Science of the Spirit


More psychopathy apologetics: The "myth" of the psychopath

© wikiHow
"Seriously, baby, there's no such thing as psychopaths!"
In 2008, shortly after graduating from college, I was living in western Kenya and working with a man named Gregory. Gregory (I've changed his name) was my fixer, sort of: He helped make introductions, drove me around, and explained Kenya to me while we worked on a series of loosely organized education projects. Gregory was Kenyan, and when I'd first met him, back in the United States, and he had been warm and ingratiating and seemed excited that I'd soon be moving to Kenya.

Not long after I arrived, though, things with Gregory began to go wrong. He was chronically late and always seemed to be lying about it. He had gotten a flat tire, his truck was in the shop, his phone had run out of credit. Once, we made plans to travel to a school together on a Tuesday morning, but Gregory didn't show up or call until Thursday. (No one was ever punctual in Kenya, which suited me just fine, but two days late was unusual.) On another school visit, we were driving along a dirt road in his old red pick-up, weaving through a crowd of pedestrians, when Gregory plowed into a man walking down the middle of the road. He didn't take his foot off the gas or make any effort to swerve. We collected the injured man and drove him to a clinic a mile away, and I think he ended up OK, but the incident was horrifying—it seemed as if Gregory barely registered what had happened.

Comment: Much evil is committed by monsters. Ironically, it is people like Jalava, Griffiths, Maraun, and Vigneron who deny humanity a complete and complex description, painting people with the same 'one-size-fits-all' brush. Some evil may be committed by 'ordinary' people. But there are others who can rape, torture, mutilate, and murder infants with the same emotional feeling inspired by chopping a piece of wood. Might not these researchers and others of like mind simply be afraid of accepting such a reality?


Courage to quit: Outgrowing pornography and waking up to your true self

If you are a human being alive in the 21st century, chances are you have an opinion about porn.

Maybe you use it; maybe you don't. Maybe you think it's good; maybe you think it's bad; maybe you think it's none of my business. Fine. The bottom line is this:
"Four billion dollars a year is spent on video pornography in the United States, more than on football, baseball, and basketball. One in four internet users look at a pornography website in any given month. Men look at pornography online more than they look at any other subject. And 66% of 18 - 34-year-old men visit a pornographic site every month." (Pamela Paul, Pornified, Times Books, 2005)
Now, let's be clear: Porn is not a monolithic phenomenon, and not all porn is created equal. There are porn videos that depict violent, non-consensual and abusive sexual acts... and there are videos that showcase loving, consensual sexual encounters. (And everything in-between).


Can a man be sensitive and strong?

I was reading Ted Zeff's article, Healing the Highly Sensitive Male. He is the author of The Strong, Sensitive Boy. He writes,

"Given our societal norms, it may come as a surprise that newborn boys are actually more emotionally reactive than girls. One study showed that baby boys cry more than baby girls when they are frustrated; yet by the age of five, most boys suppress all their feelings except anger. However, even though boys are taught to maintain emotional control, measuring their heart rate or skin conductance (sweaty palms) in emotionally arousing situations demonstrates that there is no difference between boys' and girls' responses. Boys have the same human needs as girls."

Comment: The lack of gentle platonic touch in men's lives is a killer
10 psychological effects of nonsexual touch
The power of vulnerability

2 + 2 = 4

How the brain changes in response to PTSD

PTSD is an ongoing problem, not only with survivors of child sexual abuse, rape, violent crime and other traumas, but also with our veterans. Neuroscientists are working to understand how the brain responds to trauma, so that it can be better treated and overcome. The research they being done is on the connection between PTSD symptoms and the structure and function of the brain.

Scientists tell us that changes to the amygdala are directly tied to PTSD. This is the limbic system, or the emotional brain (hippocampus and amygdala), which plays a major role in how we experience certain emotions including fear and anger, memories, as well as instinct.


Kids of helicopter parents are sputtering out

Recent studies suggests that kids with overinvolved parents and rigidly structured childhoods suffer psychological blowback in college.

© Wavebreakmedia Ltd/Thinkstock
Excerpted from How to Raise an Adult: Break Free of the Overparenting Trap and Prepare Your Kid for Success by Julie Lythcott-Haims, out now from Henry Holt and Co.

Academically overbearing parents are doing great harm. So says Bill Deresiewicz in his groundbreaking 2014 manifesto Excellent Sheep: The Miseducation of the American Elite and the Way to a Meaningful Life. "[For students] haunted their whole lives by a fear of failure—often, in the first instance, by their parents' fear of failure," writes Deresiewicz, "the cost of falling short, even temporarily, becomes not merely practical, but existential."


Beyond Words: The selves of other animals

Descartes called non-human animals nature's "automata". Carl Safina's new book argues that this attitude is still horribly distorting our relationship with them

"It seems reasonable since art copies nature, and men can make various automata which move without thought, that nature should produce its own automata much more splendid than the artificial ones. These natural automata are the animals," wrote Descartes in a letter to the British philosopher Henry More on 5 February 1649.

For the past 60 years, partly due to Descartes, the cognitive sciences have focused on human intelligence as though it were unique or qualitatively different from that of all other creatures on Earth. While this view of cognition has not gone uncriticised, the most pernicious scientific effect is its misleading assumption that knowledge, judgement, emotions and other cognitive functions are largely, if not exclusively, manifest in language-like representations in the brain. Alongside that comes a troubling inability to appreciate, respect, or learn from our fellow animals.

Heart - Black

The baptism of grief


Angel of Grief
We human beings are what we are in and through our relationships with an extensive and perhaps even infinite web of beings. This is a fragile and tremulous web, and our belonging to it means that any rupture in it, any loss, any passing, any tearing, wounds us. When these ruptures are deep and intimate, we suffer more than wounds. Relational creatures, faced with rupture, are compelled to die--die to their former selves. That is just what it means to be creatures who are made up of each other. We must learn to die often and die well.

Confronted by this irrevocability, we must grieve. Grieving is a baptism and tears the font in which we must be immersed. It is the work of experiencing loss when we would rather bypass it. Grieving is the work of dying to what once was and will no longer be again. Without suffering that baptism, there can be no new life.


Book review of Snakes in Suits: When Psychopaths Go To Work

I cannot recommend enough, to enough people, the book Snakes in Suits: When Psychopaths Go to Work by Paul Babiak and Robert Hare. These authors, both highly qualified on the subject of psychopathy, walk us through, and so richly illustrate, not only with cutting-edge theory and research, but also vivid case studies, the "ABCs" of Psychopathy: No Anxiety; No Bonds; No Conscience. They also illustrate how the corporate world is increasingly a "target rich" environment for psychopaths. By the term "corporate world", they mean not only corporations, but other entities and institutions we increasingly find corporatized: politico-legal, sociocultural, educational, religious, etc..

As Robert Hare, inventor of the PCL-SV and PCL-R Checklists for Psychopathy put it:
"I always said that if I wasn't studying psychopaths in prison, I'd do so at the Stock Exchange."
The authors begin with explaining the typical behaviors and proclivities of what is referred to as the general "Anti-Social Personality Disorder" (APD) a diagnostic category found in the American Psychiatriac Association's "Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders 4th Edition" or "DSM- IV" and found among about 3% of the populations of most—not all-- cultures. They then go on to differentiate, through illustrations and case studies, psychopathy and sociopathy. According to the authors, psychopathy and sociopathy are closely related and overlapping: malignant narcissism; shallow affect; lack of empathy and remorse; sense of entitlement and being destined to rule others; grandiosity; predation; avoidance of taking personal responsibility when things go wrong; adept at manipulation, schmoozing, networking and conning; see other people as objects to be used and disposed of when no longer useful; charismatic; thrive on the edge but also calculatingly cautious; megalomania; cynical and facile deceit; inability to manifest a normal range of human emotions; etc.

Comment: To really grasp how a small number of psychopaths in positions of power can infect certain personalities and an entire society, see:


2,000 brain scans reveal vital structural differences in people with schizophrenia

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The brains of 2,028 people with schizophrenia were compared to healthy controls.

People with schizophrenia have smaller volumes in critical areas of the brain, a new study finds.

The research supports the idea that schizophrenia can be linked to disturbed brain development.

The areas affected include the hippocampus, which is involved in the formation of long-term memories.

Along with a smaller hippocampus, the amygdala and thalamus were also smaller in those with schizophrenia.

The amygdala processes emotion, while the thalamus regulates consciousness, sleep and alertness, amongst other functions.

The research compared brain scans of 2,028 people with schizophrenia with 2,540 healthy controls.

Comment: See also:


The 'Muscle of the Soul' may be triggering your fear and anxiety


The psoas muscle supports the spine as guide wires support a main tent pole." - Liz Koch, The Psoas Book
The psoas major muscle (pronounced "so-as") is often referred to as the deepest core, or as yoga therapist and film-maker Danielle Olson states, the "muscle of the soul." This core-stabilizing muscle located near the hip bone affects mobility, structural balance, joint function, flexibility, and much more. In addition to its function to help keep the body upright and moving, the psoas is believed to allow you to connect with the present moment especially when it is stretched out and tension is released from the body.

Research indicates that the psoas is vital to our psychological wellbeing in addition to structural health. Liz Koch, author of The Psoas Book, states that our psoas "literally embodies our deepest urge for survival, and more profoundly, our elemental desire to flourish." This means that there is a lot more to the psoas than one might initially think. It is entirely possible to harness healing pranic energy and improve mental health by keeping the psoas healthy.