Slightly Broken: Consequences

Sometimes you just feel slightly grim. For no particular reason. It’s been a good week (except for The Lady M being very unwell yesterday), sleep is back on track (admittedly with the use of sleeping tablets, so I don’t know whether to count that in or out of successville), had a good improv show last night, finished a great book… So why do I feel all flat and glum-faced today? It’s a puzzle ain’t it?
I had no counselling this week (yep, even counsellors get holidays – they deserve them) but I am keenly conscious that it’s back tomorrow. I had my day of mind-windage last Sunday which was basically just a day in the pub getting hammered in a cheerful attempt to reset my skull. I think it was largely quite effective, although I didn’t get anywhere near as wasted as I’d promised myself. But it did occlude and drain the brain-sac for which I’m grateful; it took a few days to get my mind back on track. With that and the sleeping tablets I’ve been quite good emotionally I think – able to focus on other stuff, get my writing more on track, deal with work and so on. Even with the sleeping tablets I feel better able to do improv on them this time around. Either I’m just more used to them or I’m better at improv. Don’t know; both are a win.
Work, I suppose, has been the main cause of stress and tension. The end of the week before this one particularly. I’d given myself a tough time in counselling (I realise I’m pushing myself hard in those sessions) and spent the evening in the pub scribbling and drinking. It’s honestly not the worst way to spend a Monday evening. That was fairly cathartic even if it meant that the rest of the week was one species of hangover or another (that’s what codeine’s for…) I may or may not have mentioned that work has been in a state of flux for a while; staff losses, role changes and the usual much more to do with less time and the consequent raised tension of the whole team. Our director chose to make it all much worse on the Thursday by picking a fight with me over some data. It was unnecessary, stupid and unhelpful. I, however, refuse to back down when unreasonably challenged and defended myself. Of course, the guy had chosen to do this in the middle of the office so when I disagreed about something he decided to be the big man and demand my resignation. I treated this with the contempt it deserved and held my own until he finally fucked off. It was a lovey aggressive situation with him sitting on my desk looming over me and getting over-excited. Sigh. It was rather surprising and stressful. I assumed that was the end of it only to have the tool return half an hour later and drag me and two colleagues into an office where he proceeded to apologise while drowning it in personal rhetoric and bullshit. Once again I got a chance to challenge his unreasonable behaviour which was accepted (as well as a few satisfying digs). Finally we were released and wasted the rest of the day talking about what a dick he was being. So – fine work from a boss: wanders into an already stressed (but working) office and totally destabilises it. Skillz.
The day after I got taken out for lunch by my Dad and step-mum. Always a nice thing and we went to a pub that I cycle past every day but have never been into. I knew one of the things we’d be talking about was how counselling was going since they’ve been reading this blog and staying up to date with the various failings and successes in my mind. It’s also been very upsetting for them; they are victims of Ric’s deceptions albeit in a different way, and are also trying to come to terms with the apparently incompatible behaviours and personalities. Dad’s formed the view that it’s some kind of personality disorder which enabled him to misunderstand boundaries and social norms. I think that’s missing a huge chunk of the predatory nature of the behaviour and the painfully evident grooming process that’s visible in the letters I have. It seems to me to reduce the intent portion of what I blame Ric for; I don’t think any of this happened by accident or by chance. That it looks like chance is one aspect of how clever and manipulative this abusive behaviour is. By worming his way into our family’s life he became family and therefore almost above suspicion. It makes no sense, when you imagine him to be a true and honest friend, that he would risk all of that to abuse a young boy.
So what does make sense, given that such things occurred? That it was intentional. Seeking out a vulnerable family – and we were certainly that – recently divorced parents, a grandparent who had just moved in with my Dad and was ill, work problems and stresses, fighting between my parents and the fall out that has on relationships between siblings and parents (I myself had found it so hard that I’d left my Mum entirely and moved in with Dad. All this was what Ric walked into – in fact moved into when he apparently failed to get anywhere with another family on the other side of town. And he was with us all the time. Dad’s diary shows him involved or around several times a week, every week. Omnipresent. As my counsellor pointed out, this is an excellent alarm mechanism – if I’d said anything to Dad or if anything was just not quite right he’d have been able to see it immediately. Instead he had the confidence of the family; left to look after the dogs, and me when my folks were away for a weekend. That doesn’t seem accidental. Sure, you can be a single guy looking for new friends, but this is self-insertion into a household.
Anyway, this was the stuff I talked about over lunch with my parents. After that I went back to work, feeling supported if a little confused. And what do I walk into? That same fucking director, still trying to make amends. I realise this might sound like a good thing to those who don’t know him. Five years ago he joined the company, aggressive, arrogant, bullying, sexist. Great boss. But now he’s trying to change, engaging (ish) with staff and imbued with a vision that we should all share (the general rhetoric we suffered the day before). Since then he’s bullied, intimidated, ignored and abused staff of all grades throughout the organisation. This is the man who got briefly in trouble for allegedly making an actual list of staff he’d sleep with. A twat. So – forgive me if I have little interest in being involved in his metamorphosis into a human being.
When I got back from lunch he’d apparently been enquiring whether everyone was okay and wondered if I might have time for a little chat. I didn’t want to, but he came down and despite my protests insisted that I come to his office which I only agreed to when it was phrased as “a favour to him”. Well, I don’t know if I’d been primed by counselling and a long conversation about being abused but it seemed to set me up well for dealing with a bully. He wanted to apologise again, and make sure that I was alright – because he hadn’t meant to upset me, and he didn’t want it to change anything. Sound familiar? Some of the phrases he used were exactly the same as in the letter I received from Ric. That was pretty shocking, but it clarified quite a few things in my head. For one, it empowered me to tell him exactly what I thought of him and his behaviour; I realised that the issue was his (I’d been shocked by his behaviour but not hurt by it – I honestly don’t expect anything better from someone like him), and told him so “this is all about you”. I talked about how he was the one who had to deal with the consequences of his actions, not me. It was enormously satisfying and I suppose in some respects it gave me the opportunity to say things to an abusive bully, a man who abuses his position of power, trust and responsibility who for a moment felt frighteningly like Ric, things that I doubt I’ll ever have a chance to say to Ric (I really don’t know if I could). It also made me reflect on the words I heard back from this guy – what sounded like a desire to change, to be a better and more responsible person – and how shallow I found those words. How hollow and self-deceiving. It’s a bit like that superficial charm you read about psychopaths having where as soon as you scratch that surface and they realise they’ve put themselves at risk (in this case a very real risk of my raising a grievance or going for constructive dismissal) and they put on this simulation of humanity; the behaviours that they’ve witnessed in others but never really understood. In a way, that’s sad – for them.
I realised some important things, or rather stuff I already knew was made concrete in that meeting: I didn’t care if he was genuinely remorseful, I didn’t care if he was really going to see the error of his ways and do better in the future. Those aren’t my problems; they’re his. All the apologies in the world can be accepted (as I accepted his) but as I said to him, that doesn’t change what he did. I’m not into forgiveness – I think it’s a really twisted idea that is thoroughly amoral. I think I can understand that my problems are in relation to what happened to me. Aside from seeing justice done (by which I mean revenge) there is nothing that will affect his understanding of what he did. And even that won’t make me feel better. I don’t need to understand why he behaved the way that he did – I probably can’t, because I’m not the kind of person who would do that. That’s a good thing. I also realised that these abusers are very similar, they talk the same way and they behave the same way. Well what those people do does change things – they are responsible for the consequences of their actions even if they don’t think they are. It’s their fault and they are the ones to blame. There’s no reason for me to blame myself – it’s not my fault.
I have to keep reminding myself of this. It helps to push these matters into the past, towards that homogenous remembering of things that happened, to take out the emotional spikes which hurt when I recall them. If I remember anything – I want to remember that it wasn’t my fault – I’m okay because I did nothing wrong – and that there is a person for whom hate is the right emotion.

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