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If you crack open an American history book, it's sure to be filled with founding fathers, bloody wars and the inventions that brought this country to the industrial age. But there's a whole other world that waits for us in the shadows, tales of unlikely heroes, world changing tragedies and legends that are unique to this country's spirit. So join me, Lauren Volcom, for a tour of American history, unlike any other through a new podcast from My Heart Radio and Aaron Minsky's Grim and mild, get ready for American Shadows.
Listen to American Shadows on Apple podcasts or wherever you get your podcasts. Blood on the Tracks is a new podcast about legendary music producer Phil Spector in the murder of Lana Clarkson. This podcast is hosted by me, Jake Brennan, creator and host of the award winning music and true crime podcast Disgrace Graceland. Season one features 10 episodes told from the perspective of those who knew Phil Spector best, his so-called friends. Just like Phil Spector. This podcast sounds like nothing you've heard before.
Blood on the Tracks contains adult content and explicit language. Listen to Blood on the Tracks and the I Heart Radio Apple podcast or wherever you get your podcasts. Previously on Happy Face, meeting Melissa's mom in person, I was really taken aback by the fact that they don't look alike. She absolutely looks like her father, Keith, fell in high school, I believe was 25 feet.
When they interview killers, they have found that a large percentage of them damaged their frontal lobe before they were 20 to changes their whole personality.
I went back to my truck and rehearsed the lies I planned to tell when I was arrested, what made me cross the line into murder? Maybe it was my nature. There was just this thing that people said in the family, they would say, oh, that's just kids. That's just how cute this. And it seemed to be acceptable. Did you feel you were in control? Did you just lose it with some ideas lost? I didn't. I don't think that had anything to do with control.
I just had payback's a bitch, you know? And I just grabbed him and just started well known. Of course, I didn't know when to stop. I was going to beat him to death. Scared. I look like, you know, over here. That's OK. My heart is so turned off, I'm afraid I'm built like him and my. Where the sun don't shine, I wish. The whole night through. Worst case scenario about tomorrow when I meet with Dr.
Fallon, is that I'm going to find out that biologically my brain is wired exactly the same as my dad. Melissa's deepest fear is that somewhere in the threads of her DNA are the same miswired strands that eventually led her father to kill. I'm Lauren Bright Pacheco, and this is Happy Face. I'm prepared for both ways that it will, like I know I'm a flawed human being, I know that I sometimes can get narcissistic like everybody else I know sometimes I can be selfish like everybody else.
I know that sometimes I forget to say the right thing to someone or to offer the hug when they needed it. I know that sometimes I laugh at inappropriate things at the inappropriate time. I know sometimes. I can be insensitive, I know that, but that's not all the time, and I know I'm not a bad person and I can see that other people are flawed, too, and make mistakes, too. And that's what makes me give some comfort that maybe I'm not a psychopath is that all of these things that I've been looking for are just common traits amongst us all.
Maybe I'm just as flawed as everybody.
Even if you are, you're going to realize that it doesn't change any of those things. You're a good person. You would never do what your father's done and you could never be what he is. Last week, Melissa had a PET scan to determine if her brain had the neurological markers associated with psychopathy. Today is a really big day for me. It's a moment that I am coming face to face with something I've been running away from, from learning about hard time sleeping last night, because today I find out if my worst fears and insecurities are true for my dad.
And I had a very close relationship, almost a psychic connection. And it makes me wonder if my connection with my dad was because our brains are similar or our makeup is similar. If I'm capable of being like my dad, but I don't know, maybe Dr. Fellin could explain to me the difference between the brain of a serial killer and the brain of a psychopath. Maybe they're different. But in my mind right now, they're one and the same, and I'm nervous about that.
Are you ready to face it today? I think that in the past I wasn't in a space where I could accept the results. I feel so much more secure with who I am. I feel like with Don's acceptance of who I am and knowing that my heart is different than if my brain does prove to be similar to my father, that at least my heart is different. I'm actually, you know, I when I think of the word psychopath, I think of someone who is a killer, someone who's cold hearted, someone who is evil.
And and maybe that term is the problem. Melissa's definition of a psychopath is a description of her father, Keith's definition, however, differs. I want to know what happens. This is my point to point in their life. I don't think a person is a psychopath all their life, you know, I mean, I think it's it's something they grow into. Yeah. And it's a behavior pattern they grow into. And it's not a it's like we live normal lives up to a point.
We make that conscious decision to go a certain way. And then and it's like watching Planet of the Apes. Everything goes in different directions. They don't turn right or turn left possibilities or.
What's going through your head right now? Do you know what to expect? The doctor has my brain scans and maybe I find out that I am a psychopath or maybe I find out I have a brain tumor or maybe I am. I have a perfectly healthy brain. I don't know, like I could be walking into anything actually today. But I think knowing is better than not knowing. Why does it matter? Like, what do you hope you're going to gain from today?
For me, why it matters is for a lot of people, I feel like I've been under a microscope and I really haven't had any tools to combat what they say. But at this point, I'm almost I really don't even care what other people think. This is for my self awareness. This is for me to be able to know how I relate to the world. Dr. James Fallon is a neuroscientist and professor of psychiatry and human behavior at the University of California, Irvine School of Medicine.
I'd first read about him years ago in a fascinating article in the Atlantic titled Life as a Nonviolent Psychopath. In it, he shares his own incredible experience of accidentally discovering he possessed the brain imaging pattern and genetic makeup of a full blown psychopath while conducting unrelated research and how that knowledge impacted his life and relationships. When Melissa shared her fears with me about her own potential psychopathy, I immediately reached out to Fallon. I felt if anyone could walk Melissa through her PET scan and her results, Dr.
Fallon would be the perfect person for the job.
Hi, how are you doing? Nice to meet you. Great, thank you. So this is our house, Dr. Fallon's house was bright and cheerful, the exterior was surrounded by colorful, well tended plants and flowers, and the inside was filled with family photos. And art, he explained, was mostly created by various family members. It felt like a welcoming, creative place. This is my lab because I do analysis. We play experiments here. So anyway, this is where we live.
And I was just looking at some of the slides. Just got your slides, right. All your PET scan as you can. That's why I'm nervous. Why? Well, I don't know what you know about my background.
I know who your dad is. Right. But I don't know much about you. And I didn't want to know too much about you. You know, I just because I don't want to I didn't want to look at the scan with some idea of who you were. OK, that's the idea. Yeah. The less I know going in, the better. OK. Oh, OK.
Again, because Dr. Fallon's own brain exhibits indicators of psychopathy, we felt he had the ideal insight and expertise to help Melissa navigate and process her PET scan results. Regardless of what they revealed, the behaviors are not in themselves evil.
It's the context that we consider making him evil. And that context is defined differently in different societies. Both societies are not the same. So there's no absolute behaviors of good and bad for these things. So it's not just the genes you have because I mean, I inherited all these psychopath related genes. I don't have much anxiety. If I'm caught by somebody doing something, I can look them in the face and they go, he's completely innocent so you can inherit them.
But if you've been treated OK and especially with love, it kind of negates that effect. All you do is become assertive, low anxiety, kind of up all the time. You could be glib and all the stuff like that. You sound like a salesman, but it comes across as an earnest in a nervous way.
So are you a psychopath? I'm not a categorical psychopath. I mean, I've been analyzed, psychiatrically analyzed. And one of the interesting reads I was looking at, you know, one of the diagnoses and it was basically the summary is that here's someone who has all the thoughts and urges and dreams and everything that a full blown psychopath has, but he never asks them out. Now, I wouldn't have known that. I thought everybody was having these thoughts and really crazy, intense, scared the hell out of people with them.
I always assumed because it was in my head, everybody was thinking this way and they're not. The difference is that I never act them out. I mean, like, absolutely clean record. And I've got a family. I'm still dating the girl I dated at 12 years old. We were both twelve and we've been married forever. And I've had a really great job forever. And I have kids and grandkids and a normal family life. But somehow and two of the psychiatrist couldn't figure out why I was not like a really bad guy, because I have all these other the genetics, the brain pattern in some of the traits, but I just don't act the bad stuff out.
I was a wonderful guy, like I'm relating to you right now because I feel like I'm a great girl. I feel like I'm a great person. Yeah, I think I'm terrific. And it's not that I don't have faults, but overall I said, who wouldn't like to be around me? You know, it's like so great. I was like and so I started with my wife and I estrus. So you got to tell me now, really, what do you think of me?
I mean, tell me I'm not going to get mad or anything. And I did that with my mother, my brothers, my sister, my bravery to hear what people really care. I mean, you know, for me was part of the the way it is. I just was interested in being a scientist. You're able to say I'm just scientists. And they all told me the same thing. They said you do really psychopathic things. You don't even realize it that they give you an example.
Oh, yeah. Yeah. In great detail. I put people at risk for the fun of it. And it's not like strangers need to worry about me, but if you become close to me, you got to worry because I'll get you to do something. I'm the person that runs with the bulls and tries to get you to run with me. That's not a psychopath, but I do it all the time. And I put my people close to me and friends at risk.
I lived in East Africa and I went trout fishing, brought my son and I brought him into a place I knew there were lions. And I said there's only a five percent chance we're going to get attacked, but isn't it going to be fun? So I. I've trying to kill him. Right. But it was for the thrill. So having the genes, per say is not the death sentence. What happens early to regulate those genes, which is fixed, is the problem is people always want to know what percent of our behavior is determined by genes in nature and how much is by environment nurture.
And that's almost the wrong way to ask the question, as it turns out. And so the idea is, if you have the genes, if the gun is loaded with those illegals that tend to give you those traits into abuse, that fixes those. And in that case, the environment means everything. So in my dad's case, he had the genes and he had the environment.
Yeah, I mean, this is almost every dictator, you know, really aggressive dictator and every serial killer. I look that I could find as much information. One hundred percent were abused early in. They had in their family these traits. The only one who claims he was never abused was Pol Pot. He was the only one. I don't believe them. I think about it sometimes they lie and lie about that with my dad, that through this journey, what has been unique about my dad is that he says one thing and what he does is another thing.
But he's so believable when he says that people don't look at what he does. That's it. That's and being raised with that. Like, I only saw what he did and believed him to. And so as I've been going on this journey, I've been figuring out that it's not what he says is what he does, but it's exactly what you just said is how he said it was just so matter of fact and straight face that you just don't even think, well, this is the charm of it.
This is real psychopaths or people, even narcissistic personality disorder, can do it with such earnestness and glibness and no anxiety. You absolutely believe them. You believe them before you believe anybody. And that's what makes it so pernicious and insidious. You know, in fact, a real psychopath doesn't really believe what they're doing is bad. It's kind of just whereas a sociopath knows what they're doing is wrong. Oh, there's a difference. Yeah. Yeah, well, everybody's got a different definition, but then usually people go with kind of the same.
They're not, you know, real psychopaths we call a primary psychopath. And these are the ones that are clinically psychopaths that have no moral reasoning, have no guilt, they have no remorse. So what makes the personality disorders so different than other psychiatric disorders is that people don't know what they're doing is wrong or different. And I'll give you an example. We all know somebody who is obsessive compulsive, in fact, is a bunch of people who have OCD, obsessive compulsive disorder.
But there are people with OCD, peaty, the personality disorder variant of this. So they have obsessive compulsive personality disorder. The people with OCD doing the crazy things every time they walk by the three times and they know what they're doing is crazy, but they can't stop it. OK, the people with OCD peaty, the disorder thinks what they're doing is perfectly OK and good and works the difference. Right, right. So superficially, the behaviors of the same.
But what happens inside, how they're generated, what they mean, a completely different now somebody with sociopathy like we're talking about, which is called a secondary psychopath, they know what they're doing is wrong. They do have remorse. They do have guilt, they do have anxiety, but they're still driven to do those behaviors. So both the psychopath and the sociopath can do the exact same thing, murder, rape and everything, different reasons. And a lot of times a psychopath does it for fun.
It's game. It's just manipulation. They're playing a game with things, whereas a sociopath a lot of time could be the loser who's getting even with all the women of the world or all the athletes of the world. We're all going all the blondes in the world and know it goes on and on and on. There's all but those people can be maybe not wired genetically for psychopathy, but they were like bullied when they're eight, nine, ten years old.
A lot of times these are bully people. But if you are wired for it and you're bullied, I mean, it's just terrible. Say, my father beat me.
I wondered what he was feeling when he beat me, like what was there so gratifying to him to beat the shit out of me and then send me to bed like nothing happened and then go back in and do what he want to do with mom or whatever, or just go on with life.
And then the next day like nothing happened is OK now. But I'm killing my victim. I'm sitting there going like now is this what my father felt when he beat the shit out of me? Is is this the feeling he got an answer to that? I really didn't. Erin, the question remains, does trauma trigger violent psychopathy or is it a domino effect? The thing is, there's so many of these, what are called cluster B personality disorders, these are the ones that are dangerous to other people, like histrionic.
These are people that are always using sex to to manipulate people. And they're really nasty to be around and and also narcissistic personality disorder and psychopathy. And so for those which you're doing is basically looking at these 10, 15, 20 traits. And the standard thing is you take them, you score each one of those traits from zero to two zero, let's say zero narcissism. One is kind of pretty narcissistic to always narcissistic, like really bad. And you take all these numbers, add them up.
And if it's above a threshold, like for psychopathy that's above 20 or 30 anything for 20 to 30 to 40, it's a full blown psychopath. If you have a psychopath, it's 40. You're talking about such a dangerous person. I've been tested and I'm not really a psychopath because I'm not a full blown psychopath. But I'm like right on the edge. You know, I score in the 20s every time. What I lack is the criminality and the really anti-social stuff.
I really have no interest in hurting people.
When I think of psychopath, it seems to have a negative label. But is it actually a good thing to have for. Is it possible it could be good? Well, you know, full blown psychopaths, you know, the 30 and above and the hair scale or no scales, it's kind of never a good thing because a lot of times they never make it past their teens or 20s. They're in prison and they they can have a lot of disorganised behavior.
But people who are borderline or prosocial that are not quite clinically there, a lot of those traits are very, very useful for for navigating and becoming successful. But there are the traits. One of the two main groups of traits factors is called fearless dominance. And Fearless dominance is a bunch of traits. But it's basically the person walks into the room and they get the light around. Random people interpret his charisma. They walk fearlessly. They'll take chances, but they win.
They know how to take statistical scientific chances and win. But they'll take risks and they do quite well and people sense it. People sense it immediately. So they're very attracted to it. And so it's a major psychopathic trait. And if you look at the study of done of US presidents from George Washington and those that scored the highest from their biographers, all about them, the ones that scored highest in fearless dominance, the top ones are like Teddy Roosevelt, JFK, FDR, Bill Clinton.
They're thought to have charisma and great abilities as leaders, but they have the highest psychopathy ratings. So people are attracted to it. I mean, this is one of the reasons why psychopathy is always with us, because people are attracted to it. These are people who would take chances. You want that person on your side. So I don't care if he's a bad ass. I want him to be my bad ass. Right. I want to be my crook, my thief, you know?
And so the success of psychopaths, especially the prosocial or borderline prosocial psychopaths, is a reflection of people's own lack of morals, I think, because to win, they want them on their side, even though they know that they're probably going to do it. Like don't tell me what you did, just win. You know, those traits are very much enjoyed and beloved by people. So you say, what are you complaining about? But, you know, if you want to find out if you're a psychopath, you kind of go talk to psychologists, psychiatrists, who's an expert in personality disorders.
There's no other way. But once you are found out to have something, then we can use the brain scans and the genetics to know why you're that way.
This portion of the world will see. People are expected to murder people, and when you murder someone in your area, you have their life in your hands. Just think of of one else are about you. And think of all the all your feelings, all your emotions put all in the one that they're hurt, that you have and the love that you have, joy and hate, just everything, all your emotions you could ever put together. And that's what matters like.
After Fallon was able to give an evolutionary and historical explanation of psychopathy, Melissa was finally ready to face and accept her results.
So I gave this kind of a general like how we do stuff, you know, in the science and biological psychiatry of it. And so would you like to know what I saw by looking at your scans? I would love to. I'm ready. You sure? Yeah, I'm absolutely ready. Yeah. I think after talking with you, I now see that might not necessarily be a bad thing, but I'm just curious now and I want to touch a psychopathy can be a very useful thing that doesn't make you a criminal or bad, but you can still be a pain in the ass to be around with somebody.
That's right. I really can. So you got to be on and then you've got to expect that from people.
OK, I'm ready. I'm ready. I'll follow you. Dr. Fallon's office was filled with eclectic art he'd gather during his travels or was given over the years. It also showcased some of his own signature paintings, which tended to involve some very interesting and more than slightly disturbing depictions of clowns, demented looking clowns.
OK, OK, so there's many ways to get a PET scan or a functional MRI. OK, you can get a CAT scan or a regular MRI that just looks at the anatomy. OK, but this is then looking at the function. That's the main thing, the task that you do. We could have you do other tasks that test your empathy. OK, before you go in there for a PET scan or while you're doing it for fMRI, you can be looking at a mix of images of things that normal people provoke, emotional empathy versus cognitive empathy.
You could go through different kinds of scans that probe different circuits in your brain. Then we can compare it to the normal people and full blown psychopaths and really to fully do what you have to do all these different scans. That's why it's hard for people, the average person, to do it, because it becomes expensive and you've got to get into a pipeline, a research hospital pipeline. But at any rate, you had it done and so you had the basic PET scan and you didn't have a task.
That is, you didn't have to look at scary pictures, disgusting things.
You were just told to close my eyes. And for about 20 minutes, I just kept my eyes closed and I was relaxed. I didn't see anything. And I try to keep my mind centered and not distracted.
OK, so this is kind of a non task task. And now it's called the Default Mode Network we're looking for. And it's the circuitry that we should see these areas of the brain in a normal person light up. And these are connected areas that most people's lives are in this mode because you're kind of daydreaming or you relaxed and, you know, there's there's no task there. And so a lot of your life is in this mode. And if you look at the connectivity of the circuit of this, plus with your limbic system, your emotional parts of your brain, you can really get an idea on why somebody is a certain way.
You were simply given this task and it sounds like the way you described it is exactly correct. And here's the raw scans. Part of the Russians are up here without any processing. So this is ground truth. OK, and here is your PET scan again. It's not doctored with colors or anything because usually you see a PET scan. It's like there's blues and reds and that's made in software and it's kind of fudged a bit. It doesn't mean it's wrong, but it's fudge.
This is like ground truth, OK? And so wherever we see the dark areas you see right here, they're dark. That's what is really turned on in that half hour before you got the PET scan. And so here you are. And here's the normal. OK, and I tried to this morning try to match them up if I could. And it turns out they use this completely normal.
So this first test of this is like your your clinical scan is completely normal. So you don't have any problem in your brain that anybody can see in anatomically. It's not like a tumor or anything like that. There's no no weirdness at all. It's completely normal. And that when we looked at this, OK, they really match up. You look like a completely normal for this test.
So that's amazing. Yeah, it's amazing. Abnormal. Yeah, I'd be disappointed. So so I mean, again, this is not a diagnostic, but you have a quite a normal reaction and you see how sort of hot you are down here. Right. I cannot turn this part of my brain up at all. Wow. So when I do default mode, I can't turn that up. And so that's a psychopathic matter. But mine's hot, so it's normal.
And so after years of wondering if her father's genes had somehow infected her with the same traits, the same buried evil tendencies, Melissa could finally breathe a sigh of relief, knowing that she was another step in the opposite direction of key. The power that he had over me, now I feel like he doesn't have any power over me anymore. I feel like I'm my own person. I feel liberated. I almost feel like I got out of jail.
I feel so much better. I almost wish I would have done this a long time ago, that I would have not have been running away, but I would have never been ready for it. I don't think like I am now, but I feel amazing. I feel like I'm my own person. Now, I'm excited about moving forward in the future like I can. This is less energy devoted to worrying the energy that I've been using. Scared of my connection with my dad can now be used for something useful and purposeful.
And it gives me everything that I need to look to the future instead of to the past. Do you know what I see? You have got to you'd be free. Day three in the final happy face, Melissa comes to a reckoning with her past, her present and her future.
Happy faces, a production of HowStuffWorks executive producers are Melissa Moore, Lauren Bright, Pachuco Mangoush Ticket and Will Peerson, supervising producer as Noel Brown, music by Clare Campbell, Paige Campbell and hope for a golden summer story. Ed is married on audio editing by Chandler Mays and Noel Brown, assistant editor is Taylor Coyne. Special thanks to Phil Stanford, the publishers of The Oregonian newspaper and the Carlyle family who.
Baby, love my baby. Oh, hi, I'm Heidi Murkoff, host of What to Expect, a new podcast from My Heart Radio. When I first wrote What to Expect When You're Expecting I was pregnant with my daughter Emma, and my mission was simple to help parents know what to expect every step of the way. That mission has grown a lot, but it hasn't changed. Fast forward now, Amasa Mom. Hey, guys. We're teaming up to answer your biggest pregnancy and parenting questions.
From breastfeeding to sleep to tackling tantrum. Motherhood is the ultimate sisterhood, but it can be overwhelming if you don't know what to expect. Listen to what to expect on the I Heart radio app, Apple podcast or wherever you get your podcast. Šamaš are you ready, Mom? I was born ready.