Friday, May 09, 2008

I Will Possess Your Heart

How I wish you could see the potential,
The potential of you and me,
It's like a book, elegantly bound but,
In a language that you can't read (just yet).

I Will Possess Your Heart
------Death Cab For Cutie

The latest single from Death Cab for Cutie describes a stalker's obsession with his distant and unattainable object of desire. As singer Ben Gibbard explains:

"Writing songs of unrequited love and 'stalker-type tunes' isn't exactly breaking new ground or anything like that, but with 'Heart' I feel like it's the sentiments that make it so creepy," Gibbard said. "And this is a work of fiction — it's not something I'm guilty of, hopefully — but to me the narrator in the song doesn't see anything wrong with what he or she is doing. It's more, 'I just happen to walk by your house all the time, and I think how great it would be if I were inside your house looking out at the world.'

"What makes it so unsettling is that one party doesn't understand that what's happening is not appropriate. And they may have pure intentions, but the way it comes off is not the case at all."

The narrator can be categorized as a stalker who is an "unwanted pursuer" (as opposed to a former partner). In a recent study (Spitzberg & Veksler, 2007),
Unwanted pursuers were perceived as less socially competent, more histrionic, more borderline, and less obsessive-compulsive [surprisingly], with discrimination of "normals" from unwanted pursuers of approximately 75% to 80% accuracy. These attributions also significantly predicted a continuous measure of unwanted pursuit victimization (R = .406).
What (if anything) do we know about the neurobiology of stalking? Soliman et al. (2007) reported on the case of a patient with Huntington's disease who stalked her therapist:
The patient developed recurrent thoughts [and] amorous feelings towards her therapist. She engaged in stalking behavior including unwelcome gifts, multiple telephone calls to the therapist's office and home, and making threats towards the therapist. The patient continued to contact the therapist after [she] filed a Personal Protection Order. The patient was successfully treated with risperidone [an atypical antipsychotic] and fluvoxamine [a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor].
Since these unwelcome and intrusive actions were correlated with the onset of the patient's HD, the authors suggested that the stalking behavior could be early manifestation of basal ganglia pathology (Soliman et al., 2007). Her pattern of stalking does appear to have a substantial obsessive-compulsive component:

Ms. A exhibited two symptoms related to her stalking behavior that are probably linked to the basal ganglia lesions associated with HD. Namely, she exhibited obsessive thoughts about her therapist and amorous feelings towards her therapist.

The relationship between disorders of the basal ganglia and symptoms of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) has been previously established.

They also cited the work of Meloy and Fisher (2005), who

hypothesized that the obsessive thoughts and amorous feelings related to stalking are caused in part by low activity of the central serotonergic pathways and increased dopaminergic activity. ... These hypotheses are consistent with the observation that Ms. A’s obsessive thoughts and stalking behavior remitted with selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor and antipsychotic treatment, which increases serotonergic drive and suppresses dopaminergic activity, respectively.

Risperidone and fluvoxamine for our creepy narrator, then.

You gotta spend some time, love.
You gotta spend some time with me.
And I know that you'll find love.
I will possess your heart.



Meloy JR, Fisher H. (2005). Some thoughts on the neurobiology of stalking. J Forensic Sci. 50:1472-80.

Soliman S, Haque S, George E. (2007). Stalking and Huntington's disease: a neurobiological link? J Forensic Sci. 52:1202-4.

Spitzberg BH, Veksler AE. (2007). The personality of pursuit: personality attributions of unwanted pursuers and stalkers. Violence Vict. 22:275-89.

You reject my advances and desperate pleas
I won't let you let me down so easily
So easily.

Watch the full-length video (8:31).

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