Emotionally and psychologically Jerry hasn’t been able to move beyond his realization that he was bullied and tormented by his older sisters when they were kids, especially when they were teenagers and he was pre-adolescent. Now, you may be thinking, “What?!? He’s still blaming what his sibs did to him in childhood and carrying that around? Get over it already, dude!” I know it’s something I’ve thought and others have said on more than one occasion. But, let’s stop and think about this.
Isn’t this a major hot button subject right now? There have been so many suicides and mass murders of and by people who have been bullied. Don’t most instances of bullying, whether it’s domestic violence, abuse of parent to child, sibling rivalry, or school yard mayhem start with words? Yet, many of us grew up with the childhood refrain, “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.” Find the weakest point and keep striking until it breaks is not just a physical strategy for taking someone down, it is also the verbal strategy that deconstructs a person’s sense of self at the core of their mental and emotional health. What if the internal structure and stability of the psyche is already compromised due to genetics? Do we look at someone who has an obvious and physical aspect of compromised emotional and mental development and require them to get over the hurt feelings of being taunted mercilessly? Do we look at a child who has suffered this kind of abuse and tell them to get over it? Not in today’s society, at least not in public.
In my generation and the ones before, if a boy was being bullied he was taught that in order to be a man, he had to stand up for himself and fight back. If he showed any signs of tears, hurt feelings, and woundedness he would be verbally and emotionally taunted and abused because he had let himself be physically abused. So, the 98 pound weakling who got sand kicked in his face by the musclebound meathead is taught that he has to transform himself into something bigger and badder just to survive. The bullied become the bullies and regardless of whether or not there is something broken, empty, or missing in their neurological and cognitive development that gets further damaged and distorted from experiencing the psychological, emotional, and physical trauma of being bullied, they are expected to get over it, move on, and let it go.
Look at the children, teens, and young adults you have compassion for because of how they were bullied and realize that unless someone in their world sees what they are experiencing, takes their hand, and advocates for them to get help to move beyond it, if they grow up, they grow up and turn into adults who behave badly and sometimes harmfully, whom we despise, hate, and vilify. A wounded animal will fight, bite, scratch, and maim itself to get away from a perceived threat. To someone who has been bullied and suffered the mental/emotional trauma of that experience, anyone and everyone becomes a perceived threat to be defended against in whatever way possible. No, their harmful behavior should not be excused or allowed to endanger others, especially the next generation. But, until and unless we learn to temper our judgment with understanding and compassion we are complicit in perpetuating the problems.
(Just to be clear, I am NOT absolving adult perpetrators of violence, excusing their behavior or saying they should not be held accountable for the consequences of their actions. What I am saying is that in order to address the issues of anger, violence, and dysfunction and help the person who is drowning in these things, one has to get an understanding of the underlying mechanisms, co-relational factors, and source events in order to identify the triggers and help them to identify and recognize what is driving them. There are those who derive twisted and sadistic pleasure out of using anger and violence to manipulate and control. These are true predators who need to be avoided and isolated away from their victims. Sadly, many of these people are higher functioning intellectually and socially and have the ability to blend in and keep themselves under the radar. These are not the ones I am discussing here.)
And so, now we have Jerry, an almost 47 year old man who is barely able to provide for his family, still trapped inside of himself as the emotionally and psychologically stunted little boy whose parents didn’t know how to help him or recognize that he needed help, somehow still caught up in this frantic and scared place of being at the mercy of unmerciful siblings, being taunted by his peers for having to take remedial “special” classes. All he wants is to feel respected, cared for and loved. He only believes that happens if he is treated a certain way and conditions are met in order from A-Z. It’s intolerable and unacceptable for those of us who are on the outside looking in who witness and experience the ways in which he acts out and how that affects the rest of us. But how much more intolerable and unacceptable is it to him, when he has done everything he knows how to do and has tried to learn, grow and change, but it rises up and takes over, regardless? The self-hatred and sorrow over knowing he has irreparably damaged relationships and people he loves because of his loud, harsh, angry words, menacing demeanor and petulant behavior. Hyper-vigilant against being spoken to or treated in ways that marginalize, diminish, or dismiss him. He is continually on the defensive and grew up under the adage that the best defense is a good offense. Therefore, without even being aware of it, he is the most offended offender I know, much of the time.
He is driven by fears of not being good enough, not being capable enough, not being smart enough, big enough, strong enough, not being able to provide enough and not being loved enough. His words and actions against being thought of and treated in these ways create the very things he fears: isolation, loneliness, and ostracization. He creates the very conditions that produce the things he’s afraid of.
This is becoming the never ending blog post. Continued again.