The Perpetrator Inside

Part 3 of a continuing series, (see Part 1 here), documenting and reflecting on a set of states I mapped and moved in 2008. The set revolves around a deeply buried, internalized violence taken on in childhood and adolescence in response to experiences with my father.


Let me show you what I mean about my father being no different from me. A couple years back I became aware of a highly reactive place in myself, a place which harshly judged other men, in particular those who behaved in unconscious, exploitative, or controlling ways. I knew these reactive states were creating problems for me, and decided to dig in. My first notes were about three incidents which connected the dots for me, letting me know indisputably there was a pattern at play which needed to be addressed.

These notes are from January 1, 2008. Precipitants:

  • An incident at dance, with a guy who went off on me for getting in his “nest,” and my discomfort and inability to address his inappropriate violence.
  • An incident at my men’s group, where someone dissed me in an offhand way, and I confronted him about it, and felt very intense emotions wracking my whole body, similar physical effect as the incident at dance.
  • Sending out an e-mail to my list with a mistake in the first line – “[name]” — and my self-flagellation about that.

These incidents seemed related, having to do with judgments about authority and anything looking like unbalanced male judgment, even to the extent of coming down on myself for doing something that could be construed as insensitive or non-genuine.

That night I had a dream about being a prisoner, lying bound on the floor of a bare cell, a tall, jackbooted, masked guard standing over me. In the dream I knew the guard was going to beat me and I was helpless to do anything about it.

As I mentioned before in my story about the day I liberated myself from the mood swings, (My First Big Transformation), dreams can be a wonderful source for feeling states that have remained outside of waking consciousness. As I identified with the guard the next day, I tapped into the rage and recognized it as my own. Not only was it mine, but it was familiar, going way back at least to my teen years.

We were harvesting oats, my father and I, putting them into the granary. The dusty oats traveled from the metal grain wagon through a cylindrical auger into the tightly enclosed, unventilated room where the grain was kept. It was my job to push the oats to the corners of granary bin, to make sure it filled properly without impeding the flow from the auger or spilling out onto the floor.

I had pretty severe allergies at the time to dust and pollen. Although I had a handkerchief tied over my face, the dust got through. I started wheezing, my eyes itching and swelling, and I began to panic in the room. I went downstairs where my father was doing something else and with my edge of resentment a little closer to the surface than usual as a result of the fear, told him sharply I couldn’t do this. I was trying to stand up for myself. The result was a punch to the chest that knocked me to the ground and a command to get back up there and do what I was told.

This was one moment in an endless series, (although not often so physical). But with the heightened urgency, my panic and need to draw some kind of line of what was OK, in the moment of that punch, something in me collapsed. I gave up. In the months and years following, the resentment had no place to go and grew into a fiercely smoldering rage. There were times I imagined killing him, but knew I could not because I was not willing to accept the consequences. I held out hope for escape one day when I left for college.

Want to participate in conversations about the feeling mind? Over the coming year (2019), depending on interest, I’ll be I’ll be hosting live, group calls where we can go much deeper into the material and practice the skills. If you think you might be interested, please reach out to me.