Thursday, February 25, 2010

In Thrall to a Seductive Woman

Even as a child I used to wonder why witches (or as I now prefer to call them, sorceresses) were often portrayed as beautiful, seductive women instead of the wizened old crones of popular imagination. It took some decades of experience, and much thought, but years ago I finally figured out why.

These stories of men being in thrall to beautiful seductive sorceresses would not have existed for several hundred years – if not several thousand – unless there was a lot of truth to them. If you want to see a movie that’s close to a perfect portrayal of this, then watch Body Heat, in which Ned Racine (William Hurt) is ensorcelled by the siren/femme fatale Matty Walker (Kathleen Turner). He is, of course, and here’s the rub, a willing dupe, as all these men are to this kind of woman.

This willing-dupe-to-be-conned-by-a-beautiful-seductive-sorceress has happened to me twice, many years ago. One thing I can say is “Fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me.” Since those two times, I immediately see through them.

In both cases they came across as smart, funny, knowledgeable women, easy to talk to. They were also -- – and this should be immediate red flag for all men – instantly seductive and intimate, although it can be subtle. They could make a man feel special, looked up to, admired. They say they’re looking for a relationship and you fit the bill. I realize now they were trying to seduce me into giving them attention – and that was about all they wanted. More than anything else, I was a thing to them, one to be manipulated.

It took me a while to realize they did this all men they found attractive. For all that outside charm, inside they were self-absorbed, self-centered and emotionally shallow. The first was a narcissist; the second showed many signs of Histrionic Personality Disorder (and “histrionic” actually means “actor”).

In modern terms, not only should the narcissists and histrionics be avoided, but also the borderlines, definitely the anti-socials/psychopaths, and the bipolars (even if treated) should give you definite pause, although I am very sympathetic to the last if none of the first.

Why did I fall for these women? I was instantly attracted to them because of the immediate charm, intimacy, intelligence, wit and seductiveness. There was that superficial word, “chemistry.” Could it be considered a flaw in me at that time? Sure. Everyone has holes in them that need to be filled. That’s what relationships are about: you fulfill me, I fulfill you. Sometimes, though, they’re not good holes that need to be filled.

Many men fall for this combination, and have since men and women have been around, otherwise the stories of sirens and femme fatales would not exist. Or stories of men who want to be Price Charming and instead of finding Sleeping Beauty get sidetracked into falling for a trickster and a sorceress.

That story of Prince Charming and Sleeping Beauty (who is a Damsel in Distress) is another old, powerful story about the relationships between men and women. When some men hear from an attractive, smart, funny, seductive woman, “I’m looking for a relationship,” that Prince Charming/hero part of him gets activated, because what’s he’s hearing is, “Damsel in Distress” (the first words of Luke to Princess Leia: “I’m Luke Skywalker and I’m here to save you”). What happens, though, is that sometimes that Damsel in Distress is not a traditional Sleeping Beauty, but a sorceress/trickster/siren (although, actually, that sorceress/trickster/siren really is Sleeping Beauty, but how does one wake her up from a slumber than she does not know she is even in?).

For an example, a man I know met a Damsel in Distress and bought her condo from her for $150,000 cash. For his trouble he discovered an ungrateful, self-centered woman who showed every sign of being a borderline, once he got past the intelligence, wit and ease of conversation with her.

The easiest con for these female grifters is a kind, compassionate man who is willing to go out of his way to help her and compromise in a relationship – and compromise is something which has to be done in any relationship.

To recap, never fall for a woman who is instantly intimate and seductive with you, and can instantly make you feel special. They’re in it for themselves, not for you. They’re femme fatales, attractive and seductive sorceresses.

Even though it’s obvious these kinds of women existed in the past, why are there so many today? The media and culture in general – and government policies toward men and women -- feeding right into our inborn narcissism and increasing it? Can a skewed society actually increase the number of character disorders – the psychopaths, the narcissists, the borderlines, the histrionics? It’s the only explanation that makes any sense to me.

The media and much of academia disparage men as the cause of most of the problems in the world (the infamous “dead white males” attacked by the mentally stillborn) and elevate intelligent and educated women to the extent they think they are entitled to ‘having it all” – an impossibility.

I recently read an article that pointed out if men find a woman with 80% of what they like, they think they’ve got “a catch.” Many women, if they find 80% of what they want in a man, think they’re lowering their standards and settling for what they don’t want. This is healthy? It’s as narcissistic as hell – Me! Me! Me!

All those stories of sirens and femme fatales are meaningless unless someone explains them to you when you’re younger. A story is about showing people knowledge about life, but it still has to be explained. One of the purposes of being older is to explain life to the younger. There doesn’t seem to be a lot of that anymore. While younger women are told the bad things about men (and a lot of them aren’t even true) younger men are never told what negatives there are in women.

Not once in my life, when I was a teenager, did any man tell me, “Never fall for a woman who is instantly seductive and intimate with you, and has a talent for making you immediately special. They’ve got something wrong with them, they’re shallow, they’re in it for themselves, and you’re just a puppet for them to manipulate. And they can never really apologize for what they’ve done, If you meet these women, don’t be a willing dupe and get ensorcelled, which is a flaw many men have when it comes to these women.”

Unless, of course, you want to spend the rest of your life falling for, as H. Rider Haggard put it, She-Who-Must-be-Obeyed. Ned Racine knew all about that.

Monday, February 22, 2010

The Nature of Pleasure

“More! More! More! is the cry of a mistaken soul; less than all cannot satisfy man.” – William Blake

Occasionally I will meet people who operate almost exclusively on sensation and pleasure. Sights, sounds, tastes, textures…all are very vivid to them, almost all the time.

Most of us would probably be envious of such a life. Yet, the people I know like this, do not have good lives. In fact, most of them are in a kind of hell.

The nature of pleasure is that it goes up and down – it’s transitory. You eat something, then you’re full. You can only eat so much. You can only have sex for so long, then you’re satisfied.

Since the people I know like this operate almost exclusively on pleasure, they are never satisfied. Everything is always up and down with them. It’s as if it’s a form of manic-depression. It’s an addiction with them – More! More! More! And it’s never enough. They never understand that enough is as good as a feast.

They are often aggressive in their pursuit of pleasure, and aggressive to other people. Since they know the source of pleasure comes from the outside, from other people, they can be aggressive with these people because they need them for pleasure.

Pleasure, though, is not emotion. That’s the rub. These people really don’t have much strong, deep, lasting emotion. I almost never hear the word “love” from them, and usually it applies to their pets or babies, Concerning people, though, I have never heard them use the word.

These people are not only aggressive to others, they are impulsive, because they have to immediately grab all the pleasure they can. They see someone they like, they have to have sex with them. They’re always looking for that next new experience.

I can’t remember which ancient Greek said it, but he noticed that those people who devote them lives to pleasure, become degraded. It’s because they cannot interiorize their pleasure and make it permanent, along with emotions.

I find it a sad life, one not to be envied.

We should know that too much of anything, even a good thing, may prove to be our undoing ... [We] need to set definite boundaries on our appetites.
- William Bennett

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Understanding the Light and the Dark

"If the only prayer you said in your whole life was, 'thank you,' that would suffice." ~Meister Eckhart

There is a part of me that is drawn to dark things, dark forces (not only in thought but in real life), so much so that I have a pretty thorough understanding of them. I’ve been like this for years. These days, it's mostly gone.

It’s not a bad thing that I had it. By understanding these things as well as I do, I understand true good as well. It sounds paradoxical, but it’s true: the more you understand evil, the more you can understand the good and the beautiful, and the more you can appreciate them.

All of us have been trespassed against, have had bad things done to us. All of us have trespassed against others, done bad things to them. We have been both victims and victimizers. As a result, we must forgive ourselves for what we have done, and we must forgive others for what they have done to us. It’s an illustration of that old saying, “Forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us.”

One thing that is required is the understanding of motivations, of why we have trespassed against others, and they against us. Without that understanding, there can be no forgiveness. Once these motivations are understood, then there is the possibility (although not the certainly) of forgiveness.

Once there is forgiveness, then the hate and anger and desire for revenge can be given up, and it can be replaced with peace.

Ideally the sequence would be confession, followed by repentance (asking for forgiveness), followed by atonement – “making good” for what you have done (and without the atonement, the first two are worthless). If this is not possible, then at the very least there has to be that understanding. That is the minimum for forgiveness.

Forgiveness is possible without someone confessing to you, asking for forgiveness, and making amends. Even if there is no repair and reconciliation, there can still be forgiveness. Usually, this is the case, anyway.

If you don’t forgive, it’s possible to become a victimizer yourself. I once heard a saying, “If you seek revenge, dig two graves.” If not that, how about, "Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you."

Sometimes, there is a lot to understand and forgive. There is, I think, quite a lot of abuse in society – abuse in childhood, in adolescence, in public schools, in jobs, at the hands of government. And by understanding what was done, you can forgive.

Forgiving doesn’t mean condoning or tolerating the wrong. It doesn’t mean letting the offenders off the hook, to continue their wrongness, morally or legally. Wrongs have to be righted, sometimes quite vigorously. That’s a given. But in righting wrongs a person shouldn’t let resentment, hate, self-pity, guilt and the desire for revenge eat up their life.

Unfortunately, even if you can forgive someone, your trust in them is gone, and can never come back. Once a person loses their reputation, it’s gone forever.

I have quite a vivid imagination, and can access feelings through it. Because of that power, I can imaginatively identify with and understand the motivations and minds of men who abuse women, of rapists, of serial killers, or white slavers.

I can also understand the mind and motivations of women who become hookers, or strippers, or star in porn films.

The one thing I can’t understand are child molesters. I understand it intellectually, but that’s it. I can go no further.

In the case of the men, their feelings are more sadistic – a desire for complete power over women, whom they hate, and the desire for revenge and to utterly crush and control them. They are this way because they feel they have been abused and humiliated at the hands of women, and this is their revenge on them. They have hardened their hearts, and to them it’s always the women’s fault, not theirs. They’re takers, not givers.

In the case of women, it’s more masochistic, and is often a desire for attention. But there is still that desire for manipulation and control. In their case it’s caused by abuse and neglect at the hands of men.

All of it is a cycle, one of abuse and neglect followed by revenge and murder (if not literally then the attempted murder of their spirit). There’s a saying that tells it all: “What goes around comes around.”

Probably the oldest story that gives us a clue as to what is happening is that of Cain and Abel. Cain murders Abel because God rejects his sacrifice, and humiliated and shamed, Cain blames his problems on Abel and murders him.

Shame and humiliation lead to murder. Those who have been shamed and insulted and humiliated, who have suffered neglect and abuse, attempt revenge through either the murder of the body or spirit (and the long-term sadistic murder of the spirit is much more fun that merely murdering the body).

Cain and Abel were the children of Adam and Eve, and this is important. That story of Adam and Eve is an attempt to explain how evil came into the world. Actually, the story of that family explains how evil, followed by murder, came into the world.

When God catches Adam and Eve breaking the rules, Adam blames Eve, and Eve blames the serpent (a symbol of envy). What they’re doing to projection, or scapegoating, and as the late M. Scott Peck noticed, scapegoating is the genesis of human evil.

First comes projection, or in the case of Adam and Eve, non-violent scapegoating, generally based on envy. The next step is violent scapegoating, illustrated by Cain and Abel.

Adam and Eve, until they eat of the tree, and naked and don’t know it. They’re unconscious. Then they become conscious, realize they are naked, and become ashamed and humiliated, just as Cain is ashamed and humiliated.

What is implied in the story of this archetypal family is that is not only is murder based on shame and humiliation, but also on envy, which is probably the most corrosive feeling in the world. Those who have been abused and neglected are not only shamed and humiliated, but also envious of those who have the power over them to do to them the bad things they did.

What, then, is the good? The opposite of all the above – the lack of hate, envy, shame, anger, humiliation, neglect and abuse, projection and scapegoating, and the desire for revenge. It can be a hard road, but those things must be understood and forgiven.

One thing I think is necessary for happiness is to be thankful and grateful. And people who hate, and who are full of humiliation, envy, self-pity, guilt and the desire for vengeance, cannot be grateful and thankful. That is why forgiveness is so important – for your own happiness and peace of mind.

When people can give up the influence of the past, then they can live almost wholly in the present, and enjoy it as much as they can. As Warren Zevon once commented, "Enjoy every sandwich." Then you can be thankful and grateful for even the smallest things. After all, enough is as good as a feast.

The things of which I write have been known for a long time – thousands of years. But they aren’t really taught anymore, which is truly unfortunate. They certainly aren’t taught in most churches, the way they should be. They aren’t even taught in colleges.

It’s not only people who suffer for that lack, but society, and, indeed, the world. After all, forgiveness in not something you find – it’s something you give.

"There is no such thing as gratitude unexpressed."~Robert Brault