Who are bullies and the bullied?

I was bullied as a kid and when I say bullied, I do not mean that one girl said some bad stuff to me. Bullying lasted for more than 10 years and started as early as at the age of four. My first experience with bullying was when I moved to my grandparents and had to change kindergarten. There I was, abandoned by my mother, who had gone to foreign country, in a different town, with physically abusive grandmother. Naturally as a newcomer and potentially also emotionally very needy, I was an easy target. From there on it became a rule, every new place I went and there were plenty, I could expect being casted out of community. Even though having mean kids pick on me and laugh over me at the street was hurtful, perhaps even more hurtful was the betrayal I received from my friends. Namely, whenever there was someone else being mean to me, several of my friends would team up with them, instead of supporting me. On several occasions things got physical and happened when I visited friends’ birthdays.

Why would I call such people my friends? The truth is, your home environment teaches you how people should treat you. In my case, physical punishment was normal, my mother abandoning me was normal, her shaming me and criticizing me was relatively common and finally her making fun of me in front of other people was also nothing rare. I dare to suggest that most victims of bullying have received some very harmful messages from home. Naturally, there are also kids who for instance are overweight and have nothing wrong with their home environment, but usually the low self-esteem of these kids was present way before bullying.

It has taken me ages to become convenient with making contact with strangers and even making eye contact with attractive guys. I used to imagine that they would just start laughing or move away. Bullying has definitely left a mark in the way I am currently. Many victims of bullying try to consolidate themselves with the idea that those who bully have also serious self-esteem problems. Actually, according to research there are two different kinds of bullies. The first group consists of people with a healthy self-esteem, who have found that choosing some outcast and grouping up against him is an excellent way to make friends and create common belonging. You know, nothing joins people together better than having a common enemy. The other group indeed consists of people that have self-esteem issues themselves, which they try to suppress by finding some other victim. Having been a victim of bullying, it might be difficult to take that several bullies are most likely doing way better in life than you.

Other research suggests that those that are bullied, could be grouped into two. First, the kids that are rejected- those are the kids that receive active insults. The other group is however more invisible- those that are neglected- nobody even notices their presence. I cannot actually determine which is worse. It is like choosing between emotionally neglectful mother and emotionally violent mother. I have experienced both, and I must say that to a degree I even think that being rejected might be easier.

For a long time I was being quite defensive with other people, anticipating some kind of abuse. I was secretly imagining in my head what I would say to my bullies, how I would prove my self-worth. The fact that I felt like I had to justify myself and my self-worth demonstrated that I had not really gotten over of my bullying experience. Now after some years in therapy, I know that the opinion of the bullies would not hurt me anymore. Having been the bullied and now having a healthier self-esteem, I can see, how bullies choose their victims. Nobody in their right mind would currently choose me as their victim because I would just not react in any way to their insults or I would tell them to back off. People who however start justifying themselves, react emotionally etc, are an easy prey. What bullies expect is some kind of emotional reaction, something that would allow them to feel powerful and in control. Once they do not get it, you are out of their radar.

Life is more complex through the eyes of the abused

This weekend I was socializing with some random group of people and got several comments on my age. Namely, people did not want to believe how old I was. This is not in any case the first time when people feel shocked after they have found out about my age. I am usually perceived as ten or at least five years older by people who have had a conversation with me. I am not saying this to show off, it has both its negative and positive sides. The negative side is that twenties should be your time of still having this youthful and unconcerned outlook in life, which I have lost already long time ago. I have seen too many complications in life to believe that my happiness is just right around the corner. The positive side is, I am to a certain degree wiser than my age.

Faith Allen has written on being intense after childhood abuse. I have gotten similar comments from people, only it is usually expressed as me being all too wrapped up in self-analysis or making everything too complicated. I am not good in small talk, never have. I used to try to compensate it by asking people questions- people love to talk. However I am not the person who will be talking about weather or new sale on coats, it feels awkward and pretended. I understand that social norm dictates it, but somehow I always end up in the corner, talking to this one person who can have a more philosophical or personal conversation. This does not make me a super good in groups. The only reason it concerns me is, I work in an area where social networking is extremely important. I still struggle approaching random people and starting a conversation smoothly. Maybe I will get there one day (I have already bought some books on social networking).

Anyways, most of my recent friends are older than me, varying from ten to twenty years older. Today I had a lunch with two colleagues who are about my age and I found myself puzzled. Somehow their view of life seemed so naïve, that it was very difficult for me to relate to them. I suspect that it is connected to the fact that once life has beaten you down at least once or twice, you stop making very sweeping statements and judgmental evaluations on other people. You realize, that life is not that simple. I have always wondered about people who believe that “your luck is on your own hands”. I wonder where have these people grown- have they really not seen all the ghetto kids, for whom the only choice is to join a gang or try to survive on a daily basis under fear? Have they not seen kids of alcoholics who struggle to build a normal life and especially normal relationships? Or people who have psychological disorders? Put all together these people are not so much a minority anymore. If you indeed come from a family with two middle class parents that are supportive and give you a chance for education, then indeed, you learn self-discipline, you learn good values and you have money to make it for yourself. However, if you come from a family, where your parents let you know from the first day that you are loser and not good for anything, what then? Luckily, American TV has at least lately started focusing more and more on the people that had a rough childhood in a more complex and sensitive way. Unlike before, these characters are not demonized anymore or depicted as simple criminals, they have a story. One of my favorite shows which succeeds in that is “Major Crimes”. However there are still plenty of reviewers on IMDB who feel so outrageous that TV dares to show some non-Christian behavior, such as hustling, cheating, unemployment etc.

This is not to say that I argue that everything is predetermined in life. Not at all. I do think people have a chance, but for some these chances await in every corner and for others, there might be only one chance in a lifetime. Despite what we would like to think, people are not created equal nor do they have equal opportunities. This is why I have always been an advocate for compassion and understanding.

Shifts in our consciousness

I have felt stuck and in the midst of some crisis for some time now. It is fair to say that it probably started a while ago, but now it has reached its peak. I do not have any answers yet, but I somehow, maybe, have a gradual awakening. It hurts.mina 096

I have held other people accountable for my feelings for quite some time. As long as I have been waiting for things to happen to me. This does not mean that I have been passive in my life, quite contrary actually. I have been a high achiever throughout my college years. What it means, rather, is that I have envied other people’s lives and felt helpless about it. I somehow imagined that these other people had something magical, that I did not. This magical ingredient made them happier, more fulfilled and more loved. I have felt guilty about my failures, I have blamed myself and others.

Once you start from such a helpless place, it does not occur to you how you are actually still a child. You are expecting other people to solve things for you. Most often it happens to be a dream partner that is supposed to create such changes in your life. You get a partner, and you end up being disappointed, because the changes you wished for never occurred. You get a new house and you still feel empty, or a boob job or whatever bloats your boat. The emptiness still does not go away. Finally, you are so desperate that you are ready to face the emptiness and pain inside you. You have chased after too many dreams to learn your lesson.

This is it, I am finally ready for some responsibility, instead of blame and guilt. We will see how this goes.