Shuddering Before the Deviant Mind



Author’s Interpretation

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There is stunning beauty in individual creation and discovery of nature’s depth and laws. It appears as a new birth. Beauty shines especially when the unexpected occurs or you find universal significance in things that are common and available.*

VISUAL ART:     Widespread beauty occurs in the visual arts and it is difficult to choose from those that draw our attention. There are two by Michelangelo that should be on any list, his statue of David and the centerpiece of the Sistine Chapel in Rome.

Michelangelo's David Michelangelo's  Birth of Adam

 NATURE:    The pursuit of science has often been compared to the scaling of mountains, high and not so high. But who amongst us can hope, even in imagination, to scale the Everest and reach its summit when the sky is blue and the air is still, and  in the stillness of the air survey the entire Himalayan range in the dazzling white of the snow stretching to infinity? None of us can hope for a comparable vision of nature and of the universe around us. But there is nothing mean or lowly in standing in the valley below and awaiting the sun to rise over Kanchenjunga.

S. Chandrasekhar *

DISCOVERY:   If nature leads us to mathematical forms of great simplicity and beauty – by forms, I am referring to coherent systems of hypothesis, axioms, etc. – to forms that no one has previously encountered, we cannot help thinking that they are “true,” that they reveal a genuine feature of nature . . . You must have felt this too: the almost frightening simplicity and wholeness of the relationships which nature suddenly spreads out before us and for which none of us was in the least prepared

Heisenberg to Einstein: S. Chandrasekhar *

HISTORY:  The soul is awestricken and shudders at the sight of the beautiful, for it feels that something is evoked in it that was not imparted to it from without by the senses, but has always been already laid down there in the deeply unconscious region.

Expressed by Plato in Phaedrus, According to Heisenberg

ART IN ABSTRACT:           


You study, you learn, but you guard the original naïveté. It has to be within you, as desire for drink is within the drunkard or love is within the lover.

Henri Matisse

RELIGION:  Rayonnant rose window in Notre-Dame de Paris. Light is considered the most beautiful revelation of God, made possible in Gothic architecture.

Rose windo onePicture from Wikipedia


HUMAN DESIRE:  When I do count the clock that tells the time And see the brave day sunk in hideous night, When I behold the violet past prime And sable curls all silver’d o’er with white, When lofty trees I see barren of leaves, Which erst from heat did canopy the herd, And summer’s green all girded up in sheaves Borne on the bier with white and bristly beard – Then of thy beauty do I question make That thou among the wastes of time must go, Since sweets and beauties do themselves forsake And die as fast as they see others grow, And nothing ‘gainst Time’s scythe can make defense Save breed, to brave him when he takes thee hence.

William Shakespeare

MUSIC:  Finale repeats the words:

Seid umsechungen, Millionen!                                                                                                        Diesen Kuss der ganzen Welt!

Brüder, über’m Sternenzelt

Muss ein lieber Vater wohnen

Seid umschlungen,

Diesen Kuss der ganzen Welt!

Freude, schöner Götterfunken.

Be embraced, you millions!

This kiss for the whole world!

Brothers, beyond the star-canopy

Must a loving Father dwell.

Be embraced,

This kiss for the whole world!

Joy, beautiful spark of divinity.

Fateful and beautiful words from Beethoven                                                                                  Symphony No. 9, Ode to Joy

from final movement, arising from a poem

written by Friedrich Schiller.

BIOLOGY:   Now to the very heart of wonder. Because species diversity was created prior to humanity, and because we evolved within it, we have never fathomed its limits. As a consequence, the living world is the natural domain of the most restless and paradoxical part of the human spirit. Our sense of wonder grows exponentially: the greater the knowledge, the deeper the mystery and the more we seek knowledge to create new mystery. This catalytic reaction, seemingly an inborn human trait, draws us perpetually forward in a search for new places and new life. Nature is to be mastered, but (we hope) never completely. A quiet passion burns, not for total control but for the sensation of constant advance.

E.O. Wilson, Biophilia (p10)

COMPARATIVE PSYCHOLOGY:      Beauty runs through our progenitor species – the  spider with its aesthetic appreciation of its orbital web, with female baboons that select males for mates based on male strength, aggression, and physical adornment, with avian and mammalian species that build designs into their habitats, and even paint on canvass with vivid colors. My dog Archer shows his Euclidian nature by distributing stuffed toys in stunning geometric figures (untrained and not reinforced).*

Archer in snagit

Beauty is the blush of truth in nature and the stimulus of incredulity and faith in life. It may rest on surges of dopamine, but leaves us awestruck when we see it raw.

*See Thiessen, Psychopaths Rising: Unholy Links with Civilization and Destruction, 2014 for an extension of the discussion on beauty.

Stand Fast.

Del Wolf Thiessen, Professor Emeritus, University of Texas at Austin, May 2, 2014.

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Fate, Beauty, and Untimely Death

Fate, Beauty, and Untimely Death                                

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Author’s interpretation

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The hormonal and behavioral bases of sensation seekers and non-sensation seekers seem uniquely structured, as are their philosophies. About 50 to 60 percent of the variation appears to be related to genetic influences. The sensation seeker has a mind supercharged with rivers of hormones and pallets of agony and ecstasy. The non-sensation seeker is less narcissistic and leans toward calm deliberation. We can also see the split in poetic terms, such as with Lord Byron spitting fire and invectives and Robert Frost giving sage advice through words of flowers and flowing streams. Neither understands his brother; neither cares a whit about the other.

The writer Max Beerbohm caught the flame of Byron in 1911:

Byron! – he would be all forgotten today if he

had lived to be a florid old gentleman with iron-grey

whiskers, writing very long, very able letters to The

Times about the Repeal of the Corn Laws.

But he was none of those everyday things during his short life. And today he lives on in the feverous mind of others.

In studied reserve, the poet Robert Frost dared not to dare, and he is embraced fondly by many. Frost said about himself, with a bit of strangeness:

I never dared be radical when young tor fear

it would make me conservative when old.

I want to build on these differences to make the point that people lay their own personalities on the line when they tell us who they like. More pointedly, let me show you the profound differences in the two poets, and what they may tell us about ourselves.

AND THOU ART DEAD, AS YOUNG AND FAIR                 Lord Byron

Lord Byron Speaks of                                                                  (1788 – 1824)

Lust, and Lost Love

Selected Stanzas

And thou art dead, as young and fair

As aught of mortal birth;

And form so soft, and charms so rare,

Too soon return’s to Earth!

Though Earth receiv’d them in her bed,

And o’er the spot the crowd may tread

In carelessness or mirth,

There is an eye which could not brook

I know not if I could have borne

To see thy beauties fade;

The night that follow’d such a morn

Had worn a deeper shade;

Thy day without a cloud hath pass’d,

And thou wert lovely to the last,

Extinguish’d not decay’d;

As stars that shoot along the sky

Shine brightest as they fall from high.


A PRAYER IN SPRING                                  Robert Frost

ROBERT FROST SPEAKS                           Robert Frost (1874 – 1963)



OH, give us pleasure in the flowers today;

And give us not to think so far away

As the uncertain harvest; keep us here

All simply in the springing of the year.

For this is love and nothing else is love,

To which it is reserved for God above

To sanctify to what far ends he will,

But which it only needs that we fulfill.


Reading Byron and Frost is like listening either to a sensationist or to a landscape artist. William Hazlitt, a friend of Byron, said this about him:

Whatever he does, he must do in a

more decided and daring manner than

any one else; he lounges with

extravagance, and yawns so as to

alarm the reader.


Robert Frost said this about himself:

And were an epitaph to be my story

I’d have a short one ready for my own.

I would have written of me on my stone:

I had a lover’s quarrel with the world.

There it is, two irreconcilable halves of a whole: the beast and the beauty, moving within the deep layers of the unconscious with a touch of paganism (Byron) and the perceptive deliberations of the frontal lobes with flashes of Buddhism (Frost). Here is a philosophical note for you to think about.

There seems to be an invisible line dividing people in their preferences and allegiances, falling on one side of the line or the other. For example, the playful mind reaches out for abstract art, unusual people, risky investments, spicy foods, loud music, new experiences, extreme sports, strange animals, new sex, and poets like Lord Byron. That mind seems in constant turmoil, as if reliving all of the ancient Greek tragedies. Another more introspective mind attracts traditional geometric art, careful investments, straight people, common foods, familiar places and animals, soft music, perhaps classic art and music, reserved perspectives in most matters, and the poet Robert Frost. This mind is more quiescent, thoughtful, and traditional.

Mysteriously and truly remarkable, for one person jagged lines, spicy foods, loud music, new experiences, and Byron have a common essence – to some extent all these things are interchangeable or at least intertwined. He or she, often alone, stands defiantly against tradition, and a lack of interest in history. For another with a different brain, closed and predictable lines and figures, straight people, traditional pets, common foods, and Robert Frost are fundamentally equal and interchangeable. He or she bends toward the world in universal supplication. On one side of the invisible line is the sensation seeker and the psychopath, and on the other side is the conservative and traditionalist, and rarely the genetic line is crossed. It is either Byron, who walks the narrow beam of destiny, or Frost, who embraces the benevolence of nature.

Marvin Zuckerman at Delaware University and leader in the investigation of sensation seekers, tells us that anti-social behaviors may decrease with age, and I believe that, but that the moods of rapture and excitement remain. I believe that too. Sensation seekers collect their social security payments and play chess in the park even though they still love the chase. They just keep disruptive behaviors in check. I still believe that individuals often do change over the years, but the high degree of genetic involvement may limit how much change can occur.

From the constellation of related needs and strategies comes the distilled essence of the mind, either a risk-taker or a nester. While informative to scientists, it doesn’t take a psychopathic checklist or a sensation seeking scale to understand if you roam on acreage of unsettled soil or on an entirely different embankment. One clue – one’s preferences in poetry, for instance, is perhaps enough to tell. Where do you stand?

Stand Fast.

Del Wolf Thiessen, Professor Emeritus, Department of Psychology, University of Texas at Austin, April May 2, 2014.

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Beauty: Increases in Craving


Matisse's Other World

Matisse’s Other World


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The Comment: No, imbeciles!  Not fools and cretins that you are, a book will not make a plate of soup; a novel is not a pair of boots; a sonnet is not a syringe; a drama is not a railway; they are not these forms of civilization which have made humanity march on the road to progress.

Théophile Gautier (1811-1872)

The Matter of Change: Art and the summer lightning of individual happiness: these are the only real goods we have.

Alexander Herzen (1812 – 1870)

Yes, one or two years different in birth and death, but a convergent in explicit views. Art stands out as a driver of culture because, as Émile Zola (1840 – 1902) told us: “Art is a human product, a human secretion; it is our body that sweats the beauty of our works.”

How is that possible? How can it all be so simple to comprehend? Our ways of perceiving may be the answer and it may hinge on creative art. Here is possibly how

Art historian I.C. McManus explains that beauty and symmetry are often believed to be linked, and I have colleagues who believe the same. For example, a symmetrical face, with features in perfect relation is often preferred to a face where symmetry is less evident. It is presumed that a person with high symmetry may have genetic advantages during development and beyond. McManus says that although symmetry is indeed attractive, it also lacks dynamic force (we tire of everything always equal) and is less attractive and lasting than beauty with a flaw, beauty with asymmetries, beauty with something different. His distinctions are written into the following table.


Beauty with Symmetry    Beauty with Asymmetry

Rest                                        Motion

Binding                                  Loosening

Order                                      Arbitrariness

Law                                         Accident

Rigidity                                   Life, play

Constraint                             Freedom

Boredom                                Interest

Stillness                                 Chaos

Monotony                              Surprise

Fixity                                       Detachment

Stasis                                     Flux

Simplicity                               Complexity

Marvin Zuckerman, the acknowledged authority on sensation seeking, has repeatedly pointed out that sensation seekers prefer the deviant, the roughened, and the non-symmetrical, such as these drawn roughly below.

Beauty with symmetry is the contentment of the non-sensation seeker; beauty with pock-marked symmetry is the lust of the sensation seeker. The poet George Eliot tells us that great beauty always has a flaw, and that is what the sensation seeker craves.

It is generally the feminine eye that first

detects the moral deficiencies hidden under

the “dear deceit” of beauty.

Many things give us frisson and draw our attention, not just the visual images, but also nature, scientific discoveries, great music and bodily traits. Some of us find gratification, homage, and even obsession in nature’s exaggerations, technical surprises, variability, and comedy. We also find it in other species.

What I see here are the possible genetic differences among people that line up on one side or the other of McManus’s trait preferences. And that may boil down to individual differences in how important sensations are in influencing our lives. Sensation seekers, psychopaths, Machiavellians, and many creative people often taste the limits of hedonic pleasures: they are narcissistic beyond the norm, and they demand the charge. Those who happily live a life contented and partially hidden from criticism are not as thrilled by change and the unexpected. It makes for a partisan existence and a bridgeless gulf.

Stand Fast. We continue next week in our search for ephemeral and lasting beauty.

Del Wolf Thiessen, Professor Emeritus, University of Texas at Austin, April 25, 2014.

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The Unbalanced View Gives Us the Greater Pleasure

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Agave Publishers LogoThe prize-winning Bach pianist Simone Dinnerstein was interviewed by Barrymore Lawrence Scherer for The Wall Street Journal (March 16, 2011). She spoke of her attraction to art and music, saying:

Simone Dinnerswtein  Simone Dinnerstein

Strangeness in some proportion is what I like

in all of the arts . . . I have no interest in neatness

and regularity as ends in themselves. As with music,

I’ve always been drawn to art with a directness of


She illustrates her feelings by pointing to the 20th-century Italian master Amedeo Modigliani’s Reclining Nude. The figure possess a lyrical flavor, balanced by a strangeness that is difficult to describe. Ms. Dinnerstein sees it clearly.

Modigliant's Reclining Nude

In his 1917 “ Reclining Nude” sensuality not only

radiates from the wonderfully stretched torso but

resides in the strong, dark, undulating line running

from the figure’s right elbow, along her back,

buttock and thigh. One of the most important things

I’ve learned from looking at art, especially with my

father, is understanding how the quality of lines

holds a form together. This visual idea directly

relates to musical phrasing. The pulse of a tempo

is never mechanically even, but always expanding

and contracting, like Modigliani’s line.

Ms. Dinnerstein discerns the universal rhythm in all of the arts – the sweeping changes in dynamic qualities, the modulation of form, the building and falling of lines and pulses. The occasion for me was reading her words that spoke of the lasting significance of beauty and its implacable place in our mental world – always there, if we listen, always unifying if we care.

Emili Dickinson

Beauty — be not caused –It Is –

Chase it and it ceases –

Chase it not, and it abides.

Emily Dickinson

I believe that Dinnerstein is correct: images to be beautiful must show some unexpected variation in form or presentation, otherwise all we would see are repetitive stimuli that would quickly bore us, or hear a single musical tone that would drive us to whiskey and cigarettes. What is attractive is an insatiable trembling of deviations that we cannot control or even decipher. This is why artists are appreciated, novelists are read, and psychopaths fascinate us. Somehow, the deviant mind and beauty with a blemish command our attention, and are why we call them beautiful or find them compelling. We, too, with imperfections of temper and unexpected looks have beautiful deviations.

Roger Scruton says it his way in his grand little book Beauty: And he points to evolution and reproductive success as the foundation of beauty.

Roger Scruton  Roger Scruton

Men do not merely wear feathers and tattoos; they paint

pictures, write poetry, sing songs. But all these things

are signs of strength, ingenuity and prowess, and

therefore reliable indices of reproductive fitness. Women

are struck with awe, wonder and desire by these artistic

gestures, so that Nature takes her course to the mutual

triumph of the genes that carry her lasting messages.

The point is that either through evolution or nourishment we use beauty to enhance strength and beauty and display our reproductive fitness. Males usually display to women who assess and judge. I have a male friend without strength of beauty who told me that women look at him and reject him in a fraction of a second. He’s right; I’ve see it happen with him. Things of  beauty that pronounce one’s strength of form, function, or character may at times point toward reproductive value, but the deviations from the expected – the flaws related to deviations from the norm – can up one’s value as a potential mate.. F. Scott Fitzgerald gives us a male character in This Side of Paradise who puts it bluntly:

F. Scott Fitzgerald F. Scott Fitzgerald

Then wear the gold hat, if that will move her; if you

can bounce high, bounce for her too, Till she cry

‘Lover, gold-hatted, high-bouncing lover, I must

have you!’

Beauty can lead one to religious ecstasy or lustful fulfillment, but it has to be there to evoke any impulsive thoughts and behaviors. The poet John Keats (1795-1821) may have had it right in his famous “Ode to a Grecian Urn,” when he said, “Beauty is truth, truth is beauty – that is all ye know on earth and all ye need to know.”

John Keats John Keats

Stand Fast. More on beauty and the beast in next week’s blog. See you there.

Del Wolf Thiessen, Professor Emeritus, University of Texas at Austin, April 18, 2014.

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Should we Hide the Word Psychopath to Protect the Sensitive?

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This blog gives some detail about investigators who have submerged the definition of psychopathic behaviors in a broader category. In my opinion the approach is to disguise the specific characteristics of psychopaths; it is less than successful. Biases continue to plague scientific areas because the truth often is socially unacceptable

The new version of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-V), the bible of the psychiatric profession, attempts to unravel the complexity of antisocial personality disorders, ASPD. In this new manual psychopathy will no longer be described as a trait separate from Antisocial Behaviors. The recommended description of Antisocial Personality Disorders takes the following form. It all sounds psychopathic to me and a bit fishy.


(Revisions for DSM-V)

            Individuals who match this personality disorder type are arrogant and self-centered, and feel privileged and entitled. They have a grandiose, exaggerated sense of self-importance and they are primarily motivated by self-serving goals. They seek power over others and will manipulate, exploit, deceive, con, or otherwise take advantage of others in order to inflict harm or to achieve their goals. They are callous and have little empathy for others’ needs or feelings unless they coincide with their own. They show disregard for the rights, property, or safety of others and experience little or no remorse or guilt if they cause any harm or injury to others. They may act aggressively or sadistically toward others in pursuit of their personal agendas and appear to derive pleasure or satisfaction from humiliating, demeaning, dominating, or hurting others. They also have the capacity for superficial charm and ingratiation when it suits their purposes. They profess and demonstrate minimal investment in conventional moral principles and they tend to disavow responsibility for their actions and to blame others for their own failures and shortcomings.

Individuals with this personality type are temperamentally aggressive and have a high threshold for pleasurable excitement. They engage in reckless sensation seeking behaviors, tend to act impulsively without fear or regard for consequences, and feel immune or invulnerable to adverse outcomes of their actions. Their emotional expression is mostly limited to irritability, anger, and hostility; acknowledgement and articulation of other emotions, such as love or anxiety are rare. They have little insight into their motivations and are unable to consider alternative interpretations of their experiences.

Individuals with this disorder often engage in unlawful and criminal behavior and may abuse alcohol and drugs. Extremely pathological types may also commit acts of physical violence in order to intimidate, dominate, and control others. They may be generally unreliable or irresponsible about work obligations or financial commitments and often have problems with authority figures.

Source: The American Psychiatric Association

There is confusion between traits and a great deal of controversy, even among psychiatrists who were responsible for the exclusion of the term psychopathy.  I think that they simply did not want to deal with politically-loaded traits that might suggest discrimination at the social and cultural levels.

There are obvious overlaps between earlier definitions of psychopathy and other social and mental disorders. Researchers call this overlap “co-morbidity,” realizing that the definitions are correlated and that it is difficult to make distinctions between psychopathy and ASPD.

Just about the time that the new edition of DSM-5  became final the National Institute of Mental Health suggested still another big step toward definitional validity of these characteristics at the biological level The institute rightly points out that the DSM manual of the American Psychiatric Association may extend the description of psychiatric difficulties, but it does little toward specifying the diversity at the neurophysiological levels (

The Director of NIMH, Thomas Insel blogs that the alternative NIMH project called Research Domain Criteria (RDoC) will incorporate genetics, brain imaging, cognitive science, and other information into diagnosis criteria – possibly evolutionary principles as well – in an effort to bring general descriptions of psychiatric criteria into line with rapid developments in brain science. And that is where NIMH is targeting its research – the brain, the last common denominator of biological truth, apparently. RDoC will not replace behavioral criteria, in my opinion, but it will add to our level of understanding of mechanisms and introduce a sophisticated approach to the solution of behavioral problems.

The difficulties with the RDoC is not in its attempt to reduce complex social, behavioral, and individual reactions to their bases in the brain, but in its surmise that this is the last critical step toward our complete understanding of psychiatric (including psychopathic) conditions. The human psychology is more complicated.

The brain and its relations to behavior is much too sophisticated to yield the final secrets of mankind through a reductionist approach. Allison Gopnik, psychologist at UC Berkeley, recently argued in the Wall Street Journal (May 4/5, 2013), that the brain is a “quick-change artist,” that functions differently depending on our focus of attention and, I’m sure she would argue as a developmental psychologist, that rational and irrational processes surround our growth and behavioral expressions. The mind seems to regulate the brain as much as the brain regulates the mind.

Most questions cannot be answered by more transparency of the central nervous system. Historical influences on behavior are unique to situations and the past. Genes apparently contribute to behavior less than behavior geneticists and evolutionary psychologists would like, and unique and individual experiences remain important. Demography and evolutionary principles are important for the understanding of broad ecological factors and cannot be reduced to activity within specific areas of the brain.

Beyond those truths are the ephemeral qualities of life that are better understood through literature, artistic endeavors, and even fiction and poetry. We have a chameleon quality to our existence that pops up and disappears in an instant. Our culture, our age, our spiritual inclinations, and our experiences modify all brain expressions. Our individual nature sidesteps any desire to encapsulate the variations in universal brain mechanisms and DNA processes.

I agree that it is important to seek the fundamental mechanisms under our skin that often regulate our behaviors, and I wish NIMH’s plan success, but our seduction by recent neurophysiological insights is the larger part of the story.

Stand Fast.

Del Wolf Thiessen, Professor Emeritus, University of Texas, Austin, April 11, 2014.

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Future blogs will emphasize the creative deviant mind, especially related to artistic and innovative human strategies. Tell a friend.

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Mirror Mirror on the Wall: I’m the Fairest of them All

Machiavelli by Santi di Tito Wickipedia, 2013Machiavellian personalities drive our society in their direction, but also drive our society bonkers. Painting reproduced from Wickipedia.

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The driving force of a Machiavellian personality is a self-delusional grandiose image of oneself. Israeli Psychologist Dr. Sam Vaknin and the author of the definitive book on narcissism, Malignant Self Love, believes that commanding leaders sometimes show strange behaviors because of a narcissistic personality disorder (NPD) that haunts their personality, flavors their ideologies, and informs their extensive and sometimes harsh economic, military, and social agenda. Therein lies our problems with our neighbors, our loved ones, and often our politicians. Here is my take on the situation.

Narcissus human A hunter found himself reflected in water and lost the sense that there might be others of equal merit and beauty. His life closed upon him, a sure sign of narcissism and the birth of a callous disregard of others. P.S. I lost track of the painter of this artwork. Can anyone supply me with the name and date? Thanks.

What makes a narcissist dangerous is that everything around him (and at least 75 percent are males) is interpreted as either helpful to his image or is of no interest whatsoever. According to Dr. Vaknin, a narcissist . . .

. . . creates a cult of personality. His admirers become

his co-dependents. Narcissists have no interests in

things that do not help them to reach their personal

objective. They are focused on one thing alone and

that is power. All other issues are meaningless to

them and they do not want to waste their precious

time on trivialities. Anything that does not help them

is beneath them and does not deserve their attention.

Almost all commanding political and military leaders – certainly all those we are discussing in these blogs – were narcissistic, including Julius Caesar, Alexander the Great, Hannibal, Genghis Khan, Mao Tse-Tung, the Castro brothers, Che Guevara, Douglas MacArthur, George Patton, as well as Napoleon Bonaparte, Adolph Hitler, Joseph Stalin, Kim Jong, George Custer, and a host of minor players.

Narcissu human twoSometimes mental images take wing, in this case the image of Narcissus obsessed with his own reflection, given to us by one of the world’s greatest painters, the Italian baroque genius Carvaggio, 1597-1599 (the idea, the image, and the creation of the story of mankind, all in one dramatic painting.)

Commanding leaders share other Machiavellian traits, such as manipulation, lack of empathy, arrogance, impulsiveness, aggressiveness, blamefulness, deceit, lying, sensitivity to criticism, sensation seeking, extreme perseverance, and uneven judgment. These traits tend to be highly correlated, in that none seems to occur alone, and most are associated with narcissism. Individuals high in narcissism typically stimulate cult-like activities in others, exchange promises of loyalty, inspire hope, and launch a quest for street confrontation and personal and religious redemption. They wish to be kings and gods; many believe that they have inherited the rights of divinity and are accountable to no one.

We can conclude that the primary trait from which Machiavellian behaviors flow is narcissism, the Pandora portal through which all other personality traits are squeezed. In the next blog I’ll give you the current mental health definition of the trait. Oh, how many narcissistic Machiavellians have we encountered in our search for the wellsprings of human behavior — much that is bad and much that is good?

Stand fast.

Del Wolf Thiessen, Professor Emeritus Psychology, University of Texas at Austin, April 4, 2014.

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General George Patton Completes His Destiny

George S. Patton signature



War as I Knew It, provides the intimate profile of General Patton, his own comments taken from his diaries, letters, and military reports. Most think of him as a great military genius with a crude personality, but he also was a knowledgeable historian and a lover of travel, art, and architecture. We can remember him for many qualities, least of which of course is that he saved our asses in the European war against the Nazis.

George S. Patton ribbons General Patton’s Battle Ribbons

At a small road junction called Segesta, Hugh Caffey

and I saw the most beautiful Greek temple and theatre

that I have yet encountered. With the exception of the

fact that the roof of this temple no longer exists, it is

in a perfect sate of preservation and has been very

little repaired. Since the Greeks were driven from this

part of Sicily in 470 B.C. – that is, some twenty-five

hundred years ago – the temple must have been built

at an earlier date.

George Patton was a man of symbols and totems of destiny. His perception of his place in history was crucial for the realization of his personal destiny. He believed that he was caught in a wheel of destiny that forever turned as he played out his destiny in his many warrior forms. He was the son of Déjà vu.

George S. Patton

Understanding the experience of Déjà vu may be the key to uncovering the mechanisms of feelings of destiny that so many commanding leaders express. Could it all boil down to a hypersensitivity to familiar stimuli that trigger feelings of “having been there before” and “having participated in prior historical events?” My suspicion is that Machiavellian commanding leaders, with their eyes turned inward on destiny, are especially susceptible to feelings of Déjà vu – a hypothesis worth testing.

General George Patton was a strong believer in reincarnation, with a full-blown absorption into Déjà vu, where he believed  he fought and died in endless numbers of classical military campaigns, such as the Persian expansion in the east, the horrific Greek battles with the Spartans, the Roman subjugation of the Galls, Hannibal’s anguished conquering of the Alps and the crossing of the Rubicon by Julius Caesar.

Patton did not take these Déjà vu feelings lightly; much of his career depended on subliminal reminders. He wrote of these things in a remarkable poem Through a Glass Darkly, a 24 stanza poem written by the general, showing us the derivations of his reincarnations.

The title, Through a Glass Darkly is a Biblical phrase from 1 Corinthians 13, which reads, “For now we see through a glass, darkly, but then face to face; now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known.” The glass darkly dazes the visual scene on the other side, and also creates an imperfect mirror that reveals how the viewer might look to himself and to others – Déjà vu close up, yet not totally describable.

The phrase, though a glass darkly, strikes a universal cord in the search for clear knowledge, analogous to Plato’s Allegory of the Cave in The Republic, and has appeared hundreds of times in film and television, music, and literature. The illusions created by the darkened glass may be the interface between our reality and our deep spiritual beliefs.

Patton’s repetition of his life and death, almost always on the field of battle, allows us to touch those feelings that guided him and his armies to American success in Europe. Below are selections from General Patton’s Through a Glass Darkly.

Through the travail of the ages,

Midst the pomp and toil of war,

Have I fought and strove and perished

Countless times upon this star.


I have known the call to battle

In each changeless changing shape

From the high souled voice of conscience

To the beastly lust for rape.


I have sinned and I have suffered,

Played the hero and the knave;

Fought for belly, shame, or country,

And for each have found a grave.


I cannot name my battles

For the visions are not clear,

Yet, I see the twisted faces

And I feel the rendering spear.


Perhaps I stabbed our Savior

In His sacred helpless side,

Yet, I’ve called His name in blessing

When after times I died.


Hear the rattle of the harness

Where the Persian darts bounced clear,

See their chariots wheel in panic

From the Hoplite’s leveled spear.


Still more clearly as a Roman,

Can I see the Legion close,

As our third rank moved in forward

And the short sword found our foes.


I remember all the suffering

Of those arrows in my neck.

Yet, I stabbed a grinning savage

As I died upon my back.


I have fought with gun and cutlass

On the red and slippery deck,

With all Hell aflame within me

And a rope around my neck.


So but now with Tanks a’clatter

Have I waddled on the foe,

Belching death at twenty paces.


And I see not in my blindness

What the objects were I wrought,

But as God rules o’er our bickerings

By the star shell’s ghastly glow.


So as through a glass, and darkly

The age long strife I see

Where I fought in many guises,

Many names, but always me.

It was through His will I fought.


So forever in the future,

Shall I battle as of yore,

Dying to be born a fighter,

But to die again, once more.

The poem is totally remarkable, showing his obsession for life, death, and battle, and his deep spiritual nature.

On December 21, 1945 a two-and-a-half ton US Army truck suddenly pulled out of a side street and blindsided the Patton’s Cadillac staff car, fatally injuring one of the most controversial and successful generals in the history of military action. Four-star General George Patton was immediately paralyzed from the neck down and died twelve days later at the 130th Field Hospital in Heidelberg, Germany.

George S. Patton's graveGeneral George S. Patton

It was perhaps a merciful death for a man who left the field of battle as a hero, became depressed that a new war with Russia was probably not possible and that for him all wars were over. He was remembered by General Paul Harkins, Patton’s aide, as a man who would rather fight than eat. For the soldiers who either loved or feared him, they remembered his inspiration: “On our victory depends the freedom or slavery of the human race. We shall surely win.” They all followed him into battle.

Although his body lies quietly in the dirt he won from the Nazis at Luxembourg, Germany, he may someday be reincarnated as a fighter, as he believed, “looking through a glass darkly.” Perhaps his faithful bull terrier Willy will once again appear by his side as together they go into battle.

George S. Patton's dog Willie The Treasures of General Patton Ready for Shipment to the States

Stand Fast.

Del Wolf Thiessen, Professor Emeritus, University of Texas at Austin, March 28, 2014.

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Patton Claimed his Success in Battle was Divinely Willed


Machiavelli by Santi di Tito Wickipedia, 2013 Picture from Wikipedia, 2014


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With courage and faith unmeasurable, General George S. Patton asked his Chaplin to pray for good weather so that his troops could fight the enemy without slogging in the mud. He got several days of good weather which allowed him to drive his tanks to one of the last major battles in World War II.

The battle that followed good weather for fighting was the battle of the Bulge in Bastogne, Belgium, where our troops were surrounded and nearly annihilated by Von Rundstedt’s superior forces. Sergeant Robert Higgins told the story.

Higgins and his buddies were not having a merry Christmas in 1944, They were trapped in Bastogne, surrounded by Germans, directly in the human grinder of battle. When the Germans demanded surrender the American commander Brigadier General Anthony C. McAuliffe replied back, “Nuts” and they dug in. Higgins said that “The Germans never realized how bad off we were.” A sustained assault would have done them in. “We were getting to the point where we didn’t have anything to shoot them with.”

General Eisenhower gave Patton the SOS, asking him if he could zip his army 100 miles through a deep-freeze winter in 48 hours. Patton told him to get him some gas and he was on his way. Eisenhower thought Patton was delusional or kidding, but Patton rarely joked and Eisenhower had no choice as Supreme Commander in Europe. In 48 hours Patton remarkably crossed France, moved his army of tanks to Bastogne, Belgium and shattered the German offensive. The European war was ending.

George S. Patton, Always at Ease with Power

George S. Patton, Always at Ease with Power

Military historians call Patton’s maneuver one of the greatest logistical feats of any war. Patton said, “Americans play to win at all times. I wouldn’t give a hoot in hell for a man who lost and laughed. That’s why Americans have never lost or will ever lose a war.” Good weather and Patton’s sense of invincibility and destiny made the rescue mission possible. The Zeitgeist of history may have called, but only Patton could have delivered the goods.

He never wavered in his dedication to defend the United States and he was both adored and feared. Machiavellian types are always on stage to take the bows for their accomplishments, but their talisman points to bad deeds. They are on average intolerant, harsh in leadership, rarely satisfied, defiant, contradictory, impulsive, and take their counsel only from God. Bill Mauldin, the Stars and Stripes cartoonist, met Patton and his faithful English bull terrier, Willie (aka, William the Conqueror), and said this:

Patton & Willie

Beside him, lying in a big chair, was Willie, the

bull terrier. If ever dog was suited to master this

one was. Willie had his beloved boss’s expression

and lacked only the ribbons and stars. I stood in

that door staring into the four meanest eyes I’d

ever seen.

Then they had a little discussion about Mauldin’s depiction of U.S. soldiers, with Patton saying this:

Now then, sergeant, about those pictures you

of those god-awful things you call soldiers.

Where did you ever see soldiers like that?

You know goddamn well you’re not drawing

an accurate representation of the American

soldier. . . . Sergeant, I don’t know what you

think you’re trying to do, but the krauts ought

to pin a medal on you for helping them mess

up discipline for us.

Mauldin at work.

Patton claimed that tactical decisions often came to him completely-born, but they were sometimes implemented impulsively with meager information about the enemy. He said a number of times that an incomplete plan acted on immediately was often better than a complete plan delayed for further consideration. Impulsive he was, and the German High Command could never predict what Patton might do.

Patton was disciplined and forced to apologize for slapping a GI in the hospital when the soldier told the general that he was there because “he just couldn’t take it anymore.” For Patton there was no middle ground, either you put your life on the line for America or you got the hell out of his army. He was sidelined because of the event, but when his aggressive skills were needed for victory in Europe he was given the command of the Third Army and the freedom to fight his battles as his destiny called. The costs of his actions were sometimes high, but the results against Nazi tyranny will be remembered as long as Americans relate the tale of a courageous man ready to give it all for the right to live in a free America.

Stand Fast.

Del Wolf Thiessen, Professor Emeritus, University of Texas at Austin, March 22, 2014

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The Mystique of General George S. Patton: Kill the Bastards



March 24, 1945: I crossed the Rhine,

deliberately stubbing my toe, and fell, picking

up a handful of dirt, in emulation of Sciplo

Africanus and William the Conqueror. I saw

in my hands the soil of Germany.

General George S. Patton

George C. Scott

 George C. Scott was perfect in the movie Patton


With the sense of righteousness and determination, Patton gave this speech to the American forces in England just before the Allies hit the beaches of Normandy in 1944. Some of you may remember a toned-down version of this speech in the 1970 movie Patton, staring George C. Scott. I’ve selected parts of the original oration that are representative of the entire speech, given extemporaneously to thousands of troops. One can’t even imagine such a speech in our military today. Hang on to your hat.

American flag

Why Patton fought

George S. Patton, Always at Ease with Power

George S. Patton, Always at Ease with Power

Be seated.

Men, this stuff that some sources sling around about Americans

wanting out of this war, not wanting to fight, is a crock of bullshit.

Americans love to fight, traditionally. All real Americans love the

sting and clash of battle. You are here today for three reasons.

First, because you are here to defend your homes and your loved

ones. Second, you are here for your own self-respect, because you

are real men and all real men like to fight.

Battle is the most magnificent competition in which a human being

can indulge. It brings out all that is best and it removes all that is


A man must be alert at all times if he expects to stay alive. If

you’re not alert, sometime, a German son-of-an-asshole-bitch

is going to sneak up behind you and beat you to death with a
sock full of shit! There are four hundred neatly marked graves

somewhere in Sicily, all because one man went to sleep on

the job. But they are German graves, because we caught the

bastard asleep before they did!

Why, by God, I actually pity those poor sons-of-bitches we’re

going up against. By God, I do!

The kind of man that I want in my command is just like the

lieutenant in Libya, who, with a Nazi Kraut poking a Lugar

against his chest, jerked off his helmet, swept the gun aside with

one hand, and busted the hell out of the Kraut with his helmet.

Then he jumped on the gun and went out and killed another

German before they knew what the hell was coming off. And

all of that time, this man had a bullet through a lung. There was

a real man!

Each man must not think only of himself, but also of his buddy

fighting beside him. We don’t want yellow cowards in this Army.

They should be killed off like rats! If not, they will go home after

this war and breed more cowards. The brave men will breed more

brave men. Kill off the Goddamned cowards and we will have a

nation of brave men.

Don’t forget, you men don’t know that I’m here. No mention of

that fact is to be made in any letters. The world is not supposed to

know what the hell happened to me. I’m not supposed to be

commanding this Army. I’m not even supposed to be here in

England. Let the first bastards to find out be the Goddamned

Germans! Someday I want to see them raise up on their piss-

soaked hind legs and howl: ‘Jesus Christ, it’s the Goddamned
Third Army again and that son-of-a fucking-bitch Patton.’ We

want to get the hell over there. The quicker we clean up this

Goddamned mess, the quicker we can take a little jaunt against

the purple pissing Japs and clean out their nest, too. Before the

Marines get all of the credit!

The quicker they are whipped the quicker we can go home. The

shortest way home is through Berlin and Tokyo. And when we

get to Berlin, I am personally going to shoot that paper hanging

son-of-a-bitch Hitler. Just like I’d shoot a snake!

When a man is lying in a shell hole, if he just stays there all

day, a German will get to him eventually. The hell with that idea.

The hell with just sitting back and taking it! My men don’t dig

foxholes. I don’t want them to. Foxholes only slow up an offensive.

Keep moving. And don’t give the enemy time to dig one either.

We’ll win this war, but we’ll win it only by fighting and by showing

the Germans that we’ve got more guts than they have; or ever

will have. We’re not going to just shoot the sons-of-bitches, we’re

going to rip out their living Goddamned guts and use them to

grease the treads of our tanks. We’re going to murder those
lousy Hun cocksuckers by the bushel-fucking-basket.

I don’t want to get any messages saying, ‘I am holding my

position.’ We are not holding a Goddamned thing. Let the Germans

do that! We are advancing constantly and we are not interested

in holding onto anything, except the enemy’s balls! Our basic

plan of operation is to advance and to keep on advancing

regardless of whether we have to go over, under, or through

the enemy. We are going to go through him like crap through

a goose; like shit through a tin horn!

There is one great thing that you men will all be able to say

after this war is over and you are home once again. You may

be thankful that twenty years from now when you are sitting

by the fireplace with your grandson on your knee and he asks

you what you did in the great World War II, you WON’T have

to cough, shift him to the other knee and say, ‘Well, your

Granddaddy shoveled shit in Louisiana.’

No, Sir, you can look him straight in the eye and say, ‘Son,

your Granddaddy rode with the Great Third army and a Son-of-

a- Goddamned-Bitch named George Patton!

That is all.

Stand Fast.

Del Wolf Thiessen, Ph.D., Professor Emeritus, Psychology, University of Texas at Austin, March 14, 2014.

Hill? What hill?

Hill? What hill?

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General George C. Patton, Machiavellian Warrior 1

George S. Patton, Always at Ease with Power

George S. Patton, Always at Ease with Power


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George S. Patton was an American patriot hell-bent on breaking the backs of the German grip on Europe: which he did twice, once in World War I and again in World War II. Machiavellian in design, he helped reshape America’s vision of world affairs, setting the stage for a forty year cold war with the Soviet Union, and the rebuilding of democracies on the European continent. Patton was largely responsible for establishing a United States tank corps, along with the strategy of mobile warfare.

I tag Patton as an illustration of a Machiavellian Prince who lived with destiny on his mind and success in his heart. Possibly only during the crises of war could Patton deliver the goods to keep us free, but that’s how he left us – free of Nazi tyranny in Europe and free at home to make future choices about leadership.

The Machiavellian traits that led to Patton’s incomparable success overlapped heavily with those of other commanding leaders born of war and fired by fierce determination:

  • Minimal fear under fire and attraction toward challenges and confrontations. Loved risk-taking, and was a sensation seeker.
  • Certainty of his cause, and rejection of authority.
  • Willingness to engage in any effort, and make whatever sacrifice necessary, to beat his adversaries and reach his goals.
  • Strong belief in his destiny and his numerous reincarnations as warrior and instrument of death.
  • Intuitive insights into military tactics and strategies. Solutions came “out of the blue.”
  • Lack of compassion and empathy for those opposed to his beliefs.

The “Great Man Theory of History, says that history moves on the backs of great persons, and appears to apply to the rough-and-tumble action of many successful military leaders. Patton subscribed to this view, believing that he, among the few, possessed the destiny of triumph in battle. This idea competes with the view that history moves where the conjunction of many individuals act within a social context, driving the historical process and explaining the emergence of famous leaders that reflect the ongoing Zeitgeist.

Certainly the surrounding environments and general atmosphere set the tone for war or peace, but they also open the opportunities for warriors and statesmen to emerge, gain ascendency, and in bold strokes, change the direction of history. Both views have credibility, for looking backward to illuminate the conditions that form the weave of civilization that permits the coming forth of leaders who could carry out the existing possibilities of stability or change.

It is difficult to ignore the great man theory when you think about its implications. It is hard to imagine the building of the Mongolian empire without Genghis Khan, or the communistic revolution in China without Mao Tse-Tung, or the toppling of Fulgencio Batista in Cuba without the revolutionary machinations of Fidel Castro and Che Guevara, or the successful conclusion of the Pacific war against Japan (and Japan’s new birth) without Douglas MacArthur, or the destruction of Hitler’s Nazi party without George Patton, and Dwight Eisenhower on the European front.

The landscape of our choppy universe presets the range of variations that are possible, but the type of commanding leaders that can affect change under conditions of war, and drive history one way or the other, is restricted to individuals who hear the call and feel comfortable with their Machiavellian obsessions. The weight of history drives the direction of change but individuals put their brand on the flow of history as they would on a stampeding herd of cattle.

George Patton, with his fearlessness, deep belief in God and country, with his two ivory-handled pistols on his belt emphasizing his authority, with his crude but effective language, with his love for the taste of glory, and with his belief in his invincibility, was the perfect personality to drive American troops of the Third Army deep into enemy territory, bring the European campaign to a close, and reinstate peace and economic growth. Patton was a man who viewed sudden victory under the heat of battle like an epiphany of purpose, a special moment in time that scaled gigantically in his mind, believing that he was singled out by God.

He approached the Rhine with the authority of a divine wind . The weather had been so bad that his army could not advance, so he instructed his chaplain to publish a prayer for good weather so that his troops could advance. The chaplain was stunned by the request, but Patton said, “I’m tired of these soldiers having to fight mud and floods as well as Germans. See if we can’t get God to work on our side. I want the praying done.” And, so it was.

On one side of the card that the troops received was Patton’s Christmas greeting:

To each officer and soldier in the Third United States Army,

I wish a Merry Christmas. I have full confidence in your

courage, devotion to duty, and skill in battle. We march in

our might to complete victory. May God’s blessing rest upon

each of you on this Christmas Day.

G. S. Patton, Jr.

Lieutenant General, Commanding

Third United States Army, 1944


And, on the other side of the card was Chaplain O’Neill’s prayer.

Almighty and most merciful Father, we humbly beseech

Thee, of Thy great goodness, to restrain these immoderate

rains with which we have had to contend. Grant us fair

weather for Battle. Graciously hearken to us as soldiers

who call upon Thee that, armed with Thy power, we may

advance from victory to victory, and crush the oppression

and wickedness of our enemies, and establish Thy justice

among men and nations. Amen.

On the twenty-third, the day after the prayer was submitted, Patton got his divine justice. The weather cleared and remained perfect for about six days, enough time to break the backbone of the Von Rundstedt offensive at the Bulge and turn a setback for the Allies into a crushing defeat for the enemy. It was the last great fight for the European Continent. Patton pinned a Bronze star on the chest of Chaplain O’Neill for his success with God.

When He decreeth a matter,

He saith to it: “Be,” And it is.

Surah II, 117

Stand Fast.

Del Wolf Thiessen, Emeritus in Psychology at the University of Texas at Austin, March 8, 2014.

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A Warrior Then and a Forgotten Seer Now: Last in a Series on MacArthur

Douglas MacArthur imageGeneral Douglas MacArthur


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I’m ending the series of blogs on Douglas MacArthur with this post by reflecting on his autobiography, Reminiscences, a remarkable book that he published in 1964, the year he died. The book has been in my library for many years. I bought it from Half-Priced-Books for 75 cents. I reread this totally remarkable book only recently. In retrospect the book is like a crystal ball.

MacArthur’s prescience was astounding, looking decades beyond his life. He saw two evils encircling this nation, so quickly after his victories over Japan in the Pacific theater of World War II. The evils he saw approaching the United States were Marxist Communism, manifesting itself then in the Soviet Union’s Vladimir Lenin and in China’s radical Mao Zedong. He also saw a reckless disregard brewing for the growing of governmental power in the U.S.

According to MacArthur the Russian dictator Lenin predicted as early as 1920 that the United States would end its global ascendency in bankruptcy brought on by big government and excessive taxation. MacArthur specifically pointed to the Marxist assault on the capitalistic system that was left open for exploitation as a result the Federal Income Tax Law of 1914 which granted government unrestrained access to the people’s wealth. Lenin predicted that an inflationary mentality brought on by big government and excessive taxation “is the vital weapon to displace the system of free enterprise.”

MacArthur also cited Daniel Webster who 129 years earlier said on the Senate floor: “I will not trust executive power, vested in the hands of a single magistrate, to keep the vigils of liberty.” Then the General filled out his own historical thesis that “There are many who have lost faith in this early American ideal and believe in a form of socialistic totalitarian rule, a sort of big brother deity to run our lives for us. They no longer believe that free men can successfully manage their own affairs. Their thesis is that a handful of men, centered in government, largely bureaucratic not elected, can utilize the proceeds of our toil and labor to greater advantage than those who create it.

“Nowhere in the history of the human race is there justification for this reckless faith in political power. It is the oldest, most reactionary of all forms of social organization. It was tried out in ancient Babylon, ancient Greece, and ancient Rome; in Mussolini’s Italy, in Hitler’s Germany, and in all communist countries. Wherever and whenever it has been attempted, it has failed utterly to provide economic security, and has generally ended in national disaster. It embraces an essential idiocy, that individuals who, as private citizens, are not to manage the disposition of their own earnings, become in public office supermen who can manage the affairs of the world.”

I find it incredible that a single mind captured so early what may happen later on the plains of time. Naïvely, my thoughts in 1964 centered on personal pleasures, career building, the call for democratic rights, avoidance of the draft by some of my friends, and musical genius of the century. If you were around then, what was on your mind?

The General lost most of his zest for the future after America’s first military defeat in Korea (a time of my service), saying, “for history teaches with unmistakable emphasis that appeasement but begets new and bloodier war. The problem [and solution] basically is theological and involves a spiritual recrudescence and improvement of human character that will synchronize with our almost matchless advances in science, art, literature, and all material and cultural developments of the past 2,000 years. It must be of the spirit if we are to save the flesh. But once war is forced upon us, there is no other alternative than to apply every available means to bring it to a swift end. War’s very object is victory – not prolonged indecision. In war, indeed, there can be no substitute for victory.” The losses in Korea turned out to be America’s first defeat among others that followed. The world became politically correct.

Five-star General Douglas MacArthur lived an extraordinary life, fighting for our freedom in World Wars I and II and in Korea. He mastered the art of war, the politics of governing in Japan and at home, and cultivated an unparalleled understanding of history and what history said to us about our future. But unhappiness is a disease of genius, and MacArthur had the symptoms.

His sadness was expressed before the joint houses of Congress following his firing by President Truman for insubordination during the Korean Conflict.

“I am closing my fifty-two years of military service. When I joined the Army even before the turn of the century, it was the fulfillment of all my boyish hopes and dreams. The world has turned over many times since I took the oath on the Plain at West Point, and the hopes and dreams have long since vanished. But I still remember the refrain of one of the most popular barrack ballads of that day which proclaimed most proudly that – old soldiers never die, they just fade away. And like the old soldier of that ballad, I now close my military career and just fade away – an old soldier who tried to do his duty as God gave him the light to see that duty. Good-by.”

Douglas MacArthur is buried with his wife Jean in the Douglas MacArthur Memorial and Museum in Norfolk, Virginia, a national tribute to a rare Machiavellian who dedicated his life to Duty, Honor, and Country, and to stunning oratory. Least we forget.

MacArthurs' Mosolieum


Stand Fast.


Del Wolf Thiessen, Ph.D. Emeritus in Psychology, University of Texas at Austin, February 28th, 2014

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Read an Epic Book that will Change your Mind about Good & Evil


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In the next blog I will finish the series of analyses on General Douglas MacArthur. I interrupt the series for a little self-promotion about a newly published book. I’ll give you more details in a later blog. Right now the reader can find out more about the book by going to the BOOK STORE tab on this website or by calling up the book at

Psychopaths Rising: Unholy Links with Civilization and Destruction is now available to those who seek understanding of the deviant mind in its evil doings and expressions of narcissistic intellect. The book, in 729 pages of analyses and four years of writing, turns the deviant mind inside out to reveal its unique evolutionary and social history, its development during early growth, its modifiability by intransigent demographic forces, and its unexpected associations with artistic and quirky features of human behavior.

I challenges the preexisting beliefs about psychopathy, indicating the importance of short-term reproductive strategies by male psychopaths in their attempts to mate with multiple women without commitment. In addition, my analyses suggest the interplay between psychopathy, other cognitive deviations, such as dyslexia, obsessive risk taking, and lack of empathy, as well as distinctive processing of social and environmental information, the lack of fear, and multiple lapses of humanitarian goals. I also reach beyond current understanding to suggest that the body’s millions of microorganisms may specify the nature of the deviant mind as a result of parasitic determination to survive and reproduce.

The neural and hormonal mechanisms that facilitate the development of the psychopathic mind are ultimately critical for the adventurous mind that drives humans toward individual satisfaction and the building of empires. In that sense the human mind is a universal mind, programed to survive, reproduce, and to obtain dominance over the vicissitudes of the environment. We find the influences of the universal mind in the saga of wars, the detonation of revolutions, and opposing agenda of leaders as with Julius Caesar and to warriors such as General Douglas MacArthur who fight to preserve the “Western” canon. The deviant mind continues to resonate in most of us, in one form or another; it is the precursor of genius of more perfect unions and the ever present dark motif of evil.

And so it is in our continuing struggle to understand psychopathy, a profound mystery with light at the edges, but darkness in its middle. Psychopathy is a species’ deviation of mental and behavioral proportions that girders the social expressions of the deviant and kaleidoscopic mind, sometimes extending the human reach in the building of novelty, and even empires, and sometimes sending human destiny to the rudiments of evolutionary destruction.

The clear characterization of the psychopathic motivation will only become visible if our scientific net is cast widely, where we find the sensation seeker, the Machiavellian personality, the self-centered consumer, and the intellectual junkie seeking the high of the good life, social dominance over the vulnerable, and the adulation of the marketplace. Noteworthy in our evaluation are the biological substructure of the deviant mind and in the expression of extreme traits  imbedded in history, art, and demography of our wandering populations.

The details of this unique and important book are described  in the Book Store of this website. It is available from

Del Wolf Thiessen 2014

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A Warrior Then and a Forgotten Seer Now: Third in a Series

The Sword and the Shield

The Sword and the Shield


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I love talking about Douglas MacArthur. He was a great inspiration who brought our troops to victory in World War II and clearly envisaged our current social and economic problems. Too often he is neglected by historians of recent events.  He was always the first to stand at the gate against all repressive forces and put his life on the line time and time again. His oratorical skill is a key for understanding the Machiavellian personality. He might have said this:

I challenge you with my mind and words

but move you to battle with my divine destiny

He didn’t say that, but he believed it. We can learn courage and moral substance from MacArthur, but still be aware of his Machiavellian moods and narcissistic strategies.


General MacArthur was a stellar case of Machiavellian force – a man of classical dimensions, at peace with himself, and confident with the knowledge that his destiny was revealed in doing God’s work. He rested comfortably within the determined duality of his existence. He was manipulative, but admired, and rewarded teamwork among his subordinates, and with a genuine affection for “his” troops. He was aloof and elitist, but craved the love of the public and was humbled by his mistakes. He also made excellent choices.

Words were his favorite weapons, but even here he turned his thoughts to exceptional demands from his audience, and balanced his words so carefully that almost every expression was granted an antithesis.

For example, in the first few moments of his impressive farewell address to the joint meeting of the two houses of the U.S. Congress in 1951, he balanced these thoughts (the mirror image thoughts are underlined):

1. I stand on this rostrum with a sense of deep humility and great pride –                           humility in the wake of those great American architects of our history who have stood here before me, pride in the reflection that this forum of legislative debate represents human liberty in the purest faith yet devised.

2. If a potential enemy can divide his strengths on two fronts, it is for us to

counter his effects.

3. You cannot appease or otherwise surrender to communism in Asia

without simultaneously undermining our efforts to halt its advance

in Europe.

He, at the end, left his listeners with the booming reverberations of personal desire and balanced reservations.

4. The world has turned over many times since I took the oath on the plain

at West Point, and the hopes and dreams have long since


5. And like the old soldier of that ballad, I now close my military career

and just fade away – an old soldier who tried to do his duty as

God gave him the light to see that duty.

The speech was interrupted with 50 ovations and was followed by the praise of the Congress and the awe of a nation. The chosen words are simple, even though his vocabulary may have reached the richness of William Shakespeare’s. It is not the complexity of the words that makes the difference, but the construction and organization of those mirrored phrases that drive the emotions – the balance of ideas rests uneasily on the mind and stirs the incomparable colors of action and synthesis.

The whole of MacArthur’s mosaic of conflicting ideas is an art piece that rivals Rembrandt, showing us his concept of personal destiny and how that destiny runs itself out. For him, in his ascending career the words commanded that we take our plows and pound them into swords of death, and on his descent into a soft landing of glory, he beseeches us to melt those same swords and pound them into plows again.

We argued earlier that Machiavellian strategists with a flair for language and competition are often defenders of traditional order and its subservience to historical forces – historical forces that pleases the passion of the individual mind.


Oratory moves the argument from the sword to the lectern, from the fields to Parliament, and from the mighty nation to the guerrilla revolutions, where weapons of the brain spring forth as levers to move thoughts and actions.

We can form our view with an analogy from Carl Von Clausewitz who said that “War is the continuation of political intercourse carried on with other means.” Words, then, for us, are just an extension of physical force by other means. The words are often more potent than swords, as they create lasting attitudes and leave no visible scars. It is better to convince than kill; it is better to persuade than jail; it is better to control through emotional appeal than break the body in two.

The stroke of the whip maketh marks in the flesh; but

the stroke of the tongue breaketh the bones. Many

have fallen by the edge of the sword: but not so many

as have fallen by the tongue.


Ecclesiastics 28: 17-18

Machiavellian persons are mad about clever words and verbal bullets. They know the manipulative value of common words, speaking as if directly from the heart or delivering the words with gestures to the heavens. From this Machiavellian stock comes the powerful voices of political leaders, the savvy courtroom advocates of justice, the resounding thoughts of the academic educators, and the ingratiating appeal of salesmen.

Few reach the level of excellence of Douglas MacArthur, and none touch the coattails of William Shakespeare, yet the confirmation of the effective strategies of verbal manipulation bubble up from revolutionaries, charlatans, statesmen, and the obsessed. Successful wordsmiths seem to know intuitively how to carefully select the “correct word at the correct time,” but mainly the talent is developed around a strong intellect and a pointed need to affect change and build images. Gustav Flaubert, author of Madame Bovary was famous for searching for ‘le mot juste’ (the right word), and he paid the price of compulsive inquiries, saying that “I am irritated by my own writing.” Perfection in writing and oration is difficult to cultivate.

The U.S. poet Walt Whitman, writing Calamus: A Song of Joy (1855) spoke wisely about the psychology of oration.

Oh, the orator’s joys!

To inflate the chest, to roll

the thunder of the voice out

from the ribs and throat,

To make the people rage,

weep, hate, desire with yourself,

To lead America – to quell

America with a great tongue.

General Douglas MacArthur was a Machiavellian orator, obsessed with himself, certain as to his divine mandate, and in love with words that could change a nation from a flock to a pack, from lethargy to belligerence, and from indifference to a call for justice. His mannerisms, style, looks, and righteousness – coupled with a resonant sweep of words – had the strength of George Patton’s tanks, and the beauty of small personal transgressions.

MacArthur knew before he spoke, what was in the hearts and minds of his listeners, and that became his context, and the germ of his appeal. He spoke with cosmic certainty, elevated his audience, and left people asking for more. Not many speeches have that depth of sensitivity and the courage to say exactly what is reverberating throughout the nation, and few have the architect’s skill, as he did, to build universal beauty from the elements of sound and the depths of desire.

Finally, and thankfully, he ignored his critics who would have rather dealt with mediocrity than with the giant that raged against their evil or stupidity.

Stand Fast.

Del Wolf Thiessen, Ph.D. Professor Emeritus, University of Texas at Austin, February 14, 2014. Happy Valentine’s Day.

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A Warrior Then and a Forgotten Seer Now: It’s Time for the Apocalypse. Second in a Series


“I have returned.” MacArthur returns to Philophenes


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Bernard K. Duffy and Ronald H. Carpenter in their perceptive book, Douglas MacArthur: Warrior as Wordsmith, reflect on the classical tones and rhythms of MacArthur’s speeches, describing the same vibes of history with MacArthur’s speech at the signing ceremony on the Battleship Missouri and the eloquent and touching Gettysburg Address by Abraham Lincoln. The similarities are eerie, suggesting that Douglas and Abraham share similar biological motors.

General MacArthur in his grandest style hears not only Lincoln’s muffled drum beats as the Civil War winds toward its final end, but his own war drums, now quiet as well. He hears Lincoln’s dedication to the memory of all dead warriors, just as he prays for the redemption of all warriors of the Pacific. And MacArthur hears Lincoln’s gallant vision of healing at the moment MacArthur consecrates the land and sea and gives hope to the living. In both instances the nation – the same nation – fell into darkness and Dante’s Inferno, to arise into light stronger and more dedicated to the proposition that America can beat any malevolent spirit that might destroy the nation from within or without.

The states under Lincoln bound their wounds and truly became the United States of America; and in the Pacific, the founding of a new dedication to peace and brotherhood became the reality that propelled us to prosperity, unity, and world domination.

The balance, the rhythm, and the common style bind the two commanding leaders in shared emotions and universal voice. Through deeds, actions, and character, the flow of history repeats itself. Judge for yourself.

Abraham Lincoln

The Gettysburg Address

at Gettysburg, Pennsylvania:

Abraham Lincoln November,

                          19, 1863

Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought

forth on this continent, a new nation, conceived in

Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men

are created equal.

Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing

whether that nation, or any nation so conceived and

so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great

battle-field of that war. We have come to dedicate a

portion of that field, as a final resting place for those

who here gave their lives that that nation might live.

It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this.

But, in a larger sense, we can not dedicate – we can

not consecrate – we can not hallow – this ground. The

brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have

consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or

detract. The world will little note, nor long remember

what we say here, but it can never forget what they

did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated

here to the unfinished work which they who fought

here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for

us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining

before us – that from these honored dead we take

increased devotion to that cause for which they gave

the last full measure of devotion – that we here highly

resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain –

that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of

freedom – and that government of the people, by the

people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.


 Statement Before the Japanese

surrender (without specifics of

  commitments): General Douglas

 MacArthur, September 2, 1945.

 My fellow countrymen, today the guns are silent.

A great tragedy has ended. A great victory has

been won. The skies no longer rain death – the

seas bear only commerce – men everywhere walk

upright in the sunlight. The entire world is quietly

at peace. The holy mission has been completed,

and in reporting this to you, the people, I speak for

thousands of silent lips, forever stilled among the

jungles and the beaches and in the deep waters

of the Pacific which marked the way. I speak for

the unnamed brave millions homeward bound to

take up the challenge of that future which they did

so much to salvage from the brink of disaster.

As I look back on the long tortuous trail from those

grim days of Bataan and Corregidor, when an entire

world lived in fear, when democracy was on the

defensive everywhere, when modern civilization

trembled in the balance, I thank a merciful God that

He has given us the faith, the courage, and the

power from which to mold victory.

We have known the bitterness of defeat and the

exultation of triumph, and from both we have learned

there can be no turning back. We must go forward

to preserve in peace what we won in war.

And so, my fellow countrymen, today I report to you

that your sons and daughters have served you well

and faithfully with the calm, deliberate, determined

fighting spirit of the American soldier and sailor based

upon a tradition of historical trait, as against the

fanaticism of any enemy supported only by

mythological fiction. Their spiritual strength and

power has brought us through to victory. They are

homeward bound –Take care of them.

But the greatest impact of circumstances for General MacArthur occurred when he accepted Japan’s unconditional surrender after the last bombs fell, and he extended America’s beneficence to the vanquished nation, and pursued an even-handed governance of Japan. It was he who extended full political and economic rights to women. It was he who declared that Japan would never again be warlike. It was he who stipulated the conditions of occupation for the allied forces; it was he who wrote the Japanese Constitution that stands today; it was he who brought Japan back from the brink of extinction and into the new hall of nations; and it was he who kept the Soviet Union representative waiting in his outer office so frequently and long, that the self-proclaimed delegate finally gave up hopes of sharing in the booty of occupation and fled back to Russia in disgrace.

It was during those days that MacArthur felt the future press in on him, destroying his lust for war and magnifying his hope for world peace, even as he fought the Korean war, a commitment, perhaps, of his Machiavellian structure, but one in unison with a world pulling itself back from total destruction. The choreography of good and evil was played to perfection on the world stage, giving his huge and adoring audience the anticipation of a needed intermission and a third act of redemption.

Many thought that the general overplayed his acting, and surely he did. Politicians, including Franklin Roosevelt, and of course Harry Truman, were often upstaged and angered; marines, hitting the beaches through a hailstorm of projectiles, resented the surge of egotism that followed in their wake; and partners in command found him difficult, defiant, and even mean-spirited. Truman finally fired the indomitable MacArthur, who believed to the end that if the United States was to fight in war that its moral future depended on winning that war.

We are blessed, overall. The five-star general and celebrity did not invade an island as did Che Guevara and Fidel Castro to rule punitively and kill ruthlessly; he did not thoughtlessly sweep away cities and cultures as did Genghis Khan, Mao Zedong, Julius Caesar, Alexander the Great or Napoleon Bonaparte, and he did not kill millions as did Hitler, Stalin, and Mao, or indoctrinate China with a Maoist- Marxist ideology hatched within a tortured mind. He did none of these dark things. He never acted without restraint, and he loved and protected a nation in its darkest hour. He was possessed with an elusive destiny and an ego as big as America, but he gave us his finest hour and swift glimpses of the history that moved him from one extraordinary event to the next. We, too, were moved by him for better or worse into the Modern and Postmodern world of self-analysis and socio-economic instability.

Stand Fast.

Del  Wolf Thiessen, Ph.D., Professor Emeritus in Psychology, University of Texas at Austin, February 7, 2014

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The Face that Launched A Thousand Confrontations

Helen of TroyChe Guevara multiplesHelen from Wikipedia, 2014

Che Guevara









            Helen of Troy had nothing on Che Guevara. Helen was born in Sparta of the god of gods Zeus. She was kidnapped (or ran away) from her Greek husband Menelaus with Prince Paris of Alexandros. The beautiful Helen was the main reasons for an insane ten-year war between the Greeks and Trojans, known as the Trojan War. Her face launched a thousand ships by the Greeks to retrieve Helen from Troy.

The similarity between Che Guevara and Helen of Troy comes to me because of the Quixotic adventures of the Trojans and Greeks, and the deep narcissism that we see so often with self-centered Machiavellians as they engage in extreme and misapplied motivations. Che’s murderous and bigger than life ambitions were much like those reported about the Trojan war and the more modern psychopathic meanderings of Don Quixote in Miguel Cervantes’ important novel.

Like other  short-sighted Machiavellian psychopaths, Che pursued destiny down dangerous paths, eventually isolated, destitute, and dead from gunfire. And, like other famous Machiavellians, his legacy was more appealing and significant than his life. My central point about Che was that he became much more important in death than he was in life. His reckless life was explored in recent previous blogs.

The piece of art that immortalized Che Guevara was a photograph of him taken by the photographer Alberto Diaz Gutierrez (known as Alberto Korda). It happened near the end of the uncertain conclusion of the Cuban revolution after a Belgian transport ship exploded in the harbor of Havana, sinking a load of guns and ammunition and killing 136 people.

Alberto Korda 2Alberto Korda






Korda and his creation

Fidel Castro gave a speech following the disaster. Che briefly joined Fidel on stage. Surprised by the look on Che’s face, Alberto snapped two quick photos before Che quickly left the stage.

Alberto gave the photos to an Italian publisher Gianfranco Feltrinelli shortly before Che’s execution in Bolivia in 1967. After Che’s death the publisher printed a thousand posters of one of these photos, the one that became the world’s most published photograph. Che may not have captivated his audiences with fiery oratory, but his almost romantic pose in film and art work became the theme of revolutions.

Alberto Korda was born in the same year as Che, 1928, and he died May 25, 2001. Had they both lived to this year of 2014, they would be 86 years old. Korda will long be remembered for his photographic record of the Cuban revolution; memories of Che. Guevara’s life and death will outlast many of us.

Korda said that it was all chance that he got the shot seen ‘round the world.’ It may have been chance that brought him to that moment, but he took the photographs because he sensed a new expression on Che’s face, and when he stood back after only two shots, he knew he had what he wanted.

I attended a fashion shoot where a photographer friend of mine took at least 100 shots of a beautiful model in multiple poses, with several cameras. Before the film was processed, I asked him if he felt he got the shot he wanted, and he said, “Oh sure, it is the second shot of the series.” Chance Alberto Korda? I doubt it. We live with the consequences of knowledge.


            I have a friend who revealed to me that he had a painting of Guevara over his bedstead. The information startled me, telling me the extent to which Che’s image affects the emotional world of even the most rational people. Strangely, though, my friend was not aware of the Quixotic behavior of Che and his trail of misadventures and failures. Nor was he aware that the United States CIA was the figurative trigger man of his death. All my friend really knew was that Che represented social justice for aching hearts – a true revolutionist and a mighty warrior.

The facts are that Guevara’s huge ego, his lack of empathy for those who opposed him, and his narcissistic imperatives turned him away from the true Marxist revolution of Castro and left him without support in his personal destiny. He was more of a celebrity than a revolutionary, but enough of a Marxist to appeal to those disenchanted with western governments and capitalism. His photo by Korda was of a young handsome man with apparent powers to change the world, and that’s what appeals to most people. His imprint on history was at best ambivalent, but his Hollywood personality and confidence drew followers long after his death into the Marxist camp in spite of his superficiality.

Stand Fast.

Del Wolf Thiessen, Ph.D. Professor Emeritus in Psychology, University of Texas at Austin, January 24, 2014.

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Che Guevara in Three Easy Lessons: Lessor Three


Che Guevara image






Che’s career was happenstantial; he careened from one volatile catastrophe to another.  In the end he was martyred by a chance photograph of him during a political rally in Cuba, and a bullet to the throat in a drunken execution in the hinterland of Bolivia. The threat of violence was his calling card and the hope of South American communism a delusion. Our search for understanding of this psychopath is as elusive as his faulty dedication to Marxist principles.

Some men are born to violence, murder and the spectacle of unpleasant surprise. In search of outdoing his mentor Fidel Castro, and in hopes of a perfect revolution, he secretly flew to La Paz, Bolivia in November of 1966. He called himself Adolfo Mena Gonzaiez. In reality he was an undocumented revolutionary set to commit violence and murder.

His surprise was that the Bolivian army was trained, equipped and directed by U.S. Green Beret and CIA operative. Worse, the Bolivian army had classified orders from the U.S. State Department to “track and destroy” the Che guerrillas. Not only were the Bolivian authorities aware of Che’s entry and recruitment activities in Bolivia, but special operative of the CIA were already gunning for him.

Initially Che and his band of renegades won several skirmishes against Bolivian troops, but the end was rapidly approaching. Through battles that became increasingly destructive Guevara was finally cornered and captured. By this time Che was in a dreadful state with a hole through his right calf, clothes in tatters, hair matter, and suffering from periodic asthma attacks. Running out of ammunition and support Che shouted: “Do not shoot! I am Che Guevara and worth more to you alive than dead.

Later than morning Bolivian President Rene Barrientos, acting in accord with the U.S. CIA, ordered Guevara to be killed. Mostly drunk Mario Teran was chosen to shoot Guevara but instructed not to shoot him in the face, so that the public story would be that Che was killed in the firefight with the Bolivian troops the day before.

When Teran got his nerves under control he shot Guevara nine times – five times in the legs, once in the right shoulder and arm, and once in the throat. The last shot to the throat killed Che. Che’s last words were: “You are only shooting a man.”

The death of Che twisted further into the bizarre. His body was lashed to the skids of a helicopter and flown to Vallegrande and put on display on a concrete slab in a laundry hut.

Hundreds of local people filed by his body, some clipping off bits of hair from his head. Many believed that he was Christ and indeed the resemblance was eerie. His image was compared to artistic renditions of Christ, such as with the Dead Christ with Angles, an oil canvas by Edouard Manet (1864). The populous was shocked that Che was an atheist without faith. To them he was a super hero, much like a Lone Ranger, a Robin Hood, and a savior.

Che Guevara dead

Unbelievably after Guevara’s body was examined by local authorities. they cut off Che’s arms, put them into a formaldehyde-filled metal container, and sent them off to Argentina for fingerprint identification. It was as if authorities wanted to bury him but feared he might crawl out of his grave to seek his revenge. His boy was buried in a secret place. Years later his body was found and identified along with six of his guerilla comrades, and their remains were returned to Cuba in small boxes for permanent internment. Thus it was that Che Guevara ended his strange revolutionary life and became a legend as a symbol of Western Marxism.

The Bolivian misfortunes for Che were monitored for President Lyndon Johnson’s advisor, Walt Rostow, who told President Johnson in a memo after confirmation of Che’s death on October 9th, 1967.

It marks the passing of another of the aggressive

romantic revolutionaries . . . In the Latin American

context, it will have a strong impact in discouraging

would-be guerrillas. It shows the soundness of our

“preventative medicine” assistance to countries

facing incipient insurgency – it was the Bolivian 2nd

Ranger battalion, trained by our Green Berets from

June-September of this year, that cornered him and

got him.

Like a Barnum and Bailey clown Che achieved his glorified image as a revolutionary and Walt Rostow demonstrated his misunderstanding of how remarkable human images can gain immortality, even without good sense on the ground and minus redemptive arms extended to the heavens underground.

Stand Fast.

Del Wolf Thiessen, Ph.D., Professor Emeritus, University of Texas at Austin, January 17, 2014.

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Che Guevara’s Revolution in Three Easy Lessons: Lesson Two

Che Guevara image





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Che Guevara’s Revolution in Three Easy Lessons: Lesson Two

During the early part of the Cuban revolution it is said that the experience of battle in an instant transformed Guevara from an MD to a guerrilla fighter. Che’s small invading group was huddled together under the intense fire by Batista’s defenders, so close together in fact that Che could smell the stress of his comrades. Suddenly his fellow soldier was blown apart and Guevara was wounded. Guevara related that at that moment he dropped his medical kit and reached for a box of bullets. A Marxist superstar was born within seconds.

Che stretched for statesmanship at the United Nations on December 11, 1964, representing the Cuban delegation in the General Assembly. His oration centered on the colonial system of imperialism, with a focus on drawing together non-aligned countries of the world in a common purpose of gaining the unrestricted right to self-determination and independent economic and social development.

Through the voice of Che Guevara, Cuba reaffirms the right to maintain its territory and weapon systems without interference by the United States and other powerful nations. The country also demands that the United States withdraw from the Guantanamo naval base and return the land and facilities to Cuba.

Che Guevara’s speech was direct and clear, and his presence was always stunning, but like several other orations of his, it lacked the fire of conviction. His speeches often suggested intelligent planning, like the Roman Statesman Cicero who ventured that “A life of peace, purity, and refinement leads to a calm and untroubled old age,” but not burning desire, like the Greek orator and statesman Demosthenes, who in contrast said, “All speech is vain and empty, unless it be accompanied by action.” Guevara’s UN address was somewhere in between, muted and doing little to elevate his reputation.

Below is an excerpt from his address to the UN. The first paragraph remains as it appeared in its written form. Below that is a version of those same thoughts, as might have been expressed had the fiery Fidel Castro given this same address. In this hypothetical rendition, the import of the substance is minimized while the emotional energy is enhanced. These differences, as viewed by this author, emphasizes the oratory structure that could sway an audience and send the protestors into the streets.

Che’s statements:

We want to build socialism. We have declared

that we are supporters of those who strive for

peace. We have declared ourselves to be within

the group of Nonaligned countries, although we

are Marxist-Leninists, because the Nonaligned

countries, like ourselves, fight imperialism. We

want peace. We want to build a better life for our

people. That is why we avoid, insofar as possible,

falling into the provocations manufactured by the

Yankees. But we know the mentality of those who

govern them. They want to make us pay a very

high price for that peace. We reply that the price

cannot go beyond the bounds of dignity.


What Castro, in fighting form, might have said under the same conditions:

                                    The winds of socialism shake our neighbors from

a long slumber and ignite the fires of revolution –

fires from which victory springs and freedom soars.

Imperialistic thugs, hanging on to their dreary lives

and old ways will fall before our sword of justice;

those left will quiver with fears of retribution. The

new age of Marx and Lenin is born on this day

as we solidify our collective cause. No more will

our homelands be threatened. No longer will our

wives  and children quake at the knock on the

door. We will take our share from the abundance

of this great earth, and create peace, but a peace

of our making and not an illusion foisted on us

by our enemies.

The key phrases of the second version, put together to incite sympathy and support for a revolutionary movement, are these: Each phrase conjures up an image that by itself can almost tell a story.

winds of socialism shake our neighbors

ignite the fires of revolution

quiver with fear of retribution

from which victory springs and freedom soars

imperialistic thugs

dreary lives and old ways

our collective course

take our share from the abundance of this great earth

fears of retribution

new age of Marx and Lenin

born on this day

no longer will ….

and not an illusion

foisted on us by our enemies

a peace of our making

sword of justice

Che did not have the oratory power of many commanding leaders; which may have relegated him to a lower level of revolutionary performance. His passion was expressed in his physical presence, in his actions and courage, in his dangerous promises, in the fear of others, and in his writings and video clips. Only a small part of his popularity as a commanding leader was due to the spoken word.

Stand Fast.

Del Wolf Thiessen, Ph.D. Emeritus in Psychology, University of Texas at Austin, January 10, 2014.

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Destroying Enemies by Mutilation

Skull & Cat




There are a number of reasons that acts of mutilation are often part of the ritual of murder. Deep hatred, psychopathology, revenge, souvenir hunting, and warnings to enemies of what might happen to them could all be involved. There may also be a more profound explanation involving the destruction of bodies to prevent their return from the dead. I believe that we can make that argument. What do you think of this historical picture, given to us by Max Boot who may be the world’s expert on guerrilla warfare?

He gives us a striking example of mutilation of enemies who “with no hide nor hair” are separated into parts and distributed widely over the land as a message to other combatants and possibly to separate the body parts to prevent a revitalization of the parts into a dangerous adversary in some later life.

William Wallace, the leader of an earlier Scottish

insurrection in which Bruce [the 33 year-old earl

of Carrick] played a minor part, had tried similar

stratagems, and, notwithstanding some initial

successes, he had failed miserably. In 1305 he

was captured and sent to London, where he was

given the standard punishment for treason: he was

briefly hanged, then cut down “half-living” to have

his genitals sliced off and internal organs ripped

out of his chest before he was decapitated and

his body hacked into pieces. His head was placed

on London Bridge, and his quartered remains were

sent to four different cities.

Max Boot, p 48

General George Armstrong Custer was a home-grown narcissistic Machiavellian terrorist with beliefs in destiny and reincarnation. He too fell prey to mutilations by the Sioux and Cheyenne Americans at Little Big Horn, Montana in 1876, a battle site that claimed his life at age 36 and the lives of 208 soldiers of the United States 7th Cavalry.


Aggressively vaulting ahead of reinforcements by Generals Crook, Gibbon, and Terry, and vastly underestimating the number of warrior fighters, Custer split his main Calvary force. As a result he was trapped by ferocious warriors with firearms and arrows. By the end of the day Custer’s battalions were sent running for their lives and decimated.

Three days passed as the bodies of Custer, his men, and about seventy animal carcasses baked in the sun. During that period squaws, weeping and singing for their dead, hacked at naked white corpses with knives, axes, and hammers, scalping the dead, chopping off fingers, heads, penises, and battering the skulls into shards.

Custer was also mutilated according to two Cheyenne women who were there and later told the story that the Sioux women cut off Custer’s fingers (including his trigger finger?) and pierced his eardrums with a sewing awl.

Custer’s fate and that of his men are not isolated examples of butchering of the dead. There are verified reports of similar mutilations of American and Japanese bodies during World War II. In our experience the beheading of Mexicans by Mexicans and others by terrorists and drug dealers are not uncommon.

Or, consider this. After Che Guevara’s inglorious death at the hands of an executioner in Bolivia his two arms were amputated by the Bolivians, supposedly to verify his fingerprints in Argentina, but also, perhaps, to prevent Che from crawling from his grave and using those arms to inflict more misery and death. Our Southwestern folklore points to Pancho Villa as another mutilated soul with no chance for reincarnation. Apparently his body was uncovered and his head and right index finger (gun finger?) were removed. The head apparently went deep into Mexico but his finger, if that of Pancho Villa, found its way into a pawn shop in El Paso and is on sale for $9,000.

There are a number of possible reasons these acts occur, such as with deep hatred, revenge, and souvenir hunting. There may also be a more profound explanation, involving the destruction of bodies to prevent their return from the dead. We are dealing with the everlasting psychopathic defense against attack – mutilation of the body for spiritual salvation.

The extension of this idea is ingrained in our Western religions. We’ve all heard the old saying, “You are what you eat.” The oldest reference to this idea may come from the Roman Catholics’ belief that the bread and wine of the Eucharist are transformed into the body and blood of Jesus (Transubstantantiation).

We offer and present unto thee, O Lord, our

selves, our souls and bodies, to be a reasonable,

holy, and living sacrifice unto three; humbly

beseeching thee that we, and all others who

shall be partakers of this Holy Communion, may

worthily receive the most precious Body and

Blood of thy Son Jesus Christ, be filled with thy

grace and heavenly benediction, and made one

body with him, that he may dwell in us, and we

in him.

Thomas Cranmer

Archbishop, 1549

People are sometimes overcome with the hunger for blood and flesh, striving to realize in symbol or reality the nature of the sacrifice. On the one hand, we are inclined to mutilate our enemies and prevent reincarnation. And on the other hand, we strive for the physiological link (e.g. cannibalism) that will allow us to share in the attributes we desire. We crave vindication and protection through mutilation and strive for power and elevation by eating those we desire.

Commanding leaders often sense that they are reincarnated into similar forms and personalities, drawing us to the speculation that in our primitive brain there is a supposition that reincarnation is a viable prospect and can only be stopped by destroying the vital parts of the dead. Why else would a psychopathic reprobate arrange for his body to be hidden after his death?

We still haven’t found the grave of Genghis Khan, the architect of 40 million deaths, as his body was hidden, and those who knew the location – 800 or more – were killed to seal that knowledge. And, why else would recent looters of the Egyptians Museum in Cairo behead two priceless mummies, possibly Tutankhamen’s grandparents? And, why else do we waffle when we consider cremation, rather than “endure” a dark and worm-infested casket? Could it be that cremation may be an everlasting suicide by fire and granulation? There are several possible reasons for these strange beliefs, but ultimately we may be working on an evolutionary premise and an indelible hope for reincarnation with all body parts intact and the hope for transformation into something better. I’ll save the benefits of cannibalism for another time.

How might evolution build a mutilation strategy if, as we believe, natural selection takes aim at the present, not future lives? There could easily have been an adaptive strategy programmed into the genome that tells one: “Be sure your enemy is dead before you walk away, so that he never again reappears,” a strategy that could more generally mean, “. . . so that your enemy never reappears in this life or any other way.”

Was Humpty Dumpty pushed from the wall so that he would never return? Whoever thought about it, and I’ve forgotten who it was, may have had the answer.

Humpty Dumpty sat on a wall;

Humpty Dumpty had a great fall;

and all the king’s horses and all

the king’s men couldn’t put

Humpty Dumpty together again.

“He was probably pushed.”

If this evolutionary axiom is a universal truth, how can mutilation be considered psychopathic? If uncertain about labeling behaviors associated with body parts, can we simply say that mutilation is an aberrant outburst of psychopathy on the world stage, or is there a philosophical issue about life, death, and life again, that we try to bury with the bodies?

References For You to Dig Deeper in the Subject

Boot, M. (2013). Invisible armies: An epic history of guerrilla warfare from ancient times to the present. New York: Liveright Publishing Corporation.

Man, J. (2004). Genghis Khan: Life, death and resurrection. New York: St.

Martins Press, Publisher.

George Armstrong Custer:,html.

Guinto, J. (2007). Allaga: ‘Basilian survivors saw mutilation of dead comrades.’

Is Pancho Villa’s Finger for Sale in a Texas Pawn Shop?

Joffe, Alex (2011). Egypt’s antiquities fall victim to the mob. The Wall Street Journal.


Stand Fast.

Del Wolf Thiessen, Ph.D. Emeritus, University of Texas at Austin, December 19, 2013.

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Mutilation, Murder and Mayhem in The Little Town of Bethlehem

Machiavelli by Santi di Tito Wickipedia, 2013


Portrait is from Wikipedia

Christmas is upon us and our thoughts may turn toward Bethlehem and the hope that the good in man will prevail. But reality suggests that our hopes are eclipsed in favor of a darker view. Not only is goodness a limited commodity but we can expect that mutilation, murder, and mayhem will continue their Olympian pace. Mutilation, in particular, a behavior with the strangeness of Jack the Ripper, instills the fear that evil is never ending. Our hope is that insights into human behavior may lead to a victory over darkness.

We consider here why human violence is so difficult to control, or even measure. Why are we driven by stories in our minds that might not even be true? Why are we treated so roughly by our enemies and even friends? Do we harbor the dreaded motivations that came to us through our ancestors?


It may be even worse than we suspect. Mutilation and murder are common behaviors in most cultures, do not depend on learning, and drive man’s behaviors of retribution as if they are evolved adaptations. They occur universally and are apparent in deep history.  More disconcerting is that the bizarre behaviors seem to further other human strategies of selfishness and self-preservation.

One can argue that mutilation and murder of adversaries are natural outcomes of natural selection for survival and reproduction. Ultimately these extreme behaviors seem based on the fear that if we don’t completely destroy our worst enemy, he or she may come again in the dead of night to destroy us. Our imagination points our unconscious compass toward mutilation, murder, and mayhem.

Our imagination may drives us to extreme conclusions and occasional mutilations, allowing us to reflect on what once was the case (as it might have been), what is the case beyond that which we see in our neighbors today, and what could be the case in the unseen future. In short, our imagination fills in the blanks of our stream of information and permits us to make assumptions – some of which may in fact be true. In the meanwhile the absolute truth that often facilitates survival and DNA transmission may never be known.

We tell ourselves stories, because mental probes into the invisible past and future may indeed be valuable calculations that increase our chances of making reasonable decisions. Even if wrong in our assumptions, disposing of our enemies may at times seem like a good idea. Mutilation and murder may be suggested to us because it may prevent future conflicts with an intact and dangerous adversary. That’s the story of survival and we carry the dangers and possibilities deep into our evolved brain.

If we are asked if such extreme behaviors are warranted, we would probably deny their value, but our rubber-band imagination works its black magic in our unconscious nature and tells us to act before it is too late. The commands of complete and eternal destruction of a fierce or imagined advisory are to prevent future concerns and even prevent the reassembling of body parts that could once again threaten our existence.

The reincarnation of us into other lives has its personal appeal, but it shouldn’t happen  with our enemies. They shouldn’t come back to haunt us no matter what.  We may believe that mutilation may prevent that from happening. Like an aspirin taken to prevent a possible cardiac arrest at some later time, mutilation of our enemies may prevent the reappearance of hostile forces. So it may seem. An ounce of prevention, even though based on superstition or infinitely long odds, is better than allowing dreaded circumstances to envelope us. The idea is something our genetic ancestors may have killed for and which still echoes in the modern mind.

The hypothesized mechanisms to explain murder and mutilation are based on our rich imagination about the deep-seated processes of good and evil, and our attempts to avoid disaster in the future and perhaps even become immortal. Our behaviors are not entirely restricted by cultural mandates, and in the strict sense are not pathological or even psychopathic. Holding our nose to a possible truth, violence may be a natural outcome of our imagination and our wish to prevail.

A future blog (imagined at the moment) will provide some data that may to a small degree support these speculations.

Stand Fast.


Del Wolf Thiessen, Ph.D., Professor Emeritus, December 14, 2013.

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Looking for Mr. Good Under Mental Rubbish

Looking for Mr. Good Under Mental Rubbish

 Human Skull           

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We ordinarily consider narcissism as a quaint and mild form of egocentricity, but when strong and lasting it can have disastrous consequences. In my opinion narcissism is the psychological door through which the Machiavellian leader boldly walks. As a leading indicator of bad tidings, narcissism in its many forms is all too common.

Machiavelli by Santi di Tito Wickipedia, 2013Machiavelli



The new version of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-V), the Bible of the psychiatric profession, unravels the complexity of the trait of narcissism. In this new manual narcissism will no longer be described as a trait separate from Antisocial Behaviors, a decision that illustrates the variety of forms that narcissism takes. The recommended description of Antisocial Behaviors is expected to take the form given below (title is how I see it).


(Recommended Revisions for DSM-V)

          Individuals who match this personality disorder type are arrogant and self-centered, and feel privileged and entitled. They have a grandiose, exaggerated sense of self-importance and they are primarily motivated by self-serving goals. They seek power over others and will manipulate, exploit, deceive, con, or otherwise take advantage of others in order to inflict harm or to achieve their goals. They are callous and have little empathy for others’ needs or feelings unless they coincide with their own. They show disregard for the rights, property, or safety of others and experience little or no remorse or guilt if they cause any harm or injury to others. They may act aggressively or sadistically toward others in pursuit of their personal agendas and appear to derive pleasure or satisfaction from humiliating, demeaning, dominating, or hurting others. They also have the capacity for superficial charm and ingratiation when it suits their purposes. They profess and demonstrate minimal investment in conventional moral principles and they tend to disavow responsibility for their actions and to blame others for their own failures and shortcomings.

Individuals with this personality type are temperamentally aggressive and have a high threshold for pleasurable excitement. They engage in reckless sensation seeking behaviors, tend to act impulsively without fear or regard for consequences, and feel immune or invulnerable to adverse outcomes of their actions. Their emotional expression is mostly limited to irritability, anger, and hostility; acknowledgement and articulation of other emotions, such as love or anxiety are rare. They have little insight into their motivations and are unable to consider alternative interpretations of their experiences.

Individuals with this disorder often engage in unlawful and criminal behavior and may abuse alcohol and drugs. Extremely pathological types may also commit acts of physical violence in order to intimidate, dominate, and control others. They may be generally unreliable or irresponsible about work obligations or financial commitments and often have problems with authority figures.

This stunning description clearly incorporates the wide sweep and consequences of malignant self-love, a love that is often secretive, erects firm defenses against intrusion or change, and stands in defiance of disconfirming information. On the other hand, narcissists are often interesting individuals, and can in the abstract be friends and colleagues.

Narcissus Captured

Narcissus Captured

One wonders, therefore, where the threshold is between charm and manipulation, clever oration, and madness. We need other methods to lead us to explanations.

Stand Fast.

Del Wolf Thiessen, Professor Emeritus, University of Texas at Austin, December 6, 2013.

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Poetry Within the Psychopath

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Lord Byron





The architecture of mental deviations is sometimes best conveyed by the blush of emotion and the rush of dopamine. Rationality has little to do with it. Consider the delicate nature of explanations.

There seems to be an invisible line dividing people in their preferences and allegiances – organic and inorganic forms falling on one side of the line or the other. For example, the playful mind reaches out for jagged lines, squiggles, unusual people, spicy foods, loud music, new experiences, strange animals, beauty with a blemish, new sex, and poets like Lord Byron. Another more introspective mind attracts traditional geometric figures, straight people, common foods, familiar places and animals, soft music and the poet Robert Frost.


Lord Byron Speaks of

Dopamine and Lust         

Selected Stanzas

And thou art dead, as young and fair

As aught of mortal birth;

And form so soft, and charms so rare,

Too soon return’s to Earth!

Though Earth receiv’d them in her bed,

And o’er the spot the crowd may tread

In carelessness or mirth,

There is an eye which could not brook.

I know not if I could have borne

To see thy beauties fade;

The night that follow’d such a morn

Had worn a deeper shade;

Thy day without a cloud hath pass’d,

And thou wert lovely to the last,

Extinguish’d not decay’d;

As stars that shoot along the sky

Shine brightest as they fall from high.


William Hazlitt, a friend of Byron, said this about him:

Whatever he does, he must do in a

more decided and daring manner than

any one else; he lounges with

extravagance, and yawns so as to alarm

the reader.

Robert Frost

Robert Frost Attracted to the Colors of Flowers



OH, give us pleasure in the flowers today;

And give us not to think so far away

As the uncertain harvest; keep us here

All simply in the springing of the year.

For this is love and nothing else is love,

To which it is reserved for God above

To sanctify to what far ends he will,

But which it only needs that we fulfill.


Robert Frost said this about himself:

And were an epitaph to be my story

I’d have a short one ready for my own.

I would have written of me on my stone:

I had a lover’s quarrel with the world.

Reading Byron and Frost is like listening to a sensationist and a landscape artist with no in between. The hormonal and behavioral spectrums between sensation seekers and non-sensation seekers are in opposition as are their philosophies. We can also see the split in poetic terms, such as with Lord Byron spitting fire and invectives and Robert Frost giving sage advice through words of flowers and flowing streams. Neither understands his brother; neither cares a whit about the other.

Mysteriously, and truly remarkable, for one person jagged lines, spicy foods, loud music, new experiences, and Byron have a common essence – to some extent they are interchangeable, or at least intertwined. For another with a different brain, closed and predictable lines and figures, straight people, traditional pets, common foods, and Robert Frost are fundamentally equal and interchangeable. On one side of the invisible line is the sensation seeker and the psychopath, and on the other side is the conservative and traditionalist, and rarely the line is crossed. It is either Byron, who walks the narrow beam of destiny, or Frost, who embraces the benevolence of nature. You don’t need a Psychopathic Checklist to realize which side you are on.

There it is, two irreconcilable halves of a whole: the beast and the beauty, moving within the deep layers of the unconscious or the deliberations of the frontal lobes. Where do you spend your life?

Stand Fast and Thanks Giving.

Del Wolf Thiessen, Professor Emeritus and a staunch fan of Lord Byron, November 29, 2003.

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Death is the Glue that Holds Adaptations Together

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Natural selection tends to group individual traits into large adaptive systems of behavior. Two major systems include mating strategies that often appear in psychopaths (opportunistic short-term mating) or nonpsychopaths (selective long-term mating).


The short-term mating strategy of the psychopath rejects any and all trait qualities that would tie the male to the mating situation, such as empathy, love, guilt, remorse, true confession, cooperation, responsibility, and interest in children. He remains aloof and individualistic on every issue.

The nonpsychopath, who strives for long-term mating relations, emphasizes traits that the psychopath rejects and goes for romantic love, commitment, low testosterone, low aggression and non-abusive behaviors that would damage the relations with his partner. He has a communal attitude and a sensitivity to all human conditions.

Not surprisingly, traits within each strategy are highly correlated; every one of these has to be consistent with the others or the harmony is lost, and so is the female. The table offers plenty for the reader to contemplate.






Trait                    Short-term Mating:                       Long-term Mating:

                              Psychopathic: Individually         Non-Psychopathic:

                              Motivated                                           Socially & Communally



Polygamous                      Yes                                            No

Promiscuous                     Yes                                            No

Fast sex                               Yes                                            No

Mate Commitment           No                                              Yes

Love                                      No                                             Yes

Self-gratification                Yes                                            Yes

Charming/glib                    Yes                                            No

Testosterone                        High                                         Low

Aggression                            Yes                                            No

Intimidation                         Yes                                            No

Manipulation                        Yes                                            No

Lying/deceitful                     Yes                                            No

Jealousy                                 Yes                                            Yes

Risk-taking                            Yes                                  `         No

Self-confident/cool               Yes                                            No

Fearless                                    Yes                                            No

Murder                                   Possible                                      No

Frontal lobe dysfunction    Possible                                      No

Responsibility                        Low                                            High

Energy Level                           High                                           Low

Criminal                                   Possible                                     No

Abusive                                     Possible                                      No

Information strategy*             System 1                                    System 2

Alcoholic/drug use                   Probable                                     No

Reduced fear/anxiety                  Yes                                            No

Empathy for others                      No                                              Yes

Narcissistic/ messianic                Yes                                            No

Guilt/remorse                                No                                              Yes

  • System 1 is a fast-paced emotional complex that is emphasized by the psychopath. System 2 is a slower more cognitive reaction that is emphasized by “nesters.”

The implication is that consistency among behavioral traits results in reproductive advantages. Thus, aggression, mate competition, and risk-taking may elevate the chances of fast reproduction; whereas love, empathy, and concern for infants may easily link together for selective long-term reproduction.

On the other hand, trait clusters of aggression, love, promiscuity, and honesty may not work well together in short-term maters or long-term maters. Natural selection favors links between traits that reinforce – not compete – with each other. If the glue among compatible traits does not hold, death without reproduction may be favored.

More possibilities next Friday.

Stand Fast

Del Wolf Thiessen, Professor Emeritus, Psychology, University of Texas at Austin, (November 21, 2013.

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Psychopathy is Part of a Larger Developmental Matrix

Survival of the Fittest







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We often think of psychopathy as a distinct behavioral deviation that can be clearly measured and categorized. There are lists of known characteristics for psychopaths and specific tests to quantify the deviation, such as the Robert Hare Psychopathic Checklist or the MMPI survey of personality characteristics. From there we look for neurological and sociological consequences. Eventually, it would be great if we could trace a pathway from the gene, through the cellular physiological processes, to the neural variations, and finally to the behavior and the social circumstances within which it occurs.

Forget it. We are stuck with an avalanche of genetic, physiological, and neurobehavioral features that are not only related to each other in complex ways but are found in combination with a number of other deviations that we see during development and in the adult form.

In my last blog (November 9, 2013) I discussed findings by researchers funded by the National Institute of Health that indicate that there is genetic, and hence neurophysiological overlap among psychiatric problems, including schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, depression, and autism. Almost no psychiatric condition is independent from a host of other disorders. The same is true for psychopathy, which is what I want you to consider.

I want you to think about the development of psychopathy as a shaving brush that has a broad and homogeneous base and which begins to show more specific deviations as we move from the base of development  to the more heterogeneous and specific parts of the brush. At the base of psychopathy are broad categories of behavior, such as Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) and Antisocial Personality Disorder (ASPD), followed by Conduct Disorders (CD), dyslexia (DX), generalized aggression (GA), and more defined characteristics of psychopathy (PC).

This alphabet soup of traits is the dark and general developmental ladder of psychopathic behavior – the shaving brush that initially hides the specific features of psychopathy and only later in development  presents those traits that we index as unique traits related to psychopathic factors. Development begins with generalized deviations and begins to parse out more specific traits over time.

A pioneer in this research is William J. Barbaresi who, with colleagues, has published a massive study in Pediatrics online (March 4, 2013) in which 5,718 children were followed between the developmental years of 1976 and 1982. There is a wealth of information here that has yet to be exploited. Of these children 367 of these children were diagnosed with ADHD (6%).

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention one in five high school aged children in the U.S. have been diagnosed with ADHD, anxiety, depression, or bipolar disorder. At least 29.3% of their original sample of children showed ADHD as adults, and of that percentage, 81% showed at least one other psychiatric disorder, including substance abuse, ASPD, generalized anxiety, and major depression. Suicide is more prevalent in this group, as is substance abuse and imprisonment.  Fully 57% of those children with ADHD and related traits showed another disorder as adults, ASPD, which I interpret to mean psychopaths. That syndrome was 17% among those who were designated as being ADHD.

Thus, there is a dark motif of deviations that appears early in life and becomes more intense and specific as the individuals age. Psychopathy is not a “lone ranger” in the catalog of human deviations, but an outgrowth of a herd of stampeding deviations. Hopefully we can better understand the genesis and development of psychopathy by looking more carefully at the differentiation of behaviors during development.  Better be there than on the psychoanalyst’s couch. Oh yes, and you will never see only a shaving brush again.

Stand Fast.

Del Wolf Thiessen, Professor Emeritus, November 15, 2013

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Fingering the Criminal: A Handful of Evil

Double helix DNACommon behaviors harbor common genes






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Psychopaths share clusters of interrelated traits. For example, among individuals lack of empathy, extreme narcissism, compulsive lying, and impulsive behaviors hang together like five fingers on a hand. Rarely do we see one of these traits, say empathy, without seeing the other four traits. They form a unified combination, like firing a pistol. It takes four fingers to hold the gun, one finger as a visual guide, and one finger to pull the trigger. It sounds simpleminded, but the point is that traits that are consistently related usually allow for more integrated traits to emerge, such as survival and reproductive success.

The important point is that there may be patterns of psychopathic characteristics that together have broad adaptive advantages. Each trait by itself may appear to be abnormal, but in combination the cluster of traits appears together because the traits in combination have functional value as general evolved adaptations. Clusters of interrelated behaviors suggest that they share common segments of DNA (same genes or segments of genes).

I probably can’t stress the importance of “cluster” evolution too much, and I want to develop some incredible ideas that follow from this in future blogs.

At least with some psychiatric traits there is growing evidence that related abnormal behaviors — those that are consistently related to each other — have common genetic variation, and perhaps have been brought together for adaptive purposes (Darwinian natural selection). It’s conceivable that related psychiatric conditions, just like psychopathic behaviors, have unannounced general advantages that help individuals deal more effectively with their environment.

Researchers funded by the National Institute of Health, and reported by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (, have found that genetic overlap between schizophrenia and bipolar disorder is high (15%), moderate between bipolar disorder and depression (10%) and also between schizophrenia, and low between schizophrenia and autism (3%). These percentages of overlap don’t seem high, but they are consistent and probably do not reflect the entire genetic overlap.

In any case, looking at related traits may begin to tell us more about the functional significance of these traits and suggest that traits may be integrated into general functions that have significance beyond the individual elements that make up the cluster. It may tell us more about how behaviors are integrated at the genetic level and give us clues as to their evolutionary importance. The diversity of behaviors that might well illustrate these possibilities was suggested by the humorist Josh Billings (Henry Wheeler Shaw), 1818-1851):

Mi advise tu them who are about tu begin, in arnest, the journey ov life, is tu take their harte in one hand and a club in the other.

Stand Fast.

Del Wolf Thiessen, Professor Emeritus, November 9. 2013.

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Does Violence Spread and Die Like a Disease?

Gary Slutkin, M.D., Epidemiologist


My usual pessimism was punctured when I watched Gary Slutkin M.D. on TED ( discuss new strategies for stopping gun attacks on the streets of America.  Slutkin believes that we have mischaracterized criminal behavior as a unique category of acts that demands particular explanations and distinctive principles. Violence is an extreme form of aggression that many of us believe requires a specific and unusual perspective.

In contrast, Slutkin believes that gun violence spreads through our culture like a common disease run wild. If we treat gun warfare like we would plague or other infectious diseases we will better understand its origins, the conditions under which it spreads, and how to interrupt its trajectory. The parallel between gun warfare and infectious disease is a powerful metaphor to help us solve difficult problems of violence, and it might be a major conceptual breakthrough.

Slutkin’s unusual background became the basis for his journey from his early work on the transmission of infectious epidemics in Africa and Asia to the streets of Chicago. He voluntarily moved to Africa following his medical residency in San Francisco as an epidemiologist. His associates begged him to reconsider, warning him that his career might suffer as a result. But Slutkin is a tough guy (even looking a bit like James Grandolfini as the mobster in The Sopranos) and took off for Africa where he might gain new insights into the processes of infectious diseases

He spent about 10 years studying tuberculosis and cholera transmission in Somalia refugee camps. Working with the World Health Organization on AIDS in Uganda and several other countries in Africa he began to form the idea that gun violence followed the same pattern he often saw for other common infectious diseases. He thought that violence might even be stopped using the same public health interventions.

Today Slutkin is the Founder/Executive Director of Cure Violence. He is now devoted to the study of gun warfare on the streets of America, is an Ashoka Fellow, a Professor of Epidemiology and International Health at the University of Illinois, and a senior advisor to the World Health Organization. He has conducted two stunning and outreach studies of gang violence with the Department of Justice and Johns Hopkins University. Attorney General Eric Holder referred to Cure Violence as “a rational, data-driven, evidence-based, smart approach (to reducing violence).” Fundamentally, his work is driven by a desire to understand and stop gun wars and killings, and is not political in orientation.

These community action studies that Slutkin conducted were based on three epidemiological principles:

1. To interrupt transmission of violence.

2. To identify and change the thinking of the highest potential transmitters.

3. To change group norms of behavior.

For example, Cure Violence connects with trusted community members who are committed to transforming lives and cleansing violence from the streets. These are individuals who are known to gang members and may have even served time in jail. They act to calm potential gun fights on the street and to intervene (break the cycle) in violent interactions. Most of the beneficial effects depend on a widespread flow of information and detailed and constant monitoring of community activities.

The bottom line: it works. In the two massive studies completed thus far Cure Violence reduced shootings and killings by 41 to 73 percent. These results are statistically significant; the methods are currently being applied in 15 American cities, the UK, Trinidad, South Africa, and Iraq. The program is still developing. Obviously, it requires an unusual commitment to personal improvement and the saving of lives, a great deal of training, funding, and constant vigilance. It is a tough road but we can see some light along the way. We have Gary Slutkin to thank.

I thought you would like to hear some good news for a change.

Stand Fast,

Del Wolf Thiessen, October 25, 2013, Professor Emeritus, Psychology, University of Texas at Austin.

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Why Evolution Treats Peace Unkindly