When I was on travel in Portland a little over a year ago, I encountered a woman in recovery from an abusive relationship. As she described it, the most terrifying part of the experience was being abandoned by her family and friends.
While the most visible of our psychopaths seek temporal power, I think that this evidence confuses our response to them as personalities. The mechanisms of temporal power are useful only in that they can be used to induce fear in the victim. The victim, believing that there is no escape from their prison, ultimately surrenders their soul to be infected by the psychopath.
I have myself felt abandoned on more than one occasion. The ties of love, unfortunately, are a two-way street. Through them comes solace, but if we aren’t strong enough to keep the predator out, venom can flow back the other way. Often, it is those who have been most secure in their relationship that provide the most productive target to the predator. They lack defensive skills, and their personality is deeply embedded in a rich field of supportive relationships. The lady in Portland was ostracized by those seeking to protect themselves. In more primitive societies, the victim of rape might be “put out of her misery.” (The movie “They Shoot Horses, Don’t They” explored this in a more contemporary context.)
Fear is an incredibly effective tool for acquisition of temporal power. Apart from certain privileged elites, almost every human society has been dominated by this dynamic. Even where established, the fragility of that privilege is evidenced by the tens of millions of people displaced by insurrections around the world. Guerrilla armies that do not seek to establish and defend fixed boundaries are almost impossible to control (witness IS, al Qaeda and the Boko Haram).
So how is the religious avatar to deal with this situation? The approach advocated by most is to “Render unto Caesar.” They surrender temporal power and gather to themselves the “weary and burdened,” those beneath the notice of fattened predators. But as that cohort grows, sooner or later the predators are enticed to feast on the spirits of the protected community. The avatar is then confronted with the reality that his charges are not strong enough to keep the predators out.
The challenge is faced by any individual seeking to sustain a blessed community, even if that be only a family or kindergarten classroom. This has been my challenge over the last twenty years. For a long time, I fought against the predators that surround me. They feel the power of my mind and the strength of the loving associations that I evolve through my writing, dancing and meditation. They create conflict in my life and then plead innocence as I fight back against their influence.
For the last seven years, I have woken up every night in the wee hours of the morning to take up consideration of this dialectic – the dialectic of “blame the victim” that becomes so convincing as the history of a relationship with a psychopath evolves. The psychopath focuses on the wrongs that have been done to them in the recent past, attempting to bury the seeds of the evolution of conflict behind a psychic wall. They use that wall to fence out the beloved community, to suck away the energy that we have accumulated through loving.
So two nights ago I took up a different tack: I simply announced, “I’m really tired of thinking about you.” I listened to praise music as a means of re-affirming the principles that guide my loving relationships, and I pushed methodically against the massed predatory presence. I forced them to the outside of my mind, and re-established the connections to my beloved community. When the poison began to seep back in, I visualized the arrival of guardians to turn the tables on them.
And last night, for the first time in seven years, I slept peacefully.