Comfortable habits. I read this term recently in a Marc MacYoung book. You know when your alarm goes off in the morning and you make it sleep for another 10 minutes? Did you know this can get you killed?
Or when you wait till the water is running warm before washing your hands on a winter’s morning? Or when you tell your not-quite-a-friend that you can’t make it to the party because you’ve got some last minute work to do (when really you just didn’t feel like going out). Or when you let a guy down easy so you don’t have to tell him that, really, you just aren’t interested? These are all comfortable habits, the habit of seeking comfort. Or more precisely, being in the habit of avoiding discomfort.
Let’s look at a date rape scenario. Over-simplifying things excessively (and further ignoring many other important things too), there are two types of date/acquaintance rapists (Many thanks go out to Marc MacYoung for a whole lot of understanding about this). The first is the “that which is hateful” kind. This is the brooding kind who’s like a dog on a leash. He’s at war inside his own head, struggling with what he wants (sex with you), and what part of him knows about right and wrong (or what part of him knows will get him punished if he gets caught). So this type of date rapist will dwell on what he wants. Sulk. Brood. And he’ll sub-consciously set up the circumstances for a rape to occur. Lie the guy who cheats on his wife. It didn’t just happen, he spent progressively more time alone with her. Flirted more and more seriously. And one day thought that having a glass of wine with her would be harmless. He might not admit it to himself, but he set the whole thing up to happen. This type of date rapist will drink (to help his dog to start slipping its leash); he’ll “just want to talk to you” (alone); and he’ll push things until you do something (push past him trying to leave; slap him; call him a name) that gives his dog that final burst of energy needed to break from its leash (or more likely it’ll weaken his leash). One of the ingredients in not getting raped by this type of acquaintance rapist is by not getting emotional or “worked up”. If you do then you’re likely to give him the excuse he needs to get angry (and we all know how anger can distract you from you self-control and better judgement – i.e. the only thing keeping his dog in the leash). That’s why anybody who tells you that you have a “right” to call this douchebag names (i.e. stay alone in the room with him instead of escaping and give him what he needs to act on to his base desires) is telling you to do exactly what the rapist has set you up to do (i.e. meet the conditions necessary for you to be raped). Anybody who tells you to do anything other than escape should be ignored.
The second type of acquaintance rapist is what MacYoung calls the “so slick he could slide uphill” kind. This is the master manipulator. Unlike the brooding kind, this type has quite likely made peace with the idea of “I probably shouldn’t do this” (or “For some reason people object to this, so I’d better not get caught”). His dog is on a leash, but he doesn’t need to sub-consciously find reasons to slip the leash nearly as much (it ranges from pure predators who know what they’re going to do from the get go, to people who need to manufacture all kinds of circumstances and excuses to be able to act). He’s aware he’s holding onto the lease – he’s just waiting for the right moment to let loose. He’ll talk you into isolation with him. If he can do it with flirting, or if he has to lie, he doesn’t care. Once he has you isolated he’ll start escalating things. He won’t set it up for you to get angry and give him his leash slipping excuse. He’ll set it up so that you feel awkward about what’s happening, but every step of escalation is small enough that you feel uncomfortable, but not big enough that you’re compelled to take action. In other words he’ll make it so that, despite you feeling awkward, he’ll keep it so that it will be socially uncomfortable to actually leave. Like the frog being slowly boiled, this will continue until you find yourself in a situation so unfamiliar that you don’t know how to respond. At that point you’ve established a pattern of not doing the uncomfortable thing, a pattern of not taking action and leaving. In this way the “slick” acquaintance rapist will keep you paralysed.
It’s called analysis paralysis. You’re so busy searching you’re memory banks for a comfortable, socially not-awkward way to deal with the situation that you never get around to actually dealing with the situation. This is exactly what the “slick” rapist wants. He’s deliberately kept you thinking in terms of social actions, while he’s been setting up a very unsociable situation. This is why he pushed your limits slowly – nothing big, so you will stick with socially “polite” responses. He knows that setting this pattern is an excellent way of keeping you from being impolite (like leaving, or breaking his jaw and running). If he can pull this off he can rape you and you’ll be overwhelmed and unable to execute an escape.
(Just remember – I’ve over simplified a lot in the last couple paragraphs. I’ve also attributed certain traits to one type or the other, when in fact both types can have any combination of any of the traits. Think in terms of “there’s a spectrum”)
What’s any of this got to do with “comfortable habits”? It doesn’t matter what type of rapist you face (hateful, slick, jump out the bushes stranger), the best way to escape is with decisive action. Firmly leaving. Deciding to maintain self-control (what the hateful rapist wants to exploit). Getting past your social conditioning (what the slick rapist seeks to exploit). And what do we know about being decisive? Decisive action is not comfortable. Decisiveness often feels like discomfort. Being in the habit of seeking “the easy way” out will not support you in being decisive. There’s no comfortable way to do a heavy deadlift, or all-out sprint. No indecisive way jump into a freezing pool without so much as sticking a toe in first, or to go against your social conditioning (what you’ve been brought up to believe as the way things are done – a relative once got a call from her husband who thought he might be having another heart attack, so she quickly got the car out the garage and gave it a quick wash because she had to get him from his work). Avoiding and preventing a rape require some fairy passive habits, nothing too uncomfortable. But escaping one once it’s about to happen, there are no nice options left at this point, and it behooves you to be in the habit of doing not nice things in a decisive way. Consider a daily or weekly practice where ACT! NOW! is your war cry. Start with a cold shower. Don’t think about it, just embrace the suck.