Dr. David HIrohama (Voted #3 ep of 2013)

Dr. David HIrohama (Voted #3 ep of 2013)

The 3rd generation Japanese-American psychologist shares his experience and observations counseling sexual predators (rapists and child molesters) at Coalinga, a lockdown mental hospital in central California and how he used Buddhism to help him cope.

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Episode notes:

David can be reached at Dynamic Psychological Services Inc.

Episode Transcript:

Paul: Welcome to episode 129 with my guest psychologist David Hirohama. I'm Paul Gilmartin. This is The Mental Illness Happy Hour: an hour or two of honesty about all the battles in our heads, from medically diagnosed conditions and past traumas to everyday compulsive negative thinking. This show is not meant to be a substitute for professional mental counseling. It's not a doctor's office; it's more like a waiting room that doesn't suck. The website for the show is mentalpod.com. Please go there, check it out. You can support the show financially, you can take surveys, you can see how other people filled out their surveys, you can join the forum, and you can read blogs by me and by many, many guests. I haven't written a blog in a long time, so I don't know why I said that. Because I'm a liar. Big, fat fucking liar. Uh oh. One minute in, and we are shaming ourselves. Is that a new record? Probably not.

What did I want to share with you? We're going to get into the show pretty quickly. Wanted to mention PodFest is coming up. So if you're going to come to LA for it, that's Sunday, October 6th, and I'll be doing a show, a live show from noon to 2 p.m. And all the information about PodFest is at LAPodFest.com, and there's all kinds of good podcasts there, so go to the website and check it out. It's going to be a really fun weekend.

I have had a really good week. Had a good therapy session on Monday, and my therapist suggested a couple of tips for communicating better with my wife. And she said, "You might want to find a way to express your feelings that... help her understand what you want to say." And I could have sworn that's what she said, but I could have sworn she said, "Play eight hours of Plants vs. Zombies on your iPad until your shoulder hurts."


Paul: I'm here with David Hirohama, who is a licensed clinical psychologist here in the state of California, who has experience working with child molesters and rapists. You worked at Coalinga State Hospital for a couple years?

David: Yes, I worked there for a year and a half as a contract psychologist, meaning I wasn't an actual state employee. I was hired on a contract basis. And I managed to survive there for a year and a half before my contract ended.

Paul: And why do you use the word 'survive'?

David: "Survive," meaning it was a very stressful experience. A lot of things happened while I was there. I saw a lot of things happen. So, I count myself as a survivor.

Paul: Well, I put a tweet out about 15 minutes ago saying that I was going to be interviewing a psychologist who has worked with rapists and child molesters, and asking well, let me ask a couple of questions before we get to that. What made you want to become a psychologist?


David: I think it started when I was probably around five or six years old. I was actually born in Japan. My father was in the U.S. Army, and he met my mom, who was living in Japan as an exchange student. And so I spent my first two years in Japan, me and my older sister, and then came to California. And from the very beginning, I was a very rebellious person. My relationship with my mother was very contentious from the start. And I'm actually the first, I'm the only person that I know who actually ditched the first day of kindergarten. Because my mom dropped me off. I looked in the classroom; I just did not like what I saw. So, I left. I walked down the street to the corner store. I bought some candy, and I sat down on the curb, and I was completely enjoying myself... 'til the store owner came out and said, "Shouldn't you be in school?" And I said, "I don't want to go to school. I'm fine right here." So, he called the school. They called my mom. She came down and got me. But that mindset of going against the grain, to make a long story short, is basically why I became a psychologist. Because there's not many, there's many, many more female psychologists, there's a lot fewer male psychologists, for a lot of different reasons. In my graduate school years, I was always, you know, one of the one or two guys in the class. So, being a psychologist, goes for me anyway, goes very much against the grain, which is sort of what I like to do.

Paul: Did you come from a household where there was emotional openness?

David: None. Actually--

Paul: None?

David: None. I'm a third generation Japanese-American, and I cannot generalize too much, you know, because I know basically my own family situation, but emotional openness is not a trait that you find very often in Asian families. So--

Paul: They're right behind the English.

David: [laughs] OK. Yeah, alright. So, no, emotional openness was not happening in my family. So, and that's probably another reason that I became a psychologist, because I can sort of vicariously work on my problems but not directly address them.

Paul: You know, the part of your work that fascinates me the most is the stuff about working with the child molesters and the rapists, because so often on this podcast, for one, I just find them fascinating. I'm... I've always been fascinated by the dark side of people. Serial killers, you know, all that stuff. 'Cause I think everybody has a shadow side and a darkness inside them, and not necessarily to that extent. But what is it that they go from thinking that thought to being compelled to act on it? Because I think we all think dark thoughts, and some of them, they're just fleeting, like a thought that is like, 'Ew, that was gross. Why the fuck did that pop in my brain?' to this continuum of, 'Oh, I'd like to do that,' to, 'Oh, I'm going to plan to do that'... 'Oh, I can't stop doing this!' How did you come to get hired at Coalinga, to be a forensic psychologist?


David: Somebody had called me, you know, offering a contract position. And me being very, very curious about the human mind and about psychology and behavior... You know, a lot of people would have maybe hung up the phone, you know, when somebody said, "We have a position up in central California working with child molesters and rapists." Most people probably would have said, "No way. I can't do that." Me? I said, "Bring it on. Let's do it."

Paul: [laughs] It's go ahead.

David: I said, "Bring it on. Let's do it." Because, number one, I had never done it before. You know, I was just...I had worked with some parolees, you know, who had done... sexual crimes. But I had never actually worked in a place that was full of child molesters and rapists. So, the offer came, and I thought for about five seconds, and I accepted. And the hospital itself is in central California, it's actually halfway between L.A. and San Francisco. It's about 300 miles north of L.A. It's in the middle of nowhere... in Coalinga. There's nothing around it. The town of Coalinga is very small. And the facility is huge. And the first thought that I had, when I walked into the facility, was, 'Where is the facility for the victims?'

Paul: Hmm!

David: Because this facility costs, I think, half a billion dollars. You know, 3 or 400 to build, and then a lot of money to maintain... and to staff. So, it's a very expensive facility. And they have, you know, daily activities... you know, all kinds. You know, you have sports activities. You have group therapy sessions. You have art activities. You have music activities. You have... learning activities, you know, where you can study things. So, the individuals there have, in a way, you know, on the outside at least, they have it pretty good. Because they're in a facility where they get fed three meals a day. It's well maintained. A lot of activities to partake in. So, on the surface at least, you know, they have it pretty good.

Paul: What percentage of the hospital...Is the entire hospital a lockdown facility?

David: Yes, it is.

Paul: And what percentage of the facility is for each type of thing? Like, is there a certain type where people, they've, you know, murdered somebody, and they're completely delusional, and they're a danger to society, but they've never committed a sex crime?

David: Actually, this facility, Coalinga, it's not a prison. The facility was actually created out of a sexual predator law, which basically... it was a place to start housing sex offenders who had completed their sentence, but they were not ready to be released onto the streets. So--

Paul: I see.

David: So, they made this law where the individuals can be diagnosed with a mental disorder and be kept in the facility based on that mental disorder, until they are... well enough to be released. And, in the eyes of many people, fortunately, not many people get out.


Paul: I was gonna say... So, people are not allowed to come and go as they please, but people aren't there to serve a sentence.

David: It's not a sentence. It's in order to be released, they have to have a judge in their county of where the crime was committed. They have to have a judge sign off on their paperwork to let them out. And, if you can imagine, I don't think there's many judges out there who are willing to have that on their... you know, that they started to sign somebody off to go home.

Paul: Yeah.

David: So, it's a political thing. It's also a legal kind of... complicated set of circumstances that... causes a lot of anger among the individuals, a lot of resentment, a lot of violence I would say. Because they're basically, they're being, they're gonna be kept there.

Paul: And they're there 100% of them there involuntarily?

David: It's completely involuntary. They've been... commanded, they've been directed, they've been to stay in the facility.

Paul: So nobody goes, "I should go to Coalinga, 'cause I'm a danger to society."

David: No, no, no. So, there's a lot of anger there and a lot of violence based on, you know, their view that, you know, there's actually, it's a funny kind of joke that's made about the prison system and this hospital that there are no guilty people; everybody there has not done anything wrong; they're all innocent, you know, according to them. So--

Paul: Mmm hm.

David: Yeah.

Paul: Well, I would imagine, to be somebody that is a serial molester or rapist, to live with yourself, you'd have to become an expert at justifying your actions... you know, to not be lying awake every night going, you know...

David: Well, that would kind of bring us into the personality aspects of these individuals. And actually, the individuals went to court to be called individuals. They we cannot call them patients. You know, or we cannot call them prisoners. They have to be called individuals.

Paul: Interesting.

David: Yeah.

Paul: So, you arrive there. What's your first set of experiences?

David: Well, I went through a few days of training before they actually let me into the facility. And during my training, you know, the trainers would tell you a lot of horror stories.

Paul: How to dodge semen?

David: Yeah... "Oh, you don't wanna...I hope they don't send you to this unit, or that unit, because that unit is really bad." You know, so they feed you a lot of stuff. So, you really start to shake a little bit before you actually go into the facility. So, I went into the facility, and... like I mentioned, the facility is huge. Sort of like the first kind of image that came to my mind was the Mall of America.

Paul: [laughs]

David: You know, cause it looks like a big mall.

Paul: Wow.

David: You know, it's a big open space. Huge... you know, ceiling. And, so--

Paul: Orange Julius?

David: No, no Orange Julius. [laughs] But, this is you know, I've been a meditator, and I've been a Buddhist for many, many years, almost 30 years. So, this is the moment that... really, where I had to put all my learning, all the things that I had learned from studying Buddhism and doing meditation into practice, because it was just too overwhelming.

Paul: Can you be specific about what it was that you did?

David: Well, walking through crowds of guys, you know, very scary guys, some of them very big, very threatening... looking. Guys who were, you know, cat-calling. Guys who were making comments, you know, "There goes fresh meat!" That kind of thing. Uh--

Paul: They should do extra time for being cliché.

David: [laughs] Right. Yeah. So, walking the gauntlet every day, or many times a day, was definitely a challenge where I had to really work through my fears and my anxiety, and, you know, my questioning of what I'm doing, what I was doing there, and, you know, 'Should I bail? Should I quit?' You know? Was I up to it? Was I good enough? You know... was I tough enough? All these questions go through your mind as you know, for all new employees, you know, when they walk in the facility.

Paul: Were you more concerned about your physical safety or your emotional well-being? Or both?

David: Definitely physical safety and emotional well-being as well. Because you have to you cannot look scared. That, that is will be the end of you if you look scared and you act scared, because they'll eat you up. You know, these guys are anti-social, you know, for the most part, very perceptive, you know, in regards to people's... state of mind. So, you can't walk around looking scared. You have to look like you have to walk straight. You know, you have to have your chest up and your eyes up, you can't look down. You have to carry yourself with some authority, you know, with some presence. Otherwise, like I said, you know, they'll chew you up and spit you out.


Paul: And were people routinely attacked there, or was it a rare thing?

David: A lot of fights between individuals, and staff also get assaulted at times. The actual housing is because it's a hospital, it's a mental hospital, is different from prison. Because, since it's a hospital, there's a lot of mobility allowed.

Paul: Even at night when they're sleeping?

David: They lock the doors at a certain hour. But during the day, it's basically you know, the individuals can walk around and, you know, go to their classes or hang out, you know, in the hallways, and things like that, but... They basically bunk up in dormitory style living arrangement.

Paul: How many to a room?

David: Maybe two, three, four people to a room.

Paul: OK. So, you get in there. You're aware of your physical safety. And what would you be telling yourself? What were the Buddhist practices to deal with having that body fear?

David: The idea, the notion of suffering is a big deal in the Buddhist philosophy. All beings are suffering one way or another physically, mentally, emotionally, psychologically. And these individuals, as well as the staff, go through their own experiences of suffering. It's... it's different for the individuals. You know, they're suffering because of their inability to control their behavior. They're also suffering because they majority of them have been abused. And staff also suffers because of the environment that they're being exposed to, the danger that they're being exposed to, the temptation that they're exposed to. Because staff, every now and then somebody will get walked off, and walked off means walked out of the facility, meaning fired, because they formed relationships with the individuals. And some of them have been fired for bringing contraband into the facility. Clinicians... You know, people who you wouldn't think would fall to the temptation of... bringing contraband in for either money, or for, you know, to maintain a relationship with an individual. Or because they were threatened. You know, they were trapped into bringing stuff in. So, a lot of suffering. This is barbed wire fences and thick walls to try to contain suffering. Because letting that suffering out would be a very dangerous situation.

Paul: Create more suffering.

David: Absolutely.

Paul: So, give me a feel for some of the people that you came across. Are you free to talk about any individuals anonymously?

David: It's actually a little like the general public, in the sense that there's all kinds of levels of offender. You have your completely antisocial offender who has no empathy whatsoever. Has no--

Paul: Would that be considered a sociopath or a psychopath?

David: Yes.

Paul: What's the difference between a psychopath and a sociopath? Other than the car they drive?

David: [laughs] Psychopathic traits are lack of empathy, you know, lack of ability to feel bad about hurting someone, but it's to the level where it's a psychotic level of disorder. Where the level of cruelty is probably a lot higher than a sociopath. A sociopath might or might not commit crimes. But a psychopath would probably most definitely commit a crime.

Paul: Is it fair to say that a sociopath may have empathy for some, maybe people around them, but treat others as if they're... not people?

David: I think that's a fair definition.

Paul: OK. Cause I think I remember reading that somewhere. Might have been a Mad Magazine, but I remember reading it somewhere.

David: I think psychopath is an actual disorder, whereas I don't think somebody can behave a diagnosis of being a sociopath.

Paul: I gotcha. So, give me a sense of the first group you said was people that are psychopaths. Do you want to talk more about them, or talk about another group?

David: There's levels. There's people who, at least on the surface because sometimes it's hard to tell who's being authentic and honest with you who actually have thought about what they've done. They feel remorseful for what they've done. They want to learn more about why they've done the things that they've done. They're more willing to participate in group therapy. They're more willing to talk to staff clinicians individually. So, that's another level. Unfortunately, percentage-wise, there's not as many of those guys, individuals, as the antisocial offenders. So--

Paul: The antisocial seems to make up the bulk of...

David: I would say so. Mm hm. And there's a funny kind of distinction between the child molesters and the rapists. For whatever reason, the rapists seem to have more status than the child molesters. And I think this is true in prison as well.

Paul: Everybody's gotta have somebody to look down on.

David: Right, right. So, it's a status thing in the facility, and in the prisons as well rapists get a little bit more respect than child molesters. Child molesters...if you're a child molester in prison, that's like a death sentence, because somebody will get you eventually. Child molesters are not looked upon with a lot of respect in prison.

Paul: Yeah, in prison, many of them need the, I forget what it's called, but kind of the protective housing, special needs...

David: Yes.

Paul: Which, like gang members that, you know, turn evidence against their gangs, and child molesters, I know the ex-gang members hate that they wind up being housed with the child molesters.

David: Mm hm.

Paul: I think one of the common misperceptions about people that have been sexually abused or molested is that they go on to molest and abuse. I've read so many emails and surveys from people who were molested, who are afraid to share it with loved ones or people in their neighborhood, because they're afraid that those people are going to think that this person is a child molester.

David: Almost everybody in the facility, you know, has claimed to have been molested.

Paul: But what do you think the truth is? Have you ever come across somebody where it was revealed that this person, nothing had happened to them?

David: I think it's pretty common. But I'm not sure if it's as common as 90 or 95%. I'd say it's pretty high though. And kind of the shocking thing.

Paul: Common that somebody was abused.

David: Right. Yeah. And during my training, you know, first thing that they have you do is read through their histories. So, and I would sit in my office with a big window, you know, where people could look in, and, you know, I'd start reading their histories, and, you know, my jaw would be hanging open, you know, because of the things that they've done to people, to kids and rape victims. So I had to sort of stop doing that, you know, because it's devastating reading through, you know, the history of these guys who've done very, very terrible things. So, I sorta turned around and didn't face the window, so that I could, you know, absorb and not look like I was, you know...

Paul: Freaking out.

David: Right. Exactly.

Paul: Were you able to have empathy for anyone whose actions horrified you, but who you found that person to have some part of humanity in them that you could connect to?

David: I always tried to... approach individuals and talk to them on the level of a non-judgmental frame of mind, because these individuals, being, you know, very, very sensitive and very perceptive of people's reactions to them, if you want any hope of, you know, being able to talk to them, or to get through to them on some level, then you have to approach them as another human being.

Paul: 'Cause I would imagine they would be searching you for signs of disgust, signs of judgment, if they're going to open themselves up to you at all. 'Cause I would imagine, people that are in there for that[laughs]... sounds like a ridiculous understatement, but have trust issues. So, would you be faking that connection to them to get them to open up? Or was it a genuine thing? Or was it sometimes one, sometimes the other?

David: I couldn't fake it; that's not me. The way I approach psychology in general not only these individuals but clients as well is from as authentic a frame of mind as possible. So, number one, the individuals, they would spot you out, you know, if you tried to fake it. So no, I try to be very, very honest, you know, in my presence with them.

Paul: You know, one of the things that I've read about child molesters is that to be able to do what they do, many of them are really good at reading people, because then they can say what they have to portray themselves as something other than what they are to get what they want to get, to earn people's trust. Was that something that was the result of a coping mechanism when they were children? Or is that something that they consciously learned as an adult once their, you know, their monster needed feeding?... Or is it hard to say?

David: Antisocial people are master manipulators, and it's probably, you know, partly due to their upbringing, you know, whatever their unpleasant upbringing was, where they had to find a different means of getting what they needed, or wanted. And that was a starting point, and basically grew bigger and bigger, until getting what they wanted and needed became their pathology. So, definitely they're master manipulators.

Paul: Do you think that's ever the payoff for them? That the sex, the sexual act, or the rage underneath it, is incidental to the victory of fooling, entrapping, being smarter than?

David: I think you're pretty spot-on with that. You know, they pretty commonly say about sex crimes that it's not about sex; it's more about power and control. And for the antisocial individual, power and control is what it's all about.

Paul: Do you find that individuals need bigger and bigger payoffs?... You know, the thing that I relate to about rapists and child molesters is, as an addict, I know that I compromised my integrity many times to fill the emptiness inside me. And I can empathize with somebody else who has that feeling inside of them, but is cursed with a need that is so much more antisocial than mine was. And, after I got sober, I noticed that it wasn't really about the drugs or the alcohol sometimes. Sometimes, I would get high from getting away with something, from, you know, almost getting caught with drugs on me, or, you know, almost getting pulled over by a cop, or something like that. And I think that's one aspect of people's antisocial behavior that doesn't really get touched on a lot, is the victory of 'I'm smarter than you are. I've gotten away with something. I manipulated.' The manipulation, the high of manipulating people, I think is an addiction that is rampant in our society, and, you know, can express itself in co-dependency, you know, 'I'll live with you and your drug addiction, or your, you know, shoplifting addiction, but now I've got a power over you. So, I'm not doing it really because I love you; I'm doing it because it gives me some strings to pull.' Is that a fair assessment?

David: I would say so. And it sounds like what you're describing to me about your experience... It's really, it's the process itself, you know, the steps that you take in order to get high, is probably equally as important.

Paul: Yeah, I would be high, like having endorphins or some positive chemical going through my body, on the way home with the ounce of weed on me, knowing I was breaking the law, but also knowing I'm going to be taken care of for the next couple of weeks, 'cause I have my... my drug of choice, my temporary god, whatever, whatever you want to call it. I'm going to be able to escape. I've got my key to open that door to get out, to get out of this body I don't want to be living in.

David: Mm hm. And, you know, pedophilia is an addiction. And, as you were describing that to me, it's really the same for pedophiliacs. You know? It's really the process, the steps that they take... You know, they "groom" their victims, and that "grooming" aspect where they get to know the child, and, you know, they ingratiate themselves with the child, and do things for them, take them places, you know, kind of, kind of basically to set them up for victimization. People who are, have pedophilia and child molesters definitely, that's part of the high, that's part of the addiction, is that process.

Paul: The presenting yourself as something other than you are, the fooling.

David: Yes.

Paul: Not for the sake of sensationalism but for the sake of understanding the humanity underneath the sickness, talk specifically about the typical child molester or the typical rapist. What's going on inside them? What are they thinking and feeling? What was their childhood like? Do they hope to get better? And I know there's a continuum of the experiences, but you got a chance to sit with these people in group therapy every day. Talk about some of the dynamics.

David: Well, before I get into that, I'd like to talk about the connection between sex crimes, child molesters, and substance abuse, because the percentage who I mentioned had been abused, the percentage of substance abusers is way up there too. And in a lot of the cases alcohol or drugs were a contributing factor, because, being addicts, they had compromised decision-making capabilities. They were high when they committed their crimes, they were high as very young children--

Paul: Isn't there also the drugs that their own brain secretes when they're engaged in the act that's addictive?

David: Oh definitely. It's kind of a runner's high for sex criminals. Adrenaline, endorphins. An outsider looking at the crimes they've committed without really any knowledge of these people as individuals, and not knowing the specifics of their cases and their family histories, don't really realize that neurology plays a role. And this is not to minimize the horrible crimes they've committed, the hurt and suffering they've caused to other people. But some of these guys are neurologically compromised, neurologically compromised meaning in order to do these horrible things to people, probably there's some process in the prefrontal cortex, which is the front part of the brain, which is the part of the brain that's responsible for empathy, and connecting with people, and having a sense of compassion, there's less activity in that part of the brain for criminals in general and for child molesters and rapists.

Paul: Well, two things that I've seen articles on, one showed pictures of brains of children who had been abused, they did scans of the brains, and there were damaged areas of the brain where it was compromised because of abuse, and the other thing is they measured the thickness of the cortex--what'd you call it, the prefrontal cortex?

David: yes.

Paul: And I guess the average thickness of the cortex was, I don't know, like 5 millimeters, and people who had been abused, that areas was 3-4 millimeters. So the brain, the development of the brain was changed. Talk about , if you would, I want to try to get a sense of a person in group therapy, what they share about what they experience when the urge to do this comes over them. What they're thinking and feeling. Do they try to stop themselves? Can you walk me through that, or is that too hard?

David: Well, the antisocial guys, first of all it's very hard to get them to come to group therapy because they're not guilty. They haven't done anything that would require them to come to group therapy. So that eliminates--

Paul: That scares the fuck out of me, that there are people walking around like that, because I guess I like to think that everybody has a little empathy. That is just chilling. Go ahead, I didn't mean to interrupt.

David: No, you're right, it's a very, very scary thing. And in the minds of the people who created these facilities, that's what they're thinking. You know, these are people basically there's no cure for a lot of these guys because enough of the brain functioning is gone and there's been so much damage to the brain that it's no longer a question of motivation. They might have a small inkling of desire to stop what they're doing, what they've done, but the brain and the brain chemistry just overwhelms any motivation to stop.

Paul: And was that set as children and adolescents, or was it added to that damage by acting out as adults?

David: Well, a lot of the antisocial guys were diagnosed with conduct disorder, which means that when you're a young person you start being very destructive, you start hurting people at a very young age, yoiu start torturing animals, that's one sign that a person is heading towards being antisocial. They stop going to school because of problems they create in the school environment, so that antisocial behavior doesn't just start at 25 years old, or 30 years old, or 40 years old. There are pretty clear signs that something is wrong.

Paul: What are the earliest ages that signs show?

David: Some as early as five, six years old.

Paul: And is there an age that if it hasn't developed by that age, it's probably not going to happen?

David: Probably you're talking about high school age. Once they get to that age and they have these levels of conduct disorder, then if they don't get some kind of treatment by that age, or very young, then there's very little chance that--

Paul: So if a kid starts showing that at five or six, a parent catches them torturing an animal, therapy, some type of intervention, can steer that child away from a life of psychopathic behavior?

David: In some, yes. It can definitely help some. Some, therapy is of no use because the pathology is so aggressive that therapy doesn't do any good.

Paul: And have all of those children basically been abused that show that, or are there some that are born that way, they're born with that physiology? Or is it hard to know?

David: A lot of abuse, and less so that they were born with the gene.

Paul: Would you call that an incredibly small percentage, or a small percentage?

David: I would say, thankfully, a very small percentage.

Paul: Ok. So some kids, their paths can be altered with intervention and intense therapy and learning coping mechanisms? What do you do with a kid that...And by the way, I'd also like to say, and correct me if I'm wrong, that if a child is torturing an animal, that doesn't necessarily mean that child is going to grow up to be a sociopath.

David: No.

Paul: Ok. 'Cause I don't want parents that have caught their kid pulling the wings off of bugs to go "Oh my God, he's gonna shoot up a school."

David: No, but it depends again on the actual situation, and what level of torture is the kid engaging in?

Paul: As opposed to lashing out, you know, you're pissed and you kick your dog. 'Cause I've read surveys that people have submitted where they were going through a really tough time and they jerked the leash really hard on their dog, or they maybe even kicked him out of anger, and I don't want those people to think "Oh my God, I'm a psychopath."

David: I wouldn't worry, that's an anger issue, that's not a conduct disorder. But if your kid is gradually cutting off the tail of the family cat section by section, then that's something that you need to worry about. Which I've heard some people do.

Paul: And do those children generally become aroused by that? Or that's not necessarily the case?

David: Sexually aroused?

Paul: Yeah.

David: There's probably a level of sexual arousal in there that is generated by the suffering that they're witnessing.

Paul: So we've got the one level, the psychopaths, then what would the other level be? The people that have some level of empathy?

David: Yes, and these are the guys that are willing to talk to you, that have some capacity to reflect on the things that they've done. And these are the guys that are kind of pleasant to work with because they will actually talk to you about their own abuse, things that were done to them, and their clinicians will try to help them connect those experiences of them being abused to the things that they've done to other people. So--

Paul: In the hopes that they will have some empathy for themselves and feel hope that they can change?

David: Yes.

Paul: Ok. Because I suppose the danger would be if they don't have any investment in getting better, if they don't believe they can get better, then all of that opening up is just a waste of time.

David: And this kind of brings us back to the politics of the facility and the fact that most of these guys are not ever gonna get out. How do you motivate somebody when there's no hope of them getting out?

Paul: So even those guys in this latter group that you're talking about, most of them, 99% of them, don't have a chance of getting out?

David: Right. They will probably never get out.

Paul: Were all of their crimes pretty horrible, even the ones that have some ability to self-reflect?

David: Some of them, in order to be put into the facility, they have to have at least two victims. So the level of severity, it varies. All of them have had two victims, but some of them have 10, 20, 30, 40, 50 victims. Or more. Maybe hundreds.

Paul: I got this email from a very contrite father who had molested his two daughters, and he had done his time and he got out, and there was alcohol involved when he had done these things, not that that excuses it but I think for somebody like that it probably made it easier for him to cross that line. He emailed me, he's in support groups for both of these things, he's apologized to his daughter, he knows that he has in many ways ruined his life. He gets released. Are there guys like that that are gonna be in Coalinga, or is he somebody that shouldn't be in Coalinga? Or is he right on the border of should maybe be in, should maybe be out? How do you decide? He's got two victims, they're his daughters.

David: In the public's eye, they don't see distinctions. So if somebody is a child molester, they're a child molester. Specifics of the case, in the eyes of the general public, are not so important. So this gentleman who molested his two daughters, he might be genuinely remorseful, contrite, want to go to therapy and try to understand his behavior. But if he's caught up in the system, he could end up in Coalinga.

Paul: When you say "caught up in the system", meaning he doesn't get a judge that feels that his contrition is valid? Is that really all that keeps him from going to Coalinga for the rest of his life? It just seems like there's so many cases that I read about or I hear people share with me where a father or a step-father or even a mother molested more than one person but that person is not in jail. So why are some of these other people that just have a couple of victims, why are they in Coalinga with no chance of getting out? Just happenstance? The judge?

David: Yeah, you could get a bad judge and end up in Coalinga.

Paul: Or some people would say a good judge.

David: Right.

Paul: Bad judge to you, the prisoner or whoever. That's fascinating to me, how differently someone's life could be just based on that. What do you attribute that to? Is it our wide variety of opinion about somebody's chance of doing it again, or how much punishment we think they deserve?

David: I think that there's a lack of knowledge among the general public because this gentleman who emailed you, probably there's a good chance that he could correct his behaviors and his actions, but a lot of people are not willing to recognize that.

Paul: Would it be fair to say that somebody...Let's say you're a child molester and you do your time and you get out, what are the chances that that person is going to stay free from committing those crimes again without some type of active support system, support groups, intense therapy?

David: Without a support system they most likely will end up back in prison and back in the hospital.

Paul: And abusing again.

David: Right. Awareness is really the key, and for a lot of reasons these guys have a compromised level of awareness, they have a lot of denial going on, a lot of neurological stuff going on like I mentioned, you know, that kind of compromises somebody's ability to make healthy decisions.

Paul: Does that have to do both with empathy and with impulse control? Are both of those a result of physical compromising of the brain?

David: Empathy and--?

Paul: Impulse control.

David: I think empathy is maybe more of an emotional connection, whereas impulsivity is more of a chemical thing. I think maybe what I'm trying to say is that empathy can be worked on, it's easier I think to maybe work on empathy. Impulsivity is probably harder to put in check. Some of these guys, you know, they have a day room, so when--and I'm not saying this to be sensationalistic or anything--but they wait for Toddlers and Tiaras to come on.

Paul: Wow.

David: And that's when they go to the day room, is to watch--

Paul: I'm just saying that 'cause it's a shitty show.

David: Yeah. I don't watch it myself, but...

Paul: And do they allow people to watch that?

David: It's a hospital, it's not a prison, so they can watch anything on daytime TV.

Paul: And are there guys that try to jerk off while they're watching it?

David: Yeah, there have been. Staff doesn't allow that, they will be yelled at for that, but...

Paul: That's gotta be really disturbing to watch. And I'm trying not to judge those guys that are sick, 'cause I know they've got such an emptiness inside them, and at least the ones that have some ability for empathy. The psychopaths I don't really feel much empathy for but those guys that...It's so sad. It's so sad, the thought that that's what your life comes down to, that you're in a state hospital waiting for Toddlers and Tiaras to come on so you can get the biggest erection of your day.

David: How pathetic is that. That's a very lonely place to be.

Paul: That's gotta be.

David: I mean, people looking at it from the outside, the public, goes "That's some sick shit." But there's nothing there. That's a completely bankrupt person.

Paul: How much of a choice does that person have in finding themselves sitting--and I suppose this is more of an ethical, metaphysical question than a scientific one--but how much of a choice did that person have in all the events that led to them sitting waiting for Toddlers and Tiaras to come on in a lockdown hospital?

David: I think a lot of it or most of it or maybe all of it was taken from them at a pretty young age. They never had the opportunity to learn how to keep their impulses in check, to learn about compassion. These are things that we take for granted, kind of, but a lot of these guys, they've never had access to those things. They never had the sources, the figures in their life, to teach them these very important things about being a human being. And again, the general public looks at them and goes "This person is just shit. Why should we feel any level of compassion for them? Why should we even keep them alive? Why don't we just drop them all into a hole and bury them?" That's how a lot of people think, and if somebody says "Hey, wait a minute. Let's try and figure out what happened. Let's try and understand how this person got to the place where they are." If you're that person, people start to go "Wait a minute, you're sympathizing. You're being a liberal. You're being too liberal", or "You're being too nice to them. You're excusing their behavior." Not true. Me as a psychologist, like I said about being curious, I really wanna find out how this person got to the place where they are. That doesn't mean that I'm excusing their crime, it's not that I'm saying what they did is okay, that's just ridiculous.

Paul: 'Cause you're not talking about "I wanna let 'em loose because they're sad...". I think it shows that you have an empathy for the rest of society that you want to try to minimize this from happening in the future to other people, so you can identify the family dynamic that turned that person into somebody who is either unable to control their actions or feels so empty inside that they don't want to try to control their actions.

David: That's the thing, is really trying to understand why they've done what they've done, so that we can know what the signs are, what are the factors that went into them becoming victimizers, and prevent other people from going down the same road. I think that's one of the factors in...We're seeing a lot more sex-related crimes, molestation, rape, in our society, because we go straight to the judgment without making any attempt to understand the hows and whys of their behavior. When you go straight to judgment, then there's no room for understanding. It's all kind of on an emotional level, but if we're going to stop or reduce molestation and rape, then we have to go to the source. We have to go to the guys who have done it, who are doing it.

Paul: Was there anything you wanted to touch on before we get to questions from people from Twitter?

David: There's probably a lot of things, but we can go to Twitter.

Paul: OK. "Was it hard to keep his job separate from his home life? Or were job-related issues constantly on his mind?"

David: Good question. So this is where again meditation and having the spiritual practice of Buddhism really helped me, because when I would leave the front gates, all this stuff would be going through my mind and I couldn't just let it eat at me, things I'd seen, stories I'd heard, behaviors I'd witnessed. So I learned really quickly that usually as soon as I got home I'd rest for a little while then I'd process this stuff through the process of meditation so that there was nothing or as little as possible remaining that was bothering me. And I actually recommend this to a lot of my clients, that if you have something happen to you during the day, something that made you really angry, really disturbed you, don't just let it sit there. Take care of it. Make an effort somehow, through meditation or whatever else you do, to resolve it somehow. A story that I have is a week or two ago I was driving down the freeway on a Sunday morning, it was 7:00 am, and there was an idiot tailgating me, 7:00 am in the morning and there's all these lanes open but he's gotta be six inches from my bumper. So he got off the freeway or whatever, so I was really angry and this background irritation stayed with me all day long. Whatever I did, I just wasn't there. I wasn't completely there. So that night I was laying in bed and then I said 'Hey, wait a minute, this thing's still bothering me.' So I got my meditation cushion and I did 10 or 15 minutes of meditation, specifically on this feeling of anger and irritation, and I worked through it and it really helped me.

Paul: How, specifically, did you meditate on this thing? Was there a thing that you said to yourself, do you have a mantra, did you focus on something, did you say something to yourself? What did you do?

David: Well, the first thing you've gotta do is find a quiet place with dim lighting, and you use the mindfulness formula, which is acceptance of what's going on, and staying present in the moment and being non-judgmental.

Paul: While feeling that rage at that person?

David: Yes. So that's what I did. I identified the feeling, which was anger and irritation. I didn't judge it, I just observed it, and I tried to really see how intense it was, see if there was any movement in it, whether it fluctuated in its intensity. And when I started do it, then a kind of insight took over and I started to--not intellectually--but I started to understand what this feeling of irritation and anger was about. Not on an intellectual level but on a body level, and once I got to that point it was pretty much resolved and I was able to sleep well.

Paul: Is it fair to say that you could then identify this was something that was happening in your body as opposed to this was defining who you were in that moment because it was this cloud that had enveloped your emotions and became your primary emotion?

David: Yes. And that's very common with anger and rage, is that we personalize it and it becomes us. It's like "This anger belongs to me. It's mine, don't mess with it."

Paul: This person has painted me completely from head to toe with this thing that I'm stuck with and it's never going to go away.

David: Right. You are the one experiencing it, but when we don't personalize it, then we can have some room for objectivity and for some understanding and some insight, some wisdom.

Paul: That makes perfect sense. I know sometimes if I find myself wanting to look at pornography, I will just say 'Oh, let's observe that part of me. Where am I feeling that in my body? Is it in my chest that I'm feeling an emptiness and I want to escape that emptiness in my chest?" 'Cause most of the times it has nothing to do with feeling horny, it has to do with feeling a piece of my soul or my chest missing and I want something that's gonna take me out of that feeling. And many times I'm able to just almost view myself from above and just see it, just like a tree blowing in the wind. I'm not a bad person, I'm just somebody who's experiencing something that I want to escape from and if I observe it, it does dissipate. But when that feeling comes up and that emptiness comes up, especially in the middle of processing something that's really difficult and painful, I think that feeling is gonna be there forever, and why not go to something that's gonna take me out of that. And I hope somebody listening to this podcast can take that, if you take anything from this, it's that everything changes. No emotion is permanent or has to be permanent if you find a way to process it or view it. Is that fair to say?

David: Yes. And I think this is a very important point. At least in Buddhism, impermanence is a big deal. That's the foundation of the Buddhist psychology, which is that every single thing is impermanent. Everything is moving, flowing, but our minds, our ego, wants to fool us, trick us, play us into believing that things are permanent, that things are never going to change. When I work with couples they come in to see me and I kind of ask them, the first question is 'Do you know what the two main reasons for divorce are?' And they say "Financial reasons and infidelity." And I'll say 'Statistically you're right, those are the two biggest reasons for divorce statistically.' But actually, in my view, the biggest reason for divorce and relationship difficulties is not paying attention. Each partner not paying attention to what's going on in their own mind, and their feelings regarding their partner, and being in a continual state of lack of awareness, that's what leads to infidelity, that's what leads to financial problems, that's what leads to lack of communication, that's what leads to domestic violence, that leads to all the negative things in relationships.

Paul: Interesting too, and I heartily agree, and the foundation of improvisation, if you study improvisation, the first thing they teach you is listen. Listen to that person and don't try to force your idea of the direction it should go, but be fluid with it and take what is given and then react to it. And that's the most important thing, and I think that applies to life as well, which isn't to say be completely passive, but really, really listen to what that person is and try to be flexible. "How does he feel about most of his patients as people? Anything positive?" Do you ever feel positive things, I think we're talking about dealing with the rapists and the child molesters.

David: Actually, I think it's kind of the approach I took to looking at these individuals as human beings, I got to know some of them very well, and they were very willing to talk to me. They wouldn't shut down when I approached them or in group therapy, so I got to know them on a personal level. I learned a lot from these guys, even the antisocial guys who had this chronic mask up. I could not discriminate between the guys who would talk to me and the guys who wouldn't talk to me because that's dualistic thinking, and dualistic thinking is very much discouraged in the Buddhist philosophy and the psychology. I heard somebody say that there's no such thing as trash, and what he meant was that every experience in life has some meaning in it, there's nothing that's meaningless that happens in life, so it's up to us to find that meaning. The temptation is to try to discard experiences, to try and chop them off and get rid of them, if it's abuse or trauma or whatever, that's human instinct, is to--

Paul: Or even our own fuck-ups.

David: Yeah, our own fuck-ups. But when we do that, then we lose the potential value in our experiences, even if it was a negative experience.

Paul: Yeah, you know, I strongly believe that pain and loss and all that stuff, it's a forced gym membership for the soul, and it may suck at the time, 'cause we're worn out and we're tired and we're on the verge of tears and we feel like we can't go on, but after we've showered and had a little bit of rest we're stronger for it, and we have more insight and we're able to take on the world in a way that is more prepared.

David: Yes. And what I was helping a person with a while ago was this person said something like "She made me doubt myself." And I said to him 'Well, wait a minute, let's take a look at that. Can someone actually have the power to control your emotions? Like if I say something to you that's offensive can I actually reach out into your brain and make you angry?' I can't do that. Ultimately it's a choice. Authentic insight and wisdom, at least in the Buddhist point of view, comes from dropping things off. We've got too many things up here already.

Paul: Or you think 'I need this and I need to achieve this and I need to be this person and this has to happen by such-and-such day', letting go of that.

David: Yes. And that's what I mean by appreciating experiences. Appreciate what we've done up to this point and just be okay with where we've been and what we've done instead of compulsively wanting to have more.

Paul: And is there a book you can recommend for people that want more mindfulness in their daily lives?

David: There's a lot of books on mindfulness. There's actually a Viet Namese Zen Buddhist monk named Thich Nhat Hanh, he's got dozens of books out, but particularly about anger and relationships. I think the book is actually called Anger. But people can go onto Amazon and check it out.

Paul: Probably the most fascinating book I've ever read about psychopaths, it was mostly about serial killers and profiling them, it was written by a guy named John Douglas who is considered the grandfather of serial killer profiling, and he wrote a book a while back called Mindhunter, and I don't know if everybody has the stomach for it, but if you have a strong stomach and you're fascinated by what makes people tick and how they express their sickness, and how to profile them, it is probably the most compelling book that I've ever read. After I put it down the first thing I did was put an alarm system in our house. But it is fascinating....What is the biggest myth about pedophiles and rapists, the biggest thing that surprised you in dealing with them that you didn't know going in and that the average person might not know?

David: The biggest myth is that they're completely evil. It's impossible for somebody who's never met a child molester or a rapist to see this, but if you actually talk to them, if you actually get to know them, then you will see that they might have done extremely terrible things, they might have a large part of them that is bad, but still you can occasionally get a small slice of humanity. There's nobody, I think, no human who is completely evil. And there's no human who's completely good. Things are just not that black and white.

Paul: Well I hope you guys found that as interesting as I did, not his part, my part. I find myself to be very interesting. I actually really want to put up a podcast where I cut out everything everybody says except my stuff, but people have told me that that might not be a good idea so I listen to them. No, I loved that. I like how I had to say 'No', like somebody's gonna think I wasn't kidding. I got a lot out of that episode, so many thanks to David for coming in and doing that. Before we take it out with a stack o' surveys, I want to remind you there's a couple of different ways to support the show. The website is mentalpod.com, and you can go there and make a one-time PayPal donation, or my favorite, a monthly recurring donation. God bless those of you that do that, and who transcribe the episodes, it means the world to me, it really does. Or at least a very large continent. The joke never gets old. You can also support the show my shopping at Amazon through our search portal. Make sure your ad blocker isn't engaged, and it's on the right side of the home page about halfway down. Amazon gives us a couple of nickels and it doesn't cost you anything, you cheap fuck. Wow. I don't know why I had to jump down your throat. I think you can also buy coffee mugs and t-shirts at the website. Could I care less about that? Could that have been more of a half-assed pitch? It's no wonder I only get advertisers about every third episode, sweet mother of God. Alright, let's get into some fucking surveys. Let's get into somebody else's failures other than mine. I don't feel like a failure, I actually feel very proud of what we're doing here on the show. This is from the Struggle in a Sentence survey, filled out by Jessica. About her depression, she writes "It's the feeling of just wanting to magically disintegrate into nothingness in the middle of the night and being disappointed when you wake up still there in the morning." About her anxiety "It's like every muscle in my entire body is always tense, and also feeling always on the verge of freaking out." About her anorexia "It was really comforting knowing that everything will be okay if you're hungry enough." Boy I find the anorexia and the bulimia ones, maybe because I've never experienced that, I find those to be the most illuminating, the people that can describe those. Maybe because I have experienced everything of every other sickness. About her panic attacks she writes "It feels like your body is rejecting you, moving through space without you, and you might die." This is from the same survey, filled out by a woman who calls herself Tillie Lou. About her depression she writes "Wearing a mask with a mute button and foggy lenses, all while being paralyzed from the brain to the toes." About her anxiety "Being stuck on a treadmill going twice as fast as your pace, with no one to stop the belt from removing your skin when you fall." About her OCD "OCD is to me as nursing is to a newborn." About her trichotillomania she writes "I find a hair out of all the thousands on my head. It's wrong, just like me, and needs to be removed, but it is part of me and cannot be discarded." Boy, her descriptions are so, what's the word, descriptive? Oh my God, Paul. Paul. About her PTSD "Like an infestation of cockroaches. Try as I may to get rid of pervasive thoughts and panic attacks, they just keep resurfacing." And about being a sex crime victim she writes "Too complex to describe in a few words."

This is from same survey, filled out by a guy who calls himself WindigoWando.  About his anxiety he writes "I know exactly what's gonna happen.  It's gonna be bad and I'll never stop thinking about it."  About his co-dependency "There's no 'me' without her.  The person I was before is gone."  And about his PTSD "Frozen.  Mind goes blank, I'm a zombie.  It's the only way to survive."  This is from the Body Shame survey, filled out by a guy who calls himself Kenny.  He writes--What do you like or dislike about your body?--"My stomach because I can't seem to get it to be tight with defined abs.  My nose because it's crooked and restricts my breathing.  My penis because it's circumcised and I wish it was bigger."  I've never heard somebody complain about their penis being circumcised.  Leave it up to human beings to find something new to dislike about their genitals.  I would like that on my gravestone, and then in parentheses you could put 'Paul's balls were lopsided.'  Same survey filled out by a guy who calls himself Where Did the Lighter Fluid Come From, I'd love to know the story behind picking that name.  About his depression "An anvil being dropped on every achievement."  About his anxiety "The fear that everyone will see me as I see myself."  That is deep.  And about his alcoholism and drug addiction "Please don't let it be alcoholism, drinking is great."  Oh my God, do I know that feeling.  Same survey filled out by a  woman who calls herself Anastasia, about her bulimia "Bulimia is a two-faced friend who strokes my arched skeletal spine as I bend over the toilet, encouraging me with 'There's only a little bit left now.  See how easy this is?  You're doing great' and 'Just think how happy you'll be when you're empty and you finally have something to be proud of.'  About her anorexia "Anorexia is my strength and my weakness, my determination and my lack of direction, my pride and my shame, my control and complete lack thereof, my savior and my executioner.  It feels like letting go, transcending and smiling as I'm descending into darkness and despair."  Boy, she should be a writer if she's not.   About her love addiction "Love addiction makes me feel like unless someone loves me it doesn't even matter if I love myself, it's all in the eye of the beholder."  And about her sex addiction she writes "My sex addiction feels like the only way I can truly let go of my memories of rape and abuse.  I close my eyes and leave my body.  I do what they tell me to do but I'm not really there, and afterwards I tell myself that I wanted it and that I want more, even though most times I didn't even want to be touched."  Wow, that is deep.  Thank you all for so succinctly describing your struggles.

This is from the Shouldn't Feel this Way survey, filled out by a guy who calls himself Ugh.  What would you like people to say at your funeral?  "Despite what he overcame he was so normal."  How does writing that make you feel?  "Bizarre that that was all I could come up with."  If you had a time machine, how would you use it?  "I would go back to look at eight-year-old me when they told me my mother had died, just to see if I took it as stoically as I like to think. I'm supposed to feel great about living in Brooklyn with a fantastic girl and being an attorney like I dreamed of in college, but I don't.  I feel like some under-achieving failure who has yet to truly begin living."  How does writing that make you feel?  "Awful."  Do you think you're abnormal for feeling what you do?  "Yes, despite having listened to your podcast for a year."  Would knowing other people feel the same way make you feel better about yourself?  "It has but not as much as you would hope."  And I probably should have read this, but the environment that you were raised in, he writes "Totally chaotic.  Raised by a widower father with crippling depression.  Not sure where that fits."  Well, whatever the description is of what that is, that sounds like a lot for a kid, and I hope you're talking to somebody about that, because how could you not?  I mean, that's being abandoned by both parents.  Not necessarily through their own choice, but that doesn't matter to a kid, what the reason is, as much as the fact that they're not there to mirror you and hold you and have you feel like you're important.  And the suggestion to make the podcast better is "I'd like a guest whose career has been a victim of the recession for the past few years."  The problem with that is trying to choose from the 60 million people affected.  Same survey, and this is just an excerpt from it, and this is filled out by Kristen.  About her 'I shouldn't feel this..', "I'm supposed to miss him and feel pretty sad about not seeing and not having a relationship with my dad, but I don't.  I feel nothing."  And you know when I read that, Kristin, I examined how I feel about my dad not being around, and honestly I come pretty close to not feeling anything.  And I felt guilty when I thought that thought, I had one really painful moment when I realized he was gone, because we used to talk about sports.  It was about the only thing he was really interested in talking about, and I wanted to ask him a question about college basketball 'cause it was March and I used to call him sometimes and say 'Hey, who are the good teams to look out for?'  And I started to pick up my cell phone, and this was like three months after he died, and I realized that I would never be able to call him again and that made me sad and I cried but I honestly have not had a moment since then in the six, seven years since then.  And I hope this doesn't sound harsh but I really think it's up to the parent to built those memories with that kid, and that the child shouldn't feel guilty for not feeling something when that parent passes away.  And I hope that's not harsh but I don't think people should feel guilt about whatever it is they feel, 'cause our feelings are our feelings.

This is from the Shouldn't Feel this Way survey, filled out by a woman who calls herself Floyd, and she writes "I'm supposed to feel great about my post-divorce fiancé, but I really feel better about my job and my life in general.  I'm supposed to feel nothing for my ex but I miss him.  I'm supposed to be angry for what he did but never was, I just wanted relief.  I'm supposed to feel great about my new life but I often think about the new professional gas stove and real exhaust hood that had I just bought and how I had planned to cook and have kids, and how that promise was broken and how he seemed to relish in crushing my dreams without providing any reason why.  I'd say 'If we have a girl I'd love to name her Rose' and he'd just shake his head like 'There's no way, not gonna happen.'  I'm supposed to hate him for stranding me repeatedly but I understand now that that was the only way he had to communicate.  I'm supposed to love my new guy but I can't stand the way he eats, smacking and inhaling food and cutting up all his meat into pieces like he's a child.  I'm supposed to love that my new guy is communicative, but once he gets going I tune him out because he's only talking to hear himself and doesn't let anyone else speak."  Is it just me, or does this guy sound like a douche?  I'm sorry, that's really judgmental, but he doesn't sound communicative.  It sounds like he talks a lot but he doesn't say anything, and you deserve to know why he promised to have kids and why does he suddenly not want to do that, and why is he not communicating that to you?  And then the food smacking is just annoying on top of the rest of it.  If he was this great, communicative guy that...I don't know.  I don't know you but you deserve better.  Anybody deserves better than that, and I don't know if this can be worked on with him, but I would take a Maserati to counseling.  Whatever the fastest car is that you can....although I'm sure that guy, if you ask him if he wants to go to counseling, he's gonna go 'mwa, mwa mwa, it's for pussies'.  Why am I so angry at that guy?  Maybe I'm angry that that is the state of so many relationships, is that we think that that's okay, that that's a great partner, that we settle for things until we realize sometimes that we deserve more.  Sometimes when I realize that I deserve something that I haven't been asking for it makes me angry, really angry, as if somebody else was supposed to figure that out for me.

This is from the Shame and Secrets survey, filled out by a woman who calls herself The Grass is Always Greener.  She's straight, in her 30s, was raised in a pretty dysfunctional environment.  Have you ever been the victim of sexual abuse? "Some stuff happened but I don't know if it counts.     My adopted father was very touchy. He always insisted on hugs and would grab my butt. Then a quick kiss on the lips. He did this to all of my female friends as well. I know they thought it was weird, they told me often that they didn't like the way he touched them. Another situation was when we were traveling together, I think it was for business, and we had a hotel room for the night. It had two queen sized beds, but he insisted I sleep in his bed and he spooned me all night. He was only wearing his underwear."  That is beyond inappropriate and clearly you didn't know how to say that you don't want that, and I wonder if growing up your thoughts or your feelings were not welcomed by your parents, and you were told that you were wrong, what you were saying or thinking or feeling was criticized.  Deepest, darkest thoughts "I often think about who would care if I died. Would anyone show up at the funeral or would they all sigh with relief that I am finally out of their hair. I sometimes wonder what life would have been like if I didn't have kids. I love my kids more than words can describe and they are still young, so I hope this is just a manifestation of sleep deprivation and stress. I picture comforting my mom at my adopted dad's funeral. I have been waiting for him to die since 1989 when the doctors gave him one year to live with a severe heart condition. The old bastard just won't let go."  Fuck, man, cut him out of your life, or set boundaries with him.  But I know it's hard man, with somebody that didn't raise us, to speak up for ourselves, it's like we don't know how to find the words and we feel selfish for doing it, so I feel for you.  Deepest, darkest secrets "I cheated on my husband when we were engaged and very shortly after we were married. With multiple men. I don't know why I did it, but this is the first time I have told anyone. I am deeply ashamed and feel very guilty. I know if he ever found out it would be the end of our marriage and I could never tell him because of the pain it would cause him."  Something that's kind of popping into my head is thinking you were sexualized as a child by this male figure, and it sounds like sex is maybe the way that you comfort yourself.  Sexual fantasies most powerful to you "I fantasize about being gangbanged. Men lined up, all hard and wanting me so badly. Then being covered in their cum as they explode with enjoyment of my body."  would you ever consider telling a partner or close friend?  "We sometimes watch gangbang porn together because he knows it gets me off, but I don't know if he knows I picture myself as the one getting fucked."  I would think he does.  How could you not?  I know some people picture themselves as the other sex when they're watching porn, but yeah, I wouldn't worry about him judging you about that.  And if he does judge you, why is he watching that with you?  Do these secrets and thoughts generate any particular feelings towards yourself?  "I am ashamed about my body and am sad that the scenario would never happen because no one would want to fuck me. I assume my husband does out of obligation and opportunity."  And she writes that filling out this survey has been cathartic.  I hope that you can get more catharsis and talk with somebody, starting with your adopted father, 'cause I would give serious weight to that.  I lived 50 years without giving weight to a caregiver sexualizing me and the puzzle is finally starting to make sense.

This is the same survey, filled out by a guy who calls himself T. S. Garp.  He is in his 30s, "Straight; not really sure, I have homosexual thoughts, but they may simply be intrusive thoughts."  Was raised in a little dysfunctional environment.  Mom and screamed at each other, drank and did drugs and trafficked drugs for several years."  I'd say that's more than a little dysfunctional.  Never been the victim of sexual abuse.  Deepest, darkest thoughts "I struggle with intrusive thoughts, such as murdering people or running people over with my car. I go to therapy and know these are anxiety induced thoughts, but it is still an uphill battle. I know these thoughts are not me, just today I collected a ladybug crawling through the halls of my place of work and took it outside, because I was so afraid it would be stepped on and I would have done nothing about it. Perhaps if I did this for people more often I would not be in a fight with my own psyche all the time."  I don't know, it's possible that you're a good guy and you also just happen to be in a fight with your psyche.  Most powerful fantasy "Having sex with a man has been a reoccurring fantasy throughout much of my life."  Would you ever consider telling a partner?  "I have told my wife, she was fearful for some time that I would leave her, but I have not and I have continued to be as great a lover and husband as I can be. So, I think we are past any fears."  Do these secrets and thoughts generate any particular feelings?  "I have always feared being found out and other men would despise me. It has made me feel as though I am a lesser man as well."  I can understand that because I think most guys, at least most straight guys, are afraid that we may have a gay or bisexual part of us and that's gonna be judged, but fuck anybody that judges you.  I mean literally fuck them.  I'm hating my jokes in this episode.

Same survey filled out by a woman who calls herself Mouse.  We've had surveys from her before, she has really good, interesting stuff to say.  She's in her 20s, she's straight, was raised in a little dysfunctional environment, was the victim of sexual abuse and never reported it.  Deepest, darkest thoughts "I have two recurring intrusive thoughts that never seem to go away. The first revolves around knives. I think about stabbing myself, accidentally chopping off my fingers or toes, even accidentally stabbing or dropping the knife on my dog. I’m sure Freud would have some interesting things to say about this particular fear. The second intrusive thought revolves around cars. I’m not a particularly good driver, and when I’m in my car, I can’t help but think about crashing, both intentionally and accidentally. I think of how people would react if I died in the crash. I wonder if it would be a relief or if I would feel shameful for it. I also worry that if it’s an accident, my friends and family will assume it was intentional because of my history of depression."  Deepest, darkest secrets "I was raped when I was nineteen. I was traveling abroad with a group of volunteers, and one of the group leaders wouldn’t take no for an answer. I was a virgin at the time. I repressed the memory for a long time, about two and a half years. One night, I argued with a friend, and she physically shoved me, which triggered the memory. I freaked out and started sobbing. At first, I totally blamed myself because I had been drinking and didn’t 'fight back,' though I did repeatedly say no. I’ve since been able to work through a lot of the issues surrounding the event, but it still affects my ability to be present during sex. At best, my mind tends to wander. At worst, sex becomes a complete out of body experience."  Big hug to you.  Sexual fantasies most powerful to you "Group sex. I fantasize about an orgy of beautiful people—all of them kind, open, and unjealous lovers. Having the loving attention of a group of people is highly appealing to me. I also fantasize about being in sexual and romantic relationships with women, though that’s not something I necessarily want in reality. I also imagine having rough sex with a man who restrains my hands above my head and won’t stop until I cum. Finally, I fantasize about being with my ideal partner—someone cute, funny, and loving who isn’t afraid to laugh during sex and who wants to chat afterward. I try not to think too much about this last one, because it hurts too much. I’m afraid that I will never find that person or experience that kind of love."  Would you ever consider telling a partner or close friend?  "Sure.  I feel like most of my fantasies are pretty tame, and I hope to fulfill many of them during my lifetime. I'm generally pretty open about sex."  Do these secrets and thoughts generate any particular feelings towards yourself?  "I’m not ashamed of my fantasies, but I am afraid that I will never be able to fulfill them. I’ve always had rocky relationships with the men in my life, probably as a result of my messed up relationship with my father. I’m afraid I will never find that perfect partner who will love me for everything I am, and not just the bits and pieces I show to the world at large."  You know, this is just my opinion, but I think we should give up the idea of the perfect partner.  Maybe I'm wrong there, but I think that places such high expectations that when we're confronted with the flaws that are there in every human being, we want to find somebody else, and all of a sudden we're in our head thinking about it.

This is from the Shouldn't Feel this Way survey, and I just want to read an excerpt.  This is filled out by a guy who calls himself Jack7, he's transgendered, gay, attracted to men and trans people.  "I'm supposed to feel good about when people care about me, but I don't.  I feel pressured to live up to some expectation.  I'm supposed to feel good about being complimented, but I don't.  I feel like the person who said it is lying to me.  I'm supposed to feel included and loved about friends throwing a birthday party for me but I don't.  I feel pressured and like I'm being set up for embarrassment because if it's just a regular party, or for someone else, I can slip away if it becomes too much.  A party for me makes me feel trapped and like the people attending will be nice out of obligation."  It just goes to show, it doesn't matter how other people treat us or feel about us, if we don't like ourselves.  And I know that sounds like such a cliché but it's so true.

This is a Happy Moment, filled out by a woman who calls herself Danielle.  She writes "When I was a young child, between 5-10, on sleepovers at my grandmother's house, she would put me in a cardigan and take me on a late night walk before bed (when I say late I mean like 8pm, in the summer we would be catching the sunset). We would get to chat about life and dreams and desires. It was so nice to just be able to express myself, openly, without judgment. My parents had divorced when I was 3 and I never felt like I could truly talk to them about anything because somehow they would find a way to use it against the other parent, or would find a way to complain about the other parent. But with my grandmother I could just talk and talk and she would listen. Just listen. There was no agenda, there was no fear that my words would end up being twisted and used against me or someone I loved. I could just be me. Just be a kid who was curious about the world."  And you know, the first thought that occurs to me, other than how beautiful that is and what a sweet person your grandmother was, is one of those divorced parents can be that person.  Divorce must just be a motherfucker with people, 'cause God, so many people handle it so badly and use their kids as pawns.

This is also from Happy Moments, filled out by Jen, and she writes "This is more of an absurd thought than a happy moment, but I have a sexual fantasy that is just me licking rainbow sprinkles off of a dude. It's absurd, and probably the only odd thing I've ever wanted. It makes me happy that I want to do this to someone, because it is crazy but also very sincere."  I love that.

This is from the Shame and Secrets survey, filled out by a woman who calls herself Andrea, and I paired this survey and the survey after hers specifically.  Andrea is bisexual, in her 20s, raised in a little bit of a dysfunctional environment, never been sexually abused.  Deepest, darkest thoughts "Suicide, pretty much every day. I think if I had a way of doing it that I know would not fail, I would have by now. I don't live in a country where guns are available but if I did I would have one and it would only be for suicide. Even if I'm not in the depths of despair, I wake up every day with this grey feeling, like I can't be bothered, there's no point to anything and I think I'd rather just be dead. I think about being attacked and how nice the attention would be. About breaking up with my boyfriend because I'm bored and fucking around with older guys. I check craigslist a lot, for men in my area advertising for women, and imagine answering one."  Oh sweet God, be careful.  Deepest, darkest secrets "I used to cut and miss it, I have masturbated while my partner is in the next room/asleep next to me and in one case, awake and watching a movie with headphones in and his back to me I have faked almost every orgasm. He thinks I enjoy penetrative sex and have G-spot orgasms but I don't, I can't, I don't even masturbate like that. He has been my only sexual partner and of course when you're young, and you start out, you feel like you want to be pleasing the guy so you exaggerate and maybe fake a couple of times but the lies just carried on and on and now I can't be honest about what I enjoy sexually because it would mean admitting I've been deceitful all this time. I let my dog lick my pussy when I was about 11/12, maybe four or five times. This shames me the most. It was my first orgasm.  It's why I think I'm so fucked up when it comes to sex. I wouldn't let my boyfriend go down on me for years but he enjoys it and honestly it's the only way I can come with him. Every time I get a yeast infection or something down their I get this rush of memories and guilt and I feel disgusting. I mean it wasn't like the dog wasn't fine with it, it's just a fucking gross, creepy way to start out with sex. I didn't start masturbating till maybe four years after - I should mention that only stopped when the dog didn't want to any more.  It's really been hard to get past. I could never tell anyone this."  Well thank you for sharing that, Andrea.  When I was first into puberty and had a hard-on all the time, honestly if I thought my dog could have blown me, I would have been trying to get my dog to blow me all the time.  And I read so many of these, if I read out loud every time somebody submitted one of the dog ones, it would probably be just about every week.  So just know that you're not alone in that and you're not bad.  Sexual fantasies most powerful to you "Most of my sexual fantasies come straight from hardcore, rough straight porn, where I'm imagining being the guy and looking at the girl from his perspective. I'm worried porn has really fucked with my fantasy life - I can't achieve orgasm now without being completely in my head remembering porn. My 'organic' (non-porn) fantasies all revolve around being with an older guy who really wants me, to the point of it being forced almost. I do have a lot of rape fantasies as well. I'm always drawn to craigslist ads where they guy is asking for submissive girls, I want to be taken advantage of, beaten, choked, used for his pleasure alone. Occasionally I fantasize about fucking a total stranger and it just being a secret.  The thought of giving a guy great head turns me on. No anal though. That frightens me."  Would you ever consider telling a partner or close friend your fantasies?  "I've talked about wanting to be submissive and we're fairly experimental with kink. I've mentioned to him that I look at hookup websites and feel ashamed about it but I haven't felt OK with asking him to do the whole 'let's pretend to be strangers meeting up from online and fucking' because that sounds a bit ungrateful."  I don't think it sounds ungrateful, I think it sounds like a healthy way to explore that desire and way fucking safer than looking for somebody that is looking to dominate you on Craigslist.  Maybe I'm old-fashioned but that just scares me, you hear so many horror stories about that.  "Also he has fantasies and needs that I have tried and failed to fulfill and it makes me feel shitty - I don't feel confident making requests when I can't fulfill my side of the bargain. I wouldn't mention my issues with needing porn to come because it's hurtful and will only make him feel shitty- I worry all the time that he's thinking about other things and people when we're having sex even though he swears he's not. Ironic, huh."  Do these secrets and thoughts generate any particular feelings towards yourself?  "Disgusted and ashamed at my dog thing."  Please let that go.  "I feel like a self-obsessed narcissist for wanting to be sub all the time, like I'm using sex to polish my ego, like I only want men to confirm how sexy I am and tell me how great they think I am. I feel so, so guilty about faking orgasms with my boyfriend. He is wonderful and the thought of being so consistently dishonest makes me feel awful. But I don't know how to change it now. I feel bad for wanting to fuck strange men on the internet but it's just a fantasy and no one's getting hurt so it's better than porn in my opinion. I hate myself for needing porn so much. Here I am trying to be a sex positive feminist and all my sexual response is tied in with grubby misogynistic porn. Luckily my antidepressants have numbed my libido a LOT and I don't look at porn or masturbate at all anymore, but I'm worried I've damaged my ability to fantasize normally with it. I feel like a terrible girlfriend and a lying piece of shit and a sexless, useless lump."  I don't think you're hard enough on yourself.  God, I want to give you a hug.  Any ways to make the podcast better, she writes "A hug from the host."  I would totally give you a hug, and I would encourage you to talk to somebody about that, maybe get into some type of sexual recovery support group.  I don't know, just a thought, 'cause there are a lot of people that have the exact same issues and feelings and hurdles.

And this is the survey that I wanted to follow it up with, filled out by a guy who calls himself Human Bean.  He's bi-, "Mostly hetero, but definitely have a sexual channel for the right guy, if he materializes." He's in his 40s, was raised in a pretty dysfunctional environment, was the victim of sexual abuse and never reported it.     Deepest, darkest thoughts "Last night, I masturbated to a video that had what appeared to be an underage girl in it. I let myself imagine that it was a ten year old or so. I have never had a fantasy about being with a child before, but just did imagine it to try it on. It was hot, but I would never act on anything like that in real life, as I have never sexualized a child in real life (as an adult)." Deepest, darkest secrets "When I was a child myself, I molested a couple of kids I babysat for. One I fellated, and the other (a girl) I fondled, and touched my erect penis to her vulva. No penetration, and I obscured her view from what I was doing. It has bothered me immensely over the years to think how that may have affected them later in life. I am haunted by it, and carry a significant amount of shame about it, even though I know I was a child who had been molested, and was just acting out. I know with my admission in the previous question that I must come off as some sort of pedophile, but aside from that fantasy last night, I have never had a sexual fantasy about a child. Having had that fantasy last night is what caused me to come answer this survey, as I think it is something I may never tell anyone in real life, even though I am an exceedingly open person. One more thing: I also used to force a couple of our family dogs to fellate me when I was about 12 (about the same time I was acting out on the kids I babysat for). I know it sounds unlikely, but it's true. I also have guilt around that. I was a messed up kid. What can I say. I can honestly say that the notion of mouth-raping animals has held no interest since that time." And I read that so the two of you, Andrea and Human Bean...I like when I can kind of pair up things people have done or experienced, so they can be reminded they're not alone. Sexual fantasies most powerful to you "I enjoy rough sex. Not super rough—just aggressive. I am a bit on the dominant side, and like to have partners who enjoy vigorous sex of all varieties. My fantasies mostly involve oral and anal sex (with me in the dominant position with woman, and submissive with men)." Would you ever tell a partner or close friend? "Always do—with the exception of the aforementioned fantasy last night of course—though who knows: I may well end up sharing it with someone. Depends if the right context ever comes up." Do these secrets and thoughts generate any particular feelings?     "Nothing bad. The fantasy last night doesn't really disturb me, as I know that it is a fantasy, and nothing I would want to engage in in real life. Kind of like women who have rape fantasies. Some fantasies are just that." Thank you for your honesty.

This is from the Shame and Secrets survey, filled out by a guy who calls himself Uncle Stu. He's male, he's straight, in his 30s, was raised in a pretty dysfunctional environment. Ever been the victim of sexual abuse? "Some stuff happened but I don't know if it counts. I was in the shower as an older teenager when my mom ripped open the shower curtain to show her boyfriend that I had a bigger package than he thought. I don't know why my genitalia was ever a topic of conversation for them, but I'm pretty sure they were intoxicated or on some type of illegal drug or substance. The awkwardness of that moment is frozen in my mind and I really can't look my stepmom in the face anymore despite still living with her 15 years later." I assume the woman who ripped it open was the stepmom because he's having trouble looking her in the face, because he says "My mom ripped the shower curtain open but I can't look my stepmom in the face", I'm assuming he meant stepmom ripped open the shower curtain.     Anyway, I'll get a detective on that. Deepest, darkest thoughts "My deepest darkest thoughts is that somehow I wish I had recorded my stepmom's intimacy with all the men she's brought into her bedroom over the years and I could watch them whenever I wanted to. I would show my friends and be proud of being associated with someone that was so unbelievably sexy and smooth and feminine. She is the opposite of me in so many regards and everyone flirts with her - including my friends. She is only in her early forties and I wish I could enjoy her with my friends and watch their faces as she had sex. I like the fact that she is so popular with so many people in every way. I privately think of watching her with my friends so they would think more highly of me and possibly associate me with her in some strange way. I would never do anything like that, but I also secretly wish I could have recorded her so I could always enjoy visually what I sometimes heard through the walls with her boyfriends. I can't get the sound of her excitement and screams out of my head." I'm not a therapist or a mental health professional, but those things are sexually abusive. Those boundaries, she doesn't sound like she has any fucking boundaries and because she's physically attractive, maybe she thinks that that entitles her to do that. And I'm curious as to why she's a stepmom but why he's still living with her if your dad isn't there. Or maybe your dad passed away. " My deepest, darkest secret is I received a hand job from a girl who let her older male friend watch. It was my first time with a girl and we were all in our twenties. I fantasize about that moment but am confused at why I was slightly turned on by a man enjoying my first intimate experience. I haven't acted on similar urges but the thought of making out or having sex with a girl in front of men is a secret that I don't know if I'll have the courage to tell a future partner." I wouldn't be ashamed about that. So many things that happened to us earlier determine our fantasies later in life. Sexual fantasies most powerful? "I fantasize about men watching me have sex with any future female partner from only a few feet away. I could never tell my friends because I would explode with embarrassment and shame.     These thoughts bring me great shame as I don't want to admit that being watched by other men might turn me on." Well, I'm hoping you can get to a point where you can accept that and I really hope you get to talk to somebody, a professional, about that stepmom stuff because she sexualized you. She totally sexualized you.

Let's get to some Happy Moments. This is from Eric, and he writes "Going to weekly soccer matches with my dad, watching our local team, and him showing genuine interest in me, and describing our time together as something he was looking forward to each game. This being at the age of 24, having had a strained and distant relationship to him up to this point. I later found out he was going to therapy, and talked a lot about me, and how great it was to his therapist. Getting to know him, not just as a dad." That's beautiful, just beautiful.

This is also a Happy Moment, filled out by Travis and he writes "I made my therapist cry at yesterday's session. She said, 'I am so happy you are progressing and using mindfulness on a daily basis.' As some who dislikes praise, I was shocked to find myself swelling with pride. I cried too and I walked out of the office euphoric." You know, I know therapists try not to cry, so she must really have been moved.     That's beautiful.

And this is from Jessica.     "When I was really little between the ages of 2-6 my grandparents took care of me during the days while my parents were at work. I spent a lot of the day playing on my own with my grandparents checking in every now and again. One of my favorite things to do was to sit and lay under the dining room table, I'd spend hours under the table humming songs, making up stories and watch as my grandparents walked around pretending they didn't know where I was. Every half hour or so my grandmother would poke her head under the table cloth and ask what I was up to and I'd tell her, I was flying is space or in Mr. MacGregor's garden meeting Peter Rabbit. It was safe and fun and I never felt weird doing it, I never felt alone. And then when I did come out I'd snuggle up to my grandmother on the couch and she would run her fingertips over the small of my back. It's the most love I've ever felt, I felt warm and safe and cared for and about." That's beautiful, thank you for that, Jessica.

And that you guys for supporting this show and letting me know that I'm not alone. And if you're out there and you're struggling, I hope you know that you're not alone, and thank you for listening.




























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