On Handling Emotional Bullies: Open Thread

Much popular advice on handling emotional bullies is misguided, among other ways in that it replicates the bullying by placing the burden on victims and making them doubt themselves. That, I suspect, is partly because our culture sanctions bullying, and partly because it is really hard to understand if one is not familiar with it — and sometimes, even if it is.

We will therefore have an open thread on fallacies about how to handle bullying, and the truths that correspond to these.

ADDENDUM AND BASIC. 0. They are in terrible pain. With love and support they will become the wonderful people they really are. WRONG. See my earlier post On Pity.

1. Just draw a better boundary with that person. You do not have to exile them from your life completely. WRONG. Yes, you DO. The cited advice is only applicable if you are a minor, are incarcerated, or have to work with that person. It does not apply to bullies who are optional in your life. Bullies want to disrespect your boundaries, that is what they live for. You have no obligation to negotiate or bargain with them, even when they have some positive characteristics and someone else thinks you should be friends. It is not you who have “weak boundaries,” it is they who are perpetrators!

ADDENDUM ON WORKING WITH THEM: Work to rule, even if normally you would collaborate more freely or converse more informally. This is difficult for me in the case of AAPs (Abusive Assistant Professors) because (a) I understand that it is very hard to be an AP here and I am sorry for them, and (b) if I hired them, I like them and value their work. It would be normal to reach out and help them get oriented. But because they are abusive, I don’t. That is the workplace equivalent of exiling someone from your life.

2. Tell them exactly what behavior it is that offends you, and politely ask them to stop. Use the “I” language for this: do not blame them for your feelings, but ask them to stop. WRONG. This advice only applies in workplace settings, where you must document that you have attempted to address the problem. Otherwise all you are doing is giving them information on what upsets you, which they can use — either to escalate the abuse, or to redefine your request so narrowly that they can continue the behavior while claiming to have stopped. And about the “I” language — hang it up. Everyone knows it is just a flipped around, passive aggressive version of the “you” language. Furthermore, it allows abusers to reiterate that it is you who are sensitive, not they who are out of line.

3. It is your problem. You attract this behavior because people intuit that you have had it visited upon you before. Nay — you even seek it out. Therefore concentrate on that first instance, “take responsibility” for it, and realize you do not have to feel the pain others dish out. HIGHLY INADEQUATE, WHEN NOT OUTRIGHT WRONG. Bullies bully everyone. You do not attract it, you just do not know how to stop it or escape it as quickly as you might. You may have even been trained not to recognize it. This does not mean it is your fault. And the possibility that people can learn to deflect the pain of verbal abuse by, for instance, not taking the source too seriously, does not mean bullies are within their rights to carry on.

What else?

Axé.

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78 Comments

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78 responses to “On Handling Emotional Bullies: Open Thread

  1. I think the primary fallacy is expressed in the terms that nobody has any influence over you that you don’t give them. Of eourse, in a narrow sense, that is entirely true. You give the bully “influence” over you when you opt for working in the same workplace as he does, even though you could simply move elsewhere, and work in some other place in a flash. No doubt this other place has no bullies. Also, we all give our parents influence over us by conceding to be born, and conceding, at the time, to be weaker than our parents are. Of course I conceded to live under a patriarchy, in an often hostile and xenophobic environment because that was my “choice”. Other options simply weren’t as appealing at the time.

  2. That line of reasoning is easily shown to be a way of alleging (also falsely) that the bully is an exceptional character — there are only a few — and that their behavior runs counter to, and is not just an extreme form of, standard behavior.

  3. Yes, but I think it is also potentially even more disingenuous than this. I think that for a lot of people “evil/negativity is in the mind of the beholder”. So, if you refuse to reflect upon the problem, it goes away. Once again, I am speaking about Perth people, many of whom have been settled in the ‘burbs for a very long time, in this most isolated city in the world. Because they are comfortable, they can’t imagine why anybody else wouldn’t be.

    And then we have those who go the additional mile of labelling perception of evil/danger as “projection”. So if you perceive a problem not only are you the cause of the problem, but you are also dragging other innocent people down with you.

    • Yes, these have to go on the list of fallacies. I guess there’s a need to explain how to know if you are projecting or not.

      Eye of the beholder — note also that saying “you imagined it” is the abuser’s standard out.

      These examples you give are very Anglo / suburban strategies of denial, and very frustrating.

      • The fact is that the one who has the patriarchal mentality is more likely to be bullying that the person who hasn’t. This is because the patriarchal mentality is more archaic and consequently unself-reflective. The patriarchal guy acts “on instinct” — but these are not the keen instincts that Nietzsche spoke about, which separate one from the herd due to a higher regard for “spiritual cleanliness”. Rather, it is in the instinct of the herd, and of the unrefined and unreflective primitive that speaks through him.

        The person being bullied is more likely to be a minority of some sort and therefore has the advantage of “standpoint epistemology” — which is akin, in some ways to the shaman’s “double vision” into the true nature of society, as opposed to how it merely claims to be.

        But none of this is actually necessary (ie. it is not necessary to argue one’s case that one is not projecting.) What I am saying next pertains to Nietzsche’s concept of “instinct” as corroborating what is natural and free from mental distortion.

        Nietzsche states quite clearly that it is clear to all — on the basis of appearance — whether somebody has a noble disposition or does not. It is as clear, in other words, as the nose on your face, who is distorting and who isn’t — that is, if the character structures of the parties are actually taken into account in a natural, and un-ideologically distorted way.

        It is worth remembering then, lest one protest too much, that it is only ideological distortions that can make the bully look like the victim and vice versa.

      • Further to my comment below:

        In other words, those who use those strategies of denial are 98 percent of the time arguing in bad faith.

  4. Your caveat, “unless you have to work with this person.”

    Big caveat. All the bullies I’ve known have been work bullies. And work relationships, in our profession, are long relationships. What then?

    Here is an important thing: call bullying out for what it is. Not “ze has a difficult personality.” Not “ze has trouble with authority.” Not “it’s hard to avoid conflict with that person.” Ze is a bully who behaves inappropriately and uses other people to hir advantage by force when possible, by thinly veiled manipulation when necessary. Period.

    Also, bullies are not a personal problem but a communal one. Finding strategies for addressing bullies and bullying within the whole community concerned is a top priority. How? Stumped.

    • Yes, and I am not sure what to do about bullying at work given that it is often *desired* by the administration as a way of getting certain things done.

      Communal problem — it would be nice to see it that way, but often the bully is being used by someone else for their purposes, so they’re only a problem for *some* of the community.

      Calling it what it is is very, very important. That’s already a big, big step because most people in my experience don’t know how to name bullying. If people actually agree on what happened and what its structure is, and acknowledge that to each other, that’s a huge breakthrough.

      What to do specifically at work: FILE on it (yes!) as much as possible. Follow all official procedures and be judicious, but FILE on it. And DO keep “drawing that boundary,” telling them specifically what you do not want done, and letting supervisors know discreetly what is going on. The phrase is: “I am not telling you this officially, I just want you to know it is happening in case I do need to tell you something official later on — so that it doesn’t come out of the blue.”

      Always be careful, judicious, and discreet when talking / reporting, though, of course. Be clear, but do not let it look like gossip.

  5. Also, in your final paragraph, where you have, “This does not mean it is not your fault,” I believe you mean “This does not mean it is your fault.” Unless I have radically misunderstood.

  6. I think bullying is patriarchy’s way of hitting back against women’s advances in knowledge, competency and assertiveness.

    I do believe this to be the case, because whenever I’ve reported bullying, I’ve always found that there are a surfeit of patriarchs at hand to give a patriarchal justification as to why it should be accepted as such, and not changed.

    Generally the arguments for this are extremely misogynistic.

    • YES. That is why recourse is so hard to get now.

      I’ve had a supervisor actually say he had had to change his techniques [to subtle bullying] when more overt gender based harassment was explicitly prohibited.

      • You can’t fight them in predictable ways, or even necessarily by going through conventional channels, which will just drain your energy as you beat your head against more and more brick walls (something you can’t afford if you are being bullied).

        (Funny– I am now reading Bataille on how being concerned with issues of energy is miserly … no doubt he is making some indirect attack on bourgeois values and associated itsy-bitsy over-concerns for the future — which lead to bourgeois types never fully expressing themselves in the present.)

        The key to fighting this fight — which has already been thoroughly choreographed by the patriarchy — is to become unpredictable.

  7. The big one I’ve heard a lot of is “Just ignore them and they’ll go away.” They won’t. They get satisfaction or status from bullying you even if you don’t respond. Plus if you do respond—and it is nearly impossible for almost everyone to completely inhibit response—they get an extra thrill from the evidence of their power over you.

    I eventually concluded that “just ignore them and they’ll go away” is such a popular response because the people giving that advice want to ignore the problem and hope you’ll go away.

  8. Also, your point #1 clarified something for me.

    There can be some benefit in moving your boundaries to a more defensible position: the equivalent of defending a narrow pass instead of an open plain. Then you can have more success and expend less effort in enforcing the boundaries. This is worthwhile in situations where you have power over the terms of engagement but can’t drop the person completely, like in-laws.

    The part you made clear to me is that the bully will always keep attacking, so even with defensible boundaries there is never any peace. And if their actual goal is to make your life harder or more miserable, then they will make sure the cost of your defense is as high as possible, out of all proportion to the ostensible article of contention. Which is why it’s better to cut them out of your life completely whenever possible.

  9. “The fact is that the one who has the patriarchal mentality is more likely to be bullying that the person who hasn’t. This is because the patriarchal mentality is more archaic and consequently unself-reflective. The patriarchal guy acts ‘on instinct’ — but these are not the keen instincts that Nietzsche spoke about, which separate one from the herd due to a higher regard for ‘spiritual cleanliness’. Rather, it is in the instinct of the herd, and of the unrefined and unreflective primitive that speaks through him.”

    OK, very useful. Patriarchal mentality is key because around here, we have bullies of all races, classes, and genders, and some of these minority type bullies bully each other. In each instance, though, if one thinks of the patriarchal mentality one can easily see what’s what.

    “The person being bullied is more likely to be a minority of some sort and therefore has the advantage of ‘standpoint epistemology’ — which is akin, in some ways to the shaman’s ‘double vision’ into the true nature of society, as opposed to how it merely claims to be.”

    Yes, except for the Uncle Thomases who are bullies, and there are many of these … but that is covered by the patriarchal mentality point, above.

    “But none of this is actually necessary (ie. it is not necessary to argue one’s case that one is not projecting.) What I am saying next pertains to Nietzsche’s concept of instinct’ as corroborating what is natural and free from mental distortion.

    “Nietzsche states quite clearly that it is clear to all — on the basis of appearance — whether somebody has a noble disposition or does not. It is as clear, in other words, as the nose on your face, who is distorting and who isn’t — that is, if the character structures of the parties are actually taken into account in a natural, and un-ideologically distorted way.”

    I wonder whether that is true, though. It’s not always clear to me and it is quite unclear to many of those around me…. I’d like it to be true. But in my fight lately with someone actually called Faust, I kept saying, “No, I am not projecting, I am citing what this person actually said and actually did.”

    “It is worth remembering then, lest one protest too much, that it is only ideological distortions that can make the bully look like the victim and vice versa.”

    That is true, but ideological distortions are powerful and can hold sway. And the word of a white man is worth more than the word of two non whites, or of a woman, or a subordinate, and so on.

    But I’m just voicing some things I’ve noticed from the *workplace* (since Moria brought up the workplace, which I wasn’t thinking of primarily when I wrote this), not objecting to the list — and I think it’s a great list and should just be held onto, made more and more real, until it outglows these doubts.

  10. I wasn’t saying any of the above in a naive way. I do understand the degree to which the late industrial society I am familiar with has been poisoned by misogynistic ideologies, which, due to their sheer extensiveness and pervasiveness, carry many people along with them.

    Still, I am sticking to my guns. I’m saying that those whose minds are not twisted and contorted by allegiance to these misogynistic ideologies can and will see into the truth of the matter, without having to be persuaded.

    The others, of course, won’t.

    • True, they will or they won’t, so persuasion is secondary.

      [I'm thinking of briefs and hearings, where they want evidence and arguments in writing, and where a decision is made by a committee -- but their doubts need not destabilize one if one is oneself strong/clear, as per your original comment.]

      • I think the strong position is the best approach in any circumstances. Those who are emotionally weakened are inclined to make excuses for themselves, to put the spotlight on themselves inadvertently, by seeking to express self-justification and so on. But all of these defensive tactics just make you look like the guilty one in the eyes of others. The strong position I am advocating may not win all the battles, but it will win the war.

  11. I means that I am taking a strong position in this ideological battle — for that it what it is.

    • Yes, and that’s good to remember. And it’s good to remember to take the strong position because the break-you-down strategy is to force more and more concessions/compromises and to get embroiled in discussion of details.

      • Yes. And like I say, because the patriarchs are weak in knowledge and emotional IQ, this is the best that they can do in order to afflict a beating. They act instinctively to rattle you, and when you are rattled, they try to take advantage of that. That is the one game they know. So you mustn’t fall into the trap of playing according to that D/s dynamic. You must vary the terms of the engagement, but primarily just don’t waste your time on losers, and take another route around the problem.

    • “I think the strong position is the best approach in any circumstances. Those who are emotionally weakened are inclined to make excuses for themselves, to put the spotlight on themselves inadvertently, by seeking to express self-justification and so on. But all of these defensive tactics just make you look like the guilty one in the eyes of others. The strong position I am advocating may not win all the battles, but it will win the war.”

      Really important and this is why I am bolding it. The strong position also protects you more from their projection. Another technique they have (bureaucratically), though, is to keep insisting you show you can be fair and see all sides, which is a tactic designed to get you to say you are imperfect, and so on, and there we go.

      • I think in the case when I was asked to be fair and show that I could see both sides, I would have some shamanic fun.

        For instance I would make up some very quirky and endearing character traits of the bully. I would say that I could clearly see them in him, and that these traits endeared him to me. I would express that I was entirely sympathetic with his attempts to communicate with me, and found him very funny and humorous in a lot of ways.

        –THAT would be likely to throw everyone of course, and has a good chance of totally destroying the mindlock that that patriarchy, using the guise of patriarchal rationality, seeks to impose upon the victim.

        Basically, you are scrambling the patriarchal airwaves.

      • The point is to say something that puts the attention back on the bully, although in a way that doesn’t seem like it is attacking/defensive, but makes people wonder about him and not you. You seem very positive with your ability to see such amazing traits in the bully, the likes of which nobody else has ever seen. You should be negative about him, but you have put up a screen of pure positivity.

      • But this is of course the terrorist mode of counter-attack — which is suitable when you are being terrorised.

        Always best to make your real opinions and perspective opaque, in that case, by propounding a point of view as far from your real one as possible.

        That way you give yourself the protective measure of a mask (and don’t underestimate the degree to which people will fall for this, in an environment where natural intuitions have been supressed by hardline ideological impositions.)

      • Also I forgot to say — the bully wants to be FEARED. That is why it is imperative to invent qualities in him that are fuzzy and a little idiotic, and then emphatically approve of these.

        It’s totally the opposite reaction to what would be anticipated by him.

  12. Also, because I have seen that in the current era of nontraditional society, those who adopt a patriarchal perspective do damage to themselves, whether subtly or overtly. Sometimes it just comes down to a certain squalor of the mind, and limited perspective on the world. But there always seems to be some emotional damage done — which is why I said earlier about the boy-neechians, that they are “dangerous” primarily towards themselves. They stand in a limited and defensive position towards the world. They don’t expand and grow, because they are afraid of anything — any experience or sensation — that hasn’t already been hammered down by patriarchal squalor and control.

    So I can say quite confidently that these ppl are not healthy and have a distorted ideology.

    Their only advantage seems to be in getting others who are not patriarchal (or are only partly so and do not have their interests served by patriarchy) to waste energy in trying to appeal to their “better natures”.

    Let us cut to the chase — these types do not have any better natures. They are what you see — and their distortions are a genuine part of their ongoing character structures.

    • I like that phrase, “patriarchal squalor”! And good point about wasting time appealing to an absent better nature (which is why Gandhi/MLK nonviolence does not work on everyone, BTW).

      “You can’t fight them in predictable ways, or even necessarily by going through conventional channels, which will just drain your energy as you beat your head against more and more brick walls (something you can’t afford if you are being bullied).”

      *****VERY VERY IMPORTANT*****

      “…itsy-bitsy over-concerns for the future — which lead to bourgeois types never fully expressing themselves in the present.”

      YES, this is repressed/repressive and stultifying.

      “The key to fighting this fight — which has already been thoroughly choreographed by the patriarchy — is to become unpredictable.”

      YES, because it has been choreographed.

      • Never underestimate the degree to which the whole thing — including your predictable responses and seeking recourse through the predictable channels — has already been choreographed by the instincts of patriarchal power.

        You really do need to vary the script at any and every opportunity.

  13. Re seeking recourse, I agree emphatically although I would add that part of the choreography is that people are afraid to do it since by seeking recourse, you are opening yourself to a whole new level of terrorizing and that is well known. That is why one way to be unpredictable is to go right ahead and seek that recourse.

    The four comments above — I’ve tried them before, or tried versions of them before, and not had them work. Too subtle, people don’t get it. The bully may want to be feared, but mostly he wants to be seen as fuzzy and not a bully, and keep getting away with it. They may just not be my style / a style that works for me, or I may not yet do them quite right, or they may just not work in the cultures I’ve lived in …

    Still, muy interesante todo — !gracias a todas!

  14. I cannot emphasize enough how important the “vary the script” suggestion is.

  15. geopunk

    Thank you for this post!

    This especially resonated with me:
    And about the “I” language — hang it up. Everyone knows it is just a flipped around, passive aggressive version of the “you” language. Furthermore, it allows abusers to reiterate that it is you who are sensitive, not they who are out of line.

    There was a time when I was dealing with an intensely creepy (ex)roommate. Creepy in the “sexual predator” sort of way. Since I was the only “female” [sic] in our social circle (gee, I wonder why women didn’t stick around very long when this guy was around…) he got away with a lot of bullshit, and I got painted as the “territorial b*tch” who was just paranoid and oversensitive. Using “I feel” statements allowed the other dudebros to write me off as a man-hating feminist, rather than actually recognize that what this guy was doing was just wrong.

  16. I think the “I language” only works on non bullies, i.e. people who actually have your best interests at heart.

    All the self help emphasis on it is for people who don’t know how to communicate effectively, i.e. express their needs and desires without putting the other person on the spot, shaming them, or something.

    Of course none of that applies to bullies: they don’t have your best interests and heart, and you have probably *already* bent over backwards to be diplomatic to them. THEY are the ones who need to look at themselves and discover their TRUE feelings.

    *

    That makes me realize something about Reeducation. The whole thing was designed for male bullies, I really think. For patriarchal alcoholics.

    Also, on the nature of the countertransference —
    if I transferred some version of my mother AND (flash!) the people in my first job onto Reeducation (I think I did something like that) … and also started to hate my father and the many aspects of myself which resemble him [in a positive way!] the way my mother and the people in my first job do … well Reeducation transferred onto me its hatred of intellectuals, city people, strong women, and so on and so forth, which was probably rooted in painful experience … so what we essentially bonded on was hatred of my father and eradication of my intellectual being … while I fell further and further into PRECISELY the role I had had with my mother, i.e. taking care of Reeducation while also taking s–t from it.

    OMG what a revelation. I mean a breakthrough revelation.

    • “designed for male bullies”? Do you mean designed to change you for their benefit, or do you mean designed to teach male bullies better life techniques?

      • I mean[t] designed to teach men who have interpersonal problems and don’t understand why to drop some of the cultural condition that makes them use bullying techniques.

        But actually, in my case it was as though it had been designed to change me for their benefit, yes! Haha, that’s a new insight and hilarious!

        I think that’s where the “draw a better boundary” thing comes in. You are supposed to stick with them, yet be impervious enough that you can still function in your life (yet also still be there to take care of them). VERY unrealistic and a VERY 1950s housewife type ideal.

  17. Jennifer makes the important point that we can’t always escape our circumstances and must, in the terrible phrase, “make the best of things.”
    And frankly, in my life, it has been necessary to put the needs of others ahead of my own. The last person I was in this position with was my mother in law. Aside from dropping my own life and heading for the hills, there was no way I could have avoided this one. And it was godawful and I’m glad it’s over.

    • Yes, this is all true. My impetus behind the post was being told I should be nicely friends with some people I don’t like because they are bullies … and so I said no and then got, oh but if you just don’t let them get to you, you could hang out with them, to which I said, why? why should I?

      What I noticed from this was that that kind of advice is also given re situations where one must make the best of things. My argument is that the way to make the best of things is NOT necessarily to just shut up and take it, or try to “draw a better boundary” (although one can do what Kathmandu said, not fight them on an open plain).

  18. yeah what I suggested in those four sequential posts may not work if you are in an environment that already knows you well, or if there are certain characteristics of the environment that were not in my original one. It worked very well for me because I had to sabotage a spying system that was being operated by a lapdog.

    Also what I was getting at is that it pays to keep in mind that in an environment where bullying is endemic, people tend to lack what Nietzsche refers to as an “instinct” for truth. This is what allows the bullying to perpetuate. The victim looks closer and closer at themselves, with the intent of discovering the real, genuine truth about themselves and about the situation they are in. The victim becomes willing to accept a lot of the “fault” of the situation in order to obtain concessions regarding justice — that is, in order to obtain other ppl’s recognition of the truth. But instincts regarding truth have become so blunted that this palliative will never be forthcoming.

    (And yet it is necessary to obtain a genuine recognition of the truth of what happened. Judith Lewis Herman says, in Trauma and Recovery, that a sense of being let down by the system or by one’s society is a key trigger for developing PTSD.)

    In any case, the broader concept of my point was to indicate that it’s important to recognise the difference between a situation where the truth is possible and where it isn’t. A victim’s psychological NEED for truth may drive them to attempt solutions in the wrong direction — in a direction that cannot be resolved because of ppls blunted instincts for reality.

    • Good points and re this — “A victim’s psychological NEED for truth may drive them to attempt solutions in the wrong direction — in a direction that cannot be resolved because of ppls blunted instincts for reality” — yes.

      Although I’ve often been told that requests for documentation and the habit of documenting were just manifestations of a psychological need for truth. No: you need documentation.

      It is important to remember that you can’t get a bully to see your reality. This is not in their interest, so they wouldn’t want to even if they were capable of doing it. If your deal is that you want them to recognize and validate you at last, you have to give that up. In workplace cases, you can have them forced to give you your space, gotten off evaluation committees, all kinds of things like that (if you take formal action and if you win, that is). Psychological validation you have to get elsewhere, from some other witness.

      • Yes, it is important to conceptually separate out one’s need for truth from one’s need to extract some form of justice from the situation. They are two entirely separate things.

        I have a Neechy quote in moderation.

  19. I think that’s where the “draw a better boundary” thing comes in. You are supposed to stick with them, yet be impervious enough that you can still function in your life (yet also still be there to take care of them). VERY unrealistic and a VERY 1950s housewife type ideal

    I think the idea that you CAN be impervious is related to the notion that society is basically benevolent towards you, and that the problem represents a minor aberration, if that, in terms of how society functions.

    What if “society” is basically hostile, as many women and minorities experience it?

    • Right — that’s the thing. Then you have the choice given in Coming of Age in Mississippi, the book I just finished rereading and that blew my mind. You can be like the author, and confront things directly, and pay a price, or like her mother, and stay in place to suffer differently.

  20. Also I think the reason that popular advice concerning bullying is misguided is that people live on the surface of their consciousnesses. Or as Nietzsche said, “The chamber of consciousness is small” and that consciousness functions as a stomach that can only digest a certain amount of reality, and leaves aside a great deal of it as undigestable. So what is normally left “unprocessed” are the harder, more perilous aspects of life and the environment we live in. Why is climate change not given more attention than it is being given at present? It’s the same answer. We humans avoid confronting problems that threaten us too much. We cannot “stomach them” and so tend to try to cope by ignoring these issues that frighten us.

    Popular advice about bulling generally comes from those with small stomachs and weak digestive juices. They haven’t really had the intestinal fortitude to confront the issue directly — and yet, they would like to give advice upon the topic.

  21. Small doses of reality, yes. Important to remember.

    To digest more, one probably really has to be an initiate in suffering.

    The spiritual arrogance and disgust of every man who has suffered deeply—how profoundly men can suffer almost determines their order of rank—his chilling certainty, with which he is thoroughly soaked and coloured, that thanks to his suffering he knows more than the cleverest and wisest can know, that he has known and at some point been “at home” in many terrible far-off worlds, about which “you know nothing!” . . . this spiritual and silent arrogance of the sufferer, this pride of the one chosen to know, of the “initiate,” of the one who has almost been sacrificed, finds all kinds of disguises necessary to protect himself from contact with prying and compassionate hands and, in general, from everything which is not his equal in pain. Profound suffering ennobles; it separates. One of the most sophisticated forms of disguise is Epicureanism and a certain future courageousness in taste adopted as a show, which takes suffering lightly and resists everything sad and deep. There are “cheerful men” who use cheerfulness because it makes them misunderstood—they want to be misunderstood. There are “scientific men” who use science because that provides a cheerful appearance and because being scientific enables one to infer that the man is superficial—they want to tempt people to a false conclusion. There are free, impudent spirits who would like to hide and deny that they are broken, proud, incurable hearts; and now and then even foolishness is a mask for an unholy, all-too-certain knowledge. Hence, it follows that it’s part of a more sophisticated humanity to have reverence “for the mask” and not to pursue psychology and curiosity in the wrong place.

  22. Now, this is shamanic.

    But: so you have to have suffered to understand, and suffering always ennobles?

    I am willing to believe the former, although I would hope it is not true. I don’t think the latter is true.

  23. This perspective can’t be taken in isolation, but must be viewed in terms of the rest of the logic of shamanism (see my latest post on my blog about hierarchies).

    It’s about coming to terms with one’s experiences in such a way that they enhance one’s power rather than diminish it. This is the necessary mastery that is required of shamans.

    You can’t just simply expect “fate” as a kind of mechanical (or even “organic”–) mechanism, to do it for you. It revolves around the issue of becoming the master of one’s fate at this level of esoteric knowledge.

  24. ok– the comment went into moderation.

  25. Also, it reflects the Nietzschean conception of knowledge in terms of the stomach and its capacity to digest. The logic of it goes something like this: knowledge is something that we naturally protect ourselves against, because it is painful to know, as compared to the bliss of remaining ignorant about many things. So we will only know some things if we are compelled to know them, and in a way that goes very much against our instincts of self-protection in maintaining the blissful state of ignorance that suits us best.

    However, fate itself can and usually does step in to compel us to experience a number of things that make life questionable and not as simple as we had thought.

    Painful experiences CAN thus be a means of initiating us into knowledge that we would rather not have had.

    However, they can also serve to expand our digestive powers for reality, to make us “battle hardened” in order to be able to encounter knowledge without fear, and to enoble our characters. That is, if they do not destroy us.

    “Whatever doesn’t kill me makes me stronger.”

  26. Yes, I know, experiences *can* be used in such a way. However: I know too many torture victims, abused children, veterans with PTSD, trained military interrogators, etc., etc., to ever be able to believe that “what doesn’t kill people makes them stronger.” It weakens them.

  27. I don’t think that Nietzsche had any conception of the degree to which the 20th century would go, in the ways listed above.

    Nonetheless, your understanding is too empirical, rather than being related to a more artistic and inspired mode of seeing what the Neechy is getting at. It’s simply the wrong mode of thought to grasp his concepts.

  28. OK. What I am reacting to, really, is the overuse of that phrase “what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger,” by people who are massively scarred and messed up by what they’ve been through and claim it just made them “stronger” when it. did. fucking. not. and they haven’t become strong, they’ve just turned into insensitive jerks, or addicts, or something like that.

  29. Yeah, yeah, but it is the same syndrome of ppl misusing the Neechy. Check out my recent blog post about the role of doubt in shamanism. And Nietzsche makes VERY MUCH of this. Perhaps I choose a bad example, just offhand, but doubt leads to nihilism. Nietzsche was advocating for active nihilism rather than passive nihilism in the unpublished notes named Will to Power. (bad example since this is the work that was tampered with by his nazi sister).

    But the role of doubt or “skepticism” and how that can be used to further the Neechy spiritual project is very central to all of his writing. It is psychologically shamanistic. One moves away from being fixed within convention and its eternal truths when one begins to doubt — it is the beginning of the intellectual and creative Way.

    And so, ironically, or paradoxically, or whatever, there are those who think that Nietzsche teaches us to be stuck in convention especially with respect to gender roles!

    So misappropriations abound.

  30. OK I will study this and your posts!!!

    I got this long boring phone call last night and turned my brain to neutral, cleaned the whole house and let this person prattle on.

    Then hadn’t had time to wind down and go to sleep. Decided maybe I should just stay up until noon, read and write, then go sleep at the pool. But I now notice I am not making it!!!

  31. I had some sherry last night and went to sleep. I don’t like drinking so much anymore, but I find a slightly altered state of consciousness does enable me to be more creative.

  32. I have not recovered from that phone call which was from an emotional bully (the Blackguard).

    Slightly altered states, yes, they can be good!

  33. I always used to resort to altered states of consciousness after an event like that.

  34. I should, but I can’t really drink, because it leads to smoking, and I don’t want to start smoking! Otherwise I’d be drinking now … actually maybe I’ll start now.

    All I can say is that at least I have not gone and bought nicotine. No this person will not also get that out of me, no they won’t!!!

  35. drinking is not the best solution as it can make one look haggard.

    The point is to try to lose the sensation of the experience, in your mind.

    Remember – it is just a negative sensation, not a person that you need to remove the trace of.

    I think that one of the extreme tendencies of a generous soul is to attribute a personhood that is the “cause” behind the sensation you are experiencing from them.

    But often there is no “person” there at all — just a humanoid machine acting badly.

  36. Anyway, there is a technique that I learned from boxing, and I’m sure I’ve mentioned it before, but I used it with great effect yesterday. You might be able to master it. The approach is to make the other person work very hard for every point they want to score.

    It goes like this:

    Person: “How dare you refer to Dambudzo as a shaman? Use the proper Shona term, for heaven’s sake. He was a Svikiro!”

    Myself: “In saying he was a Svikiro, what are you implying? Give me an outline of what this term means and why you think he was one.”

    Person: “It’s the proper Shona term for medium. That is the term you should have been using all along.”

    Myself: “So are you claiming, now, that Dambudzo was a medium? I must admit I fail to see your point of view.”

    Person: “Er, um. I thought you were claiming he was a medium. Here is your quote saying he was a shamanic initiate. I made the assumption that you thought he was a shaman.”

    Myself: “Oh, I see that you misunderstood me. I did claim he was a shaman in my particular terms, but I have already clearly refuted the idea that he was a medium, in my chapter.”

    Person: “Oh, I see. Then everything is alright then.”

  37. Yes, this can be done but it takes a lot of time and is hardly enough at present. I would love to say more but I cannot even say why I cannot. Be assured that it is boring and I am overreacting.

  38. AHA now I see this comment:

    The point is to try to lose the sensation of the experience, in your mind.

    “it is just a negative sensation, not a person that you need to remove the trace of”

    “one of the extreme tendencies of a generous soul is to attribute a personhood that is the ’cause’ behind the sensation you are experiencing from them”

    “often there is no ‘person’ there at all — just a humanoid machine acting badly”

    YEAH. I am so p.o.’d at this moment realizing what happened and how overly nice I am to have fallen into the trap. !!!!

  39. It was a troll that finally convinced me of the truth — and I’ve remained convinced ever since. Some people really are just stimulus-response machines. Actually they have very little ability to process complex material — as for instance that kind of material that pertains to having personhood and dealing with other humans as persons.

    They respond to words that they believe they already recognise, and this becomes an adrenaline stimulus for them. They seek to obtain a response as an additional form of stimulation. Yet they can’t process complicated thoughts or ideas.

    Best thing is to resist sharing any of your authentic self with such stimulus-response machines.

  40. Also: That is why, if even so much as SUSPECT that I am dealing with a stimulus-response machine, and not a person, I put the pressure back on them, to make them work at least as hard as they are expecting me to do, to communicate their point of view. If they cannot or will not communicate this in an authentic and intelligible manner, I determine that I was dealing with a machine all along, and I have nothing more to do with them (at least on a human level).

  41. Absolutely right.

    My error in these instances is to think that a flash of authenticity will stop them. I know why, too — this works on real people, no matter how messed up they are on the surface!!!

    How to force this person to normalcy is to refuse to engage.

    *

    Person #3 on our team says ze handles it just by remembering this blackguard is only blowing off steam. Yet I can’t just stand and listen because the steam coming to me is toxic.

    *

    I am caught because the pain this person expresses is my same pain. Which only means that what has to be healed is my pain, blah blah blah.

    *

    If our team were larger there would be no question about any of this — I’d be insulated. Just because that is not the case does not mean the same rules do not apply.

    !!!

  42. It really is strange, isn’t it? I think that ppl like you and I have a powerful desire just to see people behave as humans, in the full sense of what we believe that means. When it comes to trolls and things like that, the immediate reflex we have is: “It must be terrible to be like you, to be unable to see reason, or to differentiate between light and dark. Let me help you.”

    This reflex drags us into their suffering — which is always suffering they endure that’s self inflicted. ANYBODY in the first world CAN become more educated if they make some sacrifices. Almost ANYBODY can choose to impose the self discipline that will make them less a drag on others and better human beings. Somehow, though, this person hasn’t been able to lift their standards.

    Really, we need to accept that they are happy being the way they are, with all the drama-queen behaviour and the probably quite genuine (but self-afflicted) pain.

    I think probably what really offends us and makes us rush to try to improve their situation is the way they discombobulate our AESTHETIC sense of the way things should be — We want to be surrounded by beauty, and so we try to beautify our environment by improving that which we consider ugly.

    Nonetheless, we need to consider that they don’t consider themselves ugly — but already consider themselves to be beautiful.

    So there is little to change.

    Leave them alone.

  43. Exactly true once again. And literally, this person even keeps saying ze is beautiful.

    My problem is my comparatively healthy childhood (which Reeducation didn’t believe in, of course). But in fact my so called first education had some flaws but also some strong points, and it was often possible to tell the adults hey, let’s follow your strong points, not your flaws … and they’d often say oh yes, I forgot for a moment but that really is the best idea, isn’t it!

    So I expect that kind of response from people who are having a little bit of trouble, and I forget that this response isn’t necessarily there.

  44. You you need to literally develop some self-defensive capabilities — some ninja tactics.

  45. 349.

    Once more the origin of scholars.— The wish to preserve oneself is the symptom of a condition of distress, of a limitation of the really fundamental instinct of life which aims at the expansion of power and, wishing for that, frequently risks and even sacrifices self-preservation. It should be considered symptomatic when some philosophers, for example, Spinoza who was consumptive, considered the instinct of self-preservation decisive and had to see it that way:—for they were individuals in conditions of distress. That our modern natural sciences have become so thoroughly entangled in this Spinozistic dogma (most recently and worst of all, Darwinism with its incomprehensibly one-sided doctrine of the “struggle for existence”—) is probably due to the origins of most natural scientists: in this respect they belong to the “common people [Volk],” their ancestors were poor and undistinguished people who knew the difficulties of survival only too well at firsthand. The whole of English Darwinism breathes something like the musty air of English overpopulation, like the smell of the distress and overcrowding of small people. But a natural scientist should come out of his human nook: and in nature it is not conditions of distress that are dominant but overflow and squandering, even to the point of absurdity. The struggle for existence is only an exception, a temporary restriction of the will of life; the great and small struggle always revolves around superiority [Übergewicht], around growth and expansion, around power, in accordance with the will to power which is the will of life.

  46. How morality is scarcely dispensable.— A naked human being is generally a shameful sight—I am speaking of us Europeans (and not even of female Europeans!). Suppose that, owing to some magician’s malice, the most cheerful company at table suddenly saw itself disrobed and undressed; I believe that not only their cheerfulness would vanish and that the strongest appetite would be discouraged— it seems that we Europeans simply cannot dispense with that masquerade which one calls clothes. Now consider the way “moral man” is dressed up, how he is veiled behind moral formulas and concepts of decency—the way our actions are benevolently concealed by the concepts of duty, virtue, sense of community, honorableness, self-denial—should the reasons for all this not be equally good? I am not suggesting that all this is meant to mask human malice and villainy—the wild animal in us; my idea is, on the contrary, that it is precisely as tame animals that we are a shameful sight and in need of the moral disguise,—that the “inner man” in Europe is not by a long shot bad enough to show himself without shame (or to be beautiful—). The European disguises himself with morality because he has become a sick, sickly, crippled animal that has good reasons for being “tame,” for he is almost an abortion, scarce half made up, weak, awkward … It is not the ferocity of the beast of prey that requires a moral disguise but the herd animal with its profound mediocrity, timidity, and boredom with itself. With morality the European dresses up—let us confess it!—to look nobler, more important, more respectable, “divine”—

  47. Ninja, yes.

    Expansion of life, yes — it’s what I’m into and this person is trying to push to mere survival.

    And I have to stop “being good.”

  48. Pingback: On Transference « Professor Zero

  49. Wadsliell

    [Someone is writing in to ask if the thread is still active. Edited by Z.]

  50. The thread is worth reactivating to review Nietzche. Meanwhile here is another post about workplace bullying I had bookmarked, so I will put it here.

    http://www.examiner.com/examiner/x-11864-Office-Politics-Examiner~y2009m6d11-Hes-always-gossiping-about-me

  51. Z

    Hi Fataspesy / Juddanickjap — I appreciate your comment but you seem to be a Czech or Ukrainian .bot, and you appear to have banned from other sites. Feel free to e-mail me at profacero@gmail.com if I am misjudging you. In the meantime, thank you for drawing new attention to this thread!

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