29 January 2009

Berserkerin, Part Two

I'm going to assume that a female berserker would be a berserkerin [assuming the etymology is Old Norse]. Interesting title, one I haven't held before...

OK. Back to business.

I've been truly fortunate to have important men, central to my life and work, grant me a right to my anger and accept its strength - while also allowing me my womanhood. I've had pretty much lifelong permission from Pop to take no prisoners when in extremis, and this was reinforced very recently by the admiring amusement of my Department Head - when I handed a bully his Figurative Head, and admitted as much without sugarcoating events.

That's interesting, but not really what I need to look at. Although it will help later on, when I start asking how much of my anger is legitimate [in general and in particular cases]. It also encourages me to work on using anger as a weapon of defense, not a bludgeon.

I've retrieved some instances of true berserkerin behavior now, and I'm looking for common elements.

First, I need to admit I have done something like this about ten times since 1988. That's about once every other year. More in some seasons, less in others. Yay, whew. But, if there's any way to reduce that, it's all to the good. I really don't want to act this way if I can help it.

If I only got gutter-rolling blotto once every 24 months, that would still be too often, and I'd still have a problem. Oh yes. I would. This is just a different form of intoxication... and please note the 'toxic' in the middle of that word. It's there for a reason.

Let us resume.

Several situations, including this most recent episode, I can classify as Troll-Baiting, or, rather, as a response to being baited by trolls. These situations were similar: people were holding up cruelty and meanness - knowingly - as something to strive for with pride. Actively encouraging others to treat a specific person or group cruelly, or with 'depraved indifference' - that's a legal term, by the way, and it's pretty damn serious.

As in the most recent case, I got all righteous on their tails, seriously up in their business. To no net effect, of course, except to feel like a complete fool five minutes later... not because I said something, but because I took an almighty whack at them as I was saying it.

In other words, I let my feelings run away with my mouth [or my typing] and turned a potentially useful confrontation into a tantrum.

OK, let's tag those episodes as 'Tantrums At Trolls'. That's a good name. It's catchy, descriptive, and sufficiently accurate to give me a good idea of what to avoid and why, in future. I'll come back later to see how it is I get sucked in to this type of performance - that's a knee-jerk reaction I need to break.

Now. Let me consider the other outbursts I can remember, the ones that weren't Tantrums At Trolls. Can I find common elements?

Yes... yes, I can.

Renewed, I think you were on to something. These other outbursts occurred in situations where I perceived myself as being actively abused - sometimes quite overtly, but often in a snide, underhanded fashion. Usually by a tag team of bullies. Even more usually, by females. But not always.

There's another common element too... my goodness. Betrayal.

One particularly nasty event from more than a decade ago involved an alcoholic, possibly untreated bipolar, about-to-be-ex, who went on a meanness rampage precisely when he fell off the wagon. Despite bleared eyes and an unmistakable aura of metabolized Scotch, this guy managed to con a couples therapist into seeing me as the one with the problem. Hypersensitive. Overreacting. Hysterical female.


Fortunately, he couldn't sustain the pretense, and when he blew his cover in the office, in front of the therapist, it was unmistakable what the problem really was. No question.

I was just merciless to the therapist afterwards - flayed him verbally, left, and never went back.

In that case, I felt betrayed by both my ex and the therapist; but it's the therapist's betrayal that I still have emotion about today. It was the more profound betrayal, after all. A mean drunk is going to be a mean drunk, just as surely as the sunrise; once it's accepted that he's a mean drunk, most of the sting goes out of it. It's not personal; he does this to everyone eventually. But a therapist is supposed to be therapeutic, not an appendage to an abuser.

The other situations I can recall were variations on this, really.

Being cornered by the adult equivalent of High School Mean Girls at a book discussion group.

Being marginalized by a bunch of European Male Chauvinists [sorry, but they really were] who ignored everything I said in meetings, while stealing all my suggestions and recommendations as fast as they could shovel with both hands.

Having a male acquaintance turn on me in public, to score points with a vicious female bully in a faith-based 12-step group [think ACOA or CoDA] with whom he later went on to have an affair. He was married, and the denouement came very soon after I suggested he was getting a tad too fond of me, to the point where it was making me uncomfortable in the group...

Several truly nasty encounters in a recovery group, involving betrayal similar to the one I experienced with the alcoholic ex, again from someone in a position of relative responsibility, who really, really should have known - and done - better.

And let's go for broke... since I'm being candid about all of this, and have to be if it's going to work, I should add that I became solidly convinced that the troubled, abuser-laden recovery group was full of high-functioning, non-recovering alcoholics. The non-recovering is significant. Seriously recovering alcoholics are very, very different people, and have my highest respect... but in the setting I'm talking about, there was much reference to beer, and a lot of what looks to me now, at a distance, exactly like drunken abusiveness.

And just as the couples therapist missed screamingly obvious signs from my ex, so long ago, the person who was nominally in charge of keeping us all on the 'straight and narrow' in this other setting was easily conned and gulled by exactly the people whose dysfunction should have been most obvious.

Well now.

One moral to this story seems to be "stay the hell away from support groups and therapists".

That's a tad extreme, and it's not what I advocate at all.

Let's reframe it as "don't expect many support groups to be supportive, or many therapists to be therapeutic, where abuse is involved. Not even, or perhaps especially not, groups whose stated purpose on paper is to facilitate recovery from abuse! Abusers can game groups and even so-called professionals very skillfully. Trust your gut, and try to cut your losses with minimal drama."

But yes. There are underlying commonalities here, and they are significant.

Being betrayed

especially, but not always,

in settings where I have gone to seek

and being pushed just that last, little, teensy, weensy bit

over the line.

Well... guess I'll pause here. I see all of this very clearly, and I don't want to push too fast, because that's when things become blurred and you lose your grasp of what you learn.

Over the line, huh? I wonder where that line is and who taught me to draw it.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

I appreciate your honesty and willingness to help others even if it is at your expense.
Thank you.

29 January, 2009 23:43  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm so glad my comment on the last post was helpful.

But how could you leave us hanging like this ?!

; )

Breathlessly awaiting the next riveting installment,

P.S. No, seriously, I am fascinated by your insights. They help me understand myself too.

30 January, 2009 02:36  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I continue to read your blogs, and am really taken by the recent ones.

For now, I just want to say good on you, S, and I've always thought you could do this. May the road rise up to meet you, fellow-warrior/seeker, as you continue your journey

Hugs, c.

30 January, 2009 08:01  
Blogger Stormchild said...


Thank you. If this works as I hope, the only major expense will be to my 'image', and I'm not that big on image anyway. My reality will get huge offsetting benefits. And in fact, that seems to be happening already - which I'll talk about in an upcoming post.

Anonymous-Renewed :-) :

Humor much appreciated, double that for the validation. Thank you.

Anonymous-c :-)

Thanks, fellow traveler! I actually tried to do this while I was still living in The Village, a few years ago. Merely raising the subject caused a riot.

Then I was lulled for a long time by the fact that the 'hot flashes' [ ;-) ] were spaced much more widely apart in time, and I was getting insight in other areas, which made it easy to think the 'hot flash' problem was resolving naturally on its own.

I do wish The Village had been a place where this type of issue was truly safe to address - but we can't change the past, and what we don't cause isn't subject to our control. So be it. There may be greater blessing in going through it here and now.

31 January, 2009 17:42  

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