Do you have your bully with you this morning? Mine is sitting in my gut, curdling the cream in my coffee, and periodically tensing the trapesius muscles along my shoulders (my favorite stress indicator). My bully made me cry myself to sleep last night.
I don’t know if my theories on bullies are borne out by scientific study, and, frankly, am too tired this morning to do the research. My theories are based on personal observation.
Bully: a person of low self-esteem who gains self-worth by berating, abusing or physically assaulting weaker, younger or smaller individuals.
I don’t believe, as some do, that all bullies fall into the typical “abuse begets abuse” pattern. I believe it all comes down to an issue of comparative self worth. A bully is someone who seeks to improve their own self worth by denigrating the self worth of someone else. You see, there’s where I contradict myself, because a bully can create other bullies. The victim of bullying can become a bully.
My own particular bully is an older sibling. Since I was too young to comprehend or be present, I can only speculate on her formation, but I think parental berating along the lines of “why can’t you be smart like your younger sister” led her to begin verbally and physically assaulting me from the time we were pre-teens. I’m certain she has always resented my arrival 3 years into her existence as the darling only granddaughter/only child. I was cute, precocious and a little sister with whom she had to share EVERYTHING, including the affections and attentions of her parents. What 3-year-old is equipped to deal with that?
As we grew, she became rebellious and challenged every constraint and rule and struggled in school subjects. I obeyed, learned from her negative examples, excelled at school, earned every badge at Girl Scouts and was the “good girl” in every respect. I bet it rankled her like hell on a hot Sunday.
Well every family has sibling rivalries, and being punched by your older sister on a regular basis (and threatened with more punching if you told on her) is nothing unique. I survived it, and learned some valuable lessons along the way. This stuff hardly qualifies for the book-of-the-month club. I’ve managed a pretty good life: I graduated college, progressed through several high-paying careers and married two (consecutively) good men.
Yeah, well, that feeds the bully. By succeeding, by having financial success particularly (and by making the parents proud) I lower her self-esteem by comparison. As long as I am away from home, safely 1000 miles removed, we can “love” each other over the phone. When I visit home, the physical proximity and inevitable comparisons apparently eat at her. The verbal assault begins. First it’s the shushing whenever I speak, even in a normal conversational tone. Then she starts to censor my speech. No relating stories about the past, especially if it is to share a funny story with a younger family member (it might reflect badly on her). Practically no subject is safe, in fact, so within a few minutes I’m left speechless.
Oh, yes, I let the bully win. Why? Stay tuned.