I live in Spain, and my problem comes from people who have holiday homes here and think they own the place, ignoring and upsetting the permanent residents here (like me).
There is a particularly obnoxious army officer who drops into his holiday home opposite mine for one week in August. We are not on talking terms after initial attempts on my part to try to integrate him more into the community by introducing him to my Spanish friends.
Last September I received a court summons, accused by this soldier of having stolen his temporarily removed shutters which were lying in the road running in front of both our houses. Apparently, the soldier had the local police investigate the alleged incident and even wanted them to issue a search warrant to search our house!
Fortunately, this last did not happen but I have to employ, at some considerable expense, a lawyer to defend myself. Luckily, my alibi is Fort-Knox strong.
I have also found out that the soldier alleges that the theft of the shutters is aggravated burglary because they were stolen from his yard. In fact, he has no yard and no garden to his house and the place where the shutters were stolen is a public road.
How can I stop losing my cool when the army officer comes to stay at his house and parks himself and his garden furniture in the middle of the road and continues to give me and my wife horrible looks? I truly feel like murdering the obnoxious bastard for trying to spoil my peace and quiet in this beautiful place. Strangely, when he lets his house out to others we have made friends with many of them and are glad when they re-visit.
I should also add that he is friends with a handful of Brits who come here and who have absolutely no respect for, or even knowledge of, the culture of Spain. (One of them gets blind drunk and has tried to strangle me when he caught me in an alley after dark – fortunately my kind Spanish neighbour, who is a burly lad, heard my shouts and literally saved my life). These Brits haven’t even bothered to learn enough Spanish to order a coffee and spend most of their time boozing and putting down this lovely country. (My wife is Spanish and I am half-Spanish and so this hurts very much).
Do you think I could put belladonna secretly in these barbarians’ next tipple and end their outrages against me and my wife which have now carried on for almost ten years?
I certainly don’t want to move out of the area. I am fully involved and integrated in many local and further afield activities – music, festivals, teaching and growing my own in the beautiful fields I have near my beautiful little house. What should I do?
This problem was sent to me by email.
From your letter it is obvious that the situation is very difficult and that you want and expect me to understand your side of things. I’m not sure how much of a psychoanalytic perspective you want. Perhaps you’d rather have some life tips about how best to manage the situation, but it sounds as though you can provide those for yourself. I prefer to look without judgment at what might be going on in your mind around this issue of bullying and secrecy.
It’s interesting that you mention that he is a soldier and this is obviously significant in the story. Something about his apparent, or claimed, position of authority has made it particularly disappointing that he has behaved so badly. I wonder what happened when you introduced him to your friends? It sounds as though you felt very disappointed by his behaviour at this point and you say in the first line that people like him ignore the permanent residents. There is immediately a sense that you have been ignored and treated with some contempt.
It is clear that you are proud of having integrated into the community and are annoyed by people who don’t bother. Again, you seem to believe they do this out of arrogance and contempt. It may be that some lack confidence or have no idea how they might integrate, or perhaps feel that their holiday is when they concentrate on their own needs and do indeed rather ignore the needs of others. Who knows. We can only look at how you feel about it.
That this man then acted behind your back, taking serious action over what sounds a very minor and petty matter in which you were in any case not involved, seems to have been shocking and painful. In some ways it feels as if he not only snuck around behind your back instead of speaking to you, but he also frightened you on a psychological level with his machinations. This feeling of not being sure what’s going on, what he’ll do next, is very frightening and I wonder what it might remind you of. Was there anxiety of this kind in your early life?
It is clearly galling and rather surreal that you have had to call on alibis and a lawyer to defend yourself over something that should be insignificant. One can only speculate as to your neighbour’s chronic insecurities and the need to wield power over people in a secretive and manipulative way. He sounds like a classic insecure bully who supports his own sense of fragility by playing on the fragility of others.
Then there is the issue of what does and doesn’t really belong to this man. He has claimed some public land as his own and then accuses you of trespassing on it. Again this is clearly a huge affront to your own sense of justice.
You obviously feel extremely aggressed by his presence when he is there and even his looks are perceived as an assault. Again it seems as though he has invaded not only your space but your mind, perhaps bringing very unwanted feelings about life in England with him and into your home.
This strangulation incident was very frightening and it feels as though the presence of Brits is perceived as an aggressive one. You talk about your rich and interesting life in Spain and your clearly rewarding activities. You mention this beautiful place and the kind actions of neighbours, also that your wife is Spanish.
I would say that your story is painted very black and white and with very little ambivalence. Heroes and villains. This points to childhood and something being replayed from early life. Clearly the facts are the facts – someone aggressive and secretive comes in August and is bullying you with his attitude, demeanour and false accusations. However, what you are finding difficult to cope with is your own emotional attitude to the situation. You find it hard to stand his presence at all as it has invaded your psyche to such an extent that you boil with murderous rage. This is the issue (as there is little to be done about the external reality aside from what you are already doing).
What I am hearing is that you are being bullied and that this bullying has taken up residence in your mind. You perhaps partly blame yourself for attempting to let this man into your life, allowing yourself to be victimised, perhaps by exposing your vulnerabilities. I wonder also if you were unconsciously trying to evoke a little envy in him when you introduced him to your life and friends, to show him what he lacks? Perhaps it worked and he did envy you and wanted revenge. Perhaps you unconsciously know you were trying to display some superiority and that guilt makes you fear his accusations all the more – perhaps you unconsciously feel you are guilty of something and must defend yourself.
Indeed, you are being forced to defend yourself and feel that a kind of absolute purity and innocence, that of the village, the locals, your relationship with your wife, is being destroyed by his corrupting influence. There is a clear depiction of the Spanish as good and the English as bad.
It seems that you felt rejected by this man when you tried to help him integrate and insulted that he did not seem to want to integrate. He then accused you of committing a crime when you, in fact, feel him to be the wanton criminal.
Of course you don’t give me any family background here, but I wonder whether this is a sibling rivalry situation. Clearly you feel that an intruder has come unwelcome into your life and ridden rough-shod over it. Is the soldier a bit younger than you and do you have a younger brother who came along and ruined your innocent and idealized relationship with your mother? Or could he be an intrusive and aggressive father figure, constantly accusing you as a little boy of petty domestic incidents and forcing you to defend yourself? He seems to represent someone from England who desecrated something important in your life with contempt and frightening authoritarian action. He seems barely to perceive you as human. I wonder if this is a projection of your own feelings towards the drunken Brits and you fear it boomerangs back to you? Your hatred of him is projected into him and comes back at you?
I do understand that there is a reality to this situation and you have to deal with that. You seem to worry that I am going to suggest you move house. I wonder if you did leave home as a young man feeling that it had been ruined and you would have to get away? Of course, I don’t know. The only think I can do in thinking with you about this, is try to understand the strength of your feelings and reactions and your input into the situation. The whole thing is obviously stirring up a lot of emotion and that emotion will once have been attached to earlier situations (usually in childhood). I am not saying that everyone wouldn’t react strongly to this situation, but different people react differently and only by seeing why you feel as you do might you be able to bear his presence in August.
It feels as though there can be no compromise in this situation, no way of discussing the issues as adults, no way of being understood. Again I wonder what this means to you, what your associations to such an intractable impasse might be.
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