Adding to what Bookslut said….

I have some practical things to add to  today’s Bibliomancer column (which I love reading, but today = eeeeeeesh).

Letter Writer, whatever you decide to do about investigating & interrogating the effect “Doug” holds on your past, there is some practical shit you can do to get the actual dude out of your actual life. You obviously wrote for literary advice, so here is a book recommendation: The Gift of Fear by Gavin De Becker.

1. You are not overreacting. BLOCK.

2. Ask your friends to block him without further ado. Don’t apologize. “That dude is creepy, he is messaging me and insinuating himself among my friends in violation of my express wishes, please block him. The best way is to do it without comment or prelude, just refuse all contact and don’t respond to anything from him.

3. Filter his emails so that they bypass your inbox without you even seeing them. I would tell you to block him there, too, but you may need them later in case he escalates his behavior.

4. You’ve already told him that you didn’t want to be in touch with him, and he kept writing to you and in fact, escalated his efforts to be in touch with you and make sure you’d notice him. Telling him again won’t really register or make a difference, it will just confirm that he has your attention. The only way to dispel this particular kind of ghost is to starve it of your attention.


7. You are not “bad at relationships.” You are a survivor of a relationship with a manipulative and controlling man. Here there be ghosts, and ghosts, and ghosts. But you are not doing anything wrong by wanting him out of your life forever.  give you permission to go ahead and hurt his pathetic little stalker fee-fees in preservation of your own peace. He has no right to keep intruding into your life when you have asked him not to. He needs to dispel his own ghosts on his own time.


Captain Awkward








95 thoughts on “Adding to what Bookslut said….

  1. WAY in the middle of this myself. Although haven’t been at the “we’re broken up and moved on” stage, just at the “things are escalating, shit’s getting weird”. The flipflop from sad man to angry man to stalker-dude is happening faster and faster. And the “won’t go away” factor is increasing.

    1. It feels horrible to cut someone off that you ostensibly used to love, but it is a kindness to yourself and can be a kindness to them. It’s like, dude, quit emailing me! Your ass is showing and you are embarrassing yourself! Let’s take a break where everyone can hold onto a little pride & self-respect!

      1. turns out I can’t block texts. So in the two minutes since, there were two, asserting his hurt and asking if I even care that he hurts. I guess he can’t fathom that I might feel less than delighted at how it all worked out, or that his behaviour has any role in what happens.

        1. Can you change his name in your contacts list to something like “DONT READ”? It’s a band-aid, I know, but maybe it would help?

          1. My ex’s number in my phone (on someone’s recommendation in comments here, some time ago) is just “NO.” I sometimes have to relay information about kids to him (less and less often as the “kids” are mostly-independent young adults, but it will probably never go away entirely), and very occasionally have need to give his number to someone else, so there are good reasons to keep the number, but I never, ever, ever answer a call or text FROM him.

        2. In addition to changing his name to something like, “Don’t read,” do you have a friend or family member you’d trust enough to occasionally go through the texts/VMs from him, make sure there’s nothing you need to know, and then delete them all for you (or if you know there will be nothing you need to know, just delete them from the start)? It’s really really hard not to engage with someone when they are claiming untrue things or accusing you of not caring. Sometimes it’s better just to not know.

          1. I must disagree. I’m totally with redgirl on the “have a friend or family member read them and tell you if there’s anything you need to know” (although I think it’s pretty clear that what you need to know is that this guy wants to be part of your life and you do not want that to happen).

            However, if you, LW, need to file for a restraining order at some point in the future, or if he escalates his attempts to contact you to threats, or if Something Bad goes down, you will need to have every last one of the emails and texts and voicemails he’s sent you. Hell, get your friends to send you screenshots of his friend requests to them. Because the law is not on your side, here. It isn’t necessarily on his, either, but the better you are at pwning bureaucracy and producing WAY more evidence than should be necessary, the better your chances are of bringing the law around to seeing things your way.

            If nothing else, keeping a folder of all of this shite will allow you to go back once a week and see how ridiculously large the _number_ of messages he’s sending you is, which may help to reduce slightly the doubt you have about whether his behavior is appropriate. (Spoiler: It is not.)

    2. Aaack, that sounds terrifying! Please take CA’s advice and get yourself as much distance from that guy as possible, right the fuck now!

      1. Distance. Wouldn’t that be simple if the person wasn’t obsessive? And didn’t show up if I don’t answer calls? And didn’t know my schedule? And wasn’t an ex-cop of sorts? Yeah, or if he could hear the concept of “leave me alone” at all?

        1. There is actually a high correlation among law enforcement peeps & domestic violence/stalking. Super-terrifying. Ugh, I hope you can find a way to be safe and not engage.

          1. The big tipping point this week was what I considered to be threatening talk about one of my friends, and a follow-up phone message explaining how what was said didn’t meet the legal criterion for “making threats”. Today’s comment (when I said that if friend came to any harm over this, as friend is being implicated, police would be involved post-haste) “I am not afraid of the police.” <—-Them's not reassuring words to speak to someone who has just said "I find your comments to be threatening and out of line"

        2. If there is a domestic violence shelter/hotline in your area, please contact them now. If he has friendly connections in law enforcement and is escalating his attentions to you, you need to start accumulating a paper trail and getting some relevant input from people trained to deal with this. In other words, queue Team You from among the official resources, not just friends and family. Before you need to seek physical refuge/change your name/abandon teh internetz furever.

          The only reason I was spared this was because my obsessive ex mercifully moved out of state in short order. But 5+ years later, still asks (steadily declining) mutual friends about me.

          1. breakup about to happen, as in he’s driving over to pick up a couple of things, and my kid is safely tucked away. IO’m terrified.

          2. D, I hope it goes smoothly. Sometimes the presence of another person does wonders to keep people on good behavior, you might consider asking a friend to come over.

            You can do this! You’re worth it.

        3. D, is there any way you can invite a third party to be there with you while he is on site? Via Skype if nothing else?

          1. no, and it’s done. With standard creepy assertions of love, and recollections of specific dates on which “we were happy”. I’m sure it’s not over. But I can’t stand anymore stress. Why won’t I listen to his side? (because it’s not true? well, if it’s not true it is at least his perspective on things….so that should count.) So sad, because I had hoped this would be so much more, but also several YEARS of unhappiness.

          2. D, I am so glad for you that it’s done. Best wishes and good thoughts and my hope for safety, happiness, and health.

        4. Is there someone, neighbor or friend or family, you can call to be with you when he comes? In person or on the phone? Even if he doesn’t cross boundaries, just having a witness/support person can help with the whole internal stability, processing and validation factor.

          1. absolutely agree with you that having a witness to validate what is going on can be truly very helpful. Most of the time when I have been to counselling, that is specifically whatI find most settling….the idea that when my reactions meet an unbiased third party, they generally come out being saner and more normal than the other “engaged” party would have me believe.

            It would have been enormously supportive, but it wasn’t something that was going to happen. We’ll see if the breakup “took”.

        5. We’re pulling for you!

          Call a hotline for help, when you need it, because you’re probably beyond our paygrade and definitely beyond our ability to respond quickly. But we are holding good thoughts for you.

          1. Thank you. I’m sure it isn’t over. But it’s quiet here, and we’ve debriefed within our household for the moment.

        6. A domestic violence hotline can also help you with practical suggestions for safety planning, like helping you develop a strategy in advance for what to do if a bad situation occurs. When people are scared & in the middle of a high-stress situation it can be hard to think clearly. It can be really helpful to have a plan in advance that “if X happens, I will do Y,” so you don’t have to figure out what to do in the moment.

        7. Oh man. I really feel for you. I have an ex who is (was?) in military with a really high security clearance. He pulled some REALLY scary stuff on me. I hope that yours gets the “leave me alone” message quickly and with minimal drama.

    3. I’m joining the chorus to say I have my fingers crossed for you. Best wishes to you and your friends and family!

    4. Just wanted to add my voice to those wishing you the best. It sounds like you’re now-ex is a real piece of work. (Example: “Why won’t you listening to my side?” Dude, because she doesn’t want to and isn’t required to. Stop being an ass.)

  2. That advice (via Bookslut) was frighteningly irresponsible – maybe I’m too used to this and other like-minded blogs, but it’s blowing my mind that anyone could even think like that.

    1. I agree! It’s very poetic and emotional but absolutely the wrong way to handle this guy. Yeah, go to therapy and work it out there if you feel the need, but otherwise, DO NOT ENGAGE.

    2. It didn’t resonate for me but I could see it being very useful for someone trying to figure out how to answer the question “Why am I not over this? How do I get over this?” People resonate to different things, I used to love Cary Tennis and now I’m not so interested in his perspective, even when the gist of what he advises seems solid.

      I just think what bookslut answered wasn’t the question. I mean, yeah, LW is having nightmares, but odds are they’re coming from “stalker ex is invading my space ACK”. It’s not so much time to do self-introspection and figure out why you’re emotionally stuck — or at least, that’s not what the LW asked for. LW asked for permission to block and have friends block.


        Also, Cary Tennis…I read a lot of his stuff back in the day, but these days I can’t even look at his cartoon face. And his comment section is THE WORST. The worst ever.

        1. Ugh, why did I just go to his blog and READ THE COMMENTS? Curiosity and cats, I guess. It’s pretty messed up to have an advice column without a moderated comments section.

        2. Oh yes. So much yes. I used to comment regularly there and then one day I just stopped. Now I only read his stuff when it hits the badadvice tumblr, and my life is better for it.

          I think if the navelgazing self-deprecating-yet-still-shockingly-privileged feel of his writing had passed I might have kept reading, even so.

      2. So much this! Maybe the reason you are having nightmares and “aren’t over” this guy is because *he’s being a creepy stalker*. It sounds like the LW had in fact moved on quite happily before creepy dude resurfaced, and while talking to a good therapist is seldom a bad idea, it’s totally not the focus of her problem right now.

      3. I’m glad I’m not the only one who thought of Cary Tennis while reading that. There’s a time and a place to lose your writing in a metaphor, and advice columns are not it, IMO.

        1. I thought maybe it was just me who got a Cary Tennis vibe. I cut wayyy down on my CT consumption after the whole “bi = poly” thing. Ugh. But even before then, I was getting a little tired of all the “I’m so creative but I just can’t creaaate!” letters.

    3. Bookslut seemed to be enjoying LW’s problem a little too much for my taste. “Let’s equate your stalker situation to a literary ghost story and give ourselves spine-tingles while wearing our jammies!” Um, NO.

      1. Well, the literary part is the point and why it’s interesting – it’s a totally different take. But, put something in there about “Definitely block that dude everywhere and don’t feel guilty. Okay, as to the ghost stories….”

        1. “Stephen King lays out a strategy for dealing with scary exes in Rose Madder. First, find a creepy painting that just Seems Wrong. Then, see if you can feel any ancient spirits lurking beneath the surface of the picture….”

          I suspect his abusey-senses are tingling. He could very well be screwing with the LW because he suspects that she has had time to recover. No fun destroying something that hasn’t been rebuilt.

        2. Yeah. The problem with ghost stories (and any drama/horror stories) is that it’s a real damn short and uninteresting story if the protagonist isn’t left vulnerable and then dragged over the coals.

    4. Agreed 100%! The dude was acting like a paradigmatic creepy stalker and intruding into the LW’s life in numerous unwanted ways, and the advice was all like, “Oh. You must have dramatic magical unresolved issues to work through in a deep artistic manner.” Um, no. The dude is a motherfucken creepy stalker who the LW wants to extirpate from her life.

      The dream shitte is a total red herring. People dream about shitte that is occurring in their lives. The dude is intruding in her life, so no surprise that she dreams about him.

      1. I have had a few dreams now where my ex shows up somewhere, and I desperately start trying to find exits and get away while wondering how the hell he found me. I now realize that he personifies any anxiety I may be experiencing in my life at the moment that is bubbling up from my subconscious while unconscious. Sigh.

        1. I came to the same conclusion about my occasional dreams involving a former friend whom I never, ever want to meet again. They’re not really about her; they’re just attaching her face to any other issues I’m subconsciously stressing about.

      2. I still have nightmares about my ex… 16 years after we broke up. He’s been out of my life for over a decade, but still he terrifies me in my sleep. I don’t care how many unresolved issues I have with him, I will NEVER contact him.

      3. Agreed. I don’t think if they show up in a dream that’s a good indication that you should talk to them. I mean, I’ve had dreams about past abusers of mine, usually terrible horrifying dreams that I wake up from screaming and in tears, and that certainly doesn’t make me think I need to go talk to them to resolve any issues. I’ve also had dreams about boinking Goliath from the Gargoyles cartoon from the 90’s, and I’m WAY more likely to chase after that than unresolved issues with past ghosts, and not just because Goliath is totally hot.

      4. also dreams can be a sign of PTSD :\ so for some it could only be a sign of unresolved issues that need to be worked out with a therapist (not diagnosing- only talking about something i have experienced)

  3. Dear LW,

    You take all the time and expend all the energy you feel you need to in order to air out those ghosts *if* that is what makes the most best sense to you, BUT…

    Your long past ex does not need to come along for that ride. In fact, I’d suggest he needs to be nowhere near the neighborhood of that ride should you choose to ride it, nor should he so much as be aware that that ride exists, because it seems to me that he is looking for a way back into your emotional life so he can feed off of you, and the airing of old ghosts is a very good way for emotional leeches to get their fill. People who ignore boundaries do so because they are trying to get something for themselves that has nothing at all to do with you. That you have become the target for their issues says nothing– and I do mean nothing– about you, and says everything about them. What it says is “not safe.”

    There’s no requirement that you have to give other people “closure.” As has been said so many times on this blog, closure isn’t something one person can give to another anyway, it is something which may come with time and self-realization or it may never happen at all (and that’s okay) but regardless it’s something which is internal to the person, not external.

    The only question you need to ask yourself is, do you want to give him what he’s trying to get from you? If that answer is no, that is the all answer you need.

    Him adding all your now-not-then friends is beyond creepy. Adding my permission to CA’s to cut him the fuck off and light that (metaphorical) house on fire.

  4. Ugh, the Bookslut advice makes me want to punch a wall. YOU DON’T NEED TO KNOW WHY HE UPSETS YOU, YOU JUST NEED IT TO NOT HAPPEN ANYMORE.

    There is no amount of self-reflection and self-doubt and having gross, creepy conversations with this man that will make it okay for him to violate LW’s boundaries, or that will make it okay that he was not-good to LW when they were together. If LW wanted to know how to process and deal with his/her feelings and think deeply about this relationship, LW could have asked about that. Instead, LW asked whether it was okay to stop the bad man from stalking her. THE ANSWER TO THAT IS AN UNQUALIFIED YES.


  5. I’m not a bibliophile by any stretch, though I do enjoy books. But I am something of a cinephile, so I’ll go that route*.

    Zombies are still fairly popular these days, though that trend is finally starting to wane. (Thank god! I love the genre, and even I’m sick of it) One element of the zombie horror movie is when a loved one is bitten, and turns into a zombie, and then you’re forced to kill the animated corpse of your loved one with a shotgun/fire axe/chainsaw/garter-holstered hypodermic needle, and it’s awful. But the heroes do this because they know that the corpse is not the person.

    For our LW, the relationship is dead and gone; both the LW and the ex- have spent a few years living, gathering new experience and perspectives, growing and changing, so not only is the relationship gone, but the persons who were in that relationship don’t really exist anymore either. All that’s left is this shambling zombie, this thing-that-looks-like-a-thing-I-used-to-love that is trying to infect you and eat your brains. Though the resemblance is uncanny, it’s the hero’s task to say goodbye, pick up the shovel/pickaxe/cricket bat, and end the threat with a swift, decisive strike.

    *The other obvious cinema reference is “The House of Angry Bees” which is already a meme around here, but it’s worth repeating. If the walls of a house bleed messages saying “get out”, then you should get out! If contact with a person leads to bad nightmares with that person, break off contact with that person!

    1. This is so much better than the original advice, but still maintains the metaphor-y spirt of what I gather is the style it was going for. Win!

  6. I had heard of Bookslut but hadn’t read the column; after I popped over and read this one ALL THE RED ALERTS went off AWWOOOGAH AWWOOGAH and tiny people in space uniforms started shouting about shield percentage.

    Anyone who counsels someone that they need to “resolve things” with a scary stalker is NOT ON THE SIDE OF THE PERSON BEING STALKED. I mean, really. The advice there stops just short of “give him closure and forgiveness or else you are a horrible meanie-pants.”

    Another one on the side of the abusers. I don’t think I shall read anything else on that site; that answer really gave me all the information I needed to know.

    1. The site is not an advice-giving site (uh, obviously), it is in fact an AWESOME book reviewing site, but do what you feel.

      1. Well, yes, I had noticed that, but I think that just like I have the right to not invite people with offensive opinions into my home, I also have the right to not invite them into my computer. (Into my browser? I mean technically they’re — er, their opinions are — not IN my computer. Or are only until I clear the cache. Oh, whatever.)

        I love book reviews, but I’m afraid that site is kind of spoiled for me now. (I’m not trying to blame you; if I had been reading it on my own I would have come across it, too! And I love that you decided to re-answer the question here.)

        1. I read a few more posts and got my back up about the “stop talking to me about rape culture” post. I don’t think she’s entirely wrong, maybe, and people shouldn’t be yelling at her about her blog name, but… the problem is not that people are bandying the phrase “rape culture” about, it’s that people are attacking her. “Rape culture” is a totally useful and valuable concept and phrase and I actually want to see it used a whole lot more, because a whole lot of people are completely blind to it. So… yeah.

          I mean, a book reviewer doesn’t have to be perfect on feminist credentials to be a good reviewer, but I find a big difference between being imperfect and actually ranting about this thing, even while I understand how you can get tired and defensive when a bunch of jerks keep attacking you with this phrase.

          But then I also am entirely content with my current book reviewing sources, and in fact if I had any more I would spend too much more money on books than I already do and that would be no good, so it wasn’t the site for me anyway.

          …the answer was probably still better than what Prudie would say.

    2. For what it’s worth, I read some of her other posts back when the Captain recommended her on Twitter, and while I didn’t get awoogahs like from this particular review, I did get a strong feeling of Do Not Want.

  7. Wow that advice freaked me the fuck out and I’m not even 100% sure I even understood it fully. I like your addendum, Captain. I am not familiar with the bookslut site otherwise and won’t pass judgement on the whole thing based on this, but I think she should keep the advice giving to more literary-related topics.

    LW, if ever you read this, I would guess you are probably dreaming of him because he is freaking you out and screwing with your head and thus forcing his unwanted self into your thoughts and mind. Don’t read too much into it. If you want to read into it, look at it as your subconscious mind telling you that this guy is NOT SAFE and that cutting him off is a good call.

    1. “Wow that advice freaked me the fuck out and I’m not even 100% sure I even understood it fully” Deja pu —-> seen this shit before. When stuff freaks you out and you’re pretty sure you aren’t even fully aware of the entirety of the freakiness of the stuff……it’s Very Unhappy Ju-Ju, to be sure.

  8. The Bookslut column fails to make an important distinction: between ghosts, and monsters. The dreams are ghosts. The ex-BF is the monster. (Maybe, when he’s not being a gross creepy stalker, he’s a lovely human being; but right now he has taken on the narrative function of something worse. Pro life tip: when you find yourself filling the role of the villain, exit the story.)

    The ghost is the ex-in-her-dreams, the bit of her psyche that’s running around doing rhythmic gymnastics with a red flag. It’s a good idea to treat your own feelings and intuition with respect and courtesy, even if they’re totally fucking wrong. Often they have come to tell us something very important, although WHAT that is can sometimes be hard to parse. In this case, though–to make a guess about a person I’ve never met before, so take this with a grain of salt–the dream’s message seems to be that THIS GUY IS SCARY AND SHE NEEDS TO GET HIM THE FUCK AWAY.

    There! Solved it! Sometimes it really is that easy. For more complicated readings, she could try working it through in a journal, with a friend, with a therapist; the world is her oyster.

    Monsters, on the other hand? You cannot, and should not, placate monsters by sacrifices. The dragon is always going to want another damsel. When the goats meet the troll under the bridge, they do what you must: delay, distract, run like hell, and then use your strongest resources to get the guy out of your life. Survive now; figure out what it all means later.

    1. I love every word of this. EVERY WORD. I wish I’d read it, oh, four years ago. I figured out all of this on my own, but it was long, and hard, and confusing, and incomplete.

      Thank you.

  9. Your advice and your book recommendation were a million times better. This guy sounds like a stalker (or on the fast track to becoming one) and you don’t engage with stalkers. Also, good to tell her not to delete her emails just in case.

  10. In all the excitement about the ghost allegory, I think the Bibliomancer overlooked a few key phrases:

    1. “It was a bad relationship, and we really brought out the worst in one another.”

    2. “I didn’t expect to hear from him ever again. And I didn’t want to!”

    3. “I thought we had mutually agreed we were bad for one another, and it was best if we just stayed out of each other’s lives.”

    4. “I’m in a relationship with someone who is really supportive and not a trainwreck. I have a job I love and friends I am close to. (None of this was true when Doug and I were together.)” (!)

    5. “He was really controlling and manipulative when we were together, and so all of this worries me.” (!!)

    6. “Can I go all stalker prevention and start blocking him and asking my friends to do the same?” (!!!)

    Were we even reading the same letter?? Particularly stunningly inappropriate was this line from the response: “A couple of emails and this guy has got to you.”

    1. Exactly! Of course he got to her! He popped back up into her life like Pandora’s Jack-in-the-Box baring all the bad shit she thought she had put behind her. How in the hell do you read that letter and think “ghost story!”???

      Yes, annoying use of question marks but it is baffling and I feel it deserves three of them.

      A single email – let alone a bunch plus friend creeping – would have probably got to this woman. A dude on the street that sort of looks like Doug would have probably got to her. Someone saying something similar that brought back a flashback would have probably got to her. There is probably a list of music, foods, quirks, clothing, places, movies, and hand gestures that send her reeling back into bad memories.

      I suppose that from a literary standpoint, it would make sense to look at a situation like this and see it as a well of story that needs exploring. But this is life, and there are no real endings until the actual ending and I don’t think LW wants a Doug sequel.

    2. Yeah, I would hope that someone who reviews books would, um, be better at reading comprehension.

  11. It doesn’t look like Bookslut has commenting, so is there any way to let that LW know they’re being discussed over here?

  12. I know this is a minority opinion, but I really dislike Gift of Fear.

    I was taught to be afraid of strangers (and especially strange men) from a young age, and I’ve heard all the stuff about how I shouldn’t wear earphones or walk around late at night because I’m asking to be raped and murdered. I’ve also had Bad Things happen to me, and looking back, whether I was afraid or not wouldn’t have made a difference. The only thing I could have done would be not to exist in a smaller, female form and not been around relatives or, you know, walked outside my house. Fear did not protect me–should I be afraid of everyone now?

    On a totally impersonal level, Gavin de Becker doesn’t seem to provide many solutions other than avoiding restraining orders, hiring him and his team of crack bodyguards, and failing that going to a shelter or moving away. I would not give that book to a woman who is already far away from her ex because she’s basically done everything that Becker tells her that she can do if she can’t hire the Becker A-Team. She’s already used up the Gift of Fear.

    There is good advice in that book about feeling free to say no, but there has to be something more useful and less, well, fearmongering for women who are facing abuse. As for that letter writer, the best thing for her to do is block that creepy dude, tell her friends to block him, and then exorcise his soul in peace. She doesn’t need to worry about some dude raping and killing her in an elevator on top of all that.

    1. I thought the Gift of Fear was not all “hey, be afraid of everyone!” but more, if you see someone and you feel afraid, pay attention to your instincts. Yes, he shares some scary examples but it was to illustrate how those women listened to what their instincts were telling them and escaped violent situations. I could be wrong, but I also thought he explained how it was NOT helpful to be constantly anxious about things that may never happen to you. It’s been a while since I read it, though.

      I understand not all advice books are helpful, but it was extremely helpful to me and (I thought) shares important information that people are not always aware of when it comes to dealing with potentially violent people, especially stalkers.

      1. +1 “the point is to pay attention to your instincts.” But agreed, not everyone’s going to derive the same value from the same books, and that’s okay.

      2. As I remember, the one thing that really got to me was that Becker tended to use men for his useful examples–what to do with a stalker to make him/her go away–and women as his cautionary examples–here’s all the many, many ways you can end up raped and dead! I wanted to know more about what I could do after I felt afraid to control the situation,

      3. This exactly. I “learned” not to listen to my instincts from family members not taking them seriously. Later, I misattributed a completely out of whack nervous/digestive system to “normal anxiety I was blowing out of proportion and just needed to get over” and not the actual potential dangers of the situations I was in. What I appreciated about Gift of Fear was that it opened my eyes to the fact that what I was really feeling was fear, and that not only was it reasonable, but it was important to listen to in order to keep myself safe and be healthier! I really need this perspective, especially since family members still minimize someone’s uncontrollable rage/threats and get angry with me for setting boundaries because they believe I’m breaking some mythical family unity (that has never existed). While I regularly have nightmares that this person is pretending to be nice and then tries to kill me, overall, I am the least anxious I’ve ever been in my life because I’m more in touch with what is really fear and can do something about it.

      4. “I could be wrong, but I also thought he explained how it was NOT helpful to be constantly anxious about things that may never happen to you. It’s been a while since I read it, though.”

        This is absolutely the most crucial information in Gift of Fear. ANXIETY BLOCKS INTUITION. If you are afraid of strangers generally you will not be able to tell scary strangers from the regular kind.

        Whether that’s especially helpful to people who have a lot of anxiety I’m not sure. If you have an anxiety disorder “JEEZ, RELAX” isn’t the most helpful advice but it’s at least an important thing to understand that anxiety blocks intuition.

        I do think it’s the case that people who are already naturally anxious usually don’t like Gift of Fear and find it just makes things worse, so as you note not everyone benefits from the same books.

    2. I like parts of the book but parts of it, not so much, for reasons you illustrate. I understand ‘trust your instincts’ but not everyone has good instincts, and not every abuser or bad person does give those warning bells at *all*. Many don’t. I don’t think the book is fearmongering like the media does, but there are parts of it that are ehhh for me. I think the best thing it does is discuss the idea that women are scared to be impolite, and the fact that some people prey on that.

    3. I found his deconstruction of the abuser/rapist’s strategies really interesting. They were things I knew at the back of my mind, but couldn’t voice. Now I can internally name, box up, and act on them. If I’d read that book as a teen it WOULD have prevented a bunch of psyche-destroying events and relationships in my life.

      So… maybe not helpful for you specifically, but when I read it it was like a big floodlight going on in my head.

      1. The explanation of forced teaming was particularly helpful for me. Being able to notice that happening and distance myself from it, even if I’m just saying “forced teaming” in my head like the Captain’s mental “you think” addendum, has been great for helping me avoid internalizing problems that just aren’t mine. It has turned out to be really useful in many situations and interactions that might not be DANGER WILL ROBINSON level but still carry the risk of getting entangled in somebody else’s trauma/drama when I don’t want/need to be.

    4. I’ve read Gift of Fear twice and I feel like you are misrepresenting the content. The LW has not “used up” the book or she wouldn’t write an advice columnist, she doesn’t trust her intuition. I was in an abusive relationship and I did indeed bury my intuition. Buried it so deeply in fact that I dreamed of things the (now) ex actually ended up doing. The book is about hearing the inner voice because your subconscious is learning so much about those around you. And the parts about teaming, etc are well worth learning. One of the parts I re-read a lot was his advice on how to learn the difference between unwarranted vs warranted anxiety. And how to do what you need to minimize threat and be able to not worry about the things you cannot control.

      Also, he does not say that no one should get a restraining order. He says that the person who is in danger has to assess whether that will help or further enrage the person who is a threat – the loss of control issue. In my case, the ex is afraid of going to jail but he still violated the order, I reported him each time and it stopped once he spent a night in jail over it. I just renewed it 2 months ago. De Becker didn’t write that book to get customers, I much doubt many of us could even afford him. He uses some of his cases to illustrate his message. And frankly his free MOSAIC program saved me, as an engineer his survey allowed me to believe my gut that if I didn’t get away I was going to get killed.

    5. I disagree with you, the book is about NOT being afraid/anxious all the time, it’s about how to know when there is true threat vs the kind of fear/anxiety you are describing. The LW has not “used up” Gift of Fear or she would not have written a blogger, she would trust her intuition. I wrote a long post in response but WordPress ate it and then my PC froze and I lost the whole thing. I can’t deal with writing it again.

    6. I agree with you on the book. It has some useful information, but Gavin de Becker presents himself as The Saviour of All the Ladies, which is really the opposite of empowering for me.

    7. That book is more for people who learned to ignore their fear because it was rude, or not nice, or inaccurate or an overreaction or whatever derailing technique your family liked best. If you were taught not only to listen to your fear (and run! and hide! from everything!) but to expand your fear to apply to absolutely everything, then yeah, that book is totally useless. Depending on how LW’s fear behaves, it may or may not be useful (if nothing else than as validation that this fear is real and it’s okay to run away and be rude if necessary). I found it very useful (aside from all the examples) because I was taught that, while I should be afraid of everything, I also had to be nice to everyone. I had to POLITELY tell scary people to go away. And then, surprise, they didn’t, and I had to… keep telling them politely, or go find an adult/authority. And guess what the adults did? Told me to give them a chance! Or explained other ways to ~understand~ the mean/scary things they were doing to me! FFS.

      (Has talking to an adult ever worked for anyone? Adults are not good at solving high-stakes kid problems. Neither are kids, though. It is a conundrum.)

      In any case, you’re probably calibrated in such a way that The Gift of Fear is totally useless to you, so I hope someone has recs for a book that’s more about A) re-calibrating your fear to respond more accurately to real signals and B) what to really do about it. With slightly fewer slavering, voyeuristic examples.

  13. Sorry if this is weird and nitpicky, or overstepping a boundary, but would you be willing to add the standard Gift of Fear Domestic Violence Caveat somewhere in the main body of the post? I hate to think of someone stumbling on that un-warned when they are looking for advice on dealing with abusive/threatening people.

  14. …That was fucking terrible. What the hell does a ghost story have to do with an obsessive stalky ex? There’s no “last message” or “satisfy this one thing I need to complete my transition into the afterlife.” This is a living breathing person who isn’t going to go away once he gets a claw back in. Why is LW having nightmares? Maybe because the person contacting her is bringing up terrifying emotions of trauma.

    As a parallel: If I got brutally beaten at random one time and moved on to the best of my ability but then the person who beat me decided that they wanted to be my friend, I’d have nightmares too. It wouldn’t prompt me to go on a quest to find the magic closure token would satisfy the boogeyman of my past. It would cause my emotions to manifest into terrible anxiety and barf and cry.

    I really think this is what it boils down do. Bookslut is pointing to the magical closure token/action/letter/feelingscoffee that just doesn’t exist for anyone ever.

  15. This is why people who haven’t been there shouldn’t answer these types of questions. That’s a broad statement which probably has several holes in it, but that’s the way I feel right now. If you think that talking one more time to a stalker/abuser/creep is going to get them to back off, then YOU are way off. This level of cluelessness really get’s me going (apparently). And that seems victim blamey to me as well: oooh, he’s in your head; why are you letting him be there? Bad LW!

    I understand that people just want to help but it’s so easy to do some damage by simply giving the wrong advice. If someone is avoiding another person, they have a good reason to do so. Trust them on that.

    Hulk out.

    1. Sometimes I think I must have had a very rough previous life or maybe have some childhood trauma that I’ve blocked out completely, because as far as I know, I’ve never had anything abusive/boundary pushing/ stalkery happen to me, but I am protective as hell. I have boundaries a mile high and a hundred feet thick. I know I wouldn’t have given similar advice to Bookslut because I haven’. I have been a bouncer on more than one occasion.

      You don’t have to have been there to know what the right answer is. But I do think it’s easy for people who have never been there to think it’s due to their skills, rather than luck. Because frankly, from what I’ve seen, if you haven’t had a run-in with a shitty relationship of some sort or another, it’s only luck.

      1. Maybe your industrial-strength boundaries are the result of a really good childhood where you were encouraged to develop your judgment and trust it! You’re right that it’s unusual for people to develop those skills any way other than the hard way, unfortunately. Our society gives women especially WAY too many bad messages about being “nice” (aka, always doing what other people want), and parenting that focuses on obedience and good behavior tends to cause that too. Grr. There’s got to be a better way of doing it.

      2. I can’t tell whether this is true for you, but I do think you can be good at this, if you had a stable up-bringing with care-takers who allowed you and showed you how to enforce boundaries and also how to use your empathy.
        Surely, there isn’t just one way to get this kind of thing right, but especially with the details, most people are more understanding when they have gone through something similar.

    2. I’m not sure that having had such a thing happen to one is really the benchmark. I know people who *have* had things happen to them, and still can be clueless and victim-blaming to others (not to mention themselves but that’s a different issue). Sometimes having experienced something means over-identifying with the issue, or comparisons that aren’t helpful. And..some people just aren’t compassionate, regardless of what’s happened to them personally.

  16. Hm. Okay. Well. Bookslut here. I should mention that this is one of two occasions wherein I was answering my own question. Odd, I know, but occasionally it helps to distance myself that way, when an issue has taken over my brain and is going to influence any of my advice to another human being anyway, so I deal with my own issue to clear it out. So my ex, my “stalker,” my problem. So you can stop thinking that I have put some woman in danger with my reckless advice. I was trying to think through my own problem and get a little distance and this is the way I did it, just in case anybody else was having an ex they couldn’t quite shake.

    But as you may have noticed, people don’t really come to me looking for practical advice, it’s not really what I do. The whole column is about finding stories to tell ourselves about our lives, to find other perspectives and see how great writers have tackled these quandaries.

    1. Awkward! But a great relief.

      I really hope you will block that dude without guilt. He is not a good influence on your life. Good luck however you work it out.

      Captain Awkward

  17. Gotta say, for me there was no closure like no contact, and it put the ghosts to rest just fine. It was HORRIBLE for a long while–after I broke up with him, which I did a shitty job of because things had gotten awful and complicated, my breakup wrote me an email declaring all further contact between us severed forever. I got accused of a lot of awful things in that email (things he felt the need to share with everyone, except that he expressed them as truths!), and I wanted so badly to defend myself, but he’d said not to contact him ever again, so I didn’t. I went through months feeling like I was constantly under attack and like there’d never be closure.

    Guess who, a whole year later, received a surprise email from their ex on Valentine’s day? That’s right, it was me!

    That was almost six months ago now. Guess who still hasn’t read the email? Me!

    I’d already reached the point where I was perfectly happy never hearing from him again, and had all the closure I needed. When he felt the need to intrude on my life again–on valentines day,no less!–I was like, Nope. Maybe it was a nice email. Maybe he’s all sorry and wants to reconcile. Don’t really care!

    Cutting people out who are bad for you, is like, the best thing.

    1. Bittybird, I’m so impressed that you didn’t even read the email. You’ve truly moved on with your life. You rock!

  18. EEEEEUUUUURRRGGGGHHHH. Bookslut has to do whatever’s best for her, but wow Doug is setting off “NO NO NO NO NO” warnings in my head.

    And I say that an email folder labelled “BEARS Seriously don’t read this you don’t need it” and a filter that bypasses your inbox is the way forward. There may or may not be emails in there, I don’t know. Haven’t checked it for months. Until she brings herself to my attention again in some other way, I don’t need to know.

  19. On the theme of ghosts of past relationships and Supernatural references: maybe going for the salt-and-burn on not-so-departed Doug is actually a great idea. I’m really uncomfortable with the suggestion to “find out what he needs, meet it and then he will go away.” Perhaps LW does have some unresolved feelings around the breakup and the ex, but those are awesome things to explore with a therapist, journaling, or a trusted friend, and unlikely to be effectively dealt with by attempting to give the ex closure or renewed contact or any kind of attention.

    You have fought your way through dangers untold and hardships unnumbered; your will is as strong and your kingdom is as great; and he has no power over you.

Comments are closed.