Bullying and the suppression of empathy and shame.

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On Friday, at the National Mall in Washington, DC, there occurred A Tale of Two Rallies: two rallies that clashed in a way that says everything about where America as a country stands in 2019.

As the Indigenous Peoples Rights demonstration was winding down, the March for Life anti-abortion rally was just starting. A large group of boys from Kentucky’s Covington Catholic High School were attending the March for Life.

An indigenous elder and Vietnam veteran named Nathan Phillips was standing alone on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, singing a native American protest song as he banged a small handheld leather drum. As he sang and kept rhythm with his drum, a large group of teenage boys from Covington began to surround him and taunt him, cruelly imitating his singing, dancing to the music in a mocking way, and shouting “Build that wall!”  Many of the boys wore red MAGA hats — a clothing item that is already becoming associated with hatred and racism, much as the swastika or brown shirts of WWII Germany eventually became associated with the Nazis and the Holocaust.

One boy in particular stood out, and the video of his silent and seemingly hostile standoff with the Indian elder has gone viral. I won’t name the boy, because I have no desire to ruin his life.   Although the teen’s behavior toward the elder was deplorable and cruel (involving a form of bullying known as physical intimidation — invading someone’s personal space),  I blame the environment he was raised in, particularly the environment of Covington Catholic, which has developed a reputation of fostering a culture of racism, sexism, and white supremacy in its all-male student body (though both the school and the diocese have apologized for the students’ behavior at the rally).

I do not think the boy in the video is necessarily a sociopath or a narcissist, although his behavior toward the elder certainly makes it appear that way.   There are reasons to think this boy is a normal kid who may have been doing this on a dare or to appear “cool” among his peers, and may also be being indoctrinated by his school and his classmates to harshly judge and intimidate people who are different than he is.

Jack Brown, MD, is an expert on facial and body language, and he writes fascinating Twitter threads and articles analyzing the facial and body language of celebrities, politicians, and sometimes, everyday people like this high school boy, whose facial expressions during the exchange with the elder proved to be far more complex than they at first seemed.

So I have taken the liberty of reposting Dr. Brown’s fascinating thread, which goes into great detail about the boy’s subtle facial cues, which while on the surface seemed threatening and bullying, showed fleeting glimpses of shame, anger, sadness, and even empathy.

First, here is the video of the incident.    You can use this to reference the incidents described in Dr. Brown’s tweets.

1/ On Friday 18 January 2019, in Washington DC, on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, a confrontation occurred between some students of Covington Catholic HS (a private, all-boys school in Park Hills, KY) & members of the Indigenous Peoples March – most notably, Nathan Phillips.

2/ The students were in DC to participate in a March for Life event. Many of the boys in the crowd were wearing MAGA hats as well as clothing with Covington Catholic High School insignia.

3/ Mr. Phillips is a veteran of the Vietnam War and Native American elder of the Omaha tribe. What follows is a partial nonverbal analysis of this event.

4/ At 0:06, we see this student display what is known as a Loose Tongue Jut. A loose tongue jut is a microexpression/near-micro expression signifying the thought-emotions of:

• I’ve been caught

• I’ve been bad

• I’ve done a stupid thing

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5/ During 0:07 – 0:08, we see a second student exhibit this identical behavior.

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6/ During 0:23, one student pushes another student toward Mr. Phillips in an effort to further encroach into Nathan Phillips’ personal space (intimate space).

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7/ A third student displays another Loose Tongue Jut during 0:34

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8/ During 0:43, we see the student who, in the remainder of this video, is the primary confrontational individual (here referred to as John Doe). He is shown here, in near profile, in order to demonstrate his normal chin contour.

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9/ This image (0:48) is captured shortly after John Doe and Nathan Phillips encroach into each others’ personal space. The expression on Doe’s face is a partial, sincere smile (Duchenne Smile).

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10/ Entering into another person’s interpersonal space (personal space and even intimate space) – is a body language behavior which very often provokes violence.

11/ While this is true for all genders, it’s particularly incendiary when two men are Whole Body Pointing toward each other (eyes, head, shoulders, torso, hips, and feet). Simply by turning 20º – 30º to one side will de-escalate the potential for physical confrontation.

12/ During 0:53, Doe adopts a significant component of Disgust – and his smile ceases to be sincere – ergo this is a Disgust-Pseudosmile.

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13/ During 0:55, John Doe begins to display a Jaw Jut – a forward displacement of his mandible – and here, indicative of an Adrenaline Surge. He is also suppressing laughter.

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14/ During 0:56, we begin to see a fascinating dynamic – the first signals of a tremendous example of Emotional Dissonance.

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15/ Although John Doe is primarily being governed by peer pressure – and mob mentality (aka herd mentality, pack mentality, gang mentality) – his individual personality is breaking through in his moment.

16/ Indeed, Doe is suppressing his empathy – specifically his feelings of sadness for indigenous peoples and/or Mr. Phillips specifically. Note his mid-facial tension.

17/ Although contraction of the “mustache area” and flaring of his nostrils are also associated with disgust – it’s also a dynamic associated with the suppression of crying. For a couple seconds, Doe is on the verge of tears.

18/ Please watch this video first at normal speed, then at 0.5 and then again at full speed – particularly this crucial portion. The details will then be more discernible.

19/ During 0:57, Doe’s jaw juts out further. He begins what is called a Hard Swallow (note his Adam’s apple moving up and down – indicating a dry throat and elevated anxiety).

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20/ Although we can’t them directly, Doe’s repositioning of his hands begins in this moment – most probably into his pockets. This is akin to a turtle retreating into his shell – he very much wants to leave, but peer pressure is preventing him)

21/ At 0:58, he tilts his head and neck backward and thrusts his chin forward – signifying strong feelings of Defiance. Here he finishes his hard swallow and the repositioning of his hands.

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22/ During 1:04 there is a resurgence of empathy-sadness (although some disgust as well).

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23/ At 1:05, John Doe Breaks his Eye Contact (he’s looking just past Mr. Phillips or perhaps at Phillips’ right ear).

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24/ We often break eye contact in such scenarios in order to suppress strong emotions. In this second, it allows Doe to once again break this cycle of empathy-sadness.

25/ This lack of eye contact enables John Doe to, once again, break into a sincere smile and a moment of suppressing laughter (1:11).

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26/ During 1:29, we see another example of emotional dissonance – a combination of disgust and tear suppression.

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27/ During 1:30, he breaks eye contact in another manner by looking down and to HIS right. Although this is obviously in the direction of Nathan Phillips’ drum, it’s also the quadrant to which most people look during strong feelings of shame, guilt, and moments of sadness.

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28/ Here, during 1:41, Doe is once again looking past Phillips.

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29/ And in the other direction (1:43) – disengaging himself from the intensity of this confrontation.

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30/ At 1:53, after Doe re-establishes eye contact, he re-escalates his emotions, becoming angry.

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31/ At 1:54, Doe looks away again – and immediately his anger is erased and we see the beginnings of a smile (with a hint of disgust).

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32/ During 2:23, we see a stronger example of Disgust. His partial eyelid closure, while not a requirement of disgust, acts as an amplifier.

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33/ During 3:21, another student, who is probably a friend or possibly a family member, begins to give John Doe a Shoulder Rub.

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34/ This is an example of emotional support and affection – but it’s also another signal of emotional dissonance. It’s as if the student in the blue jacket is trying to say, “You did good bro – but time to disengage”.

35/ He stops his shoulder rub at 3:22, yells/howls repeatedly – and displays multiple pseudo-chest/abdomen beating gestures. He exhibits a Loose Tongue Jut during 3:28 – as his psyche declares a mea culpa – calling himself out for his mocking of indigenous peoples.

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36/ He turns to walk away – retreating to the back of the crowd – but not before he displays yet another loose tongue-jut (3:30).

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37/ SUMMARY: Many students of Covington Catholic High School, along with some others who were in this crowd, displayed blatant racism toward indigenous peoples in Washington DC on 18 January 2019.

38/ One individual in particular deliberately maintained his position in Nathan Phillips’ personal space. Mr. Phillips was, of course, vastly outnumbered and elderly – however, in many (most) similar scenarios, this student’s act would have provoked violence.

39/ The display of disgust in this situation is profoundly noteworthy. Outside of the context of true self-defense, in order to for the psyche to inflict harm on another person or group, it must view them as less than human.

40/ Those who commit such acts need to see their victims – as “others” – beneath them. Disgust is the emotion which encapsulates this feeling. Indeed, disgust is the most common emotion displayed by people committing hate-crimes and acts of mass violence.

41/ This phenomenon was well-documented during the Holocaust.

42/ While this incident in front of the Lincoln Memorial was certainly an example of peer pressure and mob mentality, it also exemplified cognitive and emotional dissonance.

43/ The primary confronting student’s emotions oscillated from disgust, anger, and even taking joy in his deliberate intimidation – but also to sadness, empathy, guilt, shame – and several times he was even near-tears.

44/ In the near future, this student will very likely appear in a public setting/television interview, where he will apologize. A written statement (usually prepared by an attorney) is nowhere close to a sincere or meaningful apology.

45/ In giving a public apology, with high probability, he will break down in tears – and it will become, for him, a fundamental life inflection point. It will be healing. Such a public apology will permanently up-regulate his empathy.

46/ Alternatively, if he neglects to undertake this difficult, but emotionally intelligent act – he will most probably spend the rest of his life digging in his heels and rationalizing his bad behavior.

 —  Dr. Jack Brown, MD

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My takeaway is similar to Dr. Brown’s conclusion:  this incident will be a pivotal event in this boy’s life.  If he takes the high road and chooses to acknowledge his barely suppressed empathy and shame, and publicly (or even privately) apologizes, he will feel painful emotions but will be able to redeem himself.  He will have learned a valuable life lesson and his empathy will henceforth no longer be so hidden.  He will grow up into a man who can truly care about others.

But, coming from a school environment having a reputation for racism and “othering” people who are different, combined with peer pressure from classmates who may be more sociopathic than he is, he may choose not to acknowledge his feelings of cognitive dissonance, and not apologize, which will make it easier for him to suppress his empathy and shame in the future.  As Dr. Brown pointed out, should he choose that road, his personality, still malleable due to his youth, could turn sociopathic or narcissistic.

*****

Follow Dr. Jack Brown’s Twitter page:

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Sociopaths rule America — but there’s an easy way to identify them.

<> on January 7, 2016 in Washington, DC.
The above photo, taken at a beer party celebrating “Trumpcare” passing the House last May, drove home to me exactly how cruel and sadistic Trump’s people really are.   It hit me like a ton of bricks.  They are literally laughing over millions of people losing their healthcare.

Since the very beginning of his term, Trump has surrounded himself with people who seem to lack empathy, conscience, or any sense of morality or scruples.    The good people left this administration early on, or were fired.   Later, those people who weren’t so good, but who still had some semblance of a conscience or morals lost their jobs or resigned.

By a process of attrition, Trump’s cabinet is now almost 100% sociopathic.    Trump doesn’t seem to care if the people who work for him care about We the People or have any sense of right from wrong or duty to the country.  In fact, it’s better for Trump if they don’t.   All Trump cares about is their loyalty to him.      Never do you see a shred of empathy from any of these people.   Human suffering doesn’t seem to bother them.  In fact, they seem to delight in causing it.   They never apologize or admit wrongdoing.  In fact, they’re very likely to project their own wrongdoings onto others, smearing and gaslighting innocent people and groups.  Their greed, sense of entitlement, arrogance, and selfishness is bottomless.   We have grifters like Scott Pruitt, whose outrageous and illegal fleecing of the taxpayers for his own self-benefit and entertainment may rival or even surpass Trump’s own.   As if it’s not already bad enough he’s ruining the environment and destroying the EPA from within (which is entirely intentional).   And yet he keeps his job.   In fact, Pruitt may be the one who gets to fire Bob Mueller should Trump fire Jeff Sessions.

All of the people working for Trump, based on their actions and words, seem to have one of the Cluster B personality disorders, most likely NPD, Antisocial PD (sociopathy), or psychopathy.    Many of these people are likely malignant narcissists, like Trump himself.  They serve as his flying monkeys and yes-men. 

There may be one or two non-disordered people left in the administration, who have severe problems with codependency and therefore have some pathological need to be pleasing to Trump, but I think even most of those people have been fired.  People with normal levels of empathy, who don’t feel entitled to cheat and steal, who care about the rule of law, and who have any integrity at all are nonexistent in this administration, and that is scary.

Their one saving grace is it’s fairly easy to identify them.

You can see it in their faces.

One thing I’ve noticed about Trump’s cabinet members, his most fervent sycophants and enablers,  his three elder children, and many Republicans who support this president is the deadness in their eyes.    Their eyes are cold, hard, and flat.   Sometimes they appear black, as if they are lacking irises.  When they smile, the smile doesn’t reach their eyes, making the smile appear mocking or threatening, or at the least insincere.

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NRA spokesperson Dana Loesch showing those cold, dead, black eyes.  Her expression is constantly angry and hate filled.   I strongly suspect malignant narcissism.  Coupled with those eyes that look like miniature black holes, her overall appearance is extremely intimidating — and that may be the point of using her in their ads.

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Jared Kushner has possibly the deadest looking eyes I’ve ever seen on a living person.  He literally looks like he’s dead.   He sold his soul a long, long time ago. Trump’s three oldest children also have the same dead look, though not as pronounced as Kushner.

A few of these people, rather than having those dead reptilian eyes, have eyes that sparkle with psychopathic glee, and they often wear a smirk, especially when they know their policies are hurting others (I’m looking at you, Paul Ryan).

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When is Paul Ryan ever not smirking?   Sometimes I think it’s his only facial expression.

Trump himself has eyes that are so scary I really can’t look at them.   I can’t even look at his face anymore, because I feel evil emanating from the image itself.   I feel like something in my soul is being eaten every time I have to look at him.    Malignant narcissists like Trump get worse over time, especially if they are given access to a great deal of power and influence.  Narcissistic supply is like a drug that increases the malignant narcissist’s need for even more adulation and worship.  As they try to consolidate even more power, their malevolence increases, and this can be chillingly seen in Trump’s facial expressions over time.   He never laughs.  When he smiles, which is rare, his smile is fake and never reaches his eyes.  Most of his recent photos are like this one, showing a combination of malevolence and childish petulance.  Others show him looking as enraged as a rabid dog, especially the ones taken at his hate-rallies.

President Trump Holds Joint Press Conference With Japanese PM Shinzo Abe
Trump’s default expression (besides abject rage) is childish petulance mixed with malevolence and festering hate.

Jack Brown, MD, is a physician who is an expert in reading body language and facial expressions.     He said there is a particular expression that sociopaths and malignant narcissists use much more frequently than normal people: what he calls the Elevated Central Forehead Contraction with a Partial (Insincere) Mouth Smile.  It’s a closed mouth, fake smile with the eyebrows drawn together as if the person is frowning.  It’s similar to a smirk, but not quite.  The overall effect is  mocking condescension and cruel contempt.   Brown says this expression is used often by serial killers, mass murderers, hardened criminals, and by everyday bullies and other people who lack empathy.

Here’s a very obvious example of this expression on hedge fund manager and convicted felon Martin Shkreli (the guy who became infamous for jacking up drug prices to ridiculous rates, making them unaffordable for most people).  He used it continuously while on trial during questioning.

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Martin Shkreli on trial, displaying Dr. Brown’s Elevated Central Forehead Contraction with Partial Mouth Smile, a dead giveaway of a disordered personality.

Here is the same expression, on Trump (who seems to use it quite frequently):
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Brown says the ECFCWPMS is a default expression for Vladimir Putin (it’s a lot more subtle on him but is ever-present).  Putin appears to be a pure psychopath, rather than a malignant narcissist (which is why Trump looks up to him and tries to curry his favor).  Pure psychopaths are “stronger” than “mere” narcissists, who have that pesky neediness and emotional vulnerability that bring them so much shame.

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Stephen Miller (below) combines a cruel smirk with the reptilian dead eyes.  I think of him as the Joseph Goebbels of the Trump administration.   Trump naturally adores this guy and will probably never fire him.

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Identifying human predators. 

If you are face to face with a sociopathic personality, you may feel as if their eyes are boring into your soul.   This is because they are human predators — they are sizing you up as potential prey and victims.   On a date or with a new person, you may feel as if the predatory stare indicates sexual or romantic interest. Failing to make the distinction between the predatory stare and sexual/romantic interest leads many a woman (and man) into dangerous and abusive relationships with people who live only to use other people because they don’t see them as fully human.

Beauty tip:  Constant lying may ruin your appearance! 

Another thing I’ve noticed is several of the women in the Trump administration, especially those whose job requires them to lie constantly to the public, attain a facial asymmetry that gets worse over time.   It also seems to age them faster than normal.  I don’t know if there’s anything scientific behind this phenomenon, but I have come to believe that constant lying will do this to your facial features.  If you want to retain your physical beauty, then, tell the truth!   Lying is, apparently, bad for both your soul and your physical appearance!

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Huckabee Sanders looks like this whenever she’s lying.  Her eyes literally focus in two different directions and is very unsettling.   She’s only 35 years old but looks like she’s in her 50’s.  She has aged visibly since she took this post.

Kellyanne Conway
Can you trust a face that looks like this?   Constant lying has apparently done this to Kellyanne Conway’s face.  She used to be a fairly attractive woman until she took her job in the Trump administration.

The other day I read an article that said there is a new bill the GOP is trying to pass that will require a photo of Trump (and Pence) to be hung in every Post Office.   That’s something dictators do, not leaders of democracies.   Isn’t it bad enough we are daily inundated with sound bites and constant images of this president?  We can’t get away from him.  No other president has dominated the media, our conversations, our thoughts, and our very lives the way he has done.
What’s next — requiring that every American household hang a photo of Dear Leader in a conspicuous place, like they do in North Korea?

The old saying about “birds of a feather” are true.  Sociopaths and malignant narcissists like Trump attract other sociopaths and malignant narcissists, and they seek them out.   That’s because they know anyone with a conscience or empathy for others will refuse to work for them.    That’s where we’re at now.   We’re a country run by sociopaths.

For the sake of our own souls, our nation, and the world, learn to identify them.

I think Melania Trump is an abused woman.

I think Melania Trump is showing signs of PTSD.  Watch the way she flinches and looks uncomfortable when her husband passes her and touches her arm, before she starts to recite the Lord’s Prayer at the Trump rally in Florida last week.  Also watch the smug expression on her husband’s face after he passes her.

Melania has admitted she hates the position of being First Lady (because she is apparently an introverted, shy person — and English is not her first language), but I wonder if there is something more going on than just natural reticence and a dislike of being in the public eye.     I find it strange that she has rarely been seen in public with Donald, and seems to prefer to remain in New York with Barron, meeting up with her husband only rarely.   Whenever she is with him, she looks miserable and scared, and her smile is VERY fake.   When he does touch her, she always seems to stiffen, if not outright flinch.  She seems either disgusted by, or afraid of him, and possibly both.

There is also this video of Trump and Melania attending a worship service.   Melania is either moved by the song (which is very spiritual) or is just feeling sad and miserable, and toward the end she is wiping away tears, but Donald just sits there, with his arms folded, not offering her a hand on the shoulder or a hug or even a word of comfort.   He never shows any affection or love toward his wife, and appears to treat her like an object or a prop, just like the extreme narcissist he is.

Most of us also remember that viral video of Melania’s reaction to SOMETHING Trump apparently said to her during the inauguration proceedings (he smile disappears and face falls as if he just broke her soul).  This video also shows other evidence of Trump’s and Melania’s body language, that seems to indicate to me she is being abused.

Donald seems to ignore her or walk in front of her whenever they are in public, as if he’s ashamed to be seen with her or just oblivious to her presence.   During his inauguration, he just walked ahead of her, and Obama and Michelle had to lead Melania up the steps instead.   In contrast, Obama always acknowledges his own wife’s presence and seems to treat her respectfully and affectionately when they are together in public.

Some cynics criticize her for being a gold digger and says she got what she deserved.  Personally, I don’t care why she might have married him.   Maybe it was for his money, or maybe she really did love him, or maybe she’s a codependent type of person who is attracted to narcissistic men.   Donald probably lied to her  and swept her off her feet, the same way he is lying to an entire nation and appears to have swept at least some of his supporters off their feet.  I feel sorry for Melania. I think she is a quiet, sensitive person who is being slowly destroyed by this man. She’s smart to stay behind in New York with Barron.   She needs to leave him.  He may not be physically abusive of her (though the flinching makes me suspect he probably is) but he is clearly at least emotionally abusive and she seems miserable.  Melania Trump is literally a prisoner in a gilded cage.

This post is just my opinion.  I have no proof that he is abusing her, but I think there’s a good case to be made that he is.