Cali, Valle del Cauca, Colombia.
A little while ago I wrote a post about the Psycho Bitch From Hell phenomenon. It was re-posted, with my permission, on The Good Men Project under a slightly different name and it stirred up a lot of conversation. Where I called my post About Psycho Bitches from Hell they changed it into In Defense of Psycho Bitches From Hell. I agree the second title is catchier but it caused confusion too.
For a moment it felt exciting. My post was causing a storm of comments! The notifications were flooding my iPhone. This had never happened on my own website. I rushed back to my Colombian apartment to get my laptop, make myself comfortable and enjoy the wisdom that would surely come. But after reading a few comments I felt disappointed. To me it seemed that everybody was missing the point I was trying to make and quite a few got all worked up about things that I never said. I lost interest quickly, felt no incentive to participate in the discussion.
The phenomenon that I called the Psycho Bitch From Hell is in no way something that is clearly defined. Generally it is about a hot cool chick who turns out to have an unexpected dark side. She comes up in conversations of guys when they are exchanging dating experiences, she lives in anecdotes, she meets contempt and ridiculisation because of her perceived craziness. When a guy makes his buddies laugh because he has a psycho-bitch-story it doesn’t mean that he is telling the truth or that he is including her perspective. Perhaps she really overreacted and perhaps he was a completely insensitive jerk and unaware of the hurtful things that came out of his mouth before she started crying ‘for no reason’.
I spent the whole year of 2012 traveling and giving workshops on warriorship, leadership, courage, integrity, mindfulness and personal growth. I lived (for 1 or 2 months) and worked in Israel, Beirut (Lebanon), Baghdad (Iraq), India, Hong Kong, Thailand, Australia, the US and, currently, in Colombia. Among many things I noticed on my journey was that in guy-talk all over the planet the psycho bitch from hell pops up, that I am treated differently because I am a tall, muscular, blue eyed and – most importantly – white man (all highly valued traits in male dominant cultures) and that women are treated poorly and unjust in most cultures that I have seen. I realized that I am blessed to be born on the Western European side of the world. I also realized that my female friends have easier lives then their Indian, Arab or Chinese counterparts, even if they are going through horrible divorces or devastating diseases (which has happened and is happening). The reason is – I think – that in the western world we at least have agreed on the fact that a woman is a human being and that she therefore has equal human rights.
In my post I stated that I felt that it is hard being a woman, perhaps even harder than being a man. This statement caused all kinds of turmoil, many male commenters felt the need to illustrate how hard and unfair it was to be a guy in this day and age. I agree that an American man who has to pay a suffocating amount of alimony to his ex-wife and can’t see his kids suffers terribly from feelings of injustice but somehow it seems preferable over being beaten, locked up, denied education and raped. But if I am 100% right is not really the point. My statement was based on my observations and experiences, trying to devaluate my perspective by arguing how difficult the situation for American men is, is missing an opportunity to broaden your perspective. To understand the other you must not fall for the reflex to start defending your own point of view but try to identify with the point of view of the other. Developing the flexibility to let go of your own perspective and adopt a new perspective will make you grow.
Let me once again try to share my perspective with you.
My previous post was an attempt to explain seemingly irrational female behavior by trying to show how people get caught in a personality structure and how we try to find freedom within our constrictions. I described how being a ‘hot, sexy wild chick’ is just another role, just another cage. But because this particular package of characteristics is sexually attractive and immature men get burnt the Psycho Bitch From Hell stereotype has a bit of a urban myth like status that I wanted to balance more. This time I will share my insights on ‘how to neutralize craziness’ if you wish to call it like that or – my preference – how to be a mature man in a difficult situation.
If you want to deal with a ‘psycho bitch from hell’ you have to learn to listen. You have to understand what listening is. Listening is much more than hearing something, processing it and then reacting in a way that suits your beliefs and opinions about the world and yourself. That is what we think listening is. It is more than that. Listening is developing your awareness.
In his book ‘The Power of Now’ Eckhart Tolle speak of different levels of consciousness. I think he calls it ‘unconscious’ (the normal every-day human state), ‘deeply unconscious’ (rage, pain, suffering, deep ignorance, etc) and ‘awake’. Bitch-like behavior is just a form of deeply unconscious behavior. Like all deeply unconscious behavior it tends to provoke deeply unconscious behavior in others who are exposed to it. The art is to stay present amidst of turmoil. ‘Presence’ is something one can only develop by training.
During my mindfulness courses I read a poem to my participants at the end of every session. One of them is about this story: a ferryman is crossing the river with his boat. He sees another boat coming his way and shouts. The boat doesn’t change its direction and the ferryman shouts louder and louder at the other skipper. As the boats are about to collide the ferryman is cursing furiously. Then he sees that the other boat is empty.
The ferryman could have just changed his course at the moment he became aware of the other boat. All the anger, fear, frustration and pride were his own obstacles. If the ferryman had less inner obstacles it would be easier for him to maneuver his boat across the river.
Listening is not feeling sorry for yourself. When you learn to listen you will learn that the sad story you are telling yourself is just a sad story that you keep feeding. When you learn to listen you can transcend your own sad and disempowering story; you don’t have to take yourself so fucking seriously anymore. It is essential to transcend your own story because your story is like a lens: everything that you experience is colored and therefore contaminated by your past experiences. You will never really hear what the other is saying when you are filtering her words and actions through your personal lens. Once you have transcended your story you will make yourself available to others. If you are a heterosexual male this will naturally include the women you date.
Listening is not repeating what the voice in your head tells you to say. Listening is hearing all the voices and sensations until it gets quiet and you can hear what is underneath. When you become a good listener there is no separation between what you hear inside and outside. When you truly listen to a deeply unconscious person you will not feel a bitch or a jerk but only a deeply wounded, caged and desperate person.
Learning to listen will teach you compassion, not just for others but also for yourself. You will become kinder, more empathetic and you are not amazed when somebody starts shouting like the ferryman. You are honest enough to admit that you were the same not that long ago. You will learn to behave naturally instead of self conscious.
When you have learned to listen deeply you will be able to hold the space for others, including psycho bitches from hell. By not fighting her anger, woundedness or confusion you will help her ground. Also you will not feel the need anymore to box and label people the way you used to do before. But you can empathize with those who still do.
The difference between an immature and a mature man is presence. With presence comes selflessness, wisdom and compassion. When you understand your masculinity you want to serve the feminine where the immature man wants to suppress the feminine. A mature man wants to serve the feminine because it makes him complete and because he can. Some samurai master put it like this: when faced with a woman or child in a situation in which they are vulnerable, there are two types of men: those who would offer succor or aid, and those who prey upon them.
Woman is life and man is the servant of life. The male’s job is to protect the women.
– Joseph Campbell
The world desperately needs mature men. Our psycho bitches are good shit tests. If you don’t have enough presence to help her through her turmoil your contribution to mankind will be limited too. You need more practice. But if you can be with her in the midst of suffering and help her find the way back to clarity you will be able to touch many hearts in your life time. And you still practice because you want to practice.