Preparing for No Contact

Riveting revelations on how to prepare for no contact

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No.

Lots of people have trouble with saying no. It carries with it the connotation of negativity, obstruction and disappointment. People much prefer to say yes. I know that you and your kind really do struggle with saying no. You prefer to be regarded as a can-do kind of person, positive and accommodating. You also find it difficult to say no to people as you really do not like to see the disappointment on their face should you respond in this way. It makes you feel bad and accordingly, you either avoid saying it in the first place or you change your mind if you have said it. Occasionally, you will take refuge in the realm of uncertainty.

“I will think about it.”

“We shall see.”

“Let me reflect and I will come back to you.”

“I just need to check something, but I think it should be okay.”

You want to say no, but you find that you are unable to and therefore you trot out one of these insipid responses and ultimately you will end up saying yes. We know this is a common trait of yours and something we rely on and play on. We are aware that you do not like to say no and therefore we will press and cajole to ensure you say yes. Do not make the mistake of thinking that we need your validation and approval. Far from it. We do what we want. We like to hear you say yes because it underlines our power over you. We can always make you say yes. Sometimes you do it straight away (especially if we have you conditioned correctly). On other occasions it requires some persuasion and in the remainder of cases we need to pull out our manipulative tool kit to achieve the desired result, but we always get there. You are designed to say yes, we programme you to say yes and you do so even if it is ultimately detrimental to you. You feel you need to please and that need is greatest when it comes to us.

By contrast we are firm disciples of the word “no”. It is a word of strength. It is commanding and authoritative. Those who can say no have fortitude, steel and resilience. We say it regularly. We are untroubled by the fallen expression, the noises of disappointment and pleading. In fact, should you beg and plead we will just keep saying no and sit back and enjoy the fuel that you provide to us by your behaviour. Beseech us, blackmail us, bribe us and bombard us with requests, nay, demands to say yes and every time we will bat you back with a firm no as we savour your increasing anger, frustration and upset.

We do not associate the word no with negativity. We see it as a positive word. It is one that enables us to assert and maintain our superiority. We are able to use it to control you and keep you in your place. We are fully aware that whoever is on the receiving end of the word no automatically feels bad because they have been denied something.

“No I do not want to have dinner with you tonight.”

“No, you cannot borrow my car this evening.”

“No, you cannot go out with your friends tomorrow evening.”

It takes guts and integrity to say no. You struggle to say it because you are used to being exploited and taken for granted. You may try and dress it up as being someone who always helps and is a facilitator but the reality is you end up being used. Notice how in those instances above where I stated no, I did not give a reason for the refusal, I just said no. That takes real strength. I do not need to fall into providing explanations for my decision. It is my decision, the answer is no, that is an end to it. I can do this because I am not accountable. I can do this because I do not feel bad when witnessing the disappointment of others. This enables me to achieve more and avoid being burdened unnecessarily.

You can learn a lot from my use of the word no. Just do not think of ever using it towards me. That’s a big no.

The Voice of an Angel

I can still recall the first proper conversation I had with Amanda. We had spoken from time to time in the context of our class. These exchanges had not gone beyond a simple greeting or conveying a message. Though they were memorable to me, I doubted she attached the same import to them as I had done.

It was early October in our Lower Sixth at College and a geography field trip had been organised. It was physical geography much of which concerned the effects of glaciation. The impact of a huge body of ice on its environment. ( Eerily prescient don’t you think?) I found the study of over-deepened glacial troughs, lateral moraines, aretes and striations interesting although I always preferred human geography. I have always found the human element holds a fascination for me.

I sat on the coach with my group of friends and watched as Amanda boarded. She wore a bright yellow ski jacket (for back then wearing such jackets was regarded as the height of fashion) and held her bobble hat in her hand. I could see the straps of a backpack across her jacket and as she walked along the aisle of the coach, she caught my gaze and smiled at me. Those wonderful lips, fresh and devoid of the masking make-up that I would come to taste on other women as I grew older, curled upwards as she smiled for me. I was entranced by the widening of that mouth and the white teeth that were exposed and it was all I could do to break my reverie to return that smile. The chattering of my friends drifted away and just became background noise as I felt that strange warmth wash over me.

Later that day I was engrossed in taking measurements on the limestone pavement that formed part of our study on this field trip. The large incised surface of exposed limestone spread in all directions atop the hill. The sky was a mixture of blue sky and the encroaching grey of the clouds which threatened to lower and encompass us in their foggy embrace. It was dry and cold, a slight icy breeze brushing across my face, but I did not mind as I concentrated on my work.

“This is where they sat together,” said a voice. I knew in an instant who it was. Amanda did not speak with the local accent. It was something that I was drawn to because neither did I. Even now, nobody is able to place where in this country I hail from. The well-spoken neutrality we both shared was not something that lacked colour or depth but rather elevated us above the adenoidal whine and the blunted vowels of our peers. Some regarded us as posh, but that was incorrect, for neither of us could be said to come from such stock as the upper class. I only knew that I loved that voice. It was clear and precise, yet with  warmth that made me want to listen to every word, to each syllable and picture them forming in the air as they floated across to enter gently my ears.

I stopped my work and turned to see Amanda as she walked towards me, hopping over a gap in the rock formation.

“Yes I know,” I answered and gave a small smile.

“You know?” she said as she dropped down and sat next to where I was stooped, her long athletic legs dangling over the edge of the limestone pavement. I could not help but let my eyes look over her legs, clad in tight leggings, from booted ankle up to the hem of her long jacket. Slender and enticing lines.

“Yes, I do,” I replied as I set down my clipboard and pen and sat beside her, mirroring her position. She looked at me for a moment as if scrutinising me, her eyes rounded and enquiring. I said nothing, waiting for her next words as I held her gaze. How I wanted to lean in and kiss her, feel the warmth of her lips against mine, such a contrast with the ice-tinged day around us.

“Who sat together her then?” she asked with a sweep of her arm. She removed her gaze from mine as she looked out over the valley beyond, away from where we sat.

“Catherine and Heathcliff,” I answered.

“Very good,” she trilled and clapped her hands together in delight. She kicked her feet forward and let them fall back, booted heels drumming against the smoothed stone on which we sat. Her delight at my answer was akin to that of a child, yet I did not think of her as immature, but rather her naked enjoyment of my answer not only delighted me but made me feel closer to her.

“I love Wuthering Heights, it is one of my favourite books,” she explained.

“It is one of mine too,” I admitted.

“Really?” she looked back at me. The question was not accusing but rather one of pleased disbelief that I liked the same novel as her.

“Yes,” I affirmed, “I am studying it in English Literature but I had read it before anyway.”

“I wish I had chosen to do English Literature,” she admitted, “but there are only so many subjects you can do.”

I nodded in agreement.

“They sat here enveloped in one another, just the two of them as if the rest of the world no longer matter or indeed ever mattered. I would love to be so entangled with someone like they were, part of one another. It is so romantic, so beautiful,” she continued. I listened relishing every word that came from that wonderful mouth. Dare I admit I felt the same way? Dare I even suggest I thought this about her?

“You know, it was when Cathy and Heathcliff were here on this limestone pavement that Heathcliff said one of my favourite parts of the book.”

“I think I know which one but I would like to hear you say it,” I replied and then felt that I had sounded too keen and gushing. She looked back at me and gave me that smile again.

“Would you?”

I nodded.

” Close your eyes,” she said and I knew immediately the part that she was reciting. It was what Heathcliff had said to Cathy. I sat waiting for the next line, but instead she nudged me with her elbow.

“Go on, HG, close your eyes.” she urged. I felt a surge inside as she said my name and I immediately obliged, shutting my eyes and waiting until she spoke once more.

“Close your eyes, if when you open your eyes the day is sunny and bright so shall your future be, but if the day is full of storm, so shall your life.”

I waited as she fell silent. My skin tingled and I felt so alive as I was the subject of her words.

“Now, open your eyes.”

I obeyed and her beautiful face filled my vision. She was sat smiling at me as the dark grey clouds loomed behind her, menacing and ominous.

“What is your favourite part? It has to be from here though, from this place,” she pressed interrupting my thoughts of her angelic face and the darkness that surrounded her. I paused for a moment as I reflected and looked to the side. The words rose into my thoughts as I turned back to her. She was waiting, hanging on what I was about to say. I had her entire attention. She was focussed on me. Just me. I cleared my throat and began to speak, I spoke the words slowly and deliberately.

” I pray one prayer, I repeat it till my tongue stiffens. Catherine Earnshaw may you not rest as long as I am living. You said I killed you. Haunt me then. I know that ghosts have wandered the earth. Be with me always – take any form, drive me mad. Only do not leave me in this abyss, where I cannot find you.”

My words faded and she just looked at me. The smile was gone and instead a look of awe was etched on her face. I realised that her hand had taken my hand and she had done this part way through when I was speaking. She squeezed it and then let go, standing and moving away. I watched her depart as she looked over her shoulder at me and smiled that smile once again, just for me.

Stuck in the Middle With You

I had a consultation with Dr O. She looked as clean and inviting as ever. I am sat across the room from her but the scent of cleanliness is discernible. I bet if I tasted her she would taste clean. Her clothes are immaculate, her hair shiny and held in a ponytail and I can see her nails are clear yet manicured. The quality of her skin reminds me of someone I knew long ago. I imagine she attends to a vigorous regime of diet, exercise and skin care to ensure that her healthy, soft looking skin remains so inviting for me. Dr O was engaged in discussing my behaviour.

“What do you think of this statement?” she began, “Your behaviour is repetitive. You draw people to you, you hurt them and then you cast them aside only to draw them in again.”

I waited as I considered this comment.

“Before I answer, I would like to add a caveat,” I remarked.

“Perhaps you could answer it without the caveat. It will keep it simpler.”

“But it is important you understand the context of my response.”

“How about you answer the question first and then you can add your caveat?” she offered.

I reflected on this. It would undoubtedly please her if I did this. By pleasing her she will feel drawn to me.

“Fair enough. That statement is accurate, although,” I answered.

She held up her hand. I would usually plough on, after all, who on earth is entitled to stop me when I am talking? I still felt that by indulging her, it would benefit me.

“Thank you. How do you feel about this statement? You are stuck in this behaviour.”

She had followed-up with a further question, when she said to me that she would allow me to add a caveat. She misled me. I did as she agreed and now she has reneged on that arrangement. I was not pleased. I could feel the anger rising inside. I knew why she had done this. She wanted me to feel small. This is what they all did, just like her. They try to make me feel small and helpless and useless and pathetic and contemptible.  I could feel my grip on the situation loosening. There was a sensation of falling as I tried to reach out and grasp my surroundings, but they shifted and moved, spilling through my hands. I could sense the yawning chasm waiting to engulf me, that place of those lost emotions which I fight on a daily basis. They were rising up to haul me into the chasm. They wanted to surround me and consume me. I can hear her voice drifting up from below, echoing and distant yet somehow clear. That ghostly voice from long ago that lurks in the chasm and becomes unleashed when moments like this happen. I can hear the words, the scolding, the criticising, the demeaning words spilling from that cruel gash of a mouth.  Please stop it. Please,please,please.

“Yes, I feel stuck. I am stuck with her,” I suddenly said, the words coming out in a forced and breathless manner. Was Dr O in the room any longer? I could not be sure, she seemed to have become blurred as if she had melted into the surroundings.

“I am stuck listening to the unfair and unjust criticisms of everything that I do. I try and move forward, I try each and every day, by trying to extinguish her accusing voice, by finding those who will praise me so that their words will stop her from bringing me down. I have to surround myself with those who can help me diminish and then extinguish her, they are necessary in order to help me survive. I turn to others so that their voices will drown hers out, the kind words, the adoration. I have to have it in order to stop her. Even the screaming and the tear-filled sobbing and the shouting, that is preferable to hearing that woman and her acidic tongue. Sometimes it works for a time, her voice is lost amongst the cacophony of others but she always comes back. Why? What did I do to deserve this? I cannot get rid of her. Even when I think, this time she has been silenced, she somehow surfaces. I cannot stand it. Why do you do this to me? I never did anything to you did I? I just wanted you to tell me what I had done was good, that I got your approval, but you never would would you? I didn’t hurt you, I tried my hardest for you, but you always said I could do better, I could improve, I could go higher. I just wanted to please you, was that so bad? Tell me what I have to do, please? I just want it to stop, I want to be good, I always told you that, but you said I was bad for not doing what you wanted, but I did do what you wanted, you always changed it just as I seemed to be getting closer. Please, I want you to go now and stop hurting me, why are you still doing it, have you not had enough? Stop, please stop, I want you to stop, I want it to stop, I don’t want it anymore, I don’t want to be stuck anymore, I don’t want to be stuck in the middle of this any more, I don’t want to be stuck…in the…middle….with…you.”

I can no longer breathe and my words cannot surface any longer. My chest is tight and the air, the air is being stolen from my lungs now, the floor is moving and shifting. I can hear something but cannot make out what is being said, it is like a roaring. My hands are raking the air as if fighting off unseen attackers but they seem to move so slowly. Dr O comes into brief focus as she is moving across the room towards me. I am falling and the floor is coming up to greet me as the darkness takes me. The all encompassing darkness engulfs me as I hear,

“You’ve let me down again.”

Then there is nothing.

Further Confessions

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Further confessions from the dark-hearted narcissist. Why does he exhibit his attitude to money? What is his response to the question of your needs? Did he ever actually love you? What was that which he showed you during your dance with him? How does he know so quickly who will provide him with the most potent fuel? These questions and many others are answered in this unforgettable foray into the mind and behaviours of a narcissist.

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A Matter of Perception

e

In discussion with Dr E, he once asked me what did I believe myself to be. I said nothing. I have learned that it is a sensible step to remain quiet when Dr E first poses a question. He has a tendency to ask rather open questions which might be interpreted in a number of ways. If I immediately answer one way, he will then suggest that there might be an alternative viewpoint or way of considering what he has asked and he advances that different proposition. I know why he is doing this. He is trying to show that he is cleverer than me by coming up with something different to that which I declare. He wants me to assert my position first which will then enable him to try and unpick what I have said and thus infer that his comments are superior to mine. I know your game Dr E.

In order to counter this I say nothing. Dr E eventually has to (like most people) fill the silence. You know that I have no problem with maintaining silence for days, maybe even weeks. On this occasion he then followed up with,

“If I could elaborate, do you believe you have your own separate existence or that you are a product of how others perceive you?”

Good. Now I knew which of the two arguments he believed were pertinent to the discussion. He had shown his hand. All  I needed to do was select the better answer and my superiority would remain intact.

“We are all products of how others perceive us,” I answered.

“Why do you say that?”

The floor was mine.

“Whatever you may convince yourself that you are, you are actually defined by what everyone else considers you to be. This is because we must interact with others and how they regard you and thus behave towards you, makes you what you are. For instance, I can see that you are listening and paying attention to me. That demonstrates that you regard what I am saying as interesting and worth listening to. This in turn means that I am an interesting person and I have something of consequence to tell you. “

“I see. What if I said that I am only listening to you because I have been paid to do so and it is not because I find you interesting,” answered Dr E.

“The fact you have been paid merely puts us in the same room together. You are listening to me, therefore I am of interest to you.”

“Okay. What if I now got up and left the room so that I was no longer listening to you. Would that not suggest that I do not find you interesting?”

“No,” I replied, “that would signify that the conversation is at an end.”

“Very well. What if I got up part way through something you were saying and exited the room?”

“Then I would consider you as ill-mannered and thus my perception of you will define what you are,” I returned.

“But what about you? How does my behaviour in leaving whilst you were talking define you?” pressed Dr E.

“It would demonstrate that what I am saying is such that you no longer feel able to disagree with me and I have won the argument or discussion.”

“I see. What if we were not arguing?”

“I said arguing or discussing something, not just arguing.”

“Very well. What if I we were discussing something neutral, such as the weather?” pressed Dr E.

“There is no such thing as a neutral discussion. There will always be my view and your view.”

“What about if we agree?”

“Then you have agreed with me and accepted the force of what I am saying as correct and thus this reinforces my cleverness and superiority.”

“How about if you agree with me?” suggested Dr E. I laughed.

“I think you will find that you will agree with me.”

“And if I don’t?” he asked.

“Then you are being awkward and unhelpful but ultimately reinforcing that I am correct and thus I am accurate, precise and knowledgeable.”

Dr E paused and began writing something in his notebook. I waited for him to complete his note taking.

“So, you are the product of what everyone thinks of you?”

“Yes, see, I knew you would agree with me,” I smiled.

There was the slightest flash of irritation from Dr E but he cast it aside swiftly.

“I was summarising your position, not agreeing,” he said.

“If you say so,” I smiled again, “the fact is we are the product of what everyone else thinks of us. I am always admired, loved and respected by those that I meet and involve in my life. They admire my success, they acknowledge and respect my achievements, they marvel at my intellect and cherish the attention that I bestow on them. All of that makes me who I am because I must interact with all of these people. How they regard me defines me.”

“What about those that regard you in far less complimentary terms, those that refer to your abusive treatment of them. I have seen what some of them regard you as.”

“All of them are liars and lies do not define what we are,” I snapped.

“I see. What if they told you that all the admiration and love that they give you or gave you was false?” suggested Dr E.

“Now you are telling lies Dr E, none of that is false.”

“Okay, how about if the admiration and respect from those people was genuine, but based on a misconception about you?”

I have to give Dr E his due, he likes to pursue a point.

“Then they will forever cherish the misconceptions they have about me.”

Dr E paused. He made a note and then spoke.

“You believe that statement?”

“It is a universal truth.”

Dr E said nothing else after this but sat writing for some time until the session’s scheduled time had elapsed. I left his room feeling buoyant and charged.

What Grows in My Garden?

Would you like to know what my garden is like? Before I tell you, why don’t you stop and close your eyes and picture in your mind’s eye what you think my garden looks like? That’s right, conjure up the image that forms when you think of me and what my garden might be like. Take your time, move around it and ensure you have given it due consideration as you generate the image. Have you done it? Did it take you long? I suspect you managed to envisage it rather quickly didn’t you, after all, you are well-known for your amazing imagination aren’t you? I often find I have to apologise for your fantastic tales and over the top comments, but that is to be expected of somebody like you. Anyway, let’s leave your behaviour to one side for the time being (although I will return to it when nobody is looking, you can be assured of that) and let’s consider what you created in your mind.

I should imagine that the landscape you have formulated is one of two outcomes. I expect that some of you will have pictured nothing but concrete. All plant life and flora banished by a solid slab of grey cement that has solidified into an impenetrable barrier that stretches in all directions, lifeless and uninspiring. Once there might have been a flourishing and verdant garden but it has been banished by this concrete covering which has extinguished anything that grew or blossomed. If the concrete carbuncle is not what you saw in your mind then you will have opted for the alternative. You will have pictured solid, barren and lifeless soil which will not sustain anything of beauty. A toxic and poisonous stream flows through the centre of it, dead fish floating on their backs as they drift lifelessly along. Not even algae grow on this polluted stream. The few trees there are in this garden are dead. The bark grey and lifeless, forlorn limbs stretching into a dark grey sky, where there is always cloud. The branches and twigs are leafless. The bushes consist of brambles which hinder anybody who might try and move through this uninviting place. There is no grass and there a few brown, dried-out husks which suggest they might have once been something greener and vibrant. There are no sweet smelling flowers here, only the awful stench which rises from the slow-moving stream which looks more like treacle that water. Even the weeds are few and far between, struggling to find any sustenance from the sterile soil.

Is this what you saw?

Come and follow me as I take you into my secret garden. I produce a key from my jacket explaining that very few people ever get to see my secret garden but I am letting you inside because you are special and I like you. I open the thick gate and usher you inside. You do not see me hurriedly lock it behind you since you are busy staring at the beautiful garden that rolls out before you. Capability Brown must have laboured long and hard here. The lawn is flat and even, the grass has been rolled so that stripes have formed and there is not one blemish to be seen amidst the green, green blades. The edges of the lawn have been carefully cut so that no grass overhangs so that there is a distinct line between the lawn and the flower beds. The soil looks fertile, well-nourished and is free of weeds. A dazzling array of flowers grow from this well-tilled soil. Strong stalks reach up towards the azure sky, shiny leaves sprouting from the stalks before the injection of colour appears. Every shade of the rainbow is represented amongst the many varieties of flower that flourish in my secret garden. Brilliant blues, fiery oranges, ruby reds and sunshine yellows abound. The flowers have short petals, long petals which move in the gentle breeze, there are bell-shaped flowers, trumpet shaped flowers and others shaped like stars. White, purple, scarlet and ochre all combine to create this tapestry of beauty. A stream gurgles as it passes through the garden, cutting across the magnificently manicured lawn, so that an intricate bridge has been created allowing one to traverse from one side to the other. Bushes ring the flowers, an expert in topiary having crafted them into sensational shapes. Beyond the bushes are the trees, tall and trimmed so that they form a fence around this paradise. You stand on the edge of this magnificent garden utterly transfixed. The scents waft from the roses, from the lilies and the sweet William combining to create a heady concoction of fragrances. You are over awed by this display.

“Do you like it?” I ask.

You are dumb-founded, unable to speak. All you can muster is a slow nod as you feel a tear trickle down your cheek from your left eye as you are overtaken by how beautiful it all is.

I beckon to you and you follow me to a nearby apple tree which is festooned with fruit. The red and green apples hang from the branches and I pluck one and pass it to you. You smile and take a bite anticipating how fresh and crisp the apple will be. Your teeth easily sink in as you are surprised to find the flesh of the apple soft. You taste bitterness in your mouth and instinctively spit out the piece of fruit.

“What’s wrong?” I ask as I select an apple too.

“It is sour,” you explain. I take a bite from my apple and you hear the crunch as I take a chunk from it. I chew and through the mouthful explain that mine tastes fine. I hand the apple to you and you bite into it. It is soft and again tastes sour. Confusion rises inside you as you look at the apple and see a maggot wriggling beneath where you have bitten into the apple. You hurl the apple away as I invite you to sniff a magnificent rose nearby. You lean in and inhale its perfume, pulling the petalled head towards you. There is no scent and instead you sneeze. As you let go of the rose you give a short cry of pain and find that a thorn is wedged in your finger, the blood already spooring from the wound and trickling down your finger. You sneeze again,your nose irritated by something and you keep sneezing as your eyes water. You stagger away from the rose still sneezing and into a bush but it is not the sculpted creation you saw moments earlier. Instead, you feel a prickling sensation as you are stung and realise you have stumbled into a bed of nettles. Pain rising you stagger away, eyes streaming and make for where you recall the stream is hoping to use the cool, clear water to wash away the irritation you have suffered. You can just make out where it is through your blurred vision as you drop to your knees only to cry out again. You have knelt on some thistles.Where did they come from? This lawn was flawless before. You reach out flailing for the stream but there is nothing, The water has gone and the stream has dried up. You feel something wrap around your left wrist and as you try to wipe away the tears from your eyes with your free hand, you feel pain as a vine begins to tighten about your wrist. You pull trying to free yourself from it and twist around to call to me for help.

The smooth lawn is no longer there. Gone is the rolled grass. Instead you are looking at a mountainside, rugged and steep. You yank your arm as the vine is trying to pull you and look upwards. You can see me standing there smiling at you, looking down from my lofty position atop this mountain which has sprung out of nowhere. A cold wind begins to blow as you shout for help, another vine beginning to snake towards you. I tilt my head as if I cannot hear you, a smile still plastered across my face.

“Help me, what is happening?” you shout.

“Nothing,” I call back, ” I don’t know what you are talking about.”

“This. The garden, it has changed,” you yell above the gathering wind. You see that I am shaking my head.

” Not it’s not, everything is just the same, Beautiful isn’t it?” I reply.

You frown. How can I not see what has altered? The beautiful glade has become a hostile and hurtful place. How has this happened to you? You try and crawl forward and I stand watching you, offering no help as more vines snake towards you, the ground beneath you hard and stony. The vines wrap about you and threaten to pull you into the abyss below you. All the while I stand and watch smiling.

Welcome to my secret garden.

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?

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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