Forgiveness vs. Understanding

[NOTE: please read the second and third paragraphs from this post before continuing. Important–don’t skip reading them!]

To all those abuse victims out there who can, whether it be for religious reasons or otherwise, forgive their victimizers, I must say that that’s commendable of you. I must respectfully disagree with this attitude, however, as I find the unrepentant abuser to be unworthy of forgiveness.

The forgivers do have a good point, though. Simmering in perpetual resentment, ruminating over the abuse, and constantly reminding oneself–as a reaction to second-guessing–of why one is angry and hurt: these things punish only us, while our abusers go to bed every night and not miss a wink of sleep.

Is there another way, a solution that allows us to have peace without giving our abusers something they haven’t earned? I think so–it’s understanding.

Instead of just regarding them as evil, or as assholes, we should try to understand the course of events that lead them to become who they are. This is why reading about the causes of narcissism, ASPD, and other Cluster B personality disorders is so important.

I personally focus on narcissism since I believe my late mother had NPD, maybe even malignant narcissism (though I can never know for sure, since she was never diagnosed). While psychoanalysis obviously doesn’t have the final say on the causes and treatment of narcissism, it does provide a number of insights worthy of at least some consideration. I recommend reading Heinz Kohut, though his writing is wordy, academic, technical, and therefore very difficult to read through.

Kohut focuses on the narcissist having been deprived of empathy (mirroring) from, and of a solid role model (idealized parental imago) in, his or her parents, resulting in the hated parts of the narcissist’s personality being repressed or disavowed, split off from the self (I interpret this latter defence mechanism as projection, or projective identification, a passing of their own faults onto other people, their abuse victims).

Beyond problems like these, though, it’s often said that narcissists and psychopaths are the way they are, at least in part, because of severe childhood trauma from various forms of abuse and neglect (i.e., disrupted parental bonding). So we can understand what made them that way, though it never gave them any special right to do what they did to us; hence I favour understanding over forgiveness.

I’ve explained in previous posts why I believe my late mother developed pathological levels of narcissism, traits she denied in herself by putting on a False Self of the altruistic, ‘loving mother’ (even though she constantly bad-mouthed her nephews–and me, in all probability–behind their backs and mine), and by projecting her faults onto me, the family scapegoat, or identified patient.

I’ll review those reasons here below, as well as give what I think are the reasons her flying monkeys, my older brothers R. and F., and my older sister J., the golden child, were such bullies to me when I was a child, teen, and young adult.

Born in London, England in 1938, and therefore subjected on at least some level to the Blitz starting two years later, my mother must have had a traumatizing infancy. Added to this, her father–whom she deeply loved–died when she was a little girl…more trauma. Then she emigrated with her mother to Canada, leaving behind the whole world of her childhood to enter a totally unfamiliar one…even more childhood trauma.

The thing to be amazed at is not how screwed up my mother was, but how well she kept herself together. I believe she used a grandiose self as a defence against psychological fragmentation, the emotional falling-apart or disintegration of the personality.

Now, that grandiose self of hers wouldn’t have lasted long in a world that doesn’t tolerate braggarts. I’ll bet her mother–already with enough on her plate, and struggling to raise Mom on her own until meeting the man who would be my step-grandfather–was particularly annoyed with my then-teenage Mom’s egotism. I’m guessing Grandma shamed Mom for it, instead of empathically mirroring it, as Kohut would do in treating narcissists, and letting her grandiosity down in levels tolerable for her to endure, so she could cultivate the moderate, restrained, healthy, and mature amounts of narcissistic tendencies of normal people.

My then-adolescent mother (assuming my speculations are correct) would have had to bury her shame and adapt, transforming her overt narcissism into the covert kind. Part of this would have involved replacing boasting about herself with smearing other people behind their backs. Over the years, she would have honed her skills at observing people, gossiping, and spreading rumours, to the point of rarely, if ever, getting caught having told a lie.

Getting married and having children would have given my mother the perfect setting to play her manipulative games. Children are blank slates, ideal for moulding into whatever kind of people the narcissistic parent wants them to be. A spouse who can be dominated, and whose contempt for all things psychological and psychiatric would preclude his benefitting from gaining any insight into human nature (a perfect description of the disposition of my late father), would be a perfect match for a narcissist, too.

The thrill of dominating a whole family in this way would be an irresistible pleasure for a narcissistic mother. The master of puppets could then indulge her fantasies of superiority and power-wielding by taking advantage of naïve children who desperately need parental love and approval, tricking them into confusing parental bullying with discipline and correction of misbehaviour.

She could play Pygmalion, sculpting her sons’ and daughters’ personalities and self-perceptions into whatever she wanted them to be. All that shame my Mom had from her original egotism and self-absorption could be projected onto an innocent, unsuspecting child (me). The idealized version of herself that she wished she could equate with what she saw in the mirror would instead be projected onto another of her children (my sister, J.), whom she could look at as if looking at her own reflection. The pain of emotional neglect, or a lack of empathic mirroring, which she got as a child could be expelled from her and projected onto her remaining sons (my brothers, R. and F.).

The stage was set: we, her sons and daughter, would contain all her pain, dejection, and self-hate (J.’s pain being the pressure, as the golden child, to be everything Mom demanded she be, and to embody every virtue Mom failed to embody herself). By containing all these hurts for Mom (as, under normal circumstances, a mother in reverie would contain the pain and anxieties of her baby), we unwittingly freed her to function normally in society…or at least to seem to be functioning so.

Now, that was the dysfunctional way my mother dealt with her pain. With my brothers, the source of much of their nastiness to me was in their strained relationship with our father: this is especially true of R.

In all the blog posts I’ve written about my family, I’ve said comparatively little about the faults of my father, in large part because–in spite of how egregious his faults were–I don’t consider him to have had pathological levels of narcissistic traits (I don’t consider F. to have them either, however much of a bully he was to me). We need now to consider the role Dad played in all of our family’s problems.

Dad had a reactionary attitude towards child rearing. If we kids did wrong, he imagined shaming us into doing right would work. He was a staunch conservative, and an ardent advocate of spanking. If you got poor grades at school, or showed a lack of interest in improving them (he was a high school teacher back in the 1960s), you were going to have a hard time with him. Enter my academically disappointing brothers.

J and I got good grades in school (especially her…and Dad growled at me from time to time if I ever got disappointing grades), so he was generally nicer to us. Dad actually took me under his wing, mentoring me, even. Now, bear in mind that his influence wasn’t always a good thing, given his bigotry against blacks, Jews, gays, the left, etc., and teaching kids bigoted beliefs is considered a form of emotional abuse. Nonetheless, this closeness between Dad and me incurred jealousy in R. and F., giving those two pricks a motive to bully me.

Now, as understandable as my elder brothers’ jealousy and rage were, it doesn’t come even close to justifying R.’s and F’s viciousness towards me. Why should I have been punished for having one family member reasonably (far from absolutely!) on my side? Consider the heartbreak I felt to learn how my mother, with her eight WTF moments (<<see here, scrolling down to Part VII: Conclusion), had never really been on my side, with J. as her mini-me, helping her. Would Mom’s cruelties to me justify my being vindictive to R. and F., given Mom’s general favouring of them over me (e.g., looking the other way when they bullied me)?

Am I not allowed one family friend (which Dad wasn’t in the strict sense, for he verbally abused me on many occasions, as did the others, typically for minor things I’d done to annoy him)? Dad looked well on J. usually; and she and Mom were pals, she being the golden child. Though R. was often nasty to J. for the same reason he was to me (i.e., our better school grades), he was nasty to her only a fraction of the time he was to me; and F. generally wasn’t mean to her–only to me.

Something else had to be going on to explain the family’s aggravated abuse on me; even my personal faults (which, I admit, are far from few) cannot account for the volume of viciousness they all showed me. This is where my poison-tongued mother came in.

I believe that her childhood traumas, as outlined above, caused her to imagine that isolation and conflict are standard elements in human relationships, that a large dose of resentment and hostility mixed in with otherwise ‘loving’ family relationships was her normal. Hence, all the rancour she inspired among us.

I was scapegoated by her, and so, I believe, was our henpecked father, to a great extent. So my ‘friendship’ with him made us into the ‘bad team’ of the family during my youth in Canada; and Mom, R., F., and J. were the ‘good team,’ since they gave Mom substantial amounts of narcissistic supply. All three of my siblings felt varying levels of bitterness towards Dad, and I believe Mom stoked the flames of their animus towards him, just as she had towards my three cousins. Conflict was her normal, as long as it didn’t get pushed too far.

It did get pushed too far once, back in the mid-70s, when then-teenage R. went through some emotional problems leading to his swallowing over a dozen pills, then later leaving home, that is, not moving with us from Toronto to Hamilton. I’ve gone over what happened back then in more detail here (<<<scroll one third to halfway down), with my speculation that Mom was at least partially, significantly responsible for the escalating conflict between him and Dad.

I believe part of her motive–in lying to me that mythical shrinks judged that I was too mentally incompetent (from her having lied to me about having infantile autism) to “make even a good garbageman” (!)–was so I’d be too scared to run away from home, as R. had. Her autism lie, designed to make me seem inferior and irritating instead of worthy of compassion, would also make me seem totally unworthy of the favour I’d been getting from Dad, thus making my siblings loathe me all the more.

Mom’s final lie to me, told on R.’s cellphone while she lay on her deathbed, that she “gave [me] the most love” during my preteen/early adolescent years (scroll down to Part 6 here for the whole story) was, I believe, calculated to stir up more jealousy in R., who was sitting by her bed when she said it to me. (For the record, Mother dear, lying about me having autism, lying that psychiatrists had thought I should be locked away in an asylum due to mental retardation, and allowing my siblings to bully me, are not examples of how to give a son any love, let alone “the most love”!) She wanted my siblings to believe that I, as ‘undeserving’ as I was, was the parental favourite!

The absurdity of such a belief (and, therefore, the cruelty of her making them believe that) is obvious, and should be obvious to them, given not only J.’s golden child status against mine as the scapegoat, and not only because of how R., F., and J. grew up largely thinking their bullying of me was morally defensible (thanks not only to Mom’s winking at the vast majority of it, but also to her rationalizing and minimizing of their cruelty, and her invalidating of my side of the story), but also how Mom had said, years before on at least two occasions (one of them with J. present), that F. was her favourite. I believed Mom at the time, but now that I know what a pathological liar she was, I believe she said it to stir up jealousy in J. (her real favourite) and me.

The point of stirring up all this conflict was to make the three of us compete for Mom’s love. J.’s self-righteous moralizing, as with R.’s and F.’s, was to tell me, “See, Mawr? We’re more deserving of Mom’s love than you are!” One time, in a fight with F., I claimed his ‘caring’ for other people (as opposed to his accusation that ‘I don’t care about anyone but myself’), was just to get attention. Furious, he yelled four-letter abuse at me and threatened to hit me: was his anger because I’d said something unfair…or because what I’d said was true?

Just as Mom used projective identification to expel what she hated in herself onto me, so did R., F., and J. project what Mom and Dad had made them hate in themselves onto me. They needed to get rid of that poisonous pain…by using me as the receptacle of it?

Anyway, my point is that I can understand why everyone in the family was the way they were. Mom was manipulating them as much as she was manipulating me, though in different ways. I won’t forgive them, though, because their willful ignorance of what really happened in that family makes them unworthy of being forgiven for their wrongs against me. They wouldn’t be able to bear learning that Mom never really loved any of us, but only pretended to, while using us instead to give her narcissistic supply.

I say, leave my siblings in the security of their illusions that Mom was loving, that they were all good, and only I was the one with the problems. It’s the most loving thing I can do for them.

Analysis of ‘Pink Floyd–The Wall’

Pink Floyd–The Wall is a 1982 film directed by Alan Parker and written by Roger Waters, with music from Pink Floyd‘s 1979 album, The Wall. It stars Bob Geldof in the role of Pink, an alienated rock star (modelled after Waters) who isolates himself from the world with a metaphorical wall built around him.

Indeed, the film is intensely metaphorical and semi-autobiographical (of Waters), with numerous surreal animated sequences done by Gerald Scarfe. It deals with themes of alienation, madness, and ultimately, fascism. It has little dialogue, with the song lyrics largely filling in the verbal narration.

The film was generally well-received (now having cult status), in spite of problems with production and its creators’ dissatisfaction with what resulted.

Here is a link to all the lyrics from the album.

The film begins in a hotel hallway, one side of it, with its wall and row of doors, being prominent. A maid is going from room to room with a vacuum cleaner. A song is heard about Christmas, and a little boy for whom the holiday is no different from any other, for Santa Claus forgot him. This is an indirect reference to Pink, who is then seen in his room, watching TV alone, remembering his dead father. She’d like to clean his room, and she knocks on his door, but he ignores her.

Pink (played by Bob Geldof).

Her attempts to open the door agitate him, making him think of the hell of having people around him, watching him. We then see images of running British soldiers fighting in WWII, juxtaposed with a running crowd of Pink’s fans at one of his concerts who are violently apprehended by cops for their unruliness, then with Pink’s fantasy of himself as a fascist leader at a rally with his crowd of followers, actually his fans at his concert. The sequence of images ends with the killing of his father in the war.

This juxtaposition is significant in how it identifies and equates these three groups. Soldiers, as patriots, are fans of their country, fans (that is, fanatics) to the point of being willing to kill for the fatherland. Fans of a rock star idolize him to the point of stampeding in a concert venue (the kind of thing that can lead to such tragic accidents as the trampling-to-death of eleven Who fans at a Cincinnati concert in 1979, the same year The Wall was released as an album) and being willing to believe or do whatever the rock star wants. Fascists are a kind of military rock star, if you will: charming, hypnotizing, and manipulating their followers to do whatever the leader wants them to do, as Hitler demonstrated.

Pink’s estrangement from the world is rooted in several childhood traumas: his bullying teachers, his over-protective mother, and most importantly, the death of his father as a soldier in WWII, before Pink was even at an age to have known him.

These three sources of trauma all involve, in one sense or another, Pink’s relationship with authority, how that authority has dominated his life. How his mother and the teachers have oppressed him is obvious; how his dead father has done so requires further explanation.

Pink as a boy (played by Kevin McKeon).

While Pink’s father’s death in WWII is autobiographical, in how Waters’s father also died as a soldier in that war, the death of Pink’s father can also be symbolic of the death of God the Father. Note that Waters, unlike his late father, is an atheist. Thus Pink’s father can be seen on one level as symbolic of Church authority, its validity dead to both Pink and Waters, yet still weighing down on them.

On the other hand, the literal death of Pink’s (and Waters’s) father is still troubling the rock star decades later. This goes way beyond mere mourning: this is melancholia, which leads to a discussion of Freud‘s reflections on the matter in Mourning and Melancholia.

As Freud conceptualized it, mourning and melancholia share almost all of the same traits, except that only in melancholia is there also a profound self-hate. Freud theorized that this self-hate results from ambivalent feelings towards the lost loved one, a mix of unconscious hate and hostility with the expected love for him or her, if not a pure, though repressed, hostility. The lost loved one has been internalized, introjected into the mourning subject (the self), and is now an internal object; so any hate or hostility felt for the object (the other person) is now felt for the self, who reproaches himself for having ‘willed’ the death of the loved one.

Freud explains: “If one listens patiently to a melancholic’s many and various self-accusations, one cannot in the end avoid the impression that often the most violent of them are hardly at all applicable to the patient himself, but that with insignificant modifications they do fit someone else, someone whom the patient loves or has loved or should love. Every time one examines the facts this conjecture is confirmed. So we find the key to the clinical picture: we perceive that the self-reproaches are reproaches against a loved object which have been shifted away from it on to the patient’s own ego.” (Freud, pages 256-257)

Daddy died in the war.

Freud’s insights here became part of the origin of object relations theory, as further developed by Melanie Klein, DW Winnicott, WRD Fairbairn, Wilfred R Bion, and others. The point I’m making about Pink (and Waters, presumably) is that he feels as though the ghost of his father is still inside him, tormenting and oppressing him.

Pink feels as though his father abandoned him by dying when he was a baby:

Daddy’s flown across the ocean
Leaving just a memory
A snapshot in the family album
Daddy, what else did you leave for me?
Daddy, what d’ya leave behind for me?
All in all, it was just a brick in the wall
All in all, it was all just bricks in the wall

This has led to feelings of hostility towards his father–as well as a longing for him. Thus, Pink’s hostility is redirected back at him, oppressing him, because he has internalized his father.

Freud explains: “…identification is a preliminary stage of object-choice, that it is the first way–and one that is expressed in an ambivalent fashion–in which the ego picks out an object. The ego wants to incorporate this object into itself, and, in accordance with the oral or cannibalistic phase of libidinal development in which it is, it wants to do so by devouring it. […]

“Melancholia, therefore, borrows some of its features from mourning, and the others from the process of regression from narcissistic object-choice to narcissism. It is on the one hand, like mourning, a reaction to the real loss of a loved object; but over and above this, it is marked by a determinant which is absent in normal mourning or which, if it is present, transforms the latter into pathological mourning. The loss of a love-object is an excellent opportunity for the ambivalence in love-relationships to make itself effective and come into the open. Where there is a disposition to obsessional neurosis the conflict due to ambivalence gives a pathological cast to mourning and forces it to express itself in the form of self-reproaches to the effect that the mourner himself is to blame for the loss of the loved object, i.e. that he has willed it.” (Freud, pages 258-260)

Young Pink identifying with his father by wearing his army hat.

We see a visual manifestation of Pink’s identifying with his father in the scene when he, about ten years old, goes through his father’s old things, puts on his dad’s uniform (which, of course, is far too big to fit), then sees himself in the mirror. The image alternates between seeing the boy’s reflection and seeing his father in the uniform.

This is Lacan‘s mirror: young Pink looks awkward in his father’s uniform, and the image of his father, alternating with that of himself, in the reflection represents the alienation of oneself from the reflected image. His father looks perfect, even ideal, as a war hero, in the uniform; but that uniform is awkwardly too big on the boy. His father is his ideal-I, but his imperfect approximation to that ideal means he is alienated from his ideal and from himself.

Since I’ve argued that his dead father symbolizes dead God, too, then we see atheist Pink (a stand-in for atheist Waters) as alienated from God the Father, particularly in the scene with him (about the age of six) and his mother in church. Only she prays; he shows no interest in religious matters. He does, however, play with a toy fighter airplane, thus showing his wish to be a warrior like his father (though it was a fighter plane that killed his father, so the boy’s playing with the toy plane could also be seen as an unconscious wish to do away with his father, a reflection of that ambivalence of love and hostility). Once again, Pink is alienated from an ideal Father, though trying to identify with his real father (from whom he is also alienated).

The next authoritarian source of his traumas is his school life. One teacher in particular is abusive, giving bad kids canings and humiliating Pink by reading one of the boy’s poems aloud in class. The poem in question is the song lyric from ‘Money.’

Money, get back
I’m all right Jack keep your hands off of my stack […]

New car, caviar, four star daydream
Think I’ll buy me a football team

The abusive teacher (played by Alex McAvoy).

The teacher calls the boy’s writing “absolute rubbish,” and demands that he focus on his lesson. Since ‘Money‘ is a critique of capitalism, and the teacher is invalidating the poem, we see in this scene how capitalism stifles creativity. (I’ve briefly discussed this stifling in other analyses.)

The abusive teacher shouldn’t be seen as just a tyrannical entity unto himself, though, for he has a domineering wife he has to put up with every day at home. People receive abuse, then pass it on to others. Pink himself does this, in his emotional neglect of his wife, driving her into the arms of another man; in his terrifying of the groupie by busting up his hotel room in a manic rage; and finally, in his fantasy as a fascist who inspires violence in his followers.

After Pink’s humiliation in the classroom, he daydreams about the suffering of his oppressed classmates, who are all seen marching–looking like automatons and wearing grotesque masks of school conformity–towards a meat grinder (the shadows of which ominously show the fascist hammers to be seen later, an indication of what excessive conformity can lead to) spewing out shit-shaped meat. Ultimately, Pink fantasizes about a student revolution, involving the teacher getting his comeuppance.

We don’t need no education
We don’t need no thought control
No dark sarcasm in the classroom
Teachers leave them kids alone
Hey, teachers, leave them kids alone
All in all it’s just another brick in the wall
All in all you’re just another brick in the wall

The surreal nature of this scene, as with all the cartoon sequences, shows how all of this is Pink’s unconscious phantasy. Indeed, this whole film is about the turbulent, conflicted world of the unconscious.

What’s interesting, given the teacher’s henpecked attitude towards his wife, is how he could be seen as a substitute father for Pink. As a violent, bullying authoritarian, the teacher certainly embodies the stereotype of the conservative father; as such a substitute father, the teacher would thus be a disappointing, alienating one, disillusioning Pink from his ideal father and–through his identification with his father–driving him towards his own authoritarian, fascist fantasies. The teacher’s submission to his wife also parallels Pink’s own submission to his mother, suggesting an equating of one woman with the other.

This observation leads us to the third source of Pink’s traumas, that of his over-protective mother. She is oversolicitous about him getting sick, fretting in a conversation with the doctor. We see the boy climb in bed with her, indicating his unresolved Oedipal relationship with her.

Pink’s mother (played by Christine Hargreaves).

Mama’s gonna make all your nightmares come true.
Mama’s gonna put all her fears into you.
Mama’s gonna keep you right here under her wing.
She won’t let you fly, but she might let you sing.
Mama’s gonna keep baby cozy and warm.
Ooh baby, ooh baby, ooh baby,
Of course mama’s gonna help build the wall.

Mother do you think she’s good enough, for me?
Mother do you think she’s dangerous, to me?
Mother will she tear your little boy apart?
Ooh ah,
Mother will she break my heart? Hush now baby, baby don’t you cry.
Mama’s gonna check out all your girlfriends for you.
Mama won’t let anyone dirty get through.
Mama’s gonna wait up until you get in.
Mama will always find out where you’ve been.

Because of this Oedipal relationship, Pink will find it difficult to have intimate relationships with women, for no woman could ever replace Mama. Small wonder his marriage is a disaster, as is his picking up of the groupie. He shows hardly any sexual interest in women at all. One wonders: is Pink a virgin?

Pink and his estranged wife (played by Eleanor David).

Though Pink is emotionally neglectful of his wife, a residual part of him still wants to connect with her, hence the number of long-distance calls he makes to her from hotels or pay phones while he’s on tour. Nonetheless, his attempts to connect with her are too little, too late. She’s already in bed with another man, and Pink knows.

Through his constant melancholia, he already hates himself (really an introjection of the bad father object he’s angry with for having abandoned him by dying in the war, as explained above). Since being cuckolded has always been a crushing source of shame for men, Pink finds his wife’s being with another man to be an unbearable intensifying of his self-hate.

This is not “just another brick in the wall”: this is many scores of bricks. Hence, the cartoon sequence with the all-enveloping wall, a screaming head emerging from the bricks.

This wall represents what Fairbairn called the Anti-libidinal Ego/Rejecting Object configuration that all of us have as a part of our personalities, though people like Pink have it far worse than the average person. According to Fairbairnian psychoanalysis, the libido seeks objects (i.e., other people to have relationships with); but after experiencing disappointments in relationships, or the kind of trauma Pink has endured, the ego splits into three parts–the original, Central Ego that seeks real bonds with other people (the Ideal Object), the Libidinal Ego that seeks pleasure (the Exciting Object), and the Anti-libidinal Ego that builds metaphorical walls (keeping the Rejecting Object away).

Because of his wife’s infidelity, Pink’s Anti-libidinal Ego is going into overdrive, rejecting all contact with anyone. Furthermore, as a surreal part-animation sequence shows, he is also experiencing persecutory anxiety, as if his wife is vengefully attacking him for neglecting her…and, even, abusing her…

How could you go?
When you know how I need you
To beat to a pulp on a Saturday night

Still, small residual amounts of the other two thirds of his fragmented psyche remain. What’s left of his Central Ego later asks, “Is there anybody out there?” to any possible manifestations of the Ideal Object. His Libidinal Ego, as moribund as it is, also seeks out the Exciting Object in the form of a groupie.

This pleasure-seeking is a manic defence aimed at getting him to forget his pain. The attempt fails miserably, of course, because pleasure-seeking results from a failure to build relationships with others, as Fairbairn noted: “…from the point of view of object-relationship psychology, explicit pleasure-seeking represents a deterioration of behaviour…Explicit pleasure-seeking has as its essential aim the relieving of the tension of libidinal need for the mere sake of relieving this tension. Such a process does, of course, occur commonly enough; but, since libidinal need is object-need, simple tension-relieving implies some failure of object-relationships.” (Fairbairn, p. 139-140).

Pink’s groupie (played by Jenny Wright).

Freud also noted how manic pleasure-seeking is an attempt, sometimes failing, sometimes succeeding, to deal with grief: “…the content of mania is no different from that of melancholia, that both disorders are wrestling with the same ‘complex’, but that probably in melancholia the ego has succumbed to the complex whereas in mania it has mastered it or pushed it aside. Our second pointer is afforded by the observation that all states such as joy, exultation or triumph, which give us the normal model for mania, depend on the same economic conditions.” (Freud, page 263)

That this attempt at pleasure-seeking with a groupie is doomed from the start is seen in the fantasy visuals of a group of girls arriving and seducing security guards, symbols of Pink’s super-ego, in turn an internalizing of his domineering, moralizing, overprotective mother. Pink’s Libidinal Ego (Fairbairn’s approximation to Freud’s id) fantasizes that the Exciting Object (the groupies), by seducing the super-ego/security guards, will free his libido to enjoy the girls, which of course will never happen, because…Mama. The song, ‘Young Lust,’ with the lyrics, “Ooh, I need a dirty woman/Ooh, I need a dirty girl,” is so obviously non-Pink Floyd in nature (the song is actually a parody of arena rock) that it can be understood as a sarcastic attitude of celibate Pink.

The surreal animation sequence, of copulating/cannibalistic flowers, is a far more accurate representation of Pink’s attitude towards sex. A phallic flower, symbolizing Pink, is hesitant before entering a yonic flower, representing his wife, or any female partner. When intercourse is achieved, the ‘female’ flower devours the ‘male’ with her ‘vagina dentata.’ Next, we see the creation of the wall with its screaming head. The animation ends with a hammer (having formed from a raised fist, the kind symbolic of socialism), then we see a store window broken with the same, portentous kind of hammer, reminding us of when the Nazis attacked Jewish stores.

Alienation and self-hate can, and often do, lead to fascism. What’s more, fascism tends to lead people astray from socialism, hence the fist morphing into a hammer.

Self-hate also leads to a rejection of humanity, of neediness of anyone or anything, because the hate, unbearable as it is, gets projected outwards:

I don’t need no arms around me
And I don’t need no drugs to calm me
I have seen the writing on the wall
Don’t think I need anything at all
No! Don’t think I’ll need anything at all

Thus, he’s rejected the groupie, despite her attempts to contain his tormented, loner self by sucking on his fingers, to take in his pain and hold it, as a mother would her baby’s anxieties in a state of maternal reverie. Still, he won’t be contained, so he flips out, terrifying her and smashing everything in the hotel room, a projection of his self-hate.

Run to the bedroom
In the suitcase on the left
You’ll find my favourite axe
Don’t look so frightened
This is just a passing phase
One of my bad days
Would you like to watch TV?
Or get between the sheets?

Later, he arranges all of his smashed property into some kind of work of art (the only substantial example of creativity we ever see him engage in) on the floor. Broken records and guitars, cigarettes, and other things are spread out on the carpet in rectangular shapes and straight lines.

Then he goes into the washroom to shave. His looking at himself in the mirror parallels when he, as a boy, looked at his reflection in his father’s uniform. His reflection, in Lacan’s mirror, represents an idealized, coherent, unified person that the man looking at it–being a fragmented, awkward man who’s falling apart inside–would like to measure up to.

To attain the mirrored ideal this time, though, instead of adding to his imperfect self (i.e., wearing his dad’s uniform), Pink feels he must remove unwanted, disliked things from himself (shaving his chest and eyebrows, cutting himself many times). His self-hate is growing: all that shaved hair represents the ugliness in himself that he hates; also, his self-hate expresses itself through his self-injury with the razors.

This removal of unwanted hair reminds us of how women suffer to be beautiful, shaving their legs, armpits, pubic hair, and (in the case of such medieval/Renaissance fashions as those typified by the Mona Lisa) even eyebrows. Pink’s self-hate is women’s everyday self-hate, introjected from society; his very name makes us think of the stereotypical girls’ colour.

Pink is back watching his TV, like all of us zombies staring at the idiot box, or these days, at our phones, tablets, and laptops. His unconscious wanders about in a dreamlike state: we see young Pink wandering about the fields of WWII, seeing the bloody bodies of the soldiers; evidently, he’s still looking for his dad.

Young Pink here represents Fairbairn’s Central Ego, seeking the Ideal Object of his father. He goes through a military hospital, finding present-day Pink (representing the Anti-libidinal Ego) going mad, and he sees adult Pink watching TV in the field, with those ominous hammers among the tall grasses and bushes.

Pink’s manager (played by Bob Hoskins) breaks through the hotel door with a group of men, all of them needing Pink to get ready to perform at a concert that night. Shocked at the sight of Pink in his mentally broken-down state, they give him a shot of something to bring him back so he can do the show. We hear the song ‘Comfortably Numb.’

As the song is playing, Pink goes through a series of memories of everything that has traumatized him, including a time when young Pink found a huge rat in a field and wanted to take care of it at home. Naturally, his mother would never have a rat in her house; but this being one of the few times Pink has ever connected with another living thing, he is deeply hurt by his mother’s rejection of it.

The assonance of the line “I have become comfortably numb” expresses the ‘pleasure’ of feeling immune to any emotions, since they can only cause pain for Pink. Emotional numbness is a common avoidance symptom of PTSD sufferers.

As David Gilmour‘s second guitar solo is playing and Pink is carried from the hotel to a car taking him to the show, he hallucinates that his body is melting and decomposing. This symbolizes his psychological fragmentation, his disintegration, his falling apart. The imagery of worms, which eat away at corpses, add to this sense of Pink’s self-destruction.

In the car on the way to the concert, Pink finds the one and only way to protect himself from fragmentation: to take on the narcissistic False Self of posing as a fascist.

Narcissistic defences against fragmentation are far from the only reasons Pink has for fantasizing about fascism. Recall that one of his main problems is self-hate, which he tries to project outwards. Hatred for “any queers” out there, anyone who “looks Jewish,” every “coon,” and anyone “smoking a joint” is an obvious projection of his self-hate, as is the case with any Nazi.

But there’s a deeper thing going on in Pink’s unconscious: recall that hostility to his father, introjected and now an internal object, thus becoming self-hate. Instead of facing his taboo hate against a father he feels abandoned him by dying fighting fascism, he fantasizes that he is his father’s ideological foe. (Obviously, his father’s death wasn’t really an abandoning of him, but we aren’t concerned with physical reality here, only with Pink’s mental and emotional representation of reality.) In Pink’s mind, it’s better to be a fascist than not to “honour thy father and thy mother,” a Biblical morality no doubt reinforced throughout his childhood by his domineering mother.

Then there’s the relationship between fascism and capitalism. Roger Waters, as a rock star whose left-wing father fought fascism, has always had ambivalent feelings about his wealth, and Pink represents him in this autobiographical film. Waters’s writing of ‘Money’ represents this ambivalence, for though the love of “money, so they say, is the root of all evil today,” Waters (and therefore, Pink too, no doubt) naturally likes the luxuries capitalism provides those in the upper classes. Waters and Pink have wrestled with the guilt of this craving for lucre, for–Dengists aside–socialists tend to frown on the personal accumulation of wealth and capital.


Pink the fascist.

Along with Waters’s/Pink’s ambivalence towards capitalism is fascism’s unholy alliance with the profit motive. Consider Big Business’s financing of Hitler in their hopes that the Nazis would crush the Soviet Union (something Churchill also hoped for, especially after the Nazi defeat, and Pink’s father fought under Winston’s leadership). Consider MI5’s paying of Mussolini to keep Italy fighting in the imperialist First World War, and capitalists’ glee that his fascists crushed the socialists in Italy back in the early 1920s.

Finally, the cult of personality that fascist leaders use to hypnotize the masses is not all that far removed from the hero worship that rock fans engage in, and that rock stars use for their financial gain and narcissistic supply. For all of the above reasons, we shouldn’t be too surprised to see an ‘anti-establishment’ rock star embracing far-right thinking.

Now, Pink’s projection outward of self-hate, inciting his fans to attack ethnic and racial minorities in England, can’t be expected to last long, since identifying with some of the world’s most despised people is hardly a cure for self-hate. So, a vision of those marching hammers is enough to make Pink scream, “Stop!”

Personified hammers: the only way humanity can be together, in Pink’s mind, is to be mindless automatons, without individuality, acting as instruments of destruction.

We next see Pink reading in a toilet cubicle of a public washroom, of all places, sitting next to a toilet. His self-esteem is so low, he’s literally on a level with shit. One of those security guards, who as I mentioned above in their encounter with the groupies, represent Pink’s super-ego, opens the door to the toilet cubicle to find him there.

Recall that the adult Pink represents his Anti-libidinal Ego, which Fairbairn devised to replace, and therefore make approximately equivalent to, Freud’s super-ego. Fairbairn originally called the Anti-libidinal Ego the Internal Saboteur, and it’s easy to see how Pink has sabotaged his whole inner emotional life. Furthermore, the overly judgemental, moralistic super-ego is essentially an inner critic, tearing down one’s self-esteem, often requiring one to build a protective wall around oneself, as the Anti-libidinal Ego does by rejecting people and pushing them away. Thus, in Pink we see a fusion of Freud’s and Fairbairn’s concepts of aspects of the human personality.

Fittingly, when the door to the toilet stall is opened, we don’t see Pink reading beside the toilet anymore, but instead we see the beginning of an animated sequence, with the enveloping wall, guarded by the hammers, and a doll-like figure lying against the wall. Here is Pink at his most vulnerable, and his cruel super-ego is about to judge him.

He is accused of daring to show feelings (Egad!), and he is judged, in turn, by that abusive old schoolteacher (who in turn is abused by his puppet-master wife in a kind of S and M fantasy), Pink’s wife (who calls him a “little shit”), and his mother. These three are all internalized bad objects who–having been repressed before–have now returned to torment him.

The conclusion that Pink has gone mad is expressed in a predictably judgemental way, using slang euphemisms and lacking any compassion:

Crazy
Toys in the attic, I am crazy
Truly gone fishing
They must have taken my marbles away
(Crazy, toys in the attic, he is crazy)

The judge declares his wish to defecate, he’s so disgusted with Pink’s inadequacies. The final judgement? “Tear down the wall!” Now, tearing down the wall is a necessary condition in helping Pink, but it’s far from being a sufficient condition, for the wall’s removal alone won’t reunite him with humanity–it will only expose him to humanity’s judgements. And in his fragile emotional state, such judgements would be disastrous for him, causing him either to succumb to fragmentation, or simply to build another wall.

Ultimately, the true source of his trauma–his ambivalent, love-hate attitude towards his father, the root of his melancholia–has not been processed or healed. This healing must occur, though. His unconscious hostility to his father–for not being there with him when he grew up–was never brought up to his conscious mind. Without that processing and healing, he’ll never be able to rejoin humanity.

So, what should we make of the ending? The three children in this scene can be seen as aspects of Pink’s inner child. The girl’s collecting of milk bottles suggests a wish to return to being nurtured by his mother; the dark-haired boy’s emptying of the Molotov cocktail could represent a wish to end all hostility. But the blond-haired boy, collecting bricks and putting them in a toy truck, seems to represent a wish to use them to rebuild the wall.

The message of Pink Floyd–The Wall, as I see it, is about the relationship between internal and external pathologies. We start with childhood traumas, in this case, Pink’s mourning and melancholia over his lost father, then his domineering, over-protective mother, his abusive schoolteachers, and finally, his explosive reaction to his wife’s infidelity. From here we go from his inner world to the outer world.

As a rock star, Pink enjoys the luxurious lifestyle of the rich, a product of capitalism, which also, by the way, reinforces alienation, a social estrangement Pink is already suffering. This combination of rejecting people, but enjoying material objects–like the smashed-up ones he makes into a work of art on the carpet of his hotel room, or the buildings, cars, stereos, and TVs seen as part of the wall in one of the animation sequences–exacerbates the inner problem by making it into a social one. When this problem comes to a head, we can find ourselves faced with a rise in fascism.

Shall we buy a new guitar
Shall we drive a more powerful car
Shall we work straight through the night
Shall we get into fights
Leave the lights on
Drop bombs

Look at our world today: the number of Pinks out there is disturbing. Alienated people, from broken or abusive families, stare at TVs instead of connecting with others; people who worship rock stars, celebrities, and authoritarian demagogues, blindly following them instead of thinking for themselves. These idolized narcissists, typically members of the capitalist class, feed on our insecurities, separating us and making us fight with each other when we should unite. We need to tear down the walls, but if we don’t heal our old wounds, those bricks will just get collected and used to build new walls.

Sigmund Freud, 11. On Metapsychology, the Theory of Psychoanalysis: Beyond the Pleasure Principle, The Ego and the Id and Other Works, Pelican Books, Middlesex, England, 1984

W. Ronald D. Fairbairn, Psychoanalytic Studies of the Personality, Routledge, London, 1952

Don’t Fear Freedom from Abuse

[NOTE: please read the second and third paragraphs from this post before continuing. Important–don’t skip reading them!]

You might ask, Dear Reader, why any victim of emotional abuse would be afraid of being freed from it. Isn’t freedom from the abuse exactly what we victims crave? That freedom is what we want should be a no-brainer.

The sad reality is, however, that the functioning of the mind is far more complex than that of one having a straightforward wish for what’s good for us, or for what’s pleasurable for us. Not to rely too much on Freud, who got a lot more wrong than he got right; but for what it’s worth, in his Beyond the Pleasure Principle, he noted our self-destructive, aggressive tendencies in what he called the death drive (Thanatos) and “the compulsion to repeat” irrational acts, or re-experience distressing moments in the past.

Object relations theorists like Melanie Klein and WRD Fairbairn noted how negative internal representations that we have in our minds of our parents and early caregivers (the “bad mother” and “bad father” internal objects) can be transferred to our later relationships in the form of boyfriends, girlfriends, or spouses with similar narcissistic traits to those of our parents. These bad internal objects, residing in our minds like ghosts, become the blueprints for our later relationships, and they are difficult to shake off (see part 5 of this for a deeper explanation).

Making things even more difficult, our wish to find good people in our lives–to replace the bad ones we’ve gone no contact with–can be thwarted by what Fairbairn called the Anti-libidinal Ego/Rejecting Object configuration in our minds. Originally, Fairbairn called this the Internal Saboteur, for that’s exactly what this part of our minds does–it sabotages possible new, good relationships by rejecting people.

For Fairbairn, libidinal need is object-need, that is, a need people have for others to love and have relationships with (the subject=the self; objects=people other than the self); so the anti-libidinal ego is the part of oneself that is hostile towards and rejects objects. We all know how we reject new people from having been hurt so often by earlier ones.

In An Introduction to Object Relations, Lavinia Gomez explains that the “anti-libidinal ego [corresponding roughly with Freud’s superego] is the split-off ego fragment that is bonded with the rejecting object. We can think of it as the ‘anti-wanting I’, the aspect of the self that is contemptuous of neediness. Rejection gives rise to unbearable anger, split off from the central self or ego [corresponding roughly to Freud’s ego] and disowned by it. Fairbairn originally termed this element the ‘internal saboteur’, indicating that in despising rather than acknowledging our neediness, we ensure that we neither seek nor get what we want. The anti-libidinal ego/rejecting object configuration is the cynical, angry self which is too dangerously hostile for us to acknowledge. When it emerges from repression we may experience it as chaotic rage or hatred, sometimes with persecutory guilt.” (Gomez p. 63-64)

Even worse, our relationships with narcissists, past and present, are those of traumatic bonding rather than ones of mutual respect and love. We feel as though we’re glued to these bad kinds of people whether we want to or not, so when we leave a relationship with a narcissist, we often fall back (however unwittingly or unconsciously) into a relationship with either the same one, or get trapped in a new relationship with another.

How do we get out of this vicious circle? Since I find relationships with these people to be overbearingly authoritarian, I find that the ideas Erich Fromm wrote about in his classic 1941 book, Escape From Freedom (also called The Fear of Freedom), to be applicable in relationships involving narcissistic abuse.

In his book, Fromm wrote about the experience of Europeans having been freed from the yoke of authoritarian thinking on two momentous occasions (from medieval-era Catholicism, and Germans from their authoritarian empire a century ago), only to find themselves with feelings of isolation, insignificance, and meaninglessness in their lives. The only way they found themselves able to reestablish a sense of meaning and belonging was to adopt new forms of authoritarianism: respectively, 16th century Lutheran and Calvinistic Protestantism; and for early 20th-century Germans, Nazism.

Fromm writes, [for the Germans] “The authority of the monarchy was undisputed, and by leaning on it and identifying with it the member of the lower middle class acquired a feeling of security and narcissistic pride. Also, the authority of religion and traditional morality was still firmly rooted. The family was still unshaken and a safe refuge in a hostile world. The individual felt that he belonged to a stable social and cultural system in which he had his definite place. His submission and loyalty to existing authorities were a satisfactory solution to his masochistic strivings…What he was lacking in security and aggressiveness as an individual, he was compensated for by the strength of the authorities to whom he submitted himself.

“The postwar period [i.e., 1918 and after] changed this situation considerably…the economic decline of the old middle class went at a faster pace…The defeat in the war and the downfall of the monarchy…on which, psychologically speaking, the petty bourgeois had built his existence, their failure and defeat shattered the basis of his own life. If the Kaiser could be publicly ridiculed,…what could the little man put his trust in? He had identified himself…with all these institutions; now, since they had gone, where was he to go?” (Fromm, pages 211-213)

In abandoning the old authoritarian structures, these Europeans achieved what Fromm called negative freedom, or freedom from an oppressive life; they hadn’t, however, achieved positive freedom, or freedom to reach their true human potential. Without this second kind of freedom, their sense of loneliness, purposelessness, and powerlessness could only lead them back to the comforting, though dysfunctional, structure of a new authoritarianism, namely, Nazism or authoritarian forms of Protestantism.

As for Luther and Calvin, Fromm writes, “Luther’s system, in so far as it differed from the Catholic tradition, has two sides…he gave man independence in religious matters…he deprived the Church of her authority and gave it to the individual; that his concept of faith and salvation is one of subjective individual experience, in which all responsibility is with the individual and none with an authority which could give him what he cannot obtain himself. […]

“The other aspect of modern freedom is the isolation and powerlessness it has brought for the individual, and this aspect has its roots in Protestantism as much as that of independence…Luther’s and Calvin’s doctrines…[have] a negative aspect…: their emphasis on the fundamental evilness and powerlessness of man.” (Fromm, page 74)

Fromm explains further: “Calvin’s theology…exhibits essentially the same spirit as Luther’s, both theologically and psychologically. Although he opposes the authority of the [Catholic] Church and the blind acceptance of its doctrines, religion for him is rooted in the powerlessness of man; self-humiliation and the destruction of human pride are the Leitmotiv of his whole thinking.” […] Calvin himself said, “We are not our own; therefore neither our reason nor our will should predominate in our deliberations and actions. We are not our own…it is the most devastating pestilence which ruins people if they obey themselves…” (Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion, Book III, Chapter 7, 1; quoted in Fromm, pages 84-85)

There’s a kind of sadomasochistic quality to this authoritarian structure (just to be clear here, I’m not talking about the sexual kind found in the BDSM community; rather, I’m talking about the appeal of a dominant/submissive relationship with others, as a simpler, easier one, rather than the ambiguous, more challenging one of equality and mutual respect). In this structure, you know who is ‘above’ you, and who is ‘below’ you; hence, the comforting assurance and belonging felt in this structure. The Protestant God of Luther and Calvin was above the ‘unworthy’ sinners. (Again, I’m not criticizing Protestant Christianity in general here, just the particular, authoritarian form it took when Martin Luther and John Calvin had established their churches back in the 16th century.) Similarly, the Führer was ‘above’ the ‘Aryan‘ German; the Jews, Roma, gay men, and other persecuted groups were ‘below‘ the ‘Aryans.’

To get back to my main point, I believe this kind of authoritarian restructuring can be seen in the replacing of old forms of narcissistic abuse with new forms, either in staying with the abuser, in leaving one abuser only to enter into a new abusive relationship, or through our inner critic‘s continuing of the old abuse in our minds (“the fundamental evilness and powerlessness” that we imagine ourselves to embody, thanks to our abusers’ gaslighting of us), even years after we’ve ended the old relationships and not replaced them with new narcissistic abusers. (Note: I’m not trying to blame the victim here, but rather to explain what I think is happening.)

It’s been noted many times how we victims of emotional abuse keep the haranguing going on in our minds years later. I do this kind of haranguing to myself! There’s a feeling that if I don’t go over these feelings, this endless rumination and re-examining of past events, that I’ll have jumped to premature conclusions and misjudged my family too harshly. The feeling is, why can’t I just put it all behind me and be happy?

I suspect that many other sufferers of narcissistic abuse out there go through similar internal conflicts. Instead of properly processing their trauma and rebuilding their lives through a regular practice of self-care, they go over the same past events to reassure themselves that they’re judging their past relationships correctly (when they so obviously are correct about the abusive relationships, and thus don’t need to re-examine them, except that all their second-guessing perpetuates their doubts).

My point is, are we afraid of being free of the past?

Is our mental state comparable to what was happening after the end of medieval Catholicism, and after the end of the authoritarian German state? Has our traumatic bonding caused us to crave the sense of ‘security’ and ‘belonging’ that comes from the authoritarian rule of our narcissistic abusers?

Are we so used to the sadomasochistic structure, the false assurance, of who’s ‘above’ us (i.e., the narcissistic parents or ex) and who’s ‘below’ us (i.e., the scapegoats…if we’re the golden children or lost children) that we’re afraid of giving up that structure, only to be thrown into a world where we don’t know who we are anymore? Has the trauma of narcissistic abuse drilled a false self so deep into our heads that we can’t conceive of ourselves as having any other self?

Just as Fromm, at the end of his book, suggests positive freedom is the solution to the problem of negative freedom (and its attendant void of meaninglessness, loneliness, and powerlessness), so do I. Positive freedom, or the “freedom to” achieve one’s fullest potential, involves living a life of spontaneity, of solidarity and equality with others in mutual respect and love, with no more rigid sense of people ‘above’ or ‘below’ us. It involves us enjoying life in the moment, a focus on present-mindedness.

Fromm explains: “We have said that negative freedom by itself makes the individual an isolated being, whose relationship with the world is distant and distrustful and whose self is weak and constantly threatened. Spontaneous activity is the one way in which man can overcome the terror of aloneness without sacrificing the integrity of the self; for in the spontaneous realization of the self man unites himself with the world–with man, nature, and himself. Love is the foremost component of such spontaneity; not love as the dissolution of the self in another person, not love as the possession of another person, but love as spontaneous affirmation of others, as the union of the individual with others on the basis of the preservation of the individual self. The dynamic quality of love lies in this very polarity: that it springs from the need of overcoming separateness, that it leads to oneness–and yet that individuality is not eliminated…It affirms the individuality of the self and at the same time it unites the self with man and nature. […]

“In all spontaneous activity the individual embraces the world. Not only does his individual self remain intact; it becomes stronger and more solidified…The inability to act spontaneously, to express what one genuinely feels and thinks, and the resulting necessity to present a pseudo self to others and oneself, are the root of the feeling of inferiority and weakness. […]

“…what matters is the activity as such, the process and not the result…[by focusing only on “the finished product” rather than the process, though,] man misses the only satisfaction that can give him real happiness–the experience of the activity of the present moment–and chases after a phantom that leaves him disappointed as soon as he believes he has caught it–the illusory happiness called [financial] success.

“If the individual realizes his self by spontaneous activity and thus relates himself to the world, he ceases to be an isolated atom; he and the world become part of one structuralized whole; he has his rightful place, and thereby his doubt concerning himself and the meaning of life disappears. This doubt sprang from his separateness and from the thwarting of life; when he can live, neither compulsively nor automatically but spontaneously, the doubt disappears. He is aware of himself as an active and creative individual and recognizes that there is only one meaning of life: the act of living itself.” (Fromm, pages 259-261, his emphasis)

I believe we survivors of emotional abuse can apply these principles in our own lives, incorporating them into all the other things we can use for self-care. Space in this blog post cannot do justice to a full explanation of what Fromm was writing about; so if you find these ideas intriguing but don’t fully understand them, I suggest buying his book and imagining how his ideas can apply to your healing journey.

Note that there is a dialectical relationship between freedom and bondage, as Fromm notes in his analysis of history. The thesis is authoritarian oppression, be it from the Church, the state, or a narcissistic abuser; then, there’s the negation, or freedom from those oppressors. We all too often expect life to have a kind of secure stasis, or a state of familiar fixity. Change frightens us, so a move to freedom from the familiar form of bondage is frightening. Spontaneous living, however, is the resolution of the opposition between freedom and bondage; spontaneity is the sublation of the contradiction, because our individuality/unity creates our own structure, belonging, and meaning.

Instead of settling for the false security of staying in abusive relationships (the troughs of the ocean of life), or fearing a permanent sense of powerlessness, meaninglessness, and loneliness associated with negative freedom (the crests of the ocean of life), we should just ride the waves as they go up and down. There is no fixed, permanent solution in life, but there is a soothing flow to everything. Go with the flow.

Erich Fromm, Escape From Freedom, Henry Holt and Company, New York, 1941

Analysis of ‘Falling Down’

Falling Down is a 1993 thriller film directed by Joel Schumacher, written by Ebbe Roe Smith, and starring Michael Douglas, Robert Duvall, and Barbara Hershey; it costars Frederick Forrest, Rachel Ticotin, Tuesday Weld, Lois Smith, and Raymond J. Barry.

Douglas plays Bill Foster (whose car’s personalized plate says “D-FENS,” hence the ending credits name him thus), an unemployed, divorced former weapons builder who has a mental breakdown in Los Angeles during a sweltering day in summer. He is the stereotypical “angry white male,” feeling shafted by a system that’s actually far more unfair to those other than his socioeconomic category.

I’d have to agree with Kirk Douglas and say that his son’s performance as D-FENS is his best yet. Though D-FENS represents a lot of disagreeable aspects of conservative American men, Michael Douglas humanizes the character and his many faults, making us sympathize with him, however indefensible his acts and thoughts may be.

Here are some quotes:

[Bill Foster exits his car in the middle of the highway]

Man on Freeway: Hey, where do you think you’re going?

Bill Foster: I’m going home! (his first line in the film) […]

“I’m rolling prices back to 1965!” –Bill, to Lee, the Korean store owner

“I am not a vigilante. I am just trying to get home to my little girl’s birthday. Now if everyone will just stay out of my way, then nobody will get hurt.” Bill, to Nick, the neo-Nazi surplus store owner (Forrest)

“I lost my job. Actually I didn’t lose it. It lost me. I’m overeducated, underskilled—Maybe it’s the other way around. I forget—but I’m obsolete. I’m not economically viable. I can’t even support my own kid.” –Bill

“You know what was in this? Zyklon-B! You remember? What the Nazis had! Listen! [shakes can, a slight rattle is heard] Empty! This was used, man! This was actually used! I wonder how many kikes this little can took out? Huh?! Think about it!” –Nick, to Bill

“Fuck you, Captain Yardley. Fuck you very much.” –Prendergast (Duvall)

Rick: Yes, sir?

Bill Foster: Hi. I’d like some breakfast?

Rick: We stopped serving breakfast.

Bill Foster: I know you stopped serving breakfast Rick, Sheila told me that you… why am I calling you by your first names? I don’t even know you. I still call my boss ‘Mister’ even though I’ve been working with him for seven years, but all of a sudden I walk in here and I’m calling you Rick and Sheila like we’re in some kind of AA meeting and…I don’t want to be your buddy, Rick. I just want a little breakfast?

Sheila: You can call me Miss Folsom if you want.

RickSheila. We stopped serving breakfast at 11:30.[Foster looks at his watch to find it’s 3 minutes past the deadline. He places his gym bag full of guns on the counter.]

Bill Foster: Rick, have you ever heard the expression “the customer is always right”?

Rick: (sighs) Yeah.

Bill Foster: Well, here I am. The customer.

Rick: (still smiling) That’s not our policy. You’ll have to order something from the lunch menu.

Bill Foster: I don’t want lunch. I want breakfast.

Rick: Yeah, well hey, I’m really sorry.

Bill Foster: (smiles back) Yeah, well hey, I’m real sorry too. (pulls out a TEC-9) […]

Bill Foster: You’re Korean? Do you have any idea how much money my country has given your country?

Mr. Lee: How much?

Bill Foster: I don’t know, but it’s gotta be a lot. […]

Nick: We’re the same, you and me. We’re the same, don’t you see?

Bill Foster: We are not the same. I’m an American, you’re a sick asshole. […]

“I am just disagreeing with you! In America, we have the freedom of SPEECH! The right to DISAGREE!” –Bill, to Nick

“Good! Good, freedom of religion. Now you get the swing of it. Feels good to exercise your rights, doesn’t it?” –Bill, then opening fire on Nick, shooting him through a mirror

“Beth, did you know that in some South American countries it’s legal to kill your wife if she insults you?” –Bill

Sergeant Prendergast: Let’s meet a couple of police officers. They’re all good guys.

Bill Foster: I’m the bad guy?

Prendergast: Yeah.

Bill Foster: How did that happen? I did everything they told me to. Did you know I build missiles?

Prendergast: Yeah.

Bill Foster: I help to protect America. You should be rewarded for that. Then they give it to the plastic surgeon. You know, they lied to me.

Prendergast: Is that what this is about? You’re angry because you got lied to? Is that why my chicken dinner is drying out in the oven? Hey, they lie to everybody. They lie to the fish! But that doesn’t give you any special right to do what you did today.

D-FENS!

How D-FENS dresses and looks is significant. With a crew cut, glasses, and a white shirt and tie, he looks like a man straight out of the late Fifties, or early Sixties. In fact, he’s stuck in the Sixties, but not the way a hippie is; he is a don’t-trust-anyone-over-thirty kind of man from the Sixties, having built missiles “to protect us from the communists,” as his mother tells Prendergast. D-FENS thus represents straight America.

Now, D-FENS, like straight America, has always had problems. His ex-wife, Beth (Hershey) has always sensed his potential for violence; like Travis Bickle, Bill Foster is a ticking time bomb.

Similarly, the US has, throughout her history, been a bomb waiting to explode; we know this because she has already exploded so many times before. But now that the Cold War is over, and she doesn’t have the convenient enemy of the USSR, America needs a new enemy, and has been seeking them out eagerly; so now her explosive tendencies have grown so much more dangerous…as have Bill’s. On this hot summer day, his war with LA is no cold one.

His problem–a “horrendous temper,” as Beth calls it–is on a continuum with most of the other characters, and this is significant, given his being a personification of conservative America. Indeed, a number of characters, especially Prendergast, parallel D-FENS to at least some extent, in terms of their pain, anger, alienation, and how varyingly functional or dysfunctional their ways are of coping with their problems.

When we see D-FENS in his car at the beginning of the movie, stuck in bumper-t0-bumper traffic on such a hot day, his air conditioning not working, and a fly buzzing all around him, we see him sweating, growing increasingly agitated, and finally losing it and abandoning his car. He goes from this agitation to a complete mental breakdown within the next half-hour.

He seems, on the face of it, so normal, so ‘straight,’ yet he goes crazy and violent in such short order. Seeing this, we ask ourselves, ‘Could I do that one day? What will it take to push me over the edge?’ After all, we don’t yet know much about him, until we get his ex-wife’s perspective; so Bill could be any ordinary American, for all we know.

This potential to become–this changing from one kind of man to another, two kinds so seemingly opposed, from ‘the good guy’ to the bad guy, is what makes D-FENS so scary to us. This contrast seems stronger when we learn from his mother, who’s terrified of him, that he has built weapons for American defence–“D-FENS!”–and when he’s lost his job, it’s the rest of us who need defence from D-FENS.

Loitering and trespassing on private property.

Now that he’s stopped building missiles, he’s become a kind of missile himself. As a weapons builder, Bill represents more than just straight America: he also represents the military-industrial complex (MIC). His accumulation of weapons (a bat, a switchblade, a gym bag full of guns, and a rocket launcher) thus represents the frightening growth of the MIC. The phallic nature of those amassed weapons also symbolizes Bill’s growing hyper-masculinity.

The MIC has always been in the service of imperialism, which is the extension of capitalist hegemony into other countries. The capitalist imperialist tends, however, to project his intrusiveness onto his victims (e.g., ‘the terrorists are going to get us,’ so we must bomb the Middle East, or, ‘we must stop the Red menace,’ so any killing of communists around the world is considered justified), just as Bill projects his aggression onto those he runs into. He attacks, yet he imagines it’s all…D-FENS.

So when he walks into the grocery store for change for the pay phone, and he finds Mr. Lee (Michael Paul Chan), the Korean owner, uncooperative, he busts up the place, as the US military did when the North Korean communists refused to cooperate with capitalism. Bill’s paying for a can of Coke–rolled back to 1960s prices–represents the capitalist imperialist short-changing the global proletariat. His taking of Mr. Lee’s bat represents imperialism’s attempts (if not successes) at depriving countries like the DPRK of the ability to defend themselves, a depriving that the US considers…D-FENS!

Capitalism breeds alienation, which includes the inability to communicate; therefore it’s no surprise that Bill finds it difficult to say anything when Beth answers his phone calls. He says nothing during those first few calls, but she knows it’s him on the other end.

She explains to the police that she has a restraining order against Bill–which she admits may have done more harm than good (it has!)–because she (justifiably, we learn) fears the possibility, the potential, of his rage to blow up into physical violence. She can see the psychopathy in Bill’s eyes; just as we on the left can see the potential for the moderate right to develop into outright fascism.

Still, we viewers of the film find ourselves sympathizing with D-FENS, in spite of his increasing violence and instability, since almost everyone he encounters is rude and obnoxious. Our sympathizing with him, however, is dangerous in how we make ourselves complicit, if only in thought, in his excesses.

D-FENS, in gangland.

Indeed, when we see him encounter the two Latinos in gangland, their bullying of him makes it hard to sympathize with them; but when you see this film as an allegory of US imperialism‘s dealings with Third World countries (e.g., those of Central and South America), the two Latinos’ aggression against gringo Bill becomes more than understandable.

They claim he’s “trespassing on private property,” a turning of the tables of what’s usually the white man telling the poor and people of colour to get off his property. Seen in this light, Bill’s D-FENSiveness becomes far less D-FENSible.

Now, as we ignorantly sympathize with Bill, we feel less and less sympathy for those who annoy him, including the poor. A homeless man trying to get a handout from him bumbles and stumbles over his absurdly transparent lies, making us want to laugh at his stupidity rather than pity him for his plight. Bill, of course, icily rejects him, and we find ourselves agreeing with him that the man should just “try to get a job.” (We probably forget our having agreed with him when we later realize Bill himself has no job, which has already been implied by his suitcase having only his lunch, and no business papers.)

Such an uncaring attitude toward the poor is dangerous, though, given the American gutting of welfare just a few years after this movie was made, one of many neoliberal moves resulting in, among other problems, the current epidemic of homelessness, not only in LA, but also in such places as San Francisco, Toronto, and the UK.

His confrontation with the staff in the Whammyburger is instructive of how employees are treated in capitalist society. Granted, we customers can’t help being annoyed when we enter a fast food restaurant hoping for breakfast, but we’re only a few minutes late, and they’ve switched to the lunch menu; still, it’s hard for the workers in the hot kitchen, cluttered with both breakfast and lunch cooking equipment, to prepare both kinds of meals at the same busy, hectic time. A strict ending of the one, to facilitate the switch to the other, may be inconvenient, but it’s perfectly understandable, as any past or present worker at places like McDonald’s will know.

He’d like to order some breakfast.

Bill’s brandishing of the semi-automatic weapon, firing into the ceiling, is symbolic not only of the rudeness customers show to those suffering in silence in the food service industry (and I am guilty of such rudeness, too, far more often than I care to admit), but also of the boss’s bullying of his striking workers, getting the police to fire on them. Recall in this connection that, since “the customer is always right,” he is the boss even of the boss and managers.

As our Odysseus continues on his journey home (and recall that Odysseus returned home after invading Troy with his army, as Bill’s America invades countries all the time), seeing poor people all around him and caring little about their plight, one far greater than his personal frustrations, he buys a gift for his daughter and sees a black man (short hair, white shirt and tie!) complaining outside a savings-and-loan that won’t give him a loan because he’s “not economically viable!” Bill can sympathize with this man, because he’s clearly middle class by his clothes. The man is one of several doubles of Bill seen throughout the film.

Speaking of Bill doubles, Prendergast has his own family frustrations, including a difficult wife and a daughter he can’t see…because she’s dead. Instead of losing his job, he’s about to retire; and after leaving fighting crime on the streets to work at a desk, he has to endure the taunts of the other cops for supposedly being a coward, when getting off the streets is the only way he can stop his wife from being hysterical.

Still, with all of his problems, he’s able to deal with them in a controlled, reasonable way, unlike D-FENS. The most violent he gets is punching a particularly obnoxious cop in his department for insulting his wife, and shooting D-FENS when goaded into killing him. Part of the p0int of Prendergast and the “not economically viable” man is to show that we can express our anger without making it escalate into frightening proportions.

Prendergast.

We hear so many tragic stories about unstable Americans (usually white men) with guns a-blazing. The US, as the nerve centre of global capitalism, “the belly of the beast,” as Che Guevara once called her, is also one of the worst places as far as alienation is concerned. Added to this is the toxic mixture of violent hyper-masculinity (a combination of biological factors and sex role socialization) and gun culture, including such absurdities as open carry. Then, there’s the growing problem of “white nationalism,” which leads me to Bill’s next major confrontation.

After Nick, the surplus store owner who’s been emboldened by Bill (and whom he says he’s “the same” as), taunts two gay men, he protects Bill from the “officeress” and gives him a rocket launcher. When Bill sees just how far to the right neo-Nazi Nick is, he refuses to identify with him.

Conservatives shouldn’t fool themselves about not being at least comparable to fascists. The only difference between a centre-rightist and a far-rightist is how much rage and frustration each feels with society. Both support the hierarchical, capitalist establishment; the fascist resorts to violence when that establishment is, or at least seems to be, threatened–the moderate conservative sees no threat…yet.

We must remember that the world isn’t a static, unchanging thing. All things flow dialectically, as I argued in my ouroboros posts. The social democrat shifts counterclockwise to the liberal centrist, who in turn shifts centre-right–or neoliberal/neocon–when such things as political correctness frustrate him; and this centre-rightist shifts to a pro-fascist position when the heat’s on even more.

“You missed.”

This is why, when D-FENS says to Nick, “I’m an American. You’re a sick asshole,” he’s being more than disingenuous. Conservative Americans like to rationalize their reactionary ideology by imagining they’re defending freedom, including freedom of speech and of religion…and who did many of these conservatives vote into office? Someone who cages migrants, has banned travel from six Muslim-majority countries, and dismisses criticisms of him as “fake news.” Because the DNC establishment is largely no better than he, he’ll probably get reelected in 2020, too.

When D-FENS shoots and kills the neo-Nazi, what’s interesting is how the latter is in front of a mirror. Bill is projecting his own fascistic tendencies onto Nick, pretending that his own evil potential is something alien to himself, when that Lacanian mirror shows Bill’s and Nick’s reflections together, a merging of the moderate right that is forever in danger of phasing into the extreme right. Whether Bill wants to admit it or not, Nick’s right-wing authoritarian ideal ego is Bill’s, too.

Just before D-FENS kills Nick, he falls down, which of course refers back to the film’s title (contrast this with Prendergast’s singing of “London Bridge is falling down…” to soothe and comfort his wife). Here is the point where Bill is falling down,…the point of no return. Up until this point, his aggressions have fallen short of lethal. He shot the Latino gang member in the leg, and the switchblade stab in Nick’s neck isn’t quite enough to kill him; but then Bill points Nick’s pistol at him with a shaky, spastic hand while looking at Nick and himself in Lacan’s mirror. Bill is fragmented and alienated from himself and his Nazi doppelgänger, as well as from the world. This murder is symbolic suicide (he shoots a hole in the mirror, at a point connecting with his reflection), for Bill hates what he can see himself turning into.

He’s at the point of no return; having killed the violent, fascist authoritarian, he’s become what he killed–the potential has become the reality. Accordingly, he threatens Beth on the phone. So much for the ‘American’ right to disagree: she disagrees with him, in his unstable state, when he asserts his right to see his daughter on her birthday; he implies he’ll kill Beth if she “insults” him.

Bill and Beth.

Normally, one would sympathize with divorced men who are discriminated against in child custody cases; but Bill is clearly one of those kind of men who are unfit to raise a child. His embrace of his daughter at the end of the film would begin a process of emotional healing for him, but he’s nonetheless reached the point of no return…

Now “dressed like GI Joe,” which is symbolic of his militaristic, quasi-fascist frame of mind, D-FENS leaves the surplus store with the rocket launcher in the gym bag and confronts a group of construction workers, like those whose blockage of the road set him off at the beginning of the movie. Again, as with the Whammyburger incident, we may be annoyed with government bureaucracy and all of its rules, regulations, and interference in our lives, but that doesn’t mean we can assume they’re never justified.

When Bill is told there’s “nothing” wrong with the road, this could just be the worker’s exasperated attempt to placate him, since Bill won’t accept being told there’s a legitimate reason for digging up the road. Government bureaucracy, rules, and intrusions are sometimes without justification, but sometimes they can’t be avoided. Bill, as right-libertarians all too often do, refuse to accept this reality.

The right-winger despises unionized workers, but sometimes he despises the rich, too. That’s why D-FENS gets mad at rich golfers and plastic surgeons. Right-libertarians blame the state for propping up the super-rich while they insist on preserving the class system and ‘free market’ that inevitably result in the current oligarchy. Fascists and Nazis have sometimes paid lip service to opposing capitalism, but Hitler was content to get financial aid from big business, including from foreign capitalists. Both of these kinds of right-wing thinkers are wilfully blind to their own hypocrisy. Capitalism is fine when it’s convenient for their selfish interests; if not, it’s just ‘corporatism,’ or ‘crony capitalism,’ and not ‘real’ capitalism.

Still, we whites are made to sympathize with Bill. Such sympathy is dangerous, leading to such real-life violence as the 2015 Chapel Hill shooting (whose suspect was fixated on this movie). Whites often tend to lack sympathy for the justified anger of such people as the black rioters in LA in 1992, which disrupted the filming of Falling Down. When Bill breaks down and cries before the family in the backyard of the plastic surgeon, we’re touched by the expression of his pain (superbly played by Michael Douglas); but we mustn’t let that blind us to all the wrong D-FENS has been doing. Having a little residual humanity isn’t enough when the rest is all viciousness and brutality.

“London Bridge is falling down…”

Speaking of the mix of residual humanity with brutality, consider the world that D-FENS wishes would come back. As a builder of missiles “to protect us from the communists,” he had work centred around the Cold War. This means, on the one hand, he helped the American war machine undermine the efforts of the USSR, Maoist China, Vietnam, the DPRK, Cuba, and the Eastern Bloc to free the world of imperialism. To Bill, that’s “D-FENS!” To us anti-imperialists, it’s viciousness.

On the other hand, the very presence of those Red countries prodded Western countries to provide quasi-social-democratic programs to help the Western working class feel at least somewhat comfortable under capitalism, thus stemming the tide of communist revolution. This ‘pinkish capitalism,’ if you will, was at its zenith from the post-WWII era to 1973. This was that bit of ‘residual humanity’ symbolized in those sympathetic moments in Bill; to us Marxists, that ‘humanity’ did little of substance for the world.

You see, those postwar, social-democratic benefits were largely for white working class men. The story was different for women who, during WWII, had had their first taste of bringing home a good pay-check doing their husbands’ jobs, but then had to go back in the kitchen, or to traditional, lower-paying jobs, once their husbands returned; and secondly, increasing divorce, especially during the Sixties, threw many women back into the workplace, where they’d experience discrimination. I hardly need to review what blacks were going through at the time.

Still, this postwar prosperity, with the American assurance that Bill et al were on the side of freedom, was a world that gave a sense of identity, meaning, and purpose. By the time of this movie, though, the USSR has already dissolved with almost all the other socialist states, and ‘freedom’ has prevailed. But as Erich Fromm in Escape From Freedom observed, the experience of ‘freedom from’ tyranny leads to a vacuum that needs to be filled with a new sense of structure, since no ‘freedom to’ develop one’s human potential has been provided to fill the void.

Bill has been in this predicament ever since his divorce from Beth and the loss of his job. He doesn’t know what to do with himself, without any structure or purpose in his life. All he can do is resort to increasing violence, as did the Nazis, of whom Fromm wrote.

Similarly, the Western victory over communism left the US without an enemy, and with a NATO hungry for expansion. Terrorism satisfied that need for an enemy during the 2000s, and Russia and China have satisfied it recently. The US, like D-FENS, has been growing more and more bellicose by the year. Many foresee American self-destruction within the next ten to fifteen years, comparable to Bill’s goaded suicide at the end of the film. (Recall what I said above, that Bill is straight America personified.)

All those angry white men, by the way, who cheer on D-FENS’s aggression fail to understand the film’s real intentions. We’re not meant to condone his actions, however much we may sympathize with him for how he’s suffered. Just because he’s gone through so much hardship, “doesn’t give [him] any special right to do what [he] did,” as Prendergast–who has also suffered terribly, yet handled his problems far better–says.

Now, for those on the right side of the political spectrum who are reading this, and are shaking their heads at what I’ve written here, I’ll give you all a full confession. I too went through an ‘angry white male’ phase, from my mid-twenties up until my late thirties, from about the mid-1990s to about 2010, before coming to my senses, shifting from the centre-right–little by little–to the left where I am comfortable now. I know your anger, right-leaning readers: I’m not some latte-sipping liberal who lives in the ivory tower of a university life; I’ve known for many years how mean and nasty the real world is.

So, to all you fans of D-FENS out there: please come to your senses and realize that he isn’t meant to be emulated, as Craig Stephen Hicks emulated him. You don’t want to find yourself falling down with people like this. It’s a fall from grace you might not be able to pick yourself back up from.

Hoovering

[NOTE: please read the second and third paragraphs from this post before continuing. Important–don’t skip reading them!]

Because of traumatic bonding, we survivors of emotional abuse may find it tempting to believe our abusers when they say they want ‘to connect’ with us again, or to be ‘reconciled’ with us. Nobody wants to lose friends; we all hate to see close relationships disintegrate.

But since the pain outweighs the good we received (or thought we received), we must protect ourselves from any new pain our abusers are planning to inflict on us. At the same time, their manner of communicating with us seems so kind, so patient, so loving.

Have they changed? Have they finally learned from all the mistakes they made in the past? We’d like to think so…oh, how we’d like to think so! After all, though the good that we got from the relationship may have made up a minority of the total experiences in it, that good may have been (or at least may have seemed to be) a rather large minority. A minority, nonetheless, is still a minority, big or small. What can we do to avoid falling into yet another trap?

If that ‘large minority,’ or ‘significant minority,’ of good times really was good, in spite of the clear majority of bad, we might want to think less of the quantity of experiences of good and bad, and think rather of their quality. Were the good experiences of any real importance, or were they just fleeting pleasures? If the latter, their large number (if they actually even were large in number) hardly comes close to compensating for all the pain that the bad experiences caused. If the good times were significant, the bad times all too often outweigh the good times, too. Either way, be careful!

Don’t let ’em suck you back in!

And if those abusers are asking you to get back in touch, you know their sucking you back in is not in your best interests.

I’ll give an example of hoovering I got from my older sister, J., the golden child of the family. She tried emailing me, after the falling-out I had with the family when my late, probably narcissistic mother died (read these posts for the origin story of my troubles with my family, if you’re interested), telling me about possessions of mine still in our mother’s home that I should collect. I didn’t want them. I never even replied to her email. I also blocked her and all our other family members.

Then she tried, several months to a year or so later, to contact me on Facebook. I rejected her message request. When you go No Contact, you must commit to it.

She tried, in her messages (the opening part that I actually saw, for I had no wish whatsoever to read them), to be warm and caring in her tone. I wasn’t buying one word of it. I know her too well. She likes to open her messages to me with such stale, formal language as, “I hope this email finds you well,” implying a lack of genuine, heartfelt emotion. She never was one for the sincerity club.

She would have me believe that the whole family misses me terribly (If so, why have neither of my older brothers–nor anyone else in the family, apart from her and Mom when she was alive–ever tried contacting me, except ever so rarely over the past twenty years I’ve lived in Asia after leaving Canada in 1996?); and they want us to “heal those wounds,” as my aunt described the problem on the phone just before my mom died in hospital. I haven’t contacted them because, frankly, I don’t miss them. Why would I miss emotional abusers?

Don’t be a sucker!

Furthermore, I assure you, Dear Reader: the only ‘healing’ they want is from their own point of view; they couldn’t care less whether I heal or not–I’m expected just to fall in line and do what they want. The ‘healing’ would involve me changing my ‘errant’ ways and apologizing for the hurt I caused them. They wouldn’t need to change, because in their opinion, they never did me any wrong. Their anger towards me is always ‘justified’; mine never is. I’m just an immature, selfish whiner, according to them.

I beg to differ, as I’ve explained at length in all the posts (links above) that I’ve written on the subject; there’s no point in my repeating all of that here. In any case, true reconciliation must involve reciprocity: it’s only fair. I’m prepared to acknowledge things I’ve done to upset them, in recent years as well as those further off in the past; but beyond a mere paying of lip service to their faults, they will only trivialize all that they and Mom did over the years to provoke my wrath. As her flying monkeys, they’re willfully ignorant of what she did, which was an atrocious string of lies and smear campaigns against me and our cousins over the decades.

The point, Dear Reader, is that it will take a lot more than honeyed words from abusive people to be worthy of your trust. It actually doesn’t involve them saying much of anything; it involves them doing those two things they’ll never do–listening to you and validating your feelings.

Always remember that, whenever your abusers pull the old hoovering tactic: it doesn’t matter what their mouths are doing, or what their fingers are doing when they write or type their messages for you to read; it’s what their ears are doing…and what their brains are thinking in secret.

Since we abuse victims have no way of knowing for sure what activity is going on in their ears and brains, our abusers should have a formidable task convincing us if they’re truly contrite. For if they’re faking their regret, their attempt to regain our trust should be an impossible task.

Validation

[NOTE: please read the second and third paragraphs from this post before continuing. Important–don’t skip reading them!]

Of all the aspects of emotional abuse that I suffered from the family–the autism lie, the bullying, the scapegoating, the explosive anger, the triangulation, the smear campaigns–in many ways, the most hurtful of all was the constant invalidation of my feelings and perspective.

This invalidation is especially cruel when one receives it as a child. Crucial psychological development is going on during those years, and telling a kid he’s ‘wrong,’ or he’s ‘making too big a thing’ out of the problems his abusers are causing, subjecting him to victim-blaming, saying his opinion ‘doesn’t count,’ etc. (all of these examples being lines I’ve heard come out of the mouths of my family, by the way), is damaging to his ability to grow self-confidence. Such invalidating, minimizing, and trivializing of one’s feelings and experiences are all forms of gaslighting.

Granted, we all have to deal with the reality of being wrong sometimes, and conflict occurs in even the best of families; but I’m talking about a consistent, systemic negation of the victim’s point of view. The victim is made to feel as though being right about anything is generally beyond his or her reach.

My late mother’s lie, about my supposedly having an autism spectrum disorder, provided the foundation for the apparent incorrectness of my perception of everything. The bullying I endured from my elder siblings, R., F., and J., only reinforced my inability to have a voice; if I tried to stand up for my rights, or challenge any of my siblings, they’d double down on the verbal abuse and physical threats, turning up the volume of their shouting at me–because allowing me to fight back would be a threat to their power over me…and emotional abuse is all about power and control.

If I tried to assert myself to my brother R., he’d say such things as, “You’re full of shit!” or “You misunderstand [Mom], just as you misunderstand everyone…” etc. If I tried the same with my sister J., she’d say, “Don’t get lippy with me!”, “I don’t wanna hear it!”, or “I don’t need to hear your attitude!”; then, she’d hypocritically judge me for not “voicing” my issues with her. If I challenged my brother F., he’d shout, “Who the fuck are you?! Oh, I oughta smack you for saying that!” They never take it as well as they dish it out.

Our mother, of course, defended them almost every time, especially J., her golden child. All of this, of course, reinforced my invalidation. Things had gotten so bad that I found myself with no choice, about three to four years ago, but to go No Contact with them. I’m sure they still blame me, and solely me, for our falling out. These people have no sense of introspection. If they had it, they’d have acknowledged the role they’ve played in this problem years ago…decades ago.

I’m sure, Dear Reader, you’ve dealt with this problem in one form or another, either with family, or in a former relationship; otherwise, you wouldn’t be reading this. Let’s face it: you’re not going to get any validation from people like that. You’ll have to rely on yourself to get it.

I’ve written other blog posts on how to ‘exorcise,’ if you will, the inner critic we sufferers of C-PTSD have. I also recommend auto-hypnosis, for the deep state of relaxation you get from hypnosis will make your mind more suggestible. And that’s where the validation of affirmations comes in.

Sit or lie down in a relaxing position, close your eyes, take long, slow, deep breaths, and become aware of every inch of your body, starting with your toes and feet, and work your way up, inch by inch, to your head. Feel your body vibrating all over, or–as I like to describe it–feel as if your body is part of an ocean, an infinite ocean of Brahman, with your body and surroundings as all gently flowing waves. No distinction between the outside and your inner Atman: it’s all soothing, peaceful water, everywhere.

Once you’re fully relaxed, begin to imagine good people who love you, an inner guidance system, new internalized good objects, saying these kind words of validation:

“You’re completely normal.”

“You have the same right to be heard as everyone else.”

“You’re a good, decent, caring person.”

“You deserve much better treatment than you’ve been given.”

“You’re smart, capable, and talented.”

“Your feelings matter.”

“You are beautiful, inside and out.”

Feel free to make a list of your own affirmations, if you can think of ones more suitable to your situation. To get the best effect, do this meditation again and again, every night over several weeks. If you don’t like the way I have set it up, try some YouTube videos, self-hypnosis videos with positive affirmations. I like the ones incorporating ASMR.

Whatever you do, I urge you to invalidate your invalidators. Consider the source. Ask yourself, “What the hell do they know, anyway? What makes them think they’re an authority on me, or on anyone?” You don’t have to say these words to your abusers’ faces (indeed, I’d advise against that, actually): leave them to blunder about in their narcissistic delusions. It’s not your job to fix what’s wrong with them.

Instead, invalidate your abusers in your mind. You’re the only one who has to know that they’re the problem, not you.

‘Creeps,’ an Erotic Horror Novel, Chapter Twenty-Four

[sexual content]

“Did you read the news in the paper today, Guy?” Thea asked him as she entered the kitchen with the newspaper.  

“What’s up?” he asked after gulping down some orange juice.  

“Ken Maynard and Ricardo Davis had to plead guilty on all the charges against them, including conspiracy to engage in human trafficking,” she said, then sat down across from him at the kitchen table. “Hey, don’t spill your cereal on the floor.” 

“I won’t,” he said, scowling at her never-ending nagging. “So, they’re in jail now?” 

“Yep. They’ve been sentenced.” 

“I still remember all the confessions from the staff, how they were smiling while high on the Creeps drugs. And how they were frowning when they had to confirm those confessions once the drugs had worn off, and once the staff knew that Van Gorder and Bill Shavick had heard the sex slaves confirming it all, and once the authorities saw the video that recorded all of Mark’s criminal intentions.” 

“Yeah, it’s so nice knowing the whole staff of Capitol is now behind bars, and investigations are being made of all the other Capitol branches, uncovering the same criminal scandal with the Creeps.”  

“I’m glad they all got theirs,” Guy said, then shoveled some cereal into his mouth. 

“Check this out,” she said, reading from the newspaper. “The so-called ‘Commodities,’ most of whom have nowhere else to go, were formerly either destitute or from impoverished countries, or from families that had betrayed them by selling them. So the government—which has also purged itself of the corrupt enablers of Capitol and put them in jail—has judged that the appropriate way to compensate the victims for their suffering is to renovate each Capitol building so thoroughly as to make the places unrecognizable for their former use, and make them new homes where the victims will be given free accommodation. Isn’t that amazing?” 

“Yeah,” he said. “And what of Petunia? I guess she’s living there.” 

“Presumably. You gonna go over there and apologize to her?” 

“Apologize?” 

“Yeah, for paying to rape her.” 

“Thea?! What the fuck? Didn’t you already say I was a hero for helping to save all those people? Haven’t I atoned for my bad karma?” 

“Guy, I’m very proud of you for what you helped me do.” 

“That’s funny: I thought you helped me do it.” 

“Yeah, well, anyway, I still think you should go talk to her about what you did in that VIP Room. Making her have sex with you under those circumstances is still rape.” 

He sighed, then left the table, having finished his breakfast. 

Around lunchtime, Guy went over to see Petunia, in her new room, which was all refurbished and given new furniture, including a bed, refrigerator, stove, TV, and sofa. She opened the door, and they stared at each other for a minute before speaking. 

She was in a T-shirt and jeans, as was he. 

“Long time no see,” he said. “How is everything?” 

“Much better, thanks to you and Thea,” Petunia said. “Come in.” 

They sat on the sofa. She looked over at him, but he, frowning, or trying to smile, just stared down at his twitching hands. 

“It really has been a while,” she said. “Too long, really, since you last saw me.” 

“Well,…I saw a little too much of you the last few times.” 

“I don’t mind.” She put her hand on his shoulder. “You know, this room was actually the VIP room we’d fucked in the first time.” 

“Really?” he asked with a guilty smile. 

“Yeah. I kinda like it, actually, except for it being a little small. I feel a little squished in here. Though squished in here is a lot better than squished in those tunnels we tried to escape through.” 

“Yeah, I read about that problem you all had in the paper.” 

“I’m glad I’ll never have to do that again.” 

“I…really feel awful about what I did here, Petunia…” 

“Oh, Guy. It’s OK.” 

“No, it’s not OK. I took advantage of you. I treated you like a whore.” He was gulping back sobs; his eyes were getting wet. “And I always knew…you were better than that.” 

“Mark LeSaffre made me into a whore. Of all the men who paid to have me, you were the one I was happy to satisfy.” 

“But I was no better than they were,” Guy sobbed. 

“Yes, you were. Of course you were. You saved me, Guy. You and Thea saved me, and you saved all the other sex slaves. When you first found me in Capitol, sure I was uncomfortable, under my fake smiling, the smiling those Creeps were making me do, but I was uneasy only because I was worried you thought my slutty smiles were real. But now I’m glad you saw me there, because if you hadn’t, no one would have saved us.” 

“Yeah, I guess. I just wish I hadn’t fucked you.” 

“I don’t mind that. You were better than all the other Johns who had me.” 

“How was I better? In having you, didn’t I rape you?” 

“Not in my opinion,” she said. 

“How so?” he asked. 

“Because of all the guys who had me, you were always the one I wanted to have sex with.” 

“Why me? What’s so appealing about me? I’m a loser.” 

“Guy, you’re a hero. You saved all of us. I’ve been so hot for you, ever since I realized you’d done that.” 

“Well, maybe now, but how was I hot before that happened?” 

“Remember when I was sharing that apartment with Thea, and you used to come over and visit, to talk to her about, well, whatever? I saw you smiling at me, then you’d look away, all shy, whenever I looked back and smiled at you. You were such a cutie…you still are. I was always waiting for you to ask me out. I kinda liked your shyness, though: it was a nice change from all the aggressive guys who always bothered me.” 

“Was I any less aggressive when I screwed you in Capitol?” 

“Yeah, you were just as aggressive then, but that wasn’t the real you, just as me, acting like a happy whore, wasn’t the real me. I was happy to have sex with you, but not to be a slut: because deep down, I like you. I’ve always liked you.” 

“Really? Pretty girls never like me. They like guys with, you know, cars and money and stuff.” 

“Not all girls. I used to be like that, but after my ex slapped me around enough times, I left him in Vancouver, and came all the way over here, to Mississauga, to get away from him, and from my family, who only ever wanted to make me into something they wanted, not the real me.” 

“Why didn’t you get another guy right away? You’re pretty enough.” 

“I was hoping you’d be that guy. You’re sweet enough.” Then she pouted and whined, “But you never asked me out.” She playfully slapped his arm. 

You could have asked me out.” 

“Yeah, I guess I’m a little too traditional for my own good.” 

“So, you liked having sex with me?” 

“How many times do I have to tell you? I guess I have to demonstrate.” She pulled off her shirt. 

“Wait. Uh…” He started getting off the sofa. 

“What’s the problem?” she, now in her pink bra, asked. “You’ve already seen all of me. How is it different now?” She unzipped her pants and pulled them down. 

“I’m sorry. I do wanna do it with you; it’s just that…” 

“What?” She was standing before him in only her bra and panties. 

“Remember when you said, when we fucked in Capitol, it wasn’t the real you, and it wasn’t the real me? That felt…safer.” 

“But underneath the false me, the true me still liked it.” 

She took off her bra. 

“Why did you like it? I mean, with the false me?” 

“Because,” she said, pulling down her panties and kicking them aside, “I knew that, deep down under your false self, the lecher who leered at my body and checked me out, as naked then as I am now, your real self was still there, that sweet, shy boy who used to visit Thea in our old place, who came to visit me as much as to visit her.” 

“Oh, no. I came to see you…much more than to see her. I actually prefer staying away from her. She kind of annoys me. She’s a nag. Seeing my sister, that was just excuses to see you.” 

“Then let’s fuck.” 

“I want to…but I’m scared.” 

“Of what?” 

“That you won’t like me—the real me, I mean, when you know all about the real me.” 

“We’re all scared of that, Guy. But we try to love each other anyway, don’t we? And the more of the real you that I know, the more I’ll love you.” She unzipped his pants. 

He tried to stop her from pulling them down. 

“Why don’t I get to see you? You got to see all of me, and I don’t get to see you? That hardly seems fair.” 

“Yeah, but I look ugly nude. You have a beautiful body.” 

“I don’t believe you’re ugly nude, Guy. And I don’t care if I see physical imperfections. I love you as you are.” 

He finally allowed her to undress him. Both nude, they got on the bed. He lay on top of her, and she wrapped her legs around his waist. He pushed his cock against her wet vaginal opening, gently coaxing his way in. She put her arms around him. 

As he slid inside her, she looked up into his eyes; but his eyes were still avoiding hers. She held his face in her hands as he pushed in further, aiming his face straight down at hers, to see her wide-open eyes and mouth. 

He got all the way in, getting a squeal from her. 

Still, as he moved in and out, he wouldn’t look in her eyes. 

“Why…won’t you…look at me?” she asked in panting words. “Oh!” 

“I’m…still ashamed,” he moaned. “I remember…our first time.” 

“I liked it…I like it now…I love you, Guy…You saved me.” 

“Yeah, I did…I saved you all…the past…is over. Ah!” 

“Yes…you’re my hero…I love you.” 

“I love you, too, Petunia. Oh!” 

“This is…the real you, Guy…Ah!” 

“And I’m…making love…to the real…Petunia. Oh!” 

“I’m…almost there! Ah!” She came. 

“Me, too…But without…a condom…” He came. “Oh!” 

“It’s OK,” she said. “The Creeps they gave me…ensured I’d…never get pregnant.” 

“Really?” he panted. 

“Yeah,” she sighed. “And I don’t…wanna have kids, ever. Now, your come in me…That’s a Creep…I’ll gladly take…inside my body.” 

************************** 

They got dressed and went outside. 

Holding hands, they walked on the sidewalk beside the building that had once been Capitol. Now the sign in front said Community. It was a sunny afternoon. 

“It’s so nice to be able to go outside again,” she said, taking in a deep breath of fresh spring air. 

“Yeah,” he said. “It must have been awful being cooped up in there.” 

“Hey!” a woman’s voice called out to them. They looked back at her as she ran up to them. It was Arunny. Sobbing, she threw her arms around Guy. “I just wanted to say…thank you…for saving all of us.” Her tears were soaking his shirt by his left shoulder. 

“Hey, anytime,” he said. Both he and Petunia exchanged hugs with Arunny. 

After letting go of him, she looked deep in his face with her soaking wet eyes. She kept looking at him with those grateful eyes for several more seconds, then turned around while still looking at him. 

“Thank you,” she said again, and ran off in the other direction. 

Now, a tear ran down Guy’s cheek, as well as one down Petunia’s, as they watched Arunny continue running away, back to the Community building.  

They turned around and resumed their walk.  

As they continued walking further and further away from the building, they came by a neighbourhood, and someone’s house, which had a garden in the front. She stopped at it. 

“Oh, yeah,” he said, standing behind her. “I remember that garden you used to take care of back when you were living with Thea.” 

“Yeah,” she said. “Those were happy days. I should try to set up a garden in back of the Community building sometime soon.” 

“And I can visit you there regularly, as I did in Thea’s old apartment.” 

“That’d be nice. It would bring back two pleasant memories.” 

“Two?” 

“Yeah. You seeing me in the old apartment, and you seeing all of me in the VIP room, which is now a much more important person’s room, with you as a visitor.” 

They kissed. 

She looked down at the garden soil. She started at the sight of a few worms crawling out of the dirt.  

It’s OK, it’s OK, she thought; they aren’t glowing.

THE END

‘Creeps,’ an Erotic Horror Novel, Chapter Twenty-Three

It was almost 2:00, and Thea was standing at the front door of Capitol. Two young men came to the door. Thea stopped them. 

“Sorry,” she said in her vocal fry. “We’re temporarily closed. Repairs.” 

“What the fuck!” one of them said. 

“Come back at five,” she said. “We re-open then.” 

“Fuckin’ bullshit!” the other man said as they stormed off. 

Thea’s cellphone rang. “Hello?” she said in her normal voice. 

“Is Mark back yet?” Guy asked. 

“No,” she said. “All the staff are in the staff room, though.” 

“Do you think Mark called Ricardo and found out the meeting is fake?” he asked. 

“I don’t know. It’s a chance we have to take. I’m locking the front doors and then coming over to you. Are the green Creeps set?” 

“Yes. Everything’s set. It’s all or nothing. Petunia and all the others are in the sleeping room, about to wake up from their nap.” 

“I’ll be with you in five minutes. Bye.” They hung up. 

Thea went over to the staff room, looking inside and noting all the staff were there.  

Where is Mark? she wondered; He should be here by now. Oh, God, please don’t let Mark suspect anything. That ‘policy changes’ excuse coming out of the blue was an awkward idea. 

He came with his men in the back door, as Thea expected him to. She could hear them approaching in the hall. 

“Cameron?” Mark called out. “Where are you?” 

“By the staff room, Mark,” she said. Shit, she thought; Forgot my man voice again. Then in her vocal fry: “I assume you got my text about the staff meeting.” He nodded with a smirk as he came nearer to her. “Good. Shall we go in?” 

“In a minute, Cameron,” he said with a smile suggesting he knew nothing. “Before we go in, let’s go in this room over here for a second.” Mark opened the door, and he and his men went in. 

“OK,” she rasped, making sure he didn’t see her lock the staff room door behind her. “But Ricardo and Ken will want to start right away. We’ll have to make this quick.” She went in the other room, trying not to shake. 

“Oh, let me worry about Ricardo and Ken,” Mark said, standing by the door. 

Mark closed it when she was right between his men in the room. “Boys, grab her.” 

They took Thea by the arms and held her struggling body on a chair. Mark tossed them a pair of handcuffs, which they put on her, the chain wrapped behind one of the thin poles making up the back of the chair. 

“Mark, what are you doing?” she shouted as she kept struggling, her first two words normal, her last three in vocal fry. 

“Enough with the fake man voice, Thea Cummings,” Mark said, grabbing her fake beard and ripping it off. 

“Oww!” she screamed. “You bastard! You won’t get away with this! The police are coming, with the Minister of…” 

“They’re all on my side, Thea,”  Mark said. “You and ‘Jack’, or Guy Cummings, your kid brother, really, were plotting to take over and expose our business to the very people we pay to stay on our side.” 

“Not all of them can be bought,” she said. “We know…” 

“Did you know we had tech implanted in you while you were screwing—or pretending to screw—Petunia, the girl you’re trying to rescue? We put it in Guy, too. When Petunia was with you, and when his Commodity was with him, they rubbed their fingers in your ears, and tiny Creeps slipped in, fixing tech to your ears, brains, and even eyes. We could then monitor and record everything you see and hear, including your conspiratorial conversations.” 

“You might have stopped me, but my brother has the app to put green Creeps in the staff. He’ll make them confess to the cop we know who’ll help us expose you.” 

His men were using rope they had on them to tie her ankles to the chair legs. 

Mark took out his cellphone and called Guy. 

“Guy Cummings,” he said. “We ripped the fake beard off your sister. You haven’t sent those green Creeps into my staff room yet, have you?” 

“Not yet, but I will if you hurt her,” Guy said. 

“Oh, you were going to do that anyway,” Mark said. “So I’m gonna make this even more difficult for you. If you send out those green Creeps, I’ll sic the yellow ones you helped me program on all the Commodities in the sleeping room.” 

“Go ahead,” Guy said. “I don’t care.” 

“They’ll kill Petunia LeBar, too.” 

Guy paused. 

“I don’t care. Do it. I’m drugging your staff to help me, and the cops are coming now, as we speak.” 

“And I’ll rape your sister. Here, I’ll let her talk to you, so you know my boys and I really have her.” Mark put the phone to her face. 

“Go through with it, Guy,” she said. “Send out the green Creeps. I’m…” Mark undid her pants and pulled them down. “I’ll be brave.” 

Mark chuckled at her pink panties, then began to unbutton her shirt.  

“Do it, Guy!” she shouted. “Don’t worry about me. Don’t let these bastards stop you.” 

Mark took the phone back from her. “Guy,” he said into it, “Three of us, me and my bodyguards, are gonna gang-rape your sister. In fact, to help us get nice and hard, we’re gonna use the orange Creeps on ourselves.” 

 Guy formed an enigmatic smile at that last sentence. 

“She’ll get one up her pussy, too, so she can get nice and wet, like a good little bitch,” Mark said, then slapped Thea hard. 

Ah! You fucking bastard!” she shouted. 

Guy thought, Oh, shit. The orange Creeps in her? Since when did he start using them on the pussy he fucks?  

“Go find him, you two,” Mark told his men, who went out of the room seconds after. “As for me, I’ll keep little Thea here entertained. Normally I like to fuck my bitches raw. It’s the Sadean sadist in me, to put a girl’s pussy in pain. But I’d like you to enjoy this fuck, so it’ll make you feel like a slut, and traumatize you better.” He chuckled. He had her shirt undone all the way down, then he pulled it wide open to see her pink bra. A tight strap went around her to flatten her chest. He removed it. “Gee, they’re rather small to need to be strapped down, Thea.” 

She spat on him. 

He wiped it off his face, then ogled her bra. “So pretty in pink.” 

“Fuck you!” 

“Well actually, it’s gonna be the other way around, but first—“ he dialed his phone—“one thing I have to do.”  

Dino answered his ringing phone as he and Leo approached the stairs. “Yeah, Boss?” 

“Dino, if you see any cops or government people at the front door, take them to Room Five, make them some coffee, and tell them to wait for me. If they aren’t our people, quietly lock them in the room, so they don’t know. If they find out they’re locked in later, the door will be too strong for them to break down.” 

“Will do, Boss,” Dino said, then hung up. He and Leo went downstairs and to the front doors, where Officer Van Gorder and Bill Shavick, the Minister of Justice, were banging on the door. “Thea must’ve locked the door. C’mon, Leo.” 

Dino opened the door. 

“You people are closed?” Bill asked. “I thought you opened at two. That’s what it says on the door.” 

“We have a bit of a situation at the moment,” Dino said. “Why don’t you come with us?” He led Bill and the policewoman into Room Five. “Have a seat. There’s coffee over there. Help yourself. We’ll be right back after we’ve fixed this problem. Just wait.” He and Leo walked out and closed the door. Dino turned his key in the lock with impressive silence, putting his finger to his mouth to ensure that Leo wouldn’t say anything. 

As they hurried off to find Guy, Leo asked, “Why’d you lock them in? They could get us all in trouble.” 

“They could get us in even bigger trouble if they find out what we’re gonna do with Guy and Thea,” Gino said. “I’ll bet ‘Jack’ is in the Regulating Room. Let’s look there first.” They went back up the stairs to the second floor. 

As they went down a hall, around the corner of which was the one leading to the Regulating Room, they heard footsteps. Dino gestured to Leo to stop and wait at the corner for whoever was about to come around. 

Guy had just clicked his phone to make the green Creeps swarm into the staff room. He put his phone in his pocket and went around the corner. 

Leo grabbed him, and Dino punched him hard in the face. Dino then punched him in the gut. Before Guy could shout for help, Leo cupped his hand around Guy’s mouth, and they dragged his struggling body over to the room with Mark and Thea. 

They could all hear the staff screaming and fidgeting as the green Creeps slithered up their faces, and into their ears and noses. Mark wanted to turn the Creeps off, but he needed Guy’s phone to do it, for Guy had changed the access code to control the green Creeps. As much as they wanted to go into the staff room and help the staff, Dino and Leo didn’t dare, for fear of getting green Creeps in themselves. 

Dino and Leo got Guy into the room, where Thea had her panties pulled down to her ankles, and her bra undone to expose her small breasts. They threw Guy against the wall and closed the door. 

“Bill Shavick and some female cop are locked in Room Five, Boss,” Dino said. 

“If they know they’re locked in, we’ll have some explaining to do,” Mark said. “Never mind, at least they’re not gonna hear what’s going on up here. It’s too late to turn off the green Creeps with Guy’s phone, but we can get our revenge on him, by hurting the people he loves.” 

Leo punched Guy as he tried to get up. 

“And this is how I’m going to hurt him,” Mark said, getting out his phone and clicking on his Creeps app. “Good. Guy didn’t change the access code to the yellow or orange Creeps, as he had the green ones. Dino, turn on the TV. I want Guy to watch Petunia and all the other Commodities die, all the ones he’d hoped to save.” Dino turned on the wall-mounted TV in the corner of the room. 

“You’re willing to kill off all your sources of profit?” Guy asked, wiping the blood off his mouth. 

“Thought I was bluffing, eh?” Mark said. “I can replace all of them like that.” Mark snapped his fingers, hardly bothering to look up at the TV. All the Commodities were screaming on the TV as a swarm of yellow Creeps crawled onto their bodies. They frantically tried to wipe them off their arms and legs, but so many more replaced the ones wiped off that self-defence was futile. “I have people all over the world recruiting new Commodities. Families in Africa, India, Cambodia, Latin America…poor families actually sell me their 18-year-old daughters, sometimes sons, too. I pay them well, they kiss their kids goodbye forever.” 

“Exploitative bastard,” Thea said.  

“We’re gonna exploit you in a minute,” Dino said.  

“I’m not so sure, Boss,” Leo said. “She’s awfully hairy. Almost no tits. Ugly body. Who’d wanna fuck that?” 

“Fuck you!” Guy said, fiddling with his phone behind his back while lying on the floor. “I bet your mother is uglier.” 

Leo kicked him in the gut. 

“That’s why we use orange Creeps, Leo,” Mark said. “They give us the help we need when the woman’s body doesn’t inspire a hard-on.” He clicked an app to summon three Creeps. 

“I’ll bet you’re just impotent,” Thea said. 

Mark slapped her. “Boys, untie her legs, un-handcuff her, and lay her on the floor.” 

As they were doing that, Mark looked up at the screen. 

“The screaming stopped,” he said. “They should be burning up inside by now. Wait…what the bloody hell? They’re fucking!” 

Guy grinned. 

On the TV screen, instead of several dozen naked sex slaves writhing and squirming in agony from incendiary tech burning up their internal organs, they were all paired up in a huge orgy. Guy could see Petunia sucking a man’s dick, while another man was fucking her doggie-style. Arunny was sucking Petunia’s left tit while a third man was fucking her doggie-style, too. Since most of the lovers were women, there was a lot of lesbian sex to be seen. 

“What’s the use of a revolution without common copulation?” Guy said, mocking Mark’s incorrect quote of the Marat/Sade. “You must have clicked the wrong icon on your phone for them, Mark. Clicked ‘orange’ instead of ‘yellow’.” He laughed, hoping Mark would believe him.  

Mark looked back at the TV screen. Did I click the wrong icon, in my anger and absent-mindedness? he wondered. I thought I saw yellow Creeps on the TV screen. The room they’re fucking in is dark, so it isn’t easy to see clearly. Were they yellow, or orange? I’m getting sloppy. 

“Well, I’ll just have to hurt you and Thea more directly,” Mark said. Three orange Creeps slithered under the door crack and into the room. Definitely orange, he thought as he saw them crawling nearer. I’ve gotta be more careful. He, Dino, and Leo pulled down their pants and underwear. “We were going to have orange Creeps for you and Thea, but now I think we’ll just fuck you two raw, as we normally like our bitches. Only orange Creeps for us three.” 

Guy breathed an enigmatic sigh of relief at that last sentence. 

The Creeps crawled up the rapists’ legs. Guy smiled. 

“You’re taking those up the ass?” Thea asked, sneering. 

“Why not?” Dino said in a shaky voice, smiling and shivering as the Creep went into his rectum. “We have…kinky…tastes.” 

“Yeah,” Leo moaned. “They feel…good…up the ass. Oh!” 

“Leo’s…bi…by the way,” Mark said, also shaking. “He…likes you, Guy. Ooh!” 

Leo grabbed Guy and got ready to fuck his ass. 

Guy struggled as Leo was undoing his pants, but Leo punched him in the gut. Guy’s pants and underwear were pulled down to his ankles. Leo knelt behind him. 

“We’re gonna…rape you both, then…kill you,” Mark said, shaking as he got on top of Thea, Dino holding her for him. “Then we’ll…kill that cop…and Shavick…in Room Five. Stop squirming!” 

“You can’t kill everyone,” Thea said as she tried to get free of Dino’s grip and get Mark off of her. “Someone will find out and stop you!” 

“I own…the cops…and government. I just…have to know…their price…Wait, this doesn’t feel right…I’m hot inside.” 

“Not the kind of hot you were expecting, eh, Mark?” Guy said, smiling and noting the discomfort in Leo’s face. “Or you, Leo?” 

“I-I’m burning, Boss,” Leo said. “Aah!” He fell on Guy. 

“Me, too,” Dino said. “What’s in these Creeps? Unh!” 

As Mark lay screaming and shaking on top of Thea, who was now more frantically trying to get him and Dino off of her, he was clicking icons on his phone. 

“Remember those yellow and orange Creeps that got mixed up, Mark?” Guy said, finally getting Leo off of him. “I never sent them back to the supplier. I thought you and your thugs here would want to rape a few Commodities today, so I set up those Creeps at the last minute today, so your cellphone app would summon them.” 

“I know,” Mark gasped. “I should’ve…figured it out…when I saw…all the Commodities…fucking on the TV. Ah!” 

“As I said, I was hoping you’d use them earlier,” Guy said. “Before the meeting. Your monthly lunchtime fuck, with a Commodity as raw as we’d have been here now.” 

“I just summoned…all the orange Creeps…to come here,” Mark grunted. “You won’t be ‘raw’…if you know…what I mean. Ah!” He fell to the side, shaking and groaning for a few more seconds before dying. Dino then dropped down dead, falling on top of Thea. She shoved him off.  

“Oh, fuck!” Guy shouted as he looked at the door and heard the familiar screeching. 

An army of orange Creeps was crawling under the door, and straight at Guy and Thea, who were only now pulling their pants up. Before they could do them up, Creeps were already on their thighs, crawling on their bare skin, racing for their anuses and Thea’s vagina. 

“Oh, God! Guy!” Thea screamed. “They’re in me! They move so fast! Aah!” They were crawling up to her face. 

Guy was shaking from two that were already wiggling up his rectum. He raced to get Mark’s phone. 

“Can you…shut them off?” she asked, shaking all over. 

“Yeah,” he said in a tremulous voice. “I even know…how to get…into Mark’s phone.” Guy tried desperately to control his shaking body, and especially his hand, to touch the right numbers on the screen of Mark’s phone to access the app. Guy traced a swastika along the numbers 3-2-5-8-7, then 1-4-5-6-9. 

“How…do you know?” she asked, flailing her arms and legs, keeping her mouth closed tight, while Creeps were nearing her ears and nostrils. 

“I watched him…behind his back,” Guy said, accessing Orange Creeps, then Disable

All the Creeps lost their orange glow, just like Christmas lights being switched off; and they stopped moving, like insects on a farmer’s field sprayed with insecticide. 

Guy’s and Thea’s bodies stopped jerking about. Guy dropped on the floor beside his sister. The immobilized Creeps on their faces and bodies fell off. They lay there for a few minutes, panting, trembling, and waiting for their heart rates to slow down. 

Finally, Thea spoke: “Are the outer coverings of these Creeps going to melt inside us, causing the burning?” 

“No,” Guy said, getting up. “The programming is supposed to make the incendiary content inside melt the outer coating, then burn you. I turned off the program, so we’ll be safe. If the coatings had melted, we’d be feeling it by now.” 

Thea got up, and they both did up their pants. 

“So, to get these things out, we’ll have to shit them out?” she asked as she did up her bra and shirt. 

“Exactly.” 

They looked down at the bodies of Mark, Dino, and Leo. Guy got the key off of Dino. 

“Bastards,” she said, kicking Mark’s corpse. Blood gushed out of his mouth. “Eww. We’d better go get Van Gorder and Shavick.”  

They rushed out of the room, then looked in the door window to the staff room: all the staff were either standing, seated, or lying on the floor, rocking or fidgeting, their eyes agape and staring in a daze. 

“We need to bring Van Gorder and Shavick in there right away,” Guy said, “while the green Creep drug is still at its most potent point, to get them all to confess the truth.” 

“You really think it’ll work?” she asked as they hurried down the hall to the stairs. 

“Yes,” he said as they went down. “Sodium Pentothal is mixed into it; it’s like a truth serum. Besides, when Petunia and the others come down off that aphrodisiac, horny high they’re on, we can get them to confirm the truth about Capitol.” 

“I’m proud of you, Guy,” she said. “You’ve proven what a good guy you are.” They grinned at each other. 

On the first floor now, they could hear banging on a door. They raced over to Room Five, and Guy unlocked the door. 

“Why were we locked in here?” Shavick asked. 

“Because Mark didn’t want you to know that he just tried to kill us,” Guy said. “He ended up killing himself.” 

“I told you he was crooked,” Officer Van Gorder said. 

“C’mon,” Thea said. “Let’s go up to the second floor.” 

They all ran up the stairs and down the hall, much of which had an army of immobile orange Creeps on it, to the staff room. When Van Gorder and Shavick looked through the door window and saw the dazed staff, Guy got out his cellphone, clicked on the app controlling the still-crawling green Creeps that hadn’t yet crawled inside anyone, and turned them off. They lost their glow, and now lay as still and dull in colour as the orange ones in the other room. 

“Luckily, the door to the staff room closes tight enough to seal off any possibility for the Creeps to crawl outside,” Guy said. “Unlike the orange Creeps that were crawling into this other room.” He opened the door, showing the corpses of Mark, Dino, and Leo. 

Van Gorder and Shavick gasped at the sight of the bodies, then winced at their half-nakedness. 

“You said they killed themselves,” the policewoman said. 

“Yeah,” Thea said. “That’s why their pants are down. They let the orange Creeps crawl up their asses.” 

“Why?” Shavick asked. “Why kill themselves like that?” 

“They weren’t trying to kill themselves,” Guy said. “Normally, orange Creeps are for getting the sex slaves ready for sex. These three wanted to get themselves horny—“ 

“So they could rape us,” Thea said. “Then they’d kill us.” 

“Luckily, I had a box of these orange Creeps which had mistakenly been equipped with incendiary content meant for yellow Creeps, and vice versa, as we’ll see in the room where the sex slaves are kept to sleep at night. Mark used these wrong ones on himself and his two bodyguards, and so they killed themselves accidentally.” 

“Sorry,” Shavick said, wincing and shaking his head in confusion. “Orange Creeps? Yellow Creeps? What are you talking about? All these things on the floor?” 

“Yeah,” Guy said. “We’ll explain everything in time.”  

“Let’s go to the sleeping area,” Thea said. “Mark used the wrong yellow Creeps on them, thinking he was going to kill them in revenge for our exposing his criminal business.” They were hurrying over to the sleeping area. “Again, lucky for us, Guy tricked Mark with the switching of the colours,” she continued, as they reached the sleeping area and looked through the door window, “and instead of killing the sex slaves, Mark caused them to do this.” 

“What the hell?” Shavick said as he watched the naked women and men continue their orgy. “It’s like a porno film.” He chuckled; his and Van Gorder’s eyes looked away. 

“Yeah,” Guy said, clicking his cellphone to turn off the yellow Creeps, of which the few still lying on the floor became immobile, no longer glowing. “We’ll have to wait a few hours for them to come down from their horny high. Then they’ll be able to tell you what’s really been going on here.” 

“Do they have any clothes?” Officer Van Gorder asked. 

“Oh, yeah,” Thea said. “There’s a locker room on the far side of the room, where all their clothes are kept. That door in the right corner leads to it.” 

“It’s locked, but I have the key,” Guy said. “When they all come back to normal in a few hours, we’ll go in and get their clothes for them. But for now, let them indulge themselves, I guess.” He chuckled. “They aren’t hurting each other.” 

“It seems to be the best sex they’ve all had in a long time,” Shavick said. All four of them laughed. 

Is my sister Mary in there, in that orgy? Van Gorder wondered as she tried to find her among all the gyrating flesh. I don’t see her anywhere. Oh, well. I’ll try to find her later. 

“In the meantime, let’s all go back to the staff room, and get confessions from the staff,” Guy said as they all started walking back there. “As I told you before, Officer, the green Creeps act as a kind of truth serum, a pacifier that will make them perfectly cooperative. I also want to demonstrate, in the Regulating Room, how we can make them say anything we want. That’s how Mark controlled them.” 

‘Creeps,’ an Erotic Horror Novel, Chapter Twenty-Two

On the 17th, Mark and Guy were in the Regulating Room, Mark watching the video screens of the clients having sex with the Commodities while Guy was entering data into the computer. 

“So, are those new Creeps programmed and ready?” Mark asked. 

“Just about…there,” Guy said as he typed a few keys. “All done.” 

“Good,” Mark said. “I have to go meet with the police commissioner and the Ministry of Labour, give them their thank-you gifts.” He grabbed the handles of two briefcases filled with cash.  

“I’m surprised you’re not having your usual lunchtime fu–,” Guy said, first with a slight frown of disappointment, then remembering he wasn’t supposed to know about what he was about to say. “D-don’t you normally go to F-Fredo’s for lunch around now?” 

“No time today,” Mark said. “Gotta give this cash to our business allies.” 

“Why do you have to go there physically in this electronic day and age?” 

“I could just wire the money to them by computer, I suppose, but I like the personal touch. It reinforces our relationship to give it to them personally, face to face.” 

“It’s sure nice having the government on our side,” Guy said. 

“It is. I really don’t like the government at all, but we can’t get rid of it. I’m a libertarian, at heart.” 

“And a libertine, at hard-on.” Guy chuckled, and Mark’s chuckles followed. 

“I’ve always been pleased with the similarity between the words libertarian and libertine, in sound and meaning. Well, if you can’t beat the state, take it over, I always say. With a business like this one, you have to, in order to survive.” 

And your hypocrisy in that regard doesn’t bother you at all, obviously, Guy thought. 

“I was thrilled when we were able to clinch the legalization of brothels. For me, it was a new sexual revolution, and in my view, the only real revolution. I remember an old play by Peter Weiss, the Marat/Sade, when the Marquis de Sade asks, ‘What’s the use of a revolution without common copulation?’ I don’t remember the exact wording, but the quote was something like that. Anyway, I have to go. Back by 2 PM. Take care of the place for me.” 

“I will, Mark. Bye.” Mark went out the door. “And…everything’s set up.” He got his cellphone and called Thea. “We’re ready.” 

“OK,” Thea said. “Where’s Mark?” 

“He’s off making the payoffs to the cops and the Ministry of Labour,” Guy said. “He says he’ll be back by two.” 

“OK, I’ll send an e-mail to him and all the others to get into the staff room for the meeting at that time,” she said. “But I’m letting Mark know last, so he doesn’t interfere in any way before then. Bye.” She hung up, then began typing the e-mail: 

To all staff, everyone meet in the staff room at 2:00 PM sharp for a general meeting. IMPORTANT. Stop whatever you’re doing at 1:50 and get in there for a conference with Ricardo Davis and Ken Maynard, who have important policy changes that must be discussed in detail. Only Davis and Maynard will be communicating by phone, because they are too busy where they are to be in the staff room. Everyone else must physically be there to ensure a proper relaying of the information. I just received word from Mr. Maynard himself of this. Urgent. Forward this message to any staff not addressed here. 

She sent the e-mail to Mark and every staff member whose name she could remember, while walking through all the halls of Capitol telling everyone and anyone she hadn’t sent the e-mail to about the meeting. 

As Mark was being driven to the police station with his two bodyguards, Dino and Leo, in the back seat, he got a message from a staff member on his phone, saying he’d be a little late for the conference. After reading it, Mark said, “What the fuck? Cameron never told me about Maynard or Davis saying anything about ‘policy changes’. Why am I being told about this all of a sudden? Cameron could have told me about this any time earlier today. I’m not too happy about him doing business behind my back. I’m getting the info directly this time, for a change. I’m calling Ricardo.” 

As he was dialing the number, his driver asked, “What’s the problem, Mark?” 

“Oh, my mixed-up assistant manager, Cameron Thewlis, just sent messages to all my staff about a ‘general meeting’ we’re all supposed to be involved with. We all have to be in the staff room in person, apparently, at 2:00 PM,” Mark said. Ricardo answered his call. “Ricardo? It’s ‘Free Mark’ here. What’s this about a general meeting to make policy changes, and everyone, except you and Ken, has gotta be in the staff room at 2:00 sharp today?” 

“What are you talking about?” Ricardo asked. 

“You don’t know anything about this?” Mark asked. 

“First time I’ve heard about it,” Ricardo said. 

“Never mind. I’ll e-mail Ken and find out what’s going on.”  Mark hung up and sent Ken an e-mail: “Did you tell my assistant manager about a general meeting to be held in my staff room at 2:00 PM today, everyone attending? Urgent: answer ASAP.” 

In two minutes, Mark got a reply. No. What is this all about? 

Mark replied: I smell a rat. Let me investigate. I’ll get back to you. 

“Alright, Cameron,” he mumbled as he set up an app on his phone to monitor ‘Cameron’, using the tech he’d had implanted on Thea and Guy, slipped in their ears by Petunia and Kusiima. “What are you up to?” He found an archived video recording of her chatting with Guy from a week before. He saw video through her eye and heard through her ear. 

“Wait,” Mark said. “That’s a woman’s voice. What happened to Cameron’s gravelly voice?…Oh, of course! It was a disguise! Yeah, come to think of it, I do recall ‘him’ losing that raspy sound and speaking like a girl occasionally. He is a she! Now, who’s this guy—his name is Guy—that she’s talking to?” 

“Cameron Thewlis is a girl, Boss?” Leo asked. 

“Yeah,” Mark said. “Shut up, I wanna hear what they’re saying. This ‘Guy’…looks familiar. His voice sounds familiar…” 

“We’re here, Mark,” the driver said, parking the car in the police station parking lot. 

“I’ll go in in a minute,” Mark said, eyeing the video on his phone with obsessive eyes. “Who the fuck are they?” His ears drank up every word of their conversation, which seemed to be in the living room of their home. 

“…and then we’ll get Petunia out of there,” she said. 

“Petunia?” Mark said. “Petunia…LeBar, the one we renamed Walker? That’s it! ‘Thewlis’ was that woman…what was her name? Cummings! She wanted to prove that Petunia was in Capitol against her will. Guy was that kid, her brother! His voice, his manner, is kind of like…Jack!” 

Mark turned off the video, and switched his phone over to the app for monitoring ‘Jack’. He found an archived video recording monitoring Guy from several days before, seeing what one eye of his saw and one ear of his heard. 

Mark was looking at video of Thea’s face, in the same living room, for Mark recognized its distinctive wallpaper and furniture, green and brown plant and tree motifs on the walls, and polished wooden chairs and tables. Her voice was identical to ‘Cameron’s’ non-gravelly voice. He heard Guy’s voice…the voice of ‘Jack’. 

“How, Thea, will we sync up the use of the green Creeps on the staff in the staff room, with Mark in there, sync that with you calling Officer Van Gorder and the Minister of Justice?” Guy said in the video. 

“Now, I know,” Mark said. “They want me in that room with them, so they won’t set the Creeps loose yet. Let’s hurry up and give the commissioner his money, then get back to Capitol.” 

“But what about the Minister of Labour?” Dino asked. “We have to give him his cut.” 

“Paying him will have to wait for the moment,” Mark said, opening the car door. “Hurry up. Let’s move!” 

Mark and his bodyguards rushed into the police station, his bodyguards even shoving people out of the way as he made a beeline to the commissioner’s office. He didn’t even knock on the door; he just barged in. 

“Excuse me, Doug,” he said. “I’ve got an emergency situation back at work. Here you are.” Mark plopped the suitcase of money on the commissioner’s desk. “Sorry. We’ll talk later. Bye.” 

Officer Van Gorder, who was in the commissioner’s office, looked at Mark with widened eyes as she saw him and his men rush out of the building with the same rudeness as when they’d entered. They got back into the car. 

“Drive!” Mark snapped. The driver started the car.