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

Present-mindedness

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

One of the methods of coping that sufferers of C-PTSD use is dissociation, a shutting down to block the trauma’s intensity and a mental escaping from the present, stressful moment into a world of fantasy. As an alternative to fight or flight, dissociation is part of freezefawn being used more typically by people-pleasers and golden children.

This dissociation can be in the more advanced form of maladaptive daydreaming, a kind of manic defence escape from what troubles us into fantasy for protracted periods of time. Now, while this escape into fantasy may have served some useful purpose as a way to cope with childhood trauma, when we reach adulthood we can’t allow ourselves to dissociate to the point of it interfering with our lives.

I’ll give an example of a mild form of this problem. I look back on my teen years with regret over my habit, at the time, of daydreaming and excessively fantasizing, hour after hour, about being a great musician. I should have been practicing the guitar for the required hours, gradually overcoming my faults, and perhaps even becoming at least a good musician, instead of being the, at best, mediocre one I am now. The creativity involved in daydreaming isn’t worth much if it isn’t manifested in the real world, demonstrated as a physical thing people can see, hear, read…and admire.

Don’t daydream too much!

That excessive daydreaming was one of a number of things that helped me forget–temporarily–the school bullying and emotionally abusive family of my youth. Once, however, we’ve escaped the traumatizing relationships we were in with toxic people, be they a narcissistic family or ex-boy- or girlfriends, or ex-spouses, we have to learn to wean ourselves away from the bad habit of excessive daydreaming, as well as all the other, more serious problems that ongoing dissociation can cause. We have to train our minds to live in the NOW.

I’ve discussed this issue before, though from different angles. In Putting the Painful Past Behind Us, I devised an auto-hypnosis geared at persuading us to think of our painful pasts as no longer having any relevance in our present lives; if we think of it more as a dream we’ve woken from, it may be easier to forget and to stop ruminating about. In Rumination, I featured a list of reasons why overthinking the past is not only a pointless waste of time, but is also harmful.

Now, instead of stopping overthinking the past, I’m focusing on getting us to be more present-minded, to being mindful for as much of the day as we can. I’d like to try that by having us do another auto-hypnosis.

Start by sitting or lying down in a comfortable, quiet, and relaxing place, with nothing to distract or bother you. Close your eyes and take slow, deep breaths, in and out, in and out, over and over again. Pay close attention to what is happening in your body.

Sit or lie in a comfortable position.

Imagine yourself standing in a growing, rising pool of water, at first covering your toes and heels, then rising up to the tops of your feet and reaching your ankles. As every part of your body is submerged by this ‘water,’ you feel those submerged body parts tingling, vibrating with relaxation.

This ‘water’ rises up to your calves, knees, upper legs, and thighs. Now, half of your body is submerged in this ‘watery,’ tingling relaxation. It continues up to your waist, belly, and lower back. Your fingers, then hands and lower arms are also submerged.

The ‘water’ rises up to your chest and upper back, as well as your elbows and upper arms, until your shoulders are also submerged, then the water reaches your neck. Finally, your whole head is ‘underwater.’

This whole time, you’ve continued your slow, deep breathing. Now, with each long inhalation and exhalation, count down from ten to one; as each number is passed, feel yourself getting more and more relaxed, so by the time you reach one, then zero, you’re at a maximum state of relaxation.

Now, imagine your nostrils are like the gills of a fish, and breathe in that ‘water’ you’re submerged in. As it enters and permeates your whole body, imagine yourself becoming one with the ‘water.’ This ‘water’ is the infinite ocean that is the entire universe, and like the Hindu notion of Atman‘s union with Brahman, you are now unified with, you’re a drop of water in, that peaceful ocean of everything.

You are a part of the ocean’s waves. You ARE those waves.

Feel the soothing waves of that nirvana-like ocean passing in you, through you, and out of you, for you are that ocean, or at least you’re a tiny but happy part of it. The waves move up and down, slowly, serenely. Focus on the gentle movement of those waves as they flow through you right now. If you get distracted and catch yourself dissociating, that’s OK: just gently but firmly bring yourself back to concentrating on those peaceful waves. Feel them massaging your soul.

Try to stay focused on this three-part state of consciousness: your connection with the oneness all around you, what I like to call the Unity of Space (that Atman = Brahman idea); your focus on the present, the eternal NOW, what I like to call the Unity of Time; and the up and down rolling of those waves, which for me symbolizes the dialectical unity of opposites, the crests being the theses, the troughs the theses’ negations, and the in-between movements up and down being the sublations of the theses/negations, what I like to call the Unity of Action. Everything is one: there is no more fragmentation.

Focus on these Three Unities simultaneously to bring yourself into full consciousness of the present reality within and around you. Such a meditation is excellent practice in concentration, and doing it regularly, every day, over time should help you become more habitually present-minded, since it will discipline your mind to stop drifting off into dissociations. It will also help you to calm your mind, be more peaceful, and feel more connected with the world, less alienated.

The infinite ocean of peace that gives true happiness.

The Unity of Time combines present-mindedness with an instinctive understanding of the eternally cyclical nature of reality, symbolized not only by those undulating waves, but also by the ouroboros, as I’ve discussed elsewhere. I find focusing on the cyclical motion of the waves to be helpful in keeping my mind from wandering from the NOW. Keep your mind on those up-and-down wave movements, and stay in the present.

Now, if you don’t like the meditation/visualization I’ve proposed above, remember that you can develop present-mindedness through the practice of other meditations, such as chanting the mantra Aum; counting slow, deep breaths; or staring at a single object. The basic principle is to do one thing and concentrate only on that thing you’re doing, not allowing your mind to wander.

What matters most is that, in developing your skill at sustaining your present-mindedness, you’ll be ruminating less, agonizing over the past less, feeling more peaceful, and enjoying more of your real life, which is right here in front of you, and which is now and only now.

‘Claws,’ an Erotic Horror Novel, Chapter Nine

[Some sexual content]

Detectives Surian and Thurston sat at the tip rail in The Gold Star that night, waiting for Callie to come onstage. A nude stripper was doing the last song of her floorshow. She spread her legs in front of Thurston.

Surian laughed at him for the embarrassment she saw on his face. “C’mon, Andy,” she said. “Enjoy yourself.”

“You’re the only one for me, Agnes,” he said in her ear.

“Oh, fuck off, Andy,” she said. “Pussy is pussy. You’re a guy, aren’t you? Live a little. I don’t care.”

“I care that you don’t,” he said…and meant that. He always flirted with Agnes Surian because he really liked her. “You’re much prettier than she is.”

“Bullshit I am,” she said. “That woman has a much better body than I have.”

“I’ll always like your brown eyes, and that cute brunette bob cut of yours, to that woman’s silicone anytime.”

“You’re not getting me that easily, Andy. Watch her.”

“Every time you talk like that, Agnes, you remind me of my high school crush, the girl you look like, who friend-zoned me and broke my heart.”

“She was that plain-looking and flat-chested, eh?”

“Oh, come one! You have more boob than that, more real boob than that stripper, and more smarts, which I find especially attractive.”

“Oh, aren’t you sweet. Stare at her ass, not at me.”

“Really. Your hunches about perps are accurate as fuck. You found the beast.”

“Who’s coming on next,” Surian reminded him. “Just don’t let yourself get mesmerized when she’s onstage. We don’t wanna lose…’Chloe’…again.”

“Agreed,” he said, glad the stripper’s spread was no longer in front of his face. “You remember what ‘Chloe’ looks like?”

“Yeah, I saw her over on the other side of the bar a while ago. You’ll see her soon.”

The song ended, and the stripper left the stage.

“All right, gentlemen,” the DJ announced as Callie got on the stage. “Let’s give a big hand for this sexy lady. Here’s…Chloe.” A chorus of men’s cheers pounded on the detectives’ eardrums.

“Remember, Andy,” Surian said in Thurston’s ear. “As soon as you smell those sexy pheromones, hold your breath. She uses that smell to fuck with our heads.”

“Got it,” he said. “Then we follow her, and if we can get a chance to see a transformation, we get video of it on our cellphones to show that prick, Detective Hicks, and get him to believe us.”

“Yes,” she said. They looked up at Callie with grins as she shook her ass in that tight dress and those black fishnet stockings.

**************

At about 2:00 AM, the detectives had followed Callie to the apartment of a man she was about to have sex with. They were lucky enough to be able to climb up to a third-floor balcony where they could look in a window and see her nude body bouncing on top of her lover in bed.

“I can’t believe we were lucky enough to find the right room so fast,” Thurston said.

“I can,” Surian said. “She seems to have the power to lure people anywhere she needs them to be. She probably put the intuition in our heads to look here first.”

“You mean she wanted us to find her here?” he asked. “You think she can do that?”

“Yes,” Surian said. “If she has the power to turn into a hairy, clawed beast, she probably has all kinds of powers, including her power to hypnotize us with those pheromones. She wants us here, and wants us to follow her around for some reason–I don’t know what that is, but I guess we’ll find out soon enough. So we’ll have to watch out for any traps she tries to set for us.”

“OK,” he said. They both took out their cellphones and set them to video camera. “I feel like a porno director.”

“Enjoy your perviness,” she said. “She’s hot, isn’t she?”

“I’d rather be pervy with you, Agnes. You’re hotter.”

“Shut up. I am not.”

“Oh, yes, you are.”

“Just get video of the proof, and stop hitting on me.”

They had been getting video of Callie and the man having sex in the cowgirl position for a minute or two before, at the sight of her wiggling tits, Thurston opened his mouth: “Check out bouncing Chloe.”

“Oh, behave yourself, Andy,” Surian said.

“You said, ‘Enjoy your perviness,’ Agnes,” he said.

“In your private thoughts, please,” she said. “I’m not a dude. I don’t wanna hear it.”

“Wait: what are they doing now?” he asked after seeing the man roll over and get on top of her. He got her on all fours. “So, he wants to do her doggy-style now?”

“No, wait,” Callie said, loud enough for the detectives to hear. Her lover was trying to enter her anally.

A flashback went past Callie’s eyes: Mort rolling over and rolling her over on all fours, so he could sodomize her…back when she was thirteen.

“No!” Callie shouted again.

“Oh, c’mon, baby!” the man said, starting to push in.

“I said…NO!” she shouted, growling the last word.

“Holy shit!” the detectives whispered together as they saw hair grow out all over Callie’s body. Her lover moved back, startled and speechless, his eyes and mouth wide open.

“You’re recording all this, right?” Surian asked in a shaky voice, her eyes agape.

“Yeah,” Thurston gasped with his jaw all the way down. “Are you?”

“Of course. Oh, my God!”

Callie’s lover screamed, then her claws sliced across his throat, splashing blood all over the bed. He fell on his right side, shaking, clutching his throat, and coughing out blood. The beast stabbed its claws, both hands, into his chest. He no longer moved. Surian and Thurston were now the ones shaking.

Then the beast looked at the window.

“Oh, shit!” the detectives said when the eyes of the smiling beast met theirs. It jumped off the bed, bounced on the floor, and flew at the window. “Fuck!” the detectives cried.

They dodged apart from each other in time for the beast to break through the glass and fly out between them. It landed on the front lawn of the apartment and ran off.

Thurston called backup. “The beast is back,” he said. “It’s running down Jarvis Street towards Isabella Street. Surian and I will wait for it at Edward Road, on the other side of town. Hurry!”

****************

Whenever cops confronted the beast as it ran and jumped down this or that road, a mere whiff of its intoxicating pheromonal smell, which quickly spread around everywhere it went, overpowered the cops to the point that they couldn’t aim their guns at it, much less fire at it.

The smell even got into the police cars through opened windows or car doors, causing a fog of disorientation that made it impossible to follow the beast. By about 5 AM, it had returned to Edward Road, to the alley next to Callie’s apartment building. The two detectives had been waiting.

Hiding behind the bushes in Edward Park across the road, they grinned to see the beast plodding along in exhaustion, leaving a trail of tufts of its hair. It entered the alley and went behind the crates, as it had last time.

The detectives came out from the bushes and crossed the road. With their pistols cocked, they entered the alley.

The beast lay asleep behind those crates again. Surian and Thurston put their guns away and took out their cellphones, which they reset to video camera. They began to record video of the beast from the shoulders up.

All those hairs on its skin were slithering back, retreating into their follicles. Its claws were shortening, changing back into fingernails.

“This is…incredible,” Thurston whispered. “Wow!”

“I know, but don’t make any noise,” Surian whispered. “She might wake up and get hairy again.”

Callie’s hair changed from brown back to blonde. Now fully changed from beast back to beauty, she lay there still asleep, the same nude sex goddess she was every night in The Gold Star, all clean, freshened up, and as if ready for a Playboy photo shoot.

“She doesn’t even need to pretty herself up in the bathroom,” Surian gasped, still in amazement at what they’d seen. “This is some kind of major supernatural shit we’re seeing here. You got all that recorded, Andy?”

“Yep,” he said with a smile. “We have all the proof we need. This should make Hicks finally take us seriously.”

Callie woke up.

“Good morning, ‘Chloe,’ or Sandra, or whatever your name is,” Surian said with a triumphant smile. “We’ve finally got you.”

“Hi,” Callie said with an ear-to-ear grin, not at all intimidated by them.

Before the detectives could hold their breath, they’d already inhaled a huge whiff of that aphrodisiac pheromone smell. Their heads were swaying from side to side.

“How about a threesome, detectives?” Callie asked. “I know you two like each other, and I know you both like me.”

Surian and Thurston got down on their knees. They dropped their cellphones on the ground. His head went between Callie’s spread legs; Surian’s lips wrapped themselves around Callie’s left nipple. Both detectives began sucking, kissing, and licking. Callie took a cellphone in each hand.

Her hands let out a glow surrounding both cellphones. The demoness’s power erased the memory of the video recordings. Callie orgasmed from Thurston’s lips and tongue on her clitoris, spraying come into his mouth. Kluh’s magic caused Callie to lactate, feeding Surian generous gulps of milk.

Now with the demoness’s fluids inside them, the detectives moved away from Callie’s body; for those fluids were now swimming inside the detectives’ bodies, giving Kluh direct psychic control of both of them. Still mesmerized, the two began French-kissing on the ground there in the alley as Callie got up and walked out of the alley, insouciant about her nudity, her hands at her sides and allowing anyone watching at the time to see all of her body if he or she wished to.

She went to the front door of her apartment building and used her power to unlock it, just by using the tip of her finger to tap on the keyhole. She did the same with that of her apartment, with no need of a key, when she’d reached her floor from the elevator. A hypnotized neighbour of her latest victim would soon arrive at the door of her apartment with her purse and clothes.

The detectives snapped out of their stupor after another ten minutes of necking. Thurston gave Surian a few more kisses on the lips and cheek.

“Stop it!” she said, slapping him. “You pig!”

“Oh, come on, cutie-pie,” he said, rubbing his cheek. “You were as into the kissing as I was.”

“‘Chloe’ used her power to make us do that, to distract us while she got away,” she said. “Anyway, it doesn’t matter. We got video of both transformations.” They picked up their cellphones and checked where they’d saved the video recordings. We can finally prove–“

“Hey, what happened to them?” he said, frowning.

“She must have erased them while we were…fuck!”

“Let’s go find her apartment.”

“She’ll probably elude us again. We’ll have to think of a different strategy. I’d like to know what she does with herself when she isn’t stripping. I’d like to follow her around in the day, and see if there’s anything we can learn about her that way.”

“Yeah, in any case, we still have that sexy smell of hers fogging up our brains. We can’t think straight, so we can’t do much here and now.”

Yes, follow me around in the day, Callie/Kluh thought as she lay on her bed on her back. Learn more about me through Dr. Visner.

‘Claws,’ An Erotic Horror Novel, Chapter Eight

Ten minutes before his therapy session with Callie, Dr. Visner was sitting at his desk thinking about her.

I remind her of her stepfather, he thought as he looked over his notes. He tricked her into thinking she enjoyed the sex with him. She looks at me with desire in her eyes, and I don’t think that’s just my countertransference making me want to think she wants me, though I must be careful with my countertransference. She is beautiful and desirable, that stripper, and because of the sexual abuse she suffered from her stepfather, her transference with me–though amorous on the surface–will have unconscious hostility to me, too.

Beyond the obvious ethical problems of me possibly being involved with her sexually, he continued in his meditations, there’s the danger of her turning violent on me. Her stepfather, Mort Brahms, it turns out was the man killed by that animal in the Hamilton news story…and there have been sightings of such a beast here in Toronto, after the killings of two men during sex with them. She must have delusions that she’s this beast. Does she own a pet of some exotic kind? Does she dress up in a furry costume, with fake claws? The police insist that the victims didn’t have knife wounds, but claw wounds. The men wouldn’t have fucked her when she was wearing such a costume, I think it’s safe to assume; few men would be turned on by that. She wouldn’t have changed into such a costume right after the kills, for she was at their homes, and why would she carry the costume around? I can’t seriously be expected to believe she transforms into a beast, as with her Hulk fixation, so what’s going on?

His receptionist spoke on the intercom: “Ms. Seaver is here for her appointment, Dr. Visner.”

“OK,” he said. “Send her in.”

Callie entered the room. His jaw dropped.

She was wearing a sleeveless, skin-tight, PVC red dress that went half-way down her upper legs and showed off a generous amount of cleavage. She also wore black fishnet stockings and matching high heels. She’d painted her face with thick black mascara, purple eye shadow, pink blush, and red lipstick.

“What do you think?” she asked with a grin. “Do you like it?” She turned around for him, then sat in a chair facing him. Without panties, she at first had her knees together, but over the next several minutes she would slowly, almost imperceptibly, open her legs. As her legs drifted open, that pheromone emanated from her.

He took a deep breath and resisted looking between her legs. “Why are you…dressed like that?” he asked. The pheromone buzz was already beginning to affect him; his eyes were half-closed, and his head swayed left to right.

“I’ll be stripping at The Gold Star tonight,” she said. “As soon as we finish here, I’ll be going over there, so I won’t have time to change. Besides, I wanted to look hot for you.”

He pushed himself to regain control. “Don’t I…remind you…of your hateful stepfather? He who…cruelly sodomized you, and drove your mother…to suicide?”

“You may look like Mort, but I can see you’re a much better man than he ever was.”

“I see.” With effort, he was writing notes. Don’t grill her on Mort’s death, he thought, blinking a lot. Discuss it only if she brings it up, and even then, be tactful. “But you…hardly know anything about me. How do you know…I’m any better than he was?”

“I know enough,” she and Kluh said together, as they were always communicating together now; indeed, Callie’s personality had become barely distinct from that of the demoness. Their souls were like circles in a Venn diagram that overlapped about ninety percent, with only thin edges of the one soul and the other not touching. Because of this psychic closeness with the mind-reading demoness, Callie’s ‘knowing enough’ about Visner was no exaggeration.

“You know…the idealized version…of a father/lover figure…that you’ve projected onto me,” the therapist nonetheless insisted. I feel high, he thought, still blinking.

“Is that so?” she asked, her legs wide open now, her agape eyes and pursed lips giving him no doubt that the exposure of her vulva was fully intentional. “Enlighten me.” The pheromone aroma grew more and more powerful.

“Y-yes, w-well…,” he began, stammering not so much from her exhibitionism, or the pheromones, as from her choice in clothes; for her outfit was an exact replica of that of a young Thai prostitute he’d enjoyed, many years ago, during the partying years of his youth in Southeast Asia, just before he began his master’s degree. “Because of your trauma, your personality has split into three…aspects, we’ll say.”

“You think I have three personalities?”

“No, I-I don’t think necessarily that–not yet, anyway. I’ll try to explain this…to you in a way…that w-won’t sound like…psychoanalytic jargon. I’ll use language you can understand. Y-you…”

“No need to dumb it down too much. I’m smarter than you think.”

“No, Callie, I don’t mean to condescend. Anyway, there’s you in your original ego-state, just wanting to connect with people, as we all do when we’re healthy. But, because of the divorce…of your parents, your father’s…distancing himself from you, then his death, your mother’s suicide, and your stepfather’s…rapes, that original you…has developed two other, subsidiary egos.”

“OK, I’m intrigued,” she said with a smirk, her legs still wide open. “What are these ‘subsidiary egos’?”

“Well, one of them is an angry, hateful, and even violent beast, so to speak.”

Her eyes widened. Her smirk grew wider.

“This ‘beast’ rejects people, because it’s been hurt…so many times by them, and it can only remember…pain and rejection itself. The other is…w-well…as you are now…full of lust and desire, e-eager for the fulfillment of pleasure.”

“Oh, you’re right about that,” she said, using her power to open her vagina into a big, black hole.

The pheromone smell was overpowering. Still, he held on to his composure, as shaky as he was getting. He just looked down at his notepad and wrote more notes, but his shaky hand made the words almost illegible.

“Don’t worry. I won’t let the beast get you.” She licked her lips at the visible erection in his pants.

“Do you want to talk about the beast?”

“I’d rather talk about the horny version of me.”

“I can see that.”

“Yeah…but you aren’t looking.”

“Do you feel insulted about that?”

“No. I know you want me. I can feel it. You’re just a little shy. Actually, your resistance makes you all the more attractive to me. Men who jump at every opportunity for sex are boring. You’ll come to me, though, in time.”

“I will, will I?” he asked with a smirk, looking directly into her eyes and trying his best not to look down.

“Oh, yes,” she said, still showing off that wide-open hole, and smiling from noticing his occasional, furtive looks. “As I said, the beast won’t kill you.”

“I’m not concerned…about a beast killing me.” His head was spinning from the sexy smell.

“You’ve been following the recent local news, haven’t you?”

“Of course I have. A hairy beast…killed two men…by slicing them up…with razor-sharp claws. Police claim…they’ve seen such an animal, a furry one…with a woman’s curves, running about…and jumping up high, in huge leaps, on the streets at night. Are you saying…that this beast is a part of you?”

“Oh, yes,” she said. “But you don’t believe that, do you?”

“I believe the beast…is a figment of your imagination.”

“But you do acknowledge that I killed those men, and Mort? You do acknowledge that the police really saw a hairy animal with a figure as curvy as mine?”

“I acknowledge…the possibility of your having…killed them. I acknowledge that people have seen…a beast out there; but I’m a psychotherapist, not a forensic scientist. I’ll leave it up to them…to decide if you killed those men, if there really is…a hairy animal out there, and if that animal…is connected with you…in any way other than…in your imagination.”

“OK.”

“You believe…you killed those men…as that beast, but I’m not yet convinced…that your guilt in those matters…is anything other than…a figment of your imagination. You’re clearly deeply disturbed…and traumatized; this trauma is making it difficult…for you to see things…as they are. I care about you, and I want to help you. You’re terribly fragmented, split up…into three parts.”

“Actually, the fragments are all coming together. You’ll be joining us, too, Doctor, in a very special way…in a way, in fact, that will go beyond how you came together with that girl prostitute in Bangkok many years back.”

He dropped his pen and notepad.

‘Claws,’ an Erotic Horror Novel, Chapter Seven

Detectives Surian and Thurston were sitting in her car on a street near the apartment building where the blue-haired stripper was with her boyfriend. They’d been waiting there for hours; it was about 2:30 in the morning.

“I told you nothing was going to come of this,” he said, sipping his coffee.

“What if she was the wrong girl?” Surian asked. “Another girl with her hair dyed blue?”

“I saw only one stripper in The Gold Star with blue hair,” Thurston said. “This must be her. I don’t see an animal anywhere, though.”

“Let’s just wait another hour or so, OK? We’ve already invested enough time in this.”

“She and that man who entered her apartment are probably just asleep after a fuck…as we should be.”

“Shut up, Andy. You’re not getting me that easily. Anyway, maybe–“

Her cellphone rang. She fumbled in her purse for it.

“Hello? Surian here.” Her eyes and mouth widened at the words heard from the other end. “OK, we’re on our way.” She hung up and started the car.

“Someone spotted the beast?” he asked.

“Yes, in a neighbourhood on the other side of town.” Her tires screeched on the road as she tore down it.

“I told you we were wasting our time here, Agnes.”

“Shut up.”

*************

They were about halfway to the point where Surian’s caller told her where he saw the beast when he called her again.

“Hello?” she said into her cellphone.

“The beast has just been spotted on Yonge Street,” the caller said. “It’s running towards the intersection at Bloor.”

It’s near Yonge and Bloor?” she said. “We just drove past that intersection, didn’t we, Andy? I forget.”

“Yes, we did,” Thurston said. “Do a U-ie and go back.”

Her tires screeched on the road again as she swung the car around. On the way back to that intersection, though, she hadn’t driven past two buildings before hairy, clawed Callie landed on the roof of her car, denting it with her weight so far as to push a deep crater on it between the heads of Surian and Thurston.

“What the fuck?!” he yelled. He and Surian rocked in their seats as the car stopped.

They swung open their doors and got out with their pistols already in their hands. He spun around and looked up at Callie on the depressed car roof.

“My fucking car!” Surian shouted. “C’mon, Andy, shoot ‘er!”

But he just froze at the sight of the furry creature with her wild, yellow-toothed grin.

“Jesus Chri–,” he began, raising his gun at Callie.

She swatted him before he could pull the trigger. He lay on the road, knocked out. She’d bent down to hit him just in time to dodge a bullet Surian fired at her back.

Callie looked back at the detective with a smile. Kluh caused a fog to obscure Surian’s vision. She smelled a familiar, intoxicating smell, too. In her daze, she allowed Callie to jump on her.

Her gun fell out of her hand, then the fog cleared. She looked up at the grinning face of the hairy beast. Callie held her right hand over the cop’s face, the claws an inch or so above her nose. She moved her fingers in a slow dance, as if trying to decide whether to gouge out Surian’s eyes or slice off her nose. The detective could only wince and hope for mercy.

Callie moved her hand away and brought her face down to meet Surian’s. Their noses touched. Their eyes were locked on each other’s. That ‘sex pheromone’ smell was overwhelming.

Callie heard a grunt from Thurston as he’d come to and was getting up. She jumped off of Surian and flew high in the air and out of sight. Surian just lay there, trembling.

“Are you OK?” he asked, offering a hand to help her up.

“I don’t think I pissed my panties, if that’s what you mean.”

“I don’t smell that, but I do smell the smell of that stripper.”

“That’s right,” she said, now on her feet. “I told you we weren’t wasting our time.”

************

Kluh’s powers threw a fog over the air that ensured that all the other police lost Callie; but Surian and Thurston were given clear enough air to follow her well enough to find, by around 5:30 in the morning, more long, brown hairs. These were found on the dewy grass of a park across the road from Callie’s apartment building. More and more groupings of hairs made a path across the road.

Picking up some hairs on the sidewalk between the park and the road, Surian said, “Andy, take my car to 22 Division and show them these hairs. Tell Detective Hicks what happened two and a half hours ago, then come back to pick me up.”

“Nobody will believe what we saw,” Thurston said.

“I know. Do it anyway. We’ll prove it later.”

“You wanna go find her over there all alone, right?”

“Of course. Now, go on.”

“I don’t like the idea of you facing her all alone, Agnes.”

“A naked hottie hiding in an alley? I think my gun and I can handle her. Don’t be jealous; I won’t get horny.”

“How do you know she isn’t still in her monster state?”

“Well, she isn’t rampaging anymore, she only comes out at night, and we never start seeing hairs until her rampages are all over.”

“Well, OK,” he said, turning towards the dented car. “The split second you feel in danger, call me and I’ll race back here.”

“Thank you, honey. Now, get going.”

He got in the car and drove off, in all reluctance. She crept across the road, her eyes locked on that alley. Was a naked stripper lying behind the pile of wooden crates standing against the wall of the building on the left, opposite to Callie’s apartment? Surian took out her gun.

A man living on the ground floor of Callie’s apartment looked out his window and, indeed, saw naked Callie lying asleep, from his point of view, to the right of those crates. Unlike during those previous times, she now didn’t look dirty or sweaty; her hair wasn’t disheveled, either. She lay there as flawlessly photogenic as a Playboy model, all thanks to Kluh’s growing powers.

“Is this my lucky day, or what?” the man whispered.

He went out the side door to get a closer look.

Surian, absent-minded as she stood in the middle of the road, watched the scene with growing interest.

Callie woke up and saw him standing there, ogling her body. She and Kluh also sensed, through the vibrations between her body and the road, Surian’s presence. On her back, Callie spread her legs.

The man grinned at the sight of her immaculately hairless vulva.

“Well?” she said, impatient and almost annoyed with him.

“Well, what?” he asked in his lustful stupor.

“Are you gonna take me in your home and fuck me, or what?”

“Oh, uh, yeah,” he said, snapping out of it. He put out his hand to help her up. She took it and stood.

A car horn beeped Surian out of the way as Callie emerged from the crates. As Surian stumbled closer to the alley, Callie looked over to her. Instantly, those sex pheromones emanated from her, the smell entrancing both Surian and the man. He led Callie into his apartment.

The cop went over to the window, walking in a daze and trying to regain her self-control. The gun fell out of her hand. She looked through the window to see him and Callie in his kitchen. Callie lay on the floor on her back with her legs spread. He was so distracted by his lust that he never bothered to look at the window and see Surian. He unzipped his pants and entered her.

Surian just stood there, stupefied by the smell of the pheromones as she watched the sex. Her will melted away; she felt as if she were in the middle of a dream. She rubbed her hand against her crotch.

You want us, Detective, Callie and Kluh communicated psychically to her. But you can’t have us now. We’ll be together, in time. For now, though, goodbye.

Surian was made to turn around and walk back to the sidewalk, forgetting her gun and leaving it there in the alley. She stood on the sidewalk and stayed there in her daze for a half hour before Thurston returned in her car. She got in.

“Well?” he asked. “Was she there?”

“No,” she said in the oblivion of her daze, from which she was slowly coming out. “But I do think she lives in that apartment, or at least in the area.”

“Hicks doesn’t believe our story about the dent on your car. He asked if we were high when it happened.”

“That’s OK. We’ll prove it later. We’re getting close to her. I can feel it.”

“So, what do we do for now? Stake out that apartment?”

“We’ll go back to The Gold Star,” she said, “and see if we can find her. That aphrodisiac smell is definitely coming from her, though she’s tricky with how she uses it to manipulate people.”

“Yeah, she hypnotizes us with lust…though you’re still my favourite.”

“Shut up, Andy. I want to see if any research is out there, on Google or in the library, about the…phenomenon…we saw last night. Though I don’t know what to look up. No name for the beast, so far as I know.”

Don’t worry, Agnes, Kluh and Callie mused as they borrowed some of the man’s clothes, left his apartment in them, and went up the elevator to her apartment. You’ll find out all about the spirit world in due time. She used her powers to unlock her apartment door, went in, and waited for a neighbour of the dead photographer’s, under her mind control, to come to her apartment with her clothes and purse.

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.

‘Claws,’ an Erotic Horror Novel, Chapter Six

[some sexual content]

A few nights after, Surian and Thurston were sitting at the tip rail in The Gold Star.

“We’ve been checking out all the girls here for several nights now, and we still haven’t found anyone who’ll lead us to the beast,” Thurston said. “I really think we’re wasting our time.”

“We haven’t seen all the girls yet,” Surian said. “Check out this new one coming onstage. We haven’t talked to her yet.”

On went Callie. “And now, let’s give a big hand to this sexy lady,” the DJ announced. “Here’s…Chloe.”

Chloe?” Surian said. “Wasn’t Sandra’s mom named Chloe?”

“Yeah, but so what?” he said. “What does that prove about the girl onstage?”

“I don’t know, but I feel these hunches are getting me closer to the beast. There’s something about this girl here. I’m getting a strange vibe from her. A smell, her perfume? It’s almost like a…sex pheromone, or something.”

“Wait, I’m getting that feeling too, Agnes. Not that I’d ever prefer her to you, of course.”

“Shut up and watch the show, Andy.”

They did. ‘Chloe’ had dark blue hair, thanks to Kluh’s manipulations of Callie’s looks. She was wearing a tight black leather outfit. She was moving around to ‘Fuck the Pain Away,’ by Peaches. Another man was eyeing her from the side of the tip rail opposite from where the two detectives were sitting. She was eyeing him back with equal interest, and not the phoney kind that strippers give when they see a chance to make money.

“He likes her,” Thurston said.

“And she likes him,” Surian said.

“I don’t know what it is,” he said, his head swimming. “Is it that ‘pheromone’? But I think…I’m beginning to like her. Sorry, cutie-pie…you’ll always be…my favourite, but she…is having…some kind of…effect on me.”

“I don’t believe it,” Surian sighed, her eyes as locked on ‘Chloe’ as his were, “But I’m…getting the same feeling. I’ve never had…lesbian cravings…like this since…grade twelve. I feel like…such a pervert…sitting here.”

“That’s why…they call it…pervert’s row.”

Why are you attracting those two cops to me? Callie asked Kluh in her mind.

Don’t worry, the demoness answered her. They won’t get us. We’re getting more and more powerful all the time. I have a use for those two, later on. For now, let’s lure that man on the other side into your bed. His life force will give us more power.

After her floorshow, Callie went over to the man who’d been eyeballing her. The detectives watched them chat for a minute, then the man went over to the VIP area while Callie went off to the washroom.

“OK,” Surian said. “Let’s just wait for Blue Hair to come out of there and join her admirer in the VIP area. We’ll wait and see if he leaves the bar with her, then we’ll follow them to…his place or hers.”

“Right,” Thurston said. “Then she’ll make the beast magically appear?”

“I don’t know, Andy, but we’ll just see if anything strange happens, like a hot-looking naked woman hanging out in an alley after the beast appears. We’ll see if there’s some kind of connection between the two.”

‘Chloe’ came out, but now with blonde hair and in a pink lace bra and thong, and wearing white high heels. She didn’t give off that pheromone smell that had turned the detectives on, either; so they didn’t recognize her, and they didn’t pay attention to her as she went into a VIP room to be with the man.

Instead, they saw a blue-haired woman come out afterwards, wearing a red dress and having that sexy smell. Assuming she was ‘Chloe,’ the detectives watched her go in the direction of the VIP area. That stripper went in with another man, one who looked like Callie’s man.

Callie, nude, was lap-dancing her man in the VIP Room. His hands were on her breasts. She leaned back, turned her head to face him, and looked in his eyes lewdly as she kept grinding.

“I’m a…photographer,” he grunted. “You’d make a…great model. Wanna make…some extra money?”

“Sure,” she sighed, enjoying the feeling of the bulge in his pants as much as Kluh was. “What do you have in mind?”

“I could do…a photo shoot…of you…in my studio…apartment,” he moaned. “What do you say?”

“OK,” she said breathily, smiling at him. “How about a little later on tonight?”

The detectives never noticed her leave with him, because they’d already left, following the blue-haired woman with her boyfriend to their apartment.

*************

An hour later, Callie was in the photographer’s apartment, nude except for her high heels, and bent over with her legs spread. She was in front of a mirror, so he was included in the pictures he was taking of her, his camera hiding his face, while her face was seen upside-down between her legs, a timid expression on it as he clicked the camera.

Jesus, he thought. I so want that brown eye of hers. He clicked a few more photos.

He wants me, Callie thought. I can feel the psychic vibes rippling from him to me.

You don’t need to feel his vibes to know that, Callie, the demoness told her in her mind.

I know, Callie thought. I mean that I know exactly how he wants to have me. The way Mort did…from behind. I know what he’s looking at, what he wants to put it in.

Yeah, it feels hot, doesn’t it? Kluh asked her. Those predatory eyes of his, aiming at your ass. We can feel his lust adding to our own.

Exciting, yes, but also scary.

How is it scary? If he hurts you, let the beast kill him.

But those two cops are getting closer to us.

Don’t worry about the cops. I won’t let them get you.

But you are letting them get closer to me. You have some kind of plan–

But you’ll be all right. Don’t worry. Just let Mark here fuck you tonight, and with his energy, we’ll gain more power. Trust me. It’ll be fun.

Callie remained bent over, allowing Mark to see both her pink and brown places.

I’m scared, Callie mentally told Kluh. He wants to stick it in my–

Don’t be scared, Kluh reassured her. Let him enjoy it. You know you want to.

I do, but I don’t.

Let the ‘do’ part win. It’ll be better for both of us in the long run. The boundary between us is blurring more and more, Callie. Allow it to happen, then you’ll see things more my way, and you’ll see the good I’m doing for you.

I’m transforming my fear into pleasure?

Yes. You have to go through these feelings again to heal yourself. Then you’ll have as much fun as I have.

But it’s hard to stop the memories of Mort–

They will fade in time. We have to transform them by re-experiencing them, processing them, making them hurt less and less every time.

Yes, but what of the beast? I don’t want to kill anymore.

When the painful memories end, you won’t become enraged anymore, and the beast will stay dormant. Now, come on–let’s make this happen…

Kluh needed little influence to get Callie to open her buttocks wider to give Mark a better look. She wanted to face her fears, and thus end them.

“I think we’ve taken enough pictures,” Mark said after clicking a photo of her in this last moment of exhibitionism. He put the camera down and stood up. “C’mon, honey.” He took her by the arm and led her to his bedroom. “I’m on fire from you.”

His words made her hear Mort say, “Honey, you’ve set me on fire.” Those words had been said just before a sodomizing she’d gotten from her stepfather a few years back; he, too, had taken her by the arm and led her into his bedroom. When she saw Mark’s bed, she shuddered at how similar it looked to Mort’s bed from that night.

Ooh, Kluh moaned in Callie’s mind’s ear. I can’t wait.

I feel the hot tingles, too, Callie replied, but I’m shaking.

The fear adds to the thrill. Enjoy it. Give Mark what he wants. It’ll all work out in the end.

I’m still not so sure. “Mark,” Callie said as she got to the foot of the bed, “maybe we–“

“On the bed, on all fours,” he said with urgency, unzipping his pants.

“Oh, OK,” she said in a trembling voice. She kicked off her heels and got on.

Spread your legs for him, Kluh said. Let him see.

Callie did, her whole body shaking the whole time. She felt the demoness using her power to lubricate her anus; it sent a shiver through her body as she felt the vibrations of Mark’s heating lust. He knelt behind her on the bed and aimed for her ass.

As he entered her, Callie saw flashes before her eyes of Mort’s bedroom all around her. Though she was lubed, she relived Mort’s painful entry. Her body shook; she yelped.

Don’t let the beast out! she thought. Stay calm. Stop thinking about Mort. Try to enjoy this. Face your fears. Don’t get agitated. Don’t let the hair grow. Don’t let the claws grow!

Mark kept moving in and out. She shook all over, not just from his thrusts, but from the feeling of it being Mort behind her. Mark wasn’t hurting her, as aggressively as he was fucking her ass; but she was feeling Mort’s stabs in her mind.

She checked her arms: no growth of hair. Her fingernails: no claws.

Not a drop of sweat touched her skin, but she felt Mort’s sweat and spit dribbling on her back. Mark’s beer breath never came close to her face, but she smelled Mort’s smoker’s breath invading her nostrils.

Her arms–still hairless. Her fingers–no claws…so far.

Mark’s moans were soft and mild; Callie, however, heard Mort’s raspy grunts, mere millimetres from her right ear. The bedroom shifted back and forth from looking like Mark’s to looking like Mort’s. Waves of pleasure alternated with waves of terror.

On her arms, still no hair slithering out of the follicles. Still no claws…yet.

Sometimes it felt like Mark massaging her rectal wall, stimulating her vaginal wall, the deliciousness of it giving both Kluh and Callie tingles; sometimes Callie relived the cutting pains Mort used to give her. The pleasure and terror were undulating in respective crests and troughs that seemed to be synchronized with Callie’s alternating visions of Mark’s and Mort’s bedrooms. Sharing the pleasure Kluh felt, her mind’s merging with that of the demoness meant Callie couldn’t make up her mind whether she loved the anal or hated it.

Mark helped her make up her mind. He began spanking her right ass-cheek, giving it a sharp sting. Kluh loved it, making Callie squeal and giggle; but Callie remembered how Mort used to spank her during a sodomizing. After the fourth spank, her voice, mid-squeal, phased into a growl.

She looked back down at her arms and hands in a panic. Claws were growing from her fingertips. Hairs were wiggling out from the skin all over her arms.

Mark’s eyes widened at all the hair he saw growing on her back. “What the…fuck–?” he grunted, then pulled out and came on the sheets between her knees.

She looked back at him with a hairy face and a malicious grin baring yellow teeth.

“Jesus Christ!” he screamed.

All that brown hair on her curvy body, covering her breasts and belly…and those long, thick, pointy claws, two quintets of knives.

“Oh, my God! What the f–?” She interrupted his scream by slashing four of those claws across his throat, spraying dots of blood everywhere. He fell back off the foot of the bed, his limp dick still poking out of his open fly as he lay on his back coughing blood and shaking. She jumped on him. He looked up at her in disbelief.

She closed his eyes forever with a stabbing of all ten claws deep into his chest, reddening his whole torso. Then she looked to her left: a window.

She jumped off of him, in its direction. Then she jumped out, splashing glass everywhere. Once she hit the grassy ground in front of the apartment building, she heard a siren.