What’s Your Excuse?

I do enjoy watching the film, Full Metal Jacket, as it is a magnificent piece of film-making. It is of course a film of two halves. The training and drilling of the new recruits on “the island” and then their experience in Viet Nam. The opening, where Gunnery Sergeant Hartman “greets” the recruits is fantastic. Here is a man who has control and knows how to use it. The actor, R. Lee Ermey was an honorary Gunnery Sergeant and a drill instructor who was initially used as a consultant but his demonstration of how a drill instructor would speak to the recruits was so impressive, he was given the part. During the opening he barks at one unfortunate,

“What’s your excuse?”

“Sir, excuse for what, sir?” comes the confused reply.

“I’m asking the fucking questions here private, do you understand?”

“Sir, yes sir.”

“Well thank you very much, can I be in charge for a while?”

“Sir, yes sir.”

This exchange is demonstrative of how we approach our relationship with you. We regularly ask you questions which you do not understand or you do not have answer for. We know that to be the case. That is why we ask them. We immediately put you on the back foot and we will then follow it up with a further question or an accusation which has you floundering. We know that you are trying to ascertain what the most appropriate response is, the one which will stop us from raining down insults on you or that will mean we will leave you alone (at least for a while). You are not allowed time to think or consider. The way we treat you has you exhausted and surrounded by a fog of confusion. Your ability to cope and respond has been eroded so that when we start to bark these perplexing questions at you, you are unable to muster anything appropriate in reply.

Much like the relationship between Gunnery Sergeant Hartman and the recruits, ours is an unequal one. The power rests with us and we are the ones in charge. Something we like to reinforce to you on a daily basis. We like Gunnery Sergeant Hartman’s opening question to this particular recruit because we know that you are built from excuses. We expect you to come out with them and they keep on flowing. You do this because you are not able to achieve what is expected from us. It does not matter than nobody can, that is irrelevant. What matters to us is that you cannot fulfil what we want and therefore you are left making excuses. Excuses are the tools of incompetence. You are incompetent and you are inferior. All you ever do is come out with excuses so that is why our first words of the day to you, may as well be,

“What’s your excuse?”

because that is what coming. A torrent of apologetic and pathetic explanations for your failures and disappointments.

“Why did you not wake me?”

“I’m sorry I thought you wanted to rest, I must have got confused.”

“Why is this coffee cold?”

“Sorry, I made it too soon for you whilst you were busy outside.”

“Why haven’t you made dinner yet?”

“I am sorry but I have been busy looking after the children, working, cleaning the house and doing the laundry.”

“Why are you crying again?”

“I am sorry but you are upsetting me.”

“No I am not. I am just pointing out what you have done wrong, so you don’t do it again.”

“Sorry, thank you, I guess I must be tired and that is why I am upset.”

Excuses, excuses and more excuses. You infuriate us with this repeated failure to deliver. Don’t give us excuses, do what we want, when we want it and how we want it. You should know what the right thing is. You do this on purpose because you want to make us angry. You deliberately fail and then trot out these useless explanations in order to irritate and annoy us. You want to make us erupt into a rage and make you cry. We know full well that you do this in order to try and make us feel guilty, but that is not going to work. We are on to you and we are not going to let you get away with this sub-standard performance. You can come up with a multitude of excuses but they do not wash with us. Do not ever turn to us and say,

“They are not excuses, they are reasons.”

If you do that we are likely to explode with fury. Learn, think, anticipate, act quicker and do it right. We do not want your excuses as they remind us of how we must be stupid to be with someone as useless as you. That means we start to feel bad about ourselves and that is all down to you. In order to remove that feeling we need to reassert our natural superiority and attack you in whatever way we deem appropriate, even though we know this just causes you to mumble some futile apology and come up with another excuse.

Is this standpoint horrendous? Is our treatment of you awful, abusive and aggressive? Is our expectation too great? Is our intolerance beyond a joke? Yes. But then we have a host of excuses as to why that is, haven’t we?

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Unhappy Birthday To You

They happen every year and you have come to dread the appearance of both your own birthdays and mine. You would much rather neither taken place if you are entirely honest. The day is spent treading on eggshells as you await the inevitable argument and dressing down that you will receive. The annual sense of disappointment will happen again and again and you hope somehow it will change, but it never does.

Let’s begin with my birthday. You dedicate time and money to making my birthday an enjoyable and memorable occasion. I dedicate a degree of energy to ensure that it is memorable, but for the wrong reasons. You plan something special to mark the occasion and go to considerable lengths to organise a surprise party or a trip out somewhere you believe I will like. You scour catalogues and the Internet trying to find that gift you hope will make me break out in a smile. Most normal people will be happy with half the effort you put into pleasing me on my birthday. Not me. The occasion may involve a grand day out and a spectacular gift but just as it did last year and the year before that, it will end in an argument and us lashing out at you.

On the face of it, one would imagine that just for once we would get throughout the day without causing some kind of drama. After all, the day is all about us. Exactly what we like and what we want. People wish us happy birthday, they send us cards, they give us presents and you run around lifting and carrying for us (even more than usual). The spotlight is firmly on us. We drink up all this fuel but still we want more. Every single second has to be about us. Do not expect us to thank you or anyone else who provides us with a gift. Remember, we are entitled to receive them. We may have received gifts of twenty people but you know that all we will harp on about is the person we did not get a gift from whom we expected to. That becomes the focus of our irritation. The brilliant and thoughtful gifts are left to one side as we rail against this one person who has not bought us something. It does not matter that they send a card, it does not matter that we did not send them a gift on their birthday (and never have done), and it does not matter that nobody else would expect this distant relative to send such a gift. We will raise it and repeat it and rant about it.

Woe betides you if you do not give to us the exact gift we expected. If you fail to do this we will comment and lash out at you. You cannot possibly love us since you did not give us the right gift. We conveniently ignore the fact that what you have brought us is still a wonderful gift and we actually do like it. That is not the point. It is not the gift we wanted and you will be subjected to our scathing remarks. If by sheer dint of exhaustive effort you manage, against all the odds, to work out what we want (don’t expect us to help you by explaining what we want, we expect you to know this through telepathy) and give us the right gift, do not expect smiles and thanks. We need to make a scene. Instead, we will remark,

“I see you finally got it right. It does not really make up for all the years you got it wrong does it?”

You can never win when it comes to providing us with gifts. We will always want to put you down no matter what you have done and irrespective of the effort and expense that you have gone to. We will always be unsatisfied and this will manifest in us giving you a dressing down in front of everyone at the party, or storming out of the venue at some sleight. Every year you will hear the same stinging accusation ringing in your ears,

“You’ve ruined my birthday. Again.”

When it comes to your birthday the position is just as bad. We will routinely pretend to forget about it. Do not be fooled by our repeated apparent memory lapses. We have minds that remember everything and our powers of recall are spectacular. We know your birthday is on the horizon and with most things with us it generates two reactions. On the one hand we resent the forthcoming anniversary because it is a day geared towards the individual, namely you. It is not about us and we cannot stand that. It is rare that you ever allow the spotlight to be shone on you (by now you are so used to having to point it at us, you give up on it ever being fixed on you) but you do hold out the futile notion that it might still be done on your birthday, of all days. We find this galling. This is a day that will be about you and thus where will we get our fuel? Its approach generates dread and horror inside of us.

Conversely, we relish your birthday because we know, despite every previous disappointment, you still hold out hope that this year it might just be different. You pray to your own personal god that please, just for one, the day can pass without incident and you can enjoy yourself. You are not particularly bothered about doing anything special, perhaps a meal out somewhere and the gift need not be expensive, just so long as it exhibits that some kind of thought has gone into it. Your thoughts are based on hope as opposed to expectation. It will not be different because we need to spoil it; we need to make you feel upset and demeaned. To achieve this there are various things that we will do on your birthday.

  1. We forget about it completely. If you mention at 6pm that evening that it is your birthday we will lash out at you by explaining how busy we have been at work or that there has been some other pressing matter which means that it has slipped our minds. We deliberately forget about it and we will not countenance you criticising our omission.
  2. We organise something lavish but we know it is not something you will actually like. As usual, you put a brave face on it and fix a rigid smile to your face. We know what you are really thinking because we know it is not something you like. In fact, it is more likely that we have organised something that we enjoy. We do this so that everyone else can see what a grand and delightful gesture we have made and we drink in his or her admiration. It also enables us to poke at you repeatedly suggesting that you don’t like it. We are goading you into making a tiny admission that it is not quite what you expected and then we erupt in self-indignant fury as we castigate you for being ungrateful after all the effort we have gone to.
  3. We buy some token gesture and point out that your 43rd birthday is not really something to celebrate is it? It is hardly a milestone. We then use this to remark on your advancing years and point out your various flaws.
  4. We organise a lovely birthday for you but spoil it by turning the spotlight back onto ourselves. We turn up late, we flirt with a guest or we manufacture some drama so that everyone is looking at us and not you. We complain at waiters when there is a family meal out, when there is not actual need to do so. We want to make a scene and wrench the spotlight back over to us.
  5. We remember your birthday and spend it doing what you want and we are pleasant to you until early evening when we deliberately pick a fight with you over absolutely nothing. The fuel we gain from this behaviour is all the sweeter as we have built you up, your guarded behaviour has melted away as we appear to have done everything that pleases you. We are waiting. We are waiting for you to feel good and happy and then we will cast you down so your emotional reaction is all the more heightened.

This behaviour is not just reserved for your birthday although we enjoy ruining your birthday the most. We do this with the birthdays of our children, friends and family. We hate it being about someone else and we hate seeing him or her being happy. In our world, nobody else is allowed a birthday and we believe that every day is our birthday and everyone should recognise that and act accordingly.

We know that you would rather your birthday be erased from the calendar. It is always a horrible day in one form or another and you would rather it not take place. We put a big red ring around it in the calendar in our mind and scribble next to the day the words, “ Special Fuel Day.”

Knowledge is Power

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Arm yourself with understanding and knowledge. Know your foe.

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You are the Competition

Should you ever ask certain people what the secret of their success is ,those asked may often reply,

“We are a partnership.”

This applies to a happily married couple, to a duo who run a burgeoning advertising agency, to the group of people who deliver excellent professional services and to the champion sportsmen and women. Think Lennon and McCartney, Laurel and Hardy, Abercrombie and Fitch, Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers , Bill and Ted, Batman and Robin and Marks and Spencer. Even those who might be regarded as having achieved their success as an individual will be keen to share the glory and attribute that their success has been as a consequence of a collaboration. The pro golfer who acknowledges his Masters win was down to a joint effort between him and his caddy. The formula one driver who thanks his pit team for their expertise and lightning fast tyre changes and refuels. The Olympic diving champion who thanks his father for all the support over the years in taking him to competitions and training.

The world is geared to encouraging collaboration and driving people to come together for the greater good. It wants people to co-operate, to work together, to support one another and share. It recognises that many things become better when they are combined, joined and complemented. Consider, for example phrases such as

“Two heads are better than one.”

“The more the merrier.”

“A problem shared is a problem halved.”

“Greater than the sum of its parts.”

Look around and everywhere you will see that the world believes that combining is desirable. Gin and tonic, burger and fries, ying and yang, fife and drum, the two Steves in a garage (Jobs and Wozniak), the Owl and the Pussycat and even M & Ms. The message is simple;  together we are better.

 We hate it.

We do not want to share or pool our resources. What belongs to us always remains with us. We take from others. There is no sense in working together. Not only do we jealously guard what we regard as ours, we fail to see the benefit of partnership. It is an alien concept. If we are to work and live in tandem with others this means that we have to share. We have to share the attention, the credit, the congratulations, the workload and the burden. We find this offends us mightily. There is no sense in sharing the credit with you, that means there is less for us. Less credit equates to less fuel and those are words which strike a sense of dread into our being. Nor will we share the workload by helping, we will not even share by dividing our burden with you, so we each play a part in making the task or problem easier. No, we will dump the lot on you and divest ourselves of any burden whatsoever. Should you solve the problem having been left marooned with it by us and there is the scent of praise in the air, watch how quickly we return to claim it. Yes, the situation was resolved by our quick thinking in delegating to a particular colleague. It was our decisive behaviour and keen leadership qualities which saved the day as we elbow you aside and bask in the congratulatory comments from a higher-up.

Not only will we not work together or share, even in circumstances where normal people would expect that to happen, we regard you as our competition. A couple in a relationship are ordinarily expected to bring different things to the party, support one another, look out for the other, give and take and a fruitful partnership evolves to apparent mutual benefit. That is not the case with us, We regard you as only there to be our appliance and supply us with fuel. We are not designed to do things for you (unless we can see a greater benefit arising for us). You are the enemy. You are trying to hog the limelight that we need. You question us and seek to unseat us from our position of power. Oh yes, we know your game. When you dress up elegantly all you are trying to do is make us look less desirable and shift the focus of everyone’s attention at the party on to you and accordingly you deny us the attention we desperately want. By keeping fit and in shape you are wanting people to be drawn to you, rather than us. Furthermore, you are trying to heighten your desirability so that you can acquire a new partner and leave us. We already have you worked out. You sit and read a lot. We have sussed you out again, You are doing it in the hope that you can gain more knowledge and appear superior to us. You want to belittle us. You want to be able to defeat us in an argument and make us feel small. The cooking class you have signed up for is a ruse by you to demonstrate you are the better cook at home (even though we never do any cooking) but you want to show you are superior to us. Why are you doing this? We are meant to work together aren’t we? You keep doing all these things to try and outshine us, make us look bad and exceed our abilities and we hate this.

Of course we are perfectly entitled to do anything we like to show we are better than you because we are well, better than you. It is also legitimate on our part to keep you browbeaten and under our control. We must not have you competing with us in any way as otherwise you will take away the attention and admiration of others and in turn you will remove the fuel that we need. Like any successful and domineering business (and that is what we are, a business, one that is established for the detection and extraction of fuel) the competition must be diminished and extinguished. That means you.

50 Things You Should Not Do With A Narcissist

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A Jarring Thought

I suspect that you may have come across this tale before, but it is worth recounting and to enable us to consider what we have in our own jars. A professor was once stood in front of his class of students and he produced a large glass jar which he placed on the desktop for all to see. He then picked up a bucket containing some rocks and tipped them into the jar until they reached the brim of the jar.

“Is the jar full?” the professor asked his students.

There was a murmur of assent. The professor picked up a second bucket and this one contained pebbles. He poured them into the jar and they spilled downwards finding their way through the cracks and gaps between the rocks.

“Would you say the jar is full now?”

There was another murmur of assent although a few students remained silent waiting for the professor’s next gesture.

The professor picked up a third bucket and this time he tipped sand into the jar. The granules percolated their way between the rocks and the pebbles, until the third bucket was empty.

“Would you agree that the jar is full this time?” asked the professor.

There were more nods of agreement as the students wondered what else could possibly be added to the jar which now contained rocks, pebbles and sand. The professor produced a pint of beer and tipped this into the jar. The liquid was absorbed into the sand, turning into a dark brown. The professor waited for the gentle laughter to abate and then spoke.

“The jar represents your life. The rocks are all the important things which really matter. Your health, your family, your partner and your children. The pebbles represent other important matters but on a smaller scale, for instance your job, money, friendships and your home. The sand amounts to the small stuff in life. If you put the sand in first and the pebbles there will be no room for the rocks. If you fill up your life with the minutae you will not be able to accommodate the really important things which matter. You need to prioritise what you feel your life up with in order to be fulfilled rather than worrying about the small stuff.”

The lecture theatre erupted into smiles. A student raised his hand.

“Professor, what does the beer represent?”

“Ah, I am glad you asked. That goes to show that in everyone’s life there is always room for a beer.”

I found this tale interesting and wondered what would be in people’s jars? What would yours look like now? I am not prone to introspection but on this occasion I went to the figurative cupboard at the top of the house and opened it up to examine my large, glass jar. It was full to the brim with darkness.

The Winner Takes it All

Winning is everything to me. I have to win. This applies to every facet of my life. You will be aware of not only my desire to win but the fact that I always come up smelling of roses. I know you find this particularly unfair as this is something that has been hurled in my direction on several occasions,

“You just walk away from the carnage you create without so much as a scratch.”

“You carry on as if nothing has happened without a care about what you have done.”

“How is it that someone as nasty as you just gets to sail through life untouched?”

“You cause so much misery yet you always land on your feet.”

I am able to fire the useless employee without worrying about how that will impact on his or her life. I do know that this will improve productivity. The weak link has been expunged and the ruthlessness by which it is executed causes those still in employment to work harder. Result? It’s a win. I renege on financial arrangements which leave your position in tatters and mine intact. I use my charm and plethora of excuses to always avoid having to pay for dinner, for an evening out or a holiday. Consequently you carry the burden of our entertainment whilst my bank balance grows. Amazingly, you are aware that I out earn you but the application of my manipulative techniques results in you happily forking out for that weekend away, again. You do it because I have been so loving and charming to you. You do it because I have been so brutal to you yet you still want to please me. Whichever stance I adopt, seduction or devaluation, I secure the desired result. The win.

My lack of conscience and legendary capacity to tell lies sees me grind you into submission during any discussion about financial settlements so that you are left exhausted and just wanting an end to it all. Accordingly, you agree to a far weaker position than that which you might be entitled to. I threaten unfounded complaints to ensure I gain an upgrade, free vouchers or a better outcome for me. I have no qualms about fabricating such a position in order to secure the result I want. It’s another win.

The skill by which I control friendships sees me lob the metaphorical hand grenade into a friendship group and I will stroll away as it detonates behind me causing carnage. I watch from the side lines as friend turns on friend, based on the whispered smear campaign I have created for my own amusement. This is another win as I marvel at my power over people. Nobody has the presence of mind to direct their anger towards me. Oh no, I am too clever to be sucked into that and I can stand and observe the bitter recriminations all stemming from my behaviour. I will always move on to a new relationship without a backwards glance, my smile radiating from every picture and posting that I can muster. I leave you in abject misery as you watch dumbfounded as I find someone new in a matter of days (or more often I already have them lined up). You are staggered as to how I can do this so easily after my proclamations of undying love towards you. How can it be right that you, the one who gave everything and always behaved so properly is left distraught, confused and bereft whilst I waltz around town without a care in the world? Why am I never upset or miserable?  It seems unjust and unfair. Why do I always seem to win? Why do I get the cream, win the main prize and have the golden ticket? It is because of how I am designed. I am designed to win. That is my sole focus. By winning I gain admiration and power which gives me fuel. You know how I need that fuel and therefore to secure it I have to win. Unlike you, I have been created with the skill sets that allow me to behave without integrity, to function without a conscience and to sail through life untouched by moral concerns. Normal people are upset and troubled by my machinations, but I am not hampered by such concerns. They do not affect me. I have been fashioned to always secure the win because without it I cannot survive. That is why I have to win and that is why I always win. There is no hope for any other outcome. By the time you and others have worked out that I have been the architect of the chaos and destruction that surrounds you I am long gone. I have left town and ridden off into the sunset in search of my next victory, having conquered you before any consequences of defeat can come looking for me,

The Eyes Have It

The eyes are one of our powerful weapons. I hear so many comments made about my eyes.
“I saw the world in your eyes.”
“Everything I ever wished for, I could see in your eyes.”
“I’ve never known anyone give much such a malevolent stare.”
“You are dead behind the eyes.”
“That hollow look you give me, chills me inside.”
“Your reptilian, empty stare always unnerved me.”
When we first engage with you, we are able to reflect back at you want you desperately want. Hope, optimism, desire and trust are all mirrored in our eyes. Do not be mistaken and think that we generate those looks. We do not. All we are doing is ensuring that you see what you want to see in order to ensnare you. This mirroring serves two purposes. Firstly, it shows you what you crave for and makes us all the more attractive to you. Secondly, it masks the empty void that truly exists. Whilst my kind and me learn how to behave and act, we mimic the way in which we are expected to respond in the most favourable manner, we do not truly feel any of those things and we cannot generate it in our eyes. Everything else we are able to simulate – the laugh, the smile, the look of surprise, the intonation of elation in our voices. We have carefully crafted these facsimiles of your emotions but managing to do so in our eyes has always eluded us. We cannot fall at the first hurdle however and have you see through our charade. Accordingly, we have managed to master the mirroring technique. You want that love and hope so badly you will see it in us when you are really just seeing yourself. We hold your gaze for longer than anyone else. You are conned into thinking this just demonstrating the intensity of our desire for you. It is not. We must look directly into your eyes to shine back at you that which you send towards us. Should we look way, the reflection may fail and we must always have you in our eye.
As with all of our pretence we are unable to maintain this deceit for long. The mirror breaks and the shards of reflection fall away leaving the chasm of emotionlessness behind. The barren hinterland beyond our eyes is all that is left, bereft of anything at all. That is why in the later stages you will see nothing when you look at us. We cannot generate those real emotions and our mirror has now failed. Our real gaze is all that is left, cold, empty and lifeless. People often remark about how the eyes are the window to the soul. Our soul left long ago and that is why you look into dead, uncaring eyes. Even though our mouth is upturned in a smile, the crows feet at the sides crease and the brow rises, our eyes betray us. Glacial and sterile they show the reality of what we are; devoid of positive emotion and spiritually bankrupt.
All that we are able to muster is hatred. Our loathing of this unjust world is so intense that it will break through when we wish to direct that hatred against you. That is when the emptiness vanishes and instead you are subjected to our laser-like, pinpoint accurate malevolent stare. I mentioned in Cookie Jar how I had practised my withering stare one summer. This is the precursor to our malice, our antipathy and our scorn. With consummate ease we will call on it to intimidate you and signal our contempt for you. It is powerful, unwavering and unsettling. To be on the receiving end of our hateful stare is not a pleasant experience. We muster such power with our eyes, to seduce you and then to break you, but the reality is that we only have three settings. The mirror, the void and the hatred. There is nothing else. That is all that our eyes have.