We’re all afloat in a boundless sea. The way we cope is clinging together in groups ; pretending in unison that life is other than it is. We reinforce the illusion for each other. If one of the water-treaders betrays the group lie by speaking the truth of their situation, they are called a heretic. I’m a heretic…care for a game of chess ?

There are two reasons why I am here. Well, actually three. Firstly, in order to spare my partner, family, friends and literary consorts of finding ways to ameliorate  my outspoken sentiments and wicked language (consider yourself warned) and therefore, by association, incurring the disdainful scourge of the facaded[1] conservatives who cower behind their duplicitous respectability.

Doesn’t it get hot under that mask?

I know, the only reason to censor and mask is because people get scared, but still, don’t those pompous folk fuck you off sometimes? I mean really – we spend the first 35 years of our lives in close combat to find out who we are – I am sure as hell not going to spend the next 35 years trying to pretend that I am someone else.

Someone once told me that what other people think of you is none of your business. I wholeheartedly agree with that. In fact, I find those people who feel it their moral obligation to voice their “holier than thou” opinions on what I should say and what I shouldn’t say, incredibly self aggrandising.

Half the shit in the world today is because of covert behaviour. “Covert operations hiding the truth”. It has gotten to pandemic proportions – people are even starting to hide the truth from themselves. It’s like this major competition to see who can move faster into “la la land”.

Well, I don’t want to live there.

I have seen what living there does to people.

I know what it’s like to get up in the morning after your father beat your mother to within an inch of her life because he didn’t feel like the Chinese food she excitedly spent the whole day preparing for his dinner, and then soberly selecting your Sunday best, zipping your mouth and going to Sunday school as though nothing had ever happened.

Or to have to go to the local cafe to buy a loaf of bread, holding a calm demeanour, despite the fact that you had just witnessed your father torturing your beloved dog with a knife to punish you for standing up to him.

It really starts messing with your perception of reality.

Can people not see this?

Pretending serves nothing but perpetuation of the problem. We shield the perpetrators because of the stigma attached to the horrible truth and all its consequences.

By pretending we actually perpetuate, I assure you of this.

As a result I would pick those foul-mouthed, kind hearted souls over the polite society in a heart-beat.I loathe pretense. I know that in the dark, very bad things can happen.

My second reason is to practice what I preach and allow myself the opportunity to display my commitment to my friendship with me.

Are you a friend of yours? Probably the most neglected friend you have is you.

And yet every person needs to be your own ultimate champion in order to truly enjoy life and the gifts that have been given uniquely to you.

And my last reason…it’s got panache. Like me.


The title, HOPEFUL MONSTER, was inspired by my partner, who studied Microbiology and Genetics at University.

She once told me the story of how white moths became brown during the industrial age – in response to the pollution.

Moths rely on camouflage for survival – and in a world covered in rapidly being covered in grime; the first brown moth – the hopeful monster – was born. This moth, distinctly different from his moth friends, had a better chance of surviving than any of the others. 

“Like you”, Ali said.

I looked the term up.

Hopeful Monster is the colloquial term used in evolutionary biology to "describe an event where major structural transitions can occur rapidly without a smooth series of intermediate stages – which the organism displaying the radical mutation permits it to survive, produce offspring, and so potentially give rise to a new and distinct group of organisms"

The phrase struck me.

Most such mutations would produce individuals that were plain monstrous, freaks that never fit in, and were essentially doomed to die.

Like I felt as a child.

But every so often, one of these mutations would happen in an environment where it could be ultimately beneficial.

In these rare and magical cases, the so called hopeful monster would emerge as an excellent contestant, with ultimate survival stamina - and the resilience to be an inimitable founder of a new lineage.

This brings with it unheard of potential, opportunities and new evolutionary prospects.

I am such a monster.

By setting ourselves free to be ourselves – authentically and honestly - the interesting question will not be whether hopeful monsters play a role in evolution, but how often we will.


My earliest memories of my life are the evenings when my father would come home and terrorise my family.

Full blown abuse which ranged from regularly beating up my mom, to trying to shoot the whole goddamned family.

And all the other types of unmentionable, humiliating modes of abuse in between.

My sister and I spent much of our time hidden in the cupboard…as quiet as mice so as not to be noticed and not incite the insane outbursts.

It's my sisters' 6th birthday.

My mom has made the day very special for us - lots of baked treats and lots of love.

But my father said that we must wait for him to come home until Bob opens her presents.

At seven o'clock...he still wasn't back from the office .

We had supper.

8 o'clock.

9 o'clock.

10 o'clock.

My mom eventually told her excited six year old that she could open her presents.

At eleven o'clock he returned from Beelzebub's boardroom.

Aggressive, and more antagonistic than usual.

"Where the fuck are the kids ?"

"In bed. they have school tomorrow. We waited. It just got too late".


It was the sound of my mothers head hitting the wall.

He started laying into her.

"I thought I told you to wait for me...you fucking bitch? "


Miffy my dog, came running into my room, followed by a hysterical (newly) 6 year old.

Both jumped onto my bed.


The bedroom door was now wide open and we had a clear view into the passage.

I was too frightened to close it and draw attention to us - so we mutely stared at what unfolded before us.

Blood was running down the walls.

My mom had stopped screaming.

I didn't know if she was alive anymore.

I grabbed my sister and dog - and we lay under my bed - huddled closely together.

We could see everything that was happening from this vantage point.

My father had picked up my mother and stated bashing her against the wall again.

I covered my sisters eyes in an embrace.

Mom was limp and lifeless.

Every time her head hit the plaster - it would leave bloodstains - which would trickle down the wall in bizarre little patterns.

I remember those patterns so well.

Eventually he dropped her to the ground, where she lay still,  in a limp ball - and went into the garage, without a further word.

The sound of his revving motor cycle filled the night air.


Once my nine year old mind was convinced that he was sufficiently engrossed in his new activity - we crawled out cautiously from under the bed to go check on mom.

We helped her clean up.

We told her how much we loved her.

It's a bitch to get blood off walls, let me tell you.

Sunshine cleaning ain't easy.

"I can manage, darlings", mom said.

"So to bed, girls - its school tomorrow."

The cacophony from the garage suddenly went silent.

We scampered like mice back into my room - Bob, me and Miffy  - all got back into my little bed.

Bob crying.

Miffy shaking.

I fell asleep.

Or Friday nights....

My father has been invited to friends for a braai.

Which of course just meant that they were going to have a piss up of epic proportions.

My sister and I had both bathed and we got into the back of the car, dressed in yellow matching pajamas – my mom in the front holding a basket with her braai pack and her potato salad. 

And Beelzebub’s Bottle: White Horse Whiskey.

I looked out the window as we drove, in my own little world – as my silence had come to be called.It’s not that I didn’t want to go – I was really happy that I would be seeing the other kids. One of them is still a very best friend of mine today – in fact, a soul sister is a better way to describe our relationship. No, it was that I knew how the evening would pan out.
The same way every Friday evening panned out in my 13-year-old universe.
Joviality would culminate into a nightmare of epic proportion.
I was scared.
The kids would all scamper off to play – and the parents would share jokes around the fire, smoking cigarettes and swapping stories about the week gone by.
And the whiskey and soda’s were gulped desperately  … and I knew that by about 10pm – the trauma would start.
My father would scream for me.
Compliant, I would always go.
“Get me another drink, you fat bitch,” he would splutter, his obvious inebriation evident in the slurring of his words, and by his condescending and aggressive demeanour.
Quite to my surprise, I looked him in the eye and said – “You have had enough."
His fury immediately ruptured…”What the fuck did you say?!”  he screamed at me.
“Daddy, I am scared to go home with you when you are like this”
He lunged toward me.
“How dare you speak to me like that in front of my friends?" , he spat.
“You had better start running, because tonight I am going to kill you.”
I ran.
I knew he wasn’t lying.
He had killed a part of me almost every night since I could remember.

He got up – went to the kitchen, to get his own drink, of course. 

One of the kids was in the kitchen, and he told him to go find me and tell me, that tonight was the night that I would die.
I was no more terrified than usual.
I waited.
Soon it would be time to go home. I would have no other choice but to to get into my fathers car.
And then the next ordeal would begin.
It was two o’clock in the morning – my mom, slightly less drunk than my father would finally say :
“ Give me the keys, Brian.”
 And then the shit hit the fan. Drama would erupt as my father, without a words warning,  punched my mom, hitting her to the ground. 

She got up in silence and wiped the blood from under her nose.
“Get into the car, girls.” She would say to my sister and I.
Eventually, all packed in the car, we reversed out of their driveway, my mother crying as my father admonished her for calling him drunk.

I was relieved.
Maybe this incident would take his mind off killing me tonight.
He looked at me in the rear view mirror.
Perhaps not.
Perhaps I would die a little tonight anyway.
If we got home alive.
As he swung onto the main road, my mother gave a muffled scream. I looked up into the front and saw the oncoming traffic swerving to miss us. My heart started beating furiously, and I grabbed my 9 year old sisters hand and squeezed it tightly.
“Brian “ she cried “please”.
He swerved over and abruptly brought the car to a halt on the side of the road and got out, shouting expletives to anyone and everyone.
"You think you are so fucking clever, Diane – I’ll walk home”
“Please Brian don’t”, she whispered softly to herself.
He left, swaggering off into the night.
My mom drove us home in silence.

We got home and went to bed. No one said a word.
I went to fetch my dog Miffy and we got into bed. 
I locked my bedroom door.
I narrowly escaped dying that night.

But that is not the point of my story.

The point is, that to survive the environment I came from, I had to make a choice. When those episodes were played out I had the choice between silent acceptance “be quiet so you don’t provoke him further and make it unpleasant for everybody” or to fight back – break silence – and become something else.
Chapter Three

This is a choice I would be presented with three times in my life.

The first time, only God knows how or why, but, like the hopeful monster, the social pollution made me adapt instinctively and handle the situation differently to the way the people around me, including my ancestors , had dealt with it (My father’s family tree is gnarled with abuse.)

I became rebellious, loud and belligerent towards my father. And single minded.

Couple this with gauche poverty and my father’s prevalent reputation of being a reckless drug addict, alcoholic abusive father, having affairs all over our little town - by the time I started school – I was perfectly poised to be the school freak.

Even my school principle had a little chat with my two best friends at school to advise them that I was not the right kind of company that nice young ladies such as themselves should be keeping.

He also extended the same courtesy to the guy I had my first major crush on.

Guys never wanted to date me (at least openly – it was ok to try me for how far they could push me – which was far considering how inadequate I was always made to feel) – and, except for my loyal best friends, no one ever came to my birthday parties .

To this day I get nervous if I entetain - I can’t get excited.What if nobody shows?

Despite my exterior rebellious manifestations – I became overly hard on myself: My father was the yardstick of all I would never be.

For example, my father’s drunken way of addressing the toddler me was “fat bitch”. My aunt recalls him calling me that before I even started school. Despite my confident vocal rejection of his comments – I felt ugly. I felt obese. This eventually resulted in addiction to laxatives and diet tablets – and eventual hospitalisation for anorexia.

When my father died – I wept with relief. People remarked at how I had changed from a reclusive introvert into a bubbly extrovert “overnight”.

While poverty persisted – I felt that we had finally been vindicated – and set free.

I was so very wrong.

The relief I had felt was short-lived.

I found that my deceased father had been replaced by a loud voice - audible to only me.

An internalised demon with an overwhelming ability to never be silenced. This voice I came to call, My Inner Dominatrix.

Her presence is a force far more terrifying than my father’s could ever have been. She is all present, all seeing, all knowing, and unlike my dad, she never sleeps and never pops out to the shop for a packet of ciggies.

She saw me through university all the way to graduation. She saw to it that I was thin and cool, that the popular handsome boys pursued me and that I socialised with the right friends in the right places.
She saw me photographed for the cover of magazines, whispering seductively in my ear, all the while…

”…we will show them, won’t we?”

She was there on the day that I finally started my long and hard climb up the corporate ladder – leaving my apparently rebellious childhood behind me to face the new challenges of burgeoning adulthood.

By then, she had completely beguiled me into believing she was my friend and that my continued survival depended on her. The more I came to depend on her – the more I paid heed to her word.

My first boss was nothing short of a total misanthrope. A fucking chop.
I vividly remember the scene one afternoon as I watched him beat up our timid driver, Oscar, for being late with a delivery.

I sat in pathetic silence.

My only overt response: try harder to be the model employee – one that would not incur his wrath.
In my heart, despite being terrified, all I wanted to do was to beat his fucking brains out.
I couldn’t – so instead I slandered his name behind his back to make myself feel better. To make it OK for me that I never said anything.

To justify my silence.

The memory fills me with shame, to this day. I was 20.

In hindsight, I now realise that the strangest thing had happened. The introduction of new third-party authority figures in my life had awaked my hopeful monster instinct. This time it was more difficult –– the world is full of abusers – if that’s your kinda vibe.

After I felt that I had vanquished my father it seemed that my childhood ability to be the active voice had regressed into a covert fear of authority figures, rejection and an unhealthy desire to please others – to be accepted - to be good.

My inner dominatrix spat at me : “You want to be more than HE was don’t you ?”

I nodded.

Until then– it had just been me and her.

An unholy alliance in my head - toxic and co-dependent, resulting in superficial success.

I won’t lie to you –money does work. What people forget however – is that it loses alchemy when you trade your self esteem for it. All you will ever have is half – and your most existential crisis will be around whether to interpret that half - as half full or half empty.

And so I climbed the corporate ladder - my passive aggressive skills being honed to perfection along the way… a passive aggressive force that blindly protected her allies, and exposed her detractors from behind a benign and charming smile.

And my Inner Dominatrix was there, every step of the way; “work harder, try harder, you don’t want to be like HIM, do you?”

While learning how to manage my own staff– managing my employers had until then – been elusive to me. I had become a woman who was scared to stir the pot – scared to voice my truth, scared to really be myself. I became the thing in the world I most reviled: a tap dancer to other peoples tunes.

Fear to challenge the status quo flared up every single time I felt that I was in a subjugated relationship – whether the person held my salary cheque or my heart.

What happened?

What the fuck happened to me?

Apprehension took a hold of my being – a crippling form of fear which I treated with diet tablets, anti-depressants, sleeping tablets and anti-anxiety tablets.

The result of this was numb fear. This is the most dangerous fear of all…being numb creates nothing but inertia.

Jesus, I had become a high functioning misfit - nice car, good boob job, cool house. Oh, and let’s not forget the string of failed relationships that often comes with that.

The truth was that while appearing successful – I was silently eroding inside while defending myself against the entire world - constantly. It’s a hell of a job let me tell you.

I was not experiencing success inside: to me I had become the ultimate failure.

Exacerbating my pathology, I was drawn to female friends and colleagues who felt, to a lesser or greater degree – unspoken affinity to this feeling.

On the one hand these precious souls became the network of “support” to carry on this way – justifying myself, on the other hand the company I kept made it seem so normal: isn’t that what all woman do?

We silently rule from the shadows.

What happened to the brave, authentic little girl?

Feelings washed over me:





Fuck I hated myself.

And then I heard the muffled voice: “at some point you are going to have to stop playing these games. At some point you will have to face the world honestly – as you. You have to cross the line –throw your heart over the bridge. You have to die before you can be born again.”

It was the voice of my hopeful monster. I was gripped with fear.

Now what?

“Please, not now”, I protested. “Really – I am sick to death of therapy – this is not the right time for you to pop in”.

“Listen financial insecurity is adding heavy pressure to you here, babe. All financial indicators are predicting a recession for God’s sake – are you stupid? You have to dance to someone else’s tune,” added my Inner Dominatrix.

I was too scared to trust the possibility that I could make a living by simply being me.

Don’t know about anybody else, but I certainly do not have the time or energy to pretend to pretend to be someone else anymore.

So, how exactly does one go about ditching your Dom?

I came to see it as something akin to dealing with Stockholm Syndrome.

Stockholm Syndrome is a psychological response sometimes seen in abducted hostages, in which the hostage shows signs of loyalty to the hostage-taker, regardless of the danger or risk in which they have been placed.

So not akin. It is.

The big thing here was that rather than being an external abuser – my abuser had moved in, lock stock and barrel – into my head.

Furthermore, I believed that I could not function without My Inner Dominatrix.

After all, she had driven me to achieve some amazing things, hadn’t she?

I knew that our relationship had gotten out of hand, but somehow, after all these years – I truly believed that both my physical and psychological survival depended on her. I had a perceived inability to escape the situation. I honest to God did not know how to start the process. I mean – how the hell do you get away from you?

I didn’t know how to be without her.

The saying goes that a person will perpetuate a negative behaviour until the pain of continuing that behaviour starts outweighing the pain of stopping it.

What was I getting out of the deal by keeping her?

Low self esteem.
Negative body image.
Social isolation.
Relationship problems.
Self destructive behaviour.
Sexual difficulties.
Anger and

What a deal,huh? I mean really, who could resist?

Chapter 4

My Inner Dominatrix had come to decide my level of self-esteem, self-worth, and emotional health!

By monopolising my thoughts with her fearful tormenting – she drove me to achieve – but – she had totally inhibited my sense of self along the way.

It was time to regain control.

Deprogramme myself.

Identifying her voice became the next obstacle I encountered. I had been listening to her for so long that her voice had become indistinguishable from my own.

"Who was she and who was I?" I cried out in frustration.

I spent many nights sobbing into my pillow trying to fathom out a way to tell us apart.

One night it struck me.

Take the words and ask yourself this: is this how I would advise someone I loved?

If the answer is NO, it’s 99% sure bet that it’s her.

But if the answer is YES – it’s me.

Now I had to learn how to trust myself that I could be a better care-taker of my soul than what she had been.I also needed to spend some time identifying the positive aspects of myself to enable me to confidently reject her constant “you are still not good enough, try harder” taunt. In order to be strong enough to counter her arguments – I needed to spend some time reconnecting with my being.I needed to understand my self worth.

The only way I stood a chance would be to build authentic confidence. Building esteem is a first step towards happiness and a better life. If you have low confidence or low self esteem you will find it impossible to be the person you could be and your happiness will be limited.

I was in constant vigilance of two things: one the careful separation of her voice from mine – and two, the relentless temptation to trivialise myself…to say the voice was never really abusing me – she is my protector and the voice of reality.

Please believe me she did not let go of our relationship without a fight.

After a delicious meal out, I would come home feeling full.

I could not have sex – because the feeling of being satiated equated gross obesity for me.

I would be revolted by touch – particularly on my stomach area. It was not seen by me as loving caresses – but rather a screaming admonition – YOU ARE FAT AND DISGUSTING.

I don’t know about you, but that feeling really does not tend to put me in the mood for leg over.

And I guess it goes without saying that me not being in the mood for expressing love after a romantic night out – did absolutely nothing for my relationships.

Time to apply my test:

What would I honestly have said to a loved one  if she had come to me with this experience?

With absolutely no hesitation I would have put my arms around her, given her a hug – and then faced her and looked her directly in the eyes and told her that she was being ridiculous.

That there was absolutely no way that one meal could alter her body.

Even if we had to contemplate the very worst case scenario – and she had miraculously ballooned out by two kilograms – her perception was totally off the mark.


It wasn’t me – it was her. I recognised her!

I heard the derision in her voice. Of course – this was my cunning dominatrix trying to win me back. See, Inner dominatrix’ demand monogamy. They say they don’t – but they do everything in their power to prevent you from having a successful relationship with anyone other than her.

First round to me.

But – don’t think she was going down easy.

My ignoring her made her all the more eager to seduce me back. She clearly fancied a little bit of hard to get.

She sneered: “Let’s – see what happens to you without me. I’ll give you two months before you come crying back to me, on your fat hands and knees – begging me to help you. I know what’s best for you Katherine. I always have and I always will. You NEED me.”

I answered her: “Fuck off”

Chapter 5

Rationalising with her was a waste of time and energy. Her arguments were seductive and clever. She was a parasite using my brain, after all.

I resolved to not entertain her rantings even once again – the danger of being seduced by her was just too strong.

And so I slowly I began emotional detachment from her.

The main problem is first how to recognise this inner interaction, because the same mind that needs to observe and evaluate (you) is being confused by a barrage of mixed rational/emotional contradictory messages(you/your Dom).

I realised that all it boiled down to was a manifestation of emotions that I have repressed based on my self-imposed need for acceptance.

Finally - a use for those Dom suspenders. Suspend your judgment until you have worked out who is speaking.

If you don’t, I will promise you this- it will back-fire each and every time, because, each time we silence our truth – it results in a passive aggressive back-lash which is unproductive and pointless.

It makes people – in every sense of the word – impotent.

It lacks integrity.

It lacks authenticity.

And it is part of the vicious circle of not liking yourself and having to try harder.

Finally, the insight dawned on me - my Inner Dominatrix, that nagging voice of disapproval inside me, had actually caused me to stumble at every challenge and make opportunities appear impossible.

When other people were unkind to me, or insulting of me – she gave their words the credibility to crush me – because she would smile and whisper – see I told you so. This made dealing with criticism nearly impossible. My detractors were only echoing the voice in my head.

When you are in this space – everything is personal. If your secretary doesn’t come in – it’s not her hangover you think about – it’s how she would have made the extra effort if you were worth it.

The repercussion? Evidence to encourage me to try even harder.

Chapter Six

Eventually I just couldn’t sustain the pace anymore. I stopped trying all together.

Within a year I had put on 30 kilograms.

By doing this I was able to experience one of the possible worse case scenarios that she had threatened me with over the years.

I WAS fat.

But,when walked through this fear I saw that the world did not come to a grinding halt.

Despite my worst fears - I still had friends. I was still doing well at work even though I wasn’t putting in the 18 hour days any longer.

I didn’t need her after all. More than that, I came to understand that she had, in fact, been responsible for a great deal of my depression, unhappiness, insecurity and low confidence.

Next - I resigned from the corporate Ouiji Board, by which I mean the collective experience of companies that had a very different set of values to mine.

I stopped letting other people’s needs always take preference over mine – while I silently steam and retaliate with opportune passive aggressive maneouvres.

The distinction between people who fulfill their dreams and those that don't is simply this: action.

Life is a verb – not a noun.

Ask yourself: What could I lose if I begin to act?

Answer yourself candidly.

The typical answers that come to mind are time, pride and so on. Take note of how superficial these answers actually are.

Then ask: What could I gain?

An experience that will, without a doubt, make me richer. Either which way –I will learn. Whether that be from my successes or from my mistakes.

Sincere self-confidence is actually gained by overcoming the pattern of letting fear rule you and setting your hopeful monster free.

The upshot of taking this leap of faith in yourself is that instead of acquiring fragile success, you know, the kind of accomplishment that keeps you awake at night, tossing and turning , trying to fathom new efforts that you can employ to prevent everything from slipping away, by becoming thinner, more beautiful, working harder etc - you’ll get passion, purpose, creativity, energy, joy, desire, freedom, health, enthusiasm.

So, I managed to ditch the Dom.

My hopeful monster smiled and stretched. A lot more room to move around here without her.

[1] I made these words up.

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