How To Deal

Well guys,

Since I’m headed off to be with three of my friends this week, chances are that at some point, I am going to want to rip someone’s throat out.

If you ever have the urge to perform that sort of action to anyone after being in close contact with them, be sure to remember these simple little things:

  • An it harm none, do what ye will:  I know it may hurt you much less to slam your hand into their face….but I think their pain outweighs your benefit
  • Being passive aggressive feels good…but it’s not the way to go.
  • If nothing else, just take some time to be alone and away from the other people with you.  There’s no better way to cool a temper than time.

Blessed Be!

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Some Days, You Need To Mope

We all have our rough spots in life, and we all have those moments where all we want to do, to put it eloquently, is to crawl into a dark corner and hide from the world. No religion or spirituality can stop those feelings from at least creeping up on us occasionally.

The important thing to do when that sort of depression hits though, is to not feel guilty over that sort of feeling, because its a common human being thing.  It might be chemical or environmental, or it may be entirely psychological in nature, but regardless, you aren’t alone.

So, when one of those days creeps up on you, or a loved one, accept it.  Talk about it – with someone else, if its you; or with the person its happening to, and then just let it run its course.

Forcing yourself to be sunny and cheery will just result in a bigger crash.  Letting your mind calm down, untangle and work itself out – that’s the best solution, at least in my opinion.

But don’t let it take over your life.  If you take your twenty four hours of hiding from the world, and it isn’t enough – you do need to emerge from your shell and live your life.  Sometimes, time is the best healer.

Why do you think this problem seems to be rampant – depression, etc – in our day and age?  I have a theory.  Too much input.  With the computers and the television and the radio and the high stress jobs/school and for younger versions of adults, buses and for adults, keeping up on all our various sitcoms and bills and the practical and theoretical and the fun and the family and god knows what else.  Too much input.  On an average night hanging out with my friends, we will watch youtube, play video games, watch a movie, drive around with an iPod dictating our music – there’s never any stop for my senses, which have to experience the general temperature and humidity, as well as varying sounds, a blinking and flashing lights from videogames or movies…

If we lived simpler lives, we wouldn’t have this problem, I think.  But we can’t live simpler lives – easily – in the United States.  You can use me as an example – for work, I manage two main websites right now, am programming one of them as-we-speak; i’ve got plans going for 3-4 other website design projects.  On the freelance side, I’m doing freelance video reviews, articles for one place, exclusive content for another, blogging here(for no pay), blogging on another(for pay), I run the Order…And I also at least try to maintain the house(in the summer) while my parents are at work – I’m combating my two dogs and two cats who need constant attention, my male family members who are constantly around the house(one of which does not even live here)…

Granted, I may just be an overachiever, but many, many people live the same way – juggling a million things at once because they have to or because they can.  And it does wear on us.

I recognize that today is Lammas/Lughnasadh, and this post is both seemingly endless and without a point.  But paganism can’t get any more practical than this:  Know when to take a break.

We close ourselves off from the Gods in our rush to be constantly doing so damn much.  Open yourself up today, and hear their message.

And that, is the best advice I can give ;-).

Tiring of Fear

We’re going back to group dynamics for a little bit this morning.  As something occurred last night (details don’t matter, it was much calmer than normal group situations involving “Supernatural” or otherwise “weird” things), I realized that it takes a certain person not to be a fluffy bunny.  You have to be tired of fear.

I realize that there are fluffy bunnies out there who will look at a spirit that has just thrown them out of the room through a wall, and go, “Why are you so angry, ma’am?” – I’m pretty sure that I would either do that, or leave.  But the key in stopping group or even individual “weird” occurances into anything more than what they should be is simply tiring of fear.

If you’re like me when I was a kid, I used to be just as frightened of what was under my bed.  I must have run and leapt onto my bed up until I was 12.  Granted, I didn’t go into a store and talk to the storekeeper / buy something all by myself until I was 14.  I wouldn’t order pizza until I was 14.  Hell, I still won’t do it with other people around.

But that scared of the dark, scared of the things you see out of the corner of your eye, immobilizing fear, needs to stop.  It can’t control you.  If you’re meant to die, you’re going to die.  Otherwise, you’re going to survive and take all of the knowledge you can out of it.

And when you start to realize that no one is going to come out of the shadows of your surburban home, kidnap and kill you (real or ethereal), life becomes a little happier.

Unfortunately, convincing an entire group of this “tiring of fear” concept can be difficult.  Fear fascinates us – death, destruction, we love it all.  We love that adrenaline rush, we love getting excessively crazy just to creep ourselves out.  If left alone long enough, sometimes we can actually give ourselves the auditory and visual hallucinations to accompany the fear.

Granted, sometimes what is occurring (auditory and visually) could actually be happening, but regardless, you are given a sense of reality about this thing which you have worked yourself up towards.  Or have been working yourself up towards after the hearing/seeing.

Point is, once you’re sick of fear, staying above that sort of situation may get a bit easier, and enable you to prepare for other, more important situations in the future.

(Damn you, horror movies!)

Self Respect and Intimacy

Well guys, I looked very hard through my archives at titles and what not, because I’ve forgotten most of the stuff that I’ve posted, but I think this is a new subject. Surprising, because I rant about this in real life quite a bit. I’m sure everyone has heard somewhere, “How can you love another if you don’t love yourself?” or something along those lines.

A significant portion of my friends have come to me at one time or another with one of two problems: they’re having a problem with their relationship, or they can’t find someone to have a relationship with. We’ll tackle “finding” a relationship first, and then we’ll take a look at holding onto a relationship.

The Single Person

If you’re not comfortable with you, how is anyone else going to be? Lack of self confidence is the first problem I see with people who can’t find relationships. They want to find someone to make out with, but they haven’t even taken the time to figure out what they like or don’t like for themselves, through fantasy, masturbation or other self pleasure techniques. The only sexual experiences that they’re building their longing for a relationship from are the drunken kisses before puking at college parties.  They feel like they have to be worthy of someone’s attention, not like they’re the predator, and everyone else, the prey.

The next problem they have is location.  They simply cannot understand that if they want to establish a meaningful, long term relationship with someone, chances are it is not going to happen at one of those college parties.  Or a halloween party at a bar.  Or any time that they’re intoxicated.  Or in a position where they’re going to be, or their perspective partner is going to be, intoxicated.

The final problem they have is standards.  They immediately assume that if that there is not instantaneous sexual attraction, the person is not worth pursuing.  More often than not, it is the mind and the conversations that enable a relationship to last.  That doesn’t mean prey on every nerdy, withdrawn computer geek.  But it doesn’t mean to write them off, either.

The Couple

And what about those friends who are always unsatisfied, or are running into blocks on the beautiful road of happiness?  To these, I offer a few questions to reflect one:

Are you happy?

If you’re not happy in the relationship, then the answer is simple.  Is it worth it to continue the relationship? No.  If you’re consistently unhappy, whether it is unsatisfaction over you, your partner, the relationship, the circumstances – if the situation cannot or has not been easily amended, chances are its better to cut the lines and start new.

Can you imagine yourself without this person?

This is an important question, because it reminds you that there is life when you are single.  If you cannot see you, as a happy individual outside of a relationship, you may not be ready to let go.  We are often so used to the comforts of intimate companionship – be it cuddling on the couch, or cuddling on the couch naked – that we realize that the relationship is worth saving, because you can’t imagine your life without that intimate connection with your partner.

Can you imagine yourself with someone else?

This question, at least for me, is the most significant, because it actually arouses feelings of disgust instead of just indifference.  If you can’t imagine yourself kissing someone else, looking into their eyes and telling them your secrets, chances are that you should hang with the person you’re with now.

When someone is reminded of what they have – either as being happy, overall, as being a person in a relationship, or as being a person in a relationship with a specific other person – it tends to put things in perspective.  And suddenly, the bump in the road – the missed phone call for the fifth time in three days, or the lack of flowers on your birthday – either disappears, or becomes very, very large.  My questions aim to help make a decision instead of fueling the fires of discontent and indecision.

Blessed Be!

Worship Alone, Worship Together

Which one is more profound for you?  For me, I am usually more prone to an intense religious experience while I am alone.  In a group, I tend to worry about logistics of the ritual, people and group dynamics, almost to the point of forgetting why we’re there.

Beltane.  Probably the most well known celebration of the pagan community, the most joyous, the most public.  We all know the imagery, regardless of tradition of experience: may poles and beltane bonfires, dancing and mead and making merry.

Now the question that I have regarding group vs individual ritual is one which may perhaps be unique to my tradition and path, alone.  Am I able to celebrate with others whom I do not know well or intimately?  What will their energy, mixing with mine, create in coming days?  Will it provide a positive influence?

Of course, this comes up upon being invited to a Beltane ceremony.  I tend not to practice with others as a general rule, because one of our golden rules happens to be, “If you wouldn’t have sex with them, you shouldn’t be in circle with them.”

That, of course, limits my choices.  Yet, what about non-circle celebrations?  Do we, in effect, create an informal circle?  Is it the group dynamics which influence you so heavily, or is it the reflectiveness within the circle that causes  the influence?

I’ll contemplate this more when I am not in class.

To Return to Gaming…

Within almost any MMORPG(mass multiplayer online role playing game) there exists groups of real, live people, with real live problems and real life moods and motivations.  Sometimes, depending on the game, you’re able to organize yourselves into guilds or groups or clubs.

Now, if you’re going to run a group or a club or any sort of people-based thing,  you’ll find the same basic problems anywhere you go.  As it is just before the launch of my own group/guild/order/program/people-place, I think it may be wise to touch on some of these issues.  For pagans, it is easy to draw this connection to covens – for Christians, their churches.

We all seek to answer the same basic questions.

  • How do I recruit people to my group?
  • How do I get people active in my group?
  • How do I fulfill the purposes of my group?
  • How do I deal with expanding hierarchy within a group?

How do I recruit people to my group?

It is best to determine what sort of people you want for your group.  This question only deals with quantity, not quality.  I’ve found through trial and error – and I may be wrong -that by getting a base pool of “maybes” who are allowed to infiltrate, you avoid elitist thinking which will leave your group with a population of one.

So, beyond the intelligence requirement, which every group should have but not every group can, let us determine a set of rules which will enable candidates to know where they stand.  Will your group be single sexed or kept to a specific age group(like over 18)?  Must your group all own something similar(Like a videogame)?  Must your group be of all the same faith(The “generic” Wicca vs Gardnerian Wicca vs Faery Wicca) ?

How do I fulfill the purposes of my group?

Action plan!  I know I’m going out of order, but the two questions I have left are the most often dealt with.  You really need to lay out exactly what you want out of a group in order for it to happen.  Beyond that, you have to come up with practical means of meeting those goals.  If you want to build a library of fanfiction, that’s great – but you can’t expect your ten members to write a library’s worth of fanfiction.  I’d suggest creating some form of mission statement document.  The Order of the Gecko’s is rather long and deals not only with what we want to do with the group, but also member expectations, roles, administrative expectations and roles….you get the point.

How do I get people active in my group?

If your group has a “home” in which smooth conversation cannot be obtained (like a forum…or a blog) – activity tends to waver.  This is reasonable and expected.  The best you can do in that situation is to offer a mend to the problem – allow anonymous posting or super-simple registration.  Allow a place for people to introduce themselves so that they feel comfortable just hopping right in.  The worst enemy there is spam.  But, we all bow low to the spam god’s ingenuity…and its not something we can fix at this moment.

If your group has a “home” in which smooth conversation can be obtained – such as face-to-face contact, or a chat room – then ways to promote participation do become slightly easier.  Group activities like meet-n-greet are great – for chat rooms, benefits(like ice cream) are harder to come by, but a topic-choice for a night may serve as a good incentive for participation.  Guided conversations can always spawn some interesting threads that can be followed up on later.  Arming yourself as a group leader with pen and paper (or notepad) and writing down what could be followed up later when conversation dies is a great way to keep activity going a very long time.

How do I deal with expanding hierarchy in my group?

Let’s face it.  When your group gets big enough, separation occurs.  The key is to make sure that you, as the leader, do not allow too much room for “members” to have more power or position than others.  Exerting favor is easily noticed and easily resented.  Some ways to allow for separation and an expanding structure are harder to use than others, but the easiest strategy I’ve found to employ is that of racism and discrimination, “Separate, but equal.”

This is to mean that the people writing the newsletter are different, but no more important than those people who participate a lot or who run some other aspect of your group.  In the end, the basic group structure may end up looking like this:

  • King/Queen/God/dess (1-5 people on top)
  • Advisors (The people that are closest to the King/Queen person(s))
  • Separate, but Equal rays (Managers, greeters, organizers, cooks, writers, etc)
  • Standard members (No exceptional power)
  • Neophytes/Initiates/Newbies (Whether or not this is used as an initial group is up to you)

The path to the SbE (Separate/Equal) should not be hard.  Members should be easily initiated to play a larger role.  This allows them some personal investment into the organization.  With those SbE’s though, you will have to give them some power to influence you.  Whether this is done in a democratic way with a vote, or an unofficial way with intentional conversation with those people by you and your advisors to foster intra-upper-division peace, is up to you.

The Conclusion

In the end, people are greedy.  We want power and responsibility and a say in what is going on.  Denying that or not fulfilling the needs of your members will cause rifts and strife.  But careful consideration and communication do wonders – in a coven, a guild, an order, or any sort of gathering and smattering of people.

Controlling the Crowd: Mass Hysteria

I’m not a psychologist, or by any means an expert, but anyone can learn and document the behaviors of others without going to college and earning a degree, or learning all of the ‘fancy’ terminology that goes with it.

Unfortunately for us, there exist times in the world where people tend to use the ‘supernatural’ as a means to gain control over others. I am not bashing experiences that you may have had, and I recognize that there is some truth in all experiences and perceptions. However, there is also powerful magic at play in group situations, and that powerful magic can wreak havoc on the spiritual, emotional, and physical grounds of play.

Mass hysteria is well documented in history – the Salem Witch Trials, the hunt for Communists, the “War on Terror”; as well as in pop media, culture, and everyday life. Here, I am defining this ‘mass hysteria’ as a group atmosphere, which upon the suggestions and actions by its group members creates a different atmosphere or different rules which is/are separate from an outsider’s perception. Please note that what I am talking about is relating specifically to ‘supernatural’ hysteria. Hauntings, things following you around, etc. I do recognize that there are things out there which will haunt and hurt us – but I also recognize that 99% of those astral creatures don’t care whether we live or die, and want nothing to do with us.

My first experience with mass hysteria was several years ago, with two friends of mine. One, slightly mentally unstable (as all teenagers are), began to slip in and out of trances. Eventually, she worked up to a full possession of her body by a man who wanted to have sex with me (No joke.). We spent the entire night, wrapped up in the idea that she was possessed and trying to fix her.

When I spoke to my high priest later that night (Who I don’t believe was my high priest at the time) he told me to get my head out of my own ass and go play cards – or something to that effect. He told me she was fine. He was right.

How did I find myself down that dangerous road of delusion? Simple. Breaking it down, we find that the instigators of mass hysteria follow a similar pattern.

  1. Gaining Trust. The instigator will gain trust of the others or will have already established trust with the other group members. This may be through close contact (hanging out together all day and acting sane) or verification of sanity through name/information dropping(Ex: my friend who’s a cop told me once that; the teacher said; my high priest/ess said; I read in a book that).
  2. Establishing Grounds and Baiting the Hook. The Verification of Sanity is actually part of the second step. The instigator will slowly lead into a topic which the others are “not informed of” yet. They may use the name dropping skill or, in the case of themselves being possessed, begin to lapse in and out of conversations, or do something dramatic, like changing voices or accents.
  3. Gaining Control. If the group – even one person – accepts the bait – its a downward slope. Once the instigator has the attention or partial attention, they will focus their efforts on maintaining the attention. How far can they string you along? If it is a “third party haunting” – a creature inhabiting the room – they will get chills, or a cough, or something will have moved – the lights outside of the room might have ‘shut themselves off’ according to the instigator. If it is the instigator’s haunting, then they may employ any and every trick. They may laugh or cry, or play with knives, or do something classified as creepy.
  4. Maintaining Control. The instigator will try to do everything in their power to keep the group on the subject at hand. As the group drifts from the topic, the claims or actions will get more outrageous. Following the instinctual rule, “Where attention goes, energy flows”, the instigator will get ridiculous in attempts to keep the focus on them.
  5. Losing Control. If the instigator loses control, they will either drop the subject and never speak about it again, or, becoming desperate, try to rally others to their cause, through telling the truth or confiding in them.

How does this relate to my trip? One of the places we stayed at was a family owned, remote and rustic lodge in the mountains of Costa Rica. We, for the most part, had ice cold water only. The door to our cabin wouldn’t shut. There were half-doors for crawlspaces and curtained windows leading to planks and nails because the building had been expanded. Our bathroom door was temperamental and locked itself. Because of high winds, our outside door was constantly opening and closing itself.

Prime territory for someone to come and play instigator with the group. Which, they did. There was myself and three other girls staying in this particular cabin. One of the girls began the process with a one-liner from a scary movie: “Did you hear that?”

Unfortunately, I was ill at the time, and had completely lost my voice. I kind of wheezed the entire time, and I couldn’t make out more than a word or two at a time. I was coughing every minute or so and my throat was on fire.

The door had slammed – the first of many times. Ensued a discussion about how creepy the place was. How they didn’t want to be in there alone. I tried to interject and explain that nothing was going to happen – I was a witch, etc. I was trying to disarm the situation quickly.

Two hours later, the entire group had entered our cabin to play a friendly card game of “Spoons”. When all had gathered, we played a round, and then the girl spoke up again.

“Guys, I have something to tell you, but I promised (Professor) I wouldn’t say anything.”

People vie for information. She refuses for a few minutes, then proceeds in a hushed voice.

“(Professor) said this place used to be a barn used to slaughter horses and cows.”

[[Collective opinion: Not so creepy. Instigator tries again.]]

“She said that the couple used to have a child before (child’s name). They had bought the place, even though the locals said it was haunted.”

[[The couple who owned the place were not Costa Rican. They have one daughter, an adorable two year old. Group takes the bait.]]

“I guess a bunch of weird stuff used to happen here. Doors would slam, and windows would break, things would go missing. And then their first daughter, she fell down a well and died.”

[[Group mutters. Someone asks why they stayed.]]

“Well they had this second daughter, (child’s name), and it was a really lucky day that she was born, and they did a bunch of things to be lucky, and they named the cabins and the place after her to keep away evil.”

[[Instigator’s boyfriend rises, and goes to shut the door which has slammed, loudly. He walks back in and leaves the door open. Someone notices that the lights are off outside of the room, and they should be on.]]

“I don’t know, they were off when I got there.” [[Instigator’s boyfriend]]

[[Instigator becomes freaked out, muttering and rambling about how she doesn’t want to stay there, practically screaming. Place calms down as I choke out, “Why don’t we play cards?”]]

This continued on until everyone left and the Instigator ‘confided’ in us that it had all been a ‘joke’ – the energies with which I had to deal with, silently, for four hours.

So!

How can we as witches, or as concerned members, who recognize what’s about to happen, disarm the situation?

  • Change the subject. By focusing the attention on yourself – “Ow shit, does someone have a bandaid? …. So did anyone hear about the new regulations at…” – you take attention away from the to-be-instigator.
  • Silence. Not participating in the discussion – at all – can sometimes disarm the situation. Complete disinterest is not what the instigator wants. Its a fine line, though, between being interpreted as indifferent and being interpreted as fearful.
  • Self-validation. Not the best decision, but can work in some instances. Saying to them, “I’ve dealt with these situations before, just relax” takes power away from the instigator. However, depending on the group dynamics, you may be marked and filed as either crazy or not part of the conversation, or not ‘qualified’ enough.
  • Leave. If all else fails, the least you can do is remove yourself from the situation.

Keep in mind that staying does feed the unstable energy. And when enough of that unstable energy is around, things will start to happen in the group perception. This time, I chose self-validation and then silence, for lack of a voice and energy to do anything but let the issue run its course.

Got any fun stories?  Feel free to share!