What is a Psychopath? The Traits, The Brains and The Benefit of Psychopathy

Friday, September 05, 2014 by Meg   •   Filed under General

“She showed him a picture of a frightened face and asked him to identify the emotion. He said he didn’t know what the emotion was, but it was the face that people pulled just before he killed them.” 1 

This is the idea we have in our head of psychopaths, the Jeffery Dahmers of the world. But what if I told you that psychopaths are just another version of normal, people with a brain condition they cannot control? 

This is not an incredibly popular stance to take, and with good reason: as a society we are taught that psychopaths are dangerous individuals. This is not generally the case. You have almost certainly met a few in your life, and at least some of them slipped under your radar with no harm to those in the vicinity.

Not that it's your fault for being unaware; those with psychopathic personalities don't show many obvious signs. They don't hear voices, they don't talk to themselves, they don't seem nervous. Plus, not everyone with psychopathic traits is a true balls-to-the-wall psychopath, though many do display behaviors that create conflict or risk, particularly in relationships.

That's right, balls-to-the-wall. It's a clinical term....  continue reading

It's Good To Be Bad: The Psychological Benefit of Dark Humor

Thursday, July 10, 2014 by Meg   •   Filed under General

A beautiful woman is standing on an overpass, ready to leap to her death. 

A homeless man approaches her and says “If you're going to kill yourself, would you like to have sex first? It might be a fun way to go out.”

“No! That’s disgusting!” she screams.

The man turns and walks away.

“Wait, is that it?” she calls after him. “You don’t want to tell me that I shouldn’t do it? And where are you going so quickly?"

"I have to get down to the bottom,” he says. “If I hurry, you'll still be warm.”

Humor has long been known for its ability to reduce stress and improve mood. Not only do we get to enjoy physical changes in heart rate and improved oxygen consumption while laughing, but after-giggle effects include slowed heart rate, lowered blood pressure and overall more mellow physiology1. These benefits are likely due to changes in the endocrine system2, and reductions in cortisol and epinephrine3. It’s all about the chemicals. (I was going to tell you a joke about Jonestown here, but the punch line is too long.)...  continue reading

When Do Personality Traits Become Mental Illness? The Answer Might Surprise You.

Monday, April 28, 2014 by Meg   •   Filed under General

Depression may be adaptive in some regards, and there may even be an evolutionary basis for the attractiveness of moodiness. But this doesn’t mean that we accept these traits as a society. Instead, what Philip Fischer labels “passionate traits” like melancholy, irritability or even exuberance3 are frowned upon, especially if you don’t have a particularly theatrical job. 

“Hey, Bob! Stop dancing on the copy machine and finish your TPS reports!”

But there is a problem inherent in the way the general population defines “illness”.  Numerous traits influence personality, and at any given time, most people will exhibit at least some traits that indicate depression, hyperthymia or anxiety. Unfortunately, we have a tendency to label such traits as disorder as opposed to normal differences between people.

No longer are we passionate dancers, melancholic writers or exuberant salespeople; we are ill. And the more visible those emotions are to others, the more they are seen as an uncivilized throwback to our neanderthal days, a mark of pathology....  continue reading

On The Loss of a Parent: Grief From Love

Friday, April 04, 2014 by Meg   •   Filed under General

Since writing this post, I introduced a short story that really put all my emotions in one place. Metaphor--it is lovely. If you'd like to check out Alien Landscape, CLICK HERE.


They say it comes in stages, a uniform pattern of expectations. In therapy sessions, we focus on it, at least in small pieces, based on the assumption that by describing it to people, they will recognize the pattern and understand that it will invariably progress and the pain will pass.

While the pain does pass, the pattern is not as clear-cut as many believe. It is a mess, a virtual soup of emotion....  continue reading

Don't Mess With Mama: Lactational Aggression and Postpartum Protectiveness

Monday, March 17, 2014 by Meg   •   Filed under General

Were you hyper-alert or easily angered in the postpartum period? There may be a very good biological reason.

Lactational Aggression--also known as "Momma Bear Syndrome"--is not just an anecdotal phenomenon. 

For those who have not experienced this, it's less "Damn, you spilled coffee on my favorite shoes," and more "Look at my kid and I will mutha fucking cut you."...  continue reading

How Memories You Can't Remember May Be Affecting Your Mental Health

Monday, March 10, 2014 by Meg   •   Filed under General

Pre-language learning.

I'm not talking about that period in the morning when the kids are jumping on your back, you can't form a coherent sentence to save your life and it's a freakin' miracle when you finally figure out how to sputter, "Coffee." This other kind of pre-language learning happened long before you understood what coffee was.

Perish the thought. 

Pre-language learning might be an additional part to intuition, and it matters for anxiety responses....  continue reading