Wednesday, 21 August 2013

The Lone Ranger. 18.08.13

"Remember stalkers think of themselves as "laws unto themselves." In order to maintain this delusion they need to operate in isolation. That is to say they need to find people who are too proud to ask for help and will foolishly attempt to handle the problem by themselves. It is the woman's pride, confidence in herself and her abilities -- and her shame for "finding myself in such a stupid situation" that keeps her from immediately seeking outside help."
Marc MacYoung[1]

I read the above paragraph yesterday and for the first time ever in my entire life I thought “hell, that’s harsh”.  I mean, I routinely evaluate statements on the basis of whether they are correct or incorrect, well-meaning or malicious, well-written or clumsy, but never, ever on the basis of their “harshness”.  Thankfully, I remembered another statement I heard recently: “if you’re offended by what I’m saying…. Then I’m talking to YOU.”  Of course that makes a lot of sense.  I have always tried to deal with all sorts of interpersonal hassle, of which I had plenty, without calling in the cavalry.  But, in fairness, it had nothing to do with pride, overconfidence or shame.  My motivations for keeping my trap shut were completely different.

Firstly, if you are swimming in sharks-infested waters you don’t want to go bleeding all over the place.  It just attract them and excites them.  Similarly, if you are surrounded by people who want to hurt or scare you, you can’t go admitting to having been hurt or scared.  This piece of information was brought to me by the Angel of Duh[2] at such an early age that I honestly cannot begin to comprehend how so many of my friends involved in self-defence and/or martial arts seem not to grasp it.  They seem to be able to apply it to actual physical fighting, but not to other forms of interpersonal conflict.  No, you can’t say “but if you do or say that it will hurt me” to those who want to hurt you and expect them to stop.  That’s not how it works.  If hurting you is their goal and you just confirmed to them that they have succeeded, what do you think they are likely to do next?

The bottom line is that, I’m sorry, but I struggle to admit to anyone that something is making me upset, scared, hurt or anything else that could be classed as “vulnerable”.  Raging angry, that’s a different story.  That’s safe, that is, as well as counting as a warning if a greater reaction should become necessary.  But admitting that I’m vulnerable to something?  Hell no.  That’s like handing someone a gun and then asking them not to shoot you.

“What about those people you know and trust, though?” I hear you cry.  Well, there are two issues with that.  Firstly, there are so few of them that they are statistically insignificant, because I’m cagey as hell.  Secondly, and you’re not gonna like this, by and large to most people you are nothing but the sum of your functions.  They may say or genuinely believe that they “like and love you for yourself”, but the truth is that if you stop performing whatever you do that adds to their life they won’t like it one bit. 

Every group or pack has a structure, and within that every member has a role.  It’s not just about leader vs. followers; there are all sorts of roles, all of them important.  You might be the joker, the one with the practical knowledge, the one with the fun ideas, the one who takes cares of people’s feelings, or something more prosaic, like the eternal designated driver.  The list goes on and on.  Me, I’m the person people lean on in times of trouble.  They will share their vulnerabilities and problems and I will guard them and deal with them.  Sometimes the way it works puzzles me exceedingly.  For instance, at four-foot-and-not-a-lot, I am the person who gets called out to act as cavalry when people are having problems with abusive partners, stalkers and general assholes.  I just don my Mighty Mouse costume, pick up my fiery sword, and off I go, protecting the innocents, righting wrongs, smiting the wicked and generally getting shit done.  For reasons way beyond my understanding, this actually generally works.  Most of the time, however, I just have to deal with people’s sore spots, wounds, perceived or real weaknesses and general vulnerabilities.  That’s my thing.  That’s what I do.  That’s my responsibility, and I don’t mind at all.

The problems arise when I’m the one with the issues.  From experience, telling the people I support that I’m the one in need of supporting does not go down well.  Their reaction may go anywhere from mild, temporary disappointment to complete and utter rejection.  Most of the times I can expect some sort of meltdown at the very least[3].  However it goes, the result doesn’t tend to be positive.  If you don’t believe me, try it.  Don’t try it with your nearest and dearest, because a divorce isn’t worth it, but do try stopping performing whatever function you perform for someone you don’t necessarily desperately care for and watch for the reaction[4].  It won’t be pleasant, I’d put money on it.

The moral of the story is that when it comes to admitting weaknesses or asking for assistance, I tend to just not go there.  So, in times when I was struggling to deal with certain people it never occurred to me to ask for support.  Yes, this is UNBELIEVABLY foolish – I own that label.  However, the pride, shame and confidence bits are not mine.  So there.

Maybe, just maybe, this was the real lesson I learnt during my disastrous 2012.  In the middle of a series of cataclysms of an unprecedented scale, I finally learnt to say the magic words:  “help me”.  Help me because I can’t cope with this.  Help me because I am drowning, and I don’t know which way is up anymore.

I didn’t say them to just everybody and they didn’t always work.  Out of three good friends I contacted, the success rate was a neat 66%.  Two people rallied to my support as best as they could, given the limitations posed by distance and other commitments.  It wasn’t how much they were doing that mattered, though; it was just the fact that they cared enough to do something.  The third told me to go away and get help elsewhere.  Literally.  And hey, that’s ok too, because he clearly wasn’t much of a friend to start with.  It hurt like hell at the time, but after all I wouldn’t knowingly make friends with people who, in times of dire need, tell you to go and sling your hook.  We must have been involved in some sort of mutual misunderstanding.

Trying to stand alone unnecessarily truly is bad self-defence.  I am not trying to knock self-reliance, independence, resilience and all those beautiful virtues associated with strength, capability and ultimately survival.  However, we are social animals and we are strongest when we stand together.  Depriving yourself of support, for whatever reason, is neither big nor clever.

All in all, this vulnerability malarkey may actually be a viable option.  Not only it gets you support when necessary, but it also helps cut out the people in your life who really don’t have any business being there.  That’s a win-win situation if I’ve ever seen one.  Does it mean that I find it easy?  No, not at all.  However, it is a useful, healthy skill that I intend to develop.  Watch this space.

[2] A mystical, magical creature who brings forth the bloody obvious to those too obtuse to see it on their own.
[3] I’m guessing the “logic” here is that displaying a greater vulnerability reasserts the natural order of things, but I might be wrong. 
[4] I have seen it work in another way, too.  If you become close to somebody while they are going through a huge personal crisis, once that crisis is resolved or the situation stabilises chances are you will be dropped out of their lives.

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