Have you ever had a thought and then wondered why it was so dark? Have you ever looked in the mirror and wondered who that person was looking back? Have you ever thought about your talents and wondered why they all seemed to focus on something you weren’t really proud of? Have you ever doubted your own humanity? If you answered yes to one or more of those, welcome to being inside my head. I’m going to share a part of my past with you, how my thought process evolved about it and how, today, I consider it one of my greatest strengths.
Author’s Note: (added after initial publication) – Thanks to conversation with a very close psychologist friend of mine, using the word “monster” was carefully examined. It may not be the best word to use for what I mean, so to make sure we’re all clear what is meant… When I say “monster” I mean someone who commits acts of violence without feeling remorse. This is NOT to be confused with the “monsters” who commit acts of violence just so they can see the fear in others or the suffering they’ve caused. I’m NOT talking about those “monsters” who commit acts of violence for purely evil reasons. I’m talking about the “monster” many of us carry within us that is only released when channeled through empathetic compassion. That said, read on.
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Those closest to me know that I was an abused child. I was taken from my birth mom the day I was born and ended up with a financially well off family who raised me from the age of three and a half. I never wanted for anything; there was plenty of food on the table; our house was comfortable. The only real negative in my days was an abusive adopted mother.
When I was a preteen – roughly when I was eleven or twelve years old – I started writing short stories. All of them were about superheroes or other characters, but without an exception they were skilled at violence. Many of them, when I go back and read those early stories (yes, I still have all of them), took great delight in delivering “justice” to those they thought deserved it, and doing so in a creatively violent fashion.
In high school I ran track and wrestled. Throughout my educational career in elementary school, junior high school and high school, I was a problem student. Not that I had a challenge with grades (except for the ninth grade when I barely paid attention to school at all), but I had a tendency to fight… a lot. It’s true: I had no problem putting my hands on someone if I thought they deserved it, or in self-defense… or in defending someone else. When I got out of high school I spent the summer working at the local park and then enlisted in the Army where I served as a Military Policeman. I’m actually quite thankful for the discipline that Uncle Sam’s Army provided me.
It was during that time that I came to a realization… and it was quite concerning to me. Virtually everything I did, thought, wrote, trained for or in any way excelled at, centered around violence. I was good at conflict. I had no challenge with becoming involved in it; performing it; using it judiciously. Yes… there were times I took great delight in it, and in those moments I realized there was something inside me I was scared of. I was also ashamed of it. There was a monster inside me… and I wasn’t sure he was fit to live in polite society.
On the other hand, after I got out of the Army I became a police officer, and having that monster inside me served me well. The Army had started my training in how to properly discipline the monster and the police department honed that training further. It’s over three decades later now and, on occasion, I have time and reason to contemplate that monster. There’s not a doubt in my mind that he’s still there; carefully caged; as some folks say, “kept in the bottle.” Instead of being a concern to me now, having that monster inside is a comfort. In today’s world you just never know when you might need to be that monster to survive or thrive.
With all that in mind, I take a look around at my friends and family… those I respect and consider worthy of my admiration. Without exception, each and every one of them has a similar monster inside. They include men who have been deployed to forward combat areas in war and have returned home whole, both physically and emotionally. They include men and women who have spent decades fighting crime; seeing the worst ugly underbelly of society… and yet they are some of the most compassionate people I’ve ever known. They include family members who have never served in uniform but have stood in defense of themselves and others and shown they will NOT back down from injustice, bullying, etc. They have enough of that monster inside of them that they’ll open that cage and let the monster do what must be done.
The difference between all of us and society’s criminals is that we’ve learned to harness and discipline the monster. Where the criminal predator doesn’t temper the monster with compassion or any sense of morality, we who leverage our inner monster do exactly that: control the strengths of our monster with compassion, discipline and (hopefully) a decent moral compass.
There is a great benefit to that. With control of your inner monster comes a sense of security and comfort. It’s the comfortable feeling you get from the sure knowledge that you can handle and manage anything life throws your way. It’s the comfort of knowing that while someone might try to make you prey… victimize you in some way… the surprise will be theirs when they realize their mistake. We are NOT the people to target and while we tend to be very giving, charitable, caring people, we also can release the fangs and claws with the flip of a mental switch.
So, go back and read that first paragraph. If you answer those questions with YES… don’t let it bother you. If you can’t discipline or control it, be concerned. But if you answered yes and have your inner monster properly harnessed… feel the strength that offers and be proud.