Creepology.

It’s only taken me forever and a day, but the release date for Creepology is now set as the 12th Oct. The Kindle version is available for pre-order.

Creepology Kindle Cover copy.jpg

This is what the book is about:

For many women, creeps are a serious, ubiquitous, pervasive problem. They seem to be everywhere. Not only they pester us in public, but some are capable of worming their way into our social life, poisoning our experiences.

For many men, creeps are like unicorns: they hear about them a lot but they never actually see one. Even when they do, they don’t understand what the fuss is all about.

This books aims to bridge that gap by explaining the nature of creeps, how and why they manage to infiltrate our social circles, and how we can best deal with them in a safe and timely manner.

 

“It’s easy to teach what to do – legally and physically – when a stranger raises his hand against you. Much harder to teach what you can do – legally, physically and socially – about the guy who just happens to rub up against you whenever no one is watching.
Anna has taken on the complex subject in this little book. For the people dealing with creeps, it’s invaluable advice. For people teaching self-defense, it’s a wake-up call.
Read this one.”
– Rory Miller, author of “Meditations on Violence”, “Conflict Communications”, “Facing Violence”, and many other works.

US link:

UK link:

You can access the Kindle version via the free Kindle app on pretty much any device. A paperback version will be available at the end of October.

 

 

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Ain’t nobody got time for that.

Apropos of nothing, here is a list of conversations that I don’t have anymore, on- and off-line. Nearly a year into kicking them, I find that not only I don’t miss them, but that the ability to fill the time they used to take with stuff that is good for me – stuff that entertains me, educates me, or uplifts me – has significantly improved my life and my outlook on it.

Them: “Question?”
Me: “Answer.”
Them: “No, you don’t mean that.”

If you can run both sides of the conversation, please do so without involving me. It will save us both a ton of time.

 

Them: “Question?”
Me: “Answer.”
Them: “But it doesn’t work like that for people.”

Dammit. I keep forgetting I’m actually a raccoon in human clothing.

 

“I don’t want you to think that I only get in touch with you when I want something, but I want something.”
This from people who only ever get in touch with me when they want something. I don’t know whether the intro is supposed to actually sway my memory of our past interactions or to somehow change the nature of reality, but it just doesn’t work.

 

“How about you do work for me for free so I can sell it.”
It’s never actually phrased like that, oddly enough, but this is a surprisingly common request. Sometimes it’s padded out with promises of ‘exposure’, sometimes not even that. The underlying psychology is a mystery to me: why the hell would I want to put time and effort into feathering someone else’s nest? Has that ever been a thing?

 

“I know you said you’re dead busy but gimme gimme gimme your time.”
I don’t fully understand this one either. If I really don’t have time for something, what’s the point in hassling me? I’m only going to say no again, and probably more loudly. And if I am lying and I have all the time in the world but I don’t want to spend it on a certain thing, what’s the point in hassling me? I still have to say no again to be a good, consistent liar. The only thing this kind of conversation achieves is to make me file people as potential consent violators. Seriously, there is nothing cute about ignoring people’s ‘nos’, and if the only way you get to have human interactions is by doing that then you have a problem, and a big one.

My favourite permutation of this particular convo is:
“Sorry, can’t talk, I’m busy”
“What are you busy doing?”

My second favourite permutation is when someone hassles me to do work on boundary setting for them. That’s so meta it hurts.

 

“I know you said you don’t/can’t/won’t do X, but I want you to do X.”
There are some activities I don’t engage in for a variety of reasons, the simplest reason being that I don’t want to. There may be more complex reasons underpinning that one, but anyone who doesn’t respect my original ‘no’ is unlikely to get to find them out. I neither want to do X, nor do I want to engage in hours of conversation with someone trying to rule-lawyer me into doing X. X, in all its aspects, is off the menu. It’s honestly not complicated.

 

“Hey so you needed help with something and I didn’t help you at all even though I said I would but I really really meant to, so now you have to do this thing for me.”
It’s not quite loansharking, I don’t think, but it’s near as dammit.

 

“Here is something you haven’t asked for, now you have to do what I ask.”
Straight-up loansharking. Not endearing.

 

“Hey so I don’t know you but here’s my personal life history, trauma highlighted, you better fix this.”
I don’t actually mind helping people out, if and when I can. I do mind being treated like a public convenience. Aside from the fact that the people who can’t say ‘please’ are generally also incapable of saying ‘thank you’, I am an actual person with an actual life that I kinda need to prioritise because nobody else does that for me. My existence isn’t entirely issue-free. I don’t always have the time, energy, and emotional capacity to handle the personal shit of total strangers. Oh, and there’s a reason trigger warnings were invented: maybe ask first, give details later?

 

“<flings feces>”
For reasons entirely beyond my very limited comprehension, some people not only think it’s ok that the only way they participate in my life is throwing shit at me, but they seem to believe that I’m somehow obliged to let them continue to do so. Alas, I’m just not in the market for that. If the sum total of our interactions is negative, three strikes and you’re out. If so many of our interactions are negative that I end up dreading crossing your path, it might take longer, but you’ll still be out.

 

“A flock of seagulls.”
No, not the band. Some people are in themselves ok, but they are the human equivalent of a discarded bag of chips at the seaside. There they are, on a bench next to you, not particularly pleasant but not much of a problem in themselves, and next thing you know you’re getting attacked by a flock of screeching, pecking, shitting seagulls. There are a few people I know whose arrival on a thread ought to be accompanied by a horn, because moments later the orcs trolls will inevitably descend. I could spend hours working out whether it’s their fault or just their responsibility or whatever… or I could just look at the effect they are having on the quality of the discussions they engage in, and more broadly on my life.

 

“Tag.”
I’m not precisely famous for my reticence. I’ve been occasionally known to get into debates on topics that are dear to me, or that annoy the everloving shit outta me. That doesn’t mean that I want to get into every damn debate on all topics I might have an opinion on. Tagging me in conversations I’m ignoring doesn’t make me want to participate; it just makes me want to scream into the void. Re-tagging me because I ignored or removed the first tag makes me want to throat-punch people. Three-tagging me because I’ve left the damn conversation makes the block hammer come down.

 

“Your opinion is invalid, lemme mainsplain you the reasons why.”
There are certain activities and places which have traditionally been the domain of dudes. If you are into one of those activities and you’re a ostensibly a woman, then any opinion you might have on women’s participation in said activities is invalid because you’re an outlier. If you’re not into one of those activities and you’re ostensibly a woman, then any opinion you might have on said activities (including why you eschew them, or why you might have tried them and quit) is invalid because you clearly don’t know what you’re talking about.

Sometimes it almost seems to me that being a woman is enough to invalidate your opinion in certain environments. Sometimes I even wonder whether that simple fact could be what is keeping women out of those environments. Thankfully there are plenty of men out there able and willing to explain to me that I’m wrong about that, too.

 

My “friend” Ang

Storytime, again. I’m cleaning out the archives. Normal services will be resumed soon-ish.

 

There are people who like living by the rules, who find reassurance in Being Good People and Doing The Right Thing. There are people who choose to live the lawless life of the outlaw, regardless of the potential dangers. There are people who think they’re above the rules because of their superior social or financial status – and, until they push things too far, they’re often unfortunately right. And then there are people like my friend Ang.

On the surface, Ang looked like a complicated person. Her behaviour never failed to confuse or even shock people, anyway. She was really a very simple person to predict, though, once you worked out how she looked at the world.

The vast majority of social interactions tend to have both costs and benefits to both parties. They are based on a spoken or unspoken acceptance of the principle of quid pro quo, give and take. It’s only natural: most people don’t want to be taken for a ride. Most honest people don’t want to take others for a ride, either. They might be playing fairly because it’s the right thing to do. They might do so because their egos are invested in them being Good People. They may also be motivated by the purely self-serving wish to continue being seen as honest in order not to be ostracised. After all, being unfair or just unreliable could very well result in other people not wanting to continue dealing with them. You don’t need a degree in psychology to work out that, if you want to have long-lasting and healthy relationships with those around you, acting like a predator or a parasite is not the way to go.

Ang didn’t see things that way. She looked at every interaction and saw her potential benefits as God-given rights, and any costs as a sign of oppression. She was the sort of woman who, at the least provocation, would have no qualms about resorting to verbal or physical violence; yet, if anyone tried to control her, would switch to demanding to be “treated like a lady.” Afterwards, instead of feeling any guilt or shame, she would congratulate herself for having “stood up for what is right.” And I know this because she’d do much of the congratulating out loud.

 

When I first met her, she was the girlfriend of a friend’s friend, and an Abused Woman. I capitalise the term because she seemed to do the same: I’ve never seen a woman being so smug about of her bruises. She always seemed to stand a little bit taller when she sported a black eye. Growing up, I met plenty of people in violent relationships, but that was my first time meeting someone who seemed proud of it. Her partner’s face was hardly without a mark, too, but that could have been the natural result of her defending herself. Anyway, men must not hit women. It was one of the rules of my social group. Another rule was that you don’t stick your nose where it doesn’t belong, so we kept an eye on the both of them in case things escalated, but otherwise let them do their thing. Eventually he broke up with her, and after some histrionics she evaporated.

I lost touch with her completely for a couple of years, until we reconnected. Again, she was the girlfriend of a friend’s friend. Again, she was getting beaten up. The only thing that had changed in the equation was the male doing the beating. In fact, the male role had been covered by a number of partners in the interim, all of them people with no history of violence, all of them violent towards her, and all of them never violent towards anyone else afterwards.

Call me suspicious, but I started to smell a rat. If everywhere you go you encounter the same problem, it could be that you’re extremely unfortunate… or it could be that you are, in fact, the problem. A minimum amount of research revealed that Ang was the instigator of the violence. She had a habit of slapping her partners around when she got shitfaced, which was not a rare event. The guys put up with it up to a point, trying to contain her behaviour, but eventually either snapped and walloped her or just hit her back in self-defence.

The guys were labelled as abusers. She was a woman getting beaten by a man, so she was the victim. She truly saw herself as the injured party, and she made sure that everyone around her saw her the same way. As that description of the situation fit many people’s prejudice, they didn’t bother looking into it enough to realise how the reality and the narrative didn’t match.

Anyway, that was history. Her current partner, Pat, was different. He grew up in a social group where mutual, consensual domestic violence is perfectly acceptable. He wasn’t overly invested in stopping the behaviour or escalating it; he was happy with things as they were. So they beat each other up at night, patched each other up in the morning, and got on perfectly fine. Domestic bliss, it seems, is a very subjective state of being.

Ang and Pat were two peas in a pod. They had both decided to be unemployed, because – and I quote – “working for a living is for sheep.” Why work to earn, when you can do nothing and be kept by the state?

As two single lots of benefits add up to more than a couple’s worth, they elected not to declare they were living together. Why should they miss out on the additional income “just because of some stupid rule?” That meant that Pat had to rent a completely unnecessary house, but as all costs were covered by the government that wasn’t an issue. They knew they were doing the right thing, because “taxation is theft.” If the money wasn’t used to support citizens, it’d only be syphoned off by corrupt politicians or be used for totally unfair war efforts, anyway. Their bottom line was  that “screwing the system” was inherently righteous.

Alas, their combined benefits still weren’t enough to keep them in the state to which they had become accustomed, which was off their respective faces on recreational drugs. Being enterprising people with an eye for opportunities, they decided to convert Pat’s otherwise vacant house into a weed-growing facility. It wasn’t a particularly good location, being a subdivided Victorian house with neighbours literally all around, and they weren’t particularly subtle about their activities, but it didn’t really matter because “drugs should be legal anyway.”

The enterprise was more involved that they had anticipated, alas. Plants need stuff like soil and water and food and heat and light; all stuff that costs money. Their utility bills, in particular, were horrendous. They overcame this problem by resolving not to pay them. What could the supply companies do, anyway? They couldn’t cut their water and electrics because “those are human rights.”

The problem escalated to the point that the landlord became aware of it. He tried to talk sense to them informally, and failed. Instead, what his intervention achieved was the two deciding to stop paying him any rent, because he was “being a fascist.” Paying rent was inherently unfair anyway because “all landlords are useless parasites.” So what they did was collect their rent money from the government and keep it for themselves. That would teach him! What could he do to them, anyway? Evicting tenants can take months, and surely the fact that Pat was unemployed would protect him from being thrown on the street by a court.

The landlord, however, decided to take an unorthodox route. One day Pat and Ang went to the house to gather their crops only to find that the locks had been changed and the house had been obviously emptied of everything therein, dope included. The landlord had not only unfairly evicted Pat, but had also stolen from them! It took a lot of people a lot of time to prevent Ang from calling the police on him. The fact that “officer, he stole the drugs I was growing in a house I was pretending to be squatting in as part of a benefit scam” is the sort of sentence that could cause more trouble than it could ever solve was either beyond or beneath her.

At that point, my life took a different turn and I left that group of people, with all associated drama. I didn’t get back in touch with Ang until five or six year later, by which time Pat was history, and she was In Love.

It was True Love. She had met an internationally-renowned artist and decided that he was The One. Their romance shone brighter than any other romance ever had or ever will. She was determined to celebrate and seal their Love by bearing his child. Unfortunately, he was refusing to play ball.

It emerged that, although he was very willing to occasionally engage in sportfuckery with her, he had no intention whatsoever to be her partner. He was even less inclined to co-parent with her, and he would not contemplate the merest possibility of getting her pregnant. To Ang, that was obviously unfair. He had a steady supply of sperm that Ang was obviously entitled to by virtue of their Love, and he wouldn’t give her what was hers. To make matters worse, he already had a kid with someone else. If that woman could have his child, why not Ang? So Ang had begged and nagged and chased him – literally and internationally – for months and months. It’s not stalking if it’s True Love, obviously. Her biological clock was ticking ever louder, and he still refused her. She might end up dying childless, and it would be his fault.

The conclusion Ang shortly came to is that All Men Are Bastards. Everything clearly pointed to that very simple explanation. Men’s evil was the source of all iniquities in the world. Ang decided to address this problem by taking steps to avenge not only herself, but the entirety of womankind, one man at a time. Even better, she would let men’s own evil trap them.

The concept was simple: you find a guy who’s interested in you; you gate-crash his house, claiming damsel-in-distress status; you get off your face on drugs (his, ideally, because drugs are expensive and every penny counts); you jump in bed with him; in the morrow, you claim rape; a couple of weeks later, you claim pregnancy and demand payment for a private abortion, or you’ll report him and his rapist ways to the cops.

It worked. She got her money. Unfortunately, she had neglected to consider that people, even male people, tend to have friends and families. Even her highly forbearing social group wouldn’t stand for entrapment and blackmail, particularly when it was conducted on members of that same group. The explanation for this irrational behaviour on their part was obvious: “they were all in this together.”

Given that at this point Ang was sofa surfing, finding herself persona non grata was a serious problem. In order to change her situation, she decided to make some money and make a last stab at her artist’s sperm at the same time. He was temporarily in Morocco, were certain recreational substances are, I’m told, both cheap and plentiful. Ang would travel down, woo her man, load up on sperm and drugs, travel back up, and sell the drugs for a lot of money to start a new life with her sprog. It was a flawless scheme. Yes, it was ever-so-slightly illegal, but “you have a moral obligation to ignore unjust laws.”

The problem was that she didn’t have any money to buy the drugs with. She needed backers. The solution she came up with was to contact the local chapter of an association whose members find cars to have two wheels too many; an association which is also one of the main distributors of certain plant products in that area, or so I’m told. Having had previous dealings with her in her growing days, they decided to give her a chance.

Ang duly went to Morocco, reconnected with the Love Of Her Life, was told where to go yet again, loaded up on herbs, and toddled back off home without a hitch. All she needed to do was hand over the product and take her share of money.

…or she could keep everything. After all, she was the one who had done all the work and taken all the risk. She was going to be paid wholesale prices too, which was a total rip-off. And anyway, what could those guys do? “It’s not as if they could call the police,” after all.

She was completely correct in that respect. The guys in question did not contact the authorities. Instead they sent some of their members, tastefully dressed in black leathers and casually bearing metal implements – you never know when you might need to chain something up, change a tyre, or sharpen a very large pencil, after all – calling to each of her known addresses, none of which were actually her addresses. They were her friends’ addresses. Out of the blue, these completely uninvolved people, some of whom had young children, were rewarded for putting her up and looking after her by receiving these rather ominous visitations. Thankfully, all of her friends thus affected had the sense to be both helpful and courteous to their visitors, and nobody got hurt.

That was it, though. Ang was no longer welcome anywhere. Nobody was willing to do a damn thing for her anymore, because it had become bitterly obvious that her particular brand of reckless had a tendency to spatter.

I never saw Ang again. She might be alive, or she might not. I have no interest in finding that out. In fact, if she turned up at my door right now, I’d slam it right in her face. If she taught me anything, it’s that helping people like her is not only useless, but actually dangerous. It is useless because they create the majority of their problems. You can sink all the time and resources you want into them, and as soon as those run out their situation will revert to its original state, because they make it so. It is dangerous to you, because there is no way of preventing an Ang from deciding that her problems are actually your fault, and taking steps to redress that iniquity, or simply from bringing a ton of trouble to your doorstep. So this story might not have an ending, but maybe it has a moral: do not get burnt by the Angs of this world.

The problem is that nice people have a tendency to be, well, nice; and Angs are some of the most skilful damsels- and gentlemen-in-distress (the phenomenon is utterly gender-neutral) you’ll ever meet. Relying on people’s kindness is not only something they have no reluctance to do, but the way they keep afloat. With enough practice, they get damn good at it.

So how do you spot an Ang before it’s too late?

  • They are incredibly good at voicing their needs and asking for people’s help. That might sound like a good, healthy way for them to be, but it’s actually the result of their fixation. They are solely interested in what they want and who can/should provide it for them. By contrast, people who are in trouble due to genuine reasons tend to be quite bashful about their situation. If they do ask for help and you do provide it, they will be thankful. They may consider themselves obliged to you until they’ve repaid the favour. They do not consider you obliged to help them.

(Oh, and anyone who tries to guilt you into helping them is an asshole, anyway, whether they are an Ang or not.)

  • Their problems are always someone else’s fault, or the result of a systemic issue. They never take any personal responsibility. They might be surrounded by scores of people living similar lives in similar circumstances who do not share their difficulties, but that doesn’t even register with them.
  • However much their situation changes, they constantly seem to manage to experience the same problems. Over time, it can look as if they are constantly recreating the same reality with different players. And, believe you me, a mash-up of “Groundhog Day” and “Leaving Las Vegas” is not where you want to find yourself.
  • They lack all feelings of repentance, guilt, or shame. We all make mistakes at times, or do bad things because we give in to temptation. However, most of us do not feel proud of those mistakes. Angs, on the other hand, are righteous about their misdoings and even brag about them because, in their heads, they are the heroes. What they are doing is always righting wrongs, regardless of what it is.
  • After all, if they have an unmet need or want, it’s because the world is out of kilter. It doesn’t have anything to do with their efforts or abilities. They shouldn’t have to work harder for what they want, because everything is due to them. Anyone or anything that stands between them and what they want is iniquitous. Their sense of entitlement can be mind-blowing.

What this all boils down to is that in their heart of hearts they believe that they are entitled to everything but never owe anyone anything – you included. There’s no helping someone like that. If you do manage to put their lives in order they will only ruin them again at the earliest occasion, and sometimes yours with it.

Strictly business.

Two things.

 

First, I’ve mentioned VioDy a bunch of times in the past. The reason for that is that it’s the best self-defence seminar I’ve ever attended, which is why I’ve gone twice thus far and I’m about to go for the third time. If you want to spend four days getting the pick of the crop from the brains of folk like Rory Miller, Terry Trahan, Kasey Keckeisen, and Tammy Yard-McCracken, that’s the place to go. Randy King will also be there, but don’t let that put you off. It’s worth it.

The next VioDy is in Minnesota on the 19th-22nd October. I had one of those moments when I open my mouth and stuff comes out, and the result is that I will be running a working dinner kinda thing, on the theme of:

Creepology – self-defence for your social life

(Sounds good, doesn’t it? I stole it.)

To a lot of women, creeps are a serious, ubiquitous, pervasive problem. To a lot of men, creeps are like unicorns: they hear about them a lot but they never actually see one. This class aims to explain the nature of creeps, how and why they manage to infiltrate our social circles, and how we can best deal with them in a safe and timely manner.

If you’re interested sign up here.

 

On the theme of “whoops, I did it again”, this also happened:

https://www.amazon.com/Last-Song-Heinleins-Finches-Book-ebook/dp/B07572KJWB?tag=swiindeewat21-20

It is also available as a paperback that comes with a free ebook, so you can keep the ebook and give the paperback to someone you don’t much like. Christmas is coming. You know it makes sense.

 

This blog may become even more sporadic than normal as I’m trying to finish the damn creep book I’ve been working on for about two years now on time for VioDy. Bear with me. If you miss me, buy my stuff. You know it makes sense.

PTG/PTS/WTF

Facebook threw up an ad for a course last week and I died a little inside. I am not going to share it here because I don’t want to draw traffic to it, but the gist of it is that for under $100 you can get a whopping 7 videos, audios, and transcripts to help you guide your clients into Post-Traumatic Growth. Learn the Ten Steps of This and the Four Ways of That and the Two Easy Ways of the Other and the One Essential Protocol of Everything. Roll up roll up! Get it while it’s cheap!

Post Traumatic Growth is a newish concept, but not that new (1990’s). In its most simplistic form, it basically states that people can experience personal growth as a result of adversities.  There are plenty of useful resources about PTG, some free and some not. This is the one I got; I can’t recommend it as such because I’ve not compared it to everything else out there, but as it’s currently going for $0.01 plus postage for a used copy, I’d encourage everyone to take a look at it. If nothing else, you’ll be able to turn around and tell me if I’m full of shit.

I have no beef with PTG per se. Frankly, it seems like a bit of a duh; the only surprising thing about it is that the professional world has taken so long to ‘prove’ something that people who’ve managed to get themselves out of the shit see going on day in, day out. Adversity can make people more resilient, more self-confident, more optimistic, more thankful, more aware, more insert-good-stuff-here. I know I have benefited from PTG and so have most of the people I know and love.

I also think that it’s a damn good thing that the concept is gaining popularity, particularly as PTSD is currently pushed as the inevitable result of certain life events. Survivors of certain occurrences, in particular war veterans and rape survivors, way too often look for help only to be told that they’re scarred for life – not merely changed by events, but broken by them. I could go on forever about the agendas that I believe are pushing this point of view, but I doubt that’d do any good.

I’m pro PTG as a concept both in normal life and in therapy. What scares the hell out of me is that it’s now become a buzzword, something that’s getting thrown around by a whole bunch of people who haven’t experienced adversity and a whole bunch of people who haven’t experienced the lack of it. Both poles come at the issue with their own biases and are turning the concept from a useful tool into a rod to beat survivors with, or at least into a pot of gold to mark the end of the recovery process.

I am meeting way too many people who haven’t gone through any major traumatic event and who covet PTG as if it were a special prize you get for gaining RealExperience™; people openly wishing that something awful enough would happen to them so they could unlock their next level, so that PTG could turn them into something more than the person they currently are. I can’t tell them categorically that it wouldn’t work out for them, that a little bit of suffering wouldn’t be good for their character or some suchlike shit, but I know for a fact that pretend suffering doesn’t cut it and real suffering fucking hurts. Seriously, people: don’t throw yourself into a meat grinder just because you think that pain is formative. First and foremost, pain is painful.

I am also meeting way too many people who, fresh with their meme-based knowledge of PTG, turn to survivors and demand to know what superpowers they’ve got. Something awful happened to you, so clearly you must be a better person for that! What did you get? Resilience? Self-confidence? Spidey-sense? Don’t tell me that you got raped or beat up or whatever and you forgot to collect your prize! That’s, like, disappointing, man.

’tis a fact that people – not just survivors – may need to be encouraged to look for the ways in which life has made them better people, because otherwise they might not notice it. However, that doesn’t come even close to putting pressure on them to be better than they were before their trauma, particularly if they’re still working towards overcoming said trauma. Being a survivor can be hard enough work without people expecting you to be able to suddenly overdo your old self because they’ve read all about how good trauma is for you in an article in Cosmo.

This kind of attitude isn’t just the domain of the clueless. I’m seeing more and more survivors who embrace it. This seems to be particularly a thing with survivors of childhood trauma – people who, through no fault of their own, have never actually experienced a trauma-free life – but it isn’t exclusive to them. Some survivors become not only proud of their struggle, but dismissive of people who haven’t overcome some kind of major adversity. They believe that survivors are a better class of people, almost a breed apart from the ‘normies’ who just can’t begin to comprehend the intricacies of the survivor mind. To a certain extent, they’re absolutely right: certain life events can alter your perception of life, the universe, and yourself enough to make it very difficult to communicate with people who haven’t seen what you’ve seen. You may find yourself to respond differently to stimuli, to have a whole new set of personal resources, to function better in certain situations. Thing is, that’s not necessarily a sign that you’re an upgraded form of human overall.

PTG and PTS aren’t mutually exclusive. The same life event can take something from you and give you something else. For instance, you can come out of a violent encounter with a spidey-sense for predators and a bunch of inconvenient triggers. You can grow up in an abusive family and be a god at spotting and interacting with people with personality disorders and completely incapable of maintaining functional relationship with ‘normal’ people.

Perhaps most importantly, if you buy into the PTG promise to the point that you become invested in your identity as a survivor, that’s who you’re going to be. That’s where you’re going to stay. It’s not necessarily a problem if it that’s what you want, if that’s enough for you, but survivorship doesn’t have to be the end of the recovery road. There are things beyond being a survivor, and you might not reach them if you’re wholly wrapped up in the wonder that is your survivor identity because you believe that it’s inherently superior to any other state of being.

Whether you’re ‘better’ or ‘worse’ as a result of your suffering really depends on what matters to you. Did you get closer to the person you want to be? Did you gain attributes that you consider desirable? Did you lose anything of value? Looking only at one side of the equation – post-traumatic losses or post-traumatic gains – doesn’t make much sense to me – but then neither does running my life as some kind of point-scoring exercise. That’s just me, though. If it’s what you want to do for yourself, if that’s what works for you, go do it. However, before you try and force that viewpoint on other people in the belief that it will be good for them too, you might want to have a good think about it. And if you’re doing that solely on the back of a discounted course that didn’t even take up a weekend… just don’t.

 

You got nothin’ to lose!

A friend of mine posted an article (that I obviously didn’t keep a link to, because this is how I roll) about how men and women are perceived and treated when using the same tactics to perform the same job. Certain attitudes and behaviours that are considered appropriate for the setting if coming from males are deemed inappropriate when coming from females. For instance, when a male lawyer takes a tough stance he’s just doing his job, but when a female lawyer does the same, she’s ‘a bitch’. From personal experience, the same is often true of women who work in rule- or law-enforcement. If a male person doing crowd control raises his voice or even goes physical, he’s ‘responding to the situation’. If a female person does the same, she’s ‘hysterical’ and ‘has allowed the situation to get out of control’.

How do I know this? Because I’ve lived it for over a decade professionally, because I see how other women in ‘traditionally male’ roles are treated, because occasionally I shut the fuck up and listen to people talking about their experiences. Not so a lot of the people who like to join in this kind of conversation, apparently.

In response to my friend posting the article mentioned above, a bunch of people insisted that the problem is that women are over-invested in everyone’s opinion. So what if the loser in a legal battle or a perp you’ve just arrested calls you a ‘bitch’? You just need to get over it and do your job. If you persist in being so oversensitive that you fail to do the job you’re paid for, that’s on you.

Unsurprisingly, all the people who commented thusly were guys. Also unsurprisingly, those guys were apparently incapable of parsing the responses women gave to their comments, which was that this isn’t a name-calling problem. It’s a sexism problem, but not intrinsically so: it could be an any-ism problem. It’s a discrimination problem, or at least an uneven-expectations-and-consequences problem.

The problem is when gender expectations put you between a rock and a hard place, because you are expected to achieve the same results as the guys (e.g. a legal win, compliance with rules, etc.) but without using the same tactics. When you have to do what the guys do, but you have to do so without upsetting anyone in any way, and if you fail at either goal then you have failed altogether. When that failure is seen either as your responsibility, a sign of your inability to perform your job, or as yet another proof that Women© just cannot operate in certain settings. When the fact that men and women are supposed to play the same game with different rules and handicaps is completely discounted.

The problem isn’t when ‘the enemy’ calls you a bitch. The problem is when ‘your people’ decide that you’re a bitch and treat you accordingly from then on just because you were doing your job in the only way it can be done. The problem is with having to choose between losing your social capital by underperforming or by performing in a way that is deemed inappropriate for people like you. That’s the first part of the issue: that, due to societal expectations, you can find yourself caught in lose-lose situations.

[Note: This isn’t something that happens only to women, but I’m familiar with that side of it because I’m saddled with looking female. Guys, feel free to write about how this affects your life in the comments section below or in your own blog. Me talking about my shit doesn’t stop you talking about yours. The airwaves aren’t full yet.]

The second part of the issue is that so many people fail to see those losses as real. They treat social capital as if it were imaginary, or a thing of no real value. They may regard it purely an ego issue (you needing people to see you in a certain light) or an insecurity issue (you needing everyone to looooove you). They therefore completely discount it in their calculations as to the pros and cons of making certain choices. From their point of view, you should do what you think is right, and if your social group doesn’t support that, fuck’em.

This point of view is fairly pervasive in self-defence and recovery. It isn’t completely incorrect, particularly in high-stake settings. If someone is threatening your life or welfare, that’s not the time to worry about the fact that clawing their face off would be unladylike. If someone wants you to remain a victim, their negative opinion of you making lifestyle changes to stop that should be a badge of honor to you. Unfortunately, extending that approach to cover all situations is a strategy that can fuck up your life. Acting with total disregard to how your social group will view your actions can cause you serious, sometimes irreparable problems.

Ostracism was and is a serious, overt punishment in many culture. If you fuck up they won’t slap you in jail; they’ll just cut you off from all social interactions, or banish you altogether from their territory. Our mainstream society is not immune to ostracism; we tend to do it covertly, but that doesn’t mean that it has no impact – and I’m not talking about purely emotional or psychological impact either. Your boss won’t throw you bodily out of the office and threaten to cut your head off and put it on a pole you if you come back; they’ll just give you all the shitty shifts or the projects doomed to fail. The person in charge of photocopying won’t pretend they can’t see and hear you when you speak to them; they’ll just put your work at the bottom of each and every pile. Once you get a reputation for being a problem person, and once enough people (or a few key players) start treating you as an undesirable, your life can get very difficult very quickly.

[If you think I’m talking shit because you’re a true roughty-toughty independent person who don’t need nobody as all true individuals should, I hope you’re reading this on a computer you built all by yourself, using your own designs and hand-made tools, from materials you mined. And congratulations on launching that satellite!]

Social capital is a thing, and an important thing too. Losing it will cost you, at least in the short-term. People who tell you otherwise tend to fall into three categories:

  • People who’ve never lost it. People who have always been in a secure, comfortable position in a stable social group, with enough latitude to live their life while naturally matching societal expectations, find it remarkably easy to blather about how they wouldn’t care if they lost it all. They have no idea of what that loss would look and feel like. It’s easy to be word-brave when you can’t understand the cost of actions.
  • People who never had it. People who’ve had truly shitty social lives, particularly those raised by shitty families, may not comprehend the value of social capital because they never had any. It’s easy for them to talk about just walking off from your community at the least provocation, because their community never truly benefited them.
    [FYI, this is my bias. It makes me remarkably useless to talk to on a number of issues, because that’s what I tend to default to. “Heeeey, just do the thing! Come out! Take up naked bog-snorkeling! Write your shit and publish it! What have you got to lose?” In Bo Burnham’s words, “all of your friends and the approval of your parents.” For me that doesn’t fully register.]
  • People whose social capital is non-standard; in particular those who self-identify as outsiders to mainstream society but also as members of a special, extra-societal group. For instance, those who identify as ‘outlaws’ or ‘nerds’ may see no benefit whatsoever in conforming to the expectations of mainstream society: they don’t, and they do perfectly well! What they fail to see is that they are conforming to the expectations of their group of choice, which is at least as important to them as mainstream society is to its members.
    The cognitive dissonance is not only vexing, but often downright dangerous. In my experience, people who subscribe to this point of view, particularly if they do so unknowingly, can take swift and aggressive actions towards those who dare upset the internal running of their little group. While they preach individuality and non-compliance, they tend to stomp hard on internal whistle-blower. The more they identify with being against a type of behaviour, the harder they’ll stomp on people who point out that behaviour in their own midst.

If you are a normal-ish person with a normal-ish background and normal-ish social life, you may be aware of and attached to your social capital and the benefits it brings you. Even if you never consciously think about it, chances are that it will be a factor influencing your decisions. Most of the time, there’s nothing wrong with that. That’s how you get to be a functional member of a social group: by actually giving a damn about other people and behaving accordingly. It becomes a bad thing if you can’t switch that mechanism off when you’re dealing with dangerous situations. If someone is trying to kill you or rape you, that’s not the time to worry about how grandma said that ‘hands are not for hitting’. But to switch that mechanism off altogether, to ignore what your social group deems appropriate in each and every conflict, regardless of the stakes, is terminally unwise.

I think, but I’m not sure, that that’s one of those situations when the blending of principles and tactics causes systems to fail their users. The principle, as I see it, is that you should use reasonable ‘force’ (still applicable in non-physical settings): do as much as you need to and as little as you can to resolve the situation safely and to your satisfaction. The tactic, in lethal setting, may be to abandon all of society’s rules and expectations – don’t hit, don’t scream, don’t scratch off people’s retinas – and go balls out until the danger is over. When that tactic is seen as a principle and applied to lower-stake settings, that’s when things can get a tad unhelpful. That’s when you get self-defence experts effectively teaching their students to fuck their personal and professional lives up.

Lost in translation.

Storytime. Long one. Feel free to skip it.

 

Once upon a time, when I was 17, I managed to sneak my way into scholarship-only boarding school. It was just as well, really: my lifestyle had evolved in ways that were neither wise nor safe. I was personally mostly well behaved, within a given value of “well” and “behaved”… However, I was running with people who were routinely engaging in activities that were both unsafe and illegal, and not being clever about it either. I was also increasingly under pressure to become financially independent from my family.

Let’s rewind it a bit. When I was 11, I realised that I had to leave home asap. I also realised that I did not want to run away from home. Running away when you’re underage makes you a fugitive, not unlike a medieval outlaw. Not only you have to fend for yourself and stop bad people from hurting you, but you have to do so while being completely invisible from all of society’s formal structures and services. You can’t go to school. You can’t go to hospital. You can’t go to the police. You can’t be even seen by the police being out and about at odd times. If you are found, you will be caught and shipped back home. The services designed to help citizens are traps for underage runaways. They are left with only illegal recourses to income and support, all of which invariably carry high costs and/or risks.

I grew up in an area that gave me the opportunity of witnessing high doses of reality happening at people. I knew I didn’t have the skills to live in the wild (not that there’s much wilderness in my parts for anyone to live in), and I didn’t fancy the life of the urban outlaw. Running away only to be constantly hunted didn’t sound like freedom. Even at an age when my greatest aspiration was still to be a Jedi knight, I knew that I didn’t want to put myself in a position that risky unless I absolutely had to. So I packed and hid a go-bag (the stupidest, least useful go-bag ever packed by any human, I swear), and filed that as option B.

Option A meant waiting until I was 14, and then wrangling things so I could leave home to study. I wasn’t running: I was allowed to leave. That kept me safely within society’s fold, so I still had the benefit of all our services and institutions, and even then it was still a shock to the system. I was quite simply unprepared to manage everything on my own, without help or guidance. I had to accept that although I was academically intelligent, I didn’t in fact know shit about life. Not a damn thing. I went from childhood to adulthood without any prior preparation, and discovered that being a grown-up is actually rather involved. I still don’t feel as if I’ve caught up.

The main shock to the system, though, was realising that I was on my own. Although I was largely financially dependent on my family until my majority for the simple reason that I could not get a job without their permission, that wasn’t going to last long. I needed to sort myself out. In no time at all I’d be <<drumroll>> independent! So many people think independence is all freedom and self-expression, and those are the people who’ve never actually been independent – self-supporting; unsupported; self-responsible; on your own. Free to mess up and starve or freeze.

By more luck than judgement I managed to make it all the way to 17, and found myself suddenly staring at 18. 18, if I got there, would be the game changer: I would be an actual person under the law, able to self-determine, but that would only be a reality if I could be self-supporting, and opportunities did not look abundant. I didn’t have any marketable skills – well, no, I had a ton, but no legal ones. Not being allowed to work, I had no income, hence no savings. In fact, I couldn’t have official savings if I wanted to, because I needed my family’s permission to open a personal bank account. I did have personal connections, so I was getting a lot of unofficial job offers, but all of them involved activities which, although quite lucrative, didn’t look like healthy long-term options. I was incredibly reluctant to do anything that may cause me to lose my freedom or die a violent death, but it was starting to look like my only option.

Just in the nick of time, out of the blue, I got a two-year free ride at an all-paid school, and a damn good school to boot. When I’d first put the application in I felt I didn’t stand a chance, but somehow I got in. Nobody there ever got to know it, but it’s very possible that that scholarship saved my life. It definitely changed my life, as it gave me the opportunity to get a tuition waiver to go to university afterwards. Ok, I had to work for my grades, but compared to my other options it was hardly a chore. It was interesting, indoor work with no heavy lifting and no risk of getting killed, raped, or sent to jail… Yeah, I could get behind that, no bother.

So I partied hard, because the company was excellent, but I worked damn hard, too. I’m not entirely sure that the majority of classmates ever understood why I was so driven. In fact, I’m pretty confident that they don’t understand why I kept being so driven for so long afterwards. It turns out that although the school was scholarship-only, it’s a lot easier to get a scholarship if you come from a good family – not necessarily a rich family, mind you, but definitely a supportive one, or at least a functional one. Although some of the kids made a huge song-and-dance about how they didn’t get on with their families, they could all go home. I couldn’t.

I couldn’t go home, and I couldn’t get help; if I fucked up, I would have to deal with the consequences on my own. And yes, it was a personal choice, because my folk would have had me back; but it was a choice derived from knowing that absolutely any other option would be preferable. I would rather sleep on a park bench than go home, and I know about sleeping on benches. I would rather go hungry, and I know about hunger. In fact, the list of things I wouldn’t rather do is pretty damn slim, and not altogether pleasant to contemplate.

That school opened a whole world of opportunities for me. Still, the road hasn’t always been easy: I have lived in some veritable crapholes and eaten mostly shit for a number of years for the simple reason that I couldn’t afford anything better. It took me four years after university to earn enough to be able to reliably meet my basic needs – and I’m talking roof-over-head and food, not smart phones and nights out. Four years living below the breadline might not sound like much, but at the time I didn’t know how long it was going to be like that. I didn’t know if thing were ever going to get better, let alone when. At one of my lowest points, I was staying in a house that didn’t have a kitchen because that entire room had fallen into the floor below. I lived on peanut butter sandwiches until the weather got colder. Then I had to stop eating those because the peanut butter froze in the jar and I couldn’t warm it up enough to spread it. I am already starting to pay for it health-wise, but at the time I did not have a better option.

Aside from a few bumps in the road, though, my situation has improved all the way. I now am in a position where I’m relatively financially secure, and can afford everything I need. I can’t afford everything I want, though, not by a long shot. I cannot be financially reckless, because the cost of fucking up is too great. I have no cushioning, no parachutes, no room for error, other than those I provide for myself.

Most of my schoolmates, who are highly intelligent and very open-minded people, fail to get it. Why don’t I ever attend the school reunions? Why don’t I ever make an effort to go visit them? And I constantly have to explain to people that I can’t afford it. And no, it’s not that I don’t physically have the money. I could rustle it up at a push, but I can’t spend it on whatever it is they are planning to do because there is always something else that needs to be prioritised. Food. Bills. Building repairs. Vehicle maintenance. Saving for emergencies. Which of this should I be willing to give up for a jolly?

For instance, I got invited for drinks in London last summer – a do that I strongly suspect was a covert fundraiser. The person doing the organising was kind, but rather insistent. They would so like to see me… They haven’t seen me in years… Surely I could make the time to see them? And she had no idea of what she was asking of me, or rather of how her request got translated in my head.

Drinks in London on a weekday night. That means:

  • 2 days’ work lost (I’m self-employed): circa £200
  • Train tickets there and back: between £60 and £150 (no, I’m not insane: British train prices are time-dependant).
  • A night in a hotel or B&B (although I’ve spent plenty of nights sleeping outside in London, I’m getting a bit superannuated for that sort of thing): £40 as a minimum.

Let’s be conservative and call it £300. That’s a lot of money to spend for the privilege of going for drinkie-poos – and doesn’t include the drinkies themselves. On its own, though, that figure doesn’t mean much. The issue isn’t the value per se, but what it means in my world. That’s a month of bills. That’s three months’ worth of food. That’s close to the cost of my last van (£350, I kid you not). That’s money that, if I need it and don’t have it, would cost me a lot to borrow, because borrowing money is expensive for people in my financial bracket. That’s money that, if I was desperate for it and absolutely couldn’t get it, could really mess my life up. Late payments snowball on you. I know people who lost their cars, which lost them their jobs, which lost them their homes, which lost them most of what they owned, because of a £30 parking ticket.

But my schoolmates don’t get it. The ones who can process the information seem to treat it as a kind of aberration: what’s wrong with me, that I have no money? They have no idea of how hard it is to start from nothing or very little (I didn’t, by the way. I had a couple of very unpleasant and unmissable relatives die on me along the way, or I’d never, ever have managed to become a homeowner. I could have never saved enough for a deposit while paying rent). They have no idea of what it’s like to have no support net: to know that if you fail, however temporarily, you could lose everything you’ve managed to accrue so far. They don’t know what it’s like when the Bank of Mom and Dad just isn’t there and, with nobody to bankroll you and no collaterals, real banks won’t touch you either. They don’t know how it feels to know that if your grades drop, or your boss gets spiteful, or your business doesn’t thrive, or you hurt yourself too much to work, or you get sick, or you and your partner split up, you may end up on the road. They might understand it conceptually, but they have never felt it. They’ve never felt the pressure of living without a financial parachute.

They don’t get it, and I can’t explain it in a way that would make any sense to them. So they’ll keep inviting me to drinks in London, or weekends in Berlin, or concerts in Geneva, and I have to remind myself that they are trying to be kind, to be inclusive. I have to remind myself that there are no intended slights in those invitations, only those I choose to read in them. And if they sound condescending or pitying when I decline, I have to understand that, ultimately, we have always lived in different worlds. Although we walked side-by-side for a little while, we have always had different points of views and priorities, and we will probably do so until the day we die.

Read this.

Lazyblogging, but not quite. It’s just that I firmly believe that everyone involved in pretty much any kind of training and self-defence training in particular should read this.

I have nothing to add to it, beyond advising people to look for training programmes that respect these criteria and run the fuck away from programmes that don’t. You only have one body and one life. Paying people to fuck either of them up “for your own good” is neither big nor clever.

Free stuff!

’tis that time of year again!

For a glorious FIVE days starting TOMORROW, this wonderful creation me and a few friends knocked together because we felt like it will be FREE & for no money. It’s absolutely NOT worth buying, so grab it while it’s hot! Guaranteed to be worth precisely what you paid for it!

Do share it if you feel so inclined. We made so people would read it. We’re not being terribly successful at that.

If you feel overwhelmed by our generosity and want to give us money, you can do so by buying any of the following, and/or adding ?tag=swiindeewat21-20 to the addressy thingie you use to get into Amazon, or at the end of any Amazon links. That gets me a minute percentage of the money that would otherwise go straight into Amazon’s pocket, which means I can buy coffee & comics.

(I don’t do this for the money, but the electricity company no longer accept my joy as currency, alas.)

 

Between theory and reality, ay chihuahua

If you’ve been on the interwebs for more than 5 minutes you’ve probably landed on one of those ‘funny’ dog video compilations. Most of them contain at least one instance of a small dog, most often a chihuahua, behaving in an incredibly aggressive fashion to a background of laughter. If a larger dog, say a Rottweiler, behaved in that manner, nobody would find it remotely funny. But when an anklebiter does it, it’s suddenly hilarious.*

I am that chihuahua. I am 1 inch and 3/4 too tall to be legally classed as a dwarf – I know this because a friend was compelled to check it out. This gives me the distinctive advantage of being able to look up the nostrils of most people over the age of 12, but it makes it somewhat difficult for me to cut an imposing figure. It’s surprising how much this matters in situations where, logically, height shouldn’t make right. I am also ostensibly female, obviously foreign, and educated above my (low) socio-economic status; for a lot of people, I am literally and metaphorically a lesser person.

I don’t precisely lose sleep over that. As far as I’m concerned, people who think less of me because of any of those factors are assholes, and the opinions of assholes bother me not. Their attitude towards me, however, has a practical impact on my life. A lot of people don’t take me seriously. In particular, they interpret my attempts at boundary setting as insignificant. They read my displeasure as ‘cute’. My anger is ‘adorable’, or so I’m told. This is somewhat problematic, because when I tell someone to cut this shit up or else, I mean it just as much as normally-sized people. Hell, I mean it as much as people with testicles do. Alas, my utterances are so precious that, despite their tone and content, they are often disregarded.

I find this bothersome. I’m not a fan of empty threats and I’m relatively resourceful, so these situations usually get resolved with a minimum of effort on my part, but I have to make that effort quite often. I have enforce my consequences a lot more often than most of my friends, and particularly my maler, taller, larger friends. It’s uncanny, but when someone who looks like they’ve got bear in their ancestry asks people to change their behaviour, most people tend to pay attention. I’m descended from rodents, alas, so I usually have to take my boundary setting activities to their more-or-less bitter end at least once with a whole load of twerps.

Then comes the wailing and gnashing of teeth on the part of said twerps. Why am I raising my voice? (Maybe, just maybe, because when I talk at a normal volume, you don’t fucking listen) Why am I hurting them? (Because when I told you to take your hands off me, you didn’t). Why are they bleeding? (Errrr.) Why am I so meeeeean?

I guess it is unfair on my part. It’s false advertising: I look all small and non-threatening and girly-like, so I should be meek and mild. I should let those who are bigger and stronger and louder (and often maler, but not always so) get their way, because they are more than me. Unfortunately I’m just not that way inclined.

So fucking what? So this same dynamic applies to people who are perceived as lesser for any reason, whether it’s gender, age, height, size, disability status, race, ethnicity, nationality, educational status, socio-economic status, gender identity, sexual orientation, and probably all kinds of other ‘status’ markers I’ve forgotten about. People who are perceived as ‘lesser’ are expected to behave according to their inferior status. Their requests are taken less seriously. Their boundaries are attacked more often, with an expectation of impunity. If ‘lesser’ people want to be treated as equals, they will have to fight for that, and those fights will be more frequent and more intense than those of ‘superior’ people.

This sounds like a giant case of duh, and it is; it’s a shame that it gets overlooked so often when teaching non-physical self-defence techniques and principles. So many programs are sold as a one-size-fits-all, and that’s not the case. Anyone who honestly believes that the playing field is level is living a life so privileged I cannot even conceptualise it.

 

*As someone who works with dogs, it isn’t. Seriously.

 

 

In utterly unrelated news, I’m in the process of exuding another fiction book. It’s nothing to do with self-defence or in fact anything else much other than the fact that I occasionally need to clear my head out and, as per usual, there is no earthly reason why you should care. Did I mention I suck at marketing?

Anyhoo, the damn thing isn’t out yet, but for the 9 people who bought “Among the Stars” on the Kindle, if you update your version you get the first chapter free.

Yes, I’m putting the first chapter of a book that isn’t finished yet out there. Yes, sensible people don’t do that kind of thing. Hey ho.