Monday, February 23, 2009

A Small Philosophy Rant

Protagoras, a professional sophist of ancient Greece, saw the world through a completely subjective lens. He believed that what a person feels is true, is true for that person. Thus he concluded that all opinions are true, and that all truths are equal. In this entry I will point out an error in reasoning that I believe Protagoras committed in his assertion that all reality is subjective.

Protagoras once said, “Of all things the measure is man.” In this statement, “things” represent any given object or condition in the universe, the “measure” is the judgment or “truth” ascribed to these objects or conditions, and “man” in any individual person. Therefore, we can rewrite his statement in such a way that it more directly states what he wanted to convey as, “The truth about reality is completely dependent on your own views and opinions.” Protagoras used several examples to demonstrate his point of view. He spoke of the wind blowing upon two individuals, one feeling cold and the other comfortable. This example, he felt, proved that the wind itself had no intrinsic quality and that it being “cold” was totally up to the interpretation of those feeling it. Thus, he concluded that objective reality does not exist; rather, all reality is subject to each person’s experience of it.

I contend that Protagoras was making an error in the way he defined objective reality. Specifically, cannot claim what is inherently subjective to be objective. Qualities such cold, hot, nice, mean, exciting, depressing, horrifying, comedic, etc, are all subjective by nature. One cannot objectively state what is “hot” without selecting a completely arbitrary temperature and saying, “everything above this is now considered hot.” In this sense, Protagoras was correct; the sensation of cold wind or hot soup is subjective to one’s own experience. However the problem with his reasoning is that he neglects the fact that reality does have objective qualities about it that we interpret subjectively. The objective fact about the wind, for example, may be that it is blowing at five miles an hour, at 30 degrees Fahrenheit. These are the objective facts about the wind. Whether these facts cause one to feel “cold” or not is subjective to their experience, but it does not change the facts of reality. The soup may be 100 degrees Fahrenheit, comprised of chicken broth and noodles, etc. These are the objective facts about the soup. To ignore the objective nature of the reality in favor or subjective ratings such as “I think the soup is hot, therefore it is hot to me and thus has no objective nature on its own,” is to commit a serious fallacy in reasoning.

The distinction between objective reality and subjective interpretations of reality is an important one to grasp. If a person is diagnosed as having a tumor in their leg, yet they state that they experience it as “a bad leg cramp,” it doesn’t change the inarguable fact that they have a tumor. This is where the distinction needs to be applied. The existence of the tumor is objective (given proper medical analysis). The belief that it’s “not that bad” is a subjective opinion drawn from the facts. Opinions do not equate to facts, and thus the tumor must be acknowledged for what it is. It is because of this objective/subjective distinction that weathermen cannot report a “Category Two” hurricane as a “small storm” simply because they don’t feel that it’s very serious. The incontrovertible fact is that a hurricane is approaching, and subjective interpretations of how bad it may or may not be aside, the people need to know the facts.

It is my opinion that the divide between objective reality and subjective interpretations of reality is at the heart of every single argument, from the trivial to the very serious. For example, a husband paints the bedroom walls lime green because he thinks it “looks groovy.” The wife gets home and is furious because she thinks it “looks hideous.” There are hundreds of objective facts about the situation; chief among them is that the walls are now lime green. Another objective fact that comes into play is that the husband did not ask the wife if she would like the walls to be lime green. The argument arises out of the subjective interpretations of lime green walls. The husband thinks they look groovy and the wife thinks they look hideous. In truth, the walls are neither groovy nor hideous; they are lime green. This is the distinction I mentioned above at work. Reality exists in definite terms, and cannot be equated with interpretations.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

An Explanation for a Close Friend: How Sociopaths Obtain and Maintain Control Over Their Victims

A close friend of mine has always been perplexed by exactly how sociopathic individuals gain complete control of their victims. Furthermore, he frequently struggles to understand why these women don't simply leave their abuser. His attitude is more or less: "I would leave a relationship the second my partner began abusing me!"

This is a very common question that I suspect many people have pondered from time to time. It seems shockingly simple at first; if you are being abused, just leave the guy and the abuse will end. Prudent as this advice may be, the actual situation is generally much more involved and complex than the average person realizes. Many times the woman cannot simply "leave" the abuse. It is not my intention to make excuses for women to stay with their abusive partners. I firmly believe that these woman should do their best to escape the situation as best they can. My purpose in writing is to try and help my friend better understand the slow web of control that the sociopath weaves over his victim, eventually consuming her entire life.

The most comprehensive break-down of the various tactics that sociopathic men use on their woman is illustrated in the "Power and Control Wheel." This diagram is displayed below. Following is an explanation of each part of the wheel.

To expound upon the information presented in the wheel I have provided this short bulleted list:
  • Intimidation: This is when the abuser attempts to make the victim fearful of him. If the woman fears his size, strength or fury, it will be easier to get her to obey him. This is usually done through smashing things, abusing pets, brandishing weapons and the use of aggressive looks and gestures.
  • Emotional Abuse: The abuser damages the victim’s self-esteem and self-image so as to lower the likelihood of her fighting back. Furthermore, she comes to see herself as worthless and deserving of no better than the terrible world she is existing in. This is usually done through name-calling, mind games, and by putting the victim down.
  • Isolation: The abuser takes control of the victim’s social world. He controls where she goes, whom she sees and talks to, what she reads, etc. By maintaining a constant knowledge of such things, he can identify whom in her life may be a threat to his control and restrict her from seeing that person. He will also know all the possible places she could be in the event that she runs away. In addition, she will begin to feel as though he is omnipotent, always knowing who she is with, how long she'll be gone and when she'll be back. This eventually causes her to start living her life by his stated schedule. He generally uses jealousy to justify these actions
  • Minimizing, Denying and Blaming: The abuser conditions the victim to viewing the abuse as “normal.” This is accomplished by denying the abuse, making light of it, and blaming it all on the victim. This is why you often hear these woman defend their abuser; making statements in which they blame themselves for not meeting the abuser's unreasonable demands: "It's my fault really! If I didn't go out to coffee with my friends he wouldnt have hit me!"
  • Using Children: The man uses their children to abuse the victim. This may cause her further emotional abuse due to the powerful bond she has with her children. He will have the kids relay messages back and forth; threaten to take the children away, etc.
  • Using Privilege: The abuser treats the victim like a child, making all the big decisions and acting like the king of the castle. “What he says goes,” is a common tactic used. He may even put her down on the basis of her gender or race.
  • Economic Abuse: The abuser makes the victim financially dependent on him, further cementing the hold he has on her life. This makes it even harder to leave when she has no savings or income of her own to get an apartment or car with. He does this by preventing her from getting or holding a job, making her ask for money, and even taking money from her.
All of these tactics instill the condition of learned helplessness in victims. Many times, these women end up killing their abusers because they literally see no other way out. I hope this explanation has fostered a deeper understanding of these complex situations and the reasons why "just leaving" is sometimes much harder than it sounds.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

A Paper I Wrote for My Class in Human Sexuality

Sexual Sadism

Sexual sadism is one of several paraphilias discussed in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM-IV-TR) and is defined as, “Fantasies, urges or behaviors that involve real acts (not simulations) in which the suffering of another person is found sexually exciting.” The disorder is frequently stated as the cause of murders, rapes and sexual violence due to its effect on behavior. Because of the ghastly outcomes of the disorder, many have sought to understand sexual sadism’s causes, nature, and the behavior of those who have it. Such an understanding requires an in depth look at the many facets Sexual Sadism beginning with its official diagnostic criteria. Furthermore, examinations of the disorder’s prevalence and proposed causes are needed. Finally, a case study of a real life sexual sadist and infamous serial killer must be examined so as to gain insight into how this disorder manifests itself in an actual person.

Diagnostic Criteria

In order to be diagnosed with Sexual Sadism, you must fit the following DSM-IV criteria: “Over a period of six months, recurrent, intense sexually arousing fantasies, sexual urges, or behaviors involving acts (real, not simulated) in which psychological or physical suffering, (including humiliation) is sexually exciting to the person. The person has acted on these sexual urges with a non-consenting person, or the sexual urges or fantasies cause marked distress or interpersonal difficulty” (Fredoroff, 02).

This definition gives a good profile of what sexual sadism would look like. Central to the paraphilia is the experience of fantasies, urges or behaviors that involve actually harming another person. The DSM-IV notes that this harm must be real and not simulated. Thus it is the actual infliction of pain upon another person, and the perception of suffering that is sexually arousing to the sadist. It is important to differentiate between real pain and the common acting that occurs in sadomasochistic role-play. In role-play, the perception of dominance and submission is what is important and therefore neither partner is actually hurt. As with all the paraphilias, fantasies, urges or behavior must persist for at least six months.

It is important to realize that when the DSM-IV uses the language “The person has acted on these sexual urges with a non-consenting person,” it unequivocally means rape or sexual abuse. The initial sex might be been consensual, however when the individual begins carrying out his sadistic fantasies, such as beating, cutting, torture and the like, the partner resists and wishes to stop. Unfortunately, the more the partner protests, the more arousing the sexual encounter becomes to the sadist. Recall that the actual infliction of pain and perception of real suffering is arousing to the sadist, therefore the more the partner screams, cries and pleas for mercy, the more enjoyment the sadist will derive from the encounter.

Lastly, the DSM-IV states that the fantasies and urges may cause “marked distress or interpersonal difficulty.” This is seen in isolation from friends or close confidents, decreased performance in school or work environment and failure to handle usual responsibilities due to a constant preoccupation with sadistic fantasies and urges that may or may not be upsetting to the individual.

Incidence and Prevalence

Recent studies have shown that sexual assaults in America and Canada are on the decline. In Canada specifically, there has been a 33% drop in sexual assaults, taking the actual numbers down to about 72-74 in 100,000 people (Fedoroff, 2). From these figures, one may draw a correlation to the prevalence of sexual sadism, assuming it to also be on the decline. This might be true, as the specific causes of the decline are not currently known. However there is some evidence to suggest that sadism is still quite common. In fact, if we reject a dichotomous concept of paraphilias and look at them as existing on a continuum, we see that a shocking number people possess varying level of sadism. To quantify this statement, one must examine the implications of several studies that have been conducted on the subject in recent years.

One study conducted an anonymous survey of non-criminal college males. The survey asked if they would rape a woman if they thought they could get away with it. Over half of those questioned (51%) responded that they would (Fedoroff, 03). Another study of college males discovered that a significant percentage found pictures of sexually distressed women in bondage arousing (Fedoroff, 02). Such findings indicate latent sadistic sexual desires in a great percentage of college-age men. While the specific desires may not fit the complete definition of sexual sadism as outlined by the DSM and thus are not labeled abnormal, these findings are significant in that they shed light on the true prevalence of the core motives of this paraphilia.

Other studies have found similarly shocking statistics. In a measure of the general public, 39% of males claim to have sexual fantasies involving “tying up” and 30% of “raping” a woman. Another study of 94 male virgins revealed that 33% reported rape fantasies, and 14.9% reported humiliation fantasies. (Fedoroff, 3, 4)

Measured strictly in cases of rape and sexual assault, it would appear that the incidence of sexual sadism is on the decline, however when we examine the figures derived from studies such as the ones discussed above, the matter becomes a bit foggy. These figures become more significant as we explore the possible causes of sexual sadism and the criminal acts that some sadists commit. The true percentage of incidence is not (and probably cannot be) known.

Possible Causes

While an exact “cause” of sexual sadism is not currently known, several theories exist that attempt to explain the sadist’s behavior. One crucial mistake that people make is to ask, “How can someone bring him or herself to do such a thing as rape and murder another person?” Roy Baumeister and Keith Cambell, two researchers in the field of sadomasochistic behavior, point out the error in this way of thinking: “The notion that people must bring themselves to do shocking, heinous things assumes that the perpetrators recognize the acts as shocking and heinous and hence must force themselves to overcome the revulsion with which these acts are regarded. This notion is quite plausibly wrong. Acts that seem heinous to victims and in retrospect may be experienced quite differently by the perpetrator” (Baumeister, Cambell, 01).

Baumeister and Campbell elaborate on this statement, explaining why they (and the majority of professionals) feel people engage in sadistic behavior: “Insofar as people get sadistic pleasure from hurting or killing others, there is little need to develop further explanations of evil. People do it because it feels good; enough said” (Baumeister and Cambell, 03). Although this explanation is valid and in line with the DSM-IV diagnostic criteria, it’s shallow explanation makes it a bit disheartening for most people.

It is interesting to note that many sadists report, “uncertainty, awkwardness, fear and guilt,” with regard to killing or hurting other people. In journals and memoirs written by sadists, they frequently report that harming others brings them emotional and physical distress rather than joy and pleasure (Baumeister and Cambell, 03). Such claims seem to directly contradict the DSM-IV diagnostic criteria for the disorder. How can this be? Baumeister and Campbell have wrestled with this dilemma and offer an explanation of the progression of the psychology of sadism that goes much deeper than the description offered earlier. “First, the initial reaction to hurting others (at least to most adults) appears to be quite aversive, and the distress appears to be at a visceral level, rather than a moral or abstract one. Second, the distress one experiences over inflicting harm appears to subside over time. Third, the pleasure in harming others seems to emerge gradually over time and is described by some as comparable to addiction. Fourth, the majority of perpetrators do not seem to develop sadistic pleasure or a feeling of addiction” Baumeister and Cambell, 04).

This progression offers adequate insight into the mind of a sadist, but why might one make the first step from fantasy to reality and begin carrying out such acts? The answer lies in one of the most important studies on sadism ever performed.

Using a sample of only 36 men who had convicted of sexually deviant behavior, the Federal Bureau of Investigation came to the same conclusion as Marquis Donatian-Aphonse Franquois de Sade. The theory is known as, “The Degeneration Hypothesis” and states that offenders begin with deviant fantasies that graduate to minor crimes that in turn become increasingly serious (Feoroff, 3, 4). This view would hold that a certain percentage of those college males who had rape fantasies would one day try being very forceful with a consenting partner, graduate to attempted rape, move into assault and rape, and so on and so forth.

Baumeister and Campbell have another view they refer to as “Seeking Thrills, Reducing Boredom.” They have theorized that many people, specifically undersocialized adolescent males, seek thrills and excitement as a cure to the boredom of life. They believe that acts of violence and aggression can provide such thrills, thus evil can be fun (Baumeister and Cambell, 6).

To quantify this claim Baumeister and Campbell point to the research of Jack Katz who focused on the thrill of illegal activity. For example, Katz found that many people who shoplift are only doing so for the excitement they derive from the activity rather than any need for the goods they steal. Shoplifting can hardly be considered evil, however Baumeister and Campbell borrow directly from the Degeneration Hypothesis by predicting that small, inconsequential crimes to lead to a quest for more excitement and thrills. This quest may eventually lead the individual to committing much more serious crimes. For the sexual sadist, this could mean sexual assault, rape, or murder.

Bind-Torture-Kill: A Serial Killer with Sexual Sadism

Bind-Torture-Kill (or The B.T.K Killer) was a nickname given to, Dennis Rader, the serial killer who gained him fame through just what his name implies: binding, torturing and killing his victims. In 1974 to 1991, Rader broke into seven Sedgewick County homes and murdered ten people in this manner. Shortly after the murders, Radar sent letters to media and police bragging about the kills and demonstrating knowledge of the details. These letters ceased in 1991 and did not begin again until 2004. The new letters, containing details not previously written, led his arrest in February 2005.

Dennis Rader is the perfect example of a sexual sadist. His method of binding women and torturing them is indicative of sadistic sexual motives. However we need not attempt to infer sadism from the nature of his killings, as Rader makes his sexual motives quite clear in several letters he wrote to the media. A direct excerpt from one letter reads:

“I was going to tape the boys and put plastics bag over their head like I did Joseph, and Shirley. And then hang the girl. God-oh God what a beautiful sexual relief that would been. Josephine, when I hung her really turn me on; her pleading for mercy then the rope took whole, she helpless; staring at me with wide terror fill eyes the rope getting tighter-tighter.” (Waldron)

Here we see several signs of sexual sadism. Rader mentions his intent to “tape the boys and put plastic bags over their heads.” Clearly, this is an act of bondage, an ritual performed by Rader on all of his victims. Bondage is a fantasy common of sexual sadists. The act of tying someone up is arousing to the sadist because it allows him or her to wield their power over their victim. Once they are bound, they cannot fight back, and the sadist can do anything he wants to them. In Rader’s case, this was murder.

Rader also directly comments on the sexual gratification that these acts would bring him. He talks of the “beautiful sexual relief” that hanging young girls brought him. Rader makes no mention of the girl’s physical appearance, clothing, attractiveness, or any characteristic of her at all. Instead he goes into great detail about the fear and suffering she underwent, the way the rope strangled her, etc. This leads us to believe that took pleasure not in the girls themselves, but in the suffering of un-consenting persons. This behavior falls right in line with the DSM IV criteria.

Another example of his sadistic motives is shown in a poem Rader wrote and mailed to a local newspaper. The poem described the death of one of his latest victims. An excerpt from the poem reads:

“I'll stuff your jaws till you can't talk
I'll blind your legs till you can't walk
I'll tie your hands till you can't make a stand.
And finally I'll close your eyes so you can't see
I'll bring sexual death unto you for me.
- B.T.K. (

Again, this poem discusses the pleasure derived from binding the victims hands so she cant stand up for herself, binding the legs so she cant try and escape, etc. And we again see the outright admittance of sexual motives behind the killings in the last line: “Ill bring sexual death unto you for me.” Calling the killing a “sexual death” indicates clear sexual pleasure experienced from the act of torturing and killing.

A final admittance of sexual sadism from Rader comes from a statement made after his arrest. Apparently asked about his need to bind, torture and kill, Rader said:

"You have to have the control, which is the bonding. That's been a big thing with me. My sexual fantasy is... if I'm going to kill a victim or do something to the victim, is having them bound and tied. In my dreams, I had what they called torture chambers. And to relieve your sexual fantasies you have to go to the kill." (

Here we see Rader admitting to all the symptoms of sexual sadism. He mentions how he bound people so that he could have control over them, calling it his “sexual fantasy.” He had fantasies and dreams about torture chambers and obviously took great pleasure in the act of bringing pain and suffering upon others. Finally he mentions that in order to relieve his sexual fantasies, he had to carry out an actual kill.

All of this points to an airtight diagnosis of sexual sadism. In Rader’s case, it is clear that this paraphilia is existing comorbidly with Anti-Social Personality Disorder, producing a remorseless killer who derives reinforcing sexual pleasure from his acts. Sexual sadism is arguably one of the most dangerous disorders insofar as individuals like Rader carry out such urges. A greater understanding of this disorder is needed in order to better treat these individuals and to help reduce the number of victims that suffer the consequences of becoming involved with a sexual sadist.

Work Cited
Fedoroff: Fedoroff, Paul, “Sadism, Sadomasochism, Sex and Violence”, The Canadian Journal of Psychiatry, Vol. 53, 2008.

Baumeister and Campbell: Roy, Baumeister, and Kieth Campbell. "The Intrisnic Appeal
of Evil: Sensations, Thrills and Threatened Egoism", Personality and Social Psychology Review, Vol. 3, 1999

Waldron: Waldron, Frank, “Letters from BTK”, BlogCritics Magazine, 2005, Henderson, Joshua, The Serial Killer Database,

Monday, November 17, 2008

The "No Game" Approach To Meeting Women

Many young, college age men have pondered the question of how to successfully meet and impress the women they desire and have come to a similar conclusion: You need to have "Game".

This statement implies that you need some strategy, some angle, some unique, calculated approach if you hope to be successful in convincing a beautiful woman to go on a date with you. "You can't just be yourself", many would say, "You have to have Game!" This approach prescribes behaving almost entirely different around women than you normally would, always having a slick line and impressive story on hand in the event that conversation should arise.

I find a different approach to be far healthier and more effective in tackling the same question. I call it, "The No Game Approach".

First, calling it "No Game" is confusing, because when people say someone has "no game" they usually mean the person is awkward and tends to freeze up around women. A new title for the approach would be needed to avoid such confusion. When I say you should have "No Game", I mean that you should remain true to your own identity when meeting women. Do not attempt to use convoluted angles that your buddies swear will work. Be yourself, use your style of interpersonal interaction, use your humor, etc.

Second, it is a much longer, more involved approach and thus, requires you to have actual interest in a woman beyond just a passing sexual urge. Someone "running game" might be able to get a woman at a bar or club to go home with him after a night of praising her beauty and grossly exaggerating his own status in life. In contrast, someone without game gets a woman by meeting her in a workplace, school or some other neutral environment, and slowly builds a foundation of genuine friendship. Through a succession of conversation and multiple exchanges, he builds upon this friendship until one day, perhaps weeks or even months later, a romance is built on the foundation of this friendship.

The problem that many men find in the "No Game" approach is that it requires of them the courage to be completely comfortable in being themselves. Increased use of wit aside, attempting to get the girl of your desire without game demands that you are genuine and honest in your formation of a friendship and any possible relationship with her. Over-embellishing achievements, lying about your past, greatly over stating the money you make, or altering your expression of personality in any significant way means that you are playing a game with her. This is difficult for many men, as they assume that they need to be especially smooth when meeting women. Many men are insecure, believing that their true self is too "boring" or "average" to impress a woman. This style of thinking often leads men to formulate all sorts of crazy "angles" for impressing women. They often alter clothing, behavior, humor, facts about their life, occupation, social and economic status, language, and a whole lot more, all with the intent of appearing more attractive and desirable to the opposite sex.

Sociobiology has a lot to say about this matter. Due in part to unbalanced parental involvement, women realize that if they get pregnant, they are the ones that are pregnant. The man has no biological obligation to be involved in the child's life. The woman is the one who must bear the child for nine months, birth the child, and care for the child for a great number of years. Women can successfully do all of this with no male involvement, however since the desire to ensure that your genes get passed into the next generation exists subconsciously in all of us, the survival and reproduction of her children is of utmost importance. Since the dawn of man, women have learned that it would be much easier if they had a man to help them in this great task.

Imagine women far back in the history of our species living on the plains or in the jungles of Africa. There was no day-care, no school she could drop the kids off at before going to work. She had to constantly be with her children. There existed two serious problems if the man involved in child raising was weak or disappeared. How will she hunt and gather food with two children to look after? How will she defend them against predators that are stronger than she is? Certainly the presence of a strong man to go out and hunt for food while she took care of her young, or to defend against attacks on his family, would increase the chance of her young's good health and survival.

This is where sociobiology steps in and gives us the "Marketplace Theory of Attraction." Women are said to inherit criteria for a male partner that bears some control over whom they are attracted to. In general, women tend prefer a man who is physically fit and has a substantial amount of resources to provide for her and her children. We see examples of this everywhere, specifically in the media. TV shows such as Sex and The City feature the main female characters discussing what they find attractive in men, and a common theme is money and power. Over the eons of time, men have likely picked up on the tendency of women to be generally attracted to these traits and thus have consistently tried to emulate what they believe a woman is looking for.

All of this begs the question: If sociobiology is correct in stating that women are naturally attracted to physical fitness, money and power because of inherited mating criteria, what is a man to do about? To this I reply: Absolutely nothing. It is important to understand that, while sociobiology may explain general trends of women tending toward common themes in men, there is much more that goes into successful courtship. Human attraction is a deeply involved process, involving many seemingly unknown mental processes. Although sociobiology can offer an explanation of the woman who marries the rich businessman even though she does not particularly like him, it has trouble explaining the woman who falls deeply in love with a very poor artist living in a studio apartment. The point is that most people have something unique to offer, something about them that will attract a suitable partner. Much of human attraction remains unexplained, and the subtle nuances of your unique personality will likely be what your eventual partner finds most attractive about you. Attempting to come off as someone you believe to be more attractive to women, but who is contrary to your actual identity, will only lead to disappointment and confusion.

Such behavior is doomed in concept as well as in practice. It is essential to realize that no serious relationship can ever be maintained this way. Even if you could maintain the facade over the long term (which, unless you possess sociopathic traits, you will not be able to,) why would you want to do this? Such a relationship would require constant work, always acting a role and pretending to be someone you are not. Projected into the future, this type of relationship will rob you of true intimacy and leave you feeling empty and alone, even with your girl by your side.

Any relationship built on "game" is destined to fail because it stands on little more than false perceptions of the other person that will eventually be shown for what they are. Any man who is serious about trying to meet women must understand this fact: There is no "Game" when it comes to meeting women. Women want expect the real you, just as you expect the real them. It is far better to be liked for who you really are than who you pretend to be. The day that you gain the courage to express your true self will be a day of great realization to you.

Monday, June 2, 2008


As we approach the halfway point of 2008, I feel the need explain what a topsy-turvy roller-coaster this year has been for me.

For the first time in three years I am a single man. I don't always know how to feel about it because on one hand, the relationship I was in was not satisfying and the both of us were unhappy, so it is good in a sense that we are not in it anymore. However I am left with the lingering feeling of "If three years of hard-fought love couldn't make it, what will?"

I do know that this experience has not made me a total commitment-phobic. If anything, I find that I am actually more closely in tune to my own feelings now than I have been in a long time! While I am certainly not wanting to jump into another commitment right away, I am confident that when the time is right, I will know it.

Other than that, the summer has just begun and so far it has been exactly what I had hoped for! The Shape has played two summer concerts in the last two weeks and we have many more scheduled all summer long. Outside of that I have basically just been relaxing and having lots of fun with a select few of my closest friends. We have made a lot of plans for the next few months of summer and my only wish is that we actually follow through with them all. If we do, I'll end up having one of the coolest summers of my life, and maybe even accomplish a small goal of mine that I have been working on lately.

I do my best to be an optimist these days, although it's much easier said than done. I guess I am still a realist before anything else, but I will not deny a strong creative side of me that does contain fantasies and dreams that, in all likelihood, aren't going to play out the way I envision them in my head. Ultimately though, these last few months to me have been, and continue to be, a time of self discovery. I am learning a lot about myself and my friends, and have begun looking at life through an entirely different lense than ever before. More specifically, I have been easing off the constant pressure I used to place on myself to always be productive and always be striving forward and all those habits that still linger from the business days, and I have begun to try just being myself and letting go. I have begun focusing more on the power of love and open mindedness, creativity and passion, and how they all fit into my life. I have studied the roles of everyone I call a friend, and what their specific role in my life is as well as what my role in their life is.

I am nowhere near complete. Still very much a work in progress and I openly acknowledge all my flaws and I am working to accept the ones I cannot change and fix the ones I can. This blog will cease to be used strictly for psychology talk and will now take the form of a personal blog that will also feature psychology talk when I wish to talk about it.

Cheers to the start of a hopefully amazing summer!

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Plants Have Feelings Too!

Yes, you read that heading correctly! Apparently plants are a lot smarter than we thought. A new study conducted by a student at the University in Hamilton in Canada shows that plants can sense family members growing near them and actually share natural resources instead of competing with them. The following article detailing the study and it's findings appeared in Science magazine on June 13th 2007. I found this study so incredibly interesting I was compelled to share it. Enjoy!

Rooting for the Home Team

By Krista Zala
ScienceNOW Daily News
13 June 2007

Humans tend to treat relatives better than strangers--"blood is thicker than water," as the axiom goes--and now it appears that plants play by the same rules. A new study provides the first evidence that flora can recognize its family and that plants treat kin better than outsiders.

Plants sense their neighbors and respond competitively: Some grow more leaves, some grow additional flowers, and some bloom earlier--all in a jostle to create more offspring. Still, undergraduate student Amanda File at McMaster University in Hamilton, Canada, wondered whether plants might be more easygoing if the plant next door is related.

She and McMaster plant evolutionary ecologist Susan Dudley looked at Great Lakes sea rocket (Cakile edentula var. lacustris), an annual plant that self-fertilizes to produce a batch of nearly identical siblings. They stuffed pots with four plants each--all either related or unrelated--so that their roots touched. They then grew the plants for 8 weeks, until the sea rocket started to flower, and then uprooted them to see how fully the roots, stems, leaves, and buds had developed. Plants potted next to their own ilk allocated less of their mass to root development than did those dwelling among strangers, the researchers report online this week in Biology Letters.

This study is the first to show that plants distinguish between relatives and strangers, Dudley says, and that plants can respond altruistically by growing a smaller root system when they sense family nearby. In a community where siblings share so many genes, "their success is your success," Dudley explains. "If they can agree to be nice to each other, then everybody does better."

The mechanism the sea rocket uses to discriminate remains unknown. And the behavior is "not altruism so much as reduced antagonism," says evolutionary geneticist John Kelly of the University of Kansas, Lawrence. Ray Callaway, a plant community ecologist at the University of Montana in Missoula, adds that the polite familial relations may sour if the soil conditions worsen and it's every plant for itself. Furthermore, says Hans de Kroon, a plant ecologist at the University of Nijmegen, the Netherlands, the study is not long-term enough to tell whether there's a net benefit to cooperation.

Dudley agrees and is looking into field studies to see whether cooperation boosts overall fitness. But everyone seems to concur that such kin recognition and generous response to family members wrecks the assumption that individual plants always exploit their resources to the fullest possible extent.