This document contains my comments to Patricia Brooks about her new book, Three Husbands and a Thousand Boyfriends, that tells the story of her recovery from love addiction, alcoholism, and the post-traumatic stress of spousal abuse.
There are messages in pain. Yet, most people don’t seem to learn much from painful experiences, which is probably why they tend to fall back into their dysfunctional patterns of behavior. You, on the other hand, have not only learned. You are able to effectively share what you have learned. I agree with every point you make. And they are essential points. While my views are based—to some extent—on my own life experiences, they are mainly based on how I believe the life of a species works, as a biological process. Through the following remarks on your work, I have tried to meld two views, one based on what you learned in your recovery, the other on what I believe humans must learn—which are the same things—if our species is to recover from the dysfunction currently afflicting modern humanity.
In terms of critiquing your book for improvements, I don’t have much to say. Other than the minimal issue of being confused about the timeline, a few times, it is a great read. I ran across numerous phrases that particularly struck and intrigued me, because they take the reader to the core of a number of issues regarding human relationships. These issues frequently touched on ideas that I am writing about, in my effort to introduce a new perspective on human behavior.
As far as I know, my comments reflect a unique point of view on life. They are all based on a single axiom: The objective of life is species survival. So, I don’t expect everyone to agree with all of my views. But, because your writing so resonated with me, I feel that you will find some of my ideas of value.
Pg 64 Keeping control was his way of handling our relationship.
I believe that, by nature, humans are social bonders, rather than pair bonders. As a result, men often react to pairbonding in one of two dysfunctional ways. In some instances they let the woman take charge, in which case the woman doesn’t fell she has a life partner, the man is “henpecked,” and he eventually becomes passive-aggressive. As in your case, other men seek control. If their sense of self-importance is based on their ability to control what they own, and they see the woman as their property, the situation often leads to abuse.
In my own relationships, I tend to react by letting the woman run things, which is why I no longer seek personal relationships with women. One may ask, “If you know that what you do is dysfunctional, why don’t you behave differently?” My answer: “How can I feel I have a home, if, in order to be there, I have to pretend I am something that I am not?” The next question is, “But, couldn’t you change if you worked at it?” I answer, “I believe I am here to be true to myself—to what Nature made me—not to some idealistic notion of who I, or anyone else, thinks I am supposed to be. If I have to work at a relationship, then, in my mind, I’m not being true to myself, or to life. When we are being true to life, our relationships work for us, not the other way around.
Pg 83 My ego was holding me back.
In my mind, egos are false identities that all modern humans carry, because, as subjects of institutions, we are not free to be ourselves—members of a social species who survive by attending to the needs of the people around us. Relationships are the lifeblood of any social species. It is through pleasure, joy, love, and happiness, that our instincts reward us for being true to the life of our species in our relationships with one another. Conversely, it is through pain, in its many forms, that our instincts punish us for not being true to life in our relationships. The problem is that, as dependents of institutions, we must acquire wealth and honor legal arrangements to be respectable and survive. We are not free to attend to the needs of one another according to our feelings of the moment.
In effect, to survive, we moderns must pretend that we are something we aren’t. Having to assume a false identity in order to get through life, is painful. The difference, in your case, is that your “false identity”—the “you” you felt you needed to present to the world—trapped you in a desperate situation, rather than just an uncomfortable one.
Pg 85 Her life [the woman at the Sojourner shelter] was fixing the broken wings on the seagulls left damaged on the beach.
What a beautiful passage to explain your situation, examples of which I found throughout your book.
Pg 86 Why do the dishonest charmers often suck in the well-educated, successful women, to years of abuse?
Typically, women refer to dishonest charmers as “risk takers,” the type of man most unable to participate in the life of a stable home. Women will say, “What did I ever see in that no good #^%#?!” In our natural state—back when humans depended on social groups to survive—risk takers performed an essential role: They stood as the first line of defense against external dangers. Thus, their lives were the most vulnerable to being lost. For the survival of our species in that natural context, it was essential that women be romantically attracted to men who were naturally inclined (loved) to take risks. Otherwise, the family would soon be without a defense.
In this way, the instincts that still inspire the feelings and actions of modern humans, today, evolved for survival in the natural world—the one humans stopped inhabiting long ago. In effect, our instincts are stuck in a sociological paradigm that fit much earlier humans. So, when modern women become romantically involved with the “wrong” guy, they are actually doing what was once right—no, essential—for the survival of the species. The fact that so many remarkable, intelligent, and attractive women keep falling in love with this type of men is the quintessential example of how our instincts don’t fit the modern world.
Romance represents our species’ sensibilities about genetic selection. When romantic feelings seize us, they are telling us who to mate with, and they inspire the behavior required for procreation. The resulting period, during which both individuals feel an intense desire for physical intimacy, typically lasts two to three months—long enough to ensure conception. The fact that modern humans make lifetime commitments based on feelings that last for only a short time, compounds the mindlessness of the situations in which we keep finding ourselves. All too often, the result is disaffected family relationships, the ultimate example of which is spousal violence.
Pg 98 Alienation was never the best answer, but I chose it just the same.
To a significant extent, all modern humans are alienated. What was endemic in earlier human life is nonexistent in our modern world—the natural sisterhoods, and brotherhoods, through which early humans experienced enduring relational intimacy.
Pg 101 “This small life I have is OK with me. I accept it as an opportunity to find myself,” I told my therapist, even when I did not believe it myself.
You were right not to believe it. As members of a social species, the primary way we know ourselves is through our relationships. If our relationships are in concert with the needs of our souls, we like ourselves. To whatever extent our relationships are not in concert with the needs of our souls, we don’t like ourselves.
Pg 110 By not running away from them [the two women in your office who had once walked in your shoes] my freedom from captivity began.
This emphasizes a previous comment. Women know themselves—know what Nature made them—mostly through their relationships with women, as is true also of men with men. To emphasize the point: When asked by a Today Show host if he remembers the barbershops of his youth, Ice Cube replied: “It was cool. You go in there and the barbers treat you like they’ve known you your whole life. I know barbershops have all different kind of flavors all over the country. What’s the same is it’s a place where you can be yourself.”
Indeed, only through the freedom to be ourselves, can we know ourselves! By valuing barbershops as cultural outposts where men are free to be themselves, Ice Cube was making a significant observation regarding the spiritual deprivation inherent to our present way of life—for both men and women.
Pg 118 Drinking was not an option.
It is remarkable that, despite the problems you once had with alcohol, you did not revert to it when facing the burden of your other difficulties. I congratulate you for that.
Pg 119 I no longer needed to control my life.
The key to experiencing life as it is meant to be experienced, is to surrender, to give up control to the feelings of the moment. Our problem is that we are not free to give up control, because our institutional dependency renders each of us personally responsible for our own future. In other words, we do not have the option of being emotionally honest about how we really feel. Our only option is to presume to be in control by honoring our plans and dreams. At best, we make partial surrenders, in a variety of ways, and, to whatever extent we can surrender the belief that we are ultimately in control, it helps. This is why belief in God—an entity to which people can mentally surrender control—is important to so many, and often plays a key role in their recovery.
Pg 119 Stop blaming yourself for what happened.
Blame is based on the illusion that “we”—that is, our conscious minds—are in control. Actually, it is our subconscious mind that controls us, through feelings that constantly change, as our mind reacts to ever-changing circumstances. As designed by Nature, the conscious mind’s only chore is to figure out how to satisfy feelings—to find safety when afraid, find a place to rest when tired, express anger when angry, for example. This served both the species and every living individual in the natural world of early humans, where the only feelings the conscious mind ever had to satisfy were based on instinct. But, in the institutionalized world, those same feelings all too often demand satisfaction, in vain, because they are superseded by the necessity of realizing goals and future plans. The idea of blame is not grounded in reality. It is based on the belief that our choices are independent of circumstances, when actually—whether in the natural or institutionalized world—our choices are dictated by circumstances, which by nature, are beyond our control.
If this point about our not being in control seems inaccurate, consider: First, instincts are inherited. We have no control over that. Had we not inherited instincts for procreation, to give one example, we would never have to satisfy feelings of romance. This observation is equally true for all feelings. Secondly, how we live as humans is an either/or proposition: Through the full sweep of human existence, individual humans have been born, either into a natural culture in which humans socially bonded, or into a tribal or institutionalized culture based on pairbonding. In the natural culture, choices were exclusively based on the need to satisfy instinct. As subjects of institutions, choices are unavoidably based on the need to realize one’s own future plans—even plans regarding our future relationships. A more emphatic demarcation line could not be drawn to contrast the entirely natural lives of our distant forbearers with our own. In a word, we have modernized ourselves to the point of near total separation from our essence, our nature, and from life, itself. If mankind is ever to regain touch with our real selves and the realness of those around us, the first step on the journey is for all of us to do what you did, when you followed your sponsor’s advice and stopped blaming yourself. We need to stop blaming ourselves, or anyone else, for what has happened.
Only by no longer blaming yourself, did you realize that your circumstances were the problem, not you. This was an awakening essential to your self-acceptance, a prerequisite for your recovery. Likewise, only when humans stop blaming one another for our personal and collective “crashes,” will we realize that our circumstances are the problem, not us. It is crucial that we learn to accept ourselves and others as the beings that Nature created, instead of what everyone thinks everyone else should be. This acceptance is essential, not only for mankind to stop crashing, but, more significantly, for mankind to even comprehend the debilitating nature of our present circumstances.
Pg 142 but I trusted my instinct.
You were right to do that! Trusting our instinct is the only way life can be fully experienced. The fact that modern humans are largely not free to trust our instincts, is the source of most of our emotional pain and cognitive dissonance. A few people possessing most of the world’s wealth, or sports figures making millions, while teachers have to make do with little, are examples of cognitive dissonance. We know, by the authority of our souls—the instincts Nature gave us—that these situations are just wrong. But, trapped as we are by our institutionalized obligations, no one has a clue what to do about it. So, in order to go on, we have no choice but to ignore what our souls know. What our souls know is that, as surely as there is fire wherever there is smoke, there is human suffering wherever humans live in situations of cognitive dissonance.
Pg 149 We honored the universal truth that women are the same all over the world.
Pg 168 They had an image problem and what others thought of them was paramount in their lives.
I agree. Men’s issue in life is primary that of identity. In instances where a man tries to satisfy the issue of “How important am I” through his relationship with a woman, the situation usually becomes desperate for both parties. If he doesn’t feel that he is in control of his domain/property—“his” woman—he becomes anxiety ridden regarding the issue of how he is seen by others. Your reference to OJ Simpson was well placed. Here was a man who had his life, his domain, under complete control, except for that #%& woman. I agree that your situation closely paralleled Nicole’s. Because these men see “their” women as intentionally thwarting the significance of their existence, they feel justified in killing. That’s probably one reason Simpson got off. Feeling justified, he was not burdened with guilt.
Because it runs in families, people tend to see the problem of spousal abuse as a learned behavior, rather than an image problem, as you experienced it. If spousal abuse is not a learned behavior, but largely the result of an image problem—or any other inherited trait that produces a violent reaction in the abuser—then, the situation is unlikely to improve, until that possibility is recognized.
Pg 169 because her journal had stopped beating.
This is another great example of your writing style. What a nice way to say how essential keeping your journal was to your heart’s ability to continue beating.
Pg 171 “Life is either a daring adventure, or its nothing at all. Security is mostly a superstition. It doesn’t exist in Nature.”
Thanks for introducing this Helen Keller quote to me. It speaks volumes to the core of my beliefs. By institutionalizing human cultures, we have tried to create a certain world. But, the idea of a secure future is indeed a superstition, because the future cannot be controlled—not for long. To the extent institutionalizing human relationships creates a secure world, life ceases to be a adventure. To that extent, it is, indeed, “nothing at all.”
Pg 189 I asked God to help me forgive both of them for scaring and hurting me so I could move on.
This gets back to the issue of blame.
When we use blame to explain feelings of discontent, we are indulging in an illusion. There is a message in pain. Each time we indulge in blame to explain human suffering, we miss out on another essential message that human nature is trying to convey to us, through pain. For instance, when we blame leaders, or one another, for the failures of institutions, we are overlooking the likelihood that the unnatural obligations imposed by institutionalizing human existence is the problem, not people.
In my view, to blame leaders, or people, for the failure of institutions, is like blaming the captain, or the passengers, for an airliner disaster caused by a flaw in its control system. So long as we are compelled to believe that human nature is indeed the culprit when our private or public institutions crash, we have no reason to even consider the possibility that the idea of trying to control the indefinite future by institutionalizing human relationships, is riddled with flaws and inconsistencies.
When you spoke of your abuser as the enemy, I was wondering if you had gotten to the point of not blaming him, which in my view is essential to your ability to move on. Here, you answer that question.
Pg 208 I forgave the enemy and myself so I could fully experience my life.
Pg 213 he is gentle with his daughter and kind to his friends.
What an important observation to include in your book, which, given what you had suffered at his hands, including almost losing your life, you had every reason to omit. You have clearly overcome the impulse to indulge in the illusion of blame.
I have never researched it, but I am guessing that most abusers are quite normal in all aspects of their lives, except in relating to “their” women. If so, it supports the idea that institutionalizing human relationships is the problem, not us—the quite ordinary folks who are struggling to find existence meaningful by trying to fulfill unnatural obligations.
In summary, I can only repeat what I told you after first reading your book. While your experience did not serve you well during the many years that you suffered, the remarkable book that has resulted from it, Three Husbands And A Thousand Boyfriends, will continue to serve many women, thanks to your having so effectively shared your experience.
Read Take Us Home, Girls! A free download available at: Spiritual Freddom Press