I wrote this post a few days ago, because it felt so incredibly necessary to get it out of my system. And shared it to my Facebook page. I´ve got a lot of positive, warm and loving feedback on this post, but also comments expressing recognition, which reminded me that bullying is so common, and also shameful for many, myself included, so I felt like translating it into English – in case there´s a non-Norwegian speaking reader who would want to see what it says. Please, bear with my incorrect English.
I think I used to believe that when I grow up, I´ll have my shit together, I´ll have control, there´ll be order, it’ll feel safe, and other adults will be nice, confident, interesting and exciting human beings, who don´t bully. Get angry, annoyed, sure, but bullying? naw, that kind of behavior you see in children and teenagers. Not in adults…
Therefore, it was very interesting then this week, to experienced that familiar feeling, being exposed to the same bullying strategies/ mechanisms I experienced in elementary and secondary school.
A simple witty remark followed right after I had put myself in a vulnerable position. The remark was shaped to be funny, on the expense of another person. Mine, this time. It received just a little response and fulfilled its function. What´s a funny remark if nobody perceives it as funny? It´s so easy – so quick, you hardly notice it, and it is a bit funny. The remark is forgotten in seconds. So fast nobody thinks about it. How much it can hurt, sting and burn for the one who feels she´s being laughed at. Most likely this wasn’t the intention of the speaker at all. Insecurity comes in many forms and shapes.
Anyway, this time it felt exciting, new and even interesting being able to recognize it. Because it brought back a ton of memories from those years.
In elementary and secondary school stuff like this could turn your school day, going to and from school, going on school trips into an unpredictable and uncertain nightmare. Witty remarks, comments, somebody walking behind you paying you nasty, hurtful remarks, about your clothes, your looks or whatever came to mind, people throwing things at your – erasers, snow, pebbles, paper – stealing your pen case, throwing the contents on the floor, and so on.
The absence of a pattern, the seemingly aimless behavior, no plan, yet, none the less repetitive, from various sources, made the whole thing unpredictable. Often there were only little things, a tiny burning remark, or perhaps friendly teasing – perhaps even an attempt at getting your attention because someone found you interesting. Who knows?
If you´ve been teased, pestered and bullied sufficiently it becomes hard to distinguish friendly teasing from hurtful teasing, pestering and bullying – what you don´t recognize as pure kindness feels unsafe. You become extremely insecure, uncertain and skeptical, and people become scary. Probably they want to hurt you. THAT´s the lesson you learn.
I´ve given myself a lot of blame for why I was teased, pestered, bullied. There had to be something wrong with me, because I so often found myself in that position. Being teased, pestered and bullied and from various sources, not just one person, but several – like an epidemic. So it had to have something to do with me. And there were explanations in the bullying.
I´m thinking that a self-reinforcing pattern must appear at a certain point. A pattern rooted beyond what´s happening, which appear in the nature of bullying when it fulfills its function. A quick remark, it stings, you react and just like that you´re this sensitive, vulnerable person, the girl who reacts with tears, gets sad and upset. You become this person who is easy to pick on, because you so quickly respond to what drives the bully mentality: “somebody who is weaker than me, I must maintain this to feel bigger and more secure than what I truly am”. You react in exactly the way bullies hope – you break just a little, you get upset – is that a tear? Do you get angry? This is fun. We get a response.
How you react is wrong, crying don´t help, and don´t let them see it gets to you. You have to become cold, build a wall, hide your emotions, don´t show them how it affects you, hide your tears, don´t add fuel to the fire.
The following comments give no comfort:
-Don´t let it get to you
-They don´t really mean it
-It´s nothing to get upset about
-Is it something you do to trigger it?
I think that it was almost hardest when adults intervened
You should´t say and do so and so, Marianne gets sad… (…!…)
Insecurity, group mentality, self-assertion, pack status. It´s quite easy to understand a few of the underlying mechanisms of bullying. Public humiliation and telling off a group of insecure, young vulnerable people, who perhaps want and need attention and security themselves, didn´t help. And when the adult as a consequence removes MY ONLY DEFENSE, my shield – not showing any emotions – and lays them out on the table for the world to see.
YES – YOU CAN SEE SHE´S SAD.
I was left defenseless.
And the bullies got it confirmed – what we do works.
It was a lot safer to keep this going without adult interference. There was some dynamics of sorts. Comments were given, you learned to respond. You get tired of crying. The wall gets thicker. Coping mechanisms. Desperate times calls for any measures. You adapt. Your fight continues under the surface. Who notice how you rather not cross the school yard, that you prefer the corners and walls. How you avoid groups, make a circle around them. How you raise your shoulders and hold your breath for a moment as you enter a classroom filled with people. How you don´t raise your hand as much, unless you´re ABSOLUTELY CERTAIN you got the right answer. How you prefer not being pointed out as clever and good at, or bad at something, cause it might ad fuel to the fire in ways you can’t predict. It´s better to be average, safer to not stand out. Preferably to disappear.
Now I can laugh, gently and carefully lovingly, at the kid I was, at the fact that I got glasses and braces in secondary school… Isn´t it ironic… You really don´t wanna stand out. And so much that happens with your body at that age! Those years were really filled with pain.
In retrospect – I got through those years, with scars on my soul and body, with a thick wall between me and my emotions, with a strong sense of fear and skepticism towards my peers and people in general, with a belief that I could get no help from adults/ others – what could possibly stop me now from getting through the days, the life I lead now? Like, really?
And one important piece who made it livable, fun as hell and crazy good at the same time – was my dearest and oldest girlfriend. It was friendship. I couldn´t have done it without you, my dear sweet friend ❤