Whoosh! Issue 35 - August 1999


Pursuing Vengeance: Becoming A Monster




Embracing Hatred

[25] At the base of vengeance is hatred. Sometimes this kind of hatred is so deep and overpowering that it feels as though it has a life of its own, as though it is pulsating through one's veins, is speaking directly to one's brain, is the screen through which all life experience is passed. With time, this kind of hatred replaces the heart, becoming the most important aspect of the person's world. When this kind of hatred is embraced, a person becomes a Monster.

Drat!  I dropped the digital camera again!


Goliath has issues in GIANT KILLER.


[26] The conversion from person to Monster can occur slowly over a span of years. In GIANT KILLER (27/203), Goliath told Xena, "For the last 10 years I've had to live with the nightmare of losing my family. The only dream I've had is to kill the man that took them from me." Xena responds by pointing out the power of hatred when she tells Goliath, "What you're doing is wrong... You're blind with hatred." When Goliath tells Xena, "Until I kill Gareth, I don't have a life, Xena. You of all people should understand that", Xena remembers her own journey when she says, "I understand that a man's soul can be poisoned by hatred."

[27] During one of the high points of Xena's journey into hatred, she encountered Lao Ma (THE DEBT II, 53/307). As Lao Ma taught Xena that a hair brooch "could be a very useful weapon if thrown at the right body part", Lao Ma reinforced that she didn't like to kill. Xena responded by saying, "Everyone has their preferences. I happen to like a good kill", to which Lao Ma said, "You're so full of anger and hatred." Xena, having long ago embraced a life of hatred and of being a Monster, off-handedly replied, "Everyone's got be full of something."

[28] Embracing hatred is a quality observable both internally and externally. In CALLISTO (22/122), when Xena and Gabrielle are discussing whether Xena should let Callisto go free, Xena asserts, "I changed, so can she." Gabrielle states what is obvious to all of them when she says, "No, her heart has been eaten away by hatred." Callisto acknowledges the truth of this in INTIMATE STRANGER (31/207). While Callisto inhabits Xena's body without Gabrielle's knowledge, Callisto goads Gabrielle into attacking her. After hitting Callisto/Xena very hard with her staff, Gabrielle says, "I think I'm going to be sick. For a moment there, I thought you were Callisto. I hated you." Callisto, revealing insight into her deep pool of hatred says, "Well, hatred is not something to be feared. It's a part of all of us and for some of us, it's all we ever really know."

[29] Hatred, particularly the hatred that motivates vengeance, can have dire consequences. Not only can it be harmful to ourselves, it can destroy those we love. In THE DELIVERER (50/304), after Gabrielle's blood innocence is used by Khrafstar as a sacrifice to the evil Dahak, Khrafstar says to Xena, "Thank you for Gabrielle...You brought her here. And why did you come? To defeat Caesar. Your hatred brought you here. Dahak appreciates rage". Even when our hatred does not result in the violation of a loved one, it can fuel division between caring people, can blind us to the positive qualities of life, can contaminate our souls.

[30] With time, hatred takes on a life of its own. When this happens, we are more susceptible to becoming a Monster. As stated in THE BITTER SUITE (58/312), the act of embracing hatred "begins very small,/Seems like nothing much at all/Just a germ, just a speck,/Just a grain.../But the seed has been sewn,/And before you know it's grown/It has spread through/Your life like a stain./And its power will strangle/Your love and your joy/And its hunger consumes,/For it lives to destroy!...It becomes who you are./Not the hated but the hater/Has a torment that's greater./It will eat you alive/...Learning hate is an art,/Even people who are smart/Can be caught, can be crushed,/Can be creamed./Hate has swallowed you whole/Did you think/You're in control?/Hate you thought, hate you/Spoke, hate you dreamed./...It's your eve of destruction,/Your hatred has won!"


Support From Others For Being A Monster

[31] It is hard to imagine that someone as entrenched in the world of violence and deceit as Xena, was ever able to leave the reinforcement of that world. Her soldiers obeyed and feared her. Her colleagues spoke of profit, riches and ever widening circles of influence. Alti convinced Xena that she could become the "Destroyer of Nations", with a territory under her control greater than that possessed by Caesar (ADVENTURES IN THE SIN TRADE I/II, 69-70/401-402). Without the influence of Lao Ma (THE DEBT I/II, 52-53/306-307), without the defiance of her troops when she chose to rescue a baby (THE GAUNTLET, H12/112), without the inspiration of Hercules (UNCHAINED HEART, H13/113), and without the ongoing support and guidance of Gabrielle, Xena might never have left her life as a Monster.

[32] More than anyone else invested in Xena's choices, Ares wants Xena to return to her life as a ruthless warlord and Monster. On numerous occasions, Ares has attempted to seduce Xena back into a life that would make the God of War proud. He's told her, "Action and power draw you like a moth to a flame" (THE RECKONING, (06/106). In THE BITTER SUITE (58/312), as Xena sings her pain to the mountains, Ares says, "It goes to prove what I've been telling you all along. No good deed goes unpunished. Saving people, defending the weak, trusting someone who betrayed you...this whole atonement kick you've been on lately--it's not you. You're full of fire, bending the world to your will, full of rage and revenge. Accept it, Xena, embrace it. You know what to do--who to kill". In Illusia, Ares encourages Xena to "Unleash the power/Of your destiny./You've proved to yourself/That you're just like me/With as evil a will./Our forces are meant/To be merged into one/The world will be panicked/When our work is done."

[33] Most of us do not have to fight the manipulations of the God of War. We do, however, have to judge for ourselves whether the support we receive from others for manifesting our hatred, vengeance, deceit, and violence, is leading us toward healthy resolution of our pain, or toward further entrenchment in being a Monster.


The Desire To See Others In Pain

[34] Entrenchment into being a Monster is deepened by the desire to see others in pain. This desire may be caused by an underlying inability to feel emotions other than hatred and anger. For some people, watching others in pain is more desirable than feeling nothing at all. Being in a position to cause pain in others can give the person a sense of power and control.

Say I should have a show of my own!  SAY IT!


Callisto makes a point with Xena in RETURN OF CALLISTO.


[35] Callisto typified this in RETURN OF CALLISTO (29/205) when she said to Xena, "That sentimental side of you is a real problem now, isn't it? You fight with your heart. That gives me an advantage over you. I no longer seem to have one. I'm not going to kill you now. Oh no. First I'm going to kill your soul, just like you killed mine." In MATERNAL INSTINCTS (57/311), Callisto's goal was to cause pain at the deepest level of Xena's soul by killing her son, Solan. When Callisto asked Hope how Xena looked when she learned what Callisto intended, Hope said, "Like she'd been stabbed through the heart with her own sword." With this, Callisto gleefully exclaimed, "That's exactly how she'll feel, too, when Solan dies. Stabbed--stabbed through the heart. Here's to the soul with such exquisite pain."

[36] For a Monster, the essence of revenge is to watch the target of their vengeance suffer. In THE DEBT II (53/307), Ming T'ien is proud of the fact that he executed his own mother, Lao Ma. He tells Xena that he did the execution himself because, "I knew she wouldn't use her powers to hurt her little boy." As he was killing her, he felt superior, telling Xena, "Remember this? Mother's Book of Wisdom. It failed her in the end. Her philosophical sense of peace fell apart. She cried like a baby. She even cried on after I'd torn her heart from her body."

[37] As we saw when Xena made a commitment to "Death" as her purpose in life, vengeance can be perpetrated against groups as well as individuals. In MATERNAL INSTINCTS (57/311) Hope, the daughter of the evil force Dahak, and Callisto are planning to destroy an entire village. When Callisto says, "We'll obliterate them all.", Hope replies, "No--better to crush their dreams, destroy their future. We'll kill what they love most--their children."

[38] For many of us, our desire for revenge came as a response to a violation. No one wants to become a victim, and as a response to this, some people take on the role of perpetrator to gain a false sense of power and control. It may be that there is a fine line between living with the hatred that fuels the desire for revenge against a particular target, and discovering that your hatred has contaminated your soul to the point where you find pleasure in the pain of others.


Causing Fear

[39] When a person becomes a Monster, seeing fear in others can provide one with a sense of control and prestige. Instilling fear provides the Monster with a form of protection. In CALLISTO (22/122), as Xena and Gabrielle were passing refugees from the villages destroyed by who they thought was Xena, Xena reflects on her former life as a Monster. She says to Gabrielle, "See that look of fear and hatred on their faces? I used to want to see that look. It meant I was doing my job right." During Xena's Monster period, she promoted the philosophy that "A true warrior would understand that you demoralize and weaken before you destroy." (WARRIOR PRINCESS, H09/109). According to Ming T'ien (THE DEBT II, 53/307), Xena was aware of the connection between terror and control, when he said, "She understood how to send fear flooding into your very soul. And when that kind of terror moves deep inside people, they're yours forever."


Harming Innocents

[40] A central part of being a Monster, as presented in XWP, is that Monsters indiscriminately do harm to innocents. After seeing who she believes to be her father beaten and hanging from poles in TIES THAT BIND (20/120), Xena raises her sword toward the village that harmed her father and screams to her army "Take the village!" After Xena orders her army to "Kill them all", Gabrielle stands up to Xena holding a pitchfork at Xena's throat saying, "I'm standing up to a murderous warlord like I saw you do against Draco. But this time the warlord is YOU!".

Getting ready to rumble


Xena and Herc fought each other before they fought together.


[41] During the time when Xena was a Monster, she had the reputation of someone who would do whatever it took to reach her goal. In THE WARRIOR PRINCESS (H09/109), Hercules's assessment of Xena was that, "She'll do anything to get what she wants...[She's] a murderer, a crazy woman whose only purpose in life is to kill and conquer." Hercules made this conclusion after learning from one of Xena's soldiers that, rather than being a "true warrior" who "attacks from the front", she taught him to "attack from whatever side serves your purpose." A dark moment for Xena was when she kidnapped Ming T'ien in THE DEBT I (52/306) and held him for ransom. Later, when Gabrielle asked Xena, "You kidnapped that child and you would have killed him if you didn't get what you wanted?", Xena replied "Yes." During this time, (ADVENTURES IN THE SIN TRADE I (69/401), Xena even went so far as to sacrifice a man in order to help Alti get her to the Land of the Dead. When Borias found the body he said to Xena, "You're killing people to help that demon cast her spells?" to which Xena replied, "Oh come on, Borias, after all the people we've killed, what's one more corpse?".

[42] Despite these instances of Xena's willingness to harm innocents, sometime before she formed her partnership with Gabrielle, Xena developed a code against harming women and children. As was evidenced in THE GAUNTLET (H12/112), her troop officers and soldiers did not necessarily hold to this code. Her lieutenant Darphus stated to Xena, "I say we attack now and wipe them all out." Xena told him, "We are warriors, not barbarians." Despite this, when Xena was out of the encampment, Darphus ordered the troops to attack a village, saying, "I don't want to see a living thing when you're through. Not a man, woman or child. I want that village destroyed." When Xena returned to camp and discovered what he had done, she told him, "You killed woman and children--you're a butcher!" The code of a Monster is to harm innocents. Xena was opposing this part of being a Monster while continuing to manifest other Monster qualities and to associate with Monsters. In the end, she had to choose whether to continue to be a Monster, or to reclaim her humanity.


Embracing Evil

[43] For some people, being a Monster is part of a journey rather than an end. These people choose to pursue Darkness. The Shaman Alti, in ADVENTURES IN THE SIN TRADE I (69/401), is a powerful example of this. When Xena asks about the powers Alti is after, she says, "You want to know what they are. Your friend you told me about--Lao Ma--her powers come from denial, self sacrifice, from The Light. That's not for people like you and me. I want to tap into the heart of Darkness, the sheer naked will behind all craving, hatred and violence. I'll become the face of death itself, capable of destroying not only a person's body, but their soul. Help me and I'll make you Destroyer of Nations."

[44] Often the pursuit of Darkness is coupled with the pursuit of Power--of domination over. Alti tempted Xena with this power in ADVENTURES IN THE SIN TRADE II (70/401) when she said, "Xena, you and I love the same things...We both live for power. So far, your power has been limited to the world of blood and sweat...Imagine what you'd do if you had the spiritual force to match the power of your army. You'd be unstoppable. Anything could be within your reach--Greece, Egypt, Rome, Caesar."

[45] Xena was able to leave the world of Darkness and start a new life for herself. Although it is difficult, with the desire to do so and support from others, we have the capacity to choose whether to continue to be a Monster, or to make changes.


Becoming One Of The Living Dead

Voted most buffed dead amazon


Cyane was a victim of the 'bad' Xena.


[46] Cyane, the spiritually powerful Amazon leader in ADVENTURES OF THE SIN TRADE I/II (69-70/401-402) warned Xena about embracing Alti's evil when she said, "Don't put your soul in her hands, Xena. She'll destroy it...Your choice is simple, Xena. Side with us [the Amazons] and find life. Side with Alti and find death." For a time, Cyane's prediction was true. When Xena was learning from Lao Ma in THE DEBT II (53/307) how to let go of her will, Lao Ma directed Xena to serve Ming Tsu, someone she hated. Xena said, "Serve Ming. I'd rather die." Only years later did Xena realize the truth of Lao Ma's comment, "You've been a dead woman for a long time now, Xena. I'm offering you the chance to live."

[47] Life as a Monster, particularly a life dedicated to pursuing Darkness, can make one a member of the living dead--those who do not feel love or light, whose world is consumed by a desire for vengeance and violence, whose ability to feel compassion and connect with their humanity and that of others, is gone. Callisto in RETURN OF CALLISTO (29/205) acknowledged that because Xena had a connection with her heart, Callisto was at an advantage because she "no longer seem[ed] to have one." After she and Xena battle in CALLISTO (22/122), Callisto says, "In a way I'm disappointed, Xena. There was a part of me that hoped that you would win and put out the rage in my heart. Sometimes it even scares me." As time went by, Callisto's awareness of being one of the living dead increased. In MATERNAL INSTINCTS (57/311) Callisto casually said to Xena, "You'd like to kill me--wish you could.", and later, when faced with the prospect of being trapped in a cave she said to Xena, "You'll trap us both. That's your plan--to trap me here while my pain keeps growing and growing, and you die in the end." To this Xena replied, "You're wrong, Callisto. You let your pain kill you years ago. I'm going to live with mine."


Conclusion

[48] Xena's strength was that she was willing to face her Inner Darkness and acknowledge the truth about who she'd become. She was willing to live with her pain and to take responsibility for the pain she'd inflicted on others. And she made a commitment to change, and has not swayed from that commitment, even after periods of "Monster relapse".

[49] For many of us, XWP allows us to see who we might become if we were to pursue vengeance. It makes clearly visible the damaging consequences of life as a Monster. We watched Callisto's commitment to vengeance turn her into one of the living dead. We saw how hatred contaminated the hearts of good men and women, and led to the destruction of their loved ones. We listened to Xena as a Monster, to Callisto, Alti, or Ares say words that may have sounded remarkably like the words we heard inside our heads or hearts. By watching the program, we are, in essence, allowing ourselves to be warned of the damage we can do to our lives, souls, and loved ones if we surrender to the desire for vengeance. Being unable to heal from a painful violation, separating from one's feelings, being persecuted by guilt, and blaming others for our actions puts us at greater risk for embracing hatred and committing ourselves to vengeance. Associating with individuals or groups who instill fear in others, who encourage fulfillment of the desire to see others in pain, who harm innocents, and who embrace evil, entrenches one in the world of being a Monster.

[50] Watching Xena heal her soul by fighting her inner and outer battles without surrendering to the role of victim is inspirational. Those of us who have experienced being violated, have fought against the role of victim, and have felt the powerful seduction of hatred and revenge, can identify with Xena's struggle toward life and light. As Xena heals, we also heal, and we celebrate. By soaking up the images of a strong, smart woman reclaiming her ability to feel and to love, and using these images to soothe the ragged edges of our struggling spirits, we further our own healing. When violations occur in the future, we can pull the inspirational qualities portrayed in XWP into our hearts and use them to fight for the well being of our souls. Perhaps this is the true power behind XWP.


Writers Of The Episodes Cited

WARRIOR PRINCESS, H09/109 by John Schulian
THE GAUNTLET, H12/112 by Peter Bielak
UNCHAINED HEART, H13/113 by John Schulian
SINS OF THE PAST, 01/101 by R.J. Stewart
THE RECKONING, 06/106 by Paul Allen Fields
TIES THAT BIND, 20/120 by Nora Kay Foster and Adam Armus
CALLISTO, 22/122 by R.J. Stewart
DEATH MASK, 23/123 by Paul Allen Fields
GIANT KILLER, 27/203 by Terence Winter
RETURN OF CALLISTO, 29/205 by R. J. Stewart
INTIMATE STRANGER, 31/207 by Steven L. Sears
DESTINY, 36/212 by R. J. Stewart and Steven L. Sears
THE DELIVERER, 50/304 by Steven L. Sears
THE DEBT I 52/306 by R. J. Stewart
THE DEBT II 53/307 by R. J. Stewart
MATERNAL INSTINCTS, 57/311 by Chris Manheim
THE BITTER SUITE, 58/312 by Steven L. Sears and Chris Manheim; Lyrics by Joseph LoDuca, Pamela Philips Oland and Dennis Spiegel
ADVENTURES IN THE SIN TRADE I, 69/401 by Robert Tapert and R. J. Stewart
ADVENTURES IN THE SIN TRADE II, 70/402 by Robert Tapert and R. J. Stewart



Biography

Linda Waite Linda Waite
Linda Waite is a psychotherapist working with people infected and affected by HIV, AIDS and Hepatitis C. She is also a massage therapist who specializes in helping people create a satisfying relationship with their body after having been physically or sexually traumatized. Linda integrates her earth-based, intuition-honoring spiritual practices into all aspects of her life and work.
Favorite episode: IS THERE A DOCTOR IN THE HOUSE? (24/124), A DAY IN THE LIFE (39/215), ONE AGAINST AN ARMY (59/313), PARADISE FOUND (81/413)
Favorite line: Xena: "But you are my Source, Gabrielle. When I reach down inside myself and do things I'm not capable of, it's because of you. Don't you know that by now?" ONE AGAINST AN ARMY (59/313)
First episode seen: I used to listen to XWP while I paid bills on weekend afternoons. I started paying attention to the world of XWP when I saw ONE AGAINST AN ARMY (59/313) and THE DEBT I & II (52-53/306-307). I've now seen everything.
Least favorite episode: Anything focusing on Joxer, particularly if Gabrielle is stupid or incompetent.


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