Sunday, September 6, 2020

In Anticipation Of….

 

Something that has become apparent to me in the last few months is just how much of my reactions to life are pre-programmed; muscle memory from a long time ago. Similarly to how I wash my hands or tie my shoelaces, there is no conscious effort to the actions, I simply do it because I know how to and I expect things to be a certain way.

I’ve always been isolated from the age of about 4. I’ve had friends but not many and I’ve always found it incredibly hard to make anything other than superficial connections with other people. Recently (mainly during the cunting Covid-19 lockdown) I’ve been meditating and doing a whole load more yoga than before and tried controlling my breathing. The meditation has proved beneficial and the yoga has, on quite  a few occasions, succeeded in shifting my mood from one of either lethargy or negativity, to a more positive state. Through the clarity these actions have brought I’ve been able to unknot the tangled web of my own hang ups and get square with a few of the barriers that were preventing me from moving forward.

To whit…

One thing I’ve always done is been slightly aloof around people I don’t know, or people I know but don’t completely trust. This was a self defence mechanism triggered when I was very young. The brain when you are a child will try to make sense of a world full of new experiences and filter out what is good and bad for you. Our minds and psyches come choc’ full of pre-programmed failsafes to maintain equilibrium until we become independent (try and make a baby crawl across a glass floor towards you, it won’t do it). My mind has always been dialled up to 11 in response to situations that had the potential to hurt me. This would be fine if it was only for genuinely harmful scenarios but not when it cuts into making friends, forming romantic attachments or self-esteem.

Two days ago I spoke to a guy I went to school with who contributed a story to my most recent book 6 of One: Secondary School Days. I never got on with this bloke at school and he was a bully towards me. Rarely physically but every day verbally. Earlier this year when I was putting the feelers out to get the book written (short stories by ex-pupils of Kenilworth School, UK) me and this lad had a chat on Facebook Messenger. He asked why I was bullied and then he typed “we got on though, didn’t we?”

I tried to change the subject but he persisted so I then told him “You used to call me a queer and I was always afraid of you?”

Not only did he have zero memories of this he thought we had been pals at school.

My reaction to his bullying was to assume that he had a mindset of knowing exactly that he was doing and what it was achieving. Turned out he not only didn’t remember it (something I’ve encountered before from former school bullies) but actually THOUGHT WE WERE FRIENDS.

My mind has always been flinchy. I have tip-toed through adolescence and adulthood (my childhood was OK up to about age 11) always expecting to get hurt. Not only did that rarely happen but I also made the occasions when it did the “normality” and the 99% of positive experiences the “exception”.

I have lived for nearly 50 years in anticipation of getting burned. This is one reason why, when I have got hurt, I have reacted with intensity and even grief. My paranoia felt vindicated and then showed my self-esteem the red card by replaying, constantly, whatever the incident was that had confirmed that life was scary and people couldn’t be trusted.

Recently I have tried being less guarded and have found the experience to be a lot less scary than I had always thought it would be. Two weeks ago I was having dinner with three colleagues at a teaching camp and I was relaxed. On a sub-conscious level I ALWAYS believed that other people would hurt me and all I could do was try to skate around that.

Living in anticipation of getting hurt has made me incredibly lonely and given me an edge that made other people feel slightly uneasy as it was clear that I was, on some level, unable to unwind. From saying sorry to the woman of my dreams after 8.5 years (who, it turned out, was never mad at me and thought I was upset with her due the fact I simply vanished from her life without explanation); to not leaving negative references for unpleasant Couchsurfing guests…in case they left one back in retaliation; to wearing gladiator-esque body protection on my bicycle due to the legendary cuntish driving in Rome (I now wear only a helmet for protection and have still not had an accident….ever).

Letting go of fear isn’t easy but it’s been something that has proved worthwhile.

Thursday, July 30, 2020

Finally Free...

Last week I published my 17th book. It’s called 6 of One and it’s a memoir, written by me and 27 other people who went to Kenilworth School back in the 1970s and 80s. This book wasn’t easy to put together (I tried on my own in 2013 but gave up due to the bad memories it brought up) but by making it a compendium of other ex-pupils’ stories we got a good book out of it and all the profits will go to Northleigh House in Warwick, a school for vulnerable children.

This book was something that, deep down, I always knew would help me to finally move on from the bad memories and bitterness that had plagued me since my teenage years, the majority of which were associated with this school.

Looking back on my social media posts, and also this blog plus its predecessor Lance Wandering, I’ve realised just how vitriolic and angry most of my stuff was. There were romantic and tender stories but also a desire for revenge and justice where I perceived that myself or others had been wronged. Being an angry young man is one thing. Being an angry man in his late 40s is another.

In my life I’ve had counselling, done seminars (most notably the Landmark Forum and its associated work), had hypnotherapy and written lots of books and blogs. While these things helped (mainly the writing) my issues have always been lurking just far enough away to be visible but not obtainable. I have made many efforts to move on with my life and forget my past but nothing had long term success.

I’ve found out in the last 15 years that I have both acute anxiety (although it has dissipated as I’ve got older) and enhanced emotional memory. EEM is the ability to recall things with vivid clarity when at the highs and lows of emotional feeling. So, I can remember every shag I’ve ever had but conversely can remember incidents that happened to me when I was 4 that were upsetting.

The problem with EEM is that it distorts the ‘reality’ of the situation you are experiencing and means that while you remember it, you remember a version that fits your view of it. It’s like photographic memory with a film crew and special effects team. This coupled with a really shitty case of anxiety means that I have spent most of my life making monsters in my head and creating mountains out of mole hills.

However…

I also had a lousy time at secondary school. I was bullied, lonely and for a time believed I was a freak. The experience was one of utter misery for four years and the lasting effects of this have stayed with me for most of my adult life thus far. Trying to move on wasn’t something I gave up on but it was a case of two steps forward and one back, every time. I couldn’t shift the feelings of frustration, bitterness and rage towards a past that I hated with vivid clarity.

In the 2008 TV show Ashes to Ashes, (itself a sequel to Life on Mars) badass Chief Inspector Gene Hunt turns out to be a ghost, a policeman who died on his first day of active duty in 1952 aged 19. Rather than moving on, his spirit entered purgatory and remained there as a shepherd for other cops who died with unresolved issues, to enable them to finally enter the afterlife. Gene Hunt is a man in his late 40s or early 50s but his attitude to life is still roughly that of the teenager he was when he died. As one character says to him “an immature relationship with both women and alcohol”. He became a hard-drinking, hardnosed, coarse, violent yet ultimately good man who represented what his younger self had imagined an ideal copper to be. He was stuck in this time frame, unable to move on due to having died before he could evolve emotionally and spiritually.

I was stuck at age 15 in many ways. I have always found it awkward to talk to people and created a persona of someone who was slightly obnoxious in order to avoid having to get too ‘real’. I drank a lot and for a brief time I also smoked cigarettes. I tried to be flippant and act like I didn’t care about much when in reality I was desperate to be with someone. I have made majorly awful misjudgements of other people’s characters that have resulted in me being hurt both physically and emotionally by those I had misread because I wanted to be able to trust them.

Very few people are islands. I envy those men and women you see on shows like New Lives In The Wild who live in shacks twenty miles from civilisation, in a forest accessible only by boat plane. To be that much at peace with yourself that you simply don’t want to continue within society. I would love to be like that.

But I’m not….at least not now at any rate.

Like most, I need to be loved and to feel valued and as Charles Bukowski once said “being alone never felt right. Sometimes it felt good, but it never felt right”.

When I started to write 6 of One again, during the really fucking awful initial lockdown in May because of Covid-19 (I live in Italy so our home isolation was almost total) I decided to open it up to anyone else who wanted to contribute. This was both a way of making my contributions less, but also to get different perspectives of a school that I hated but some people had alternate perspectives of and even enjoyed.

As the book was cobbled together slowly, with submissions coming in every week I began to feel both excited and also very, very scared. I do some meditation and I pondered on this mixture of emotions and I worked out that the 15-year-old me was terrified. Frightened of being left behind when the book was published and worried about the potential trouble that I would bring on that part of me through daring to publish a book that, very clearly, shows what an unprofessional bunch of cunts a lot of the teachers were back then. I reassured that side of myself that when the book was published, he would not be left behind or abandoned but would merge with me and we would both then become stronger as a result. Me because of being able to use that adolescent hunger for life to stay happy as I enter my 50s, and him for being able to see that the world wasn’t so scary after all.

About a week before the book was due to be published my anxiety was fluctuating wildly and I was dealing with it as best I could. Then the sink in the bathroom and the one in the kitchen got blocked. The landlord was on holiday and his recommended plumber was out of town. So, I went down the local Ferramenta and bought a plumber’s snake (very long wire with a handle on one end), stuffed it down the plug hole in the bathroom and wound it until a big, rancid glob of matted hair from years ago was dredged up, stinking to high heaven. The blockage was relatively small but as soon as it was gone the water began flowing freely again, in both sinks (they shared the same outlet). Also, the horrid, whiffy pong that sometimes greeted me (imagine old sewage) in the morning was gone.

The memories I had of school and my youth were the matted lump of hair. The book was the plumber’s snake.

I originally intended to publish on August 1st, holding out for last-minute story submissions from other people who had said they wanted to be involved but then I realised that we were over 30,000 words and I had enough to publish so, on July 21st, I submitted the memoir for publication via Amazon’s platform. Before I did, I created an image in my head of my 15-year-old self, next to me on the sofa and we watched the Netflix movie The Old Guard with Charlize Theron (which fucking ROCKS by the way!!!) I then went to the computer, got into Amazon.co.uk and as I hit the button labelled “submit manuscript for publication” I imagined that teenage part of me was moving on.

In the next few days, I felt changes in my emotions and my outlook. I also slept a lot; in a way I haven’t slept in many years. The energy required to carry that part of me for so long was now no longer needed and I was able to relax and have the luxury of unguarded sleep.

I feel more positive and more grateful for the things I have in my life. The scared and lonely child has finally had his voice heard. The book 6 of One does not pull any punches and both me and the other contributors have painted a very real and both funny and sad portrait, of life in a comprehensive school nearly 40 years ago. Back then I was told not to answer back and that frustrated and miserable part of me could finally move on after finally saying what he needed to.

This has been the most difficult book I’ve ever written (none were easy, book writing is boring, despite what you might think. It’s only the end result that makes it worthwhile) solely because of the emotions it has brought up. An unexpected side-effect of doing this is that I have realised that the perspectives I held with my Enhanced Emotional Memory, were not those of the other people involved. Most don’t remember that those that do are changed now, having evolved.

Suppression of emotion is always dangerous. In a child it can be catastrophic. Now, I’m free to move on.

Monday, April 20, 2020

Reframing Dad



I’m a big James Bond fan. Always have been and I can think of many movies in this long, long franchise that can still make me smile. The movies are a great way to unwind and dive into a world where a state sanctioned assassin is suave, sophisticated, shags loads, and never ages beyond about 50.
There are only two entries in this series that piss me off. One is A View To A Kill, which is awful on so many fucking levels and the other is Die Another Day. Now, AVTAK cannot be saved no matter what you do. Roger Moore looks pigging awful at 57 in the role and Bond girl Tanya Roberts’ mother was a year younger than Moore. The movie was the closest you can get to being a straight version of Austin Powers. Until you get to DAD.
Pierce Brosnan’s swansong was so over the top that it became farcical. Invisible cars, space lazers, ice palaces, race-altering plastic surgery and Madonna as a fencing instructor…to name a few. The film is irritating and so OTT that, despite some good moments, is something that die-hard fans will avoid when rummaging through the Blu-ray box set on a rainy Sunday afternoon.
Unreality needs to have ground rules. I accept without question that Jon Snow in Game of Thrones can be brought back to life. I accept dragons and white walkers and wights and the lord of fire. What I don’t accept is when Snow falls through the ice into a frozen lake, climbs out and rides his horse back to Castle Black and recovers without so much as a case of the sniffles. No one said that his return from death made him immortal so an experience that would have killed Bear Grylls is, quite frankly, taking the fucking piss.
Superman can fly, is allergic to Kryptonite and has lazer vision. Accepted without a murmur. BUT…putting his spectacles on and combing his hair differently grants him a disguise? Fuck off!
Indiana Jones keeps his hat on in a bar room brawl? OK. He jumps out of an aeroplane in a dingy with two other people and survives…with his hat on? WHAT KIND OF CUNT DO YOU TAKE ME FOR?!!”
And then the other day while disinterestedly thumbing through YouTube videos I came across one called “James Bond dies in Die Another Day”. In the actual movie, after being captured in North Korea in the pre-credits bit, Bond is tortured for 14 months and then traded for uber-baddy Zao by the British Secret Service and the CIA. He then fakes flatlining while in hospital recovering, and escapes to take revenge in typical Bondian fashion involving lots of shagging, explosions and gadgets.
The video that I’d found, presented an alternative angle on proceedings. What if…..Bond flatlined for real in that early scene and the rest of the movie is a dying dream. The final shot of the film is Bond and the female protagonist lying on a pile of diamonds while making out which then fades to black, which the documentary maker interpreted as saying this was where Bond finally died. He added that this is why Judi Dench is still M when Daniel Craig got the role and that the reason she is so fucked off with him for creating havoc in the embassy at the beginning of Casino Royale is because this type of foolhardy behaviour is what got his predecessor killed.
And…not only does this make sense it also makes Die Another Day a LOT less shit.
If Bond is simply hallucinating and dreaming of palaces carved from ice, fist fights amongst swirling lazer beams and cars falling like confetti out of aircraft then the movie is a fine homage to Pierce Brosnan’s tenure in the tuxedo and makes sense. Bond imagines that every woman he meets finds him phwooarsome (including a nurse who tries to give him the kiss of life) and that a Chinese contact he hasn’t seen for years wouldn’t bat an eyelid when meeting him again, even when he looks like Robinson Crusoe in pyjamas. The ludicrousness and weirdness of the film is sooo much more enjoyable if you take it that NONE of this is real, and it is all Bond’s final dream of a final adventure. The opening sequence is relatively grounded in reality compared to the later excesses and last night I watched DAD again and enjoyed the movie much more than I previously had, solely through approaching it with a reframe.
This attitude has been used for other films in the past. Ferris Bueller’s Day Off has a fan theory that Ferris is merely Cameron’s imaginary friend and none of the film is real except Cameron wrecking his dad’s prized sports car. He even brushes Ferris off once he decides to stand up to his father (for the first time in his life). This TOTALLY changes the experience you get when watching the movie.
So….let’s try and put this in other films. Maybe Superman has some kind of Kryptonian mind control technique that means that people can’t recognise him as Clark Kent. Maybe Jon Snow was granted immortality when brought back from the dead in Game of Thrones but we just weren’t told that. And maybe Indiana Jones is just incredibly lucky?
And then maybe the reframe can be applied to real life?
As I write this we are in a global lockdown because of the fucking, pigging, cunting corona virus. I spend most of my time indoors, getting a taste of what it must be like to be a geriatric and looking forward to the weekly trip to the supermarket. While I’ve kept busy (I’m still teaching, albeit online now) and read, meditate and do yoga on a daily basis there is a whole load of boredom to deal with.
If you reframe the monotony of quarantine it becomes less of a chore and more of a time to reflect, work through some anxiety issues and appreciate the solitude. I’ve been borderline misanthropic since I was in my late teens so this isn’t that much of a haul for me, staying in and having limited contact with other people.
I have a class on Saturday mornings. The students are between 12 and 14 years old and as it’s a 9am kick off, are invariably grouchy, cheeky, arrive late and have side conversations in class. I’ve taught them for a couple of years through two levels of English and while, individually, they are all nice kids, as a group they act as a catalyst for each other and get right on my frigging tits. Now it’s less of an issue because I can mute their microphones or even kick them out of Zoom into the “waiting room” if they push it too far. When I go back to teach them face-to-face I’ll apply the following reframe. It’s Saturday. They’ve just spent a week at school and the LAST bastard thing they want to do at 9am on the first day of the weekend is have nearly 2 hours English tuition as an extra curricular activity. This flips the perspective not to one of sympathy for twatty behaviour but instead to make me realise that I need to try and find other ways to stimulate them into learning rather than rely on methods that work fine from Monday to Friday. The 11am group just after them are no problem whatsoever and it’s basically the early start that is the mosquito in the yoghurt.
I can reframe interactions I’ve had with other people that have been both positive and negative. It’s not an attempt to empathise but more a desire to be able to view events without getting annoyed or emotionally attached to what is going on. Things that happened to me as I grew up were, I have found, quite often meaningless to the other people involved. Merely reframing events can reduce the drain that these memories place upon my psyche and my anxiety.
You don't have to try and get hippyfied over this and be constantly trying to seek reasons for bad situations. What I've realised is that if you reframe, even if only for your own benefit, then things can and usually do appear more bearable or even become enjoyable.
Things that meant so much to me in a negative light before corona lockdown have now become much less important than they were, solely through reframing with the eyes I now have.

A View To A Kill still honks though.

Monday, April 13, 2020

The Black Projector




In isolation due to the corona virus lockdown, I have spent many days on my own finding various slightly different ways to pass the time. Reading, watching TV, yoga, sewing, tidying the flat…all have helped alleviate the boredom of this monotonous experience. Leaning towards misanthropy when we’re not on lockdown has mean that I have coped well with what has, for some people, become soul destroying.
As I’ve moved through this seclusion, I’ve also done more meditation than usual and thankfully have found answers to things I’ve needed answers to…and this morning I saw the significance of a blind spot that has held me back for quite a while.
The childhood and adolescence that I had plus my adulthood have been quite lonely and that feeling of separation has become woven into my life. It’s now part of me and I feel comfortable with it in the same way an old coat feels good. You know it needs replacing but it has, to some extent, moulded to your shape and movements. It’s predictable and warm and while it may not feel right, it feels good.
But then I realised this morning that I have lived a HUGE chunk of my life with my view of reality seen through what I now call the black projector.

To clarify…
Most of the fundamental and necessary paths of progression from infant to man were not ones that I trod, or even found. I found it had to make friends, believed I was fundamentally flawed and powerless and was desperate for something to find solace and inspiration in. I got that through the worlds of fantastical adventure of books, comics, TV and films. From the Chronicles of Narnia, to 2000AD, to Batman & Robin, to Star Wars there was a whole, rich, vivid world of heroes and villains, good and bad to be explored where I could vicariously live out my life, like millions of others, in escapism. This world was my salvation and I loved it. I lapped up the stories by CS Lewis and loved the exploits of future law enforcer Judge Dredd. Hey, I even liked Hawk the Slayer and found my ultimate passion in Enzo G Castellari’s two Bronx Warriors films in the early 80s.**


In about 1984 Marvel Comics ran a story that spanned many titles of its franchise called Secret Wars. In one story involving The Fantastic Four, a little boy, while trying to emulate his hero the Human Torch, doused himself in kerosene and set himself on fire. The Torch (Johnny Storm) visits the boy in hospital and the lad’s last words are “I wanted to be like you…” Grief stricken and racked with guilt Johnny hails a taxi rather than flying home using his super powers and tells the rest of the Four that he wants to quit. The Secret Wars antagonist, the Beyonder, then kidnaps Storm and takes him back in time as an observer to the boy’s life, sat in his bedroom alone happily reading comics about the Human Torch. Furious at what he sees as an attempt to rub his nose in the guilt he is already feeling Johnny demands to know why the Beyonder is doing this. The entity replies “it was not because of you that he died…but through you that he lived”.


The way I viewed escapist media as a child was that it was a distraction. I could read a book in a day if I liked it enough and would watch films but attach no significance to them beyond seeing them as a pleasant distraction. And then life became a bit more tedious and painful and I began to rely just a little more on what were meant to be merely pleasant diversions. Without even realising it I got more attached to the fantasy worlds and began to believe that there were aspects of characters in them that I could aspire to and be like if I tried hard enough. Fight like Jason Bourne; sing like Pavarotti; get muscles like Schwarzenegger, the list could go on. I had become so accustomed to feeling like this that I no longer realised it was unreal. I knew the movies were fake, I knew the people were actors but I felt that somehow their actions could be emulated. Feeling so fragile and worthless I held onto the belief that there was another world, somewhere, where I was so very much different. In 2011 I wrote a book entitled The Catastrophe of the Emerald Queen and later a sequel called The Sunder of the Octagon, under the collective name The Tales of Alegria. These two books explore worlds of fantasy, right and wrong and justice that come straight from the worlds I loved to explore as a child from Lewis, to Enid Blyton, to Robert E Howard.

If you grow up lonely you will find anything to cling to in order to feel safe and entertained. A world where I could deny my isolation and depression was one where I was a hero and able to walk through the minefields of chaos with a smile and witty quip to pass the day.
There were two projectors in my mind. There was the one through which I saw the fiction laid before me and took it as it was mean to be seen. Then there was the black projector, slightly further back and hidden in a blind spot that I only saw this morning as I sat on the bed with my eyes closed and counted my breaths. The black one was the one that recorded this world and let the emotions they inspired stay with me, easing me through the anxiety, stress and crippling anger that came from feeling like I was worthless and unlovable. Today I saw that projector for the first time and it had no further purpose. It was something I had put there long ago to cope. I unplugged it and carried it to a fictional grinder (the kind that you see on YouTube videos that can mash up car engines). I thanked it for being there for me and then pushed the button and destroyed it beyond repair.
The clarity this has given me is substantial. I finally finished book 3 in Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time series yesterday, after roughly a year with the book sat on the shelf, only a handful of chapters left to read. The reason I left it like this (and have done so before) was that the world it so beautifully illustrated was not one I wanted to end, and by keeping it alive that little bit longer it meant that I could keep it with me. Sub-conscious defence mechanisms from a miserable childhood that serve no real purpose any more.
There are another 11 books in the Wheel of Time. I’m going to download the next one today on my Kindle and read it and enjoy it without being emotionally linked to what is happening.
Old habits die hard, but when they do, you are free.



-------------------------------------------------
** In 2015 I was interviewed as a 'special feature' for the Blu-ray of the second movie. A 13-minute documentary called 'The Hunt for Trash: Interview with Bronx Warriors Superfan Lance Manley'. This alone attests to the power of the Black Projector, but in a good way.

Tuesday, April 7, 2020

Stockholm Empathy



During the current lockdown for bastard covid-19 I have had even more time than usual to reflect. Staying in most of the week and being alone for years has meant I have special forces-esque training in how to live alone for ages at a time, going out only to go shopping or to drop the garbage off at the wheely bins round the corner. It’s also given me an insight into what my life might be like in about 30 years.
Watching a lot of TV (Ozark has proved to be a gem) and with an internet telly I’ve indulged in a lot of YouTube videos. Last night I saw “Everything Great About The Bourne Identity” which is a counterpoint to the channel “Everything Wrong With…”
In this offering, the host shows what he believes to be the awesome bits of the film, highlighting Bourne’s humanity and how he becomes more efficient under stress. He also waxes lyrical about how good Damon is in the role. All of which I agree with as this is one of my favourite movies and part of a franchise that I love (hey, I even liked Legacy). Then he mentioned one thing that caught my attention. When the formerly borderline catatonic Marie begins kissing Jason after he has chopped her hair off to give her a new identity after some chaos in Paris, the subtitle flashes up “Stockholm Syndrome”.
I had never thought of this scene in that context before. After all, Jason Bourne is Marie’s protector and has done everything to save her. However, realistically she is a vulnerable person who has seen extremes of violence and had her whole world turned over in the space of a few hours. I initially thought the kiss (and later it is implied they had sex) was simply gratitude and the need to “feel the heat” now that she finally felt safe again. But the psychology was more complex. After closing down mentally from witnessing a brutal fight that resulted in one man deliberately walking through a window and plummeting to his death and THEN seeing an old lady with a bullet hole in her skull, Marie was not at her best.
And this applies to my life in general…
I was brought up to believe that other people almost certainly had reasons to behave like cunts. The myth I was told was that if anyone had a go at me or hurt me or made me feel small, then it was probably brought on either by my own behaviour towards them or something awful going on in their life before they interacted with me, or both. This attitude was prevalent at home but also persisted when I was at Secondary school from the staff. Conversely, anyone who had a go at other people around me could be doing it for the above reasons OR could be doing it just to be a cunt. This flip flopping of polarity meant that only special people got attacked for no reason while others were victims solely due to their own bad attitude.
As I moved through life the sub conscious belief I had was that other people had REASONS to treat other people badly. After all, they wouldn’t lash out for nothing, right? The Stockholm syndrome that I carried with me, like a hastily drawn tattoo at Portsmouth docks by some backstreet artist, was that I should empathise with those who hurt me and others.
If you are watching a movie like Star Wars (especially the most recent instalments) then this attitude works. Genocidal Sith lords who murder innocent people and take great delight in being evil can be redeemed by one selfless act and you will be given backstory to flesh out just why they are angry/ psychopathic/ insane. Fine on a fantasy level but then if you drag this back into “normal” life then it will kick your anxiety through roof.
I have always envied people who see things in black and white and are able to shut down their empathy in order to deal with unfair treatment or having their own lives compromised. The conclusion I came to yesterday (joys of meditation during quarantine) was that my anxiety is mainly caused by constantly trying to find excuses for other people’s behaviour. The belief, on a fundamental level, that those who did things that made me feel sad, hurt or worse were doing it because of “reasons”.
End of the day, people always have reasons but when they conflict with your own life it is something that will drive you insane if you try to analyse their motivation rather than act to protect yourself. I have made some FUCKING lousy choices in my life over jobs, friends and lovers and afterwards, even if I was emotionally or physically hurt by these people I’d always try to think not ‘why did they do it?’ but ‘what did I do to make them do it?’
Stockholm syndrome in daily life is dangerous because it will give you anxiety and refuse to let you simply move forward. Every argument I’ve ever got into in my adult life until today, even if I’ve perceived the other person as being at fault, I’ve always wondered what I could or should have done or NOT done in order to have had a different outcome.
Last week I finally found out that the rotten pong in the bathroom if I left the window shut for more than about 15 minutes was caused not by the toilet but by a huge, rank glob of old hair, trapped in the shower drain. I fished it out and flushed it down the bog and now the bathroom smells a lot cleaner.
By identifying this misplaced attempt at constant empathy and the Stockholm syndrome that it produced, my anxiety appears to have also been flushed away.
Time will tell.

Saturday, March 7, 2020

Grotesque



I’ve been doing a lot of meditation lately. Well, a lot for a non meditator that is. 15 minutes in the morning and another quarter hour at night just before sleeping. I have found this process to be immensely difficult to get accustomed to (the conscious brain does not like to be shut off, even temporarily) but once I got into it, the rewards were substantial.

I’ve become more focused, less stressed and above all have had a handful of insights to things I never thought I’d get clarity on, let alone closure. Childhood loneliness, fear of strangers and a few other things have come to the fore and been dealt with. It’s an awesome little bit of mental defragging that I recommend to anyone.

A rather nice side effect of this exercise is being able to receive flashes of inspiration and insight even when not meditating. And this happened last night…and the revelation was substantial.

I have a big, 4K, smart TV. Every night I watch a few YouTube videos on it and the WatchMojo and What Culture channels have some pretty entertaining Top 10s. Last night it was Top Ten Banned Horror Movies. Some of the list were predictable (The Bunny Game, A Serbian Film) but one I’d never heard of. It’s called Grotesque and it’s so controversial that the UK censorship board the BBFC flatly refused to give it a certificate. A Japanese movie directed by Kôji Shiraishi it was outright banned with the justification being “Grotesque features minimal narrative or character development and presents the audience with little more than an unrelenting and escalating scenario of humiliation, brutality and sadism”.



During the discussion of the film in the Top 10 video, various non-squicky clips were shown and several were of a man and woman tied up, helpless while their captor stands in front of them.

It was, while watching this that I finally realised that, for most of my life I have felt like I was bound and captive while other people had the power to hurt me.

To elaborate…

For many years I’ve never enjoyed scenes where people are restrained and tortured in films. I can handle brutality and used to absolutely LOVE the Friday the 13th series back in the 80s. Jason Voorhees went from being a mutated mummy’s boy to a hulking, undead thug through 11 movies and one remake. Hey, I even liked Jason X where he’s in space! But the thing with Jason was that he was simply a killer, not a sadist. He would murder people indiscriminately (but never little kids or babies) and did it inventive ways that would have made the theatres of the Grand Guignol proud. Your death at Jason’s hands (or feet) would be quick though. He was so full of rage that he just couldn’t wait to squash your head to the size of a pineapple; or punch your heart out through your back; or stick a spear through you and your girlfriend while you were fucking. Jason was someone who offed people quickly and I could identify with that. He wanted you gone and would do it expeditiously so you wouldn’t be around to piss him off any more.



A few years ago I saw the Ryan Gosling film Only God Forgives. At one point a criminal has knives thrust through his hands into the arms of a chair and is blinded and finally killed. I didn’t like this scene and I didn’t like it so much that I left the room before it finished.
Similarly, in the superb Starz TV show Spartacus: Vengeance four gladiators are recaptured after the slave uprising and brought to a party of noble Romans where they are paraded to the gentry prior to their scheduled deaths ‘ad gladium’ the following day. A drunk Roman, annoyed by the contemptuous glances the shackled slaves are giving “their betters” pleads with the magistrate that they be allowed to kill one at the party. The magistrate concedes, saying “OK but only one” and a randomly chosen gladiator is led away. I wasn’t really paying attention at this scene and it probably would have faded from memory if it weren’t for what happens next. The scene cuts to the man tied up, arms behind his back, hanging from the ceiling by ropes and a wooden bar. A roman is cutting out his tongue slowly, while two guards hold his head still. The noble then turns around, waving the severed, bloodied flesh and proudly announces to the other partygoers “the tongue” and they all clap politely as a topless slave girl collects the tongue on a plate. They spend a jolly time taking turns cutting the guy, each time preceded by the warning “remember, don’t cut too deep!” not wanting him to bleed out or die before they’ve had their fun. Finally he is dispatched with a sword through the abdomen.



This scene has forever repulsed and disgusted me and I’ve never gone near it again (even screenshots of it make me feel upset). The other violence in the show (from someone’s face getting cut off, to Julius Caesar being anally raped) didn’t phase me in the slightest but this struck a chord that resonated on all the wrong frequencies and made me feel fucking awful.
The meditation and breathing control I’ve learned recently have allowed me to analyse the events of my life without getting upset about them. Nothing is worse in trying to solve past issues than being emotionally attached to what you are trying to deal with. A detachment is required and yesterday I finally had that breakthrough.

All my life I’ve felt like I was restrained and that I couldn’t or shouldn’t fight back against tormentors, the consequences of retaliation being more pain and suffering. I never knew I felt like this, even though I was pissed off and scared for most of my childhood and a huge chunk of my adult life. As time moved on I was able to relax but never completely. As a child I was bullied continuously and, mainly due to an incident at playschool when I was 4, was unable to fight back as I was told hitting back would get me no friends and that if I was nice to people they wouldn’t hit or bully me. As I got older I was constantly verbally abused by my mother who regarded it as a right to come home and take her stress and bad feelings out on me and my younger brother or my father….without retaliation being given. In the late 80s she said, matter-of-factly at the dinner table “I think if I come home and I’m in a bad mood and I feel like taking it out on you or your brother then when you’ve done anything or not you should just sit there and take it until I’ve decided that I’ve finished. This is my house and I’m feeding you and I’m keeping you and you’re not contributing anything to this house”.



I was also never allowed a lock on my bedroom door, which is understandable when you are a small child but not when you move into puberty and are conscious of your body or might even be masturbating. The one time I actually asked for a lock my mother had a tantrum about how she was very offended as her and my father didn't have a lock on THEIR door. 

I had no privacy beyond what time I could steal and went from about age 8 to 19, when I left home, constantly afraid of someone having a go at me, be it at school or in my house and had absolutely no place of solitude.

As I went to work, be it part time or after I left uni, it was the same story. People would have a go at me and while I sometimes stuck up for myself it was usually half-hearted because, deep down I was afraid that someone would make my life even worse if I answered back. I have had bosses that to this day I would like to set on fire, or I hope they die of intestinal cancer, simply because they took pleasure in hurting me, be it through put-downs or unfair treatment or even bullying and I felt powerless to stop them.

The rare occasions I did actually stand up for myself the results were usually worse treatment. Standing up to my mother over how she was treating my grandmother led to a 30 minute screaming and crying fit, while refusing to do what she wanted on another occasion got me an elbow in the face and being completely shunned for the next 7 days. At school, retaliation was called “answering back” or “being cheeky” and at work it was both of those things but also an excuse for some cunt to threaten you physically.

I moved through my life frustrated, bitter and upset constantly fearful of being hurt and expecting the whole world to want to take turns cutting bits off me while not cutting too deep in case I bled out.

Years ago a friend chastised me for the fact that my eyes are everywhere when we were having a pint together and I wasn’t looking at him. Truth was my paranoia had left me unable to relax and in a room fill of people drinking alcohol I was totally ill at ease.



Being insulted at a poxy job I had after leaving uni I replied “takes one to know one” and the little cunt who’d said it to me snapped “watch your mouth!”

Seeing those people tied up in that film Grotesque I finally made the connection that I felt I was metaphorically restrained and unable to defend myself. All I could do was try and keep quiet and be friendly to those who abused me and hope that they warmed to me or got bored of hurting me.

This led to loneliness and isolation because, by sub-consciously believing that I was bound and restrained and unable to answer back, I falsely concluded that everyone wanted to hurt me. They didn’t but my paranoia kept this myth alive.

In my adult life I have made some horrendous decisions around who I called my friends. This has led to being taken advantage of both financially and emotionally and even being hurt physically. I thought everyone was a torturer and was trying to appease people I believed fundamentally were out to hurt me.

Realising this now, I can move on and climb down from the restraints that I imagined myself to be in for so long. There are a few positives. Being like this for so long, coupled with being a teacher of little kids AND a cyclist in Rome means my situational awareness is pretty good (the children think I’m telepathic when in reality I just make full use of peripheral vision).

Being denied the ability to verbalise opinions led to me feeling neutered and restrained.

Now I’m able to walk freely.





Sunday, December 29, 2019

How to Have Christmas Like a Cunt



Christmas. A time for family, mulled wine and presents under the tree. But for the discerning cunt, Christmas can be an opportunity to excel in your tomcuntery and  be absolutely unbearable for those around you.

Here are ten ways to be a cunt at Christmas.


1.  Make It Clear You’d Rather Be Doing Something Else

Let’s face it, it’s is a time for family and the whole point of Christmas Day is, theoretically, to welcome members of your clan into your home or to spend time at theirs. Many of us don’t actually like this BUT it’s expected and good etiquette to swallow your pride and put up with Uncle Billy and his homophobia or Cousin Gerald and his propensity for breaking your kids’ toys. However, an aspiring cunt can instead let their relatives know that they are only doing this under sufferance and would much rather be hanging out with other people such as a colleague from work who always throws a really swinging party and knows her cheeses. To put the icing on the cunt you should lapse into sullen silences without explanation and answer in monosyllables when asked questions. Try not to trip over your lower lip when walking.




2. Don’t Fucking Listen

To be a cunt you should regard buying presents as an extreme obligation and everyone should be grateful for the fact that you spend your hard- earned money on them, regardless of how much bad grace and rudeness is involved on your part. If someone tells you several times that they are fine with ANYTHING you get them as long as it’s not X, you should pay not the slightest bit of attention beyond letting the word get into your subconscious so that when you do finally cough up for their Xmas gift, it is the very fucking thing that you were repeatedly and specifically told they didn’t want. A week or so later when they face you with the reality of your cuntishness you will say “Well, it was too late by the time you told me because I’d already bought it” not realising that this was the 7th time they’d mentioned it and, like the cunt you are, you ignored numbers 1 through 6. Which brings us neatly on to…




3. Buy Crap Presents

Unlike birthdays, Christmas is meant to be a time where you revel in showing people how much you love/ like/ tolerate them by giving them a gift. Big or small it’s the thought that counts. However, a cunt should instead use Christmas Day as a time to remind everyone that they control the happiness of those around them. Instead of giving presents that you believe recipients will absolutely love, chosen with care and attention, you should instead wallow in cuntery by deliberately buying absolute shite that you know will piss people off. This could include saying “I haven’t had time to buy you a present, I’ll have to give you a cheque instead” and then spending five minutes to-ing and fro-ing about how much the cheque should be for. Once you have arrived at a mutually acceptable figure (after repeatedly insisting that they tell you how much they want and then saying “Hah! I can’t afford THAT much!”) you should then put on your cunt jacket by making the cheque out for less than that amount on Christmas Day. Another way to excel in Yuletide cuntery is to not wrap presents up (because you “haven’t had time”); forget to take the price tag off; or go for imitation garbage instead of the name brand stuff (e.g. Building Blocks instead of Lego). You should also expect to be thanked with enthusiasm and gratitude that appear not in the least bit faked if you really want to take your cunt factor into the next dimension.




4.    Buy No Present

This isn’t for the faint-hearted cunt. Leaving someone without a gift on Xmas Day is about as cunty as you can get. However, a Supreme Leader of Cunts will use the festive period to remind people that not only do they control the happiness (see point 2) but also the very fabric of their existence. There should nearly always be an explanation for it, no matter how tenuous or forced, to justify this attempt to be Genghis Khunt. Examples include “you had your bicycle for birthday AND Christmas so that’s why you’ve got nothing for Christmas” or “your father got her something from both of us”. To take it to cunt factor 5 you should watch the person in question like a hawk, waiting for any sign that they are displeased with this situation and then say “it’s alright you sulking” when they look even remotely downcast, without establishing why exactly they are looking unhappy. To get the gold medal of cuntery you should also wait until the person in question opens a present from someone you both know and then say loudly “that’s NOT from me, that’s from X. I said they shouldn’t buy you anything as you’ve had quite enough already this year but they did anyway so that’s not from me it’s from X”.
God you’re a cunt!




5. Get Drunk and Insult Everyone

Most people like a tipple on Xmas Day. A glass of eggnog or sherry is always appreciated as you settle in with your relatives and wait for the turkey to cook. However, a trainee cunt should instead use alcohol as a pathway to being as verbally abusive as possible to those around them. This includes swearing without reason or justification (e.g. “Where’s the fucking turkey?”); farting loudly (and then glaring at everyone, daring them to say anything); making inappropriate and squirm-inducing sexual remarks about actors on the TV (e.g. “Wouldn’t mind a bit of Mel Gibson’s cock!”) and putting down those closest to you and defending your behaviour with playground level excuses (e.g. “I have a go at him because he’s stupid”). To really buy a holiday villa in Cunt Town you should also take furious objection to anyone else behaving even remotely like you and storm off if people try to retaliate to your behaviour. Examples include being pissed as a fart on Xmas Eve and crying in front of the telly while repeatedly telling your family that they can “all just sod off” and then storming off during the Opening of the Presents on Christmas Day because someone else was drunk and giggling loudly. You should also theatrically stand up, stand still and then stomp slowly out the room if those people you’ve been insulting for the last hour respond in kind and insult you in back, after they were taking it with quiet dignity for the previous 60 minutes. For that Honours degree in Cuntistry you should also then start crying about how you’re being “picked on”.




6.      Leave Elderly/ Sick/ Single Relatives to Fend for Themselves

Christmas is again for family, be it biological or extended. But to really make it clear that you are a cunt who doesn’t give a flying fuck, you should try and exclude all people that you absolutely don’t have to have over. This could include your widowed mother-in-law or a relative who has recently broken up with a lover and will be spending the Yuletide period alone. To really get in the Guinness Book of World Cunts you should exclude people who you used to really enjoy having over for Christmas, solely because their usefulness is now at an end due to being elderly, sick or both. To justify your cuntishness you could say “We always take him/ her for Christmas, why don’t one of his/ her other relatives offer to take him/ her?” If you are not yet ready to wield the darksword of a warrior cunt you should take the less cunty option of  inviting them over, but then stick them in the corner and ignore them for the entire day, communicating with them solely through other family members. If you have relatives who have nothing to do over Xmas due to being single or working odd hours, you should decide to fuck off on a holiday abroad for the Yule period effectively leaving them stranded and alone for the 25th. To amp the cunt volume up to 11, you should make a courtesy call two weeks prior to say “We’re going away this Christmas, is that alright?” knowing that the words “No, I want you to stick around so I’ll have something to do” are not ones you will hear. Enjoy that cruise/ villa/ skiing break you uber cunt you.




7.      Lie About Why You’re Being Selfish

This one only really works if you have kids who are still old enough to rely on you for their Christmas presents but have already been told that Santa Claus isn’t real. For example maybe you spend the first 14 Christmases of your offspring’s life waiting until they fall asleep and then put the presents in pillow cases in their bedroom, and then get up at 3am to watch their little faces light up with joy as they open them. To be an utter and total Grand Moff of cunts you should one year, without warning, NOT do this and when your confused children arrive in your bedroom at 6am to find out where their presents are, you will have them at the foot of your bed. When asked why you’ve done this you will say, with a straight face, that “part of the pleasure of giving presents is seeing other people’s faces when they open them, so you’re being selfish wanting to open your presents alone and not letting us see you do it”. Your teenage children will begrudgingly accept this excuse but to take that one way ticket to Cuntsville you will get tipsy a week later and tell your friends, in front of your kids, that the reason you did it was because you object to being woken up every 25th of December at half past twat in the morning and this year you were determined to get a full night’s sleep. To get your cunt epaulettes you should also fly into a tantrum if one of your kids calls you on this behaviour and points out that you lied. Retorts could range from “you don’t know HOW hard I work in my job!” or “some children’s parents don’t buy them presents, some children’s parents spend all their money in the pub!”




8.      Control the TV Like It’s the Holy Grail

Less common nowadays, due to the proliferation of tablets, smart phones and even multiple TVs this one still works, especially if you have a 4K or 8K telly. While most people will be happy to go with the flow and watch whatever, you will insist on watching the Eastenders Christmas special (even though you only watch the main show sporadically at best) and make it clear that if everyone doesn’t respect your right to choose what YOU watch on YOUR telly in YOUR house, then they can all just “sod off”. If the joys of 8K would be best illustrated watching the Ultra HD version of The Matrix you will instead want to watch anything other than that, even if it’s the Queen’s speech, which you are usually known to actively avoid. Whenever other people DO get their own way, you should talk constantly throughout whatever the programme is and give away spoilers if it’s something you’ve seen before. BBC. Best Be a Cunt.




9.      Play Board Games Like a 7 Year-Old

Board games are, let’s face it, a part of the Christmas period. From Monopoly to Trivial Pursuit to Scrabble to Cluedo. Sometimes it can be boring but it’s a bit of fun for all and a chance to show off a bit. If you are an apprentice cunt however, you should instead use playing games as a justification to piss on everyone else’s fun. This could include walking off in a huff if you repeatedly get questions wrong; refusing to continue if Monopoly takes too long because “there’s that thing I want to watch, on now” or trying to cheat but going ballistic if anyone else gets caught doing that. I was privileged to witness one very special cunt insisting that ‘oust’ was a word in Scrabble, and getting the dictionary out to prove it, only to have an utter cunthuff when the next player put a ‘j’ in front of it and got Triple Word Score.




10. Do Not Tolerate Any of Points 1 to 9 for Yourself

If you really wish to be the Pope of cunts then you should follow points 1 to 9 religiously, but fly into an absolute warp frenzy if anyone tries the same tactics on you. This could include verbalising that you don’t like a present (right after opening it); exploding if anyone ruins a film/ TV show you haven’t seen yet; taking umbrage at being spoken to rudely; or conveniently forgetting your own cuntishness whenever anyone else acts up, even if it’s a pale reflection of how you’ve been behaving. To pass your cunt test with flying colours you should also lament the time, a long time ago, when someone treated you badly at Xmas, even though it’s apparently not as bad as how you’ve been behaving.

So there you have it. How to be a cunt with all the trimmings at Christmas. 




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