testing whether children who take supplemental pills of omega-3 fatty acids — also known as fish oil — can show improvement. Because this nutrient is thought to be used in cell growth, neuroscientists suspect it can help brain cells grow larger, increase the size of axons (the part of neurons that conducts electrical impulses), and regulate brain cell function.

"We are brain scanning children before and after treatment with omega-3," Raine said. "We are studying kids to see if it can reduce aggressive behavior and improve impaired brain areas. It's a biological treatment, but it's a relatively benign treatment that most people would accept."
I'm conflicted about this news. On the one hand I am reminded of very well-meaning attempts at early intervention for children of first generation immigrants, Romani children, aboriginal children, native children, and other efforts at forced integration and assimilation into the "norm." On the other hand some sociopaths really do suffer immensely. To the extent that these efforts demonstrate society's increasing awareness of sociopaths and desire to cater more carefully to sociopathic needs, e.g. using very consistent incentive schemes instead of punishment to achieve desired behavior, I see it as a step in the right direction.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Quote: Excuses

“The concept of disease is fast replacing the concept of responsibility. With increasing zeal Americans use and interpret the assertion "I am sick" as equivalent to the assertion "I am not responsible": Smokers say they are not responsible for smoking, drinkers that they are not responsible for drinking, gamblers that they are not responsible for gambling, and mothers who murder their infants that they are not responsible for killing. To prove their point — and to capitalize on their self-destructive and destructive behavior — smokers, drinkers, gamblers, and insanity acquitees are suing tobacco companies, liquor companies, gambling casinos, and physicians.”

Thomas Szasz

Friday, March 21, 2014

The traumatized child

A few people in response to the book or blog have accused me of narcissistically wishing that the world would accommodate me and other sociopaths, rather than us adapting to the way the world already works. The funny thing about that suggestion is that adapting to a hostile environment is how I got here in the first place. I was raised in a home with parents who were always self-involved, often neglectful, and sometimes violent. Ever since I can remember, it was always me adapting to them and my environment (or more like me rolling with the punches) rather than experiencing any special accommodations for me and the person I was growing to become. I often think that my lack of attachment to any sense of self derives from these childhood losses. To my child mind, there was no point to becoming attached to something or care about it in an emotional way if it could disappear, be destroyed, or be taken from me the next day. Of course this is not the way that every child responds to those sorts of environmental triggers, nor was my childhood even remotely close to what I consider real trauma and abuse. But I feel like I experienced enough (obviously) to not only trigger whatever genetic propensities I had for personality disorders or other mental health issues, but also to understand how influential one's childhood experiences are in shaping the person that one eventually becomes.

From the NY Times under the headline "Teaching Children to Calm Themselves":

Children . . . who experience neglect, severe stress or sudden separation at a young age can be traumatized. Without appropriate adult support, trauma can interfere with healthy brain development, inhibiting children’s ability to make good decisions, use memory or use sequential thought processes to work through problems.

Do these children expect the world to accommodate them?

The education system responds bluntly to kids with these challenges. The standard arsenal of disciplinary measures — from yelling and “timeouts” to detentions and suspensions — are not just ineffective for children who have experienced traumatic stress; they make things worse. By some estimates, preschool expulsions are 13 times more common than K-12 expulsions — a finding that, given the bleak future it portends for these children (and the associated costs for society), should send alarm bells ringing across the nation.

I don't actually think these children expect anything, much less to be accommodated. But is it a good idea to accommodate them? Probably, at least as long as it is cheaper to accommodate them and provide them with adequate coping mechanisms while they are young rather than leaving them to continue their behavioral issues into adulthood, and all of the accompanying social costs that would entail. At least that is the economic rationale for whether it is a good idea. Is there a moral one? And if so, does the moral one say that we should help them? Or maybe that we shouldn't accommodate bad behavior (the classic parental excuse, "he just wants _____, so don't give it to him)? Maybe our moral beliefs cause us to believe that people should bear all responsibility for controlling any behavior that is even remotely volitional? Or do we only start saying those sorts of things about people once they've turned 18 and become an adult who still has behavioral problems (i.e. after society has already failed them)?

One of the most interesting parts of the article to me was what sort of "special accommodations" were advocated for these children:

Luke is receiving individual therapy. But he is also surrounded by caregivers who understand his needs and know how to respond when he needs help. Through the Head Start Trauma Smart model, teachers, parents and even the bus drivers and cafeteria workers who interact with children receive training in trauma.

This allows them to respond more skillfully, rather than reacting out of anger, frustration or resentment. Indeed, one of the biggest lessons for teachers and parents who undergo this training is that the very first step is learning how to calm, and care for, themselves, especially when they are overstressed.

In other words, one of the primary goals of the training is to try to minimize the caregivers' own emotional reactions to the child's behavior -- to focus on calming their own selves down first. Does that suggest any plan of action to empaths who deal with sociopaths on a regular basis?

One bus driver who underwent the training explained how it changed the way she sees the world:

“I used to be the kind of person who said, ‘The way it looks is the way it is.’ But I don’t look at it that way anymore,” McIntosh said. “There are things that happen to people that we don’t know about.”

And as a director of a similar program argued:

“We’re built to succeed as human beings. If that normal process gets disrupted, we need to do anything we can do to put it back on track.”

Could it be that sociopath children who have experienced trauma have already come up with a way(s) to put their lives on track to overcome their chaotic environments? But in a way that is both more efficient, powerful and more objectionable than people would like to see in their child victims of trauma?

Thursday, March 20, 2014

(Not) Dressing the Part

The Wall Street Journal reports on recent findings about how what you wear affects people's view of you. That's not surprising. The finding that goes a little against (most people's) conventional wisdom is that dressing down or dressing eccentrically can often make you look like you are somebody important -- important enough to not have to dress like the rest of the crowd (sheep?). Think sweat pants in a luxury store. Under the headline "Success Outside the Dress Code":

One obvious way people signal what the researchers called "status" is through visible markers, like what they wear and what they buy. Previous research has largely examined why people buy or wear branded items.

Less work has focused on what others think of those who try to communicate that they are different or worthy of attention. Efforts to be different are interesting because humans are wired to conform and be part of a group.

In a series of studies published in the Journal of Consumer Research in February, Silvia Bellezza, a doctoral student, and two Harvard professors sought to examine what observers thought of individuals who deviated from the norm in the workplace and in a retail setting. Some of the work was conducted in the lab on students. Other studies took place in the community and involved passersby or attendees of a seminar. Most of the studies included about 150 participants. What they found was that being a little different can socially benefit people—in some situations.

"The problem is that conforming to norms is an easy and safe spot to be in," Ms. Bellezza said. "If you're willing to deviate, there are upsides." It's also long been known that people veer from what's expected after they've built up enough trust within a group. But, she says, acting differently risks losing the benefits that come with conforming, such as shared group identity and automatic group trust.

Interestingly, this nonconformity only works in particular contexts -- when it's obvious that the person has intentionally bucked the norms and where there are enough context clues for the observers to believe that you have high status (e.g. being in a luxury goods store or lecturing at a podium at a university). I often think that people underestimate the role of context in people's perceptions. I have only been treated like I could possibly been a celebrity maybe once, and it was while I was wearing a hat and sunglasses, but was in a particular boutique in a specific neighborhood known for that sort of thing. Similarly, although I know I am not remarkably attractive, I know that the context that I am in and the way I carry myself can make me very desirable to some (does anyone have a crush on Michelle Obama? Any Obama?).

Of course, it's not always desirable to be seen as someone who will buck trends (as rescinded job offers can attest). Sometimes the only thing you want to do is not be noticed or standout in any way.

(Video link if it doesn't show up embedded)

I especially liked the study that found that a professor wearing a t-shirt was rated more highly than the one wearing a tie. I remember when I was first going on the market for professorships, the advice given was to not actually wear a suit for interviews and mock teaching exercises, but rather something more like a tweed jacket and loafers and the equivalent for women. When I taught, I rarely wore actual suits to the point that when I actually did, a lot of my students assumed that I had just come from somewhere else (court, a conference, etc.). But, as I wrote in the book, I particularly pushed boundaries in situations where appearance and first impressions were even more dominant -- academic conferences where I was presenting my research. In those situations I never wore a suit. One time I wore a beautiful silk fitted summer dress with bold colors that my friend had chosen for me. Another time I wore torn jeans and cowboy boots with a masculine looking blazer. At the time I believed that the message I was conveying was that I didn't fit in, but not in a bad way. My research was not traditional and I wanted to portray the image of someone who was confident bucking trends. I attempted to portray this image in more ways than just my fashion choices. I would often portray various slightly outlandish social personas -- the aggressive feminist, the seductive charmer, the too willing acolyte -- all to fit whoever I was talking to. Of course there is such thing as going to far. One of my friends calls my going-too-far-in-social-situations persona "the Hulk", for its outsized social gestures. Of course at that point I just come off as creepy.But it's charming to see my intuitions backed up by research.

Some of the best advice from the article: "Don't talk a lot if you have high status. People will assume you're competent and when you talk, they will listen to you."

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Murderous nature

Mother nature is From a reader:

Some birds have evolved such that their chicks will, as the first act of their life, murder their foster siblings.

Caught on film:

Obvious questions:
Are the chicks evil? Do they have free will, mens rea, etc?

If there is a God, we should do a class action suit against him.

See also these comments on the recent Walking Dead episode (spoilers). When is killing wrong and when is it right? And who decides, based on what subjective perception of the world?

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Seventeen face of psychopath

In a little bit of a twist on the movie Seven Psychopaths, this post (on a website for victims), gives 17 basic classifications for psychopaths. It's not at all scientific (doesn't really claim to be), but I think it's an interesting exploration of how different sociopaths can appear. Also, there is only 1 of 17 that is a killer (and I think only one other where violence is a predominant trait). You can read the descriptions on the site (some of them are rather lengthy), but here are the categories:


















According to this taxonomy, I guess I would be closest to an academic psychopath (somewhat literally). It seems pretty clear that there is overlap between the categories and that one person could show aspects of multiple categories.


Monday, March 17, 2014

Morality leads to hate?

This article on outrage porn (I usually call it public shaming) makes an interesting argument that a deep sense of morality and justice actually contributes to a culture of hate:

Another reason for our outrage addiction may be found in the way the norms of traditional liberalism are dissolving before a more moralized politics. In a perceptive 2001 essay for National Affairs, Thomas Powers argued that traditional liberalism sought "to lower the stakes of politics by removing contentious moral (and religious) opinion to the private sphere. Political life thereby becomes a less morally charged matter of presiding over competing 'interest groups,' whose squabbling is amenable to compromise."

Powers went on to argue that when fundamental justice and morality are reintroduced into politics, and when the beliefs and attitudes of citizens become the potential subject of state action (through amelioration, re-education, or official stigma), people are more likely to fight — and to fight with dread in their eyes.

It's notable that ongoing culture-war disputes are the particular habitué of elite media, white-collar job-havers who spend much of their day sitting in front of the outrage generator. We spend all day worrying about who are the real bad guys, and the real victims. Our ideological songs venture into ever higher falsettos, straining to sing our laments above the noise.

As a result, when a politician utters a barely outdated cliché, or the slightest impolitic word, we no longer hear it as a faux pas or mere insensitivity. Instead it becomes the latest menacing incarnation of the evil we oppose. Micro-aggression is no longer "micro" at all, but the very real appearance of Patriarchy, or Anti-clericalism, or whatever evil you most fear. If your ideological hearing aids are tuned correctly, a gaffe becomes a threat, returning you to witch-trial-era Salem or the Vendée before the massacre.

Worse, this kind of hypermoralized politics has some serious implications for how we look at governance and power. As C.S. Lewis once wrote, "Of all tyrannies a tyranny sincerely exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive." In other words, if we are simply doing good in the world, and our enemies evil, then there's no limit to the power we ought to acquire. What a charming fantasy that can be. 

See also this post. Or maybe it's not a fantasy and moral outrage is propelling people to very necessary action to right the world?

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Right brained (part 2)

A lot of right-minded people don't believe me when I tell them that the people talk very seriously about sociopath internment, sterilization, forced brain surgery, extermination, etc. I don't know why, I think they are obvious. It's true that most of the time you see things in passing, a quick comment like "let's round up all the sociopaths onto an island." Because it seems like every time someone makes a new discovery about differences in the socio brain as revealed by brain scans, people start talking about early detection and eradication. But I thought that this was a succinct list of everything that people think about sociopaths, with or without actually saying them:
When it comes possible to diagnose psychopaths should they be placed under greater sustained law enforcement scrutiny? The better adapted psychopaths who feel a great deal of fear of getting caught are currently getting away with many crimes. If we can identify who they are should they be treated differently?

Also, if a psychopath can be diagnosed in advance as extremely dangerous should it be permitted to lock such a person up in an institution before they rape or kill or do other harm to people? What if a person could be identified as a psychopath at the age of 14? Should such a person be removed from normal society?

Suppose it became possible to treat the brains of psychopaths to cause them to have greater empathy, greater remorse, and less impulsiveness. Should the government have the power to compel psychopaths to accept treatment that will change the wiring of their brains?

Also, if there is a genetic basis for psychopathy and it becomes possible to test for it then should people who have the genetic variations for psychopathic brain wiring be allowed to reproduce? Should they be allowed to reproduce if only they submit to genetic engineering of their developing offspring?

I predict that most of these hypothetical questions will become real questions that will be debated in many countries around the world. I also predict that most populations will support either preemptive restraint of psychopaths or forced treatment to change the brains of psychopaths to make them less dangerous.

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Right brained (part 1)

This is a somewhat old study done by ex-USC research Adrian Raine that suggests that the difference between high functioning "successful" sociopaths and low functioning "unsuccessful" sociopaths might actually be neurological:
He tested the theory that psychopaths with hippocampal impairments could become insensitive to cues that predicted punishment and capture. As a result, he said, these “impaired’ psychopaths were more likely to be apprehended than psychopaths without that deficit.

Fewer than half of both the control subjects and the “successful” psychopaths had an asymmetrical hippocampus.

Ninety-four percent of the unsuccessful psychopaths had that same abnormality, with the right side of the hippocampus larger than the left.

Raine said the results suggest, but don’t prove, a neuro-developmental root for psychopathy.
In a second study, he looked at the corpus callosum of both types of sociopaths, and found that they are both longer and thinner than that of the average neurotypical:
The corpus callosum is a bundle of nerve fibers that connects the two hemispheres of the brain, enabling them to work together to process information and regulate autonomic function. Raine explored its role in psychopathy for the first time.
“There’s faulty wiring going on in psychopaths. They’re wired differently than other people,” Raine said. “In a way, it’s literally true in this case.”

He found that the psychopaths’ corpus callosums were an average of 23 percent larger and 7 percent longer than the control groups’.

“The corpus callosum is bigger, but it’s also thinner. That suggests that it developed abnormally,” Raine said.

The rate that the psychopaths transmitted information from one hemisphere to the other through the corpus callosum also was abnormally high, Raine said.
Of course they don't credit the sociopath brain as having an advantage over a neurotypical brain, despite the demonstrated greater efficiency in transmitting information between brain hemispheres. Instead this efficiency is vaguely insinuated as the cause for the sociopath's "less remorse, fewer emotions and less social connectedness - the classic hallmarks of a psychopath."

Normal people, even scientists, won't ever admit that a sociopath's brain might actually be better. Every single article I have seen that even comes close to discussing some of the advantages of the sociopathic brain eventually backs off and makes some pat conclusion about how broken we are. In fact, the title of the article is "Out of Order." But there are two meanings to that phrase, and I think only one of them applies to this sort of bias thinly masked as science.

Friday, March 14, 2014

Fictional sociopaths: Smerdyakov?

For some reason I found this to be so funny. From a reader:

I am 70 years old. I posted to the forum on your website but got a very nasty response from the denizens there. I thought maybe it was because saying I looked forward to finding a community of like minded people was a faux pas. But you say the same thing so I guess it was alright. 

I think I'm a sociopath/psychopath but I am different from you in some ways. You describe yourself as a chameleon in who you are around different people. I have been a different person at different times and places in my life but my identity has been driven primarily by fantasy. When I was 13, I identified with Smerdyakov in The Brothers Karamazov by Dostoevsky. Since he killed himself at the end of the novel, I decided to kill myself. But I didn't succeed and ended up in a mental hospital instead. While my parents were finding the right place for me and I was getting interviewed, I felt my fantasy shifting from Smerdyakov to just a suicidal mental patient. I saw myself as the director and author of a play in which I was also the star. It seemed everyone acted accorded to the role I assigned him/her. I liked that. I was in the nut house for about two years. At some point, I read about teenaged "thrill killers" and decided I wanted to be one. So I selected a victim who was convenient and tried to kill her. I had nothing against this girl, a childhood friend and neighbor, actually. I hit her over  the head with a heavy,  blunt object. She got away and, luckily for me, I was already a mental patient so I didn't go to jail. I just went through my adolescence in the hospital and was discharged around the age of 15, finished high school and went through college and managed to have a pretty normal life since then. 

I discovered I was a sexual masochist, was adventurist, worked in offices, dropped out to be a hippy, joined a cult (Maharaj Ji), co-founded The Eulenspiegel Society, S/M liberation, etc. At 70, I'm in a stable relationship, 24 years. I'm on Social Security and am pretty mellow and laid-back in my old age. I'm pretty happy about the life I led, I don't feel guilty about much of anything although I realize some of the things I did were pretty shitty. I don't know. Blame it on the old amygdala. 

Hilarious, Smerdyakov really? And why is the Brothers Karamazov so popular with sociopaths?

Thursday, March 13, 2014

"When the Ether Stares Back" (part 2)

My response:

I really like the passage about people recognizing their emotions through the physical manifestations. I have said before that I feel emotions, but I have difficult identifying them (alexithymia) or contextualizing them in any meaningful way (or if I do, it's erratic). Only in the past five years or so have I spent any great effort in trying to identify my emotional reactions. Before I wouldn't even label them, e.g. I wouldn't know if I was feeling betrayed or incensed or jealous or whatever, I just knew that I really wanted to hurt a particular person. Now I really do try to play detective with my emotions, using certain clues in my own reactions and what prompted them to figure out what exactly I am feeling (as opposed to just being aware of what I am thinking). It's a lot (I imagine) like how a doctor will use certain physical symptoms to diagnose. Thanks for the heads up on "The Growth of the Mind and the Endangered Origins of Intelligence". I'll have to check it out.

About the relationship, I'm not sure if you will be able to stop the chain reaction of apathy. I think the pull might be too strong. I feel that way sometimes when I am around other sociopaths, even the ones that like me and want what's best for me. There is just not enough social/emotional glue sticking us together, really.

The reader responds:

And you're right. It lasted about forty five days. Today we occasionally call one another when we want/need something.  But otherwise it didn't last.  Overall, a lack of either partner ACTUALLY caring, drove the "relationship" to the brink of the abyss, and plummeted over the edge and into the black.  


Wednesday, March 12, 2014

"When the Ether Stares Back" (part 1)

From a reader:

Dearest M.E.,

Let me start by saying I am incredibly grateful for your book and website.  

In true ironic fashion, what drew me to buy your book is almost comical.  I despise how dramatized and one-dimensional most fictional socio/psychopathic characters are portrayed on TV... But my empathic partner at the time would constantly correlate me with the likes of Sherlock (from the popular British TV show), Dr. House, Nick Naylor (from Thank You for Smoking), Doctor Who (cerebral narcissist who is rarely wrong and plays god with glee), and even said he saw me capable of the kind of dispassionate violence of Dexter or Hannibal.  

(To this day I despise these rather caricatured versions of those with a sociopathy diagnosis.  It tries to make people with the disorder into something they are not.)

A while back I had been to a psychologist who had suggested something in the Cluster B category of anti social personality disorders, strongly leaning on and suggesting sociopathy.  Like you, I never put much thought into it.  Why did it matter? It all seemed so droll... and that it might work against me in the grand scheme of things, were I to move forward and pursue a formal diagnosis.  

I have a history of great success and plummeting failure for my young age.  Usually due to becoming bored or being mindlessly vindictive to entertain myself.  Today I am an entrepreneur making my place in the tech and marketing industry. My customers claim it's like I can see the soul of their business and reveal it to the world as it truly is.  Making money and strategic associations/networks has been a natural talent of mine since I was a young girl.

I am quite good at working a crowd and eliciting trust and confessions from strangers.  People constantly claim it is like I have always known them, though I reveal little about myself.  I have been berated for my "intense" eye contact, and am known to seduce or terrify people without much effort or even intention.

I don't typically have thoughts of violence... But I adore being a social predator.  There is nothing more delicious to me than the idea of emotionally ruining someone and making their feeble little world collapse on them. 

On a day-to-day basis, I don't feel much of anything except for a sense of neutrality and an empty roving hunger and boredom.  Though I am an adept cognitive empathizer (through conscious and deliberate effort), I don't have automatic or bodily affective empathy.  And the moral worlds of other people is endlessly fascinating to me.  I have moved through several sects of religion and philosophy, in an attempt to truly grasp why this is of such grave magnitude to most people; the "inherent" nature of such an abstraction is lost upon me. 

And as you can probably ascertain from this long diatribe... I have a very sincere form of narcissism. 

When I finally read your book, I ate it up with endless mirth. Not out of spite or because I found it to be perfunctory. Quite the contrary. You were the first author who wrote about WELL HIDDEN (or as the neurotypicals cutely coin it, “functional”) sociopaths who blend seamlessly in the world without having a tangible/traceable history of crime or malevolence. Finally someone I could relate to that was multifaceted... And actually existed!

It inspired within me two things.  One, I wanted to learn as much about this "condition" as possible, so that I could utilize it with even more accuracy than before.  Which leads to Two, my committed attempt to be more constructive, rather than destructive, with my personality and power.  If I cannot change this thing that I am (which is the first form of foundational self I can honestly say I've ever truly perceived), then I might as well do the most with it. 

Please accept my sincere gratitude for sharing so openly.  Even if half of it is lies or greatly masked, your story has made the first indelible impact on my life that I have ever had the immense pleasure of experiencing. 

That being said, I am looking to you for your perspective.  

Recently I have began to initiate a relationship of sorts with someone whom is also appears to be sociopath.  Both of us are aware of our "condition". And both of us have committed to not play games, and to be painstakingly honest with one another.  Believe it or not, I find him endlessly fascinating and have a strange respect for him, as I see him as one of my few equals.  We have similar goals of being as functional as possible... But we also greatly enjoy relaying our daily hunting and games to one another. It's an unspeakably delicious outlet.  Not to mention the level of attention/adoration between us is unlike that of an empathic relationship, where I can easily and without intention hurt that person (and subsequently watch it disturb my life and plans—what an inconvenience). 

Being honest with one another, we have not made any commitment or exclusiveness... And in fact this honesty only seems to increase the sense of intimacy between us.  Another first in my life--this person has inspired some kind of bodily feeling of emotions in me... And he reports that I have much the same effect on him.  It's been overwhelming and at times uncomfortable. We've been experiencing this together, and trying to talk it out... Leading to more research.

Funny that you recently posted regarding the body-mind connection associated with emotions, and not being able to identify them.  Have you read "The Growth of the Mind and the Endangered Origins of Intelligence" ?  

There is an excerpt on pages 78-80, regarding a woman who "acted" on emotions, because she could not express them.  And in fact, she could not even describe or process the bodily experience of an emotion. I think you'll find it quite valuable:

“Something as simple as a child saying ‘I want to go outside’ can be responded to with a yes or no on the one hand, or, on the other, ‘What do you want to do outside?’  The latter response helps the child reflect on his wish, while the former only gives in to it or inhibits it.  Reflection fosters the use of symbols, and, more broadly, the ability to think, while inhibition or immediate giving in both foster only a tendency  toward action.

Meanwhile, the child's concomitant neurological growth helps his repertoire of symbols multiply rapidly.  The nervous system allows for quicker learning now, and he accumulates words and ideas with growing ease.  He can imitate almost any sound or word and does so regularly.  This is still not automatic, however.  New words take on meaning and become part of the child's vocabulary only when attached to the emotion or intent.

Memories are formed that involve not only images of patterns of action but also emotions, intentions, and desires.  Without these affective components, memory would be a mere computer screen that showed pictures by rote, without meaning or structure.  Because of them, however, memory becomes part of the expression of the individual self.  Meaning and purpose, in other words, together with remembered sensations, form the dual code that is essential to our humanity.  

When a child lacks nuanced relationships or cannot for neurological reasons learn from them, the images he develops contain less detail and complexity, his personality less differentiated, and his later ability to form relationships is much reduced. Many adults have never sufficiently mastered the ability to form images.  

One such person, Susan, came into therapy in the hope of saving her deteriorating marriage.  Her husband was spending increasingly long hours at the office, and their relationship was becoming more and more acrimonious.  Whenever Jim's work hours lengthened, she would complain and criticize, which naturally made him spend even more time working--which in turn only stepped up her complaints.  Try as she might, she lamented to the therapist, she could not get him to pay her the attention that she needed and deserved. 

Susan couldn't connect the couple's problems to her own feelings. She knew only that she felt generally "bad" but couldn't find words to describe her state of mind or the root of her trouble.  Nothing she tried seemed to break the pattern that was driving Jim away. 

Her intense orientation toward changing Jim's behavior alerted the therapist to the fact that had great difficulty representing many of her feelings symbolically rather than simply acting on them.  When he asked her for more details about her feelings, she said that Jim's refusal to come home made her behave coldly toward him. She would describe her actions or tendency to act a certain way, but not how she felt.  The therapist, hoping to help her focus on her feelings, asked her first to attend to her physical sensations. She began by describing her muscles as tight and tense. Over time her descriptions hinted at emotions: for example, her body felt as though it were ‘getting ready for an attack.’  Only gradually did feelings like anger and furry emerge more clearly. 

Eventually Susan learned to identify the bodily manifestations of fear and loneliness as well as anger.  She came to realize that she felt vulnerable, helpless, and lost.  Never before had she discussed her anger of feelings of loss; she had only sensed a vaguely defined, overly inclusive state of panic. Once she learned to talk about her sense of loss, she was able to connect her anxiety to Jim's absence to similar terrors she had felt as a child.  Whenever Susan had became needy, her stubborn, domineering mother responded by rejecting her emotionally.  Distant and controlling, her mother had refused to brook any communication around issues of vulnerability, helplessness, or loss. Anger was completely taboo. Thus she had prevented the little girl, and the woman she had became, from learning to represent herself the feelings that surround rejection and abandonment. Unable to abstract and understand the painful feelings Jim's angry absences evoked, Susan could only act them out and experience a global state of distress.”

Now, in my case, I would be acting like Jim... But I digress. I thought this would further help your hypothesis.  Personally, as I begin to write out the physical sensations I undergo in given situations, it helps me identify and even parse out something that may be affective.  Some food for thought.

To continue on my dilemma... While things are going quite well between myself and this man, there is something I've noticed.

Overall we are quite good at mutually driving each other to our very best in everything.  We foster an interest to understand each other. It helps our behavior become less erratic. 

However, when one or the other of us grows apathetic, as we tend to do when we have subdued acting on impulses/destructive desires... It tends to rub off on the other.  We are at least cognitively empathetic toward one another, but obviously it's quite hard to feel much distress for one another when we otherwise don't feel distress for anything but an extreme or rare basis. It seems apathy breeds apathy, as we look to one another for some sort of solace in an otherwise dull world.   

Have you ever heard of sociopaths in an intimate/meaningful relationship with one another?  

We don't have very much motivation to destroy or manipulate one another. If anything, we may egg each other on to act on our impulses at times.  The reward in acting and moving forward with one another, without the usual neurotypical baggage/expectations, is much greater. Being largely without affect, we can offer one another advice that is mostly sound.  But it seems that even though we commit to not mirror one another, we still can't escape our natural inclination to do so, at least in this particular instance. Perhaps due to our very small sense of self?  That we have conditioned ourselves to do such things and aren't sure how to do otherwise?

What is your take on this?

Thank you for your time and thoughts. 

Much adoration and respect,

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