Monday, August 18, 2008

In His Sights

Reading The Secrets of Storytelling : Why We Love a Good Yarn made me think about a of book I read recently. It is a "true story" so it does not fit the categorization of "yarn" the article concentrates on. However, it is a case of truth being stranger than fiction and therefore just as fascinating as the best yarn - though in the context of this book disturbing and terrifying would be far more apt than "fascinating". The true story in this book does what the article suggests yarns may do : "act as “flight simulators” for social life" albeit only for a certain aspect of it.

The book I mention, should be essential reading for any woman who is old enough to be in a relationship whether or not she is in one. In His Sights by Kate Brennan is "a true story of love and obsession", of an educated, confident and intelligent woman who is stalked by a former lover for over a decade with her stalker continuing to be large to this day. It is the story of one woman's relatively normal life spinning completely out of control because of one man.

She lets the reader into the mind of this man, his past, his many demons and what makes him do what he does to her. More importantly, she shows us how in intimate relationships that end very badly, there are many ominous signs that should serve as warning from the very beginning but the victim ignores their gut until its too late. Hindsight is almost always 20/20.

There is always the recurring theme of "If I had known or understood then what I do now, my life could have been completely different". There is remorse and regret for having missed the obvious indications, for not having the prescience to see what the future held. Then there is the part played by the victim in precipitating this situation, the one who is relentlessly stalked. Brennan traces the the long, torturous path that leads them to the perpetrator.

It is as if their life experiences work conspire against them in a way that will inevitably lead them to such dangerous and deviant men. She contends that women like her have grown up being subjected so much abuse and cruelty from men in their families (fathers and brothers mainly) that their thresholds for tolerating bad behavior from men (which in later life is primarily their lovers and husbands) is abnormally high. They don't realize that they are in an emotionally abusive and destructive relationship until it is too late and much damage has already been done. The first step to breaking the pattern is obviously to recognize it.

Brennan identifies her problem perfectly when she says :

The pattern is clear : I pick men who are attracted by my strength and who then try to wring it out of me.

She lists the characteristics of her stalker - red flags that any woman would ignore to her peril :

He was wooing fast and furious. He was unfaithful and ultimately did not bother to hide it. He used my past against me. He used cruelty to control me. He was so good at lying to himself, he lost track of what was real - if, that is, he ever knew.

She talks about the many things she has lost in life as a result of having been in this relationship in the context of her paranoia about being followed and watched:

Perhaps this has nothing to do with Paul. It's quite possible, but what I'm left with is always the same : he has bled the assumption of innocent coincidence right out of my life. His final gift to me is a life of not knowing, not ever knowing for sure.

It does not take a stalker to transform a woman's attitude towards her life and love permanently and irreversibly. She can never view things with the innocence she had before a bad relationship. She carries many deep emotional scars into the next and the next one and often there are many of them before she is able to find one she can safely sink anchor in.

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