Wednesday, December 17, 2014


You may need to read this linked article or the previous post and maybe the post distinguishing between Evil and Sin to understand this post. “Psychopathology, trauma and delinquency: subtypes of aggression and their relevance for understanding young offenders."  
The article sets up two categories of trouble-makers.

As much of a problem as uncontrolled, violent, RADI people can be (there ARE females) somehow they are not as unnerving as the PIP’s.  I want to provisionally say that RADI people are sinners -- they know there are rules, they know what they are, they become overwhelmed by what can legitimately be called “animal rage”, going out of control.  Either the forces enraging them are far too powerful, or their pre-frontal cortex and other controls are too weak.  Afterwards, they realize what they have done and repent, weep, try to make up for it.  Law enforcement is set up to deal with them and, in fact, might include some marginal RADI examples.

But the really bad PIP’s are evil -- they seem possessed but in sly ways we can’t comprehend.  There are no signals, just a strange vibe if you’re sensitive to that sort of thing.  People talk about the Devil because otherwise it’s just too baffling.  A friend who works with psychiatric cases says he can make no progress with them, but he has colleagues -- often quite hard people -- who can.  Maybe tough guys seem dependable.

Here’s my theory about PIP’s.

The brain has six layers in the cortex and many mini-parts that contribute to what these theorists call neuro-architectural connectomes.  Most of what the brain does is NOT conscious.  We only pay attention to what is conscious and assume it is voluntary, though some psychoanalysts and clinical psychologists know that what we see is only the puppet show framed by the proscenium rather than the thinking, scripting, manipulating people with their hands up the puppets’ skirts.  I wrote an earlier blog post about a woman who felt the puppet show in her head was strictly Punch and Judy -- war with herself, jabbering.

Contemporary understanding of consciousness is slowly developing and with it the theory of identity.  So far it is clear that both are composites in the first place, and also constantly being reassembled with slight variations, because a human body is more of a colony of cells than “one cell,” even though that’s the way we understand ourselves and the way the law and society treats us.  Each of us is a dancing process, reacting to what is around us.  Studies say that even our gut microbes affect our moods, which in turn affect our reactions to people and situations.

It’s hard to figure out which processing parts are missing in a PIP, if any, as well as why.  Filters, definitions, recognitions, are all important actions that brains do unconsciously.  One of the most significant elements is the most obvious: memory.  Now that we have videos showing for sure what “really” happened, we discover that memory is highly unreliable.  Until now we’ve thought that testimony from a PIP-type was always lying, scheming, pretending -- and maybe it was, but maybe it wasn’t.  Maybe his memory betrays him.  There may be no such thing as a reliable witness.  And memory is the cornerstone of identity.

Heath Ledger or the Joker?

Maybe what happened to someone else was so vivid that a person takes it into their own identity.  For writers and actors there is explicit worry that they might become the characters they invented.  People who have been in situations so intense that they went “out of their minds” will not remember anything or will remember a fantasy without knowing that’s what it is.  They say there is one little blob in the brain responsible for indicating which is “real” and which is “not.”  If that blob wasn’t working, there is no way for the person to distinguish.  I remember as a child confusing dreams with reality and that’s not unusual.  The reality detector matures late.

Almost as important as functions that interact to create identity, are the ones that support empathy, though a person with weak identity of their own might lose boundaries in a way that allows them to share someone else’s inner life.  ("Fusion" they call it.)  Maybe face-reading parts of the brain might fail, or maybe if someone’s emotional system is deranged -- reaching back through the limbic system to the most primitive reactions -- it can put twisted masks on people’s faces.

Those are Operating System problems.  But also go back to the infant's first learning:  warm v. cold; supported v. dropped; fed v. hungry and so on.  Did they learn an undependable world or one that embraced and cherished them?  The inner world of the baby is built over the first three years.  If it is barely survivable, the person may never be able to trust anything.  But the hardest predicament is for the child who was loved, protected, but nevertheless thrown into a situation of war, destruction, and betrayal -- the removal of everything recognizable.  Job was an adult who suffered the loss of everything -- what if he had been aged three?

Then there are later traumas to the “hardware” of the brain, which includes the whole body.  The gut thinks in its own way.  Include blows to the head, long periods of suffocation, drugs, brutal or demanding people, etc., all of which can change the brain.  Beatings, sexual misuse, torture, and neglect that far exceed ordinary misery push people into new relationships that require codes inimical to the mainstream, force them to find protective membership in groups with anti-social codes.

Our legal systems don't address all this stuff because laws are all specifically Sin-based.  "If you do this, the punishment is thus."  PIP's are working in a context of Evil, black ooze that slips between the teeth of the law.  You can make all the laws you want to -- they just have no relevance.  Only survival counts and one can only survive with the resources one has, whether they are what society likes or not.  

In fact, if life gets too soft, a PIP may need to take the adrenaline level up a bit, teasing the dragon.  In “The Borgias” there’s a quick bit when Micheletto is conferring with diForza’s hired assassin and co-plotter.  He asks his counterpart explicitly, “If you left this job, wouldn’t you miss it -- the excitement?”  Yes.  I think of Geoff Mains’ level of combat veteran SM.  In fact, emotion this intense attracts other people, sometimes entirely unsuited for it, destroyed by it.  We love it in movies, rock bands and books -- not in real life.

Moving from one culture to another is a problem for a PIP, in fact can contribute to the creation of an insecure PIP who cannot reliably “feel” what’s going on.  He begins to hear insults where none were intended and take comments negatively when they were actually neutral.  The two variables that count most for a survival-based person are safety and worthy risk.  (They are at the core of most of us.)  They are not easily provided, since they are mutually exclusive even in calm conventional lives, though their lack might not be noticed so much.  But for a delinquent kid with enough moxie to reflect and experiment in the proper setting (almost surely not a prison) “redemption” is not impossible.  

The experimenters themselves say:  “PIP aggression may be adaptive on Wall Street and in other extremely competitive settings.  It is only when RADI and PIP occur in a clustered form, are out of context, are unusually severe and disproportionate to their trigger or do not cease once the other has signaled defeat that they alert a clinician’s attention.”  I hear them saying that this stuff is defined in retrospect according to the results and whether society likes them, which can change capriciously.

Planned, Instrumental, Proactive are good qualities in war and surgery.  Maybe art. Caravaggio?  John Huston?  The implication is that controlling the context may save genius from madness and criminality.  I watched a video last night that described a new discovery:  the cells that surround a tumor are as important to understand and treat as the rogue growth itself.  No kidding.


northern nick said...

This is some heady stuff. I'm learning a lot. Thank you. I've a son currently in MT DOC. This is helpful. There is the "opposite and equal reaction" element to all this, i.e., how society and MT DOC responds. Those brains (of individuals in place) are/become indistinguishable for some, is my experience.

Mary Strachan Scriver said...

Thanks, Nick. I do think we are in social time that almost forces opposition or the interpretation that honest reaction is not allowed, or why do we have so very many people in jails? Aside from the profits of private incarceration, of course.

My impulse when teaching in the 60's and 70's was to talk things through with defiant kids, but in the 90's the administration was outright forbidding me to do it. Like these recent cop tragedies they wanted to force order. THEIR order. But as an animal control officer, where my boss not only let me talk out issues but also take people on ride-alongs so they could see the situations for themselves, the results were much better.

Prairie Mary