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Alpha Male In Writing, Part 3
This part of the series starts out with me throwing a manly man-hissy fit.
In fact, you might even upgrade it to a temper tantrum. I have hard time calling clenching my fists, pounding the air while jumping up and down in the shower and screaming an obscenity over and over again about not getting my way anything else. Yep, that's a temper tantrum, alright.
I'd just had an undeniable truth belt me across the teeth and I was NOT a happy puppy. I REALLY, REALLY, REALLY didn't want to face this truth. And did I mention that I wasn't comfortable with this idea?
And the reason I didn't want to deal with it was I was scared.
Let me put that last statement in perspective. In this time of life, getting shot at was a pretty typical event. So too was telling murderers, rapists, robbers, drug addicts and psychos "No." As in 'No, you can't kidnap, rape and murder this woman'. Which amazingly enough had a lot to do with why the same people tried to play show and tell with my vital organs. They don't like being told that. Incidents involving weapons were the major bother, empty handed confrontations? Was I supposed to even count those?
Basically the thought of dying while saving someone else or stopping bad guys from plying their trade didn't scare me, them was the chances I took playing in this league. And I was okay with that.
But, this little Blue Bird of "Oooooooh you're not going to like this" had just landed on my shoulder and had sung a song that terrified me. I'm talking about running for the hills screaming hysterically if I thought I could outrun it. But that would be like trying to outrun my own shadow ... because the truth was about me.
The truth that scared the beejeebers out of me was that I was a 'teacher.' Or, to put it more accurately, that I had a responsibility not only to others, but for them as well.
Would someone mind taking a shot at me just to give me a way to avoid having to deal with this? Please?
Hmmm, maybe a little more perspective on why this should scare me. Let me tell you a story about a night under the stars in a hot tub in the high desert. While one might think it is the interlude for a romantic evening, nope, sorry, I was with a long time friend named Rick Foss. We were chillin' after a long day and discussing life, the universe and everything. Rick has been married about eight years at this time and had inherited a travel agency. A business that not only had he grown to despise, but because of deregulation and the internet, was being both phased out and undermined. In short, it was a dying industry. He was frustrated, stressed and, with the constant changes in the business, he felt like Sisyphus trying to roll a Jell-O boulder up a hill. While speaking of trials, tribulations and his feeling trapped, he made an innocent comment "I always wished that I had your courage, Animal."
"DON'T YOU EVER SAY THAT!" I roared jumping to my feet. "You got a courage I have NEVER had in my life! You have people relying on you. Every *&&^%$ day you get up and go to a job you HATE to support your wife and kids. Do you have ANY idea what that takes?! It takes a kind of bravery I don't have. Getting shot at is easy. It's over in a few seconds. You put up with frustration and boredom day after day when you want to be doing something else! I can't do that. Don't you EVER say you're not as brave as me! You got a type of bravery I'll never have!"
Okay so time would prove me a liar on that last comment... but that's another story.
At the time, however, it was an accurate summation. Whether you call me a tumbleweed or a rudderless ship before the winds, I was adrift and alone. I had no one that I was beholden to and if I managed to get my brains blown out, well, at least nobody was depending on me to be there. And that was fine with me, because while crisis was a piece of cake for me, what scared me was screwing up in the everyday.
And on that front, I had a lousy track record. While I'm being truthful, constantly doing a double gainer with a half twist into chaos, is a great way to escape from having to think about your own inner pain. And although I would have rabidly denied it at the time, is exactly what I had done by cutting loose and going off into the wilds. Who's got time for angst, remorse and self-reflection when someone is trying to play mumbly-peg with your liver? It was -- and I cannot stress this enough -- emotionally safe out there.
And that is why I had looked at teaching and went "WHOA! WAIT! WRONG! That ain't me! Get someone else!" My life was seriously screwed up and if I took this seriously dangerous assignment (teacher) then I'd have to a) take responsibility for others b) run the risk of screwing up again.
I'd done a pretty good job of screwing up my life and I still had some major issues that I hadn't come to terms with yet. Problems that I was trying to figure out ways to cope (or still hoping I could somehow manage to run away from). For example, I was desperately trying to find a way to cope with the emotional tsunamis within me. See I can easily shed physical pain and keep on going. Despite this, I feel things really deeply. I didn't just experience feelings, I was consumed by them. I didn't have the checks and balances other people do. Standard coping mechanisms worked about as well for me as gauze curtain would work to stop an enraged dragon from bursting out of its lair.
When you feel things this deeply, there is no difference between feeling and acting. This tendency to act on my emotions had caused some major damage -- that once the tidal wave had passed, I'd realized what I had done -- and 'guilt' doesn't even begin to describe what I felt.
Basically I lacked the ability to rationalize and justify my actions that criminals, egomaniacs and paperback villains have. I didn't have any excuse other than I wanted to do it. Sure pain and anger drove me, as did immediate threat (it's called self-defense or defense of others) or my sense of duty/honor (yeah, that's something else I felt deeply). But those were reasons, not excuses. Big difference. Nor did I feel helpless and able to convince myself that I was incapable of inflicting harm unto others because they'd hurt my little duck feelings. Granted it would have been really convenient if that theory would have worked out, but nope. That guy going to the hospital and a honking big property damage bill pretty well shoots the idea that I was a helpless victim down.
From the preceding paragraphs you might think I was a happy little sociopath. But the fact was, I really don't like hurting people. Let's just say that while I have a 'gift,' that's one skill I prefer not to use. And while I can consciously do it when there is a need (or I was enraged), I have never been able to shield myself from 'feeling it' while it was happening and, later, knowing what I had done. Pain is a two way street for some of us. Try facing that without the shields of self-rationalization. (I also knew that was one rush that I must never get addicted to because it would catapult me into being a monster). But, when all is said and done, when someone coming at you with a knife paying the emotional and psychic cost of breaking him in half is the lesser of two evils. It was something that had to be done.
But what really bothered me was how often I had accidentally hurt people. Whudda thunk they were so fragile? By this I don't just mean what happened when I used -- what was considered where I was from -- a light 'knock it off' tap to correct a minor infraction and broke someone. Although that did happen ... a lot. I'm also talking the breakage that occurred when I got a little frisky and was just romping around. Oops. (No I wasn't a grim and tortured soul, that's not how you outrun pain. HELLOOOO! You outrun pain by having wild fun ...and lots of it. You know, work hard, play hard?).
But, more than that, I'm talking about hurting people when I wasn't even doing anything. We're talking people doing a bug on the windshield act on me. I'd be heading somewhere and suddenly realize that someone had just smashed themselves against my thick hide. Something I had inadvertently said or done had crushed this poor guy. I don't mind causing damage for a purpose, but this unintentional stuff was too much. Although I am not a physically large man, I kind of felt like Godzilla trying to tip toe my was safely through Tokyo (or NYC if you prefer the new version). Despite my best efforts, innocent people were getting squished.
Basically, I didn't know how to control the firepower that I had among civilians. And that was another reason I'd moved out to where the wild things play. They didn't break as easily as 'nice people.' Nor did they get scared and aggressive by just the sight of me. You have NO idea how big of a problem this is. And yes, it is closely linked to betas and insecure alphas coming out of the woodwork to challenge me. (How the hell was I supposed to know that I was supposed to stand there like regal Rottweiler and let this Chihuahua yap and nip my heels and then swagger away convinced of his prowess? And how was the Taco Bell icon supposed to know that it wasn't another dog he was barking at, but a wolverine?). Out in the wilds, if you had to break someone everyone -- including the guy who you were breaking -- knew why.
So what does all of this have to do with me throwing a temper tantrum in the shower? Lots.
What had happened is that knowing that I a) Could cause a lot of damage to innocent people, b) Didn't understand how I was causing this damage, c) Wasn't ready to deal with my inner demons, d) Didn't have the tools yet to meet these demons I'd pulled away from civilized society and gone out into where the wild things play. I'd moved back into circles where people weren't so fragile.
Having said this, it's also important to realize that despite all the fun and excitement, I really was developing the tools to deal with both my inner demons and tendency to cause accidental breakage. I'd been slowly working on getting myself under control and understanding that I was different than most people.
And that's what was bringing people to me asking for help dealing with their problems.
The same people who I was terrified of crunching were coming to me asking for help dealing with their problems. First off, I was still scared of squishing them. Second, my track record wasn't so hot and my impulse control was still a little bit shaky. Third, it took some mental readjusting when I realized that was to me a little itsy bitsy imp, was a big bad to them.
But these people really needed this kind of help. And I was glad to do it in the short term. I didn't have any problem with, 'Buy me a beer and tell me what's happening' advice. But what they were asking of me was a whole lot more than that. They were asking me to stay around, teach and help them.
And that scared the hell out of me. I mean, face it, last time I was in these people's neighborhood I'd seriously screwed the pooch. And now they were going out of their way to look me up? And... and ... there's that whole stay around people I might accidentally break issue! EEEK!
Please no ... find someone else. Someone who doesn't have such a bad record of accidentally hurting people because he's something bigger than most folks can handle. Please? Pretty please? With sugar on top?
So now, at long last we get back to not only to me throwing a tantrum in the shower, but WHO caused that hissy fit. In case you hadn't noticed, I've been discussing what I called the "Lone Wolf Alpha." Well to mix metty-fors, birds of a feather flock and all that. My 'Bro' Tim Toohey was someone who came through this very hell that I've been describing and ran what was called "The Creative Center" which was a teaching/self-help organization (long story). The way I reckoned it, Tim was my Bro, and therefore his students came as part of the package. So I'd help them out whenever I could ... which as it turned out was becoming more and more frequent.
When I groused about this to Tim he looked at me and said "What's the problem? You're a teacher!"
Well, when he said he pushed every button I had. He and I had one of our famous roaring rows. Hell, to us we weren't even fighting, we were just discussing something very animatedly. (Thing was, when we did this a whole lot of people tended to dive for cover). Man, was I roaring and railing about how I didn't want the responsibility, I didn't have the qualifications and how the hell could I tell people how to handle their problems when my life wasn't all beer and skittles. And while we're at it what was wrong with these people that they couldn't see that I was a screw up? Yada, yada, yada...
Finally, Tim looked at me and said "Animal, you're a teacher, deal with it! Now go get ready we have to go"
The way he said it, the truth of it slammed home. It wasn't his opinion, he was stating a fact of life. Like it or not -- and my behavior in the shower a few minutes later showed I didn't -- because of who and what I was, I was stuck with the job. That meant no matter how much I hated the idea of taking responsibility for others, there it was. I had to find that bravery that Rick Foss had found years ago.
And that is a really big issue among lone wolf alphas -- and why they stay out there -- they don't want the 'glory' of leadership. They're not the sort who identify themselves by the rank, status and ego-bling that attracts some people to power. What they're most scared of is screwing up again. And in an area that they really aren't sure how to handle.
There is something about their character that takes things very, very seriously (it comes hand in hand with feeling things very deeply). They know what they do and they do it very well. But this is something else entirely. It is both a burden of responsibility and a serious danger zone to them. And at the same time it is also something that they know they were bred to do. Something that they've denied in themselves for years.
And that is the constant internal struggle with lone wolf alphas. No matter how good they are at surviving out in the wilds, they have a constant ache for 'home.' Whether it be a place, a lifestyle or love. Something has driven them out into the wilds, something that they have no idea how to deal with. It is also a fear of a power they have that can cause damage, not only to others, but themselves. And that is why so many go out into the wilds. Out there, they can't hurt innocent people.
Perhaps the biggest paradox about lone wolf alphas. Their greatest challenge isn't the monsters that roam the wilds. Their greatest challenge is to learn to trust. And the person they have the hardest time trusting is themselves. Not in the extremes, but in the day to day. Their feelings and passions aren't safe ... for either themselves or those around them.
And when that opportunity to trust again presents itself you have a hell of a good story. Because the conflict of wanting normal human reactions vs. being a tap-dancing Godzilla vs. the fear of getting burned is a huge issue.
But here's the catch on that topic. It's not going to be some delicate mouse who challenges him to open up. Those he protects and tries to avoid hurting. Nor is it going to be the whore with a heart of gold. Those don't exist, and prostitutes are damaged goods, so scratch the strumpet.
The kind of person a lone wolf alpha is looking for is an equal. Someone who first and foremost he won't accidentally break. She's got to be pretty tough herself (whether she knows it in the beginning or not). BUT ... at the same time ... she has to be trustworthy. As in she knows what kind of hell from above he can rain down, so she knows it isn't a toy or a resource to be used to achieve her own selfish ends. In short, in her own way, she has to be big enough, strong enough and smart enough that they can form a team.
What you are talking about here is someone who not only can the lone wolf alpha trust, but someone who can help him trust himself again. Someone who can show him that emotions and responsibility aren't chains, but instead a part of coming back to a full life instead of the half-life out in the wilds.
When lone wolf alphas finally do find the right person, someone who they won't break, who feels as deeply and passionately as they do -- then it is like a hurricane meeting a typhoon. And that makes good story telling.