Monday, March 19, 2007

On Defense

Pretty Lady was all agog to defend her dear friend Chris against charges of loving company in his misery, this morning. She was about to leap precipitately into the fray, and declare that she knows ALL ABOUT keeping company with misery-lovers, and Chris is not it. He's mopey, but not particularly sadistic.

However, she was called to the carpet by virtue of her chosen spiritual text, the Course in Miracles. This strange and counterintuitive document has a strange and counterintuitive thing to say, on the subject of Defense:

If I defend myself, I am attacked.

...You operate from the belief you must protect yourself from what is happening because it must contain what threatens you. A sense of threat is an acknowledgment of an inherent weakness; a belief that there is danger which has power to call on you to make appropriate defense. The world is based on this insane belief. And all its structures, all its thoughts and doubts, its penalties and heavy armaments, its legal definitions and its codes, its ethics and its leaders and its gods, all serve but to preserve its sense of threat. For no one walks the world in armature but must have terror striking at his heart.

This is one of those things that so baffles Pretty Lady's friends, when she goes off upon one of her eccentric maunderings about the illusory nature of Time, and such. Surely, they say, Pretty Lady has got it backwards, and her chosen text is a mass of psychotic bunk. What happens, they explain patiently, is that one is attacked, first; then one defends. Quite properly.

For a lady with such a high IQ, they think, Pretty Lady can be awfully dense, on occasion.

Pretty Lady used to think this was true, once upon a time. Then she invited another lady to live with her, who was all Sweetness and Light and Occupational Therapy. This roommate was more harmless than a ladybug, and cute as a button. She liked to vacuum, and hum tunelessly while doing so, and make soup. What a perfect roommate, Pretty Lady thought.

Then she began to notice, over time, that in the course of friendly, idle conversation, this Perfect Roommate had a tendency to flinch. She would flinch, and then apologize, as though Pretty Lady were about to explode in a violent rage, for some crime she had mysteriously committed.

Pretty Lady was mildly perplexed by this. She hastened to reassure this lovely girl; she petted and soothed and explained that her intentions were wholly benign. The girl kept flinching.

Over time, affairs in Pretty Lady's household became Tense and Strained. No matter what Pretty Lady did, her roommate continued to cower; the more Pretty Lady reassured, the more she grew wide-eyed and fearful. Occasionally she would muster her courage, and grow assertive; Pretty Lady supported this assertion, although she still had no idea what the girl was so worried about.

Finally, matters came to a crisis. The roommate, in abject terror, came cowering assertively to Pretty Lady and begged her not to evict her yet, not before finals! Anything but that!

Pretty Lady, all at once, saw that Danger loomed. The Danger was that this girl would, by sheer force of willpower and expectation, get Pretty Lady to follow along with her Script, the one that said that Pretty Lady was an abusive, cruel, unreasonable bitch, and knock her across the room and through the window before Pretty Lady was aware of her own actions.

So, in clarity and desperation, Pretty Lady evicted her. Before finals.

Pretty Lady does not expect any of her friends to take this odd little anecdote as being conclusive of anything, let alone the validity of her pet esoteric text. But it lends one To Think, and that is one of Pretty Lady's favorite addictions. And what she thinks, quite often in these days, is that when we choose to see an attack, we will proceed to make this attack an unequivocal reality, as soon as we throw up that armor.


Chris Rywalt said...

I am mopey, but not sadistic, or masochistic. Just ranging from depressed to nearly cheerful.

I think your Course in Miracles has something there. I think people who are on constant defense will cause an attack on themselves. I also think people will, if necessary, invent an attack where there is none, in order to justify their defenses.

I also think that someone who is wholly open and not defensive will not even notice an attack when it comes. Our good friend Danny, for example, probably wouldn't recognize an insult if it came up and whacked him on the nose. Anyone mugging him would probably have to spend twenty minutes convincing him he was being mugged.

By the way, if we keep providing you with topics for your blog, I think we should start charging.

Anonymous said...

Of course, your anecdote could perhaps provide you with some insight into yourself.

Perhaps the girl's reactions were truly based on your behavior, and while you did not see your irritation and growing dissatisfaction with the roomate, she was able to tell that you were unconsciously intending to throw her out. She reacted accordingly, and when she begged you in a fruitless attempt to show kindness, you tossed her into the street without mercy. Before finals, no less.

What makes you think that she was wrong in interpreting your signals? Why is she the villain who brought this on herself? Why is the Script something that *she* authored and not you? If she told us this exact same story I would bet that the version I just outlined would match hers far closer than yours.

So who is correct? Did she bring this on herself, or did she merely react to your actions? From the way I read this story, it was your defense mechanism that triggered you to attack, and so you threw her out in a preemptive strike.

If you are as open-minded as you aspire to be, then you must consider that perhaps you were the aggressor in this story, albeit unbeknownst to you.

Pretty Lady said...

Of course, your anecdote could perhaps provide you with some insight into yourself.

Crom, darling, you shock me. If you honestly believe that Pretty Lady did not spend months wandering the streets, searching her soul, wondering how in the world she contributed to this situation, you do not, as yet, know Pretty Lady at all.

Various friends can attest that Pretty Lady bored them all to tears with the excess of her self-examination, regarding this particular incident.

What makes you think that she was wrong in interpreting your signals?

She wasn't wrong in interpreting my signals, latterly. I threw her out because I was genuinely afraid I would end up pasting her one. Prior experience with even more psychotic roommates had taught me that an experienced manipulator can induce a person to slap her even when they are standing there thinking, 'I WILL NOT SLAP HER. I WILL NOT SLAP HER UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCES.' It's kind of like skiing into a tree.

However, the early elements in this situation could, I believe, be traced to the fact that she grew up with a father who would explode with violent rage at any mishap, however slight, real or imagined. This was the script that she was following; I imagine that in some unconscious way I reminded her of her father. The fact that I am not habitually inclined to throw raging tantrums when a candlestick gets broken was irrelevent.

Why is she the villain who brought this on herself?

You misunderstand. There is no villain. There is no guilt, and no blame; there is merely a Learning Experience. What we each choose to learn from it depends upon our perspective, however.

I learned that I am not responsible for fixing my roommate's battered past; she, I imagine, learned that she is better off living with people who don't remind her of her father.

it was your defense mechanism that triggered you to attack

There you go; indeed it was. My defense mechanism, as I have discovered, is trying to fix people. I need to get over that. I'm still working on it.

Pretty Lady said...

By the way, if we keep providing you with topics for your blog, I think we should start charging.

Certainly! As soon as I start earning money with this blog, I'll be happy to hire you.

Desert Cat said...

Yikes, that is an unnerving scenario. Been there.

The real challenge is to consistently fail to meet their expectations. Because in the process of doing so, you are afforded the opportunity to short-circuit a whole array of different "buttons" on your mental/emotional console that are available for others to push.

Buttons you didn't even know you had...

Pretty Lady said...

The real challenge is to consistently fail to meet their expectations.

Yes, but one ALSO must be eternally vigilant about which expectations one is failing to meet. The subsequent lesson I learned was that in failing to meet my boyfriend's expectations that people always fight back when abused, I created a new expectation in him that Pretty Lady was a Doormat, which then had to be deconstructed.

Life is so complicated.

Anonymous said...

"The real challenge is to consistently fail to meet their expectations."

Ouch! That reminds me all too well of my tendency to people-please - something I have grown out of to a fair degree, but it still rears it's ugly head. I had to learn how to say a little 2 letter word - NO.

k said...

Morris, that problem is highly common among us females. I can relate. And congrats on your progress!

When I see people who permeate their lives with intensive self-defense measures, I know I'm often looking at a person who feels they are brave, but are actually quite fearful.

I feel very strongly about our right to self-defense. It's just that there's a balance, a line that some cross without ever realizing what it's doing to them.

It's the feeling that led a neighbor of mine to brutally kill a perfectly harmless juvenile possum. He told me, *We had to kill it.* Had to??? What on earth for?