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Mandy Saligari

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What Makes a Stalker?

Posted: 30/11/2012 00:00

Stalking is now a criminal offence, and rightly so.

Not only to protect victims but also to provide a clear boundary for those who suffer from the kinds of mental illness that include obsessive and compulsive behaviours.

Thus stalking is described by the PM as "an abhorrent crime" which "makes life a living hell for victims", and I would add, for perpetrators too.

Please don't misunderstand me, I in no way condone stalking and do not have any sympathy for those who are driven to this kind of behaviour. It is terrifying and traumatic to experience that kind of unknown violation of your privacy; to feel watched, tracked, a target of unwanted obsession, involved without consent with an unbearable intensity, under assault and in some cases, a victim of murder as was the tragic outcome for Lorna Smith, killed last year by her ex boyfriend.

Stalking is an anti-social and unacceptable behaviour for civilised society. However, it is also a core characteristic of some addictive processes, such as Sex and Love Addiction where an individual will abandon all sense of self to immerse themselves into the world, or fantasy world, of another.

No wonder addiction has such so much stigma attached to it. The behaviours addicts present socially are deeply offensive and threatening. But they are also, in my experience, often borne of pain. There are many theories out there about the origins of addiction, and amongst these, compelling evidence is presented in the framework of Attachment Theory (see Flores material 'Addiction as an Attachment Disorder' or read Bowlbys tomes 1,2,3...). I believe that many addictive behaviours are misinformed ways to cope with unmanageable emotions and desperately low self-esteem as a result of inconsistent and unstable attachment to primary caregiver in childhood. With a positive spin this translates that one stable caregiver can make all the difference to a child's emotional needs and manifestation of these needs when the mature.

"So it is the parents' fault?" I hear you cry. And yes, according to Attachment Theory we as parents have a lot to answer for. Though in more recent times due to the evolution of social media, peer influence has increased. However, irrefutably parents are a key influence and yet we are human and all make mistakes. I believe it is how we behave around these mistakes that makes the difference.

Do you scapegoat and blame, describing a child as out of control and overlook entirely how we have influenced that behaviour? Or do you blame yourself entirely absolving the child of any responsibility? Indulge or neglect, all or nothing, black and white. All of these neglect the child (and your needs) and may prime a child for addictive patterns of behaviour - or vitally attracting people who are addicts - later in life. It is vital to learn and be able to repair and not give up, and to do this you may need help in the form of education, support and motivation. The model I have developed helps parents be engaged in specific actions that support prevention is in its infancy, but it seems to work. More about that in another posting!

It is interesting to note that the compulsion to stalk may exist in a person as a neurological imbalance inherent from birth, or perhaps caused by trauma or perpetual disruption to their experience of attachment to their primary care givers. This priming is then 'triggered' by egg an act of kindness as much as an act of rejection, and often a combination of the two, igniting feelings in the stalker who is then driven into extreme action, fuelled by mental obsession and an unconscious starvation of love and affirmation, coupled with a core belief that they are not good enough and will be rejected. This toxic combination is explosive. So, rather than condoning stalking or understanding it to the point of leniency, I challenge it wholeheartedly, for the sake of the stalker and their victim, and believe that a legal boundary helps.

I believe the law should support the ethical position as a matter of principle rather than dependent on an outcome. For example at home, if I tell my children to go to bed and they don't believe I mean business, they won't go to bed. At work, if I tell a client that if he or she takes drugs I will discharge them, but they think I won't because e.g. I need the money, then they will push the boundary.

Brinkmanship is a vital component of development of self. My rules are not based on whether those I am responsible for want to follow them, they are based on a moral code that I apply and live by, no matter what. And it seems to work. For what its worth I do not believe in legalising drugs either. Rather across the board I think the law should provide a moral and ethical standpoint for all of us in our capacity as teachers - and as a community - to support and follow.

So when someone suffers from a mental obsession and physical compulsions they need help before it gets out of control and turns to e.g. stalking. As I have said over and again, early intervention is KEY for prevention, but our culture of social denial ('its not that bad' or 'everybody does it', or 'don't make a mountain out of a molehill') prevents prevention! Its crazy but it's true. Why leave it until the tragedy strikes before taking action.

I believe we need more publicly accessible information as well as more accessible support to help open our eyes and de-stigmatise the labels - e.g. stalking, addiction, personality disorder, obsession, depression, low self esteem - as well as the help: therapy, mindfulness, yoga for starters.

Prevention is so much better than cure.

 
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