When You Encounter the Destroyer

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If you are a generous person and live your career in service: offering help when needed, opening your heart to vulnerability in your performances, and creating art with integrity, you will most certainly encounter a destroyer archetype on your path. This person may want to take your work and not give you credit, or they see the joy in what you do and feel their own desperation, their own lack of joy, and want to hurt you. They may have so much repressed rage that they want to kill your inner artist; they may want to stop you in your tracks. And no matter how many years, how many times you have learned to see the warning signs, and learned to avoid these nefarious industry gremlins: every once in a while one will slice your soul when you are at your most vulnerable.

Last week, I looked at death in the face: death of my identity as an actress and creator, death of my confidence, and death of a clear path through on this journey that is a constantly evolving act of courage. In this industry the challenge for women is immense: we still face so many disadvantages to even get hired, and often men will treat us so much worse than they would dare to treat each other once we are hired. Last week I faced a brutal verbal assault via email, from a person who I had been helping with small favors here and there (a line producer, writer contacts, etc.) as they developed a script that still needed a lot of work to be in shooting form for its small budget. Sadly, the progress wasn’t happening, and the producer was becoming more and more entrenched in a script that was over-budget and more importantly, off-color in its content. So I refused to do another free favor. I didn’t want to introduce any actors to a project that might be harmful to their careers. And I told this person as much with clarity and compassion.

In retaliation, over a series of escalating emails, he re-wrote history (saying I had been a producer all along and just did a really crappy job), he attacked my character, and embarrassingly the most hurtful part, was how he viciously attacked my talent. I don’t know if you’ve ever had someone you were helping say you were really shitty at everything you’ve ever worked towards in your life, but it absolutely gutted me. I find this funny because he is clearly going through a mental episode. But it still hurt so badly. What is even more crazy-making is that it was so easy to go back and look at myself and see me through his eyes. In my fragility, in my state of shock, I could see an over-blown, unconnected, dishonest actress. And that moment, that could be the moment when I took someone else’s crazy hurtful words to heart, and gave up. And that is what he wanted to do. He wanted to kill my inner artist.

And I could give up right now. I could call it a day and said I gave this artist’s life a good shot, and I’m going home now. But LA IS my home now, and this LIFE is MY LIFE now. Instead, I am treating this episode as a gift. Like the alloy that is made stronger after transforming in a smelting fire, I will be stronger now, with new metal inside me. I DO want to be better at my art (all true greats keep working on their craft- it never stops) and I happen to be doing just that. I’m taking three classes right now and absolutely loving this opportunity to expand my abilities, to flex my artistic muscles, and to try out new skills. I DO want to create something so close to my heart (much easier to do when not wasting energy helping the helpless) that kick-starts my work-ethic to new heights. And I DO want to succeed, more than ever. I see now that the fear of those kind of insults, have actually held me back over the years. Now that the worst has happened, I can be liberated from that kind of response.

So when you encounter a destroyer on the path, maybe don’t welcome them as a friend, or invite them in for tea like Rumi advised. But see that even if they target you, that your own strength will be allowed to come forth after facing such a destructive force. For we are only as strong as we are weak, and the artist in me will survive the wound.

Madeline Merritt

About Madeline Merritt

Actress, Freelance Writer - Madeline grew up on stage and has loved telling stories her whole life. From the Bay Area, California, Madeline received her degree in Theatre and Political Science from Northwestern University and moved to Los Angeles in 2008. She recently spent a year in Paris, France but missed the city of Angels and the entertainment industry here. She cares deeply about social issues, including women’s rights, indigenous rights, poverty and the environment. She feels the role of storyteller through entertainment is very important in opening dialogue and creating change in the world. You can see her in The Guest House (available on Netflix, Itunes, Amazon and Time Warner on Demand) and the soon to be released American Idiots, coming to a Redbox near you in June 2013. She is thrilled to continue her journey of collaborating with women in film and television through Ms. In the Biz.