‘I don’t know what came over me’

14 Dec

I’ve known a couple of guys beat up their women. Probably more; they’re just the ones I’m sure about. Never went in for it myself, though I once returned with reciprocal force the single slap an ex gave me. But I’ve done my share of verbal abuse, and bullying’s bullying whatever the mode. The bully is in all of us and that’s not even a problem until – I’m choosing my words carefully – we decide to unleash it. Then it’s a different story as, in the shamefaced aftermath, cognitive dissonance has us pulling from the psychic cupboard, right at the front where we left it last time, the explanation least damaging to self image: “I just lost it … something snapped”.

I don’t know what came over me. Everything went blank and the next thing I knew she was on the floor, dead … officer …

Thing is, we actually believe this kind of guff the moment we come out with it but it’s a lie: one we’ve stopped seeing as such because we’ve been telling it to others and ourselves for so long we’ve become convinced through sheer repetition. Doesn’t make it true though. Doesn’t even make it honest error. It just makes us self deceivers, and a price we pay for that is ingeniously creative stupidity. The man who beats his woman, the woman who lays into her howling child or uses her sharper verbal skills to cut down her man, have chosen their victims with care. We never just lose it  with those stronger than ourselves so what does that tell us? That at some point a cold, calculated decision  is made to let the demon off the lead with the savage glee of the liberated ego: here’s Johnny!

Nor are the calculations confined to risk assessment. They extend to the writing in advance of a cosmic sick note: I’m gonna go for it … then say ‘I just lost it’ and everyone; me included, will believe it! 

It’s not difficult with practise to stand back, replay the tape in slow-mo and see that these are indeed the calculations we make. Not difficult; just hard. Superstition is much easier. All we need tell ourselves is that we’re not in the driver’s seat at such moments, that an irresistably demonic force takes over to bypass volitionality and – here’s the best part – relieve us of all accountability.

We have the most effective intellects of any species, and not just in reasoning power. Isn’t one of several depressing aspects of the human condition our refusal to take up the birthright of self awareness, drop that superstitious relationship with our own minds and live as victors, not victims?

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