Monday, August 27, 2018


A sense of joy seems to come out of nowhere, almost unrelated to the events of the day or of a life. Sometimes when in the city, for example, I stand waiting for the green light to give me permission to cross Collins Street. I look up the hill of that relatively long street and I feel a sense of joy. It has happened  several times over a long period of time and I've never quite known why it should happen at that particular moment. Perhaps I once felt joy in that spot and all the other moments in that spot are repeats of that moment of joy...

Having had the experience of joy just appearing on my horizon for no particular reason on many occasions I find it curious that it has decided to pass me by of late. I still function relatively fine. I enjoyed very much having a family brunch yesterday for one son's birthday. I enjoyed seeing him happily cocooned in our love.

I have a number of reasons to be excited about life right now. Well, I am still here and that's enough in and of itself. But, beyond that, my daughter is expecting the arrival of her baby very soon, and I am traveling soon. Spring is on its way. The three ugly trees in our yard have gone and now we can get on with creating a pretty garden. If one were to make a list of reasons to be grateful it would be long, for sure.

Yet, no joy, no little bubbles rising up and giving that sense of aliveness. I suspect it is a little bit of what is commonly known as 'depression'. It stems, I think, from having to accept certain realities; to face facts; to come out of the fog, which is a good thing long term but disorienting right now.

We can, of course, control our behaviors and our thoughts. We can distract and steer our thoughts. We can motivate ourselves to do positive and productive things. We can jig ourselves out of a funk. I've done it countless times. I tend to navigate towards the positive side of the street simply because I am so much more comfortable there.

We can notice the little things. Right now, the sky is blue, the air is clear; as I breathe in and out my inner world is calm. I have a certain amount of influence over my state of mind.

I can't will joy however. I can't make her come to me, overtake me. I can simply be open to the experience, confident that she won't stay away forever. She certainly never has before.

Monday, August 6, 2018


Gaslight has been in my consciousness for as long as I can remember. As a much younger person it was such dark material; a husband who appeared loving but was in fact using manipulation to make his wife wonder about her own sanity, all in the name of him getting what he wanted.

My young mind saw it as movie material. I realize now that I never took the notion of someone doing something like that seriously. As time went by I'd read of a marriage gone sour and one killing the other, and over time I came to appreciate the fact that you are more likely to be killed by someone you know than a stranger. But, manipulation tactics, tactics used to manipulate the person someone professed to love, passed me by.

Manipulation isn't like rape or assault or even stealing all the money from your joint account and taking off with a lover. It is subtle, a little bit here and a little bit there. The clever person gets under your skin; knows you so well that he or she gets to understand what makes you tick; how hard you're willing to work to make a relationship succeed; how entirely possible it is for you to question your own behavior; how often you are willing to turn the other cheek.

Those that have been subjected to manipulation by someone who supposedly loves them tend to all have the same question. 'How did he learn these tactics?' It's a fair question because a person whose default position when pushed is to manipulate another person doesn't look a particular way or even act in a particular way most of the time. Most of the time they can look exactly what you would expect an upstanding member of the community to look like, and most of the time they act the way you would expect a reasonably loving person to behave.

I do wonder if people who become adept at using manipulation in personal relationships did in fact learn some of these tactics in their childhood. Perhaps they did some shady things and when suspicion fell on them they needed to concoct stories. Or, perhaps they had an overbearing adult in their lives such that they needed to make use of deceit to protect themselves.

In the process of protecting themselves they came to see that the world was 'dog eat dog'. To survive, or just to get their way, there were things they could, must, say and do; certain types of people with whom they could build a life, such that the odds of being in control were more certain.

Some tactics of manipulation are so prevalent that any manipulative personality worth his salt is not going to miss them. Raising one's voice, be that in public or privately at home, is a well honed tactic. What does the other person, and at home the other person is likely to be a quiet living sort of person who hates disagreement and shouting, going to do once the tone has been elevated such that neighbors will almost certainly hear. But, of course, the other person leaves the space to enable the manipulator to settle down.

Did the other person think that the shouting person had erupted on purpose; that he or she got all riled up on purpose? Maybe. Or, maybe it is thought there is a lack of self-control. Either way, the conversation has come to an end. Whatever was being discussed, not to the liking of the person who has started to shout, is now unresolved, just as was intended.

I think frustration leads almost anybody to sometimes shout back, by the way, but again, where does that lead? It does not lead to a civil, sharing of thoughts in a rational conversation between two people who need to sort a matter out.

When the default becomes that one person of a couple has the God given right to raise his or her voice whenever they feel something uncomfortable, perhaps a doubt being raised, or having to explain something, it doesn't take long before people around that person begin to 'walk on eggshells'. Once everybody is walking on eggshells, well, that person has everyone right where he or she wants them; concerned to raise a matter, keeping as quiet as possible, being agreeable; keeping opinions to themselves. Control is theirs for the taking.

The drama stops by putting up limits. The offended party may say, 'I can't go on talking to you until you stop shouting', or they can remove themselves from the situation. This is what is recommended. But do note, there is still complete control assumed by one party. Nothing was resolved. The affection takes a heavy hit until a more reasonable dynamic has come into place. But, what are the odds of a new default behavior; 50:50 at best. Once the fog lifts and the behavior is seen for what it is, well, you can never go back to being in the fog.

Raising one's voice is merely one of a good dozen of strategies used by those for whom winning means everything; for whom keeping another in the bottom down position is important. I think it is important to call them for what they are - manipulation strategies. In the world going forward people will be more and more informed about this sort of thing; expectations for playing fair will mean that people are more awake. That's a good thing.