Let me take you on a trip
Around the world and back
And you won’t have to move, you just sit still …
I’ll take you to the highest mountain
To the depths of the deepest sea
And we won’t need a map, believe me …
All the islands in the ocean
All the heavens in motion
Let me show you the world in my eyes …
World in My Eyes – Depeche Mode
Hundreds of people have written to me over the years explaining that when first encountering my work, they felt I had somehow climbed inside of their head.
My writing in this piece is more subjective. Instead of showing that I understand how you feel, today I want to give you an experience of my journey. One that hopefully might assist you in your quest for a better family life.
This journey we will take is a form of journaling for me–while intentionally hiding myself away camping on the beach. This journaling is in order to dig myself out of a dark hole that I had found myself in. In a sense I am cornering myself in a place where I can hunt down the past.
Steve will join me at night (this beach is across the road from where we live) but for a week or more I plan to be here mostly by myself.
There are rangers who stop and say hi every now and then. All of them very respectful and impressed with our set up.
Steve has little experience camping and so this has 100% been my project. Steve helped once I pushed through his initial inertia.
The rangers respect has done a lot for my status around here … but more on status later.
There is nothing like digging your own latrine in the morning to get your soul back in touch with itself.
So now to the point of why I am out here …
The post modern world, with its dictates that fine art should not be decorative, nor fiction ever moralise (unless telling military tales of patriotism or indoctrinating religious institutional dogma) has, to me always remained a perplexing enigma.
There are exceptions of course but, by and large, modernity appears to revel in the bad and the ugly. Every conceivable form of manipulation bombards us day and night with truth no longer being the object in anything.
I’ve never found one thread to unravel the sense in this. The dark and twisted novels I was made to study throughout high school (think Catcher in the Rye) only served to haunt and confuse (rather than educate) me. I am only a little less confused (but more distressed) by them now. And that just the books!
Not that I am squeamish. There can be beauty in what is horrific or terrible as long as morality exists there as well. Gothic horror from bygone eras is fresh air to me, compared to the senseless horror on show every day in our times.
And I am not being dramatic saying this. Think how far you can stray from your home without seeing a snake infested skull emblazoned on someone’s flesh or t-shirt, for no apparent reason.
Beauty and morality are my food and art and literature barren without them.
Born in another era I might have liked to teach wealthy children philosophy and in my spare time paint roses. In the late 1800’s that would probably have been enough to have me feel I was accomplishing something.
Where to hide in this world filled with senseless depravity? What use to put myself to when only power and wealth count?
Having forever felt out of place in these times, I stick my elbows out and try and make room for myself as a writer of non-fiction. Undoubtedly one of the dullest creative occupations of our times and still not entirely suited to beauty or morality, but at least a place where these values are least likely to be snubbed or co-opted. (When the Hunchback of
Non-fiction is certainly not the most powerful vehicle for a story as emotional as the one, that for my sanity and redeeming my reputation, I have secluded myself here to remember and share. On screen, presented as fiction, it would be a gut-wrencher. Post-Modern cinema, however, has little interest in wisdom or morality. Power players dominate the world of film and television and (whether you realise it or not) any rational meaning most onscreen stories have is probably aimed at selling you something undesirable.
This may be relatively harmless when when the moral of the story is that you need a new car or wardrobe, but supremely dangerous when day in day out we are being sold moral and political ideas that inexorably lead to personal and global conflict.
Steve and I got rid of our TV years ago and I could not even consider having one again in our home…
As always the overarching message in my work is that if we wish to prevent the collapse of our own family hierarchies–in today’s world–we must be strategic in emotionally and spiritually protecting ourselves.
And this is important. Because this collapse–if allowed to progress–will undoubtedly cause the collapse of western society.
As Chinese wisdom outlined thousands of years ago, the state must be modeled on strong families not the other way around.
No matter the fight may never be won, it is a fight that must always continue.
Steve informed me recently that my sons have accused me (behind my back) of being someone who corners people.
There is truth in this. Cornering is certainly a tactic I have developed as one part of an overall moral strategy.
The story which follows might hopefully help unravel the mystery for me of how when I considered myself having a deep and considered concern for others (including their spirit and autonomy), I have come to be accused of being this kind of woman:
Nurse Ratchet corners Billy in One Flew Over the Cuckos nest
with Steve, apparently, acting as my subservient wardsman.
I could defend myself saying, “If you don’t like being cornered, well then stop trying to divide your father and I”, but that of course would be knee jerk and dismissive.
As usual, despite how hurtful I find these accusations, I will take the cup handed to me and swallow the bitter pill of criticism, in search of what I might hopefully learn from it.
That challenge has been tougher than usual lately with the criticism hurled at me more like an onslaught. So for my sons’ sake (and yes I hope that they read this) I feel I should share where the idea of ‘cornering’ first began for me.
Here begins a personal story from my past, that happened a good many years ago …
There was once a beautiful young woman named Camilla, who was and is a real life person. Camilla, however, is not her real name. The names in this story (and most of my work) have been changed to protect both the innocent and guilty. I have chosen the name Camilla as her looks and mesmerising charm were reminiscent of a beautiful young Italian film actress. Likewise, her bad heart reminiscent of a very famous, older and less attractive Camilla, from a modern day real-life fairy tale.
At a very impressionable age as a teenage girl, Camillla’s father left her mother for his secretary.
Camilla had always loved her father more than her mother and this event cemented in her being an already corkscrewed view of morality.
There is no other way to say it, but that Camilla became a particularly evil femme fatale.
Living out of home, when in my late teens, I watched Camilla destroy four men.
The first she lured into drug addiction, without becoming an addict herself. The next 2 boys, both close to or under the age of consent, she bewitched and toyed with sexually. One at 13 who proceeded to commit suicide at 14 and the other who lost his mind.
Her fourth victim was Nathan… my boyfriend.
Nathan and I had both come from broken homes. In our early days together we shared the cynical but realistic knowledge that being who we were and the world being what it was, of course we would end up breaking up one day. We both cried when sharing this knowledge with each other and agreed we both hated thinking about how that might come about. Nathan and I played in a band together, played chess together and spent hours discussing what we were both reading.
I had learned nothing about emotional intelligence back then. I was needy, demanding and unaware that when men become silent it is often because they are emotionally flooded. Instead I thought Nathan was stonewalling me, and would often become angry and distressed with him.
I still carry plenty of guilt about this. Guilt that helps motivate me to continue my work here.
A year and a half into our relationship, Nathan and I moved into a share house with Camilla and Seth, who she called her boyfriend at that time.
Within a week, Camilla’s horrible web had begun being spun around us.
Months later I had packed and told Nathan about my decision to leave. For reasons of his own which he didn’t fully share, Nathan decided not to follow.
In Camilla’s sordid world I had been painted a boring prude.
After my departure Nathan got sucked deeper into Camilla’s dark world with its many unsavoury players. I tried more than once to help, but in truth felt lucky to rescue myself.
A year or more later I saw Nathan at a local venue one day. He smiled as he came and joined me and a friend at a table. We began talking when suddenly I saw his face turn to horror as Camilla sat down and joined us.
With a wry smile on that beautiful face of hers, Camilla talked about Nathan filming a dog having sex with her as if she was talking about the latest special on offer at the supermarket.
Nathan turned white and quickly excused himself, as Camilla–mission accomplished–followed.
That was the last time I saw Nathan alive, a few months later he became another notch in Camilla’s belt; her second young male plaything to suicide.
Horrifically, Camilla was the one to call and inform me of Nathan’s death. She told me that he had hung himself and then something about, “in these cases”… I could hear someone laughing in the background.
Knowing Camilla the way that I did, I first thought it a sick and cruel joke.
But no, Nathan was dead, it was the irreversible truth.
Nathan’s younger brother Dean soon became the next target of Camilla’s attention.
Dean must have been all of 18 (Nathan was 20 when he died), and having been the one who found his brother ’s body, was even more vulnerable than the men she had previously destroyed.
A beautiful young man; Dean, in total shock and grief, had no chance of surviving what he was being drawn into.
I couldn’t sit passive any longer.
A male friend named Matthew, who I was working with at that time, informed me of an ex military man he knew who might rescue Dean.
For a considerable fee, Mathew said his friend might kidnap him and take him on a survival ‘bush walk’. Dean would be dependent on this man for his food, shelter and survival. In this way Dean would be forced to connect with him and once that connection had been made, Dean could then be deprogrammed from the spell Camilla had placed him under.
This situation is somewhat similar to the tactic I would learn (and teach) later, described in Hold On to Your Kids, where it is advised that peer attached kids be taken on a long holiday in a country where they don’t know the language.
I was deeply shocked by the idea Mathew had suggested, but so desperate in my grief that I decided to share it with Dean’s eldest brother Anton.
Anton had just lost his younger brother Nathan. Personally my own heart had been shredded and love life left in tatters and so our conversation that night was deathly serious.
The two of us got very drunk and emotional talking. I shared what I had witnessed living with Camilla and the idea of having the mystery ex military man kidnap Dean.
Anton was so worried about what he too could now see happening to Dean, that a week later he found the valor to take the plan on himself.
After organising a key to a friend’s apartment who was temporarily out of town, Anton picked up Dean and took him there, locking him in for the entire weekend.
Camilla had convinced Dean she was the only one who understood what he was feeling, but Anton helped Dean see through this. Dean’s whole family was grieving and he desperately needed to reconnect with them.
Anton talked to Dean about how Camilla had hurt Nathan and succeeded in breaking her spell.
This cornering had a profound impact on Dean, as it did on Anton and their sister Isabelle. Dean went on to become a successful film maker and the other two soon changed their counter culture lifestyles and settled down and had families.
It also drove Camilla out of our extended friends circle and eventually she left the country.
Although we had cornered Dean, certainly, most people close to the situation (including Dean himself) considered it a positive turning point in our lives.
Likewise, many years later when I cornered Steve for his lack of responsibility towards us (his family), far from hating me for it, after that he became much happier and we had some of our best years together.
There were other things we have sometimes hated each other for and our life together hasn’t always been rosy, but the cornering I describe in Back From the Looking Glass did have an overwhelmingly positive effect on our marriage and family.
Far from seeing me as nurse Ratchet back then, leaving poor Billy to end up killing himself. Cornering Steve in the way that I did (or the way Anton cornered Dean), helped them see they were safe and loved.
Sometimes if our life gets too far off track someone needs to help us see things from a different perspective.
As our boys have got older, however, my reputation for cornering them appears have got to the point where it has caused hard feelings and misunderstandings I cannot sort out by myself.
Not that I haven’t been able to handle our children being angry at me sometimes. As I read recently in Jordan Peterson’s 12 Rules for Life…
A child will have many friends but only two parents–if that–and parents are more, not less, than friends. Friends have a very limited authority to correct. Every parent therefore needs to learn to tolerate the momentary anger or even hatred directed towards them by their children, after necessary corrective action has been taken, as the capacity of children to perceive or care about long-term consequences is very limited. Parents are the arbiters of society. They teach children how to behave so that other people will be able to interact meaningfully and productively with them.
It is an act of responsibility to discipline a child. It is not anger at misbehavior. It is not revenge for a misdeed. It is instead a careful combination of mercy and long-term judgement. Proper discipline requires effort–indeed, is virtually synonymous with effort. It is difficult to pay careful attention to children. It is difficult to figure out what is wrong and what is right and why. It is difficult to formulate just and compassionate strategies of discipline, and to negotiate their application with others deeply involved in a child’s care. Because of this combination of responsibility and difficulty, any suggestion that all constraints placed on children are damaging can be perversely welcome. Such a notion, once accepted, allows adults who should know better to abandon their duty… and pretend doing so is good for children. It’s a deep and pernicious act of self deception. It’s lazy and cruel and inexcusable…”
Harsh words but true to my own sentiments on this. Over the years Steve has been very lax setting limits and consequences with the boys and regularly undermined the limits and consequences I have set. This has triggered a lot of anger and frustration in me.
Being forced into the role of disciplining the boys and them also witnessing my anger and resentment towards Steve around this… I guess it was obvious Steve would become nice guy in the boys eyes and me the ‘controlling’ witch.
Worse, even when Steve woke up to his negligence (when he finally saw where it had led) and worked on correcting it, any time he questioned or corrected the boys, they still assumed it must be emanating from me.
This made what was already a tough task for Steve (who was scared of losing the boys love if he corrected them) a tougher job still.
Tough on Steve but truly heart-breaking for me. Instead of producing meaningful and productive interaction, our boys were still choosing blame and resentment. With me–instead of the behaviour which needed correcting– remaining the central focus.
The depth of these misunderstandings became clear when our latest attempt to corner our younger son (and make him face some fairly serious mis-behaviour), resulted in our extended family becoming divided.
Unused to Steve setting limits and consequences, a distant family member (not here to witness what was really happening) decided that Ollie needed ‘protecting’ from what Steve (and the law) insisted he needed to face.
Worse, being singled out for slander and scapegoating on too many fronts, (narcissistic grandfather included) and Steve still zoned out and not staying focused (because of his heart problems) at sorting this out, I eventually lost my ability to keep my cool.
Having my emotional regulation progressively fail–has also had me feeling I have failed in my professional life.
While anger may be dominance posturing in a younger man, for most of the rest of us (mothers especially), losing our temper is a definite failure.
With our youngest still angry and needing guidance getting his life on track, fights escalating between Steve and myself and me being painted as some kind of Nurse Ratchet, I desperately needed a new strategy.
I will share a few more positive examples of cornering and dig deeper into the dark misogynistic origins of Nurse Ratchet’s character a bit further along in this piece, but first I want to share my recent breakthrough towards finding an answer …
It had become clear a few years ago that our family needed a straight forward (and business like) ‘rule book’, that everyone in the family could follow. The Good King and Queen became our major effort in this new direction.
That work has been extremely productive with Steve, myself and our daughter.
With our elder son living out of home and our younger son mostly resistant, it has done little to bring our sons closer.
There was still a vital puzzle piece missing which I began to despair ever finding.
Then recently I caught these most amazing 8 seconds in an interview with Jordan Peterson:
Here was the piece I was missing!
Dr. Peterson states what many of us know from our home lives: when our status is undermined it is much harder to remain emotionally stable.
The movie Trading Places, featuring Eddie Murphy and Dan Ackoryd, gives a highly comic example of this. Winthorp (Ackoryd) plays a well-to-do Ivy League commodities trader who is wrongly put out of his job and loses all status. Within a week he has lost his calm demeanour. Instead he is punching and strangling people and causing near continual emotional scenes all around him.
Eddie Murphy on the other hand, with his status raised to Winthorp’s former position, goes from loud and ungainly to cool calm and collected:
After years of studying and teaching emotional regulation, only to eventually have my ability to regulate my emotions fail, here finally was the clue I had been looking for.
“… when our status is undermined, it is much harder to remain emotionally stable.”
Status was the missing key, and more precisely, my own internal sense of status.
My status has certainly been challenged over the past few years, on just about every level.
That story is not really of interest here, more important is how quickly this new understanding broke through Steve’s remaining defenses.
Rather than remain judgemental of my heightened emotional state, the situation suddenly made total sense to him.
Status was a framework Steve understood much better than talking about emotion.
In this context it became easy for him to see how he and the boys undermine my status. Steve and our elder son do this covertly with resistance (arguing, ignoring, blocking communication) and passive aggression (sarcasm), while our youngest attempts to dominate me more overtly. He has more than once, for instance, in front of the whole family, tried to rudely push me aside while I am in the middle of making dinner in the kitchen, saying he wants to make himself something different.
Before discussing status, Steve had been shocked and regularly at odds with this behaviour. Ollie was just rude Steve would say and act like he was helpless to do much about it.
I would say this was a clear and unacceptable display of vying for dominance over me that Steve should have put limits on many years ago!
Again from Jordan Peterson;
“Imagine a toddler repeatedly striking his mother in the face. Why would he do such a thing? It’s a stupid question. It’s unacceptably naive. The answer is obvious. To dominate his mother. To see if he can get away with it… If I can hurt and overpower you. then I can do exactly what I want, when I want, even when you are around. I can torment you, to appease my curiosity. I can take the attention away from you and dominate you. I can steal from you… It is foolish to assume that such behavior must be learned… It’s the nature of the beast… Two-year-olds, statistically speaking are the most violent of people. They kick, hit and bite and they steal the property of others. They do so to explore, to express outrage and frustration, and to gratify their impulsive desires. More important for our purposes they do so to discover the true limits of permissible behavior… Infants are blind people searching for a wall. They have to push forward, and test, to see where the actual boundaries lie…
Consistent correction of such action indicates the limits of acceptable aggression of the child. It’s absence merely heightens curiosity–so the child will hit and bite and kick if he is dominant, until something indicates a limit. How hard can I hit Mommy? Until she objects… correction is better sooner than later… Without that correction no child is going to go through the effortful process of organizing and regulating their impulses, so those impulses can coexist, without conflict, within the psyche of the child, and in the broader social world. It is no simple matter to organize a mind.”
Better sooner than later certainly, but also better late than never! Ollie is certainly not two now, but here was the same demonstrations of dominance, remaining ineffectively countered.
I have always objected to dominance posturing over me by the boys–but if there are men living in the house, some lessons need to be taught and modeled by dad.
Instead of just tearing his hair out about why our son was behaving the way that he was (and easily dismissing this as somehow being my fault), Steve, at last, saw the urgency in defending my status.
1. To help our sons organise and regulate their impulses and feel safe in our families social structure.
2. To assist me running our household and family life and better regulation of my emotions.
3. To enhance his own status and well being as head of our family.
4. To take pressure off our daughter and help her and her brothers relationships.
Supporting each other’s status is something Steve can grasp easily and has become a new foundation for team work between us. Steve took charge of fathering the boys, in a way he was previously never able to manage.
Not being used to dad setting real boundaries, a show down began with our youngest.
Ollie sent me a heartfelt apology two nights ago (after Steve cutting off his phone until he complied with a list of requirements) and I also got a very meaningful one recently from Steve.
And Ollie has finally found himself a job.
One step at a time our Kingdom will be put back in order at last with Steve supporting everyone’s status.
Developing the concept of status assisting emotional regulation into new audio products we can share with our audience will now become my creative focus. This will probably take a few months.
These will take the form of inductions into the roles in the Good King and Queen and will stand at the front of that program.
These audios will focus heavily on strengthening each members internal sense of status along with supporting and maintaining the status of each and every member of your family.
With Steve’s support I am very excited about developing these new additions to our body of work.
A few more positive examples of cornering
Cher corners Nicholas Cage in Moonstruck
Doss uses being cornered as leverage to show what he is made of
Spoiler alert; another amazing piece of cornering from Moonstruck
Supernanny Corners Dad
More from Jordan Peterson on Emotional Regulation (dealing with your emotions wisely and keeping your cool)
Steve discusses the the truth of who is undermining mothers role on this planet and husbands and fathers true role in protecting their families:
An extremely deep rabbit hole exposing the dark and exclusively male (and misogynistic) origins of Nurse Ratchet’s fictional character: