When stories are not told, we risk losing our way.Ann-Marie MacDonald
“How are you planning to cope?”
Or, “What do you normally do to cope?”
These are the kind of questions you may get asked by a counselor after recounting certain kinds of experiences. I remember asking these questions when I volunteered on the suicide hotline.
Some people will answer that they are going to look to friends and family for support. They’ll read a book. They’ll take a bath. Some people, if they were to answer honestly, cope by drinking alcohol or by engaging in mind altering edibles.
Me, I think about how things might have been. How things might have been if I had a time machine. If it were possible, how could this be repaired or prevented? If I could just go back to a long ago past to find out how this started, and alter the learning history…
(In all other situations not requiring a time machine, I overload myself with information to troubleshoot the problem. In much the same way if you Google how to repair your car.)
I listen to the same music I used to cope over anything ten years ago, then go from there.
Am I conscious or is it my unconscious being
no more like a d r e a m ?The Dandy Warhols, Good Morning
I write down, repeat, and talk about whatever happened until I hopefully get bored. In that way, I can gain some kind of control. Otherwise, Whatever Happened will replay in my head anyway. A certain phrase, a voice at a certain tone, a certain sight, a certain sound will trigger me back and I relive certain things all over again. (Now, imagine what that’s like if the same kind of event does repeat itself in your life, so you’re reliving the past, and experiencing it in the present…)
Keep your ‘lectric eye on me babe.
Put your ray gun to m y y y head.
Press your space face close to m i n e, love.
Freak out in a moonage day dream, oh yeah!David Bowie, Moonage Daydream
I plan out my life with the goal to do things to push events to as far back in the past as possible. I think of memory-events as similar to a deck of cards, with each card representing an event. And my goal is to put as many cards on top of that card so it fades to bottom and irrelevant to the Now.
Right now, I am writing. I mentalistically think of it as pouring out everything I have hidden. Unpacking it, and putting it away.
It is my way of unpacking everything. Safely and indirectly. That is my aim.
On the face, it is merely a public service announcement on warning signs of certain kinds of bad things. To me, it is more than that.
When I applied to jobs back in December and January, I had included a cover letter.
In the cover letter I stated that my goal in the future was to extend Applied Behavior Analysis to the area of domestic violence. In the interview I would explain, “I found myself in a situation where I was looking up therapy for abusers, and found that the recidivism rate at 100%. In fact, abusers would often return to the situation and end up murdering their partners. Because, as it goes, the partners would take the abuser back thinking that everything would be better because the abuser had went to therapy.”
Most abusive men put on a charming face for their communities, creating a sharp split between their public image and their private treatment of women and children. He may be: Enraged at home but calm and smiling outside. Selfish and self-centered with you but generous and supportive with others. Domineering at home but willing to negotiate and compromise outside. Highly negative about females while on his own turf, but a vocal supporter of equality when anyone else is listening. Assaultive toward his partner or children but nonviolent and nonthreatening with everyone else. Entitled at home but critical of other men who disrespect or assault women The pain of this contrast can eat away at a woman. In the morning her partner cuts her to the quick by calling her a “brainless fat cow,” but a few hours later she sees him laughing with the people next door and helping them fix their car. Later the neighbor says to her, “Your partner is so nice. You’re lucky to be with him—a lot of men wouldn’t do what he does.” She responds with a mumbled “Yeah,” feeling confused and tongue-tied.
Back at home, she asks herself over and over again, “Why me?”Lundy Bancroft, Why does he do that? Inside the Minds of Angry and Controlling Men
When was the last time someone asked you to go kill yourself? What if, that person asked you to do that on a weekly basis? Daily basis? And/or that person say that he/she wanted to kill you? Perhaps the person would also say on occasion that if you got home late, he would not be able to tell the difference between you and an intruder, and you know what happens to intruders. Perhaps this person would also tell you that you are the one who is too controlling in the same breath.
How long would you last?
If someone were to ask me that, I would say, “What a funny question! About three years seems to be the right answer, for whatever reason.”
You can know ABA all you want, knowing the function of an inappropriate behavior, what the “reason” is for the behavior… but it hurts. Especially when you add everything else and you realize that it was an absolute horror movie that has been playing. And it is your life.
The central attitudes driving the Water Torturer are: You are crazy. You fly off the handle over nothing. I can easily convince other people that you’re the one who is messed up. As long as I’m calm, you can’t call anything I do abusive, no matter how cruel.
I know exactly how to get under your skin.Lundy Bancroft, Why does he do that? Inside the Minds of Angry and Controlling Men
Have you ever moved an object on a desk and that resulted in someone getting angry to the point you got thrown around? All the while listening to the person say you were the one hitting him? Perhaps you’re even holding say… a gray cat.
Have you ever been “helped” out of a moving vehicle by someone who was just telling you he was affected by someone else who got out of a moving vehicle?
Have you ever told someone that you did not call him garbage and he takes out a gun and points it at you, blaming you for arguing about it? Then he tries to get you to hold the gun?
And when you think about it in retrospect, you realize that there may have been other intentions with trying to get you to hold the gun.
Have you ever cried, and the person who was supposed to love you, laughed and danced as a result?
Somehow I can’t forget… You’d laugh right into my tears.
I just won’t forget… how it just made you feel good.Saint Motel, Balsa Wood Bones
Someone told me last year that I would only sing when I was sad. He only ever heard me sing the first four verses of Balsa Wood Bones when I was alone in another room.
Have you ever had someone headbutt you over and over, while hearing that person say, “Stop headbutting me!”, hmm?
Press your space face close to mine, love…
Have you ever had someone spend twelve hours, four days… months try to to convince you that you did something did not happen, when it did happen? Or vice versa? By screaming, yelling, threatening, grounding, telling you and others you’re delusional, or even trying to have you committed…
Have you ever had someone try to restrain you, and then when you push him on the shoulders to get him off he says, “Stop choking me!”, hmm?
Objectification is a critical reason why an abuser tends to get worse over time. As his conscience adapts to one level of cruelty—or violence—he builds to the next. By depersonalizing his partner, the abuser protects himself from the natural human emotions of guilt and empathy, so that he can sleep at night with a clear conscience. He distances himself so far from her humanity that her feelings no longer count, or simply cease to exist. These walls tend to grow over time, so that after a few years in a relationship my clients can reach a point where they feel no more guilt over degrading or threatening their partners than you or I would feel after angrily kicking a stone in the driveway.Lundy Bancroft, Why does he do that? Inside the Minds of Angry and Controlling Men
I came across the above quote early in the morning of May 1st, 2019.
Perhaps all of these things have happened to you, and you thought, “That’s probably less than half of everything to unpack… There’s more, and it’s going to be awhile before I am completely okay.” But good for you, you’re way more okay than anyone should be you had to deal with all of that. Pat yourself on the back!
Maybe, if these types of things ever happened to you, you thought that with enough patience and know-how this could all be overcome. Perhaps you thought there was a certain intimacy with seeing the darkest side of someone. After all, no one else has that privilege. The silver lining. You’re way more positive than you ever thought!
Perhaps he said the reason why did all of these things is because he’s so passionate about you and because he loves and cares about you. And you got to a point where you understood the logic in that.
Make me baby, make me know you really care..
Make me jump into the air…
Before we go further, here is an ABA jargon definition for you to look at:
a thing, event, or change of conditions whose presentation immediately following a response increases that responseRichard Malott, Principles of Behavior: Chapter 2
An easy example would be where a child takes a sip of Pepsi for the first time. Finding the taste pleasurable, the child takes more sips of Pepsi forever after.
Basically, a reinforcer is not simply just something that is a preferred thing. It is something that, if received right after some behavior, that behavior starts happening more.
Sometimes getting a preferred thing doesn’t make a behavior more likely to occur. Like, if someone gave me a piece of candy I liked, or said, “Good job!” every time I clapped, I probably would not clap more often. However, if someone handed me a 100$ bill, I probably would. Or perhaps even, if someone gave me a hug.
If someone cried whenever I clapped, I’d probably stop clapping ever again without even thinking about it.
Knowing the definition for a reinforcer is important for the sad fairy tale you will read at the end.
Has he ever trapped you in a room and not let you out?Lundy Bancroft, Why does he do that? Inside the Minds of Angry and Controlling Men
Has he ever raised a fist as if he were going to hit you?
Has he ever thrown an object that hit you or nearly did?
Has he ever held you down or grabbed you to restrain you?
Has he ever shoved, poked, or grabbed you?
Has he ever threatened to hurt you?
If the answer to any of these questions is yes, then we can stop wondering whether he’ll ever be violent; he already has been.
Do you find yourself being able to answer yes to all six of the above questions?
Once upon a time, there was a giant and a fairy.
The giant was known throughout the land for being kind, helpful, and gentle. If a child was stuck in a tree, one could always count on the giant to bring the child safely down.
Everyone knew how kind and gentle the giant was because they always saw him be kind and gentle. You could always be sure to be greeted with a cheerful, “How do you do?”
And one day, the giant fell in love with the little fairy.
And the fairy felt happy for the first time in a long time. The fairy who had seen the land with the mountain of rainbows. The fairy who saw time skip from time to time due to the demons that had been following her since the land with the mountain of rainbows.
Soon, the fairy realized that the giant was different when no one else was looking. He was full of anger. He was unpredictable. The fairy noticed something rotting on the giant, but she thought of how the world changes and taints things.
And she also thought of how the world changes and cleanses things.
She thought the giant merely had demons that he also had to pay his dues too. And that the giant would be successful in getting the demons to go away.
Why else would the giant do the things he does?
She would say, “That hurts me.” He would say, “It’s your fault it hurts. Just be happy.“
Then he would do it more. She noticed. And when he saw that he was not hurting her as much, he would do something different… that hurt even more.
a thing, event, or change of conditions whose presentation immediately following a response increases that responseIf the giant hurt the fairy, the fairy cried and exhibited other pain behaviors, and the giant hurt the fairy more, what was the reinforcer for the giant’s behavior?
Then she would cry and scream, “Why are you doing this to me? It hurts more!”
He would say, “It hurts me when you cry and scream. Stop it. You’re acting crazy. Everyone thinks you’re crazy. After all, you are the one hurting us.” Sometimes, he would laugh. Sometimes, he would dance. He would also say, “I am the same giant who rescues the children from the trees. I am the same giant who greets everyone with a smile. Who will believe you?”
There, he let it go, his… temper. Standing there.
See her with his gun and he, steals love so he can feel alive.
Everyone’s knees knocking at the fear of love. Taste blood.
Everybody needs to feel…Sharon Van Etten, Your Love is Killing Me
Each time the fairy got hurt, black fog would surround her. With each new hurt, the fog became thicker.
When the giant saw the fog was too thick, he would be gentle and clear some of the fog and say it made him sad when he saw the fairy get surrounded by fog. This made the fairy happy to hear him say that he did not like black fog around her. But she noticed that he never fixed what caused the black fog to appear in the first place.
But each time the fog would almost be clear, the giant would hurt the fairy so all of the fog would come back, thicker than the last time.
In a healthy relationship, vulnerability is wonderful. It leads to increased intimacy and closer bonds. When a healthy person realizes that he or she hurt you, they feel remorse and they make amends. It’s safe to be honest. In an abusive system, vulnerability is dangerous. It’s considered a weakness, which acts as an invitation for more mistreatment. Abusive people feel a surge of power when they discover a weakness. They exploit it, using it to gain more power. Crying or complaining confirms that they’ve poked you in the right spot.Christina Enevoldsen
Eventually, the fairy realized that he was not a gentle giant with demons following him. He was a giant demon. But she stayed because she still loved him.
Maybe he loved her, but he loved hurting her more. Knowing this, the fairy became even more sad.
When the fairy saw how thick the fog was becoming with each new hurt, the fairy said to the giant, “I have to leave now because next time you hurt me the fog will be so thick I cannot breath, and I will die. I am going to step into the Great Void.
I do not know what will happen on the other side, but it is calling to me now.”
The giant said, “Go ahead. You will come back. You need me.”
So one day, when the giant left to go to the forest to tend to the children in the trees, the fairy left and jumped into the Great Void.
And she vowed never to never let the giant see her or hear her again. She knew that he would attempt to cover up the truth Smoke and Mirrors, but she knew the truth.
She wrote down the truth on many pieces of paper, and packed and locked it away so she did not have to think about it anymore.
Though she still wished everything was different. Even if she encountered more demons in the Void, and even if she did not, she knew her life would continue to be interesting.
I, I wish you could swimDavid Bowie, Heroes
Like the dolphins, like dolphins can swim
Though nothing, nothing will keep us together
We can beat them, for ever and ever
Oh we can be Heroes, just for one day
When I was young, I was not so keen on Bowie. But he literally talks about space and Mars, or infuses space-age type sound to a lot of his music that I should have settled this issue of mine with him sooner.
To Someone in Particular: I remember when I would talk about time travel and outer space, and you would say how much it irritated you. I remember how much you liked to say it was impossible and that we had never even been to the moon. I can still imagine you being irritated, but in the end I still believe in possibility of time travel and traveling throughout outer space. Perhaps we will see each other again on the other side of time and space?