Understanding Stalkers

Stalking is best thought of as a trauma coping method. Stalking is driven by an internal obsession with the stalker’s target. It can be either the subconscious or the soul which is agitated in these situations. There are also situations in which both elements are traumatized. As is the case with all trauma driven behavior, the first step in helping stalkers effectively is identifying which element of their being is traumatized, and helping that element resolve its distress.

Not all stalkers physically follow their targets. These days a lot of stalkers only track their targets online, spending countless hours monitoring activity on social forums like Facebook and Twitter. The temperament, personality, and background of the stalker are important factors in determining what kinds of stalking methods he will use. The intensity of the obsession is another key factor.

Suppose you were to start having a constant, low grade headache. Certain kinds of medication lessen the pain, but there is always some degree of painful pulsating happening in your head. As you press on in life with this new stress constantly nagging at you, it’s going to be a lot harder to remain in a positive mood, isn’t it? You’ll be more sensitive and irritable because dealing with that constant pain in your head is tying up a lot of your internal resources, which leaves less resources available to deal with the usual challenges of life. This is the effect that trauma has on people: whether it is spiritual or psychological in nature, trauma is taxing to deal with and it ties up internal resources that could be used for other things. The more severe the trauma, the more resources must be spent trying to endure it. In cases of very severe trauma, people find it impossible to function normally as all of their attention becomes focused on how miserable they feel.

There are many ways to try to cope with trauma, and different minds and souls will automatically default to different methods. Some reach for drugs (see Can Alcoholism Be Cured?), some seek out dark forms of porn (see Deviant Porn & Your Subconscious: Understanding the Appeal), some start self-harming (see Self-Harming: Understanding Your Body’s Dilemma), some try to hide out form the world (see What Causes Agoraphobia?), some stalk…the list goes on and on. But in all of these cases, an internal element of the person’s being is obsessing over the issues that are stressing it and trying to find effective ways to cope. Some methods (like watching deviant porn) are attempts to analyze and solve the internal crisis. Other methods (like drugs and agoraphobia) are attempts to simply manage the stress. Stalking can be either an attempt to problem solve or a mere stress management tool. Some stalkers are simply watching, while others are planning to do more than watch. In all cases, the need to stalk will intensify as other circumstances in the stalker’s own life become more stressful.

Stalkers are not happy people. They are feeling plagued by internal agitation that they often do not understand the true cause of. To the stalker, his target is extremely symbolic of some unresolved issues in the stalker’s own self. Here’s where things get tricky, because human minds and souls can turn anything into a powerful symbol, and they often link concepts that seem to have nothing to do with each other.

People often find stalking easier to understand when the stalker used to have a close relationship with his target. The stalking scenario that is commonly dramatized in books and movies focuses on an ex-romantic partner who gets dumped yet refuses to accept that his relationship has been terminated, so he starts hounding his ex, either looking to get back together or (in the case of horror movies) get revenge. But in real life, stalkers don’t always have a relationship history with their targets, nor is their obsession always triggered by personal rejection, as we will see in the story of Ben.

A Devastated Dad

Ben lost his 13 year old daughter in a boating accident ten years ago. The first time he lays eyes on Naomi in a coffee shop, her general appearance feels like a close match to the adult woman Ben always imagined his daughter would have grown into. Ben can’t take his eyes off of Naomi. He feels totally mesmerized by her. When she leaves the coffee shop, it’s as if his body moves on its own to follow her, and he ends up following her all the way to her home. After that first day, Ben becomes obsessed with watching Naomi as often as he can. When he has her in his sight, he tells himself he is watching his own daughter–that she is alive and well, not dead. Whenever Naomi smiles or laughs, Ben feels a wave of intense relief, and for those few precious seconds, the horrible guilt he feels over killing his daughter is lifted. It becomes extremely important to Ben to ensure that Naomi is happy and well-cared for. He starts leaving her presents on her doorstep–things he knows his daughter would have liked. He follows her on Facebook where he has set up a phony account for himself, and when it seems that one of Naomi’s “friends” has upset her with a rude comment, he becomes overwhelmed by protective fury and sends that person a death threat.

Naturally Naomi is freaked out by this whole scenario: the unwanted gifts and the haggard looking man who keeps appearing wherever she goes with his creepy, drilling eyes. Naomi can’t imagine who Ben is or why he has latched onto her. So why did he?

All humans have three elements to their beings: mind, soul and body. Of these three, the soul is the only element that cares about the issue of morality. To feel comfortable in your own skin, your core needs must be getting reasonably met, and one of the core needs of your soul is to feel that it can respect you as a morally decent person. In other words, your soul must feel that your behavior doesn’t grossly violate its current moral code.

Our stalker Ben is primarily dealing with soul trauma. Ben’s soul believes that he is responsible for his daughter’s death. He really wasn’t–the boating accident was just that: an accident. But Ben was on the scene at the time, distracted by trying to figure out the radio controls on their large rented fishing boat, and unaware that his daughter had fallen off the back of the boat. She didn’t scream or cry out when she fell, and the sound of passing motor boats drowned out the sound of her splashing as she silently drowned. The purpose of the fishing trip was to clock some quality father-daughter time. When Ben’s wife found out what happened, she immediately assigned the blame to him, saying that he was morally responsible for letting their daughter drown. Ben’s soul immediately agreed with his wife’s moral assessment of the situation, and that led to him concluding that he was guilty of murdering his own child. Ben’s soul finds this belief unbearable to live with, and feeling forced to live with unbearable beliefs is what causes trauma.

All humans have a core need to feel safe, wanted, accepted, and loved. Ben’s wife has divorced him, cutting him off from the essential emotional and psychological support she used to give him. This loss has caused his subconscious great distress, as he now believes no human will ever want or accept him again. At the same time, his soul believes that his negligence is unforgivable, therefore God hates him, therefore he’ll end up in a place of eternal torment when he dies. So from the perspective of both his soul and his subconscious, Ben has no hope of experiencing joy in his future, and this is a belief which any human would find unbearable to live with.

So what can Naomi do about this? Should the targets of stalkers attempt to help their stalkers resolve their internal issues? No, they should not. It is very dangerous to encourage interactions with your stalker when you have no idea what you’re getting into and you aren’t well-versed in trauma. In the case of Ben, there is extremely intense pain and fear being focused on Naomi. Ben’s original trauma (the loss of his daughter) has brought down his marriage, crippled his relationship with God (who Ben thinks hates him), and made his life feel devoid of all meaning. If Naomi tries to be charitable and start giving Ben some attention, it’s very likely he will become more of a problem as his starved emotional state pushes him to try to take more than Naomi is willing to give. Stalkers are not stable people. They are caught in the middle of internal crises that they often can’t bear to face the true origins of. Just as a law abiding man can be turned into an armed mugger if he becomes desperate enough, stalkers often feel controlled by their obsessions and are not able to participate in functional relationships until they get some help for their own problems.

So can Ben be helped? Of course. Since his soul is the most traumatized, it should be the element that is focused on first. Ben needs help to change the moral assessment his soul has made of his involvement in his daughter’s death. This kind of change can happen if his soul is presented with a new evaluation that it feels is valid.

Both your soul and your subconscious are very logical and very used to revising their beliefs. They only get stuck in trauma when they feel logically forced to accept an unbearable conclusion. But your soul and subconscious don’t want to remain stuck. They would much rather find a way to escape the beliefs that terrify them, but sometimes it takes quite a bit of effort to convince them that such an escape is possible. Understanding the different priorities between your soul and subconscious is an important element in helping them, because they are not persuaded by the same kinds of logical arguments. Your soul needs logical arguments to focus on morality, while your subconscious needs a very different focus. You won’t get anywhere trying to use soul talk with a stressed out subconscious, nor will you succeed at calming down a soul if you ignore its primary concerns. If you’ve ever been to a counselor who was incredibly unhelpful in the kind of advice they gave you, it was likely because they were not using the correct approach to dealing with the element of you that was stressed. Religious counselors (like pastors and priests) tend to turn all problems into moral issues, even when many issues (such as homosexuality) are driven by subconscious stress and cannot be resolved by moral lectures (see Why Am I Gay?).

There are two important points that I want you to get from this post. One is that no matter how “messed up” you feel today, there is always hope. So if you are the one doing the stalking, you need to realize that you have logical reasons for obsessing over your target, but stalking them forevermore is not going to resolve the issue that’s really bothering you. To get internal peace, you need to deal with root causes effectively, and that means pinpointing and correcting the core beliefs that are causing you so much distress. Your target is simply not going to be the the right person to help you with this, but that doesn’t mean there is no help to be had.

The second point I want you to take away from this post is that humans are very complex little things, and it’s just not a good idea to go jumping in trying to “fix” someone when you don’t know what you’re doing. If you are the one being stalked, you should not be trying to play therapist to your stalker. The kind of issues that drive stalking are best dealt with by a professional counselor who knows how to create a safe environment for core fears to be discussed. Targets of obsessions are simply not equipped to create this kind of safety. The very fact that you are the one your stalker is fixated on makes the kind of dynamic I’m talking about impossible to form. Even the smartest counselor in the world would be unable to help a client once that client becomes obsessed with them. So again, these things are tricky, and your chances of worsening the situation are a lot higher than your chances of helping.

Dealing with Stalkers

Being the victim of stalking can easily stress out your mind and your soul. Stalking makes you feel physically unsafe, and that triggers intense psychological distress since your subconscious cares enormously about keeping you safe. In cases where you can’t prove that your stalker has committed any actual crime and so the police are saying they can’t do anything to help you, your soul can start feeling pretty upset about the injustice of your situation. After all, where is God while you’re being endlessly harassed? Isn’t He supposed to step up and protect you? For help with these questions, see The Sovereignty of God: A Critical Truth for Calming Fears. For help with the psychological aspect, keep reading.

Stalkers are stimulated by gaining any new information about you, good or bad. Direct interactions with you and evidence that you are noticing them are also usually seen as very rewarding experiences which motivate the stalker to press on in what is often a very boring pursuit. To undermine your stalker’s motivation to keep persevering in their hunt, you want to try to cut off their rewards. There are practical ways of doing this. If you are being stalked online, you should set up new accounts elsewhere. For example, if your stalker has an email, dump that one and get a new account. If you have mutual acquaintances with your stalker that can’t be trusted not to pass your information on yet you need to communicate with those people, then you should keep your current email up and running for them and only give the new one to those you trust. You should also set up filters on your email to send all of your stalker’s communication into the trash or spam folder, or to block them entirely. (Sometimes filters are better than blocking, as your stalker won’t realize his communications aren’t going through.) The same goes for phones: either block your stalker’s number or send him straight to voicemail. To keep your own stress levels down, do not read or listen to any communications from your stalker. Most stalker communications are meant to agitate and provoke responses. Desperate stalkers will say anything to get a response from you. To increase their fatigue in chasing you, you need to try to completely ignore them. If you don’t read their guff, you won’t feel agitated, and you won’t then have to struggle to hide that agitation from them.

If you’re on Facebook, you need to get serious about using those privacy features. Blocking your stalker is ideal, but if they are using a fake profile (which is very common) and you’re not sure who they are, you should dump your account and start over again with everything set to private. Only friend people who you know in real life, and only allow people you trust to see your posts. Anyone who could possibly be helping your stalker should be either avoided or left in the “public” category where they won’t be able to see anything personal about you. You should also set your “friends” list to private, as stalkers will often try to figure out who your associates are and find ways to communicate with you through third parties.

Remember that your stalker is just a person, and most people don’t have impressive crime skills. So try not to give your stalker more credit than they deserve for stealth, cunning, and breaking and entering smarts. But that said, if you suspect your stalker has or is trying to enter your home, then take reasonable steps to increase your security by changing the locks on your door (so that you can be certain of who does and doesn’t have copies of your key), having good locks on your windows, and installing a reasonable but not insanely priced alarm system. An alarm system will help you gain evidence if your stalker does try to break into your home, and such evidence can give the police legal grounds to assist you. If you suspect your stalker is watching you while you are in your home, there are some very cheap and attractive window coverings that you can buy online which allow light in yet make it impossible for anyone to see directly through your windows with binoculars. Increasing your own sense of privacy will help you stay calm, and staying calm is vital to handling stalkers well.

Carrying a legal defense weapon with you is also a reasonable precaution to take if you are being followed in public. There are many kinds of products which come in aerosol forms (such as alcohol based sunscreen) which would be quite nasty to get spritzed in the face with. If you’re unsure of what is legal in your country, ask for advice from someone who is well-versed in self-defense.

Most of the angst stalkers cause is fueled by the imagination of their targets. Many stalkers never do any actual harm, but their targets become completely frazzled by thinking up endless terrifying scenarios of what their stalker might do to them. To counter this kind of stress, it helps to see your stalker as the hurting individual that he (or she) is, instead of as some kind of super villain with endless resources. After all, it’s a pretty boring life watching someone else live their life. The longer your stalker stalks you, the more problems he is stacking up in his own life as he is skipping out on work, getting deeper in debt, and spending countless hours reviewing the same unhelpful information about you online.

Because these situations can be fueled by so many different factors, I would encourage you to talk with a counselor if you want advice for your specific situation. There is a limit to how much general advice I can responsibly give on this topic. A counselor should be able to help you identify behaviors you might be doing that are encouraging your stalker and suggest likely motivations that your stalker might be having towards you, which could help you pinpoint useful defense strategies.

This post was written in response to a request.

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