new song: “The Sprawl”

Recording

Lyrics

Tough times, weak minds
I’m running through this city and I know it’s my time
Analog waves (carry the) information exchange
Visions that rush me at breakneck pace
Gotta fly below radar, run beneath the camera eye
Gonna tell the truth and run

Someone sits down to say grace
Someone fronts it to save face

Instrumentation

Except the vocals, this is all synthesizer, particularly employing the Kaossilator Pro+ (with and without an electric guitar’s distortion pedal). I also used one of Garageband’s arpeggiators (“Bass Wave Cycles”), and two of Garageband’s AI drummers (“Jasper” and “Max”). Garageband’s “Natural Vocal” and “Fuzz Vocal” filtered my voice.

what a young transgender client needs from their therapist(s)

Emily Marie Williams, 2019-03-16
© 2019 Whole-Systems Enterprises, Inc.

Who I am: Credentials or Something?

I’m not a psychologist, not a social worker, not a medical doctor. In fact, I’m not a doctor of any kind. Just a highly intelligent and introspective citizen scientist. (Yes, I hold a baccalaureate).

Oh, and I happen to be transgender: Thirty-nine years living publicly as a man, approaching four years living publicly as a woman.

And I’ve studied the science of gender identity in exhaustive detail; I happen to be a scientist by trade.

And I’ve seen more therapists than I care to count.

First Define Therapeutic Goals

All Ages

Let’s first define therapeutic goals, appropriate for transgender clients of any age:

  • Client learns they are responsible for their own learning
  • Client learns suicide prevention and distress tolerance skills
  • Client learns how to respond emotionally and socially to harassment and bullying
  • Client learns how to respond emotionally and strategically to discrimination
  • Clients learn the correct language and choose what applies to them
    • “Transgender” vs. “transsexual” vs. “intersex” vs. “transvestite” vs. “cross-dresser” vs. “genderqueer” vs. “drag queen” vs. etc.
    • Gender identity vs. sexual orientation
    • “Trans” vs. “cis”
    • “Transwoman” vs. “transman”
      • E.g., a man who becomes a woman is a “transgender woman”, not a “transgender man”!
    • Why the “T” is included in “LGBT”
  • Existential health:
    • Client will not need a theologian or a philosopher to tell them they are right with the divine and/or the universe
      • Although I admit it helps emotionally!
    • Client will not need an evolutionary psychologist or an anthropologist to tell them they are right with society
      • Although I admit it helps emotionally!
    • Client experiences daily joy
  • Client understands that a gender transition (of any kind or degree) will not cure all their ills
    • We all still have death and taxes
  • Client knows their legal rights in their jurisdiction
  • Clients are appropriately guided toward biomedical interventions, where desired
  • Clients become aware that the transgender community exists and is networked
    • We have a history and mythology, e.g.,
      • The Stonewall Rebellion
        • This was just as much about gender variance as it was about non-heterosexuality, a fact that the “mainstream” queer movement swept under the rug until recently
      • Joan of Arc
      • The Rebecca Riots
      • Tiresias
    • We have a music community (e.g., G.L.O.S.S., Trap Girl, Axis Evil featuring Napalm Fatale, Against Me, and QTPi Xpress).
      • Disclosure: I am “Axis Evil featuring Napalm Fatale”.
    • We have legal advocacy groups and work closely with the ACLU

Youth and Their Parents

All of the above-stated goals apply to youth, but parents play a greater role in their success:

  • Parents learn they are responsible for their own learning
  • Parents learn how to affirm and validate their children
    • Including respect for desired names and pronouns
  • Parents learn suicide prevention and distress tolerance skills
    • For both themselves and all their children
  • Parents learn the correct language, and let their children choose what applies to them
    • “Transgender” vs. “transsexual” vs. “intersex” vs. “transvestite” vs. “cross-dresser” vs. “genderqueer” vs. “drag queen” vs. etc.
    • “Gender identity” vs. “sexual orientation”
    • “Trans” vs. “cis”
    • “Transwoman” vs. “transman”
      • E.g., a man who becomes a woman is a “transgender woman”, not a “transgender man”!
    • Why the “T” is included in “LGBT”
  • Parents learn how to work with schools to attenuate bullying
  • Parents learn about discrimination and systemic oppression. They must be “woken up”
  • If parents are spiritual and or religious, find a faith community that proves supportive
  • Parents must learn and model joy
  • Parents understand that gender-related care for their family will not cure all their ills
    • Again, we all still have death and taxes
  • Parents know their children’s legal rights in their jurisdiction
  • Parents understand the array of biomedical interventions available
    • And the time dependencies of these interventions with respect to the onset of puberty
  • Parents need to understand that the body of research regarding transgender youth is slim
    • Parents need to understand that an active effort within the research community regarding transgender youth is identifying the difference between “is it a phase?” and “is it clinical gender dysphoria?”

As Long as I Can Remember

For perspective:  As soon as I realized there was a difference between boys and girls, I wanted to be a girl. Maybe two or three years old?

The feeling didn’t stop with puberty. Didn’t stop when I registered for Selective Service. Didn’t ever stop.

Where Seeing More than One Therapists is Appropriate

Having a client see more than one therapist at the same time is controversial, but I do it. Here is why it is practical:

Therapists who specialize in transgender issues are scarce and generally clustered around major cities. Therefore, it is totally reasonable for a client to see a “regular” therapist on say a weekly basis and see a specialist on a monthly (or longer) basis. Seeing a specialist at least occasionally is vital, as they have access to the latest clinical practice information and are one of the key gatekeepers for obtaining biomedical interventions such as hormone replacement therapy.

The “regular” therapist I referred to in the above paragraph can work on matters like distress tolerance, suicide prevention, family dynamics, etc.

Suicide Prevention and Distress Tolerance

The suicide rate is extremely high in the transgender population. (I don’t know how this breaks out between youth and adults—a later edition of this text will provide those details if they exist). Therefore, it is imperative that transgender youth, their parents, and transgender adults learn suicide prevention skills. “Skills” is the correct word here; we are talking about a set of learnable behaviors that save lives.

Distress tolerance skills are also vital; saying that living transgender proves distressing is an understatement! I’ve found Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT) the best approach for myself and would recommend it to anybody. DBT is all about skills development.

Family Therapy

Family therapy proves vital as well, as poor family dynamics and abuse (if it is present) will not help anybody.

Also, parents may carry undue guilt that their child expresses gender identity issues—as if they were bad parents or something. While my research shows a possible heritable element of gender dysphoria, the same research supports a hypothesis of biological origin of the condition.

Murder Prevention

The murder rate among transgender individuals is high, especially for transgender women of color. A therapist and a transgender child’s parents must ensure the client knows how to protect themselves.

I carry a hunting knife in my purse and know how to disable an attacker by hand.

Affirmation and Validation

Through various channels (social, parental, religious, etc.), transgender children can get the message that their feelings are either “not real” or “bad”. This needs to be countered by therapists, and parents must be taught by therapists how to counter these ideas as well.

What a Therapist Should Watch For

While it is perfectly possible for a client to be both schizophrenic and transgender, the schizophrenia must be treated first, as it might be a source of gender confusion. For example, and forgive my shallow understanding of schizophrenia, a schizophrenic individual might have one or more feminine-identified “insides” and one or more masculine-identified “insides”.

Additionally, there are some homosexuals who are so homophobic that they would rather change their sex than accept their sexual orientation. Here the problem is acceptance, not gender dysphoria, and gender transition is not a clinically appropriate treatment. I can see this scenario playing out in a teenager raised in a fundamentalist environment. Interestingly, Iran forces homosexual men to become woman, as it is okay with transsexuality but not homosexuality. This probably does a lot of damage to these individuals’ psyches.

Adolescent Sexuality

All adolescents struggle with sexuality, but I think it is worse for transgender individuals. Therapists must be understanding of this.

One of the most confusing issues I faced in my youth was that for me as a teenager, I became sexually aroused when I wore women’s clothing. So, I couldn’t tell if I was expressing a fetish or something more fundamental to my core identity. Now that I am an adult and wear women’s clothing full time, this arousal no longer happens. In other words, my desired to cross gender lines cannot be explained by fetish alone.

A minor psychological theory that some practitioners still refer to, though it has largely been discredited, is “auto-gynephilia”. This model defines men who express transgender thinking as simply being sexually attracted to the idea of themselves as a woman (and female)—basically a “meta-fetish”. The idea has been used by hostile parents in court cases to prevent children from receiving appropriate transgender care. The major proponent of this idea—I forget who—is still alive and working for a major research hospital (I think; I’ll check on this detail later and update this document accordingly).

The problem is not with auto-gynophilic sexual fantasies, which I’ll admit even I have from time to time, but with the idea that that model alone fully explains male-to-female transgenderism. To put it in personal terms, when sexual arousal and activity is the farthest thing from my mind, I still want to be called “Emily” and “she”, and I still want to interact socially as a woman.

Feminism and Young Adults

Most feminists support us, but there is a small and vocal subset that severely opposes transgender individuals and their demand for rights. A young woman thinking of transitioning to manhood can easily be dissuaded by these ideas. This is okay if the individual decides so; but most members of this small, vocal subset of feminism are bullies and need to be taken through that lens. (We call them TERFs, for “trans-exclusive radical feminists”). TERFs often refer to female-to-male transitioning as “testosterone poisoning”, among other things. I won’t even begin to tell you what they say about women like me, because it is out of scope for this document.

A good therapist needs to be aware of TERF thinking and influence, especially when working with young adults attending a university.

I’ll Add More Later…

I’m sure I’ll think of more to add to this document as time passes.

on spiritual poverty

My engineer brain wants to cure all material scarcity.

While climbing a long staircase up a mountain to the Savitri Temple in the holy city of Pushkar I encountered a man whom I believe lived in the forest and collected firewood to sell to the villagers. Didn’t know if he was an ascetic or perhaps an untouchable. But I did conclude, without evidence beyond educated guess, that I make more money in a day than he makes in a year… or a lifetime.

I own X number of hats and Y pairs of shoes.

Suppose we did cure all material scarcity: Everyone is fed, housed, and clothed. Everyone has smart phones and computers and transportation to the farthest reaches of the planet. We can accomplish this with little additional technological innovation, and I think it a noble goal.

Then we’ll all want art and meaning. We’ll want to convince each other we are right. We might annihilate ourselves. We’ll create new scarcity with intellectual property—we might all be clothed but some of us will get haute couture—we’ll still use our plumage to create rank.

Stars upon thars… We might annihilate ourselves.

My communist soul wants a leveling revolution. My Christian soul wants the Golden Rule to underpin material society.

But we might annihilate ourselves in attempt to create that world. And I can’t argue with the fact that capitalism has lifted more people out of poverty than communism or religion combined.

My anarchist soul just wants to love God. No popes, no trips to Mecca. Just ecstatic prayer transmitted from the RV that I live in.

I own X number of hats and Y pairs of shoes. I’m a fashion legend in my own mind. I’m more creative than most. My IQ falls in the 98th percentile.

But God can raise a 1,000 of me out of the dust. I don’t mean much.

My favorite holiday is Dia de los Muertos; reminds me that rich or poor, we all snuff it in the end.

My engineer brain wants to cure all material scarcity. But does God really care about that? We are spiritually impoverished in the Global North. Spiritual malnutrition is destroying us.

Spiritual malnutrition is destroying us.

I don’t give a rat’s ass who you fuck, what you drive, or who you pray with. I just want you to talk with God.

new song: “3Jane”

Lyrics

Growing a new philosophy
is it grand design, or subtle folly?
The serpent was anything but…
…but this was an engineered forest,
its fruit a postmodern delight

Recording

Explanation

Wrote this sometime in the late 1990’s while working through my gender dysphoria (and identity and bipolar disorder in general) as a young adult. It is about humanity’s ability to hack everything, including our bodies. Changing one’s sex is a postmodern experience from a certain point of view, and it might be complete folly (but I don’t think so).

Artifact is nature.

I think starting my life as a man and becoming a woman at 39 was by God’s design. Don’t think any serpents are whispering in my ear.

Live Performance

thrift store mysticism

I treat thrift store shopping as a mystical experience, as a spiritual discipline.

Being somewhat of a mystic, and a massive optimist (see my post “curvilinear optimism“), I tend to believe that the Universe (or the Divine if you prefer) provides what we need to accomplish our missions in life as we need it (or immediately before).

Today I went to Goodwill and found four perfectly-fitting ladies’ business suits. All match my design ethic of “obvious femininity”—i.e., they are not simply men’s styles adapted for women. All have skirts, because, as readers of this blog know, I refuse to wear pants. All were well-made and extremely inexpensive.

The occasion is timely: I’m preparing to meet regularly with potential investors in the startup I contract with, representing the technical side of the company (I currently serve indirectly as that company’s R&D leader). Therefore I need managerial-level business attire, and a lot of it.

My optimistic, mystical self interpreted this Goodwill shopping haul as a “sign” that I’m “ready” for the business responsibility coming my way.

Asserting the Feminine

I stressed above the “obvious femininity” of the outfits. Feminism in the 1970’s and 1980’s urged women in corporate America to “act more like men”. That ethic led to women’s suit designs that really just mimicked masculine designs. (Shoulder pads, anyone?).

But diminishing the feminine to advance in the business world only marginalizes femininity in general—and makes many women simply unhappy. The truth is, while gender definitely moves on a spectrum at individual resolution, as a whole we can argue that women differ from men. We can argue further that that difference can (and should) add just as much value to the corporate world as masculine traits do.

So I for one will only wear business attire that screams “feminine”. I will not mimic a man. And I’ve taken a hit in corporate America for doing so… but I don’t give a shit because I know women are the future of business (but that’s a whole different topic).

Part of this practice goes back to my early days of living as a woman, where I learned quickly that to be called “she” I had to wear extremely feminine attire. In other words, I had to donate all my t-shirts to Goodwill and stop wearing pants. Now that my face has been surgically modified, my voice is higher in pitch, and my hair is longer I no longer experience this issue. But my memory proves long…

Strange Effects

The corporation I hold majority shares in gives 10% of its income to secular charities. Goodwill Industries of San Diego receives most of it, and the cash donations are made through local stores. As a result, the staff of the North County Goodwill stores have come to know me, resulting in two unexpected effects:

First, recognizing that my personal style is almost entirely constructed from thrift store finds, they now seek my opinion on displays, which I am thrilled to give. It’s nice to be seen as a style authority!

Second, the women working in these stores have become familiar with the kinds of items I typically look for, so when I enter a store I can now find these women first-thing and ask for recommendations based on their knowledge of what has recently been placed on the racks. But they don’t just try to accommodate my style, they suggest their own ideas. This proves fun for everyone involved.

The money the business gives created this situation, but the fact that I’m simply nice to everybody nurtures it along.

See Also

curvilinear optimism

god likes scientists

I don’t believe in astrology, but I do firmly believe in the Resurrection. As far as scientific evidence goes, both prove equally absurd. WTF? Why accept even one of them? Why not both? I have no good answer for this!

I could say that “events” in my life confirm my Christian experience, but that might be pattern recognition bias—seeing confirmation of my faith in patterns that my brain constructs out of non-patterned signal (because brains do that [1]).

Similarly, because I’ve never bothered to look for confirmation of astrological interpretations of my life, I’ve never “found” them in my life narrative. Again, pattern recognition bias.

Perhaps—and I am so completely unfamiliar with astrology to know for sure—astrology is about finding comfort in the universe’s design—that there is a “plan”. Is there anything in astrology that is meant to be uncomfortable? I don’t know!

The Christian experience is not comfortable; at least I don’t seek it out for comfort with regard to my place the universe. If God asks me to, I’ll perform God’s work in Hell.

Maybe its about love: I do not perceive that the universe as expressed as stars, planets, mass, and energy “loves” me. But I need to feel love and the Christian narrative offers that. The Resurrection itself is a love story.

Perhaps I created God in my image—an image of a human who needs love. And the need for love comes from evolutionary psychology; human-to-human attachment driving tribal cooperation, driving survival, driving gene propagation. The selfish gene [2].

“What is truth?” retorted the Pilate [3].

I’m going to continue trusting God and continue trusting my faith in God, even without these questions answered. And the God I believe in wants us to wrestle with these matters; God gave us brains and expects us to use them critically.

God likes scientists: “Doubting” Thomas just wanted evidence. He was not rejected for asking for it.

“Faith” and “belief” mean different things. I see “belief” as getting hung up on the facts—where science and logic matter to defining reality. “Belief” has its place: For example I believe in “F=m*a” at appropriate velocities and definitely believe in God’s existence and love.

But I do not emphasize belief in my spiritual practice, which is where “faith” comes in. “Faith”, in my book, is trusting the divine deep within my soul without needing to understand all the particulars about where things are headed.

Sometimes faith doesn’t even require much commitment to reality. I tell a story in my article “an allegory of affection from a Hindu goddess” about a visitation by Durga that I experienced during a dream. I do not worry about whether this visit really happened or not; the experience enriched my faith in the Christian god while enhancing my understanding of Hinduism. I’m not going to argue about what is “real” in this situation. Rather, I’ll just accept the personal growth that came of it.

This is the embrace of faith.

References

  1. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Apophenia
  2. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Selfish_Gene
  3. John 18:38 (New International Version)
  4. The image below is copied from https://www.wikihow.com/Be-a-Good-Scientist.

an allegory of affection from a Hindu goddess

I experienced the following dream:

Walking through wilderness, I came upon a female tiger. She considered me, and I considered her—I calculated my next move through my fear, she simply calculated. Rapidly concluded that if I ran she’d chase me down and eat me.

So I held my head up and approached her gently. Reached out my hand and scratched between her ears. Petted her. This continued for hours despite my terror. She rolled over and cuddled with me.

She then protected me from the other tigers occupying the distance.

This relationship stood way out of my league; as I shared affection with a beautiful animal that could kill me in an instant. Yet I knew the correct path forward was to deliver genuine care to my new friend, rather than back away in fear.

The tiger then transformed into a powerful, beautiful, and wealthy woman. Beyond out of my league. But we became friends. We became lovers. She simply liked me for the courage I demonstrated when I approached and gave affection to her tiger.

When I woke up, I realized that the Hindu goddess Durga associates with tigers. Durga rides a tiger into battle to destroy demons associated with ignorance and discord. She’s badass: When she takes the form of Kali she drinks the blood of demons to prevent that blood from springing forth new demons as it splatters the ground.

Anyway, a goddess who rides a tiger into battle carrying six weapons and who drinks the blood of evil spirits is one to be feared, just like the tiger evokes fear.

Yet my constant bravery in life earned her respect and affection, and she therefore visited me in this dream.

Image source:  https://blog.sivanaspirit.com/true-things-durga-never-knew/

a corset and an LSD trip

I’ve dropped acid trice in my life, both times for religious reasons. The first time was on New Year’s Eve in 1993, and the second last Saturday.

During the latter experience I took detailed notes, which I may publish on this blog in the future. What can I say? I’m a scientist!

I respect the drug, so before each trip, I took prudent steps to ensure physical and psychological safety. So this last time I tripped while wearing an extremely tight-laced corset. You see, corsets make me feel cozy—like being constantly hugged. I wear them whenever I’m experiencing psychological distress, which is often. They comfort me. (Please don’t ask me to explain this right now—I know why, but I’ll save that matter for a later article).

I believed this decision helped keep me remain positively “grounded” during the trip; i.e., it limited the risk of a “bad” trip. I would have embraced a “bad” trip as educational, but I’m happy to report my experience went fabulously. Took advantage of LSD-driven thought processes to gain clarity regarding my love life and my frequent suicidal ideation.

More generally, I made sure to dress extremely feminine before proceeding. I expect this helped as well. Note the lace socks in the picture below. (Also note that I wore lace gloves during the trip which are not pictured below):

here is my other cheek

An open letter, because direct contact is shut off:

———,

Here is my other cheek:  Threaten me again if you must.

You have my complete forgiveness and infinite compassion.

You and your family will always remain in my prayers.

There are few bridges you can burn that I am unwilling to mend.

You are better than this.

Emily

 

on adoptee violence

The following is a letter to a friend, who asked me about using DNA sequencing to find an explanation for her adopted, adolescent son’s violent behavior:

K——-,

I’ve thought much about violence from adoptees, as a woman I deeply love experiences the same behavior from her daughter(s). Interestingly, she adopted her daughters from a Russian orphanage—I know you also adopted from Russia. This similarity might matter as I’ll describe later.

Moreover, I’ve given much thought to household violence in general, having lived with an extremely abusive spouse for over a decade. I therefore have much to say on matters such as codependence, forgiveness, and unconditional love.

Finally, I carry a long and well-documented history of mental illness (bipolar disorder). For the most part I manage it well with medication and psychotherapy, but occasionally I require psychiatric hospitalization. Many of the articles on this blog document my experience with the disease—a narrative I’m constructing for researchers. My point is, I know quite a bit about different psychological treatment modalities and am going to recommend one in particular for your son, and another for you (below).

Your interest in your son’s genome as explanation is reasonable, and I’ve scoped out some options below that you can choose among (and get back to me for further guidance). However, I think the etiology of the violence is likely psychological or psychiatric. I’ll justify this statement shortly.

So I want to give you my complete thoughts on the matter, not just on mere genomics. Here is what I plan to discuss:

  • Psychology and psychiatry
    • Russia
    • PTSD and child abuse/neglect
    • Codependence
    • 911
    • Treatment options
  • Neuropsychology
  • Brain anatomy (briefly)
  • Genomic possibilities
    • Identifying genes associated with violence
      • I’ll provide you with a list to have checked
    • Identifying nucleotide variants associated with violence
    • Looking at epigenetics and violence
    • Sequencing:
      • What type?
      • How to legally analyze the data?
  • Radical love
    • Radical forgiveness
    • Compassion
    • Self-care
    • Expectations
  • Accountability

Alright, straight into it:

Psychology and Psychiatry

I hypothesize that violent adoptees underwent significant trauma and neglect in early childhood. I base the idea that such trauma may prompt violent behavior later on attachment theory (especially the learning—or lack of learning—of emotion regulation skills from a primary caregiver) [1]; and from witnessing my ex-wife’s violence, which emitted from untreated post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) caused by childhood abuse.

This I believe is the most likely explanation for your son’s behavior.

I also suspect that Russian orphanages aren’t usually healthy environments to start life in, to put it mildly.

If my theory is correct, your son needs to learn emotion regulation. Unfortunately, most therapy modalities I’ve seen only “process” feelings, but don’t treat management of intense feelings as a “skill” that can be learned and mastered. Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT) [2], by contrast, does exactly that (and more)! Initial research suggests DBT may prove appropriate to reducing PTSD symptoms [2]. You can search for a local DBT therapist or group at [3]. Groups exist for teenagers, and I’m sure for younger children as well.

I personally attended a DBT group for adults twice in my life. Found it extremely beneficial for attenuating suicidal ideation. Therefore I highly recommend this treatment method for anything regarding emotion dysregulation.

Medication will only take you so far. But medication is a vital component.

Remember its okay to call 911 if you need to, both for violence and potential self-harm.

The other psychological issue to consider regards yourself: Codependence.

The Wikipedia article on codependency [3] sums it up well: “Codependency is a type of dysfunctional helping relationship where one person supports or enables another person’s drug addiction, alcoholism, gambling addiction, poor mental health, immaturity, irresponsibility, or under-achievement.” (emphasis mine). Essentially codependents become “addicted” to the relationship dynamic (whether they like the dynamic or not) and the “helping” role they play. Like all addicts they sacrifice themselves for the addiction. In mental health situations like yours where there is an “identified patient”, the likelihood of you developing clinical codependency traits proves high.

Take care of yourself. See a counselor. Get some rest. Have some fun. Attend a codependency treatment group or a codependency support group. (I’ve attended a codependency treatment group offered by my HMO. It proved extremely helpful).

Neuropsychology

If you haven’t yet, have a neuropsychologist run a battery of test on your son. Typical tests (as in the ones I’ve taken) include:

  • An intelligence scale appropriate for minors
  • Bender Gestalt Test of Visual-Motor Integration
  • Wechsler Memory Scale (WMS-III)
  • Intermediate Visual and Auditory Continuous Performance Test (IVA-CPT)
  • A self-assessment inventory appropriate for minors
  • A self-rating scale appropriate for minors
  • Sentence Completion Test (SCT)
  • Rorschach Inkblot Technique
  • MMPI-2

These tests quantify many mental health conditions, such as ADHD and antisocial behavior. The MMPI-2 is the most important one as it measures traits that may help defend your son if his behavior lands him in legal trouble (e.g., the “Antisocial Behavior” and “Disconstraint” scales of the MMPI-2). Also its finding might give you a “name” or two for your son’s specific conditions.

For an example of how I measured my own level of antisocial behavior and disconstraint, similar to how your son would be measured, see [4].

Brain Anatomy

I don’t know much about this subject, but have a neurologist meet with your son. If they detect an anomaly in an MRI of the brain you will gain a lot of insight, and (again) gain more data to protect your son if his behavior causes legal issues. A great article discussing adolescent violence and neuroimaging can be found at [5], which includes the following graphic:

Notice that emotion dysregulation comes up again in this graphic. If a brain anatomic explanation is found, DBT still may be indicated. Cognitive control and ability to learn will be measured by the neuropsychologist discussed above and may correlate to MRI results.

Genomic Possibilities

To benefit from DNA sequencing, you need to know what to look for. Unfortunately, I expect a gene panel for “psychiatric violence” does not exist. So I designed a gene list for such a panel to provide a basis for further work. The method and resulting gene list are discussed in a separate article on this blog:

toward a gene panel for psychiatric violence

So one way of looking at the challenge is to sequence these genes and see what aberrations appear. However, most aberrations will prove benign or related to some completely unrelated issue. So I scoped out the following strategy for identifying the aberrations to look for using ClinVar [8], a database which we can search by disease. Unlike the gene list analysis, I have not automated the procedure yet (we’ll cross that line together if you decide to proceed with sequencing analysis). However here is a manual outcome, to demonstrate that we can pull the required information together.

We first search for the term “personality disorder”, and retrieve a list of known perturbations correlated with this cluster of diseases:

Clicking on the first variation in the list, we see that it involves an aberration in gene NRXN1. As a verification, we find NRXN1 in the gene list I produced above:

And if you’re curious, here is the aberration shown in context on its chromosome:

Again, if you decide to move forward with sequencing, I’ll automate this data extraction procedure.

So now we face a major decision:  Whether to sequence your son’s entire genome or just his genes (a minor subset of the genome). What matters is the proportion of aberrations we find related to diseases involving violence that lay outside genes compared to those that lay within genes. The more of the former, the greater the need to sequence your son’s whole genome to stand a chance of finding anything.

The other thing we need to consider while identifying aberrations to search for is the strength of their known correlation to disease. We might need a cutoff threshold to remove low quality information, assume this measure is even available (I haven’t checked yet–again, right now I’m simply scoping out a strategy).

What this discussion leaves out is “epigenetics”, the science of how the environment can modify gene expression. Research suggests that PTSD causes epigenetic modification of the genome. There are ways to test for such events, and we can scope them out together if you would like. For now I’m going to skip that subject because I don’t know much about it (but can find out as needed).

Next steps:

Looking in the genome for disease markers is a crapshoot. At my last reckoning of the situation, there simply is not enough data recorded to make highly effective correlations for most diseases. However, this situation improves everyday. And, except for the case of epigenetics, your son’s genome is for all intents and purposes static. Therefore if you sequenced him now, and did not find anything, you might find something in a year or two using the same sequencing data.

So your next decision is whether to proceed with sequencing or focus on other ideas such as those suggested above.

If you do decide to proceed, your next move would be to find a genetic counselor to facilitate things. (That gives me legal protection if you use my gene list or aberration list). I’m simply not sure where the FDA stands on using a punk-ass hacker’s gene list to diagnose genetic disease causality outside a research-only environment. Don’t have a clue!

However being the complete anarchist that I am, if you handed me a whole-genome on a disk with the owner’s name removed, I can and will scan for these variants. If I find something I’ll say variant X suggests a remote possibility of condition Y for the genome on the disk, and that only a qualified medical doctor can confirm! It will be like an online MMPI-2 that tells you what you want to know but refers you to a licensed neuropsychologist for a legally defendable evaluation.

So again, think about this and get back to me if you want to proceed further down this rabbit hole.

Radical Love

The most import thing to do is commit, and constantly recommit, to love. I state the verb form of the word to emphasize that this involves a decision, a crucial choice. And let me repeat, you must continually make this choice again and again to achieve success at it.

One never knows when to turn the other cheek [6] and when to refuse to accept further abuse. This probably is a moving target that varies day by day. What I can say is that even when you accept such abuse in the short run, ALWAYS resist in the long game. This gives you an endgame—a goal of a better world for you and your son. It helps keep your head up. Again, play the long game.

I realized a few months ago that parents who adopt children that behave violently stand among the few who actually understand what love is. They walk among the best of us. What grieves me is how much their best get buried everyday by the stress of violence in the household.

For all the strategies I enumerated above, please hold reasonable expectations. Go for “good” outcomes not “perfect” ones. To demonstrate, I practice this concept with regard to my own mental health: Never managed to “cure” my bipolar disorder, just consider low daily mood-variance success.

Take care of yourself. Please heed my warning about codependency. It will not help your son if you cease to keep yourself together.

Remember that specific mental illnesses might have once held an evolutionary advantage in earlier times, and they therefore are only “illnesses” in the context of post-hunter/gatherer society. Knowing this doesn’t make things better, but it at least provides some comfort to me. For example, a popular idea is that ADHD holds an advantage during the hunt [7].

I also argue that mental illnesses, particularly those that involve occasional psychosis, exist for spiritual reasons as well. (This is not to suggest that spiritual experiences, even those due to psychosis, are not genuine). Take comfort in that possibility.

What I’m saying between the lines in these last two paragraphs is that one can learn to take advantage of their mental illness if they can attenuate its liabilities. Again, to demonstrate, my bipolar disorder offers an endless wellspring of creativity. So I fully tap that creativity at work and everywhere else.

Finally, let me talk about “radical forgiveness”, a concept I’m developing for dealing with abuse, heartbreak, etc. Essentially it’s a doctrine indicating how to practice forgiveness as a “skill” and a “discipline”, rather than treating forgiveness as some ethereal idea. Try it! This idea is best explained in my video on the topic. Please forgive the sound quality (I will re-record it soon):

Accountability

Remember that at the end of the day, your son is responsible for his actions. He can learn non-violence if he works at it (e.g., through a program such as DBT). It may require a parallel spiritual awakening.

Hold him accountable. Teach character. Set an example through your own character and through taking responsibility for your mistakes.

To demonstrate these principles in action: I’ve harmed several people whom I love due to things I’ve said while experiencing bipolar mania. I don’t blame the disease. I blame myself and commit to work on preventing the disease from motivating such action. This seemingly subtle difference drives my character.

So teach him accountability. And remember that in the grand scheme of the universe we are all equal in the eyes of God—and we all need substantial work!

References

  1. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Attachment_theory
  2. https://www.verywellmind.com/dbt-for-ptsd-2797652
  3. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Codependency
  4. http://genderpunk360.com/2017/06/11/scoring-my-mmpi-2-assessment-for-both-sexes/
  5. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2766784/
  6. Matthew 5:39 NIV (from the Sermon on the Mount)
  7. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hunter_vs._farmer_hypothesis
  8. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/clinvar/
  9. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21508512

a non-linear and holistic work ethic

I started working out a holistic map of my work ethic and work values, and quickly found that linearity failed to cut it. Essentially, I need to capture the interdependencies between spiritual, social, and financial wealth. More importantly, I need to illustrate the crucial balance between these factors. Enter non-linear system dynamics:

Simulation, based on ad-hoc parameterization (because there is no way to actually measure most of these variables), demonstrates that I’m at least moving in the correct direction:

Method

Used Vensim PLE to create and simulate the model.

why we still need cyberpunk

William Gibson penned Neuromancer over thirty years ago, and the 1990’s ended viciously on 9/11. With the exception of cyberfeminism, I wrote off “cyberpunk” as an ethic once we as a society stopped saying “cyber” and replaced the word with “online”.

Yesterday I traced partial assets of an individual I distrusted—and needed the straight dope from—from my laptop. Dating while transgender proves dangerous and a girl must protect herself!

In between I persistently beleaguered Microsoft as a career-long Linux hacker.

Once declared squatter’s rights on a piece of land I identified though data mining.

I walk with the Big Data devils to broadcast my signal, a means to an end. Twitter, Google, Amazon, and Facebook receive my data, and in exchange they amplify my cultural imperative.

And they know where the real value in data lies: Not in the records themselves but in the interconnections between them.

Emergent properties steered by unholy gods.

“Cyber”: Greek for “to steer”.

Steering a boat requires connecting the data: Position, velocity, acceleration, time. State variables alone won’t suffice.

When we get burned by Cambridge Analytica or the Russian Federation, we realize our individual technological vulnerability.

Propaganda is hacking: Implant bias, implant ideas, grow emergent outcomes. Seduction is a system intrusion.

Technological warfare and psychological warfare forever link.

Class war must proceed asymmetrically.

I only trust the Prophets, not the Church, not the State, not the Oligarchs.

And we can be prophets in cyberspace. We can create technology that liberates the world.

We can steer toward our own emergent outcomes.

We can end material scarcity.

Love forward. Program. Network. Build enterprise. Produce art. Write. Love forward.

Jam the system, and prepare to be jammed by the punks that follow you.

The 1990’s are dust, but the “system” still remains cybernetic control. Therefore resistance remains cyberpunk.

teaching joy (part one)

A conversation with a friend today illuminated my burning desire to teach existential joy to anyone who will listen.

Unfortunately, we agreed that this cannot be distilled into a recipe—that everyone must custom-make their own solution to joy’s perceived scarcity.

But we also agreed that I can succeed at the teaching process through the following two actions:

  1. Set an example through my everyday life.
  2. Write a narrative of my process; not so folks can repeat it verbatim but so they may find inspiration and guidance in it.

Finally, we agreed that my mission will best succeed if I keep this endeavor firmly secular, despite the faith that drives my core.

how to validate someone who won’t talk with you

We occasionally find ourselves in the situation where someone we love deeply refuses to communicate with us. In this video I present six strategies for transmitting validation across the divide. (A text version of this content is available here).

I sincerely hope you find this material useful in your own life! Please let me know how it goes, or send comments and questions, by commenting on this post or through Twitter or Facebook. I look forward to hearing from you!

Update 27 February 2017

I’m happy to have touched someone with this video! Received the following comment through Facebook today:

Thank you JoAnna!

See Also

radical forgiveness (video)

on love

the pedagogy of love

the currency of love