Psychotherapy Off the Wall

A Surreptitious Sadist
Harry, a man in his early thirties, was admitted to the correctional centre having been convicted of several counts of sadistically killing cattle. He had been employed as a farm labourer and thus had access to some cattle. The details of what he did are better left to your imagination, if you care to imagine such things. He had no sense that there was anything wrong with what he did. The dumb beasts were about as passive and yielding as anybody might wish.
On the Differential Diagnostic Technique (DDT), which was described in the story about Chester, Harry performed in the same way as Chester had done. This suggested that he had an irritative brain focus, equivalent to non-convulsive epilepsy, in the general region of the ‘drive centre’ of the old brain. Based on Chester’s reaction, one might assume that it was the sex drive centre which was being accidentally and artificially stimulated in Harry’s brain to evoke his sadistic behaviour. But there was no sexual involvement with the cattle he had killed, and Harry’s sexual history was in no significant way different from that of any other ‘normal’ man. Instead, based on a history of sudden and unprovoked violent acts toward other children during his developmental years, it would seem more likely that it was Harry’s ‘rage’ centre which was being stimulated by the short-circuiting activity involved in his ‘complex seizures’.
And his fantasy life was replete with images or impulses of sadistic acts of various kinds, always with the victim being vulnerable, rendered incapable of self-protection and helpless. His fantasies had many of the staff genuinely fearful of what he would do after he was released from his current incarceration.
He was treated, for a total of forty half-hour sessions, with a biofeedback procedure based on the concurrent use of Sterman’s EEG-SMR training method which had been used with Chester, and of Quirk’s GSR-SCARS procedure which had been used with George. EEG electrodes were attached to his scalp near the C3-C4 site, and the EEG apparatus set to provide him with a whistling sound whenever and while there was evidence of sensorimotor rhythm (SMR) activity from the site. The whistling sound was interpreted to him as being equivalent to Felicity saying ‘fantastic’ to him – as a reward for producing some of the desired behaviour.
Galvanic skin resistance (GSR) electrodes were attached to his right hand to measure changes in his palmar sweat production while he was seated looking at pictorial slides. The slides were used to facilitate the transfer of the training from the lab to the world in which he lived, and they dealt with animals, people and things of various types and under various conditions — that is, they were pretty neutral pictures from life. The role of the slides in the SCARS treatment, in addition to fostering transfer of training, was merely to allow something to occur at the ‘right times’ which could be used as discrete and contingent rewards — the slide changes. Every time the GSR value increased by 1,000 ohms (i.e., less sweat, more ‘calmness’), the slide was changed to a new one. He was told that slide change was Felicity’s way of saying ‘good’ to him.
Shortly after the forty treatment sessions were completed, Harry was released, having satisfied his sentence. He returned to the community. Felicity has been ‘pulling’ Harry’s cumulative correctional file from time to time over the six years since Harry was released to see whether he had received further charges or convictions. He has not. Assuming that he is still alive and resides, as he always had since birth, in the jurisdiction covered by these records, the record indicates that, to date, he has remained free from further offenses. This may represent something of an accomplishment for Harry, considering that he had not spent more than six months at a time on the street (i.e., not incarcerated) since he had become an adult. Does this mean that Felicity’s hypothesis was validated? It does not. Felicity regularly experiences some trepidation when he obtains Harry’s file. Who knows if or when he will offend again?

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