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Sentencing and Psychopathy

There is increasing evidence that psychopathy results from an interaction between genes and environment. In fact the genes responsible and their interactions with early life experiences have already begun to be elucidated. (See Bad Nature Bad Nurture). Eventually individuals we call sociopaths will be shown to have extremes of physiology that contribute to the disorder. Note that I say extremes of physiology; there will always be people who have various physiological findings in common with individuals with psychopathy who do not manifest the disorder.

I spend many hours a week talking with people who have been victimized by psychopathic individuals. This past week, a severely affected psychopathic man gave testimony in court that painted himself in a good light. Specifically, all of the testimony was a lie and everything he does wrong, he denied and replaced these acts with the correct course of action. In my opinion, this indicates this psychopathic man has full awareness of:
1. What he did.
2. How others would view what he did.
3. What the correct course of action should have been.

With this little story, I have set the stage to discuss something that is not talked about much. That is the severity of the manifestation of psychopathy is a choice. For various and even random reasons a person with abnormal physiology could make good choices and that would change the course of the disorder. I view the “disorder” as a condition that makes the choice to harm others more likely. I also think that decisions to harm others can start very early in life for these people, but a sizable percentage don’t start with the choices until their 20s. Joey Buttafuocco is a good example of that kind of person. For more see Getting It Through My Thick Skull: Why I Stayed, What I Learned, and What Millions of People Involved with Sociopaths Need to Know

This past week an article about how Judges might consider psychopathy in sentencing was published in science and discussed on NPR. When Judges had knowledge the person was psychopathic they tended to give longer sentences. However, when Judges received evidence of psychopathy and physiological disturbance they tended to give shorter sentences. The shorter sentences presumably resulted from the belief that physiology diminished choice. Punishment is based on the notion that a choice was made to perform the crime… less choice less punishment.

Logically, it doesn’t make sense to give a person who has diminished choice a shorter sentence if that means the person will return to society to do more bad things that are beyond their control.

In Just Like His Father (2006) I ask the question, “If society were to stop holding psychopaths/sociopaths accountable for their actions what would we do with them?” This question will be increasingly important as science progresses.

Please listen to the NPR Podcast and comment


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18 Comments on "Sentencing and Psychopathy"

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Liane, very ineresting question…

The problem is that courts and police investigators first have to learn to recognize psychopathy.

There’s a recent investigation going on regarding the death of a 14 year old girl, Priscilla Sergeant. Her body was found dumped. They have 3 suspects in arrest, all neighbours of her: an adult man Johan D.V. (41), A.B. (16) and a boy of (12, his name is not published). They were all neighbours, non related to each other. She died in the house of the adult male, but he claims it’s the fault of the two boys who bullied her (more like torture than bullying). He claims, or at least his lawyer does, that he’s a patient of a pain clinic and sick and under painkillers not physically able to have controlled the two boys nor stop them. That he can’t be held responsible tobe the caretaker of kids since he’s a physically sick and weak man. However, he has at least admitted that sometimes he helped the boys (like smearing her in dog shit), but still claims the boys are the masterminds behind it. The adult man also ‘doesn’t really remember what caused her death’. She had in fact ingested stuff that burned her stomach.

Eventually they all claim to went to sleep, including the victim, but when they woke up they found she was dead. The adult male claims to have wanted to call police, but the 16 year old so-called-mastermind dissuaded him to do so, and instead they hoisted the body in the trunk of his car and dumped her afterwards.

The problem is that even police seems to believe this adult’s version. And I’m thinking BULL! That a 16 year old sociopath can be menacing, deadly and threatening I do not doubt. But since it happened in his house, he helped out, he hoisted her in the car and dumped her, while waving off ANY responsibility and many pity-play red flags are jumping out, my guess is that he’s the mastermind of it really, and he found a fellow demon in the 16-year old who dragged the 12-year old as a minion along with him. I highly suspect the adult man was the mind, the 16-year old was the physical powertool, and the 12-year old a following minion. And not to forget the fact that Johan D.V. actually was present during her funeral after her body had been found (20 july), before police found the suspects! It all screams SPATH to me

Darwin’s mom,

That does sound like a good assessment (that you made) to me. Of course wihtout more information, there is no way to tell, but I don’t buy the guy’s PITY PLAY at all and that is what it is. Don’t we all know the pity play as a typical psychopathic ploy?

Liane, like you, and as I have stated many times before, the analogy of the “alcoholic” and what he/she does because they choose to drink comes to mind where the psychopaths are considered.

We DO hold alcoholics ACCOUNTABLE because even though we know that there are GENETIC tentendies for person A to become addicted to alcohol more than person B who does not have those tendencies, none the less if an alcoholic gets behind the wheel of their car and drives, killing someone, they are held criminally accountable though they may not at the time have had good judgment because of the alcohol, but the CHOSE TO DRINK and then CHOSE to drive.

Even though they are “addicted” to the mind altering substances, they had a CHOICE to consume it or not.

Psychopaths have I believe a “naturally” occurring “drug”–the RUSH they get from taking risks. The brains secrete hormones that give a “high” to the psychopath from taking risks of any kind and getting away with it.

We all do “risky” behavior that is “fun” for us, that’s why rides at theme parks are profitable enterprises, they give us the chemical thrill, but without the actual physical “risk” involved, and people who sky dive, drive motorcycles, race cars, race horses, ride bucking horses and bulls, rock and mountain climb, etc. are “risk takers” and get that brain chemical thrill…but in a SOCIALLY ACCEPTABLE way.

Psychopaths seem to get the THRILLs sometimes just from causing chaos or pain in another person. I think that is why sadistic killers torture their victims. It gives them that thrill of causing pain to others. Gives them a feeling of control, the “god like” control they have over their victim.

As far as I am concerned I don’t see a need for an understandable “motive” in why these individuals tortured and killed the poor girl that Darwin’s mom mentioned, except that they enjoyed hurting someone else. It gave them a thrill and a release of brain chemicals that were pleasurable to them the same way someone else might get a thrill on an amusement park ride.

They had a CHOICE though in where they sought their “thrills” and maybe though they had a higher need or desire for “bigger thrills” they still had a CHOICE and they chose not to make the socially acceptable one. To me that does not mean that they should receive shorter sentences,, to me it should mean life without parole.

Liane, I was JUST thinking about this issue today as I was driving. Before understanding who my ex spath really was, I was anti-death penalty and was a bit on the fence about sentencing someone to a harsh and long sentence. Now, I only worry about the death penalty because our justice system is so flawed. (I digress a bit)

The main thing that had me thinking is the realization that my ex is sick (because I think someone without the ability to feel and have a soul is sick) BUT that he is also responsible.

I hate that the courts would look at someone who lacks emotion as someone who is less able to make a choice. When my ex committed all the terrible crimes he did – he knew EXACTLY what he was doing. He CHOSE to commit them because he knew he could get away with it. He has enough self control to stay away from the overt crimes that will land him immediately in jail (even though I am sure he would do those too if he thought he could get away with them).

For people like my ex (psychopaths), I believe they need to be locked up with the key thrown away. There is no doubt in my mind that there is NO CURE for people like this. The only answer is to get them off the streets so that cannot continue to go around terrorizing. Instead, however, they are able to find professionals who pity them enough to let them live amongst us. 🙁

And an “S” be tattooed on their forehead in case they get out of prison but tell them “everyone who is like Superman gets that tattoo” so they’ll give you consent to do it. At least I know my ex would’ve fallen for it since he’s so into himself which I believe is that narcissistic property in there.

I have been told by the sociopaths themselves who have been in my life that they know exactly what they are doing and are very cunning and calculated about it. It was always a question I had since I was very young was “do they know how badly they are hurting me? Do they know or are they unaware of the pain they cause?” I struggled with this believing my heart and “he knows not what he is doing”. I just wasn’t sure so I sought this answer over the years and managed to find out my ex of 18 years confirmed he’d known and the father of my child (fling after 18 year abusive relationship ended for good) in an attempt to trump my exes honesty I spoke appreciatively about told me how he actually can spot the “me’s” in a crowd. It’s very scary but I’m glad I know. I don’t have to give them a break anymore and I understand why others can’t believe people are this mean and basically evil.

I wish science would get knowledgeable enough to give the proper brain scan of any violent offender prior to sentencing and the result of that brain scan factored into the sentencing.

Sadly, at this particular stage of our society in the West – one many still consider ‘advanced’ – the rights of one single individual can and often does trump the entire rights of the rest of society. As has been pointed out many times before, endless studies continue to prove that advanced pedophilia is incurable and irreversible at this time. Yet we’re still powerless to isolate these people when they’ve completed their predetermined sentences. If we already know what will inevitably happen, then why would we not give at least as much weight to protecting thousands of children as we do to the life of one free pedophile?

In a real life example, The Amen Clinic has one of the largest collections of SPECT brain scans in the world. I understand that professional studies can identify brain scans belonging to those with sociopathic/psychopathic characteristics with a high degree of accuracy. As this accuracy nears 99.9% in the near future, we approach a Minority Report moment: If we can already predict a person’s predilection, should we – or could we – simply remove them from society in advance?

And if not, is there really any occupation where they could actually serve society at large without unintended consequences? They’d probably make great soldiers or cops, right? But then you’ve just created an army of well-armed sociopaths that could just as easily turn on one side as another. Never mind that we probably already have disproportionately higher percentages of sociopaths in the military and most police forces than the general societal average of 4% (Martha Stout).

As much as I’d like to be openly honest on what I would like to see done to the most evil of sociopaths/psychopaths out there, I’m afraid it wouldn’t be politically correct or practical at this time. Unfortunately, anything short of that will not protect those who will be their future victims either.

Robert,
any deal you make with the devil will backfire. Since when does the devil keep his word? hiring them as soldiers is just asking to get …. well you know… we’ve already been screwed by our justice system and our military.

The answer is not in anything that derives from our current culture. The answer is the opposite from that, because our culture is spathy, based on materialism, envy and greed.

keep learning, studying, keep an open mind. For me, Rene Girard has been the most instructive. I read “Violence and the Sacred,” when I was trying to figure out why my spath needed to substitute my death for his mother’s death. Then I read one chapter of “A theater of envy”, online. It’s very informative.

Remember, if this was easy to solve, we wouldn’t still be talking about it 5000 years later. Spaths have been around a LONG TIME. BUT, we can do it. We CAN solve it. Be dedicated and vigilant.

Liane, thank you for this discussion.

My personal belief is that ppaths and spaths know precisely what they’re doing is ‘wrong” on every level.

Since even the “experts” are easily fooled and cannot agree on a succinct and specific “diagnosis,” I feel that the Legal System will forever drop the proverbial ball.

Good discussion.

Brightest blessings

I absolutely do believe that spaths/ppaths know exactly what they are doing and it is a choice.

I have had this discussion, many times before, with my psychologists and counselors. At first they tried to make me believe and swallow the idea that spaths/ppaths were incapable of making decisions and choices and that is just not true.

In example: If a person grows up in a spathy environment, not all people who grow up in that kind of environment CHOOSE to be the way ppaths/spaths choose. The darker and uglier of two choices.

“I” grew up in a very spathy environment. Very dysfunctional. If anyone would have a predisposition to being a ppath/spath, based upon the premise that we are what we grow up in, “I” should be just like them and I am NOT. I CHOSE DIFFERENT for myself and my life and they have the same choices.

They are CHOOSING to be the way they are and the things they do and the way they act. I have had one of my counselors even digress and admit, after all the convincing they tried to do on me that they didn’t have choice, in the end, after explaining myself, they admitted, that yes, these people DO have choice just like we do. I CHOSE DIFFERENT.
Refute that.

The system, per se, is not in tune with the psychopath phenomena because most people don’t want their little world ‘rocked’ by the possibility that these ugly creatures are out there, preying on the world. NOBODY wants to hear it. It rocks their world and shakes it up too much, the same way it did to us. “If you don’t admit something, it will go away…” Right? Just like we do in NC. No attention. However, this view leaves A LOT of innocent victims just waving in the abyss without justification.

Absolutely they CHOOSE what they do.
Making ANY deal with the devil will always backfire.
Hiring them as soldiers and giving them training (and I know THIS all too well in my situation) only gives them more tools
to stalk, harass, threaten and very precisely damage and harm their intended victims. Sure, they may make great soldiers, however, what happens after they return? Hm? They become even more of a threat to our society. It’s a real Catch22. This is not to say that all soldiers are psychopaths. What I AM saying is that psychopaths who do go into the army learn to hone their skills. The armed services does not do a very good job at screening these personalities, on the in or out. Instead, they award them this ‘hero persona’, which I admit is deserved, however, they are USING these learned tools on all of us.

The only thing we CAN DO is learn the signs and keep these people/predators away from us and not allow ourselves to feel sorry for their ugliness. Feeling sorry for them will get you six feet under in a real big hurry. Trust me, I know.

All we can do is be dedicated and vigilant to our own safety and sanity and for those people around us that we love and value.

Great discussion.
Thanks Liane.

Dupey

After 40+ years of dealing with psychopathic personalities ( first 23 years with my “ex” and decades later with my five grown children), I do believe that initially they make the conscious choice to become psychopaths. As long as my “ex” and children remained in the home (family unit), they appeared to remain well adjusted youths. But soon after entering this greedy, often selfish “me” society as single individuals, psychotic symptoms began appearing, much to a loving mother’s dismay! Many of the symptoms manifested themselves because, I believe, my “ex”, who had been abusive to his own 5 children, became regarded as a life “winner”. They had feared him for decades, watched as he had continuousely skirted the legal system with law-breaking and psychological blame and destruction of others in his life. No wonder they came to perceive their former abuser as a success in life and one whom they would therefore chose to emmulate! And the legal system is ignorant regarding the subject; support for the sociopath’s victims is rarely enacted until and unless their total destructiveness becomes blatantly apparent. Without society’s support for the vistims, psychopaths remain free to operate unscathed and appear as societal “leaders”.

Great posts above! One of the challenges moving forward with psychopathy awareness which is my plan for the future is the struggle against all of the groups where psychopaths love to work!

Here is the list: Law enforcement, Judicial systems, counselors, attorneys….hmmmmm We have our work cut out for us.

Here is the fact – the proliferation of blogs like this are OUTTING these folks. I would really hate to be in most of their shoes!

hope52, you touch on an interesting point. I have spent the last year feeling like I am beating my head against a wall because I can’t understand why the police in my ex’s area are so willing to jump on his side. This makes sense…could it be because they identify with him? He also always seems to get attorneys to give him pro bono work and buy into his sob story of lies. ugh

I have done a lot of research and there seems to be a blatant attack on the feminist movement. The fathers rights movement has infiltrated deeply in all areas. There appears to be a belief that women and mainly single mothers are responsible for much of the breakdown of the American family. They seem to believe women are raising all the dysfunctional children and they are touting statistics to prove their basis of fact.

While women are graduating college at rates higher than men, and somewhere near 50% of all children born are born to unwed mothers and the divorce appears to be blamed on mothers and women. The large fundamentalist christians are backing this and so are a lot of the psychology field intentionally or to change things into the favor of maybe their own disgusting pedophilia or molesting beliefs. I do know many good and reputable people in this field but they building another arm to it that infilitrates the churches and the courts.

There are many angry fathers who have been treated horribly in family courts with false accusations by a personality disorder mother and they have lost everything. Been financially destroyed or sent to prison due to child support issues who were not criminals otherwise.

So what I am seeing is a multi tiered attack on single mothers and womens rights in general.

The taxes used for the multi billion dollar (that is a real figure) federal funded fathers rights initiative along with fathers and families, faith based fathers organizations can be tracked to tax exempt non-profits which a lot are questionable and tax exempt religious programs fighting for fathers to play a roll in their childrens life. The guise and maybe some intent was supposedly to get mothers off welfare and get fathers to play an active roll in childrens lives. They have made mistakes with dire consequences to children and us all by not having guidelines on which fathers get this money or under what standards or conditions as we know very christian christians forgive ALL behavior. They couldn’t figure out how to target a market of fathers so they have found a few places and their most captive audience of fathers are prisons! This is what happened to me. Problem……the father who didn’t want anything to do with his child or a mother who successfully escaped an abuser comes out of prison with “weapons of mass destruction” in my opinion and all the backing of from different angles and the mother doesn’t know what hit her. My case can possibly be public soon but let’s hope it’s as an analysis only.

All well intentioned government and even fathers who were all for this, didn’t think of the spath who would be handed his target on a silver platter and take control of their lives. Other negatives are the men who don’t want to pay child support so they fight with these weapons to gain custody from a loving other parent to avoid child support and more commonly now are gaining custody while mothers are paying their abusers! This is having some serious negative domino affects on the children but the system is set up so the children who get messed up are valuable assets to the court system which is insulated with substandard evaluators, GALS, and others who are part of the money game.

I don’t know if I said all of that in an cohesive manner as I have learned all of this and studied all of this over 3 years and put things together and then cross verified etc. But there are too many of us with the same stories and same outcomes and fit and/or professional mothers are losing everything. The opposite of what it was supposed to do if they wanted to help children and families in the first place.

If you have any questions about where I came up with this information, I have links and websites and have even helped an investigative reporter to decipher a very complex case of a very reputable mother who had her daughter taken away.

With all that bad news above, I do see unbelievable strides being made NOW while there seemed to be not much being done for decades. I have hope due to Lovefraud education, word of mouth, social networking and mothers having more abilities changes are coming.

Please don’t get me wrong. I do know fathers have also been abused and taken by spaths and exposing spaths will benefit them but single mothers, abused women leaving their husbands, molested children speaking out and a parent determined to protect them are not the cause of the breakdown of the american family. Quite the opposite and I wish the men and women could work together on these issues instead of falling into the adversarial trap that keeps our collective head apart.

Eralyn

Eralyn,
Father’s rights and “men’s rights” movements are getting very popular. I know a couple of men involved and they are flaming narcissists who hate women.

It isn’t that these groups don’t deserve representation, it’s just that spaths have a very easy time infiltrating the groups.

I don’t believe there is anything we can do. The spaths will love bomb the men in the groups and incite hatred toward women.

Really, we do have some power. We are women, we are mothers. We raise sons. We have to empower ourselves to learn about spaths and raise our sons right. That’s our best bet, IMO.

Eralyn, I believe I have seen a lot of the same websites that you have seen (or types of websites).

I’m not afraid to question my beliefs on anything, including that (parental alienation, father’s rights, feminism, single motherhood, etc.).

I think there is some merit to what is being said, and of course it is all mixed in with narcissistic attacks and lies. I’m trying to delve into it to find the bits which make sense to me.

(I’m a single mother, divorced 13 years, who ended up in a shared custody arrangement with a Jekyll/Hyde, sometimes violent spath dad, and we’ve been expected to “co-parent” and it has not worked out well. For the past 3 years one of the children has refused to see him because she says he attacked her. For the past 2 years, the other two have sporadically refused. I have been blamed. Etc.)

I think one of the problems is that society (which includes everyone) by and large has this myth that both people in the marriage are normal (that personality disorders DO NOT EXIST and that “it takes two” and they can and should try to work things out for the sake of the children, or the sanctity of the marriage). And that is just not true. I don’t know the percentage of divorces between two normal (non disordered) people, vs. the percentage of divorces between one normal and one disordered (spath) person.

But we fail to make the distinction.

There are spath divorces involving children where the spath is the mother who makes accusations against the normal dad. There are spath divorces involving children where the spath is the father, who makes accusations against the normal mom. We need to find a way to discern which is which.

And separate those from the divorces between two normal individuals who can probably co-parent.

As for blaming single mothers…. it’s common and again the problem is putting the blame on the wrong thing and not using discernment. It certainly is true that there are some impulsive, spath single mothers out there who keep getting pregnant and don’t give a darn about their kids. but don’t tar me with that brush! There are also normal single mothers who love their children dearly. Some have a lot of resources behind them, but it still is (in my opinion) harder on the kids to be raised by one parent than two. I’ve done both. It’s not twice as hard. It’s something like 4 times as hard. It really is harder, and I know my kids are shortchanged.

Some of what’s harder has been that I’ve had to deal with their dad.

It would be wonderful if the normal dads and the normal moms could come together in a “normal parent’s rights for the sake of the kids” movement, setting gender aside.

I have seen the venomous hatred on some of the anti-women websites. It really is evil, in addition to being misguided. It is one of those spath-bait things. Just don’t play. Though it is a shame that some people are influenced by it. It’s very ugly, and anti-human.

Men and women need each other (IMO). I think our energies balance one another and a normal, loving relationship between a husband and wife form the best possible environment for raising kids.

I know that may seem an anti-feminist opinion. I have been fairly pro-feminist most of my life (in the sense of equal pay for equal work and anti-discrimination), but I do think there is something to the notion of recognizing that men and women are different and trying to promote or encourage our appreciation of one another’s differences, and not some women-hating thing, or “women don’t need men” thing. I think we are best, with an even and complementary relationship.

That is an ideal. It certainly is NOT what our society is today.

Skylar,
I have done some checking on the fathers who have infiltrated “the rights” group in my state and the majority (like 70% of them) have what’s considered violent felonies totally disregarded while they testify and sit on the voting boards of the Domestic Relations Committee and the House of Representatives in this state.

Examples of 2 main voices who are affecting custody laws in our area, man 1- conviction, kidnapping an 8 year old involved in a custody battle. convictions, Burglary and domestic violence plus history of suicide. He is lifted up publicly in articles as father of the year. Man 2 -conviction-aggravated assault on a school teacher right in front of the children he beat up their elementary school teacher. Plus other stuff.

At the House of Representatives they testify on the abuses to fathers and demise of children of single mothers. One states how he is an abused man. I have to say, I didn’t know this man or his claims and when he walked past me in the hall I felt myself pull back and a wall between us as something dark was coming off of him. He stayed away from me. Then I heard his story. I believe it’s all lies.

It really is hard to fight as a woman in these situations as there are 2 senators who are women and they are horrible. They are both mothers of men. They are helping these men pass laws that are literally harming women and mind was blown. I checked them out and they themselves are known for making some very extreme statements about other subjects of law in our state. It’s very discouraging. (one seems crazy and extreme and one is well intentioned but misdirected I think)

20 years,
I have the statistics in my state and I keep trying to get them out there. They say 80-90% of custody agreements are decided outside of the courts. My opinion is the majority non-spaths or disordered are working for the best interest of their children and are in this part of the percentage.

10-20% are the people who “can’t come to an amicable agreement” so they seem to deserve in the courts mind whatever abuses they get. No mercy for the innocent children who never asked to be here and the spaths are plentiful in the players salivating over the money of this minority of custody cases. They churn these cases with no regard and help each other while unspoken to get a piece of the child basically and parents.

10 times in the beginning of my court case if it was said once, I heard from arrogant men, attorneys, personnel in the courthouse, supposed advocates, “you slept with him” or “you thought he was good enough to have his child”. OOOOHHH if they only knew! I wanted to say to these men “so you mean to tell me you background checked everyone you’ve ever stuck……” you know the rest.

That’s the general flavor I heard at the start. Later nobody dared state that.

I believe in most things in moderation. The extremists tend to be the embarrassments to the cause and create the damage to whatever organization I could bring up.

Sometimes I get a bit anxious and seem a bit extreme but my heart really is not. (hope I never really am) I believe it’s part of the PTSD I am left with from all the trauma and I know when I have had a chance to heal to a degree I will not be so anxious. I have been on red alert for 3 years and defending against false allegations and trying to protect my daughter while being that single parent. I am a bit jumpy….I have always been a bit high strung.

Thank you for all of your input. I hope we can chip away for the sake of the children to get to a more level playing field.

Eralyn

Eralyn,
as much as I hate statistics because they are so easily skewed, you might be on to something. Statistics are very convincing to most people.

Statistics are just ONE weapon against the spaths, common sense and humanity are others.

Thanks for being a voice of reason. we need more people like you.

Eralyn, I likey….I agree with Skylar about statistics, but numbers are (for whatever reason) meaningful to people. Numbers “make sense,” even if they’re inaccurate.

Grass-roots movements seem to be the strongest, though they are always hard-fought-and-recognized. Starting locally seems to be the only way to actually have people “hear” truths.

Changes are in dire need, from the psych communities, the legal communities, law enforcement, and medical communities. The most important fact that needs to be recognized and accepted is that sociopathy has no cure. There is no therapy, surgery, medication, holistic remedy, or spiritual approach that will cure this condition – ever. And, a sociopath’s actions cannot, and should not, be “excused” on a “personality disorder.” It’s all about choices, and it can’t be put any simpler than that.

Brightest blessings

Eralyn, I understand the feeling of being on “red alert.” It’s almost a constant state of “raw,” and I’m rather sick and tired of it, myself. I will be seeking some strong counseling when I’m settled, and I am going to wrestle this PSTD bull down, if it takes me until Doomsday.

Brightest blessings

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