Tuesday, 29 November 2011
I know… that was a pretty strong statement to make. Believe me, it’s not one I make lightly.
The movie, Fishead, made a point that I found absolutely fascinating. Talking about famous psychopathic leaders, it invited us, the audience, to consider whether it is solely the psychopath who is responsible for the bad things that happen. Couldn’t it also be argued that it is the rest of us who are also in part responsible, because we are allowing the destructive behaviour to continue? Albert Einstein said, “The world is a dangerous place to live; not because of the people who are evil, but because of the people who don’t do anything about it.”
Stand Up, Speak Out
I had to agree – it made perfect sense to me. In particular, I could identify with this from my years of experience working with teams and individuals in my professional career. Too often people will choose to keep their heads down, say nothing or let things wash over them in order to keep the peace. They’ll smile and say that everything is ‘fine’… Despite the fact that they may be desperately unhappy with a situation or a person they work with! Everything is far from fine. And no, it’s neither OK nor right that people should be expected (even encouraged!) to carry on regardless. This isn’t what the human race is about! This isn’t how we’ve made so much progress! This isn’t how it’s meant to be! My job, in those instances, is to encourage people to speak out and find a way to openly and honestly address issues in a healthy way that benefits them as an individual as well as the wider team. And it works. Every time.
It was the next part, though, that really made me sit up and take notice. Because just a few moments later, the film explained what percentage of the remaining population would need to do something different in order to have an effect on the rest. Before the answer was given, I had a stab at guessing what the figure would be, and felt confident that they would say around 20 – 30%. But you know what? I was totally wrong. The film said that it would take just 5% of the population to wake up and make a stand against the unacceptable – even just the small things – to make sociopathic behaviours that much harder to stick. Just 5% of us… that’s all. Just that small amount to stand up to actions we know are wrong. To say “no” when we’re not happy. To demand a change when something goes against our values. Because when one of us starts standing up for what is right, then it encourages others to do the same. It wakes people up. It gives people permission to speak out and stop tolerating stuff that is harmful or hurtful to ourselves and to others.
“Having good morals” somebody said in the film “is contagious – just as much if not more so than bad morals!”
The thing is, though, while we block our instincts, shut down our emotions, and glide around in a pretend bubble of “everything’s fine” we are providing the perfect breeding ground for predators. They’re free to fine-tune their approach, hone their skills, and continue with their actions against humankind because we do nothing to stop them or at least ‘call them’ on what they are doing.
Behaviour Breeds Behaviour
Yes, this is a scary world. It is also a world of opportunities and magic. A world where we can make more of a difference than most of us realize. And, in my opinion, the more people who become aware of how little is necessary to make a massive difference, more will join our growing army of fighters determined to do something to stop the predators, warn others against them and help those of us who have already been hurt by them.
It doesn’t take much you know. It really doesn’t. From my own experience, I know that as I have become stronger at simple things like setting boundaries and saying no, then my perspective of the world and, therefore, my experience of the world continues to change for the better. I feel more confident, and more in control. My heart is more open and I can clearly see with love and kindness. Each day I am more joyful, and each day brings more wonderful surprises. Did anything change on the outside? Does it mean that I have managed to rid the world of people who would do me harm? No, it doesn’t. It simply means that what I am now allowing in to my world is a deliberate and conscious choice – and I no longer stand for any kind of nonsense.
Can you imagine what would happen if more of us took the conscious decision to say no to anything that wasn’t useful or pleasing in our life? Can you imagine how inspiring it would be to others? Can you imagine how wonderful things could eventually become – and how impossible it would be for sociopaths to thrive as they have been…?
My friend Rachel pointed out when I was telling her all about last week’s course “Well, we can’t keep all the psychos locked up – so we’ve got to learn how to fight against them!”
So I did some simple sums in my head. Granted we don’t know for sure, but let’s say that 1% of the free population is psychopathic. We all do know for sure that these people will all have many victims – most running in to double figures when you take in to account that they may have hurt colleagues as well as friends and family, let alone the mega-sociopath who may have hatched a scheme that defrauds hundreds or thousands! So, for argument’s sake let’s say that if each has ten victims, then at least 10% of the population has had personal experience of a psychopath – regardless of whether or not they recognize what they were dealing with. That doesn’t necessarily matter. What matters is the fact that they have been hurt. That in some way (or many ways) they have experienced the destruction that these individuals continue to wreak on us, their unsuspecting victims. The original nice guys who naturally choose trust over suspicion.
It Only Takes 5%
So, what do you think might happen if just half of those people could learn how to re-set boundaries? How to speak out? How to stand up? How to reclaim who they are? How to consciously choose a life that’s filled with happiness and positive experiences… ? We’d have the 5% that the film talked about and, as I’ve already said, it’s just as simple to copy the happy stuff – if not easier in fact! The good stuff, the positive results, can be hugely contagious. What chance would the baddies have in such a positive environment where people would no longer stand for negative behaviour? Of course I can’t prove it… but I’m pretty sure that they couldn’t survive.
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again because I feel it’s important. It’s up to all of us now. We all have the power to heal and to make a difference – no matter how impossible it may seem at times. Yes, I know from experience that it isn’t easy. I also know that we are all at different stages of our journey and I also acknowledge that not everyone will be interested in reaching out any further. It doesn’t matter. Because either way, all of us here have first hand experience of “the dark side” – we know what it means and we understand the dangers. And our numbers are growing.
I believe that we are the ones who can band together and make a real difference. From where I am standing, it is our painful experiences that make us authentic, giving us the hard-earned power to understand and empathise at the deepest level. We’ve been there, seen it and got the T-shirt, and perhaps have more reason than others to make sure that we find a way to stop these people continuing to hurt us and others.
What do you reckon…?
Tuesday, 22 November 2011
I talk a lot about the importance of reclaiming ourselves. About the healing qualities of accepting who we are in our totality. For me, it hasn’t been an easy journey. It’s taken focus and a stubbornly held belief that I deserved a better life to push me through the fear and uncertainty and allow me to embrace who I am to the full. But boy it’s been worth it!
Just last night I was with a fellow delegate, who asked me on a scale of one to ten how happy I was with my life at the moment. I thought about it – not for long – before answering with a confident “nine and three quarters!”
At the time of writing this post, I had no real ‘proof’ of how my life was going to turn out. I had no ‘guarantees’ that things would work out well. But I DID have a deep down feeling (cultivated over months of telling myself that all is well despite the external circumstances) that there was something much better waiting for me. At the same time, I was terrified. I was heading in to unchartered territories, and the feelings of fear were sometimes overwhelming. But I did it – and I’m so very glad. Because now, less than 18 months since that post, my life has changed beyond recognition.
Yes it took courage. Yes I had to stand strong. Yes I had times of doubt. But you know what? In hindsight, I wouldn’t change a thing. I hope this piece is helpful.
The Mouse That Squeaked
…because I sure don’t feel like roaring. I’m scared, you see. Don’t get me wrong… I’m not scared of what’s happened – nor of the battles I know are ahead of me or the constant waves of challenges that face me on a daily basis.
No – I’m not afraid of those, because I’ve faced things like that before. You see I know how to deal with them. I know how to be. I know how to act. I know what’s expected. I know how to get through. So no, I’m not afraid of those.
But there is something else that is building. Something else that is gathering strength. Becoming real. Demanding attention. Developing an identity. Something I have ignored – or perhaps been all too acutely aware of – for longer than I care to remember.
And now this thing. This energy. This entity (is it any wonder I was so terrified at the film Poltergeist for goodness sake?) seems now to be demanding space. It’s gathering form. Sound. Expression. And suddenly, those around me are echoing its very essence. Which frightens me. Because it tells me that this internal fear… this hidden doppelganger… this hideous nightmare that lives within me is about to be exposed and exorcised.
Bloody hell. I am about to be in the position where I HAVE to face my fears – whatever they might be. And you know what? Deep down I already KNOW what they are. Perhaps we all do. I can’t know that for sure. I DO know, however, that with each passing experience, each month, each year, each day, each living moment… I know I’m moving closer to freedom I’ve craved for so long. And I also know that this particular fear is the one that’s most debilitating.
Because I’ve discovered through this long journey, that the one thing that I have allowed to hold me back, the one fear that I’ve so far failed to overcome, the one thing that I’m actually afraid of…. is…. me!
I’ve realised I’ve spent so many years protecting myself – starting with the first time my world shattered when I was just four years old and gaining more and more strength with each additional body-blow, that I’ve forgotten who the real Melanie is. And over the past year or so as each of my barriers have been falling down (well, annihilated would be a more accurate description – with a full demolition gang and explosives in actual fact) well then the real me has been getting closer and closer to the surface. And I’m now at the point of no return, because the little vulnerable me that has been buried away for so long will no longer be ignored. It’s her time now. She’s gaining strength and is demanding to be noticed.
And I’m scared. Because I don’t know who she is. I don’t even know whether I’ll like her. I don’t know whether she’ll like ME either. And I don’t know how she’s going to impact on my life, and what new changes it will mean. Because surely this is indeed the herald of yet more change.
I had built her a castle you see. A fortress. To keep her safe and protect her from harm. I trained the best soldiers to fight for her, and dug the deepest widest moat to keep harm away. And it worked very well. People admired the strength and beauty of the castle I’d built – it’s served me well and I’ve been perfecting it for over 40 years. But now it’s crumbling, and now the princess, my precious little girl who lives inside, wants to come out and live in the real world. And I cannot stop her – and I’m scared.
I’m scared in case she’s not ready. In case it’s too soon. In case she gets hurt – or worse. How will she survive?
I’m scared because I think she may feel I’ve abandoned her. That I’ve betrayed her trust. I worry that although I locked her away so long ago for her own safety, she might be very angry with me. She might be furious in fact! Do you think she’ll ever forgive me? I don’t know…
And I don’t know how to welcome her either. I don’t know how to let her in – or let her out. And I don’t know where to turn. I just know that the increasing restlessness within my soul, the physical churning in my stomach and the constant electrical fizzing in my mind means that the time is near when I can no longer put off the inevitable.
My friends know what’s happening – I can sense it in the way they’re responding to me. The little nudges forward, the reassurances that I’m on the right track, together with the exploration of new connections – deepening of existing friendships and the influx of new ones. They are all guiding me forwards. For they are now my army of soldiers.
So now I must give up my castle. I must walk forwards, move free from the rubble and trust that this new world is ready for me.
I’m scared. But I’m doing it. Please catch me if I fall.
(With love and blessings to everyone here on Lovefraud – Mel xx)
Tuesday, 15 November 2011
I am delighted to tell you that I will be attending that very same course next week. I am hugely excited about the prospect and am very much looking forward to meeting Dr Hare himself so that I can thank him for helping me in my personal journey to reclaim my life while (just!) keeping my sanity. This is why I have once again been devouring further material on the subject. And this is how, on Dr Hare’s website, I came across a fascinating new film that explores psychopathy. It was released on 11th September this year and is called Fishead.
Fishead – The Movie
There is an ancient Chinese saying that says a fish rots and stinks from the head, which is how the makers of this movie settled on the name. It relates to the heads of industry, as well as to the human brain – which is arguably rotten in the case of psychopaths. The film explores the idea that our society is being progressively more controlled by sociopaths, as well as the suggestion that our increased use of medications such as anti-depressants is contributing to a manufactured set of psychopathic traits. Decreased empathy and reduction of emotional responses are, of course, side-effects of drugs that are designed to numb emotional pain – although I must say I had never thought about it in the way that the film portrays. If you are interested in exploring the movie and its makers, you’ll find all the details at www. www.fisheadmovie.com The film is free to watch, you just send off to them for a password.
So, anyway, all this additional material has been sparking new thoughts and prodding at old ones as well. And I am reminded of the expression “walking the talk”. Yes, it may be said that it’s now a well-worn cliché, and, for me it is still a short accurate description of authenticity. I myself know full well when I am walking my talk – and over recent years, it has been that approach that has pulled me through some of the darkest periods of my life!
As I am now re-exploring the workings of antisocioal personality disorders, it struck me that the sociopath can only ever talk the walk. They can never, I repeat never, walk the talk in the way that you and I can. I’ve heard other phrases like “they know the words and not the music” and the idea that “they can only dream in black and white” – but to me, now, when I think of “talking the walk” it describes my own experiences absolutely to a tee.
Just last week I met up with a client I am now proud to call my friend. This lady came to the conclusion that she could no longer thrive in the company where I met and have been working with her. Describing the place as“somewhere that seeks out and silences of gets rid of people who care” she has now moved on to another company that communicates authenticity at a human soul level. Not through some well thought out set of words that purport to describe the company values. Not through a carefully crafted website. Not through flashy promises of a golden career. Not even through white-teethed hand-shakes and a swanky dinner to seal the deal.
No, this company has actually been walking the talk. My client (I’ll call her Sarah) has already experienced the heartache and frustration of working within an organization that says one thing and does another. She knows first hand what it feels like to be encouraged to stand up and stand out, and then be shot down for having an opinion. She knows the debilitating confusion of being undermined, undervalued and pushed to the limit – for me, it’s just a shame that she had to experience that in order to fully appreciate the difference. The good thing is, though, that from now on she will settle for nothing less than an environment where she is valued and can make a difference. Never again will she allow herself to be belittled or underestimated. I absolutely believe her, and I’m glad.
“Do you know what Mel?” she grinned after telling me a particularly shocking account of a senior director’s inability to demonstrate compassion for his team “this new bunch wanted to know my birthday just so that it could be marked off as a holiday – on top of the usual holiday allowances!”
It doesn’t take much to help a person feel motivated. It takes a whole heap more to knock a person down. And it can take a huge amount more until we are prepared to move on and walk away.
People like you and me, you see, will automatically judge other people by the same set of values and behaviours that are naturally to us. Like us, people by nature tend to be forgiving “Oh, that’s ok, it’s just the way s/he is sometimes. It’s no big deal!” we might say when somebody does something that is upsetting to us or to others. “S/he’ll get over it, let’s just give them a chance!” And this is how the deliberate manipulator continues to win their games. This is how they keep on going, parasitically sucking the lifeblood from people (and organizations) just to fuel their personal whim – whatever that may be at the time. And because we naturally judge others by how we are ourselves, we cannot begin to comprehend that somebody else is playing by a whole different set of rules.
The sociopath may be an expert at mimicking and manipulation, but s/he will never ever have the same richness of experiences that we can enjoy on a daily basis. They will never know what it feels like, what it reallyfeels like to fall in love for example. To feel genuine friendship and connection with another human being. To experience joy, fear, sadness, peace, excitement and the myriad of other emotions that are at our disposal.
They may well think they are clever. I’m sure they think that they have one over on us because they can talk the walk to such a professional degree that they continue to control their willing targets. But you know what? Once we know what we’re dealing with, once we recognize the subtle gaps in their shows of emotion and understanding, then they have lost their power.
Yes, it’s a living nightmare working through the pain and confusion that is the aftermath of a sociopath’s influences. But you know what? So far as I’m concerned, I’d walk my talk a million times over rather than be doomed to the sociopath’s empty existence of gray numbness. And the more people who experience that void – through work, relationships, family, friends, or the growing educational resources – the more of us can join together and make a stand against these empty souls.
I don’t doubt there’s a battle ahead. And at the same time I am filled with confidence that together we can make a difference. I’m ready, and looking forward to exploring opportunities to increase our army. I’ll let you know how I get on with Dr Hare…
Tuesday, 8 November 2011
We all deal with things in different ways. For many years now, I have believed in the notion that it’s not what happens to us that helps us grow, it’s how we choose to respond that makes the difference. It’s our responsibility; our ability to respond that determines whether or how soon we can find and welcome the gift in any given situation.
Billy Connolly Live In London
This weekend I was luck enough to see Billy Connolly live in London, in aid of Leukemia and Lymphoma Research. For those of you who may not have heard of him, Billy is a famous Scottish comedian – and an accomplished musician and actor to boot. Known as “The Big Yin” ('The Big One' in Scottish dialect) he works tirelessly for charities having endured a particularly difficult childhood himself. Billy is a big man with a big character and strong opinions. His language is hugely colourful (to put it politely!) and his humour is often a little on the dark or unusual side – he has a knack of taking his audience to places that they don’t really expect, and then having them falling about in hysterics as he continues with his wonderfully imagintive explanations. I bought the ticket because seeing Billy live was on my bucket-list, the things I’d like to experience while I’m here on this planet.
It was a wonderful experience. Not just because of his humour, but also because of a very serious message that Billy chose to share with the audience. Alan Yentob, the famous and hugely respected television producer, was interviewing him on stage, and he encouraged Billy to talk about his childhood. It is a well documented but not often discussed story of abandonment, neglect and abuse – physical, sexual and emotional. It’s a story about abject poverty. It’s about enduring a harsh life in some of the toughest areas of Scotland. It’s about survival – and ultimately it’s about the fulfilment of dreams.
Billy stood up at one point, clearly moved by his memories, and reached out to everyone in the theatre. Looking around the auditorium he seemed able to touch each one of us with his voice, with the look on his face, and with his open armed gesture.
“You may be surprised to learn” he told us “that there are many more people who have been through abuse than you might care to imagine. I’ll take a bet that if we asked every single member of this audience, the vast majority would understand what I am talking about” Barely perceptible head nodding started as soon as those words were out. The theatre went silent – as usual Billy had succeeded in shocking us. This time, though, it was not through his off-the-wall humour. This time it was because of his honesty. It was because of his willingness to share his story, and to reach out to others. This was a completely different side to “The Big Yin” and I felt immediately humbled. Just moments before I had been doubled up in my seat, sides aching with laughter as the tears rolled down my face. Now I was alert, straight faced, wide eyed, and incredulous about the way this incredible man was connecting with the audience.
Alan asked how he had possibly managed to overcome such hardships. How he had managed to endure the pain and indignity of his childhood to become a man who brings so much joy to so many people. Billy’s voice cracked a little at this point. He drew himself up taller and spoke to us all again.
Forgiveness And Encouragement
“I implore you – all of you – to embrace forgiveness” he explained, emotion clearly etched across his face “It works, it really does! It’s like getting rid of a whole sack full of heavy rocks that had been weighing you down. It’s wonderfully healing you know. It’s a marvellous experience. It frees you. And I recommend it – not just for anybody who has been through difficult times, but for all of us. For every single one of us”
He then also went on to explain how frustrated he still gets when he hears people talking about victims of any kind of abuse – particularly children. Explaining how adults know everything when you’re a child, he said how damaging it can be when the adults then compound their misery by giving the child an unconscious message that they can never get better
“Oh, the poor child. That’s it, his/her life is now ruined. They’ll never be able to get over that. That person/situation has taken away any chance they had of living a normal life”
My goodness – that resonated with me on so many levels I can hardly put it in to words. Not just because of some of the messages I received as a child, but also because of the way people misguidedly keep us in our suffering when we’ve gone through a period of ‘shift’. “Oh, I feel so sorry for you, you’ll never be able to love again” “I’ll bet you can never trust anyone now” “You must feel so stupid – you’re whole life is messed up!” Meant with the best of intention, messages like this (particularly to a child) can hold people in a mental prison. There may be no physical walls, but it doesn’t make it any easier to escape from the chains.
“Don’t tell the poor little b*****ds that they’re f*****d!” he cried, clenching his fists and gritting his teeth “Tell them that they’ll get through it! Tell them there’s a way! Tell them that this will pass, that there’s always hope, that they’ve got the power within them to make things good! Tell them to dream, to keep hope alive and to feel good about themselves! I did it – so can anybody else!”
When Billy stopped, the applause started. Quiet at the beginning (I was one of the first to applaud, as you may already have guessed) the whole theatre gradually built in to a crescendo of people all clapping their hands and nodding their heads. Once again I had tears rolling down my cheeks – this time because I had been deeply moved. I know I was not the only one.
I feel hugely privileged to have witnessed Billy Connolly in this particular way. It was a huge surprise for me – not in the least what I was expecting, but more rewarding that I could possibly have imagined.
It’s so true. When we believe we can, we do. When we know we’ll get through, we find a way. When we take one more step even when we think we can’t go any further, then miracles can occur. And when we encourage somebody else? Well, not only does it boost the other person, it gives us something positive at the same time.
There’s a friend of mine who often talks about “Random Acts Of Kindness” and his love of surprising people with good deeds. For me, I’ve learned that it’s hugely important that these gifts of love are not only given to others. I now understand that the more we ‘do’ Random Acts Of Kindness for ourselves, the better our world can become. And the better, as a result, we are able to radiate love and kindness to others as well.
The ticket to see Billy Connolly was, for me, a totally indulgent act of kindness to myself. The only ticket I could buy was a top price VIP ticket (it was the last seat in the theatre) and it also meant a flight to the UK and a stay in a hotel. Yes, it was a massive personal commitment of time and money from me to myself. Through that, though, I am now able to share this experience with all of you – well, it certainly justifies it for me!
So, yes, shift does happen. We all know that, and we all have plenty of it in our past and perhaps in our present as well – we may well feel at times that we’re “in the shift” more often that we’d like. So I’d like to finish this I post with a phrase I read today. It made me chuckle – I hope you’ll like it too
“Perhaps there are some areas of your life that could now do with some nurturing and some fertilisation?” it read “Just remember that the manure of your past can help grow a more fruitful future. What are you waiting for? What are you going to grow now?”
Love and blessings to all