Friday, December 23, 2011

Donning your Bully-proof vest

Years ago, I was married to a man who had his own considerable feelings of worthlessness.  I see that now.  But back then, I didn't.  So, when he kept his feelings of worthlessness at bay by harping on my shortcomings, I bought his story about me hook, line and sinker.

Now, this man happened to be Apple's older brother.  Apple is a regular reader of this blog, so if anyone is thinking I am slamming her older brother and thereby hurting her feelings, fear not.  Apple and I have had many discourses about her brother over the years and I am not saying anything she doesn't already know.

Truth be told, Apple's brother, my first husband, often resorted to bullying.  We have all heard that bullies are insecure which is why they pick on the rest of us.  But let us dissect this in detail.  You can show me pictures of a human brain all day long but that doesn't mean I understand it's functions or how it functions.    Let's dissect bullies because if we understand the "why" of what they do, perhaps they will have less power over us.  I say "less" because I realize that if bullies are resorting to physical aggression, it's gonna hurt you no matter how much you understand WHY they do it.  BUT, when it comes to emotional and psychological bullying, or torture, let us consider that information can act like a Bully-Proof vest.

If you're not familiar with how a police officer's bullet proof vest works, let me give you a brief explanation.  When a bullet hits a police officer's bullet proof vest, the force of the bullet is immediately spread across the fabric of the vest so that it cannot penetrate the vest.  The wearer will still likely get knocked off his/her feet, may get the wind knocked out of him, may even be thrown to the ground or knocked unconscious, all of which are unsettling, but at least the wearer will survive the hit with little to no lasting consequences.

Back to Apple's brother.  The man fought with feelings of worthlessness his entire life, like so many of us do. Yet,  his problems were compounded by genuine depression and he may have been suffering from bi-polar disorder.  We will never know for certain because he took his own life 13 years ago.  I didn't have the maturity, insight, or strength of self to understand that his constant badgering, harassing, insulting and physical acting out were all about his feelings of worthlessness and his ATTEMPTS AT CONTROLLING those feelings.  When he couldn't control those feelings, which was more often than not, he attempted to control what he could, which was me.

What he harassed me about on a very regular basis was the laundry.  I hated doing laundry.  My house could be neat as a pin, with a hot, delicious dinner on the table, and children in clean diapers but I would always have at least two or three loads of laundry that needed attention.  This drove my first husband nuts.  And he refused to help me.  It was, in his view, my job.  So, when he would mock me, or harass or taunt me about it, I would usually get defensive and immediately do every bit of laundry in the house in an effort to prove to him and myself that I was not as worthless as he made me seem.

AND THIS IS HOW HE CONTROLLED HIS WORLD.  He was in a constant state of chaos on the inside, so he tried to control his outside world instead BECAUSE HE COULD.  This is what bullies do, they bully because they CAN.

Apple, in her wisdom, pointed out to me that I must have believed, on some level, every word of what he said because otherwise, it wouldn't bother me.  Granted, this seemed pretty pat, but sometimes the simplest explanation is the correct one, and so it was in this instance. It took maturity, a second marriage and years of therapy before I learned to put on my bully proof vest.  To do it, I had to look at myself really hard and accept what I saw.

I am flawed and imperfect.  My butt is too big and I have a big mouth when it comes to my opinions.  I can be introverted when I'm feeling insecure and short tempered when I'm feeling out of control.  I still suck at doing laundry (fortunately Bulldog is a laundry expert) and I hate doing paperwork.  Guess what?  I am no better or worse than most people.  It's just that most other people are REALLY good at looking as if they don't have a care in the world.  They are great fakers.  My guess is folks who get bullied most often are the ones who just aren't good at faking confidence-so sue me.  I'm too freaking honest in how I present myself to the world.

Check out the following info gleaned from the book, The Social Animal by David Brooks, pp.218-220:

"The human mind is an overconfidence machine.  The conscious level gives itself credit for things it really didn't do and confabulates tales to create the illusion it controls things it really doesn't determine...This overconfidence comes in many varieties....People overestimate what they know....they overestimate what they can know.....And the telling thing is that self-confidance has very little to do with actual competence.  A great body of research find that incompetent people exaggerate their own abilities more grossly than their better performing peers. One study showed that those who scored in the bottom quartile on tests of logic, grammar and humor were especially likely to overestimate their abilities.  Many people are not only incompetent, they are in denial about how incompetent they are."

Yet, we've bought into the idea that they know something that we don't.  Let the fabric of your Bully Proof vest be comprised of the knowledge that bullies are full of $ - - -.  They know next to nothing and their talent is acting as if they know everything.  Can you imagine if that was one of your few talents-Bullshitting?  No wonder they have to act like they do-they got nothin' else.

Your bully proof vest is comprised of knowledge of these poor folks-they are people who are not very intelligent, are insecure, and most of all, they are liars because they misrepresent themselves in the world, and they do it at your expense, so add to the list that they are cowards.  Maybe they are not like that in other aspects of their lives, maybe there are parts of their lives where they are wonderful people, but the moment they bully, they become deceitful, weak, cowardly versions of themselves.  Your vest is woven of threads that say, "I am ok, no worse or better than anyone else; I have my flaws but I'm a good person who doesn't like to hurt others.  Is that all you got?  Ignorance?  Name calling?  Are you feeling better by lying to yourself and everyone around you?  How does it feel to be a coward?  You don't mind drowning someone else so you can stay afloat? It must suck to be you."