I don't believe you will get and adquete reponse to why, with rampat emotional imaturity people do things to others to feel better or to follow and not cause waves.... what to one is considered bad humor to the other it's torture. I have an acquantance who sometimes says things that could be taken to be very cruel. She has NO sensitivity, she's been a trail lawyer for so long that other lawyers rather settle out of court than meet her in that arena, professionally she is very good. Personally only those with the hardest skin can actually be around her for any lenght of time. What can make others laugh at her hard humor can inflict an incredible amount of pain to those she focuses on. When confronted by it she looks totally perplexed and says why do you give my words such power? It was only a joke... Needless to say she is becoming a hermit or better said there are few that want to go out and play with her. And she really has NO idea that she is the way she is.
I've got a feeling that the percentage of tormenters on LiveJournal is very small - it's just a feeling.
I was always on the outside - I'm really short (5'), and always looked two or three years younger than my class. Also, I came from a family that didn't watch television, so I never understood some of the pop culture things that everyone was talking about.
I got teased, but the tormentors usually forgot about me within a few days or weeks, so I didn't bear the brunt of it, as many of my friends did.
About 7 or 8 years after high school, I was on an adult softball league and one of my very good friend's main tormentors was on the other team. He came over and introduced himself and said, "I'm sorry for anything I did in high school. I was a real jerk. Please forgive me."
I still didn't feel like being his friend, as he made 4 years of hell for someone I was close to, but it did give me something to think about.
Whenever I attempted to confront an attacker either during school days or after them, I was given the following as reasons:
Because I can.
Because it's funny.
Because you're a loser.
Because you're different from us.
That was all I was ever given. I did seem to notice that the bulk of the girls who attacked others have difficulty moving around the real world and are permanently stuck in 'middle school' mode.
Heh. I've noticed the same thing. They're stuck in dead-end jobs, miserable marriages, etc. So sad, too bad. They reap what they sow.
2005-03-09 02:36 pm (UTC)
I was a bit part member of some bullying groups
The strength of character just wasn't there. I dont think I was one of the meaner ones but... I was aware enough of my oddity to hide it behind agreeing with others rather than standing on my own two feet. I did some unkind things just to try and be liked.
Not proud and have been eaten up with guilt when ever I've thought about it. Have often squirmed in silence, when certain events have been brought up by others, remembering my behaviour.
First, I applaud you for speaking out that you did indeed take part. Second... have you ever thought of tracking down someone you hurt to try to make amends? It's not always possible, but I'm just curious.
Hell, I'll speak up.
I remember, fuzzily, bullying this one guy at school in the fourth grade. We all used to make fun of him because he was such a dork, and claimed he'd been hit by a Mack truck. I just laughed along, didn't really join in. (Explanation.)
For directly, I remember getting physical with him, although I honestly don't recall if I threatened to hit him or actually hit him. If I did hit him, it was in the arms or such. He was frightfully easy to frighten.
My reasoning was largely because I could, if I had any. I didn't care about him one way or the other. It was just something I could do, so I did it. Plus, again, he frightened easily, so it's not like it mattered any.
But did you get anything out of it? Did you ever consider how it made him feel? I'm not trying to beat you up, just to understand.
I was invisible. As in - go ahead, I won't care. Or pay attention, or give you *any* satisfaction.
I grew up entirely alone, with few friends who knew me - but I never gave a bully the least satisfaction.
I'm more vocal these days, but when someone wants a piece of me, that's all they get. A very cold stare, and not much more. Certainly, they never see me sweat.
I don't have a great answer for you, either, but I tend to think it's similar to the mentality of any tyrant. Needing to keep others down so you can stay on top. And it's not often genuine evil as much as it is fear of losing your place. Some of the worst acts are perpetuated not by evil or anger, but by fear.
I had my share of tormentors - not to the depths some of those others have described, but plenty of emotional abuse. But there were times I saw them cry or look horrified at what they had done. I don't think they were inherently bad. Just afraid, and they let that, along with a desire for acceptance, form a sort of mob mentality that pushed them to do far worse than they would've done alone.
There was one middle school year when the worst of my torturers wrote in my yearbook about how strong I was, how nothing affected me, and how much she admired me for that. It shocked the hell out of me, because she'd never given any indication that she had any feelings at all, prior. But I think maybe it was true, and part of the reason she did what she did was because she didn't have that kind of strength. Maybe that was her way of saying she was sorry. I don't know. But I never forgot it.
I moved an entire continent away from my hometown to avoid being around the people who made my school life such a misery. From what I've heard, the 'big fish' are doing exactly the same thing now as they were then: living at home, working a crappy minimum wage job and acting like children. Does it make me feel better? *shrugs* I've learnt to stop basing my selfworth on others opinions of me.
As for me inflicting anything on anyone else, I've been part of the crowd that laughed politely for fear of the torture turning on them, and I've ignored what's been done to others. Makes me just as bad, no?
I deal with the memories as they come. I can't change the past, but I can change my attitude to it. And I can make damn sure that I don't participate in, or ignore anyone dishing out abuse now days.
If I run into anyone, which is unlikely, I won't need to ask them why. Because to me, it no longer matters.
2005-03-09 03:16 pm (UTC)
The Rule of Three at Work for you...
'From what I've heard, the 'big fish' are doing exactly the same thing now as they were then: living at home, working a crappy minimum wage job and acting like children.'
My title is because some people claim that Karma, the rule of Three, the Golden Rule, etc. don't really work.
This bit you wrote is a reminder that yeah, it does. Just not in ways we'd like to see in the dark little corners of our minds some days :)
When I mentioned it to some of my tormentors years later,
they were all "I don't remember being like that." I dragged up specific instances and was told to get over them because they happened so long ago, and "don't you know it's not healthy to hold grudges?"
One guy didn't even remember being horrid to me at first. He just remembered we'd gotten to be good friends in 8th grade, that I was a stable point he could talk to about his wicked stepmother and that we dated (which we did, before he came out). I remembered him teasing, because it was what all the kids did, but once he got to talking to me, he found I was a person and couldn't tease anymore. He did apologize and we are good friends.
I was the second smallest fish in the pond. I remember picking on the only girl who was more of a loser than me, and part of the reason was because if I didn't join in on the fun, it was going to be me that was tortured. I think that happened with a lot of the middle fish. If they could be okay with being that cruel, they were going to do it because it kept them from being tortured.
I did that for a while, in 5th grade. Then I decided not to anymore.
Sometime in middle school, I saw the littlest fish getting picked on by the second littlest, and in trying to defend the littlest, wound up picking on the second. Fucking complicated shit, that can be.
By high school, I mostly stuck to myself, projected strongly the image of someone who wants nothing more than to be left alone and is probably a bit too crazy for you to want to chance fucking with (by the time the whole Columbine thing happened, I was a soon-to-be graduating senior, but I remember thinking it should have happened when I was a freshman so more people'd've left me alone as a result).
There's can be a fine line between good-natured and mean-spirited teasing. It's fun, sometimes, to tease. To push buttons, to mess with people. For some people, it may not matter or they may not realize or it may not register for them that there IS a difference.
In any case: there is almost never a good AND simple answer to this sort of question. Why'd they do it? Oversimplified drastically: they did it because it made them feel good / less bad, or they expected it to on some level.
There's can be a fine line between good-natured and mean-spirited teasing. It's fun, sometimes, to tease. To push buttons, to mess with people. For some people, it may not matter or they may not realize or it may not register for them that there IS a difference.
Indeed. I suspect that I interpreted friendly teasing as cruelty a lot as a kid (although I also suspect there was cruelty in there, as well, from different people), simply because I didn't get it. I still sometimes don't, but at least now I'm willing to _ask_ rather than assume.
I was one of the lucky ones, I was never picked on in middle school or high school. For some reason, that I really don't know, I always fell in with a really good group of people. My high school was huge I graduated with almost 500 kids in my grade alone, and I think that the sheer amount of people prevented the amount of torture that goes on in smaller schools. I'll never say that I was popular, I was really quiet and shy in high school but I was well liked. I loved my senior year of high school, and don't have nightmares about it the way a lot of people do.
I never picked on anyone. I never felt the need to make others suffer to make myself feel better. I don't even remember my friends or the groups of people I hung out with picking on other people. The teachers always said that our year was their favorite just because we were so different than any class before us. I don't know if that means the stuff that people have been posting about didn't go on, or if it just went on quietly.
I'm using my Harold icon to make a point here, Harold being a mutant, and all.
Regardless of all the answers here, and the ones you will never see, it all boils down to a simple fear of what is different. Fear of the mutant, Stephen King calls it in Danse Macabre.
I have a theory that there is some genetic predisposition to fear what is different in each other. Someone different might possibly not make a good potential mate, and is to be eschewed, or even cast out.
The thing is, all this works just fine back in caveman days, but we're all supposedly civilised human beings. the problem is that our brains evolved faster than our instincts. So you get the all too human but utterly stupid behaviours like various 'isms' (racism, sizeism, etc.) and nowhere is 'fear of the mutant' stronger than in middle school and high school.
And does it strike you as ironic how teenagers whine that they want to be unique (when confronted by parents about why they need 12 piercins, or purple hair) and yet they ALL have to dress the same way?
i was mostly left alone and stayed out of it all, but i did serve my time as both tormentor and tormented. i reaped what i sowed, basically, and in one instance got exactly what i deserved and learned my lesson.
that being said, as a tormentor, i deeply regret what my friend and i did to torment one particular girl in fourth and fifth grade. she was so afraid of us at one point that she refused to come to school. even at the time i felt guilty about what we were doing to her, but my friend and i were "best friends" and even though it's no excuse, i followed along. she tormented me to a certain extent, so in my mind, it was better to ally myself with her than be tormented myself.
also, everything we did was purely psychological. in no way did we physically attack or harm her, but the stories we told to her and about her probably more than doubled her pain. :(
I was a lower-middle fish in junior high. I got picked on quite a bit, but there were a couple girls that irritated the heck out of me and it got to the point that I kept it pretty open how I felt. Part of it was because I was stuck in all the same classes as that girl (or lived down the street which has the same in your face quality) and the used alphabetical seating charts. Having her right behind me with her piss poor attitude trying to be my friend and yet so freaking fake drove me nuts. Fake eye color, fake hair, fake nails, when I asked what was the usual color or length, she would lie and say oh this is. So, I'd snark about her to my best friend who would get all annoyed with her too, but they really didn't get along and it escalated to the point of the end of the year fight.
I also ended up slapping the girl down the street for not handling my pet rabbit correctly. She wouldn't put him down and it became a pissing match for who was right, she shoved me so I slapped her and told her to get the hell out of my house... (it was a trailor park at the time, lol)
I wasn't limited to girls though. There was a boy in seventh grade that was a total geek and outcast in most of my classes. I think he had a crush on me, but his behavior was rather psycho. (He joked about being a fan of Hitler, but I'm betting he was just trying to change the tide of how he was being treated by everyone) During PE, he told me he was going to kill me, and then when we were switching sides in softball, he ran towards me to clothesline me with his arm. I ducked just in time, but the combination of the two had me in tears at lunch time. A teacher saw me crying and sent me to the vice-principal's office where the boy got suspended, plus he got institutionalized. That whole incident rocked me to my core. There was nothing secretive about that day, my whole class knew what had happened by the time I went back to class and he got escorted out. I had visions of this boy getting all sideshow bob about me because of what happened.
Basically, in each situation I was stuck with those people swirling around me all day long. There was no escape into other classes like what high school was going to become. Internally I knew that the situation should have never escalated to that point but I couldn't ask for help from any adults because that was so not cool. So I delt with each day individually trying to protect my own self-worth and not let someone who was driving me nuts bully me into self destruction or pity parties. I just wanted them to step off a bit... and that's exactly what had happened in each case after the drama hit full force.
I don't like the choices I made back then... but they are who I was that day developmentally. I didn't have the knowledge nor the experience to tell me that I didn't have to react or invest in people that annoy me. I'd apologise to any one of them if I ever stumbled across them for letting the situation get to that point and for inflicting such devistating days in their lives.
I already put up a response on the ferrett's page, and it was painful to do - I'll spare myself the repeat agony.
Anyway. Some of those torturers contacted me last year - they were organizing the high school class' 20th year reunion. (In a moment of nostalgic weakness, I'd put my name on one of those "high school reunion" sites.)
I didn't go to the reunion. Although I don't remember very much of what happened to me in public school, I remember it was unpleasant, and why go celebrate such an awful time? For me at least, it wasn't draped in some sort of rose-colored fuzzy obscuring curtain. Undoubtedly, those years probably HAD been a good time for some of them, and probably the best of their lives. It certainly wasn't that way for me.
One word description of my public school experiences: "survival".
I couldn't wait to get the hell out of high school. I got As and Bs, for the most part, but that was because I knew I was going on to bigger and better things.
It still bugs me at times when I go to my kids' school conferences, since they attend the same system I did.
2005-03-09 03:47 pm (UTC)
I'd like to recommend a book
It's a novel, but it's illuminating. It's Jane Haddam's Other People's Music, about a group of such torturers and a woman who succeeds in life after leaving her small town after undergoing such torture. She comes home to care for her elderly mother, and well, the story happens. It's quite interesting. I think that she hits on one of the basic reasons why we get tortured: victims are different. We won't wear makeup or we're fat or we don't wear fashionable clothes, etc. etc. etc. Sigh. High School, middle school, etc. is such an appallingly conformist time.
I wonder if they even are aware. When I brought up unpleasant experiences to a class mate, she looked at me blankly. "But everyone LOVED you in high school. You were such a unique person and didn't care what anyone thought!" Yeah. Sure. That was why I got locked in a locker freshman year. The list goes on and it is boring. It seems to me that it wasn't a traumatic life changing event for them, so it didn't stick with them like it does with the people they bullied.
The one that was a model freshman year? Tall and literally one of the most beautiful women I ever met? Ended up in treatment in high school. Married the popular guy a couple years older than us, and finally divorced him after five years of him beating the crap out of her. It didn't make me feel good, it made me feel sad. I still don't like the thought of bad things happening to people, even if they did treat me like crap.
Where do these people go? I work with them. Theyn are grownups now, and know how to play by adult rules. The difference is now, I have no problem looking them in the eye in front of co-workers and calling them out about their behavior. Also helps that I am working in a male dominated industry. I am the only girl with three brothers, so I am much more comfortable around men, anyway. I know how to deal with them.
Oh, yeah, us popular ones sometimes come to bad ends. :/
I mean I'm still popular, but I'm fat now, which kills me. KILLS ME.
But just because I was popular didnt mean I abused people -- neither did my friends. There was a group of meaner kids but even then they seemed to keep it amongst themselves.
I was routinely tormented throughout middle school. By nearly everyone. I tried to commit suicide three times (very unsuccessfully--it's hard to suffocate yourself with a pillow, but when you're 10 or 11...).
As an adult, I've encountered a few of my tormenters. One apologized profusely for his hurtful words. Another saw me in a restaurant a few years after graduation, got the typical sneer of superiority on her face, and stood up to block my path. Just as she opened her mouth, and without breaking my stride, I looked her in the eye and said, "Out of my way, you flat-chested slut!" She looked shocked, and wisely stepped aside. Those were the first words I'd spoken to her since sixth grade. Do I regret saying that to her? Hell no. Others have since told me that she's still the same shallow, cruel bitch she was when we were pre-teens.
The bullshit and cruelty foisted on me by so many of my peers is the reason I will never attend a class reunion (this year will be the 25th) until it's our 50th. And that will be to show up simply to see who's dropped dead so I can gloat.
Actually, that's not true anymore. It was the way I felt after ten years out of school, but not now. Why? Because I really couldn't care less what those people are doing. As a fellow tormented school friend told me, "I don't think they realized that we didn't want to hang around with them anyway, if being 'cool' meant being like that." So true. They missed out on getting to know some pretty terrific people, in my estimation.
Your attitudes pretty well sum up my own.
I didn't like the people I was at school with at the time so I see no reason to make contact with them now.
It's a great book. I need to reread it, now that Amy is that age. Thank you for the reminder.
I got bullied mercilessly between the ages of 13 and 16, enough to attempt (and thankfully fail) to commit suicide. It took me until my early 30's to be able to process everything that happened and it still colours my life to some extent. Out of morbid curiosity, I've kept tabs on some of the perpetrators over the years. The ringleader seems not to have changed at all and most of the rest of the group have just become regular adults. I doubt they had any idea what they were doing, teenagers aren't known for their empathy. I think the ability to bully is within us all and it just takes the right set of circumstances to bring it out.
One guy killed himself (not because of anything involving me I hasten to add). When I heard that I felt nothing but relief and I've come to realise that I have no need to confront anyone. I have my life, they have theirs and we'll make of them what we will.
This isn't bullying exactly, but when I was in high school and started making my own friends I excluded other people from my group. When I'd go over to my first boyfriend's house (he was a neighbor) and hang out with him and his friends, a lot of times my sister, who liked all of them too, wanted to come along, but I felt like it was my own special group and I didn't want to share it with her. One day I came home and discovered a pain-filled note from her about how much she felt excluded and hurt by my going off without her, and that took me entirely by surprise - I had no idea how much my insistence on exclusion had hurt her.
Also, my sister and I were friends with another pair of sisters that went to the same religious retreat as we did, and at these retreats the four of us would go off and have fun by ourselves singing and talking. We got spoken to a couple of times about how other people in our youth group wanted to join in with us and our fun, but felt like we just snubbed them. I didn't want anyone to feel excluded, but at the same time, we had a special dynamic when it was just the four of us that other people would have gotten in the way of, and we only saw each other a couple times a year at most, so we wanted to take advantage of our time together. I can see, though, how we may have looked like we wanted nothing to do with the other kids, which wasn't the case.
In both of these instances I realized I had unknowingly hurt people the way I myself had been hurt, and I felt guilty about it, but at the same time I wanted to enjoy my time with my friends.
I was bullied in elementary school and I was a bully myself. I don't remember being overly concerned with the bullying I received because I had a lot of other problems at that time that hurt me a lot worse.
I remember there was a girl on my school bus in the second grade who had a big sister in the fifth grade. Fifth graders seemed halfway grown up to me, at the time. And this little girl had beautiful pigtails that were always brushed and never messy and I would pull them. I was very good at pulling hair. I'd grab right at the base of the pigtail, twist it and then yank it towards me. Then she'd burst into tears and her big sister would come to the front of the bus and take her little sister in her arms and hold her until she calmed down and say soothing things. And that was why I did it. I liked to see that. I liked to see her sister comforting her. I wasn't allowed to cry; I was beaten for it. And I had a fascination with other people crying: why they did it, how others reacted to each other when it happened. And I loved to watch the big sister holding the little sister. It was like the happy ending to a favourite fairy tale. I wanted to see it again and again. So I made her cry every day.
I did a lot of things because I wanted to see if I could get away with them, or I wanted to see what would happen. I was also interested in patterns and seeing if someone would be able to figure out what i was doing and why. For example, I was playing with a friend once and I decided to punch her everytime she didn't use a contraction where she could have. If she said "do not" instead of "don't". But she didn't figure it out, even after I'd done it a bunch of times and I decided she wasn't very smart. I must've been about six or seven. I also pulled hair to see if the other child was smart enough to let their body weight go in the direction I was pulling so that it wouldn't hurt (that's what I did when my hair was pulled), but most of them weren't.
It wasn't about them, it was about me. I would get these temptations to do things and I didn't know how to control it very well.
There were also words that triggered me for a long time and filled me with this blind rage and I'd attack anyone who said them. They were simple words that might come up in every day conversation, unfortunately. When I was in the third grade I was placed in a special class for children with emotional problems because I was too disruptive for normal education. Everyone else in the class also had trigger words. Since we all had them, we knew what they were and it became a game to learn everybody else's and trigger them and watch them get in trouble. None of us minded being punched a bit until the teacher restrained the student. Some of mine were "cry" (or any of the words associated with crying like "tears") "mad" --a lot of feeling words, I guess. They don't do much to me now, though sometimes I'll cringe inwardly at them. A few of the children would fly into a blind rage in response to "like your momma" or "like your daddy", whichever had abused them worse. It was difficult for me to keep track of who would fly off the handle at "momma" and who at "daddy" so I usually ended up trying both and one would work.
I also would enact things I'd experienced at home. I got in trouble in kindergarten through third grade for licking other students, tongue kissing them, being overly sexual. I didn't really connect it at the time to what was going on at home, but of course it makes sense now.
I remember holding another child's head under water at the pool until they'd gotten a few breaths of water and came up crying and coughing. My mother had done this to me at the ocean when I was two years old and I wanted to know how it felt to do it to a child that I didn't particularly care about -- I didn't like them or dislike them. I felt awful. I felt like scum and I hated myself for it. I did it because I wanted answers but all I could come up with was "if I feel like this after doing it to a child i don't even care about, my mother must have felt even less for me than I do for this to child to be able to do something like that." I couldn't imagine hurting someone I loved like that.
Wow. This is one of the saddest stories I've ever read. It makes me want to cradle you in my arms and comfort you.
As an addendum to my comment to Ferrett, I think I was #254
or something, I was mocked the worst by my friends. Several years later, one of them apologized to me. She said she was sorry that she hadn't been a better friend to me because I had always been a good friend to her. She never wanted to hurt me, but she made fun of me because she didn't want to risk going against the group and having them turn on her as well. She just wanted to fit in.
Sadly that's all it is, people wanted to fit in so they join the cool kids in mocking the uncool ones. If they are mocking someone, they are showing how much they are not like them. The original instigators can follow this same reasoning, enjoy cruelty, or victimize some poor kid to work out their own problems.
The really ironic thing is that since I was so relentlessly mocked I stopped trying to fit in. Nothing I could do was ever good enough, so I just did my own thing. At the end of 8th grade before we moved on to highschool we all signed each other's yearbooks. I got a lot of signatures, most of them were from people complimenting me for being being myself no matter what and said I should keep doing that. Some said they envied me because they wished they could be that confident or unique. Others apologized for how they treated me. Some drew a mustache and horns on my picture, but what can you do?
I'm really not that sore about it because I understood why they were doing it. It was better me than them. I think I'm a better adult for it, so I try not to hold grudges.
I agree with the assessement that there probably aren't a lot of torturers on LJ. The kind of navel gazing introspection that we do makes people notice that other people are people as well, whereas psychological bullying doesn't encompass that knowledge.
The most visceral reaction I ever had to a movie was watching Welcome to the Dollhouse. When the tormented asked her tormenters why the reply was a matter-of-fact "Because you're ugly." I heard that in junior high. Even at the time, I knew I wasn't ugly, but if "they" said I was, I was, QED.
I was not the kind of person who could Not Care about being not liked. I cared deeply, and I still worry over off-hand remarks a ridiculous amount.
My story from the other side: In third grade, some of the boys decided it would be amusing to strip another boy. The rest of us gathered around.(Another recess, another hell)
One of the popular girls screamed "Strip him!" Caught up in the
mob-feeling, and happy that I wasn't the victim, I echoed her.
When the boys were caught (the whole thing probably took about 45 seconds, but the boy was naked and sobbing with humiliation) and stopped by a yard monitor, the cry was "Lisabeth said to
I wasn't quite articulate enough to say "I'm ashamed to say so,
but I was merely part of the mob, and these children would never do what I said, anyway." I said "(Popular girl) said it first. *I* was derided by teacher, yard monitor and classmates for being a tattletale.
The sad part is that I can remember the popular girl's name clearly, but not the name of the boy who was stripped.
In 4th grade, I went along with, and made up most of the songs that two friends and I chanted at another boy. I think we teased him because the ringleader liked him. Stupid stuff like "California, here I come ____ ______ is ver-ry dumb!" We got called into the principal's office, talked to with our parents, and it stopped.
It feels good not to be the one being picked on. But I can't understand the kind of mind that can be reminded (by the victim) of bullying and say "Yeah, whatever, that was SO not a big deal."
*I* was derided by teacher, yard monitor and classmates for being a tattletale.
Fucking stupid adults.