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#243867 - 04/04/12 07:39 PM Cold Blooded Kindness and Pathological Altruism  
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I wasn't sure if I should put this in the chat about anything section or philosophy.. it kind of fits into both categories. So if any moderators feel this should be moved I appreciate it and sorry for the extra work in advance.

Cold Blooded Kindness, (Neuroquirks of a codependent killer and other reflections on helping that hurts)
-and-
Pathological Altruism are two books I just finished by Barbara Oakley. They discuss the psychology behind animal hoarding and really give you the opportunity to gain a new perspective on this crisis. I think a lot of people with parrots have more than one and it's easy to accumulate too many without realizing it if you're not focused on ensuring the best possible care for each individual bird. It echoes off how I feel about the captive parrot crisis.. killing with kindness, etc. They are both excellent reads if you're the type who's curious about how the mind works and some of the science and theories behind it. Definitely eye openers, thought I'd share.

Here's the excerpt from the back of Cold Blooded Kindness:
"Are some people predisposed to kindness to the point of being destructive to themselves and others? How much of our help is fulfilling our own needs--including those of our hidden passions?

This is the true story of Carole Alden, a brilliant, yet eccentric mother of five, who had a deep and abiding need to help society's outcasts. At her rural homestead an adopted pony mingled with llamas, goats, emus, and dozens of other creatures, familiar and exotic. But Carole's desire to help others extended beyond the animals she took in. It extended beyond her meager resources, even beyond the children she insisted she loved, yet sometimes left neglected in a surreal world of danger.

Finally, in the remote reaches of Utah's Great Basin, Carole Alden shot and killed her husband. Dragging his heavy body from the house, she headed for a makeshift grave. Was the murder self-defense? Premeditated? Or was something else altogether at hand?
In this searing exploration of deadly codependency, Barbara Oakley--acclaimed author of the best-selling Evil Genes--takes the reader on a spellbinding voyage of discovery that examines the questions: Are some people naturally too caring? Can science help us understand how our concerns for others can hurt everything we hold dear? Are some people in fact "wired" to be too kind? Oakley explains the latest scientific breakthroughs that shed light on what is seemingly inexplicable.

This gripping story brings extraordinary insight to our deepest questions. Is kindness always the right answer? Is kindness always what it seems?"

Pathological Altruism is incredibly well written, here's what the excerpt from the back says,
"The benefits of altruism and empathy are obvious. These qualities are so highly regarded and embedded in both secular and religious societies that it seems almost heretical to suggest they can cause harm. Like most good things, however, altruism can be distorted or taken to an unhealthy extreme. Pathological Altruism presents a number of new, thought-provoking theses that explore a range of hurtful effects of altruism and empathy.

Pathologies of empathy, for example, may trigger depression as well as the burnout seen in healthcare professionals. The selflessness of patients with eating abnormalities forms an important aspect of those disorders. Hyperempathy - an excess of concern for what others think and how they feel - helps explain popular but poorly defined concepts such as codependency. In fact, pathological altruism, in the form of an unhealthy focus on others to the detriment of one's own needs, may underpin some personality disorders.

Pathologies of altruism and empathy not only underlie health issues, but also a disparate slew of humankind's most troubled features, including genocide, suicide bombing, self-righteous political partisanship, and ineffective philanthropic and social programs that ultimately worsen the situations they are meant to aid. Pathological Altruism is a groundbreaking new book - the first to explore the negative aspects of altruism and empathy, seemingly uniformly positive traits. The contributing authors provide a scientific, social, and cultural foundation for the subject of pathological altruism, creating a new field of inquiry. Each author's approach points to one disturbing truth: what we value so much, the altruistic "good" side of human nature, can also have a dark side that we ignore at our peril."

#243868 - 04/04/12 10:51 PM Re: Cold Blooded Kindness and Pathological Altruism [Re: Volk]  
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Very interesting. About five years ago, many mental health professionals began to examine, in depth, the psychology of the hoarder. It makes for very interesting reading and I think these books will fine tune that body of work. It is very easy to find these articles and books by Google search for anything similar to "hoarding, mental health", "psychological profile, hoarder", etc. We even have some discussions from real cases here on Mytoos.

As a layperson, I find these explanations interesting but somewhat predictable, much as I see the effects of post traumatic stress disorder being manifest to such a large extent after periods of war. The human mind can overload and each person's overload threshold is different. The average news junkie probably finds the articles very strange and exotic but people involved in animal care and rescue see it as an epidemic and I truly believe that these people suffer mental consequences of their own as their individual thresholds of tolerance are exceeded.

We here have come under heavy criticism from time to time for our tenet that we cannot save them all. Pet store and breeder birds are better left to suffer at the hands of people that see them as only a means to make money than to be "rescued" by well meaning people that will probably abuse the bird as badly, or worse, than the store. They will do it unknowingly but the bird still suffers. Thousands of these large birds are suffering right now, just in this country. Is it better to let them suffer and die, young, at the hands of breeders and store keepers so that they will see a "monetary loss" and go get a real job? I think so.

Too often we are seeing, with our own eyes and ears, right here on Mytoos, the frenzied attempt to "rescue" or "ransom" these birds from their terrible conditions only to see them packed into a house where resources rapidly dwindle and the birds have to be "disposed" of rather quickly for whatever reason. The ensuing situation is highly unlikely to be any better and the slide has begun. What does this do to the psyche of the "rescuer"? What was that psyche to begin with? Is it worth it? I sometimes think the internet is the worst enemy of the altruistically inclined individuals. There is a point where this person's whole life begins to fall apart in an attempt to improve the life of some helpless animal. These situations are important for us to be aware of and try to understand but, more likely than not, the people that need to understand the most are blinded by their own ambition. It's a real Catch 22!

I don't want to wonder too far from your subject of Pathological Altruism but I do want to make one thing clear about our main interest here at Mytoos, the large parrots and cockatoos. These intelligent, winged creatures are flock animals and prey animals. They do not do well, at all, in captivity. They do not make good pets and they, above most other animals, suffer the effects of change the most. They thrive in groups that ensure flock and individual security and the routines that make up their average day in the wild. They are creatures of simple habit and subtle relationship. Every time they are uprooted from one situation, no matter how bad, to another, they suffer the consequences. They have no business in our homes, they are wild at heart, we have have no business "rescuing" them. We can best serve their kind by staying away from places that appeal to misguided passions.

#243880 - 04/05/12 07:24 PM Re: Cold Blooded Kindness and Pathological Altruism [Re: Volk]  
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You bring up some interesting points, Charlie. Some of the thoughts you mentioned came up in my mind as I was reading cold blooded kindness. Specifically about Mytoos tenet. Growing up I held this belief that if you see something or someone suffering you help as best you can and if you can't, you do what you feel is right in your heart. So then I really had to take a step back and say.. well how the hell do you know you're heart is right and unbiased?

I think this book helped me to really define and refine some of my opinions about "rescue" although I think the building blocks were predisposed in my mind. I also think it opened up my eyes and exposed me to some new ways of viewing different situations. Always keep an open mind and be willing to accept an alternate solution to what you may have been programmed to think is correct.

Do you think it's possible for Cockatoos to have similar chemical balances and checks in their brains to what humans have? Do you suppose those chemicals could get "out of wack" so to speak like they do in humans causing conditions like depression and obsessive, compulsive disorders? It's something I'd like to research.

EDIT:
I guess that's pretty self explanatory. Of course they have chemical reactions in their brains, that's really the basis of all brain function. Perhaps my actual query is which chemicals do what and why. As in, what happens in the mind of a cockatoo that doesn't happen in the mind of a macaw to cause 'toos to have the typical disposition they do. Specifically what makes a cockatoo brain different from a chicken or crocodile brain, how and why?

I have a feeling I'll be researching this one for quite some length of time.

Last edited by Volk; 04/05/12 08:23 PM.
#243895 - 04/06/12 02:01 AM Re: Cold Blooded Kindness and Pathological Altruism [Re: Volk]  
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Well, in order to "research" the cockatoo brain "scientifically" you need dead cockatoos, and captive cockatoos. That is what I hate about "scientific research": so much of it is done by, what Gandalf called, "breaking something to find out what it is".

The only way you are going to get to a "test population" of cockatoos is to corrall them, and that means captivity; even if you keep them alive, you would be drawing blood, repeating the same stimulus-response tests over and over ad nauseum (boring? boring enough to make one tear his or her feathers out?) and possibly introducing (via needle or syringe) chemicals into a living bird to see how that bird reacts. . .really kind and compassionate, huh? Doesn't sound like the sort of thing I would want to do at all, at all!


Jody
#243899 - 04/06/12 02:39 AM Re: Cold Blooded Kindness and Pathological Altruism [Re: jm47]  
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I really doubt she has any idea along those lines. Most layman "research" by reading everything they can find on a particular subject. Gandalf is a cartoon!

#243904 - 04/06/12 05:13 AM Re: Cold Blooded Kindness and Pathological Altruism [Re: Volk]  
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Originally Posted By: Volk

Do you think it's possible for Cockatoos to have similar chemical balances and checks in their brains to what humans have? Do you suppose those chemicals could get "out of wack" so to speak like they do in humans causing conditions like depression and obsessive, compulsive disorders? It's something I'd like to research.


Based solely on my observations of parrots at the rescue where I volunteer as well as those in my flock, I very much believe that birds can get depressed and have other mental disorders, very similar to what humans can suffer through.

They are such intelligent, empathetic creatures, that it only stands to reason that would be the case. It's all so very sad.

#243910 - 04/06/12 05:19 PM Re: Cold Blooded Kindness and Pathological Altruism [Re: Beeps]  
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I also believe that birds can have depression,OCD (Feather Destructive Behavior being one,Self Mutilation being another)and probably many other Psyche disorders.That being said...you don't see these things in the wild parrot that is able to have a happy "normal" life and can act on wild instinct you only see this in captive birds.Treating them for it is another battle since many of the medications that are used to treat human disorder have a ton of adverse effects and side effects that a human can hardly take that to prescribe them to a parrot of any kind is very difficult since a human can voice what is happening in their body and a bird can not they have to rely on blood tests which do not show chemical difference in the brain.We have to rely on visuals mostly.

When we treat Disorders such as Depression and OCD in our facility one thing we encourage is normal daily activity.Get out of bed,shower,dress,go for breakfast,etc.We encourage walking and exercise and activity to help get out of depression since it is a known fact that including activities such as those helps bring a person out of the depression quicker with less reliance on medications. I believe restricting flight,caging,and leaving a bird to just play with toys in a cage (if they are so lucky) is the base for why we see parrots struggle...of course they are depressed...I would be too.To encourage birds to do these "normal activities of a wild bird" it is very hard to duplicate in homes where a person has a job,family and things they need to do so there is a struggle.

Last edited by Janny; 04/06/12 05:24 PM.

Jan

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#243985 - 04/10/12 05:49 AM Re: Cold Blooded Kindness and Pathological Altruism [Re: Volk]  
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The entire mental-health "approach" to trying to decide what is "healthy" or "realistic" or "normal" for everybody seems a bit dangerous to me. In the original post that began this thread, there was the feeling of "these over-altruistic people" are menatlly ill, and need to be managed". What is the true basis for this decision?
I mean, I as well as most members here, cringe when I see rescues suddenly collapse, apparently of their own momentum, having gotten over-extended and tried to take on "too many" needy creatures. But then, I have also been reprimanded for wanting to try to help out "just one more" needy creature, too. I realize, on one level, that I'm just not really able to take on another anything right now. However, I am also under a moral obligation to "withhold not good from him to whom it is due, when it is in your power to give it."
I feel guilty, then, when a bird dies after I had an opportunity to help, and said no. (happened recently, twice.)
Thing is, I know someone who could have taken those two birds, but they are miles away, and the birds would have been in our little apartment for days or weeks before being picked up, and there were quarantine needs I couldn't meet. . .and I still feel guilty. And now somebody is deciding I'm mentally ill, and recommending who knows what measures to control my behavior, without ever knowing who I am? (labelling is a horrible thing)
("Oh, yeah, and she's paranoid, too")
So, having worked in the "MH/MR Care industry" for years, I hate labels with a fury, especially because I know any label can be affixed to almost any person, and a convincing case made for its accuracy, if the report-writer is skilled in using language.

There has to be some protection for the idjit who (like myself) starts out trying to take care of unwanted (fill in the blank)s and suddenly finds him/her self overwhelmed by the enormity and impossibility of caring for all the unwanted lives. . .I know where to find and get help, but not everyone does! Is the answer to put THEM into a "rescue" sort of situation, too? Make them stop trying to express kindness or compassion or do any good, unless they are "cold-blooded"?
And how helpful is cold-blooded compassion to the victim? Is it perhaps abusive? death-dealing? After all, I believe Hitler's underlings, killing off the "mentally ill" and "incompetent" humans in the Reich, thought they were doing the right, even the "kind", thing by "putting them out of their misery."
More questions than answers, I'm afraid.
I only know one Answer.


Jody
#243989 - 04/10/12 05:37 PM Re: Cold Blooded Kindness and Pathological Altruism [Re: jm47]  
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I am not sure when it was you worked in mental health but I can tell you we have seen a significant change in treatment even in the last 10 years of my own employment here in Canada so the USA is likely to be much more advanced than us.It is just the way it works. We do not have many people that suffer the classic diagnosis that there once was..the medication and the therapeutic treatments have come a very long way and most function so well now that they are in their own homes,care homes (depending on age) or with family.To compare what happens now in Mental Health and what happened even 10 years ago is clouding.I can tell you in our facility alone the clients have more rights than we do and have the most say in their treatment and the Psychiatrists listen now.Where as before they were just thrown in their room and given injections that does not happen in this day and age.To be hospitalized now or certified as we call it there needs to be proof and it is a big decision because if the person was to appeal the decision made by the Dr and is favored by a judge there is fall back on that Dr.He could loose his license for malpractice.

The actual hands on staff (myself in nursing) are available to council,assist in whatever way we can.

What we see coming in more now is handicapped or Mentally Disabled individuals who are so behavioral they can not be managed in Group Home settings and have either seriously injured or killed people.We see much more Drug Induced Psychosis.Which all of those are still evolving and need much work.We do not see much of the classic mentally ill anymore because they can be managed with medication in homes.


Jan

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#244257 - 04/18/12 09:41 PM Re: Cold Blooded Kindness and Pathological Altruism [Re: Volk]  
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A bit of a sidetrack but…

“Do you think it's possible for Cockatoos to have similar chemical balances and checks in their brains to what humans have? Do you suppose those chemicals could get "out of wack" so to speak like they do in humans causing conditions like depression and obsessive, compulsive disorders? It's something I'd like to research. “


Temple Grandin’s books are a great starting point if you’re interested in this subject. One set of experiments involving pigs attributed obsessive behaviors to abnormal dendritic growth (in the brain). And, that in turn was due to living in deprivation. An analogy was made to human children growing up in impoverished orphanages (parental deprivation) who suffer from mental issues as they mature. Not unlike the stereotypical swaying or self-inflicted harm we see in captive birds. We’re part of the same evolutionary tree, so we do share chemicals, and their related functions, with other animals. Consider that most studies on human emotions are done using animals - in that they react similarly to mood altering drugs. Cortisol, released when stressed, is an immunosuppressant in both humans and birds. Vasopressin performs much the same function in humans as it does in prairie voles. Just to name two.

In her books, she addresses the neurology of emotions and behavior in terms of their origin in the brain and as evolutionary adaptations. She gives a more scientific classification and explanation of what emotions are and how we share them in common with other animals. Her focus is in the practical implications for animal welfare practices and standards. Her books are not speculation or guess work but rely heavily on studies. This is, in fact, how she was able to revolutionize humane treatment in the food industry. There has been far more study in this area than one would guess, or that has made its way into public consciousness.

#244259 - 04/19/12 02:53 AM Re: Cold Blooded Kindness and Pathological Altruism [Re: Volk]  
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Anything is possible. My AV and I have had similiar conversations regarding my 2 self-mutilators. The problem is getting a constitution on an animal, especially a bird. They can't tell us how they feel so it's hit and miss and since they are masters at hiding any kind of illness (or weakness) it just makes it more difficult. My AV says that he can "read" dogs and cats very easily to not only help pinpoint a problem, but when the right treatment is instituted, their demeanor speaks volumes to him. Not so with birds so much. Very interesting topic - I'll be interested to see what you come up with in your research.


Birds are angels who lift us up when our own wings forget how to fly.

"Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful committed citizens can change the world - indeed it is the only thing that ever has!" ~~~ Margaret Meade ~~~

Noelle, A Rehabilitation in Progress
#246216 - 07/20/12 06:47 AM Re: Cold Blooded Kindness and Pathological Altruism [Re: Volk]  
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Dr. Grandin has also done at least one thing I'd regard as either experimental, or insane: she SWAM in a pool of insecticidal "dip" for animals. She records some changes in basic perceptions and beliefs following this event; I can't help but wonder if that stuff had some effect on ehr brain, which caused those changes. I love and admire the lady, for what she has done to reduce the sufferings of the prey of carnivorous humanity. I believe the swim thing was a public-relations stunt for the manufacturers of the dip. But the effects that followed do NOT encourage me to think that either humans or animals have any business being dunked in the stuff, and i suspect Dr. Grandin may have suffered some damage she may not be able to see.

Now, this does not necessarily mean that the lady needs to be institutionalized. Dr. Grandin seems to be well able to live and work, amazingly so, given her own struggles. It does mean that she has blind spots, as have most of us, despite her education and brilliance, and her goodness of heart. Science is not God, and it is not always right, as evidenced by the constantly-changing theories expressed by scientists. Science is mostly a bunch of guys (and gals) stumbling around trying to find out stuff without much real willingness to learn from others. . .unless the others happen to agree with them.


Jody

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