Monday, June 10, 2013

Unseen Influences: distress signals attract predators

A recent disconcerting experience has reminded me of similar incidents in the past. I would like to pass on the lessons I have learned, in the hope that others may benefit from my conclusions and insights.

Our inner state often determines our experiences, and this rule seems to apply very strongly to people who are aware of other dimensions.

Here are some stories of jarring incidents involving strangers:

The old diary and the secretive Scientologist
Many years ago, I re-read an old diary before throwing it away. I can still see the little book with its red cover, and sometimes wish I had kept it as a record of a time when I was being emotionally blackmailed and life was an agonising struggle for existence. Reading the diary caused me to re-live some of the incidents and this had a very bad effect on me: I went right back to the terrible state I had been in at the time. I felt very distressed and should have stayed at home until the effects wore off, but I went out to a popular local shopping area.

A young man who was standing outside a bookshop stopped me and said he wanted to talk about books for a survey he was doing. I answered a few harmless questions; he suddenly asked me for my postcode. The black cloud lifted; a light went on in my mind; I asked him whether he was a Scientologist, and he admitted that he was. This made me very angry: I told him to get lost and walked away. I feel very grateful to whatever it was that put the idea that brought me back to reality into my mind and helped me to break free from the overwhelming, paralysing, hypnotising, evil spell from the past.

The American evangelists and the dishonest grocers
Some years ago, I went on a series of day trips using very cheap coach and train tickets, as I wanted to get out more and explore various places. The problem with these tickets is that they must be booked well in advance, and neither cancellation refunds nor changes to a later date were permitted. I often found that when the day came, I did not really feel like travelling but went anyway so as to avoid wasting money. This was a mistake, and I eventually learned the hard way to resist offers of bargain tickets and not make arrangements in advance. Now, I go on day trips only when the inclination is there and I feel reasonably well.

I remember arriving at one seaside town and deciding to explore the town centre before going down to the harbour. I was feeling very much under a cloud, weighed down and not in the right mood for enjoying a day out. I was soon accosted by two young American men, probably Jehovah’s Witnesses or Mormons.  I walked on, only to have two more try to waylay me. No matter which way I walked down the main street, yet another pair would appear and converge on me. I felt like a magnet for these pests and got tired of fighting them off.

I found a park and stayed there for a while, then decided to cut my losses and go home. I saw a good offer in the window of a grocery shop close to the station, and despite not needing it bought some stuff there. It was only when I was on the train that I checked the bill and handful of cash that I was clutching, and discovered that I had been overcharged – the offer discount had not been applied - and short changed. I normally check these things, but, typically, the time I forgot was the time I was cheated. The amount involved was not large, but the incident added to my feelings of being targeted for attacks and taken advantage of.

The two deceitful young girls and the boys who wanted money
I remember running out of energy and feeling down after a few hours of walking around exploring the town while on another pre-booked day trip. I had an hour to wait before I could catch my coach, so bought a book and sat down on a bench to read it. I was totally immersed, which is a mistake I have made many times despite knowing better. Two young girls startled me: they suddenly appeared and asked me for money. They said they had lost their money and needed some to get home. I knew that they were lying: they had deceitful faces, and this is a common con game. I told them to go to the police station, and they said they had been and were turned away. I said I didn’t believe them, and they soon left because they realised that they couldn’t fool me and I wasn’t going to give them anything.

Some days later, something very strange happened. I had run out of energy while returning from a shopping trip; I was carrying some heavy bags; I could think of nothing except putting the bags down and having a rest and some tea. Luckily, I was in sight of my home.
For some reason, I replayed the conversation with the two girls in my mind as I walked along, thinking that it could have been worse but also could have been better. For example, I wished I had asked them why they had chosen me to approach.

Suddenly, two small boys appeared. They showed me a piece of paper with some names on, and asked me to sponsor them for a sporting event. I just said firmly ,“I only sponsor people I know”, so they went away. I know very well that I should have asked where their parents were and told them that it is not good to ask strangers for money, but if I had been together enough to say the right things I would almost certainly not have been approached in the first place!

The second incident seemed like an echo of the first.  I wondered at the time whether it was just the vulnerability caused by exhaustion that attracted the two boys, or whether my thinking about the previous extortion attempt brought another one on me. I now believe that it was a combination of both.

The third related incident happened years later.  I had gone into a huge supermarket at a time when I was not feeling particularly well. I normally avoid supermarkets for ethical reasons and because I prefer to shop where there is fresh air and natural light, but there was a special home event. I looked at some items without enthusiasm; the enclosed atmosphere made me feel worse; I decided that that there was nothing for me there, and I should cut my losses and go home because I attract trouble when I am not feeling too well.
This reminded me of the incidents involving the two girls and the two boys. I started to replay them in my mind. At that very moment, a young man approached me. He had a piece of paper with a grid and ‘Five Mile Fun Run’ on it, and asked me to sponsor him! I told him that I only sponsor people I know and walked away.

This is wonderful example of one of the golden rules: “Be very careful what you dwell on in your mind, because it may well manifest itself in your life”. It could also be called the echo phenomenon.

Incidents involving miscellaneous strangers
I remember being stopped by a young woman standing outside a shop that sold art books and pictures. I assumed that she was connected with the shop – that is what they want you to think. She said she wanted to recruit people for a talk on the history of religion. She was relatively easy to brush off.

I was on a bus one day, looking forward to getting home and relaxing, when a middle-aged black woman asked me where I lived. I replied that this was my business. I guessed that she was recruiting for her local church: they are encouraged to get more supporters, but they usually do it outside shopping centres and chose people like themselves. A similar incident happened when I was waiting in a bus shelter, eager to get home. A black woman showed me a religious magazine and talked about her church. I said that I wasn’t interested, and said it again when she persisted. I did not have the energy to ask these women what made them think I was the sort of person who would be interested in going to a church for black people!

I was walking along beside a river in a well-known leisure area when a young man jumped right in front of me and asked if I wanted to go to heaven when I died. I did not tell him to go to hell – now – but I wanted to!

A similar incident, repeated from a previous post: 

"I got stopped in the street that weekend by a young woman who said that she wanted to talk about religion. When I said that I wasn’t interested and walked on, she shouted after me, Jesus Christ wasn’t born in Buckingham Palace you know'. I am still wondering what she meant by that."

It is strange that while some of these people tried to stop me by jumping in front of me, many of them waited for me to walk past then came up behind on the left hand side.

People who accost strangers are very common in town centres and areas where there is a large footfall; these public nuisances are annoying but relatively harmless: they are usually trying to sell something and they select their targets consciously, according to instructions. 

People who sense and target weak and vulnerable people, people who cannot stand up for themselves, are another matter. Homing in on distress signals is a big red flag, a dead giveaway of a potential victimiser and someone who should not be invited into anyone’s life. 

Any organisations or causes represented by such people are best avoided too.

Physical exhaustion, mental depression, physical pain, worrying incessantly about something and having been in the company of an energy vampire are all possible triggers for incidents such as I have described. They cause our personal firewalls to drop.

A practical rather than paranoid approach is the best solution: just as sensible people avoid shopping at peak times and travelling in the rush hour if possible, so can we try to avoid putting ourselves in danger at certain times. Sometimes this is much easier said than done.

The main goal is to reduce the frequency and severity of incidents.  You may start with being leaped at and pounced on by strangers, but once you realise that you may be bringing such incidents on yourself and try to take extra care when you are in a vulnerable state, you will graduate to being more or less politely stopped and eventually reach the stage when you are invisible to victimisers. 

However, the price of liberty is eternal vigilance: a bad toothache may be all it takes to bring back the vulnerable state and trigger an incident.