The bully who abused and tormented me in my middle school years is also the major figure in my fantasies. I am both repelled and attracted by his physical image and appearance.
When it started, I was 11 and he must have been about 15. I was a little kid with no knowledge of anything sexual except for the things I’d been exposed to through my step-father’s abuse and the dirty talk and show & tell of classmates. He was a full-grown and physically mature man with the physique of a super-hero and a set of sex organs that wouldn’t have fit into a G-rated pair of tights for a family-friendly film. He was an arrogant jerk and he had a lot to be arrogant about. Everyone seemed to hero-worship him and he could do no wrong – he got away with anything short of murder. And he had an entourage who served as a gang of henchmen – to do his bidding and inflict his will on anyone that his whim decreed was a fitting victim. I was at the top of his list.
Ever since then, he has been my ideal of the perfect male – physically muscular and well-proportioned, sexually well-endowed, athletically gifted and skilled, socially confident, a natural leader, popular, admired, imitated, obeyed, and powerfully influential because of looks, strength, macho image and forceful personality. (Of course he was also cruel, insensitive, not particularly intelligent or educated, and a self-centered, dominating bastard, but – hey, those things prove he’s not a weak, effeminate wimp – right?) He was everything that I was not – and I feared and envied him. I wanted to be him and not my sad little pathetic loser self.
Out of sense of self-preservation, I started watching him whenever he was within my range of vision. In a weird way, I felt honored to be noticed by him – even if it was in a negative context. I both dreaded and was thrilled at his attention. When not at school, I would think about him and imagine him being nice to me. I developed a sick dependence on his awareness – almost an adrenaline rush – that now I think of as almost like a “crush.” I was always hoping – just like with my step-father – for just one word or gesture – just the tiniest sign – of kindness or approval or acceptance. I would willingly have been his abject slave. By turns he ignored me or bullied me and then ignored me again. He treated me like a contemptible dog. And so that is how I saw myself. (But on the other hand, I never developed any attraction or attachment to my step-father at all – even though he treated me similarly. Just fear and hatred. Maybe because he didn’t fit the popular stereotype of the “handsome jock”? He was just a “dirty old man.”)
Two years after our paths first crossed and he became the center of my universe, my family moved away to a different town. I was glad to be free of him. But I missed him too. There was a big hole where he used to occupy the majority of my attention. For a while I still compared every other guy I met to him. Then I buried the memories and moved on. I’m not sure when he came back to haunt me. I know I wrote a story in college that included him as a character – but without the level of abuse that was the reality.
The problem now is – I can’t get free of this image of what a real, ideal man should be. My mind tells me otherwise, but my gut instincts don’t agree. I always come up short in comparison in every way that the media and the world says really matters. And I still have that crush on his image. I look for clones of him online and have never found a photo of a model that equals my idealized memory. I fantasize about him. I’m still aroused by the memories of what he did and how he looked and even how I felt. I am ashamed of that and wish I could put it behind me.
I’ve been wondering if I have been affected by the Stockholm syndrome, the tendency to flip and take the side of one’s captors and form an emotional bond with those who have abused you. I’ve done some reading on-line and some of it seems very relevant. But another site said that it only applies in kidnapping cases – and that was not literally what happened to me. I guess it doesn’t really matter if I can put that name on it. But it sure helps me to explain why I acted that way and still feel this way. It just sounds crazy otherwise. So weird to voluntarily imagine the abuser and pretend it was a good thing. Could it be that I’m trying to re-write history to make it seem less traumatic?
Here’s a couple of quotes and links to the sites they came from that I thought might apply:
“'Stockholm Syndrome' is the name given to a particular manifestation of this phenomenon - the strange behavior of kidnap victims who eventually become sympathizers with, or even romantically attached to, their abductors… We become conditioned or 'brainwashed' through emotional intensity. We come to feel that intensity itself is 'important' and even 'profound' when, in fact, it is just intensity. If someone makes us feel strongly emotional in some way or we become connected to them during a time of strong emotion, then that strong emotion may 'glue' an emotional connection in place between you and them…
• high physiological arousal becomes falsely linked to a feeling of attraction (rather than just a feeling of fear)
• a person who is kidnapped is forced into a high level of focus on the kidnapper
• high levels of focus are the precursor and mainstay of any intimate relationship.
Dutton, D. G., & Aron, A. (1974). Some evidence for heightened sexual attraction under conditions of high anxiety. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 30, 510-517.http://www.uncommon-knowledge.co.uk/psychology_articles/stockholm-syndrome.html
“Cognitive Dissonance" explains how and why people change their ideas and opinions to support situations that do not appear to be healthy, positive, or normal. In the theory, an individual seeks to reduce information or opinions that make him or her uncomfortable. When we have two sets of cognitions (knowledge, opinion, feelings, input from others, etc.) that are the opposite, the situation becomes emotionally uncomfortable. Even though we might find ourselves in a foolish or difficult situation – few want to admit that fact. Instead, we attempt to reduce the dissonance - the fact that our cognitions don't match, agree, or make sense when combined. "Cognitive Dissonance" can be reduced by adding new cognitions – adding new thoughts and attitudes.
… Studies tell us we are more loyal and committed to something that is difficult, uncomfortable, and even humiliating. The initiation rituals of college fraternities, Marine boot camp, and graduate school all produce loyal and committed individuals. Almost any ordeal creates a bonding experience.
… Investment and an ordeal are ingredients for a strong bonding – even if the bonding is unhealthy. …
Abusive relationships produce a great amount of unhealthy investment in both parties. In many cases we tend to remain and support the abusive relationship due to our investment in the relationship.http://www.mental-health-matters.com/component/content/article/167?start=3