October 24, 2008

This Week On Grey's Anatomy The Preposterous Happens

Previously heterosexual Callie becomes involved in a relationship with a female doctor, Erica.  But when they "do it," as Callie later describes to Mark Sloan, she didn't like it.

"It was not good at all.  I choked,  I just couldn't go down there, I tried, but it felt so weird..." 

[Mark gets up and leaves.  Where is he going?]

"Two girls getting nasty and loving it; that's hot.  One girl talking about how much it sucked, it's depressing.  And wrong.  Just wrong."

Continue reading:
"This Week On Grey's Anatomy The Preposterous Happens" ››

Permalink | Comments (23)

Vote up Vote down Score: 2 (2 votes cast)


October 1, 2008

Psychopathy, Antisocial Personality Disorder, and Narcissism

Updated 12 years later.

Continue reading:
"Psychopathy, Antisocial Personality Disorder, and Narcissism" ››

Permalink | Comments (42)

Vote up Vote down Score: 20 (22 votes cast)


September 8, 2008

David Duchovny Does Not Exist


Continue reading:
"David Duchovny Does Not Exist" ››

Permalink | Comments (3)

Vote up Vote down Score: 1 (1 votes cast)


July 22, 2008

Being The Main Character In Your Own TV Show Is Sort Of A Delusion

Two psychiatrists, believe they have discovered a new, YouTube generation, delusion: believing you are in a secret reality TV show.

The article describes cases of people who believe they are secretly being filmed. 

"I realized that I was and am the centre, the focus of attention by millions and millions of people," explained one patient, an army veteran who came from an upper-middle-class upbringing."My family and everyone I knew were and are actors in a script, a charade whose entire purpose is to make me the focus of the world's attention."
The belief that they are being filmed certainly gives the person a sense of importance, or worth independent of and beyond the mundane life he lives in.  In other words, it allows for an inflation of identity without actually having to do anything.   Call it grandiosity

The patient added that he planned to climb to the top of the Statue of Liberty, and if his true love were waiting for him, the puppeteer strings would be cut. If she failed to show up, he would jump to his death.

Grandiosity is one explanation, but I submit that the important part of this delusion isn't the filming, but the "puppeteer."  The delusion isn't about self-importance, but rather an explanation for powerlessness.  I am being manipulated by the outside.  There's nothing I can do.

Consider that a delusion which enhances your importance might not be one you'd want terminated; but these cases have the termination of the delusion built in.

In "reality" (ha!) such cases are cognitive metaphors for maturity.  Only when you gain sufficient self-awareness and autonomy can you break away from the artificial, manipulated reality of adolescence.

"But these guys are 30 years old!"  Exactly.  Real adolescents don't need a delusion to tell them they're powerless.  But a 30 year old should be dealing with intimacy vs. isolation, but instead they're stuck back at identity vs. role confusion.

The delusion is the protection, not the empowerment.  It says, "don't worry, you haven't accomplished anything because the producers haven't put that into the script yet."  Ultimately, this YouTube delusion is the result of a fleeting awareness that you cannot choose your identity unless you back it up with actions-- that actions are identity.

When a narcissist has this awareness, he has two choices.  He can retreat into a protective delusion, such as this one; or he can convince-- read: force-- someone else to accept his identity even in the absence of actions.  "I am a tough cop!  Well, maybe not actually a cop, but if something went down in this mall, I could be like a cop, and that's just as good!"

You do not want to be the person the narcissist tries to convince.

Continue reading:
"Being The Main Character In Your Own TV Show Is Sort Of A Delusion" ››

Permalink | Comments (8)

Vote up Vote down Score: 3 (3 votes cast)


June 24, 2008

He's Not Yelling At You Because He's Angry

Continue reading:
"He's Not Yelling At You Because He's Angry" ››

Permalink | Comments (12)

Vote up Vote down Score: 8 (8 votes cast)


May 29, 2008

The New Yorker Writes About Power

With authority.


Continue reading:
"The New Yorker Writes About Power" ››

Permalink | Comments (21)

Vote up Vote down Score: 1 (1 votes cast)


May 12, 2008

"My daughter deserved to die for falling in love"

Really?  Was that the reason?

Continue reading:
""My daughter deserved to die for falling in love"" ››

Permalink | Comments (31)

Vote up Vote down Score: 25 (27 votes cast)


May 7, 2008

First Person Account Of The Milgram Experiment


An article written by one of the test subjects in the Milgram experiments, and his explanation for why it happened the way it did.

He's wrong.

Continue reading:
"First Person Account Of The Milgram Experiment" ››

Permalink | Comments (18)

Vote up Vote down Score: 9 (9 votes cast)


April 16, 2008

The Sex-Starved Wife

sex-starved wife.jpg

On the one hand, you have articles in the Economist saying people are spending less time at work and more at home, on the other hand Time writes about the sex-starved wife.  If they're both home more and at work less, why aren't they naked?

The answer isn't porn.

Continue reading:
"The Sex-Starved Wife" ››

Permalink | Comments (24)

Vote up Vote down Score: 12 (12 votes cast)


January 14, 2008

Do Narcissists Get Abortions?

Apparently, yes.

Continue reading:
"Do Narcissists Get Abortions?" ››

Permalink | Comments (23)

Vote up Vote down Score: 9 (11 votes cast)


September 19, 2007

Beer Goggling Isn't Natural and Being A Good Looking Girl Sucks From 9 To 5




Who's hot, and who's not?  Ok-- who's dumb and who isn't?  Were they different?

Now-- who knows way to evil power source? 

Continue reading:
"Beer Goggling Isn't Natural and Being A Good Looking Girl Sucks From 9 To 5" ››

Permalink | Comments (6)

Vote up Vote down Score: 1 (1 votes cast)


August 22, 2007

The Moral Hazard


(This is Part 2-- click to read Part 1

If you behave badly because you know you'll get away with it, that's being "bad."

A Moral Hazard is different.  If you behave "worse" than you would have otherwise, solely because you know that you won't have to bear the consequences, then you have a Moral Hazard.

I'll emphasize: the key is that your behavior is in itself not necessarily "bad."  It is simply worse than your behavior otherwise would have been, because you know there won't be consequences. 

Here's why it's called a Moral Hazard: if there are no external consequences, the only thing that would prevent you from behaving worse is an internal set of rules.

Where do these internal rules come from? 

Continue reading:
"The Moral Hazard" ››

Permalink | Comments (5)

Vote up Vote down Score: 4 (4 votes cast)


June 14, 2007

This Will Either Mean Something To You, Or It Won't


It's a heavy moment, the first time you realize you are older than Han Solo.

Permalink | Comments (7)

Vote up Vote down Score: 3 (3 votes cast)


June 4, 2007

If These Guys Aren't Invested, Then It's Over

Late last night I saw National Georgraphic: Inside The Green Berets.  The platoon was having a memorial for one of the Berets who had just been killed by an IED, and the Green Beret giving the eulogy says, "he wasn't just fighting for his country, he was fighting for a higher cause-- he was protecting each of us."

Army of One, I guess.

Permalink | Comments (3)

Vote up Vote down Score: 1 (1 votes cast)


May 24, 2007

The Wrong Lessons Of Iraq





Don't ask me about Iraq.

But I do know something about our collective response to the Iraq war, to the Bush presidency, and to our times, and it says a lot about our cultural psychology.  And it helps predict the future.

It's sometimes easier to evaluate one's personality, and thus make predictions about it, by examining the defense mechanisms the person uses.  In difficult situations, specific people will use a small set of specific defenses over and over; so much so that we often describe people  exclusively by that defense, e.g. "she's passive aggressive."

Taking Iraq and President Bush as starting points, and examining the defense mechanisms we use to cope with both, yields the unsurprising conclusion that we are  a society of narcissists.

While this discovery is familiar to readers of my blog, what might be a surprise is what this heralds for our society politically and economically.  It isn't socialism, or even communism, as I had feared.  It's feudalism.  It's not 2007. It's 1066.

Let's begin. 


Continue reading:
"The Wrong Lessons Of Iraq" ››

Permalink | Comments (43)

Vote up Vote down Score: 55 (61 votes cast)


April 23, 2007

A Final Thought On Cho's Mental Illness

A thoughtful reader concerned about backlash against the mentally ill asked me to write a piece basically saying that not all mentally ill people were homicidal maniacs. 

It's a fair request, but in this case it's counterproductive.  Here's what I mean: you want to say that "not all mentally ill people are violent."  You want counterexamples to Cho's example.  But that's a defensive posture, unnecessary because... Cho wasn't mentally ill.  He was a sad, bad man who killed people because his life wasn't validated.  There was no psychosis, there was no cognitive impairment, there was no psychiatric impairment in insight in judgment.  There was a lack of sex, but that's not yet in the DSM.

Not to reduce his life down to a soundbite, but he was a guy who thought he deserved better by virtue of his intelligence and suffering; found himself in a sea of mediocrity but couldn't understand why he couldn't therefore excel; and, worst of all, found that all the things he thought he deserved eluded him-- especially hot chicks, who not only dismissed him and found him creepy, but, worse, chose to be with the very men he thought were obviously inferior to him.  It's Columbine all over again.  It's almost even the same day.

Forget the Prozac, forget the involuntary commitment (where he was found by the court to be "a danger to himself and others"-- that's standard boilerplate, it is clinically meaningless).  Those are  red herrings.  You may as well blame wearing black t-shirts.  He's not mentally ill; he's an adolescent.

The difference, the single difference, between us and him is that when we were sulking in high school, we listened to Pink Floyd or U2.  He watched Oldboy.  We had a battered copy of a Playboy down at the creek under a rock, that was so creased we had to infer the boobs.  He had the internet.  Maybe we bought a pocket knife, or-- wow-- a butterfly knife.  He bought two Glocks.

In other words, the difference is this: he decided to shoot 30 people, and you didn't.  That's it.  I know it's not a satisfying answer, I know we want explanations, but there aren't any.  Forget genes, forget DSM.  He chose to do something bad,  he knew it was bad, but he did it anyway.

Don't worry about the mentally ill.  Worry about the nut politicians and media outlets who will look to the easy and convenient excuse of mental illness, rather than have to do the hard work of figuring out why our society is melting.


Older posts on Cho here, here, and here.

Permalink | Comments (14)

Vote up Vote down Score: 6 (6 votes cast)


April 19, 2007

Cho Seung Hui: It's The Movies, Stupid

I still haven't had time to really look at this situation, but I have to address this nonsense about his psychiatric history: it's irrelevant.

He didn't do this because he was on Prozac, or he was Bipolar.  Look at it the other way: are we going to say that people with bipolar are more likely to go homicidal?  If so, should we do a Kansas v. Hendricks for bipolars? (in which the Supreme Court said it was ok to lock up pedophiles indefinitely, even in the absence of a crime, since "pedophilia" makes you a priori dangerous.) 

If you want to really understand why he did it that way, you have to find out what article of media he was imitating.  Take the photos, the manifesto, and google it until you find the movie the handguns came from; the book (or comic book) the manifesto came from.  He didn't come up with this stuff on his own, he is imitating something.  For Klebold and Harris it was the Matrix and Doom.  What movie is he imitating?  Find it.

Because it isn't about mental illness, or genetics. It's about identity, it's always about identity, and sometimes the identity you choose doesn't work out that well.  So, emergently, you grab an identity which has appeared to work-- you imitate a movie, a game, a comic.

I'm not saying movies made him do it; I'm saying he was looking for an excuse to do it, and he went through the usual catalog: movies, comics, games. Come hell or high water, he was going to kill someone.  But in terms of prediction, the operative question is, if this guy goes homicidal, how will he do it?  He didn't strap explosives to his chest, not because it wasn't available, but because it didn't match the identity he wanted to have-- that he got from a TV show or movie.

Ismael Ax, handgun to the head, hammer cocked like a bat to the right, knife to the neck-- all those stills from his video clips you see on CNN aren't random, they're a specific imitation of something else.  Find the thing he was imitating, and you have found him.

Because he didn't exist, that's the problem.  He picked an identity, and no one liked it, it backfired- no chicks-- so he moved to plan B: pick an identity that absolves him of the guilt of shooting 30 people. 

Stop looking in the DSM.  Start looking in IMDb.


Permalink | Comments (5)

Vote up Vote down Score: 3 (3 votes cast)


April 18, 2007

The APA Says The Media Is Making Women Really Hot

So the APA has come out against the sexualization of women in the media.  Praise Jesus.  And not a moment too soon.

Oh my God.  If society could just expand it's historical horizon past winter, we'd realize that women have been sexualized for centuries.  It's only in modern times that women are allowed to be in control of it.

No. I'm not worried about girls, What we should be worried about are the boys.  What happens to a  boy who is told by the media that women are sexualized, they are objects, they are sluts?  And then he goes out into the world and discovers they aren't?  That they won't sleep with him?  That, try as he might, they won't do all the things he was promised in ads, movies, porn?  But they might be willing to do it with someone else, even women?

Depression?  Or maybe misogyny?  And maybe he starts hating women so much he, oh, I don't know, shoots 30 people at a college?

Women have been tweezing and preening and primping since day uno.  Near as I can tell, porn hasn't drastically altered this.  Interestingly, it has made young men more self-conscious, not just about penis size, but also body hair, fat, fingernails, etc.  The cultural problem is neurotic, immasculated men whose only outlet is masturbation and violence. 

Are we going to be honest or political? I don't know any women who if given a choice would prefer "not sexy" over "sexy."  If I have a daughter, I would want her to be in control of her sexuality, not under the control of it (in other words, the opposite of me.)  I want her to be smart and sexy.  I just want her to be her.

No.  No, the problem isn't my daughter becomes a slut; it's that she gets beaten by some whacko who wants her to be.  Or doesn't want her to be. Or does, but only when...

The real problem for the women of our society isn't a lack of self-esteem.  It's a lack of weapons. 

And no, I'm not kidding. 

Permalink | Comments (7)

Vote up Vote down Score: 24 (24 votes cast)


March 7, 2007

The Psychological Uncertainty Principle




A commenter, who I believe is a physics undergrad (his blog here) emailed me some of his thoughts on narcissism, and wrote:

...those studies where people rank each other in a room for different attributes having never met them... I think what's going on is we assign people personalities based on how they look and force them to become a certain thing, creating a whole custom world for them...

which puts the idea of "profiling" on its head.  Do we actually ever "figure people out," or do we change them into what we think they are by the act of engaging in a relationship (on any level) with them?  It sounds a lot like a psychological version of quantum entanglement:

When two systems, of which we know the states by their respective representatives, enter into temporary physical interaction due to known forces between them, and when after a time of mutual influence the systems separate again, then they can no longer be described in the same way as before, viz. by endowing each of them with a representative of its own... By the interaction the two representatives have become entangled.

Which, unfortunately, sounds a lot like this (p. 236):

The unreflective consciousness does not apprehend the person directly or as its object; the person is presented to consciousness in so far as the person is an object for the Other.  This means that all of a sudden I am conscious of myself escaping myself, not in that I am the foundation of my own nothingness but in that I have my foundation outside myself.  I am for myself only as I am a pure reference for the Other.

You can't know who a person is without relating to them, and once you do that, you irrevocably change them.

Only in relationship to another do you get defined. Sometimes you can do it with your God; but either way, any adjective has to be placed on you by someone else.  Are you brave?  Strong?  funny, stupid, nervous?  All that comes from someone else.  So when someone relates to you, they define you.  You can try to control this-- hence the narcissist preying on the borderline to get her to see him the way he wants to be seen-- but ultimately it's up to the other person.

So we're are, or become, whatever a person thinks we are?  No, it's worse than that-- we want to be what they think we are. That's why we maintain the relationship, otherwise we'd change it.  ("I divorced her because I didn't like who I became.")

We do it because it is easier, and it serves us.   You're kind because he sees you as kind-- which in turn allows him to be seen as someone who can detect kindness.  And you accept that you're kind-- or mean/vulnerable/evil/brilliant-- because it serves you-- there's some gain there.  But a strong person accepts that on the one hand the other person gives you definition, and on the other hand you are completely undefinable, free, at any moment, to redefine yourself.  You can defy him, biology, environment and be anything.

You say: but I can't be a football star just because I want to.  But that's wanting someone else to see you in a certain way.  Do you want to play ball?  Go play ball.  "But I won't get on the team."  Again, that's wanting to change someone else.  Change you first. 

But what about-- identity?  That's the mistake, that's bad faith.  Thinking that our past is us; what we did defines us.  Our past can be judged-- what else is there to judge?- but it can't-- shouldn't--  define us, because at any moment we are free to change into something, anything else.  And so, too, we can be judged for not changing.

Ultimately, you are responsible for everything you do and think.  Not for what happens to you, but for how you choose to react.  Nothing else made you be.  Nothing else made you do.

Trinity said it best: The Matrix cannot tell you who you are. 

Permalink | Comments (10)

Vote up Vote down Score: 14 (14 votes cast)


February 27, 2007

Clarification On What Goes Wrong In A Psychiatrist's Family

Many interesting and varied reactions to my post, "What Goes Wrong In A Psychiatrist's Family?"  It struck a nerve with a lot of people, and others couldn't relate to it at all.  But I would like to clear up one element:

It's not that even handed, calm, unemotional criticisms directed only to the child's behavior is wrong; it is that no one does it well.  And that's where it all falls apart.


Continue reading:
"Clarification On What Goes Wrong In A Psychiatrist's Family" ››

Permalink | Comments (10)

Vote up Vote down Score: 7 (7 votes cast)



For more articles check out the Archives Web page ››