Mental Terrorism. It’s an act committed usually by one half of a relationship against the other half, sometimes it's self-inflicted. Either way, it's harsh and terrible. It is not gender specific, and at any point, terrorized may become terrorist; Soemtimes, they're one in the same. But it’s not a battle that begets blood. It’s cunning and tricky; Intellectual war games.
A terrorist knows where your buttons are, and exactly how to push them. He knows your neuroses, and capitalizes on them. If he’s very good at his hideous craft, he will hit you in ten places at once. A sort of one-man divide-and-conquer battle plan. He knows you’re expecting him to call on his way home. So he doesn’t. He’ll say it’s because he forgot, but he knows how you get when you don’t hear from people. You feel like your target has been hit twice in one fell swoop. He refuses to answer you when you’re in a fight, clamming up entirely, possibly even turning his back to you, while you are still in fits of anger over whatever stupid subject has come up between you. He knows you hate this because A) you can’t stand to be ignored, B) you always feel the need to TALK, dammit, and C) it makes you wonder if you’ve 1) pissed him off or 2) suggested something in your last line of questions/assaults/accusations/inquiries that hit a little too close to home for him, so now you’re going to relive that last tirade and wonder which of those things rang true. He’ll say he’s clamming up for you; his silence is his way of sparing you, his way of getting over it slowly. But you feel like this kind of impact is exponentially deeper than just calling you names or yelling.
Because terrorists know that name-calling and yelling are useless tools when in war. They know that well-chosen words can slice like finely-sharpened blades. Names? Yelling? That just makes you angry, makes you want to fight back. So he knows that a lot of silence mixed in with biting chill and a dash of a good vocabulary can sting and wound, and those lacerations are enough to drive you mental. Because if he’s not really “fighting” you, if his attack is sneaky and undefined, how can you fight back? EXACTLY. You can’t.
Even if you are only terrorizing yourself, as the terrorized, what do you? Not much, really. The whole battle may even be all in your head. So you can give up worrying, because you finally realized that worrying about it all the time is just the equivalent of being a kamikaze; You're just killing yourself. You won’t cry and beg and ask what’s wrong, you won’t try to figure out what you can do to make it better. Because that’s only making you miserable, and his victory that much sweeter. You’ve been a passive-aggressive terrorist before. You know what it’s like to be on the throwing end of the grenades. You also know what it’s like to be on the receiving end. And you used to catch those grenades and try to dismantle them. But now? You just duck.
In the privacy of your room, you pour your feelings into page after unpublished-page of Blogger and Vox. In the privacy of your car, you replay the same song over and over again, until you’re numb to the words; until John Mayer's “Slow Dancing in a Burning Room” is just beautiful imagery and good writing, not a metaphor for your relationship right now. You buy that CD the night of the fight, you play it until the words are memorized, and you continue to play it until the words no longer bring tears to your eyes. It’s your way of battening down the hatches, mounting your offensive, steeling yourself for battle. You email your good friend from your work computer, where the day is endless in its uncertainty. You complain and make jokes about your OCD and your anxiety and your paranoia. Because the person you’re emailing with, she knows you and she knows your other half and she calms you. She knows you’re just preparing yourself for the fight. Getting it out of you when he’s not around makes you a better warrior. You know it.
And you don’t cry. Not this time. Because it’s futile. Maybe alone, if you have to, but not in his presence. It doesn’t soften him, it doesn’t make him bend to you, it doesn’t make him put down his weapons. And, anyway, as far as you’re concerned, tears are as good in battle as white flags. Who’s surrendering? Not you.
You’ll fight because you’re used to fighting. You have the shell shock to prove it. But you won’t stay mad for long. You realize that, already, shortly after the battle has begun, it becomes about winning and pride and who caved first. It’s no longer a battle over something important; now it has mutated into a battle of will. You may not even remember why the war was waged.
So you do what you must to make yourself stronger. You prepare and sharpen your blade and shine your shield, even though you know you won’t use either of those things. You slam your helmet down lazily on your head, apathy coursing through you. “Let’s get this over with.” It's just not that important to fight, or to win. It's just important that it finishes.
When you see the him, you act like things haven’t changed, like nothing is wrong. You may feel like he’s punishing you by pushing your buttons, making you worry, but you won’t bow to what you’ve perceived is his demand to cower. Nor will you stoop to the level of conniving woman. You do the things you always do, like life is normal: You bring him his coffee in the morning. You buy him dinner, even if he doesn’t eat it. You wash his clothes and hang his shirts and ball his socks. And even when he lies next to you in bed, not speaking, you’ll try to initiate conversation. Not meekly, or unsure, but like nothing is wrong. Is it an admission of defeat? No. Is it an olive branch by way of Downy and Starbucks? No. It’s going about your daily life.
Because we all know that fear is a terrorist’s greatest weapon.
Even if you are your own terrorist sometimes.