His Lordship

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I’m Jason L. Secrest, an aspiring author and impoverished college student. Sometimes I blog. When I’m being real about real world things that other people also believe are real I post at wiseyetharmless.bogspot.com. Then there are the moments that I’m also being real, but in regards to a different real world where there is a real annoying talking demon in my basement and where my non-fake butler/valet/gentleman’s-gentleman knows Jujutsu. In those moment’s I’m Jason L. Secrest, Lord of the Manor, and I blog directly to you from my mansion study at whathowadsworth.blogspot.com.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Demonic Control Systems

Yesterday was Sunday; so let’s review with a short pop quiz on the good book. No cheating now…
           1.) Complete this proverb: "It is better to dwell in a corner of the housetop, than with a brawling _____ in a wide house." 

           2.) The number of the beast is:

All right. Pencils down. You may grade your own work. The answers are “Beezle” and “404”. Don’t object, I can prove it.
A few years ago, I worked at a place that helped Troubled Teens to work out their lives. (“Troubled Teens is capitalized because when teens are involved, everything gets emphasis). Specifically, I worked in the boys’ home. I loved it and I built some deep relationships with the guys. However, anytime the words Troubled and Testosterone can be put in the same sentence look out. Now, I’m a great guy (can I say that? I’m humble too..) and I’m easy to get along with, but sometimes I’m also a push over, and I was getting pushed over from time to time. I didn’t mind so much, but it wasn’t helping our clients to get to the places that they needed to go.
What I lacked was better training. The company had some scheduled but it was weeks away. One of my coworkers, an ex-marine, noticed my severe need and pulled me aside for some one on one coaching in the art of De-escalation (military style).
I won’t go over every step of the De-escalation model, but I’ll give you the essence. In a tense situation people escalate. They back themselves into corners and don’t see any way out except for to fight out. De-escalation is the art and science of giving people a way to choose to walk out of their corners unharmed. Just as importantly, it is to be able to skillfully escalate your response without escalating the situation when those people choose NOT to walk away.  Fortunately, these concepts can also be applied to Demons. Take the following scenario:
It’s a beautiful summer day; perfect for hiking. You happen to know that there are plenty of nasty bugs outside, so you smother yourself in your DEET packed death spray. You yourself will die a year earlier because of it, but for now you are safe from West Nile Virus and Malaria.  At least, you think you are until you find yourself slapping yourself silly within moments of walking out side. Upon closer inspection you discover that you are drenched in sugar water. This is because Beezle has recently illegally downloaded and watched “The Parent Trap.”
You happen to be a pro at De-escalation, so you casually walk down to the basement and say, “Hey, Beezle, will you do me a favor and stop pirating shows? Particularly, will you experiment on me with the things you watch? Thanks. I appreciate it.” Here, you’ve given Beezle a chance to back down; a way to choose to behave. All you’ve done is make a polite request for compliance. The ball is in Beezle’s court.
That night, you have full feature nightmares about a dungeon and a cassette tape that delivers instructions to you. You must either crawl through burning coals or lose your leg. The dream doesn’t end until in a cruel twist of fate, both events occur. Surprise, surprise, Beezle pirated several seasons of “Saw.”
You collect yourself and walk calmly to the basement. “Beezle,” you say, as you admire the wing’s that he’s grown in tribute to Fantasia’s Bald Mountain, “If you ever do this kind of thing again, I’m taking your internet connection away.” Now, Beezle has a clear set of choices. He can escalate the situation, knowing the consequences, or he can choose to comply. If you’d just yanked the chord on the first or second offence, you have nothing left to leverage him with and he has fewer chances to comply. You win temporarily. He wins for the rest of the year while he puts dead mice in your light fixtures and partially developed eggs in your fridge. He doesn’t care. You’ve already taken the thing he loves most, and unlike Troubled Teens, you lack the power to restrain him. The key is to gradually escalate so that Beezle can choose to de-escalate the situation through compliance.
So, that’s what you do if you’re a pro. Unfortunately, I am not a pro. At least, not at the mansion I’m not. Granted, I was pretty ticked about the Swimming Pool Incident, but losing my cool won the battle, lost the war, and enraged the beast that lives in my basement.
The week that I cut the cord to the basement was a hard one for Beezle. It started hard for him. That Monday I woke to a blood curdling scream. I leapt from my bed with a start, gracefully bounded through my bedroom door and the hallway, hurdled over a couch, and skipped three steps at a time on the stairway to the basement. In my mind, there exactly one reason for a scream like that to emanate from Beezle’s domain. He must have successfully purchased, and be in the process of extracting, a soul. (I should mention, by the way, that there is a strict ban on human sacrifice in my home. If Beezle wants to do that kind of thing he’ll have to find another landlord.)
What I found shocked me beyond description. Beezle was curled in a corner of the room, cowering with an expression of horror on his face. He was pale, and his usually arrogant and condescending eyes betrayed fear. Confused, I looked frantically around the room. Nothing seemed out of place except for Beezle’s bone throne.
“What?” I asked, “What is it?”
Beezle’s voice was calm, contradicting his demeanor, “I have finally been found. It is only a matter of time, now, before terror rains down upon us.”
Beezle looked at me meaningfully and his tone chilled my blood as he said, “the Four-Hundred-and-Four Terrors”
My breath caught in my throat, but I managed, “The what?”
“The Void, The Darkness, Shorn. The deeper darker being which I once betrayed. I believe we have discussed him before.”
I’ll be frank. I nearly wet myself. Beezle is the most powerful, morbid, and frightening thing I’ve encountered; and he has been hiding like a small child from this other greater and fouler tempered entity for millennia. Over the beating of my heart I could barely hear myself ask, “What makes you think it’s coming?”
Beezle gestured dejectedly toward his computer monitor and said, “He has discovered my activities, halted them, and marked me.”
 I fearfully approached the screen and read, “404 – CONTENT NOT FOUND”
I laughed loudly in relief, causing Beezle to have an angry outburst wherein he described the numerous horrors that were about to befall my house and all within. None of them were family friendly, and I don’t dare attempt to describe them. In fact, I’m doing my best to suppress them. Until then I’ll be sleeping with the light on.
It took most of the day to convince Beezle that four-O-four errors are a standard non threatening part of internet life. He spent the rest of the day grumbling about symbolism and signs and all sorts of apocalyptic things. I was just relieved that the apocalypse wasn’t happening actively in my basement.
He eventually regained composure, but he still had nervous energy built up and I think he resented that I had seen him in his moment of weakness. I assume that these were the factors that led to what Wadsworth is now calling the Swimming Pool Incident, which deserves (and will be given) its own post. I didn’t say a word. I just cut the cord and that was that. I let Wadsworth explain the new “server not found” errors. I waited for complaints and obnoxious magical retaliations to flood through the vents shortly thereafter. Normally, I would have braced myself, but on that day I truly I didn’t care.
Vengeance never came. Instead, Beezle gave me the cold shoulder. Everything has been silent and almost peaceful – almost, in that the silence is violently tense. For days I crept around corners, tortured by the thought that Beezle might finally vent his wrath with some fearfully murderous surprise. Nothing happened for a full week. Then, just as I was starting to relax, things started happening. It’s like my Karma went bad or my Yin and Yang fell out of balance. I can’t pin anything directly on Beezle, but I know it’s him. He’s making surgical strikes against my peace of mind and well being.
My phone was the first thing to go. Will and I took a hike a few days ago with a friend of mine named Derek. We were fishing a stream that on one side had a quick current but that on the other had a few nice little pools. There was a nice little log spanning the length of one of the pools and we decided to go sit on it. We forded the stream, leaving most of our gear, backpacks included, sitting on the bank. Everything was fine and pleasant until a little snake poked it’s head out of a whole in the log, stuck out it’s tongue, and retreated. A fierce flash storm appeared out of nowhere. By the time we got back to the far bank, our backpacks were soaked, and my phone was fried. I’m on my parents’ family plan and my service provider is a small homegrown company that’s housed several hours away. Therefore, I’m phoneless for a while.
Shortly after my phone problem, Wadsworth got an urgent message from a friend or relative, calling him away for a few weeks. I can manage myself for a while, but I’m not good at taking random ingredients that happen to be lying about and making something edible out of them. My grocery budget is gone till the end of the month, so I’m scrambling to keep on top of things. I’m getting hungry and so is Will. I can tell, because he’s also getting extra attitude. I’m also suffering Wadswoth’s absence in other ways. He kept me organized. I’m starting to miss appointments and lose things.
Then there was today. I drove a few miles down the road to a church meeting, and when I was done the truck wouldn’t start. As luck would have it, everyone else had already gone. Also as luck would have it, a friend at church had asked me to deliver an important document to a neighbor before said neighbor left for the airport. I couldn’t call anybody – my phone is still dead and all of the numbers of people I would call are stored therein. I tried hitching a ride but only person who noticed my thumb was a teenage girl that looked at me like I was jack the ripper. After that, I just ran until I almost had a stroke. The neighbor was angry at the delay, but tried not to show it. Several hours later I caught Nathan on G-Chat. He picked me up and let me call AAA roadside service on his phone. Triple A is magic, by the way. They have the power to counteract demonic curses – for how long I don’t know, but it was at least long enough to get home.
Something else is coming up. I can feel it. So, what do I do? How do I get Beezle to settle down without giving up my authority? I can’t just give him back the internet without telling him between the lines that he can make me bend to his will if he misbehaves badly enough.  Any suggestions are welcome and wanted. I’m so desperate that I’m allowing anonymous comments. So, lay them on me…


DIRECTORS CUT: I wrote a long explanation of the de-escalation model and axed it in favor of a more condensed version. However, de-escalation is pretty cool, so I'm dropping it in here. If you don't care, then just skip to the comments.
DISCLAIMER: I'M NOT A PRO, I'M NOT A SHRINK, I'M NOT A MILITARY MAN - I can barely remember what the military man said, so take the following with a grain of salt, and if you intend to ever ever ever apply it, be sure to consult someone who knows what they're talking about. I just think it's a cool approach to a situation where you have both the need and the authority to calm a situation down - like if Beezle breaks into your house and holds your kids hostage...

The best way for me to explain this is with an example:
It’s 10:00 PM; time for bed. You make a loud announcement declaring that bedtime be observed. A TT (Troubled Teen) named Timmy is lingering on the sofa he shows no indication that he acknowledges the existence of either bedtime or you. He’s pushing the limits to see how far he can step out of line and be “OK.” A mental boxing match has just started and Timmy is testing your defenses with soft jabs. You quickly don your De-escalation Gloves and maneuver.
If you’re a rooky you glare at Timmy, raise your voice and spit out, “Timmy, get your but in bed now.” (You probably wanted to say “ass” but you’re in my scenario; so you don’t get to.) What you’ve just said is, “I am your Lord and Master. Obey or die.” It’s a challenge and Timmy can’t back down now without losing face, or self respect, or cool points, or whatever happens to be in that day. Instead, he’ll try to make you feel stupid about being so intense. The situation will escalate and no matter how it ends, it won’t be pretty.
If you’re a pro, you glance up and casually state, “Hey Tim, it’s ten, will you go to bed please?” or maybe you verbally “presuppose” that he’s going to do what you asked and say, “Hey bud, on your way to bed will you ______”. Maybe you do something equally casual and non threatening that says, “Will you please make going to bed be your decision?” You’re giving control to him. He can either choose to escalate the situation further, or to back down without injury. If he continues to ignore you then you change the request for compliance to a firm, yet calm and non threatening, instruction: “Tim, go to bed.” If that is ignored then you make a statement of imminent consequence. “If you don’t go to bed, X consequences will be applied.” If Tim continues to choose to escalate the situation, you apply the consequences.
Here we can count and see that Timmy has had four chances to choose to comply without injury. Every time that he escalates he knows that he is making the situation worse for himself. In other words, it’s harder for him to resist authority than it is for him to comply with it.
If Timmy is stubborn and keeps pushing you just calmly continue a two part cycle: make statements of imminent consequences. If he won’t comply apply the consequences. These consequences are always preplanned, immediate, and gradually intensified toward some ultimate consequence, depending on the situation.
If you started with “Tim, go to bed or you will be restrained and placed under constant surveillance,” then Tim get’s one chance to back down. If Tim repeats this kind of behavior often, then he becomes desensitized to the most intense consequences that you apply. He no longer cares if he escalates the situation because he’s been there before.


Nathan Major said...

Did Beezle cut your internet too? Where the crap are the updates? I know you wrote something like freaking two weeks ago and it still isn't up. Did the Mansion House burn down? Did Will finally move out and get a job? Did Wadsworth take you on some sort of crazy mis-adventure? Did you get Starcraft 2?

Answer these questions, and update before I go insane!

Jason L Secrest said...


So many questions...
We finally got the router back from Beezle's lair (where it did no one any good) and put out the small fires that later developed near every vent in the manor. Will is as jobless as ever, and Wadsworth politely objects to the insinuation that he is ever the instigator of anything that might be labeled a misadventure.

All of these things, as you guessed, are the reasons why my posting was hindered. The delay was most certainly not caused by all night revelries with my newly acquired copy of "Starcraft II: Wings of Liberty."

I'm glad that we could get that cleared up. At any rate, a new entry has been posted. Thanks for the prodding.