About My Father, My Own Personal Monster

(Trigger warning: this post contains disturbing material. Proceed at your own risk.)

My father, Daniel Lee Marsh, was from Jonesboro, Arkansas, and was alive from 1933 to 2010. At almost nine years after his death, there are still several things I cannot figure out about the man. Why did he do the things he did?

When he finally reached his long-delayed, long-anticipated expiration date, I had already been eagerly waiting for that day for years. I was utterly confused that my mother and sister reacted to the news of his death by becoming upset. He was finally gone. He could hurt no one, ever again. This was, in my view, an occasion for celebration, not mourning, for his long-awaited death meant he could harm no one else. They reacted with tears, while I was euphoric, and demonstrated that euphoria with hysterical laughter. I think I confused them as much as they confused me.

My father was a pedophile, who targeted young males, and horribly neglected the females in his life. Several of my childhood friends were molested by the man. He was also a teacher (as I am), and abused that position to find new victims. He was never punished by the criminal justice system. I did report his behavior to police, late in his life, but he had successfully hidden all evidence of his crimes by this point, and the police came to conclusion that my report was false. My surviving family had tried to convince me for years not to report his crimes, as a shameful family secret, but I eventually reached the breaking point, which means I had to act, which I did — not that it did any good. The police dropped their investigation, and then harassed me, as if I had filed a false complaint.

I have no biological children, having always being afraid to become involved in a pregnancy, for fear I would turn out like him. I do have two stepchildren, whom I love as if they carried my own DNA. I fear this is as close to fatherhood as I dare come. I have a strong memory of his cruelty — many, in fact — but one sticks out from when I was six years old. I was angry at him for something (I don’t remember what), and he handed me a scalpel, then invited me to stick it into his head, just behind his left ear, which he told me would kill him quickly. No six-year-old should experience that.

For a time when I was young, I had a roommate, a college student named Jerry. I had no idea that Jerry was secretly my father’s primary sexual partner, only learning of that years later. My mother discovered this, but did not divorce him immediately, staying in that hell of a marriage for the sake of my sister and myself. Much later, she did divorce him. I reacted by legally changing my last name to my mother’s maiden name, just to show whose side I was on.

Can you imagine being a teenager, and having your own father molest your neighborhood friends? I don’t have to imagine it — those memories are burned into my brain. I’ve had to go so far as to be tested for HIV, just in case I was a direct target myself, for it is difficult for me to trust my memory. Fortunately, the test results cleared me of worrying about possibly contracting AIDS.

There’s more. When the two of us were going somewhere in the car, he would often masturbate, while driving, to the point of orgasm, in full view of me, under the guise of “sex education,” in my tween and early teen years. I did not realize until later how harmful this was to me, but now I know this is one of several reasons I have to deal with PTSD for the rest of my life.

There’s also the matter of religion. My father hopped from one religion to another every few years, and tried his best to drag the whole family along with him each time. The new “word from on high” was in effect, and previous revelations were abandoned. These religions varied from the ultra-conservative Church of Christ, to a degenerate form of Buddhism called Soka Gakkai, to his own version of a Native-American-belief-based magic-mushroom cult, and many others. He was quite charismatic, and never had any trouble attracting a small group of “disciples” to follow him along whichever pseudo-spiritual “path” he was on. I grew up, unsurprisingly, with the attitude that all religions were both harmful, and deeply flawed. If you want to raise a young child to become an atheist, there is no more effective approach than what my father did with regards to religion.

The inconsistency of his “parenting” was horrible. One year, he would be providing me with age-inappropriate hard-core pornography, such as Hustler magazine — and the next year, he would mark as “forbidden,” in the TV Guide, any movie which contained nudity. I can’t explain this. It makes no sense.

This is not a complete list.

He’s gone now, but my PTSD remains. If you have kids, please do not torture them, as my father did. If you know of any situation like this going on around you, please report it to the proper authorities. Monsters in human form do exist, and it is the responsibility of all of us to stop them.

What’s the Worst Thing a Proselytizing-Attack Can Do, Anyway?

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a self-portrait I painted, in a different decade

This happened near the end of Summer school, about four years ago. I haven’t been able to write about it until now, but my life is now separated into the unknowing part before this day, when I was so often angry without knowing why, and the part after I painfully found the truth which explains this anger. 

The three-second video above was correct — for weeks afterwards, I couldn’t handle the truth, and was having one PTSD attack after another as a result. There was a break between Summer School and the resumption of the normal school year in the Fall, and that’s a good thing, because I had a lot of “repair work” to do before I was fit to be around large numbers of people again.

All of this followed what I refer to as a “proselytizing attack.” The person aggressively proselytizing to me at me was also a teacher, and the only thing he did right was to avoid this activity in the presence of students. In another religion, one inflicted on my family, by my father,  when I was a teenager (Soka Gakkai, a variant of Buddhism), the technique he used is called shakabuku, which translates from the Japanese as “bend and flatten” — although this teacher was, of course, using a Christian version of shakabuku. My entire family was subjected to these efforts to “bend and flatten” us, during my father’s four or so years as a practicing Soka Gakkai member. Many years earlier, before I was born, he had actually been a minister in a certain Protestant Christian denomination. There were many other “religions of the year” my father dragged us to, as I was growing up. If one wishes to raise a skeptic, that method is quite likely to work, but I would hardly call it good parenting.

I tried to politely end these unpleasant after-school conversations, explaining to the other teacher that I only have two ways which work, for me, to gain confidence in ideas: mathematical proof, and the scientific method. What he was looking for was faith, a different form of thinking, and one which is alien to me — my mind simply will not “bend” in such a direction, which helps explain why proselytizing efforts of the “bend and flatten” variety never have the desired effect with me.

Polite efforts to end this rude behavior repeatedly failed. No one else was nearby at the moment I finally snapped — so I could say whatever I wanted to the other teacher, while remaining unheard by others.

“Listen,” I said, “do you really want to know how to get fewer atheists in the world? I can tell you exactly how to do that.”

He said that, yes, of course, he did want to know how to do this.

“Here’s how,” I said. “It’s simple, really. Just tell your fellow Christians to stop raping children!”

He had no reply, for, in the wake of such things as the Catholic Church’s pedophilia scandal, and similar scandals in other churches, there is no satisfactory reply to such a statement. The truth of it is self-evident (provided one does not generalize the statement to encompass all Christians, for that would clearly be false), and the message to stop the “Christian shakabuku” had finally penetrated this other teacher’s mental defenses. I then realized something that explained the intensity of my dislike for this man: he used a voice with a hypnotic quality, a trick my father also used to influence, and manipulate, others. 

I turned around, walked away, and he did not follow. I returned to my classroom, where I had work left to do, such as preparing for the next school day’s lessons, before leaving. I was also acutely aware that I was in far too heightened an emotional state to safely drive. Therefore, to calm down, I played the following song, at maximum volume, on repeat, perhaps a dozen times, scream-singing along with the vocals, as I prepared my classroom for the next day. 

After venting enough fury to be able to safely drive home, I did so . . . and listened to this song some more, along with another song by Muse, the two of which I used to scream myself into exhaustion.

I finally collapsed into sleep, but it wasn’t restful, for I was too angry — for weeks — to ever reach deep sleep. I knew only dark, emerging memories and half-memories, as well as horrific dreams that temporarily turned sleep into a form of torture, rather than a healing process. Not being stupid, I got the therapy I obviously needed, after the proselytizing-attack, and my reaction to it, caused the truth to fall painfully into place. By the time the school year began, I could once again function.

My earliest memory is from age 2 1/2, and involves surviving an attack of a type that often kills infants and young children: shaken baby syndrome. This was described as the “story within the story” told, right here, in the context of Daredevil fan-fiction. It was bad enough when that memory surfaced, but this was even worse. The only “good” thing about what I had learned had been done to me was that it was before age 2 1/2, and, for this reason, could not become a “focused,” clear memory, as my recollection of the near-death-by-shaking is. Instead of sharp memories, I was getting imagery like this . . .

. . . But the intensity of my reaction left me with no doubt about what had happened, at an age when I was too young to defend myself, nor even tell anyone else.

Years later, I even abandoned the term “atheist,” choosing  to simply use “skeptic” instead, a switch which angered far more people — atheists, of course — than I ever expected. I now realize a major reason I made that change, and it’s the fact that I have seen so many obnoxious atheists using “atheistic shakabuku” — and I am, for obvious reasons, hypersensitive to any form of shakabuku, whether it be religious or anti-religious. Humans are not meant to be painfully bent, nor flattened, and I want nothing to do with those who engage in such atrocious behavior. Whether they are religious, or not, no longer matters to me — what does mean something is, rather, their lack of respect for their fellow human beings.

To those who do engage in aggressive proseltyzing, I have only this to say: please stop. Even if you played no part in it, there is no denying that abuse, by religious authority figures, has happened to thousands, perhaps millions, of people — and one cannot know which of us have such traumatic events in our personal backgrounds. For this reason, no one knows what harm proselytizing might do to any given person.

[Note: absolutely none of this happened at my current school.]

Purple: Connecting Fiction, and Personal Trauma

Purple is not my favorite color (black is, but that’s another story), but it is a significant color for me, for complicated reasons I shall try to explain here. In some regards, this blog-post can be seen as a review of Netflix’s new series, Jessica Jones. My opinion of the series, in brief: five stars — watch it!

Do not expect watching this show to be easy, though. Like Flannery O’Connor’s fiction, it plumbs the depth of human depravity, through the character of Killgrave, also known as The Purple Man, a character who has existed in comic books since 1964, when he appeared in issue #4 of Daredevil.

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[Art by Tom Grummett; image found here, and from a comic book cover other than Daredevil #4.]

Killgrave’s skin is not purple in the new TV series, but he’s every bit as horrible a person as in comic book stories. He has one superpower, but it’s a nearly-impossible one to overcome: when he tells people to do things, they immediately do what he says, even to the point of killing themselves or others.

I was interested in Killgrave (and Jessica Jones) from the first time I saw either of them in a comic book, long before this TV series was planned. However, about halfway through the first season, I suddenly realized why Killgrave held such personal fascination for me as a truly horrible character — and why I hated him so intensely. It’s the fact that he controls the minds of other people, using his voice.

My father did the same thing, although he certainly did not have purple skin, and never, to my knowledge, killed anyone (but he did leave a string of damaged people in his wake). His voice had a hypnotic quality. There are people, to this day, who will claim to have seen him float straight up into the air — because they were told to see him levitate. I never saw that, but I do have faint memories, from a very early age, of seeing other unreal things, at his verbal suggestion, such as four or five finger-to-finger “ribbons of energy” called “orgone” connecting my hands, held in front of me, at night. Other children my age were with me; they saw these “orgone energy ribbons,” and more. I got away from this insanity as quickly, and as often, as I was able to do. Avoiding my father became my habit early, and often.

Many people have had horrible things done to them, due to abuse of this ability. In fiction, Killgrave, The Purple Man, is the best example of such a monster using his voice as a mind-control weapon. In reality, my father (and others with a similar ability, such as leaders of religious cults, a role my father did play, more than once) is another example.

When I realized the similarity between Killgrave and my now-deceased father, I had to stop watching Jessica Jones for about 24 hours. Having been a survivor of mind control left me (in real life) and Jessica Jones (in fiction) with PTSD, and I had to have a break from watching the show for this reason.

During this 24 hours, I remembered something about my father (who died in 2010) and my mother (who died less than two weeks ago): a story my mother told me, many years later.

Apparently my father hated the color purple, although I have no idea why. She was under his voice-control for years. So was I. We broke completely free of this manipulative monster at about the same time, in the mid-1980s. She left, and then divorced, him. I came up with my own way to “divorce” him as a parent, myself: I legally changed my last name to my mother’s maiden name. These things I knew already; the new thing Mom told me was what she did to celebrate her breaking free of his influence: buying a purple dress, and going out, wearing it, to celebrate her freedom.

After remembering this, I was able to watch the rest of the first season of Jessica Jones. I will not leave specific spoilers here, but I will say this: watching the rest of it helped with the ongoing process of recovering from my own “purple trauma.”

Rebecca West, on Feminism — and My Own, Personal Reasons for Calling Myself a Feminist

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Of my two parents, one (no longer living) was a misogynistic, manipulative, abusive monster, with a list of surviving victims longer than this entire blog-post. My mother, however, is living, and has always been a feminist. I was raised by one loving, feminist parent, while constantly doing mental, verbal, and sometimes even physical battle, in self-defense, against my other parent — as a matter of survival.

This accounts, I am certain, with the fact that, to this day, it is far easier for me to form friendships with women than with men. Simply put, it is difficult for me to trust men. Men commit an overwhelming majority of the murders which happen, as well as virtually all of the rapes, and it is male politicians, as a rule, who start most — perhaps all — of the world’s far-too-numerous wars, both in the present, and the past. When one’s earliest memory is having one’s mother save one’s own life, from death by shaken baby syndrome, at age 2 ½, inflicted by one’s own father, there is no escape from lifelong psychological fallout from such a traumatic event. This is my earliest memory, and one of the causes of my PTSD, with which I will have to struggle with for the rest of my life, for this condition, unfortunately, has no cure.

When my parents (finally) divorced, around my 20th birthday, I actually went to the trouble (and expense) to legally change my last name to my mother’s maiden name, and I did this to show everyone whose side I was on — and to shed a surname which I associate, to this day, only with negative things in my life. I regret nothing about this decision. I am glad that the monster found out about this name-change, shortly after I did it, for he deserved the pain I deliberately inflicted on him by this action.

I can follow exactly half of the Biblical commandment to “Honor thy father and they mother” (Exodus 20:12), but I cannot follow the other half, for this particular monster had no honor, nor did he deserve any, now, or at any time I can remember.

I also regret nothing about the fact that my deceased parent — the monster — is no longer able to hurt anyone, since what’s left of him is, well, underground, in the literal sense of the word. I did not attend the monster’s funeral, nor was I saddened, even in the slightest, when I learned of his death. He is completely unmourned by me — and I make no apologies for any of these things.

I do not speak, nor do I write, my original last name. There are over 1400 posts on this blog, and that name appears in none of them. The reason is simple: it is not my name.

I completely agree with Rebecca West’s perfectly-reasonable definition of feminism, shown above, and, since I do subscribe to the “radical notion” that women are actually people, I see no problem whatsoever with applying the word “feminist” to myself. I’m male, after all, only as an accident of birth, and am not going to let that “coin-flip” keep me from adopting labels of my own choosing. “Feminist” is a label I wear with pride, and for highly personal reasons, as explained above. I always have been, and will remain, opposed to any efforts (such as those from the radical religious right in America) to oppress the female majority of the population. If those efforts end up destroying the Republican Party in America — which will happen, unless they reform themselves first — then Republicans will have no one to blame but themselves, and their willingness to tolerate extreme misogyny among their own ranks.

On Mental Health: My Reasons for Letting the Sunshine In

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There are quite a few posts on this blog on the subject of mental health, and they can be easily found by simply looking at that category, in the pull-down menu on the right side of your screen. In these posts, I have been quite candid about such things as my own panic disorder, PTSD, and Asperger’s Syndrome.

What I have not done, until now, is explain my reasons for my openness on this subject.

First and foremost, I am trying to do what I can to remove the stigma which surrounds the entire subject of mental illness. This stigma is harmful, for it keeps millions of people who need help from mental health professionals from seeking it, out of fear of being labeled and/or ostracized — or worse. I learned this the hard way:  by experiencing it. I had my first panic attack at age 16. Like most panic attacks, this one lasted perhaps twenty minutes, or less. Few people have panic attacks that last longer than that — unless they fail to seek treatment, and the panic attacks continue to happen, which is what happened to me.

Over time, panic disorder tends to become worse, if not treated. The fear of the panic attacks themselves becomes an issue, for those who have them frequently, and such fear can lead to people avoiding situations where they fear a panic attack would be particularly embarrassing, and/or debilitating — somewhere like, for example, the middle of a Walmart, or their church, or their workplace. In some cases, untreated panic disorder leads to full-blown agoraphobia, with some people actually reaching the point where they simply do not leave their homes at all — until they die.

In my case, I avoided treatment for my own panic disorder (or any other mental health problem) for about a decade, specifically because of my fear of the stigma of mental illness. I tried to keep my panic attacks a secret, but, of course, that did not stop them. They grew in intensity, and the duration of the attacks increased as well. A ten-hour panic attack — something which is incredibly rare — is what finally drove me to get over my fear of this stigma, and make an appointment with the man who is still my psychiatrist.

In the years that followed, I grew more and more disturbed by the existence of this stigma, and finally made a decision:  I would do whatever I could to neutralize it, for the benefit of others. I do not wish anyone to suffer the effects of deliberately delaying needed medical treatment. After much thinking, I eventually figured out one thing I can do, toward this end: be open about such matters, simply to help others know that mental illness can, with appropriate help, become transformed into mental health. In other words, as with many other illnesses, those with mental health problems can, and do, get better. This is why I have chosen the category-name “mental health” for these posts, rather than “mental illness.”

Of the particular struggles I have which involve issues of mental health, PTSD is the most difficult to treat . . . but I work hard, with the help of my doctor, to get better. What’s more, it is working, although I cannot claim this work is complete. I want everyone to know that getting better is a goal which is both realistic, and achievable.

With Asperger’s, my motivation for openness is somewhat different, for this condition is not actually a mental illness at all, as evidenced by the fact that it was recently “de-listed” from the latest version of the DSM (Diagnotic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders). Asperger’s Syndrome is simply a difference in the way some people think, as opposed to an actual disease. Some “Aspies” (our culture’s own nickname for ourselves), however, do suffer greatly, because of the difficulties involved in interacting socially with others, especially non-Aspies. I share what I have figured out, on this subject, with two goals in mind: (1) helping my fellow Aspies who struggle, and sometimes suffer, because of these differences, in any way I can, and (2) helping non-Aspies understand us better, so that these difficulties in interaction between Aspies and non-Aspies can become less of a problem — for everyone.

Finally, it simply feels good to no longer be trapped, in a metaphorical closet, regarding these things which are, after all, part of my life. As the saying goes, borrowed from the gay rights activists who invented it, “closets are for clothes, not for people.”

I much prefer letting the sunshine in.

Recovering from Theophobia: My Personal, Secular Jihad

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The image above is a 19th-Century painting by Eugène Delacroix, depicting the story of Jacob, wrestling with a being often described as an angel, as described in the Book of Genesis. An interesting part of the story is that there were no witnesses to this struggle in the darkness (“So Jacob was left alone, and a man wrestled with him till daybreak,” Gen. 32:24, NIV), which tells me that the conflict could have occurred entirely inside Jacob’s mind. It does not matter if there was, or was not, an actual person, named Jacob, who had such an experience. No supernatural beliefs are necessary to find this story interesting, and there is no good reason to avoid thinking about it.

Thought is, of course, a mental activity which can bring clarity to confusing things in life, just as a sunrise can enable one to see things which have previously been hidden by night. There are times when thinking requires solitude, and the process of figuring out difficult problems usually doesn’t succeed without some sort of internal struggle. If you have ever wrestled with a single, difficult mathematical problem for several days running, as I have, then you understand this already — but the need for clear, rational thinking is certainly not limited to the field of mathematics. Rational thought is important in all parts of life.

Whether we like it or not, life contains a series of both external and internal struggles. Many people dislike conflict, and go to great lengths to avoid it. I am not one of those people, but this is not by choice. It is, rather, a result of the fact that I was born into an intense struggle-in-progress:  the efforts of my now-deceased father, a religious fanatic, to control the lives of everyone around him, and use them for his own selfish purposes — and the efforts of some of these other people, myself included, to escape his efforts to control every facet of our lives. From an early age, out of necessity, I had to develop complex techniques of mental and verbal combat, both defensive and offensive, simply to survive childhood with some semblance of sanity intact — although the resulting PTSD, from growing up in the war zone I called “home,” is something with which I will always have to cope. My earliest memory, after all, is surviving shaken baby syndrome at age 2½, and that sort of experience simply cannot be escaped without consequences.

My mental-combat techniques still exist, available for use at any time of my choosing, and can have devastating impact on others — I seldom lose an argument — but using these verbal and mental weapons at full power is, I now realize, quite dangerous, more so to myself than to anyone else. Now, decades later, I still have to be careful not to be overly eager to jump headlong, as if by instinct, into any conflict which presents itself, especially if I see those I care about being bullied, or otherwise abused. I have neither the time, nor the mental energy, to fight every single injustice I see, but it took many years for me to understand the wisdom of the well-known saying that it is important to choose one’s battles carefully.

The word “jihad,” which I deliberately used in the title of this post, is complex, and has multiple definitions. It is also an emotionally-charged word, and out-of-control emotions are, perhaps, the greatest enemy of rational thought. So, first, please understand this: when I use this word, I am not referring to any sort of “holy war,” which is the first thing that comes to mind, for many people, when they hear what I sometimes call the “j-word.” I am also not making any sort of comment for, nor against, Islam, but am simply borrowing a word from another language, Arabic, because it applies so well to much of my own life. Another definition you will find here is “a personal struggle in devotion to Islam especially involving spiritual discipline” — in other words, an internal struggle to do the right thing. While I am not religious in any conventional sense, I definitely understand the important idea of an internal, mental — or “spiritual,” if you prefer — struggle. My personal internal struggle involves a never-ending effort to maintain self-control, especially over destructive emotions, such as hatred, and fury. Fury isn’t simply anger, after all — it goes far beyond that. It is an absolutely horrific state of mind where one is so overcome by anger that the rational self becomes utterly consumed by white-hot, blinding rage.

For years, without realizing it, I was a theophobe — hardly surprising, considering the religious elements of the more unpleasant parts of my childhood. Theophobia is not a familiar word to most people, but it can exist in both religious and non-religious people, and can be defined as an irrational fear and hatred of God, religion, religious people, and religious institutions, such as churches and mosques. There have been entire years — especially since the Catholic Church’s pedophilia scandal blew wide-open in the media, worldwide — when I could not bring myself to go near a church of any denomination, let alone enter one, for fear that being near such a place would trigger a panic attack, or, even worse, a PTSD “freakout” episode. It isn’t hard to spot theophobes, of course; they are easily identified, especially among the much larger, rapidly-growing group of people who call themselves atheists. You probably know at least a few atheists yourself, and might have noticed that some of them seem to be at peace with life, and can easily interact peacefully with religious people — while others are a perfect fit for the “angry atheist” stereotype, attacking religion as if it were the source of all evil in the world. It isn’t, but that didn’t stop me from thinking that it was, for many years.  Recovering from theophobia is not easy, and is definitely a struggle, but is also very much worth the effort.

Unusually, several of the people I am now grateful to, specifically for helping me recover from theophobia, are practicing Muslims. This doesn’t fit the stereotype of Islam portrayed in the Western media, of course. If you get all of your information about Islam from stories in the news, you might think all Muslims hijack airplanes, commit suicide bombings, oppress women, and decapitate “infidels” every time they get they chance. Fortunately, I started using another approach, while still in college:  conversation. Simply by talking to Muslims I am now proud to call my friends, I have learned several things, among them that most Muslims are kind and decent people, and also that most Muslims intensely dislike the extremists within Islam — about as much as the average Christian dislikes, say, the Westboro Baptist Church. Adding practicing Christians to the list of people I can successfully engage in productive conversation took a lot longer, but the reason for this has absolutely nothing to do with Christianity, and everything to do with my own personal history. My father was, after all (among many other things), an ordained Christian minister. Later, he moved through several other religions, attempting to drag my family along with him, and these religions included his own warped version of amalgamated Native American religious traditions, the Soka Gakkai sect of Buddhism, and several others. A notable absence on this list — one of the few religions with which my father never developed an obsession — is Islam. This fact made Islam, and those who practice it, a logical place for me to start the process of making peace with certain inescapable facts: (1) the world contains billions of religious people, most of whom are not dangerous fanatics, and (2) religion is not going away any time soon, no matter how much the furious theophobes of the world rage against it.

This personal recovery-process is not over; I still have much internal, mental work left to do, especially when it comes to establishing peace with Christianity, the world’s largest religion. The important thing, at this point, is that I am doing it. I’m quite happy to have left the “angry atheist” phase of my life in the past, where it belongs, and have no intention of returning there.

Issues of Control

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Issues of Control

There’s a common phrase which has been said to me many times — often enough, in fact, that I sometimes now find it amusing when I hear it. You’ve probably heard it, also, or perhaps have said it to other people, yourself: “You have control issues.”

I sometimes wonder why anyone would feel the need to point this out to me. It’s something that is so blindingly obvious, to myself, and to all who know me well, that it really doesn’t even need to be said. My usual response, the last few years, has been the following: “Control issues? I don’t merely have control issues. I’ve got a lifetime subscription.”

The painting at the top of this post was a self-portrait I painted many years ago, while still struggling with (metaphorical) inner “demons” that bother me much less now, compared to how I was even a few years ago, at a time when my mental health was far more precarious.

Am I, to use an informal term for it, a “control freak?” Well, yes, I am — but not of the common variety. I’ve discerned that there are two very different types of control freak in existence, and have labeled them, simply, as type I and type II control freaks. I’m of the second type, but the first type is far more common.

Type I control freaks, as I define them, put a lot of time and energy into controlling other people, or at least trying to do so. I see such people as insecure, on an unconscious level, and suspect they have a strong drive to force their will on others, simply as a way to help them feel more secure about themselves. Such people are extremely unpleasant for me to be around, and I avoid them whenever I can. When forced to be around them, conflict is common.

Type II control freaks are very different from those of the first type. They — or, rather, we — have no particular urge to control other people. We do, however, still have very strong issues related to control, and, yes, this can cause problems at times.

(As an aside, I should explain my use of the word “freak,” since some people find that word offensive. It’s a word I’ve applied to myself since childhood. I don’t ever use this word as an insult. If I call someone “normal,” though, that’s another matter. “Normal” is a word I do use, when I use it, as an insult — a synonym for such terms as “boring,” “ordinary,” or “typical.” The idea of being normal is, to me, horrifying in the extreme — and to be a “freak” is, of course, the exact opposite.)

So what’s up with these people I call type II control freaks? In short, what’s our problem, and how do we differ from control freaks of the more common variety? Well, in my case (and that of others like me, I suspect), we were subjected, when very young, to extreme amounts of manipulative, controlling behavior by others — to such an extreme degree that we are now hypersensitive to any real (or perceived) efforts to control us. In my case, this overly-controlling person — the overwhelming monster of my childhood — was my father, deceased since mid-2010, and, at least by me, completely unmourned. When I painted the painting above, he was still alive. Now that he is gone, and can, therefore, never harm another person, the chains depicted in this painting have, after many decades, finally been broken, even though I still have to deal with lingering PTSD, and likely always will, because of the trauma he inflicted on me in childhood. (The difference is that, now, I simply have to deal with the fact that I used to be “chained up,” and cope with the resulting memories, whereas, before he died, the chains were still “on,” even though we were estranged for many years.) Hearing the news of his death was, quite possibly, the most liberating moment of my life.

Type II control freaks have no need to control others — we simply have an overwhelming need to keep others from controlling us. We are lovers of freedom and liberty, and need it almost as intensely as all humans need oxygen. At least in my case, I can’t even stand to see the first type of control freak in action, against another, without feeling an overwhelming urge to do almost anything in my power to stop them.

I have no qualms about being, and openly admitting to being, a control freak of the second type. It’s simply a part of who I am. There are certainly less healthy ways to react to childhood trauma, after all — such as when someone turns into the same type of monster that terrorized him or her in the first place, thus perpetuating a multi-generational cycle which is unhealthy in the extreme.

As for the type I control freaks, I am unable to feel any sympathy for them. They victimize others whenever they can. They’re bullies. They need to be opposed, and they need to be stopped. They are, in a word, evil — and that’s not a word I use often, nor one I use lightly.

I’m a permanent part of the resistance to such people, and have no reservations about this. If it were in my power to change this part of who I am — and it isn’t, anyway — I certainly would not choose to do so.