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The Secret That Became My Life

On the secrets we keep from and for others, and how it warps our identities:

I was so lonely it hurt. I hadn't told friends the secret of our marriage. The keeper worries about being found out. The keeper also tries to create an internal story that keeps self-judgment at bay. So we rationalize, and we explain, and we cover over the bright shiny truth. We tell ourselves stories about how much better off everybody is if they are ignorant. The keeper is afraid of change, of retribution, and of being judged.

AUTHOR:Jane Isay
PUBLISHED: Jan. 6, 2014
LENGTH: 18 minutes (4669 words)

Confessions of a Sociopath

A diagnosed sociopath explains how she thinks and functions. Adapted from a book by M.E. Thomas:

"I loved getting high marks in school; it meant I could get away with things other students couldn't. When I was young, what thrilled me was the risk of figuring out just how little I could study and still pull off the A. It was the same for being an attorney. During the California bar exam, people were crying from the stress. The convention center where the exam took place looked like a disaster relief center; people made desperate attempts to recall everything they had memorized over the prior eight weeks—weeks that I spent vacationing in Mexico. Despite being woefully ill-prepared by many standards, I was able to maintain calm and focus enough to maximize the knowledge I did have. I passed while others failed."
PUBLISHED: May 7, 2013
LENGTH: 13 minutes (3422 words)

Your Sixth Sense

Why people can feel someone staring at them, experience deja vu, and other paranormal experiences:

"One of the most common anomalous experiences is the sense of being stared at. When you see someone gazing directly at you, emotions become activated—it can be exciting or comforting or creepy—and this visceral charge can give the impression that gazes transfer energy. Further, if you feel uncomfortable and check to see whether someone is looking at you, your movement may draw attention—confirming your suspicions.

"Another common experience is déjà vu, a phenomenon two in three people report. Most of us shrug it off as a mental hiccup. Indeed, researchers propose it's a sense of familiarity without a recollection of why something is familiar, or perhaps a timing issue in the brain where thoughts are experienced twice because of a slight wiring delay, lending the second occurrence an odd sensation of repetition. But some people believe it's a glimpse into a past life.

"While anomalous experiences may be associated with stressful circumstances, personal pathologies, or cognitive deficits, the experiences themselves may not always be so bad, and may actually be healthy inventions. They're just our attempts to make sense of a weird situation. After all, there's nothing the mind likes better than a good story."
PUBLISHED: July 1, 2012
LENGTH: 14 minutes (3569 words)

Hypochondria: The Impossible Illness

A man with hypochondria attempts to understand his disorder:

"Eleven years ago, when he was still a medical resident at Columbia University, Fallon was asked to help a man who was convinced, despite medical results to the contrary, that he was saddled with a brain tumor. 'He tried Prozac, and it made a dramatic change,' Fallon says. 'He went from irritable and hostile to grateful and happy that something was helping him. I thought, 'Wow, this is fascinating.' Because at that point so little was known.'

"The use of Prozac and similar medications is now under formal study. Columbia's Fallon and Arthur Barsky, a professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School, are conducting the largest trial ever undertaken of the disorder. They are enrolling 264 hypochondriacs in a randomized, placebo-controlled clinical trial comparing cognitive behavioral therapy, Prozac, and a combination of the two. They suspect that CBT and the drug will be equally effective, but that combination therapy will be even more effective for 'this major public health disorder.' 'I don't know what to expect,' says Fallon. 'But it will be very interesting.'"
PUBLISHED: Jan. 1, 2010
LENGTH: 9 minutes (2409 words)

The Grandmaster Experiment

The story of the Polgar sisters, chess whizzes who were trained by their father from an early age:

"When Susan was the age of many of her students, she dominated the New York Open chess competition. At 16 she crushed several adult opponents and landed on the front page of The New York Times. The tournament was abuzz not just with the spectacle of one pretty young powerhouse: Susan's raven-haired sister Sophia, 11, swept most of the games in her section, too. But the pudgy baby of the family, 9-year-old Judit, drew the most gawkers of all. To onlookers' delight, Judit took on five players simultaneously and beat them. She played blindfolded."
PUBLISHED: July 1, 2005
LENGTH: 18 minutes (4643 words)

Why Teenage Girls Still Love Sylvia Plath

Thirty years after her suicide, Sylvia Plath continues to seduce the adolescent psyche. But her fans are just as likely to romanticize her death as they are her poetry:

Twenty-first-century teens' belief that they've found a kindred outsider in Plath is evident in the thousands of Internet sites and Web logs that now celebrate the poet. Some girls dub their journals "bell jar" or "ladylazarus." On, girls with e-mail addresses like sylviaaplath, plath2002 and LuvlySylviaPlath feel that the poet speaks the truth and speaks it only to them.

PUBLISHED: Nov. 1, 2003
LENGTH: 7 minutes (1770 words)