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Month: August 2011

The Insanity of the Insanity Defense

Aron Levy, who kidnapped, murdered and dismembered 8-year old Leiby Kletzky in Brooklyn now faces a battery of defense-appointed experts in an attempt to plead NGRI (“Not Guilty by Reason of Insanity”). He has a history of “psychiatric disorders” and had been hearing voices, his lawyers claim. The insanity defense in criminal trials is nothing new. The Babylonian Talmud had this to say 1800 years ago: “It is an ill thing to knock against a deaf-mute, an imbecile, or a minor. He that wounds them is culpable, but if they wound him they are not culpable.” But even the...

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I Can’t Live Without Him / Her

Dependence on other people is a kind of addiction and, therefore, fulfills important mental health functions. First, it is an organizing principle: it serves to explain behaviors and events within a coherent “narrative” (fictional story) or frame of reference (“I acted this way because …”). Second, it gives meaning to life. Third, the constant ups and downs satisfy your need for excitement and thrills. Fourth, and most crucially, your addiction and emotional lability place you at the center of attention and allow you to manipulate people around you to do your bidding. So, while you can surely survive without...

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Burned by Coffee or Burned by Heartbreak – They Feel the Same

“Science has finally confirmed what anyone who’s ever been in love already knows: Heartbreak really does hurt.”Burn and Heartbreak Same to Brain “In a new study using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), researchers have found that the same brain networks that are activated when you’re burned by hot coffee also light up when you think about a lover who has spurned you. In other words, the brain doesn’t appear to firmly distinguish between physical pain and intense emotional pain. Heartache and painful breakups are “more than just metaphors,” says Ethan Kross, Ph.D., the lead researcher and an assistant professor...

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10 Rules For Dealing with Angry Children

Mikayla, age 13, has just been told she can’t go to her friend’s house. “You need to clean your room first,” says her mom, “You promised to do that, remember?” Mikayla gets in her mother’s face and screams, “You’re the meanest mom in the world! I hate you!” She turns and runs into her bedroom, slamming the door. “That’s it! You’re grounded, young lady,” her mom shouts back. She’s left feeling exhausted and defeated, and unsure if she’s done the right thing. If you’re a parent, odds are you’ve been there. Why do we often engage in shouting matches...

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Psychopathic Narcissists: The Uncanny Valley of Cold Empathy

Cold Empathy evokes the concept of “Uncanny Valley”, coined in 1970 by the Japanese roboticist Masahiro Mori. Mori suggested that people react positively to androids (humanlike robots) for as long as they differ from real humans in meaningful and discernible ways. But the minute these contraptions come to resemble humans uncannily, though imperfectly, human observers tend to experience repulsion, revulsion, and other negative emotions, including fear. The same applies to psychopathic narcissists: they are near-perfect imitations of humans, but, lacking empathy and emotions, they are not exactly there. Psychopaths and narcissists strike their interlocutors as being some kind of “alien life-forms” or “artificial intelligence”, in short: akin to humanoid robots, or androids. When people come across narcissists or psychopaths the Uncanny Valley reaction kicks in: people feel revolted, scared, and repelled. They can’t put the finger on what it is that provokes these negative reactions, but, after a few initial encounters, they tend to keep their distance. Contrary to widely held views, Narcissists and Psychopaths may actually possess empathy. They may even be hyper-empathic, attuned to the minutest signals emitted by their victims and endowed with a penetrating “X-ray vision”. They tend to abuse their empathic skills by employing them exclusively for personal gain, the extraction of narcissistic supply, or in the pursuit of antisocial and sadistic goals. They regard their ability to empathize as another weapon in their...

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