Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Encouragement of Anorexia or Other Morbidity in Persons With Histories of Self-Harm Isn't Free Speech

The act of tacitly encouraging a mentally-ill, self-harming person to continue self-harm does not count as free speech. The reason is that when Person X transmits speech to Person Y, whether that transmission counts as free speech must hinge upon Person Y (a) consenting and (b) having the contractual capacity to consent in the first place. For example, if someone called your telephone landline a hundred times every day without your permission, that would not be free speech, as you have withheld consent to receive the message. You are able to offer or withhold consent because you retain contractual capacity.

When someone repeatedly and visibly self-harms, that person indicates that she or he is contractually incompetent in some important respects. For example, suppose there is plausible reason to believe an able-bodied, physically healthy young man is on the verge of suicide, and his girlfriend tells him "Go ahead and do it!", and then he does it. That man lacked the contractual capacity to judge for himself whether that was sound advice, and therefore he was not in a position to consent to it. It is comparable to having a person sign his estate over to you when he is drunk.

If you see an angry crowd and tell the crowd "Go beat up that Person, T, over there!” and then the crowd does beat up Person T, that is an incitement to violence and it counts as an initiation of the use of force. Likewise, telling an able-bodied, physically healthy, suicidal person to kill himself is to incite a person to perform violence upon himself when was not in a position to offer or withhold genuine consent.

There are actually websites and Facebook groups that advocate anorexia as if it were a legitimate lifestyle choice. This is not free speech. The reason is that, qua anorexic person, the person suffering from anorexia is not contractually competent enough to offer genuine consent to the pro-anorexia message.

One might counter that it is unfair to say that anorexics are contractually incompetent in this context, as they appear to hold capacity in most contexts where contractual capacity is necessary. For example, anorexics often hold normal jobs and make long-term, high-stakes financial decisions such as going to university and purchasing cars or homes or parking garages. If such people are not competent to consent to receiving pro-anorexia messages, then would that not mean that they are not competent to make these other big decisions -- decisions that involve long-term commitment and come with great financial risk -- that require contractual capacity?  The answer is that contractual capacity can be context-based. You can be fairly considered contractually competent most of the time but contractually incompetent when you are drunk. Likewise, it can be fairly stated that an anorexic person is contractually competent in most contexts but should still not be considered contractually competent as far as this eating disorder is concerned.

Now, I must address this frequent equivocation: "Obesity is unhealthy too. If you think that pro-anorexic speech should not be called free speech, then the same standard must apply to any expression that might promote obesity." That is an absurd conflation. Anorexia is physically dangerous in a way that obesity is not. Leaving aside the morbidly obese (who also have a psychological issue), someone who has been overweight since adolescence -- and has remained obese consistently -- can often still live into his or her sixties. By contrast, someone who is consistently anorexic in her teens seldom lives to reach age 40. A twenty-year-old who is overweight has several decades to change her lifestyle; a twenty-year-old anorexic does not. There is a greater physiological urgency in addressing anorexia, and therefore people should stop conflating the two conditions. (For information on the greater urgency of addressing anorexia, see this, this, this, this, this, and this.)

John P. McCaskey points out that contract breach and fraud are both forms of the initiation of physical force wherein the perpetrator manipulates the victim into taking the physical action that harms the victim. The same logic applies to reinforcing and encouraging the morbid gestures of someone who has a history of self-harm. Insofar as self-harm is concerned, the self-harmer is not contractually competent to evaluate the merits of someone's encouragement or reinforcement of the self-harm. Thus, reinforcement and/or encouragement of the morbid gestures is manipulation of the victim no less harmful than is fraud.

Some years ago (the same year I started this blog), I knew someone who had a history of threatening suicide, and who later began uploading disturbing pictures of herself wherein she was photoshopped as a corpse. Those morbid gestures were clearly related to the years of suicidal ideation. Upon making this context known to the group of Norwegians encouraging the uploading of the corpse imagery and other morbid gestures, those Norwegians brushed off such concerns; the morbid gestures went on being reinforced. Those reinforcers of those suicidal gestures were engaging not in free speech but contributing to someone's self-harm.

Saturday, April 29, 2017

Again, You're Not Fooling Anyone

“He who conceals his disease cannot expect to be cured.”
--Ethiopian proverb

When you go around bragging that you're some success, you're not fooling anyone. You can go around saying you're a big shot at real estate. None of that matters when you continue to hate yourself and identify yourself with the patriarch who abused you. Do what is truly good for you and happiness, "Derna": return to psychiatric care. Your happiness is worth it.

Monday, October 31, 2016

Western Ghost Stories Aren't About the Fear of Death; They Are About the Trauma and Regret of the Living

I drew this on October 1, 2015. It is supposed to be Chernabog from the "Night on Bald Mountain" segment of Disney's "Fantasia." Of course, Chernabog is a demon and not a ghost. =)

I recognize that, by definition, everything that exists, exists within the natural universe and operates according to the principles of natural law.  Even that which is man-made is natural in the sense that it functions according to scientific principles and cannot contradict or suspend them.  Anything that exists has natural attributes.  According to that understanding, to say that the "supernatural exists" is a contradiction in terms.  To label something "supernatural" is not to say that it is "extremely natural," but that it is above and beyond natural -- that it is outside of what is natural (i.e., that which exists).  To proclaim that something has an existence beyond, apart from, and outside of Nature is to proclaim that it has an existence beyond, apart from, and outside of existence.

I find it no contradiction that I continue to be fascinated by stories about the paranormal and the occult.  I do not take those stories literally anymore, as I did when I was ten; they now interest me as a sort of psychological phenomenon.  I am interested in the significance and the symbolism of ghost stories.  Here, I will not so much discuss people's motivations for why they listen to and tell ghost stories, but about why I think certain famous ghost stories remain well-remembered.

It's About More Than "I Just Like to Feel Scared"
Briefly, I think that it is an incomplete explanation to say that people like ghost stories because they like to feel scared.  As horror movie mogul Wes Craven once pointed out in USA Weekend, no one really likes feeling scared as such.  Rather, people expose themselves to scary stories and movies in order to make themselves feel brave.  When they encounter such scary stories, they feel all of the primal sensations of fear and alarm.  But, by the end of the story, they remain safe and alive, while they feel somewhat brave for having "survived" the simulation of terror.

I think that if people listened to ghost stories and watched scary movies solely for the sensation of fear -- without any interest in the other emotions involved in the story -- then they wouldn't have much memory about the details of the story.  I surmise that the details of certain ghost stories touch upon emotions other than fear.  When people have strong memories about a certain ghost story, it is not merely because they empathize with the protagonists who encounter the ghosts, but empathize with the ghosts themselves.

The Rules of a Certain Ghost-Story Template
There is definitely a lot of variation, and what I am about to say doesn't perforce apply to every famous urban legend about ghosts.  However, many famous ghost stories follow a certain template.

First, the ghost is territorial; he or she inhabits a certain location; there are geographic parameters the spirit cannot breach.   Some ghosts, such as the one I will describe later in this essay, are capable of traveling long distances.  However, even in the case of these exceptions (as I will detail below), there remain thresholds the apparition will not cross.

Secondly, the ghost has some sort of "unfinished business"; there was something that happened to the ghost when he or she was alive; the ghost feels that this matter remains unresolved.  This aspect of the ghost-story template is integral to my theory.

The third aspect is that insofar as the ghost conveys that he has "unfinished business," the ghost will betray this information in only the most indirect fashion.  This is seldom purely by the ghost's own choice; there is always some involuntary (usually unexplained) aspect of the spirit realm that precludes the ghost from very directly expressing to the living what issues of the ghost remain unsettled.  The story usually goes that when some living human encounters a ghost, the ghost communicates by nothing more than cryptic clues that the living investigator has to piece together.  (This is seen in the supposedly based-on-truth movie The Changeling.)

In many respects, a living human trying to investigate the story behind a ghost's unrest is very similar to a psychologist trying to uncover the reasons behind the mysterious behavior of someone who is mentally ill and in denial about the mental illness.  If you very directly ask a mentally-ill-person-in-denial about the reasons for his or her condition, you will seldom receive a direct, straightforward, earnest answer.  This is especially true if that person is still going through his or her "episode."  By the same token, if the living human enters the haunted domain and asks the spirit, point blank, what it wants and what needs to be done for the hauntings to stop, the ghost will seldom provide a direct, lucid, coherent answer.  Usually, the ghost cannot give a coherent answer, just as a mentally-ill person will feel that he or she cannot.

The fourth rule is that a ghost that haunts a place engages in some sort of repetitive behavior.  I have heard stories about some horrible mass murder committed on some famous spot.  Supposedly, every anniversary the ghosts of the victims and murderer will reappear and, behaving and reacting as if they are still alive, will re-create the entire massacre before living spectators.  When I give this example, one might say to me, "Aha! The murder results in death; therefore, the ghosts' re-enactment of events necessarily has to involve their death."  I dispute that.  For instance, there are some ghost stories (both presented as fiction and as "true") about some hospitals, schools, or orphanages where patients or children were mistreated.  According to the legends, the mistreated ghosts will re-appear and whimper, and re-enact the mistreatment, even if the mistreatment did not result in their physical deaths.

The repetitive behavior is another trait that haunting spirits have in common with living people who have certain mental illnesses.  As I mentioned before, many people, who have a certain context-dropping image of "life, as it really is," insist on going through the same self-destructive behavioral patterns over and over again, despite their always getting the same dismal results.  An example would be an insistence on getting into one abusive relationship after another.   The pattern only changes when the living human chooses to commit to changing with it, and sticks to that commitment.  Likewise, a ghost that haunts some place will usually repeat the same pattern until the "unfinished business" is resolved.  Unlike a real-life living person, however, the ghost cannot change the pattern on his own; he necessarily needs a living human being to help him; he needs the living, lucid human to initiate some new action that alters the course of events and gives him peace.

Next, I will give an example of a famous ghost story that I think follows these conventions.  After that I will explain why I think that people find the story scary not primarily on account of it reminding them of death, but primarily because it reminds them about the regrets that living people have about their lives.

The Vanishing Hitchhiker
Here is a story that is almost always told as true, and goes at least as far back as the 1970s.  Commonly the storyteller says it happened to a friend of a friendA motorist minds his own business driving along some area that isn't very familiar to him.  Along the way, he finds a rather benign-looking hitchhiker.  The motorist stops and asks the hitchhiker where he wants to go.  The hitchhiker gives a very specific home address.  The motorist replies, "Hey, that's on the way to my destination!  Hop in!"  The hitchhiker probably doesn't ride in the front passenger seat, but in the back, where the motorist cannot see the hitchhiker unless he turns his head.  Along the journey, the two get to talking and form an emotional bond.  After a while, though, they stop talking.

Eventually, during the silence the motorist reaches the home address.  He turns around and says, "We're at your stop!"  But the hitchhiker is nowhere to be seen.  The motorist looks everywhere and cannot find his companion.  Puzzled, he says to himself, "I deserve an explanation."  He goes to the residence and rings the doorbell.  Some old person answers it.  The motorist says, "This is going to sound very strange, but I picked up a hitchhiker who asked me to take him to this address.  But now I can't find him."  At this point, the motorist sees the hitchhiker in a photograph on the wall and exclaims, "That's him!"

The resident explains that that hitchhiker is a relative or some family friend, and has been deceased many years.  Sometimes the story goes that the hitchhiker had some falling out with the house's residents, and they always missed each other.  The hitchhiker died before any reconciliation could take place.  In some versions of the story, the hitchhiker was going to the house to make amends, but on his way he was hit and killed by a drunk driver . . . and he died on the very spot where the motorist picked him up.  In some versions, the resident says that there were many occasions on which other motorists picked up the hitchhiker at that exact same spot and the hitchhiker gave the address, only for the hitchhiker to disappear before arriving at the destination.

At this point, someone who hears the story for the first time (usually a child), gets goosebumps.  I find that a very interesting reaction.  Why would you find that story scary when the ghost's intentions are completely harmless?  The hitchhiker isn't trying to kill anyone.  He isn't trying to possess or enslave anyone.  He just wants to return to a certain location -- a place he couldn't return to while alive.    My first impulse might be to say, "People find the story scary, despite the ghost's benign intentions, because the story reminds of them of death."  But now I think differently.  I think that the story is scary because it reminds people of regrets about actions people have taken while alive -- the story is scary even when it reminds you of people who still are very much alive, at least physically.

My Analysis of the Hitchhiker Story
First I want to point out the areas where I think the hitchhiker tale fits the template I mentioned.  At first it might seem that the hitchhiker is not territorial; he is able to travel by motor car.  But note that he always follows the same path and his mobility remains limited.  Whenever he is picked up by a motorist, he is picked up at the same basic spot.  In some versions, that spot is where he died, and, according to some odd rule, his dying there renders it his default location.  The hapless motorists usually take the same route.  Finally, the hitchhiker always tries to get to the same address, and, presumably, he always disappears from the car at roughly the same area on the road.

Second, that the ghost has some "unfinished business" is very obvious.  He keeps trying to reach a certain residence, and he never succeeds.  Back when he was alive, he wanted to get there to try to resolve some personal matter.  Because he died before that could happen, the matter will forever remain unsettled.

Third, the ghost's method of communicating his basic problem is indirect.  The ghost could have told the motorist from the beginning, "I'm a ghost and I want to reach this street address because there is someone there whom I never properly said good-bye to before I died."  But the ghost doesn't say that; his pain is conveyed to the living person in a very roundabout way.

Fourthly, there is the repetitive behavior.  There are versions of the story where the house resident tells the motorist that many other motorists in the past have picked up the hitchhiker in the same location, only for him to disappear in the same location.   Thus, like many people with Borderline Personality Disorder, the hitchhiker keeps replaying the same pattern of behavior, only to wind up with the same dismal results (or non-results).

I believe the story strikes a chord with people for reasons quite apart from the part about the hitchhiker being dead.  I think lots of people remember that story because they have empathy for the hitchhiker.  They think, "Isn't it tragic that the hitchhiker died before he could truly settle the matter?  Isn't it tragic that the hitchhiker will not be able to give his final message to the house resident face-to-face?"  Then they think, "I have lots of unresolved concerns going on right now.  What if I died before my dreams were fulfilled, before I could resolve the troubles in my life?  What if I die with similar unfinished business?"  That's a very unpleasant thought, and I think that is the real reason that the story's ending gives people goosebumps.

I think that the tale of the vanishing hitchhiker evokes a fear much greater than the fear of death.  It reminds people about regrets.  It reminds them of how so many living people, today, engage in regretful actions -- or regretful inaction -- and lots of them are going to die before things can be made right.  That is, those wrongs will never be righted.   A possibility such as that is what is truly frightening. This is the probable root of a common American expression.  When someone continues to be bothered by unpleasant memories, he can say, "I'm being haunted by the ghosts of my past."

That metaphor is given a lot of meaning in Charles Dickens's A Christmas Carol.  As he is being literally(?) visited by the Ghost of Christmas Past, Ebenezer Scrooge is pressured into facing all of the regrets of his past.  When talking with the Ghost of Christmas Present, Scrooge faces his present insecurities, particularly his loneliness.  Finally, when stalked by the Ghost of Christmas Future, Scrooge contemplates the possibility that he will die before all of his present insecurities are reconciled -- that when he dies, it will be in a state as lonely as he has been in the present and the past.  The ghosts are a metaphor for (1) Scrooge's regrets and (2) Scrooge's fear that those issues will never be rectified.

I think the principles I have explicated even apply to ghost stories involving ghosts that re-enact their own murder.  When those tales evoke fear, I don't think the fear mainly comes from the realization that the victims have died, but mainly from the horror of contemplating the fact that real, living people are capable of performing an act as monstrous as murdering other human beings.  That's why people will find a ghost story scary if dead children in an orphanage, mental hospital, or school reenact physical or psychological abuse they have endured.  Even though the re-enactment doesn't involve the characters' death, it evokes fear and revulsion because it reminds us that people can inflict forms of cruelty that don't even result in anyone dying.  That, too, is regretful.

And as the vanishing hitchhiker story exemplifies, the ghost story doesn't have to involve human evil in order to be disturbing.  The common thread in these stories is that, back when the ghost was alive, people made highly regretful choices and they were never corrected -- nor will they be.  Very few of these stories end with the living eyewitness finding a way to finish the ghost's unfinished business.

I have been thinking long and hard about this symbolism, because I know someone who spent time in Hawaii with me -- and returned to Norway -- who has suffered with suicidal tendencies and self-mutilation for years, and could be very happy, but, to my knowledge, has refused to return to psychiatric care.  In one of her more lucid moments, my friend warned me that in social relationships she repeats the same dysfunctional pattern -- first it starts well, but she does something to sabotage it later on.  Just as it would be with a ghost, my attempt at conversing about the matter in a straightforward way are frustrated; but, like a ghost, my friend lets out indirect cries for help.  Many people assume my friend is confident and business-savvy.  But, conspicuously, my friend insisted on looking like a ghost, wearing black almost every day and trying to be very pale.  She even went as far as uploading -- in the absence of providing any context behind it -- pictures onto the Web where she was very realistically photoshopped to look like a dead body, complete with pallid gray skin. Later she finally stopped uploading the corpse pictures but that hasn't stopped the public morbid gestures entirely -- she legally changed her name to match the last name of someone she and another relative have cryptically hinted was a source of abuse.   My worries about the matter have led me to be very openly agitated and jumpy, just as I would be if a supernatural entity were visiting me.  As there is with every ghost story, there are elements of regret:  I regret that my attempts to help my friend are stifled, and that my friend's inner torment -- like any specter's -- goes on and on and on. You can say that I'm very much haunted by this.  And until I find a way to stop worrying about it, this remains a demon yet to be exorcised.

Monday, July 25, 2016

Why, If a Relative Raped You, It IS Everyone Else's Rightful Business to Know

These are excerpts from a longer essay I wrote.  The whole essay can be found here.


Suppose you knew someone in childhood and, as an adult, became reacquainted with her. Imagine you suspect that, even as an adult, she is being regularly beaten by her spouse. Upon confronting her about this, she says, “This is something for my household alone; it is my private affair; it is none of your business!” Now consider another scenario. Imagine you learn that a young woman was raped by her own relative, and you have enough evidence to make you find it plausible that that relative may rape someone else. When the young woman learns of what you know, she screams that she will never forgive you if you go to the police or tell anyone else about this. She yells, “My relative didn’t rape you or anyone in your family. This is my private affair; it is none of your business! You have no right to go to the police about this.”

Are the women in the above two scenarios correct? The implication in the victim’s assertion is that because she is the one victim of which she is aware, she is the only party who has any right to take action against the aggressor. Because the aggressor did not initiate the use of force upon you or your family directly, says the victim, this is entirely her business and no one else’s. You and the government ought to butt out of this. Is she correct that this is nobody’s business but her own? No, she is not. Any use of violence, be it initiated or made in self-defense against the initiator, is necessarily everyone’s business. It is necessarily your business, and, to the degree that a constitutional liberal republican Night Watchman State has jurisdiction, it is necessarily the business of that government. The reason is that no use of violence, be it initiated or made in self-defense, can properly be privatized. [ . . . ]

Th[is argument] came from the ancient Greek lawgiver Draco. He was allegedly too harsh in punishing crime, and therefore a government acting too harshly is said to be draconian. However, Draco set a precedent that is actually important to having a truly free, constitutional liberal republican Night Watchman State. It turns out that prior to Draco’s time, the ancient Greeks largely agreed with W. Alan Burris that murder was a private matter. The ancient Greeks believed that if, say, Ralphius murdered your brother Jacius, it was not as if Ralphius had threatened the safety of the entire community; his lone victim was your brother Jacius. Therefore, if you wanted justice for Jacius, it was left to you and your family to seek out some personal vengeance against Ralphius. To this, Draco objected. Draco said that if Ralphius murdered Jacius, Ralphius necessarily victimized everyone in the community, and therefore the State, representing the entire community, was right to avenge the entire community against Ralphius.

This is true. If Ralph steals from Jake, then everyone else in the community has probable cause to fear that Ralph may steal from them as well. If Ralph rapes Jake, everyone else in the community has probable cause to fear that Ralph may rape them as well. And if Ralph murders Jake, everyone else in the community has probable cause to fear that Ralph may murder them as well. Even if Ralph publicly issues a serious threat of violence against Jake and has yet to carry it out, the rest of the public has probable cause for fearing that Ralph may carry out that threat against them as well. Therefore, any initiation of the use of force does, perforce, victimize everyone in the community.
[ . . . ] On that understanding, when the constitutional liberal republican Night Watchman State claims to represent the entire community in criminally prosecuting Ralph for what Ralph did to Jake, the constitutional liberal republican Night Watchman State is not collectivistically usurping the authority to represent individual community members against their consent. [ . . . ]

The initiation of the use of violence -- by anyone against anyone -- indeed demonstrates itself to be a threat to everyone in the community and not merely the most direct victim of that violence. If Ralph beats up Jake, there is sufficient evidence for you to worry that you could be the next victim of a beating from Ralph. And even if you, personally, believe that Ralph would never do this to you or your children, your next-door neighbor is reasonable in worrying that she might become his next punching bag. Violence cannot be privatized -- any act of violence inexorably imposes repercussions for people other than the violence’s most direct victim. [ . . . ]

If Ralph bruises his wife, he might rough up other people as well. Therefore, if you learn of this abuse, it is necessarily your business and the business of everyone else in the community. You are right to take action even in defiance of the wife’s protests. Contrary to her assertions, she is not the exclusive victim. The same applies if you learn a young woman was raped by a relative. Even if she sternly pronounces she is the solo victim and therefore it is not your place to intervene, that is not accurate. It is your business and everyone else’s. [ . . . ]

If you have been threatened with violence, or if it has already been inflicted upon you, you may be justified in fearing that if you come forward to authorities with this information, that it might put you at risk of being subjected to violent reprisals from the assailant.  For that reason, in the short term it may be rational that you tell but a few people about this circumstance and ask them to keep it secret in the foreseeable future.  However, that can only go so far. There is probable cause for the law to inquire as to whether this alleged assailant may pose a violent threat to parties besides you and therefore, in the long run, the protection of every peaceful person's rights requires that this information ultimately be publicly available.  On that basis, a right to privacy does not extend to any credible accusation that you can level about someone either threatening violence or having committed it.  [ . . . ]

That which is peaceful is private and should therefore be absent of governmental interference. Yet, by the same token, any violence that occurs anywhere, even if inflicted in putative self-defense, can never be privatized and should therefore be of concern to the public and the constitutional liberal republican Night Watchman State.

Saturday, July 2, 2016

When We Must 'Interfere'

You know that I am a laissez-faireist. But few people understand what this means.  I am only laissez faire in that if people are being peaceable in their mutually consensual dealings, I do not want government force imposed upon them.

It is an entirely different matter if you insisted on shoving suicidal, self-mutilating, and other morbid gestures in my face and you hinted that this was the result of abuse from childhood that actually long predated early adolescence.  As you took the initiative to make such loud cries for help, you can be damn sure I am going to intervene.

 We must always take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented. Sometimes we must interfere. When human lives are endangered, when human dignity is in jeopardy, national borders and sensitivities become irrelevant. 

--Elie Wiesel   

The cries for help will not go unanswered.

Thursday, March 24, 2016

I've Been Close to Someone Who's Threatened Violence Publicly; Dangerous to Network With This Friend If Friend Isn't Getting Needed Help

Trigger warning:  I normally mock trigger warnings, but one truly is applicable in this case.  This blog post discusses issues pertaining to child abuse, rape, incest, suicidal gestures, and mental illness.

Stuart K. Hayashi

It wasn't easy for me to put this information right here, but my concern about the danger -- including physical dangers -- outweighs such fears.  Some years ago I became very close to someone who, sadly, is dangerously mentally ill.  My friend has accused other people of being violent toward her, only later to act as if she does not remember the accusations she leveled. Moreover, in the years subsequent to placing a death threat against her mother on the World Wide Web for everyone to read, the archiving and documenting of this death threat remains.  Copies of the evidence are available.

I have contacted police about this on two continents.  On one continent, the police were unresponsive.  On the other, the police were responsive but said that jurisdictional issues prevent them from taking action.  Because my friend has given no indication that she has truly gotten past the obsession with violence, death, and child molesters, I judge that it is best for me to speak out here.

My Friend Publicly Threatened to Kill Her Mother -- The Evidence Is Archived, Documented, and Copied 
In 2004, in her home country of Norway, my friend put up this threat to kill her mother.  It is in English and it has been publicly available on the World Wide Web this entire time.  It is not one of those dumb, terse threats that people write on Twitter or YouTube, along the lines of, 'You disagree with me? Then I hope you die!'  Though the threat is grammatically inept in composition, it is nonetheless serious in tone and intent.  My friend does not say that she has some long-term plan to kill.  Rather, she envisions that one day she will become so incensed by her mother's nagging that she will take a knife and thrust the knife into her mother.  This is described vividly, as so:

Click on this to enlarge it and make it easier to read

The threat is documented and archived.  There are copies of it available.  This information is now irrepressible and un-erasable.

Some people in our respective circles have rationalised that this death threat is 'long past'.  After all, they say, it is more than ten years old.  Moreover, four months after my friend wrote her original death threat, she wrote a follow-up post on that same thread where she claims to be all better:  ' happy that i allowed myself to hate her [the mother]. otherwise nothing would have changed. I now love my mom to death like many other precious people in my surroundings'.

But it wasn't all better.  My friend made it all too obvious she is not recovered.

Years After Threatening Her Mother Publicly, My Friend Continues Exhibiting Publicly the Fixation on Violence and Death
When my friend was on Oahu from 2008 to 2012, she continued displaying morbid and even violent gestures, particularly in a public fashion.  Many of these morbid gestures remain on the Web, and have been documented and archived. There are also copies of this evidence available as well.

For example, in late 2010, my friend had another 'friend' (enabler, really) upload onto YouTube a video where she 'jokes' about being a neo-fascist 'of the Fourth Reich'.  My friend said privately it was a joke, but that is not obvious from the very strange video itself, which was listed as 'News and Politics'.  That my friend calling herself a neo-fascist 'of the Fourth Reich' is some joke is especially unclear for another reason: the enabler who uploaded the video is connected to an anti-immigration political group that advocates government force to curb Muslim immigration.  If you don't want people thinking you are a neo-Nazi, it's not wise to associate with that sort of group.  (Sadly, my friend actually first heard of that group from me, before it took on such a strident anti-immigration position.)

Around 2014, the enabler 'privated' the horrible video.  But as I type this, Radaris retains a record of the video's existence -- complete with my friend's birth name (more about that later) -- and Radaris's record of it is documented and archived.  Again, there are multiple copies of this.

The red parts are redactions; changes to the original image.

Since you're probably not my friend's mother, you are probably wondering, 'Why the hell should I care?'  Until my friend confirms that she has returned to psychiatric care on a regular basis, I have strong evidence that she continues to pose a danger to colleagues with whom she networks, as well as co-workers at an IKEA Service and Pick-Up point. That could be you. Explaining this requires more context.

The Beginning of the Story Behind This
Before my friend showed me the murder threat and the disturbing 'Fourth Reich' video, she very slowly gave me clues indicating the danger.  First, she explained why she was born with her mother's last name instead of her father's, her father being an expatriate from the United States.  It was because her father himself had recently changed his last name.  The story behind that is itself bizarre and sad, and seems to have been because he felt betrayed by his own father back in the United States (we will call my friend's paternal grandfather WH here).  My friend laughed and said, 'My mum said to my father, "If we give our baby your last name, how do I know you won't change it again? We'll give her my last name; it's simpler." '  This father is a well-known photographer; his pictures have appeared frequently in the local newspaper and the municipal website of Tromsø kommune, and his photos of the aurora borealis are celebrated throughout the world.

Then, for the first time, my friend sounded vulnerable. She said that she put on a front of bravado to hide her insecurities.  She admitted that she tries to make herself appear to other people that she is in a position of authority and responsibility, because she believes if people see her in such positions and seeming very confident and professional, they will not question her judgment or sanity.  No red flags went off for me; I reassured her that there was nothing unusual about nursing self-doubts.

The Accusation Against the Classmate 
In the weeks that followed, my friend increasingly showed an obsession with child molesters.  The first joke she ever told me happened to be what she identified as her favorite signature on online postings:  'The internet is where men are men, women are men, and small children are undercover FBI agents', alluding to online sting operations against child predators.  Then my friend would reminisce about an ex-boyfriend back in Norway.  She said that he was a deep, caring person who empathised with everyone, a man of upstanding good taste.  Then she stared at the ground and giggled, 'He always joked that he was a pedophile trying to lure kids into sex with him'.

Then in February of 2010, my friend came to a professor and me, and told us a troubling story.  She said that a classmate of hers in that professor's class had sexually propositioned her and, when she rejected him, he grew angry.  Based on his boasting about killing people in war and about his womanising, she was afraid he wanted to rape her.  They got into an argument and my friend had grown direly afraid of him.  A week later, my friend came to the professor and me and said that she was proven right to fear the classmate as violent, because he threatened her, 'If you tell anyone what happened that night, I kill you!'

My friend insisted that we not go to the police (in retrospect, I should have reported this to the police against her wishes) but that she wanted the professor to keep the classmate and her separate from one another.  She did not file any formal complaints with Hawaii Pacific University, but she did go around informally circulating this accusation among several other schoolmates.  I completely believed the accusation at the time.  Then my friend told the professor, several other schoolmates, and me a troubling story where she accused her writing instructor of invading her personal space as he flirted with her.  Again, she did not file a formal complaint and sternly insisted that none of us confidantes do so, either.  I completely believed this accusation as well.

The Obsession With Child Molesters
One night in April of 2010, when my friend and I were going out for an evening stroll, she said, out of nowhere, 'Why are people so bigoted when a convicted child molester moves into the neighborhood?'

My eyes shot wide open and I sputtered, 'Whah? . . . Wh-wh-wh-what do you mean?'

She explained, 'Whenever someone who, as an adult, had sex with a small child moves into the neighborhood, people immediately want to run him out.  They should consider that the child consented to the sex.'  She argued that a prepubescent child should be recognised as contractually competent to consent to sex with an adult caregiver.  She would not be swayed from this opinion, at least not this night.

Later, she also told me that when she was thirteen, she was groped by her then-best-friend, also thirteen years of age at the time.  She attributed her fear of men to the incidents of her friend groping her, though those incidents did not explain her obsession with child molesters in particular, nor her apparently fearing American-born men more than Norwegian-born men.

The Danger Posed to Colleagues (The Latest News Indicates This Danger Is Ongoing As This Is Posted)
Another night that same month, my friend was telling me about her day and then she said, very casually, that she bumped into the classmate.  I mean the same classmate she previously accused of threatening to kill her.  I was alarmed.  As calmly as I could, I asked her to go on.  What happened?  My friend said that she and the classmate had a nice talk, and he was just a nice, fun, friendly flirt.  Then she started into space, giggled, and said, 'Hee-hee! I . . . like [Classmate's name]!

I was stunned.  I couldn't say anything in response.  My friend only responded to the awkward silence by changing the subject.

She also frequently talked about how she has had a long history of wanting to die.  In high school, she threatened to kill herself several times.  Moreover, she mentioned hating her body and that this hatred for her body goes back to her early childhood, long before the boy groped her when they were both thirteen.  She mentioned that ever since she was little, she thought that female anatomy is disgusting because it makes her vulnerable to predatory males.  She did not elaborate on whether she felt threatened by one or two predatory males in particular.

The next day, I went to the professor to talk about her talking up that classmate as if she did not remember her allegation about him.  The professor brushed off my concerns.  Even as my friend made increasingly obvious and public morbid gestures, which he saw up close, the professor acted as if it was safe and acceptable.  For those reasons, I have lost a lot of respect for this man.

Throughout May of 2010, my friend switched back and forth in her memory of the classmate. First she switched back to saying he violently threatened her, and she went around telling other schoolmates about this.  The next day, she again talked about the classmate being just a nice, fun flirt. Two days later, she switched back to saying he was violent and dangerous.  Every time my friend changed her story, she sounded as if she did not remember what said the previous time, even if that previous time was no more than the day before.

By the autumn of 2010, my friend became very insistent on wearing the same garment to university class almost every day.  She took me to her apartment and she showed me all her clothes. It was not that she had lots of garments that looked alike.  This was the same black garment every day.  Then -- encouraged by the same enabler in Norway who uploaded the horrid 'Fourth Reich' video -- my friend uploaded photos of herself photoshopped to have a chalky white face like a corpse.  Two of the corpse photos even went on my friend's LinkedIn account, next to her résumé, and one of them appeared on the official website of Hawaii University's SIFE Club (SIFE later changed its name to Enactus).  I think some people tried to assume my friend was 'just being a Goth or a Black Metal fan'.  However, my friend has a history of wanting to be dead literally.  For that reason, I could not dismiss this as my friend 'just being a Goth'; I had to take this seriously.

Cropped version of the corpse image from LinkedIn, Twitter, and the oficial SIFE page

Partially redacted (the red part) smaller version of the corpse images posted on LinkedIn, Twitter, and the official SIFE HPU page (regarding the clothes and the lighting: it was a very hot day in Hawaii and the image was photoshopped to make the environment look grayer and deader)

The redactions in red are not part of the original pictures; the reason any of the pictures are visible here is so the readers can judge for themselves if I overreacted to the photoshopped corpse-face images

'...Abuse Is Common...' in That Environment?
By this time, I already didn't trust the judgment of my friend's American-born father. I did notice, though, that on Twitter he was following an eccentric woman from the same home state in the USA that he was from.  What got my attention was that the woman's website purported to be for a charity she set up, one for helping at-risk teens and twentysomethings (my friend's age range at the time).  All of the mental illness symptoms the woman's website described were the same as what my friend had either admitted to having or had exhibited to me directly. I thought, 'Who is this strange woman? Is she perhaps a psychologist with whom my friend's father consulted about my friend's problems in Norway?  About symptoms that are now becoming strong and publicly visible once again?'

I contacted this strange woman. I told her I was interested in her website, because I had a friend in her twenties who was exhibiting the symptoms the website described.  I mentioned to this strange woman, though, that I am worried that if she is a psychologist, she might consider it a conflict of interest for me to describe my friend's situation, as I think this strange woman knows my friend somehow.  The strange woman replied she is not a psychologist and it is OK for me to tell her what concerns me.   I told the woman about the morbid gestures but had not yet mentioned anything about the accusations about the classmate, the fear of men in general, or the obsession with child molesters.

It turned out that this strange woman is the paternal aunt to my friend.  The aunt remarked that my friend's situation was both familiar and unfamiliar.  The situation was unfamiliar in that, this entire time, the aunt was unaware that her Norwegian niece was going through all this. Yet, the aunt continued, what I described was indeed familiar in one respect:  when the aunt described mental illness symptoms on her own website, she was describing her own symptoms, and she was startled by how my friend's symptoms were similar to her own.  (I will not link to the woman's website, but rest assured that the website's URL is archived, its contents documented.)

Before I could say anything about the child-molester fixation or the accusation about the classmate, the aunt asked me whether my friend exhibited a prominent hang-up about sex.  I asked her what she meant.  The aunt replied, 'Sexual abuse is common in my family'.  Throughout the months, the aunt revealed that both a cousin and uncle of hers killed themselves, though in different ways. The cousin very deliberately committed suicide by throwing himself off a bridge. The uncle, who was abusive toward his children, drank himself to death.  Later, the aunt mentioned that the father of both herself and my friend's father -- WH -- sexually abused the aunt and her sister.  As far as what the aunt said, though, my friend's father getting mad at WH and changing his own last name in protest -- to that of his mother's maiden name -- was unrelated to the sexual abuse.  Indeed, the aunt added that when she tried to talk to my friend's father about their own father sexually abusing her, my friend's father replied -- rather unconvincingly -- that he knew nothing of this when it was going on.

The aunt went through the following pattern.  Every few weeks, she told me she would have a compassionate conversation with my friend about the public morbid gestures, and about their having so many symptoms and traumas in common.  But, last minute, the aunt would delay this.  Then she would start talking to me about something else, such as her co-workers irritating her.  Eventually she told me that she would have the compassionate conversation after she had her own confrontation with WH and her mother -- WH for sexually abusing her and with her mother for being an enabler who "looked the other way."  The aunt planned on confronting her parents with this through a snail mail.  She typed up a draft and e-mailed it to me.  I still have the entire draft in my possession.  It, too, is documented and archived, and copies of it have been made.

At the last minute, though, the aunt decided against mailing the letter. She rationalised that her mother was in poor health and the confrontation would worsen it.  Then she became uncommunicative and rude, and I do not think the compassionate conversation with my friend ever happened.  I suspect, at this point, it finally dawned on the aunt that if she looked further into the matter with my friend, she might uncover something incriminating not merely about WH, but about my friend's father himself, and that would undermine any remaining 'plausible deniability'.

Here is part of the draft.  Again, I have copies of the entirety of it in my possession.  This is evidence that cannot be eradicated -- nor should it be.

You can click on the screen capture to enlarge it and make it more readable (Trigger warning: this is very difficult material)

Having to Go It Alone
It was up to me to have a compassionate conversation with my friend.  Most other people in our circles noticed the public morbid gestures but were too intimidated to say anything; they became perfect sycophants who helped my friend pretend that all of her public morbid gestures were safe and acceptable.

When I tried to talk to my friend about this, she feigned memory loss, pretending not to remember what she had told me about her obsession with child molesters and death and fear of men.  Then she added that by raising the topic, I had shown myself to be more evil and frightening than the classmate who threatened to kill her.  She added that my confronting her about this was more evil and hurtful than all of the misogynistic epithets her ex-boyfriends hurled toward her.  Soon after saying all this, she again feigned memory loss, this time pretending not to remember being angry just minutes earlier.  As if she didn't know how the conversation started, she began talking casually about her day and then put on a smile and asked me how my day was.  I reminded her of what our conversation was about -- her violent and morbid gestures.  She then grew enraged again and intoned ominously, 'This is not over!'

For the sake of my physical safety, I had to cut off ties to my friend. But I never stopped caring.

BiggerPockets.Com:  Where the Danger of Continued Violence Remains
Some months ago, when I looked at the BiggerPockets real-estate investing forum, my friend -- of all people -- popped up.  She talked about how she is a big shot real-estate investor who owns a parking garage in Norway and who is interested in New York.  She finally stopped using the horrid corpse pictures for her avatar.

However, she changed her name; she now goes by her father's last name.  To someone unaware of the context, that must seem a touching tribute to a man of obviously large meaning in my friend's life. But based on what my friend kept saying, and also based on what her aunt said, I am afraid that the name change appears to be yet another morbid gesture.  :'-(

While an assisterende butikkleder (assistant store manager at an IKEA Service and Pick-Up Point), my friend has been talking about the importance of networking for her real-estate business.  If you network with her as a colleague, it would be prudent to remember her behaviour with respect to her classmate and the writing instructor.  As long as my friend refuses to take responsibility publicly for her public morbid gestures -- including, but far from exclusively, the still-online murder threats and photoshop-corpse photos -- there is probable cause in concluding that the danger remains. Indeed, if you work at a particular IKEA Service and Pick-Up Point, you should be very concerned.

I have to bring this up publicly.

First off, falsely accusing someone of a violent crime is itself an initiation of the use of force.  The reason is this.  If X goes to Z and accuses Y of having committed violence against X, then Z may easily respond with violence toward Y, either doing the violence himself as retribution or going to the police (remember that government action is backed by the threat of violence).

Furthermore, every impassioned public threat of violence -- such as the one my friend put on the Web publicly for her mother -- must be taken seriously.  Serious public threats of violence count as an initiation of the use of force.  The reason is that, although not all violent threats are acted upon, there is probable cause to judge that the person who issued the threat might still act upon it one day.  Even if my friend never does violence to her mother, she has given enough reason for people to suspect she might do something equally dangerous or retributive to someone else to whom she feels emotionally attached. You cannot justly hide behind the phrase 'This is my privacy and none of your business!' when the matter involves violent threats you have issued publicly against your own mother, particularly when you have continued, throughout the years, issuing public gestures indicating a continued obsession with death and violence.

If you have come into contact with my friend through her real-estate business or at the Tromsø IKEA Service and Pick-Up Point, and truly care about her well-being and the safety of those around her, please, please, please confront her compassionately and firmly -- pardon that redundancy -- about how her happiness, her being able to accept herself and her past, without all these evasions, is most important, and that the courage to return to regular psychiatric care is worth it.  It is the part of me that retains confidence in my friend -- that part of me that holds onto the hope that she finds inner peace, authentic happiness, and the hope that she is capable of gaining it -- that asks this both of her and of you.

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

A Right to Privacy Doesn't Extend to Violent Acts, Including Threats of Violence

Any act of violence -- even in self-defense -- has ramifications for everyone in the community. If X threatens violence against Y, there is probable cause to believe X might also be a violent threat to Z as well -- a violent threat to everyone else.   Violence is inherently a public matter, inherently an externality; it cannot properly be privatized and, to use an economics term, the costs of it cannot be fully "internalized."  By that I mean that if X hits Y,and then Y hits X back, it doesn't mean that Y's retaliation has made them both even.  Y's "private" retaliation does not render this a private matter that can be dropped.  No, this remains a public matter because the violence can still escalate.

Anyone who uses violence -- even in self-defense -- is a possible threat to everyone else, and that is why, even when someone uses violence in self-defense, it is right for police and courts to look into the matter and ascertain whether it was indeed self-defense.

And serious threats of violence -- even if not yet acted upon -- are worthy of police attention, as they create probable cause for members of the community to ascertain that the violent threat might be acted upon.  Moreover, if Q goes around falsely accusing R of making a violent threat toward Q, that counts as an initiation of the use of force, as third parties, mistakenly believing they are exercising retaliatory force in defense of Q, may end up being violent toward R, and this would end up being an initiation of the use of force.

Violence and the threat of it are the greatest threat to anyone's liberty; violent threats are what deny someone the freedom of peaceful action.  Moreover, a right to privacy does not extend to someone threatening violence.  That is, if L seriously threatens violence against her own mother, that is something the public has a right to know about, even if L's mother herself tries to dismiss that as something not to be taken seriously.  Even if L's mother dismisses it, other people around L remain potential victims of L if L does not receive proper treatment from mental health professionals or the law.

If you have been threatened with violence, or if it has already been inflicted upon you, you may be justified in fearing that if you come forward to authorities with this information, it may put you at risk of being subjected to violent reprisals from the assailant.  For that reason, in the short term it may be rational that you tell but a few people about this circumstance and ask them to keep it secret in the foreseeable future.  However, that can only go so far. There is probable cause for the law to inquire as to whether this alleged assailant may pose a violent threat to parties besides you and therefore, in the long run, the protection of every peaceful person's rights requires that this information ultimately be publicly available.  On that basis, a right to privacy does not extend to any credible accusation that you can level about someone either threatening violence or having committed it.

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

'One True Creepy College Story' read by BeBusta

This is a true story, submitted to the YouTube channel Be.Busta and read by Be.Busta.

UPDATE from February 3, 2016:  There is a blog containing the text of that story over here. (As it contains grisly subject matter, reader discretion is advised.)

UPDATE from February 18, 2016:  If you are from Minnesota or Norway (especially Tromsø IKEA Service & Pick-Up/Plukke Opp), this might be of interest to you.

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

There Is No Right to Use Government to Suppress the Truth

"There is no 'right to be forgotten.'  But there is a 'right to  remember.'  History is important.  Speaking the truth is a human right."

--Jimmy Wales, Monday, August 4, 2014

When legislation says you have a "right to be forgotten," what it really means is that it will use the force of law to shield people from facing the peaceable consequences of their own choices.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

In the Long Run, You're Not Fooling Anyone

If I tried to deceive you, it would not merely be a matter of me trying to outsmart you. It would also be a matter of me trying to outsmart empirical evidence and the laws of nature themselves. In the long run, that isn't sustainable. Reality is absolute, which means that empirical facts are absolute. I can outsmart people in the short run, but I cannot outsmart reality in the long run.

A lie can persist for thousands of years. Since that is beyond my lifetime, it seems that a lie can persist indefinitely. But thousands of years is not the same as eternity. Even though you cannot observe everything for an eternal amount of time, it is still to logical to conclude that the long-term result for a deception is for it to be exposed eventually. Here is why I say that.

Suppose that you have a website. First I leave a post on your website as myself. My post shows my IP number, and you can see from my IP number that I'm in Hawaii. Now suppose that I create a sock puppet account and post while posing as someone in Croatia. And suppose that you see that the IP number is exactly the same -- it's the same Hawaii IP number. And you know that Stuart Hayashi is not sharing his ISP account with some Croatian. By noticing the evidence, you have busted me.

Every human action has consequences. This includes consequences that are byproducts of the action -- meaning that these consequences can be anticipated but that having these consequences occur was not the main end sought by the action. For example, if I walk through snow and leave footprints behind, leaving those footprints was not my main goal, and yet my action nevertheless caused the footprints to appear. These byproduct consequences surely leave behind evidence. My footprints in the snow are evidence of my having walked through the snow. Insofar as I am truthful with you, there is evidence to support that I have been truthful. Likewise, insofar as I am deceptive with you, there is evidence to support the conclusion that I have been deceptive. Consistent observation of the facts themselves, and consistency in understanding the context, will ultimately support true claims and undermine false claims. Therefore, insofar as people observe empirical evidence, the facts will always give true claims the advantage over deceptive ones.

When I tell you the truth, I am not trying to outsmart you; I have the facts to support me. Likewise, if I lie to you, I am not merely trying to outsmart you; I am trying to outsmart empirical evidence. And as reality is absolute, empirical evidence cannot be outsmarted.

Yes, it is true that if someone consistently practices deception, he can learn from past mistakes and learn to be more thorough in covering his tracks. If you have caught me using a socket puppet account, based on IP evidence, then maybe next time I might try to switching to a different IP number before I post on your page using a fake account. But no matter how thorough a con man may attempt to be in covering up every trace of his deception, it is not plausible to expect that he can cover up every trace at the noumenal level; reality is too complex for that. Therefore, no matter how sophisticated the deception, there will always be evidence of what really went down.

A deception might take thousands of years to undo. Someone might die before his lies catch up with him. But insofar as anyone observes the evidence and follows up on it, the deception is vulnerable in the short run and doomed in the long run. And insofar as a charlatan is able to get away with his deceptions, this is not so much on account of the charlatan being the cleverest man in the world, but more so on account of the people around him either (a) failing to observe evidence or (b) having observed the evidence of deception, failing to call the charlatan on it.

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Right and Wrong Ways to Achieve a Sense of 'Control'

I have developed a simple theory on the cause of most dysfunctional human behavior. Perhaps it is too simple. But this is it:

Everyone wants to exercise some level of control in their lives, and there's nothing bad about that. All choice is an exercise of control. Dysfunctional human behavior results when people lack an adequate sense of control and they therefore resort to unhealthy methods of regaining a feeling of control: a manner damaging to self or others. I think all forms of tyranny result from someone feeling that he does not have enough control (even if he's a nation's dictator, he feels inadequate about control) and therefore trying to control others through the threat of violence.

In response to this, many people say, "Stop trying to control stuff! Just be satisfied with how you don't have control."

That is an entirely losing proposition. If someone feels that he doesn't have enough control over his life, you won't persuade him against the dysfunction by telling him that it's good to cede control.

I think this is a better approach: acknowledge that the desire for control is actually very healthy; the real problem is the manner in which one is trying to maintain or obtain control. The search for control in a dysfunctional manner has damaging results and, in the long run, the person who wants to have control will up end with less of it. Therefore, it is best to show that person how there are much healthier, more humane, more peaceable methods of finding control in one's life.

Saturday, July 6, 2013

If You Notice Someone Obsessed With Self-Disfigurement, Gently Speak Up About It (Here's How)

Body Dysmorphic Disorder (BDD) is a mental condition in which someone feels alienated and disturbed by his or her own natural physical features -- so much so that this person holds a debilitating hostility toward his or her own body.  The person feels that his or her natural form is "disfigured," and, ironically, it is in the process of trying to "correct" the believed disfigurement that the person can actually end up disfiguring him- or herself.

Anorexics have a form of BDD. They suffer from the delusion that they are grotesquely obese and must "correct" that imperfection by starving themselves.  Another example of people with BDD are certain extremely rich Hollywood people who are so insecure about their appearance that they keep getting cosmetic surgery, and they end getting so much "corrective" plastic surgery that they stop looking human. 

Of course, in the long run, the issue isn't ultimately about one's looks; that's a red herring.  What is actually going on is that the person with BDD, no matter how much he or she boasts of professional success or being a big-shot real-estate investor, feels as if he or she doesn't have a sufficient amount of control in life.  The person with BDD tries to regain a sense of control by imposing control over matters that are quite petty and even self-harming.  When an anorexic starves herself, that's horrible, but she feels that she is solving the problem because the practice of self-starvation includes "control" and "discipline."  The same principle is at work when someone routinely gets a knife and cuts her wrists.  Another way one can try to impose control is to dress exactly the same every day and to try to cover up the "natural deformity" by trying to look like a pallid corpse.

I know from personal experience in the Hawaii Pacific University that to care deeply about someone who has BDD is very painful and traumatic.  And if just knowing and caring about someone who has that condition is traumatic, you can imagine how much worse it is for the person who actually has that condition.

If you notice a friend very conspicuously shoving self-disfiguring gestures in your face -- dressing the same every day and uploading photos onto LinkedIn where one is photoshopped to look like a corpse -- please don't write this off as a harmless quirk or eccentricity.  It can mask something far deeper and worse.  If you notice someone engaging in repeated self-disfiguring gestures and pretend not to notice, that continued pretense actually tacitly reinforces the self-harming gestures.   If you know someone who repeatedly makes self-disfiguring gestures, there is a compassionate way to address it that is not harshly disapproving or bossy. 

I recommend that you say to this person:
"I value you; you bring a lot of value to my life.  And I cannot help but notice certain things -- certain gestures [i.e., the cuts on the wrists; the insistence on wearing the exact same clothes to class almost every day, the photos on LinkedIn where one is photoshopped to look corpse-like].  And when I see them, I can't help but notice that you have a lot going on in your life.  If you don't want to talk about it, you don't have to.  But I want you to know that if you ever do want to talk about it, I am here for you."
Addressing the person that way is good because it lets that person know that he or she is not fooling anybody; of course the self-disfiguring gestures are noticed.  Simultaneously, the approach is not bossy or harshly disapproving (what most people judgmentally call "judgmental").  It is gentle and lets the person know that you raise the issue precisely because you care and accept that person.

Saturday, June 8, 2013

Self-Acceptance and Having a Firm Sense of Identity

From my friend Esha, I learned about this quotation:

"Face it, kid:  unless you can be yourself, you won't stay with anyone for long."
--Sylvia Plath

Sylvia Plath had personal experiences with inner pain.  The idea here is true: being able to accept and trust others, to be loyal to them in the long run, is largely incumbent upon first being able to accept oneself, to have a firm sense of one's own identity -- a coherent, integrated narrative identity. 

Friday, March 1, 2013

March 1 Is Self-Harm Awareness Day

Remember that March 1 is Self-Harm Awareness Day.

You don't have to face this alone.  Receiving the help that you need, you can triumph over these obstacles and truly embrace life.  :'-)

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Alexi-- Alexi-- Alexithymia? -- Such a Mouthful! -- in BPD?

The Journal of Personality Disorders published a study suggesting that persons with BPD can often experience a condition known as alexithymia.  It refers one having extreme difficulty understanding emotional responses -- those of oneself and those of others.  The study suggests that those with BPD have a harder time understanding their own emotions -- particularly when it comes to difficult negative emotions like fear of relationship commitment -- than they do those of others.
As an article in Psychology Today put it,

The findings showed that people with BPD (compared to healthy controls) were less able to identify feelings, but it was the feelings within themselves that gave them the most challenge. Their difficulty was in putting themselves into the situations, especially when the feelings depicted were negative. Unlike people with antisocial personality disorder, individuals with BPD can feel compassion toward others and even empathy. It’s their own inability to tolerate (and therefore think about) negative emotions that seems particularly disturbed.

This has given me a lot to think about. I have read that many persons with BPD pride themselves on being able to "read" people well, but that, in controlled experiments, they often mistake neutral expressions for disapproval. I think that to have a consistently ability to interpret emotions from other people's body language accurately, one has to understand one's own emotions first.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

My Criteria for Judging Whether a Pattern of Behavior Should Be Judged as Potentially Indicative of 'Mental Illness'

I can understand that some people believe that to call a mental illness an "illness" is misleading, as they believe that there is not evidence of a physiological cause.  However, I think it is important to acknowledge that certain people fall into certain psychological patterns that are self-damaging.  And it is noticeable that:
1. The pattern consists of unusual behavior
2. The behavior is harmful to self, others, or both self and others
3. The behavior has a lot to do with some deeply-ingrained belief or propensity to believe
4. Even though only a minority of the population engages in such behavior, it is conducted by enough people for psychiatrists to notice a pattern.  That is, it's not confined to one person; there are multiple cases of it.
I think this raises the issue of what should or should not be considered an indication of mental illness.  First off, a behavior should not be considered a sign of mental illness just because it is unusual.  For instance, Albert Einstein wearing his hair the way that he did, was strange.  But I don't see how his having strange hair inflicted long-term damage on his life or happiness.  Therefore, Einstein having strange hair is not enough to be taken as a sign of mental illness.

Rather, I think that what makes a pattern a behavior a sign of mental illness is that it is severely damaging to others or at least to oneself.   However, I think a certain qualifier is in order.  If someone engages in a certain behavior, and this leads to his unhappiness primarily on account of other people disapproving of it, that is not sufficient for the behavior to be classified as a mental illness.

For instance, one might argue that Galileo invited great misery upon himself for publicly stating that the Earth revolves around the sun.  One might also say that, in terms of his social standing, he might have been better off if he never shared his knowledge.  Galileo speaking the scientific truth arguably did cause him great unhappiness, but the unhappiness was caused less by the behavior itself than by the social establishment's disapproval of it.  For instance, we can ask ourselves what effect Galileo's actions would have had in a society where everyone approved of him saying that the Earth revolved around the sun.  If everyone approved of Galileo's behavior, would it hurt him?  No.

Now, what of being gay?  Someone might argue that if someone publicly comes out as gay, that might cause him great unhappiness.  But that has more to do with widespread social disapproval of homosexuality than with homosexuality itself.  If someone came out as gay in a society where nobody disapproved of that, I don't think it would harm him.  Therefore, even though psychologists did classify homosexuality as a mental illness for most of the twentieth century, they were wrong to do so.

Therefore, I have this generalization:  a behavior does not indicate mental illness solely because it is unusual or because doing it openly would bring widespread social disapproval.  Rather, the behavior can properly be seen as an indication of mental illness if it is unusual and would bring harm to self or others even if everyone in society approved of it.

For example, what if, to relieve stress, I always got a blade and made cuts on my wrist?  Imagine, if you will, that nobody in society disapproves of this.  The fact of the matter is that even if everyone in society condoned it, my cutting myself would still pose a physical danger to me.  Therefore, self-cutting does deserve to be considered a psychologically disturbed behavior.

What if I purposely starved myself to become skeletally thin?   Even if everyone in society condoned it, the behavior would still be a physical danger to me.  Therefore, this, too, merits classification as a disturbed behavior.

Thus, I think these are the correct criteria for judging whether someone's actions might be indicative of mental illness:
1. The behavior is extremely dangerous to one's life or long-term well-being, or dangerous to the lives of others, and would be such even if everyone in society approved of it.

2. The behavior is unusual and practiced by a minority of the society's members, but still happens frequently enough for multiple cases of it to be documented.
Is it possible for an entire society to be mentally ill?  For instance, it was normal for Aztecs to believe that if they did not sacrifice someone -- ripping out his heart -- to appease supernatural forces, then the world would end.  That is a very harmful belief, and it caused much tragedy.  But as this belief was normal in that society, I do not think it was a sign of what is usually called mental illness; what I think it shows is that even very normal people are in danger of engaging in self-destructive actions when such actions become the social norms.

I think an entire society can become corrupted in a form of self-destruction; that is what happened to Germany under Hitler.  However, I think that is a phenomenon different from mental illnesses like self-cutting and self-starvation, which are difficult to make into social norms.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Patients With BPD Can Get Better ='-)

A study in Denmark shows that patients with Borderline Personality Disorder can indeed get better with additional treatment.  :'-)

Thursday, October 18, 2012

More About 'Identity Disturbances'

Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD) is not the same as BPD.  A person can have one condition but not the other.  However, the conditions are not mutually exclusive either; someone can simultaneously suffer from both self-destructive maladies.

NPD, by the way, is often misunderstood.  People assume that narcissism refers to extreme self-love.  Actually, clinical narcissists don't really love themselves as they really are; nor does their pathology assist them in rationally achieving long-term happiness.  Rather, narcissism refers to fixating on maintaining a certain image of one's character -- such as having a certain type of reputation -- and of prioritizing this mere image above the actual long-term well-being of the real self.  Recall that, far from doing what was necessary to achieve his long-term happiness -- what was in his actual self-interest -- Narcissus let himself perish as he gazed at a mere surface image of himself.

Anyhow, here is a man who makes many vlogs about NPD.  Having been diagnosed with the condition, he considers himself an expert on it.  Many of his vlogs are interesting, but this one caught my especial attention.  Although all of the traits discussed in this video are traits he attributes to NPD, it sounds to me like he is describing the phenomenon of "Identity Disturbance" -- one of the nine main diagnostic criteria for BPD.  If someone suffers from "identity disturbances," it means that she does not have a healthy, consistent sense of her own identity, and thus periodically goes through what she deems abrupt and dislocating "changes" of personality, though what is consistent is that one attempts to appear successful, in some cases bragging that one is some big-shot real-estate investor.  No matter how much this is called "change," however, what sadly remains consistent is the continued lack of an authentic, independent sense of identity.  Even though the term "Identity Disturbance" is not used in this video, I think the video is very accurate in describing this phenomenon.

When you go through the vlogger's videos, you can see that he has a pretty bleak outlook on this sort of condition. He believes that professional help can assist one in mitigating the symptoms, but that full recovery is impossible. :'-(

I want to contradict that particular assessment. I think that when one finally decides to commit to life and long-term happiness, one really can heal for the long term. A return to psychiatric care is worth it. You owe it to yourself -- to your long-term happiness -- to try. :'-)

Monday, October 8, 2012

Scary Black-and-White Pic ='(

Actually, pics are not the most important thing.  What's important is the information.  I hope by now it is clear that pictures are less important on this blog than the essays, which provide insight.  All of the essay posts are worth reading.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

I Will Always Care

Wishing a happy birthday to someone I care about.  Whether this is understood or not, your lasting happiness is of paramount importance.  I meant -- and mean -- everything that I have said.  :'-)

Saturday, August 4, 2012

If You Know Someone Who Exhibits Suicidal Gestures, Are You a Real Friend to That Person . . . or a Sycophant?


As I've blogged before, someone having suicidal ideation does not always lead to that person attempting suicide, but it remains very dangerous.  It is dangerous both for that person who has the suicidal ideation, and those who care about him or her. That is why I have absolutely no tolerance for it. None. When I say that, I don't mean that I cast moral disapproval on those who experience suicidal ideation. What it does mean is that if someone I care about happens to display very prominent suicidal ideation, the ethical course is to intervene.

Michael Jackson Syndrome?
There is a common story about many self-sabotaging celebrities that goes something like this. The celebrity is on a very self-destructive path, which causes visible harm to him or her, as well as trauma for those who care about the celebrity's well-being. The self-destructiveness can be manifested in substance abuse, eating disorders, self-cutting, criminal behavior (or falsely accusing others of criminal behavior), or symptoms of morbid mental illness.

Even though such self-destructive behaviors do not necessarily mean that the celebrity consciously desires to commit suicide, in this particular post I will place all such self-destructive behaviors under the category of "suicidal ideation," "suicidal gestures," and "suicidal imagery." (A psychologist might dispute that as being too broad on my part.)

Because of the celebrity's socially prominent status and because the celebrity acts outwardly confident in public, most people around him or her are reluctant to address this issue. Often, these people keep silent and pretend not to notice the disturbing suicidal gestures.  Some members of the celebrity's entourage go even farther, complimenting or at least explicitly approving of the suicidal gestures. Such a person who refrains from confronting the celebrity is not a real friend but a sycophant. By playing along with the celebrity's self-imposed illusion that the celebrity's suicidal gestures are safe and acceptable, the suicidal gestures are normalized and tacitly encouraged. Far from being conducive to the celebrity's long-term happiness and well-being, this "accepting friend" amounts to a passive "enabler." Think of Hans Christian Andersen's famous story "The Emperor's New Clothes."

Once in a while, someone close (or who was once close) to the celebrity does try to confront the celebrity about such dangers, or urges other people in the celebrity's circle to compassionately address the issue. When this happens, the whistleblower is often marginalized, ridiculed, and devalued. That's terribly tragic, because the whistleblower has shown himself to be a real friend -- exactly what those hangers-on, who have failed to address the issue, have not been. Those real friends -- the concerned whistleblowers -- are sidelined, and the self-defeating celebrity surrounds him- or herself with "yes" men and sycophants who play along with the illusion that everything is fine and normal.They then ostracize the whistleblower as the maladjusted troublemaker.  (Again, it's like "The Emperor's New Clothes.")

A Problem for Non-Celebrities as Well
As I do not know the celebrities personally, I cannot claim omniscience about them; my interpretation of them can be mistaken. However, from what I've read of their biographies, I think the scenario I just verbalized can be largely attributed to Michael Jackson, Charlie Sheen, and Lindsay Lohan. But it doesn't just apply to famous entertainers.

For more than a year, I corresponded online with a very intelligent person whom I will call "Lucy." Lucy expressed interest in looking beautiful, and, of course, in the beginning that sounded perfectly safe. Increasingly, though, Lucy would post pictures of bony anorexic women (this is not humorous hyperbole; they were literally anorexic-looking) and labeling them as the sort of people she wanted to emulate. She posted disturbing photos of herself looking ever-thinner and frailer. She then wrote status updates complaining about really odd physical ailments, like temporary blindness. Such physical ailments are rare in someone of such a young age . . . but common among people who experience starvation and malnutrition. Frighteningly, a large number of "loyal friends" (translation: sycophants) clicked "like" on the disturbing pictures and announcements and encouraged it.

Eventually, a minority of Lucy's online friends -- people much wiser and ballsier than myself -- wrote to Lucy that they were concerned about her health. Not once did they morally criticize her or express full-blown rejection of her as a person . . . though she reacted as if she interpreted it that way. Lucy pointedly told these people that her self-starvation was none of their business.

If Your Suicidal Gestures Are Nobody Else's Business, Why Do You Post Them on Facebook, LinkedIn, or Wordpress?
The whistleblower friends thought that Lucy's response was rather inexplicable. Their thought was, "If you think that your suicidal imagery is none of my business, then why are you putting it on display in front of me and other people?"

Of course I can be wrong, but I think I know the reason. I suspect that on some level the suicidal gestures did disturb Lucy, and that is exactly why she shared images of it on Facebook. She did not want other people, however, to confirm her fear that she was placing herself in a dangerous situation. Insofar as a "cry for help" refers to the crier wanting other people to acknowledge the problem, this was not a traditional "cry for help." Rather, it was like some kind of game of "chicken" in which Lucy implicitly dared other people to comment on the dramatic and alarming change in appearance.

Insofar as people refrained from negative comment, or even complimented the disturbing images, Lucy felt vindicated that her suicidal gestures were actually safe and acceptable, and that her painful health problems were completely unrelated to her self-imposed starvation. The sycophants granted Lucy this short-term gratification, giving her "social proof" that the starvation wasn't a form of self-harm. As for the whistleblower friends who raised the issue, the sycophants reprimanded them and piously told them that they were the assholes.

I blocked Lucy on Facebook because I did not want to lend tacit support to that self-destructive tendency. I envy those who wrote to her about the issue, though, as they were the ones most helpful toward her, even though such positive effects are not obvious in the present.

I have known someone who is similarly self-destructive and who similarly exhibits "hints" of the inner pain. This person has informed me that this person has a long history of self-injury and of contemplating suicide. Almost two years ago, this person started posting a lot of suicidal imagery on Facebook, LinkedIn, and Wordpress. In this case, I did confront the person.

How to Compassionately Address a Self-Destructive Person Without Forcing an Argument
If you are in a similar situation, and you strongly care about that person -- the "Lucy" in your own life -- I urge you to address the issue. If you notice something is going on, and you say nothing, that helps normalize the suicidal ideation and self-defeating behavior. It implies that the self-destructiveness is normal and acceptable.

If someone has routinely displayed suicidal gestures to you in person or online (like on LinkedIn or Facebook), then it doesn't really fly for that person to say, "This is none of your business!" When someone has, on more than one occasion, shoved his or her suicidal imagery in your face, he or she has made it your business. If he or she fully believed that the suicidal imagery was not your business, he or she would not have put it on display in such a conspicuous fashion.

Often people are reluctant to confront their "Lucy" because they have this rationale: "My friend can be very scary and temperamental sometimes; even my friend's great height is physically intimidating. If I mention that I notice the suicidal imagery, it will just start a big argument. She will hold a grudge and not seek help, and nothing good will result from the confrontation. It will only make our relationship awkward."

In the past two years, I have become very familiar with that feeling -- that fear, that feeling too intimidated to say something. Quite frankly, though, if someone is exhibiting suicidal ideation and expects you not to address that, then the relationship is already awkward. More importantly, I think there is a way to compassionately address the issue without forcing an argument. I suggest that to your own "Lucy," you say something like this:
I strongly value your friendship; you mean a lot to me. When I see the [here, make a brief list of the disturbing gestures you've witnessed, such as the dead-body imagery or the defensive insistence on wearing the exact same clothes every day --S.H.], I can't help but think that you must have a lot going on. You don't have to talk about it if you don't want to. But I want to let you know that if you ever do want to talk about it, I am here for you. :'-)
I think that gesture is even more powerful when it comes from a close relative, like an uncle or aunt.

If the person you care about -- your "Lucy" -- happens to respond to you in an abusive/bossy/devaluing fashion, I recommend that you ignore it and reaffirm, "I know what I know.  If you ever want to talk about it, I am here for you.  :'-) " And if that person provides no response, or responds dismissively, that's OK; at least you showed where you stand.

Note that that approach does not force an argument, demand that the person change, or cast moral disapproval. It does, however, let the person know that you are aware of the suicidal gestures and that that is not something you condone. It conveys, through action, that you reject the suicidal gestures but still value the person qua person. Hence, it shows the person that you accept him or her while you refuse to play along with the ruse of normalcy -- that you refuse to help normalize the pathology.  I concede that the person who needs help might resent it as patronizing if you take this approach.  But all in all, it's the best available alternative.

I think that everyone has a right to their own harmless eccentricity. That is not the same as being an idle bystander when noticing a friend's suicidal gestures. This cannot be emphasized enough:  Suicidal gestures are not a lifestyle choice.