Meg, your point that bullies are made is precisely what I tried to elaborate upon by my reply. I agree with you and am not trying to undermine the piece in the slightest, so please do not read it thinking I am affording the bully any kind credibility.
Your reaction on seeing her again at the check out and your shock at your capacity for full blown adult epicaricacy to me is perfectly normal and natural, considering the ruthless kind of pain to which she subjected you over that deeply impressionable part of your young life. That it finally rose to your surface at that moment: How could it not? I understand your shock at yourself as it became visible and tangible to you, although I don’t see that you had anything to feel guilty about. You had every right to that reaction and to repress it would have been further harmful self-negation. No one in that kind of pain should feel apologetic about how their mind and body releases years of suppressed injury.
You address these vulnerable and painful experiences with a poignant subtle elegance that deserves the word brave in the sincerest sense and I am really moved by each piece I read here, of yours.
My thinking on this subject is not founded in some flagrant audaciousness to assume to decide anyone’s truth. It comes from decades of distilling experiences of my own, and as I said, I was only trying to add a perspective of the mechanism that I think belies that need to feel better about themselves, by picking on others and one that is birthed by having been bullied in turn, and very probably by their own parents or siblings. I was getting at the fundamental mechanism that makes a bully a bully in the first place, be it parent or child/sibling in perpetuating the pattern.
It was not meant to take anything at all from anyone ever victimised, and certainly not yourself; quite the opposite. I’d like to share an experience of my own with you:
When my eldest was nine, she and I among others entered the school yard one morning, to a horrid scene. A pair twin teen sisters were taunting a younger girl who clung sobbing to a brick pillar.
I did the worst thing possible apparently; I intervened. I was brimming with parental anger and disgust that girls so young could be so openly callous. I went at them with the same taunting gestures, making sure I calculated the same kind of invasive proximity they had used on the terrified child and told them to tell me how it felt. They backed off and skulked apart in silence.
I had sent my daughter to find the school’s version of a headmistress before I intervened. I managed to separate the twins from each other and the girl, who by now refused to let go. I felt incensed and wretched.
There was was a gathering of parents too at this point and while the twins were escorted off into a classroom, we eventually convinced the girl to let go. She collapsed into a sobbing heap and it took over an hour to calm her down.
The twins apparently felt entitled to treat this new child as they pleased, because ‘they can’ and she was black and shouldn’t be there and no one would dare take it up with their parents. — mother on the school board and father a city councillor -scenario.
The school chose to let it slide. The Ghanian child was officially removed from the class and the school on the grounds of having ‘integration difficulties which proved disruptive.’
I confronted the city councillor and he informed me that I had over reacted and kids will be kids!
Not long after this incident, I removed my own child from the school when she began coming home telling us of how abusive the class teacher was with all of them.
These appalling ‘incidents’ highlighted the deeply systemic dysfunctionality of tolerance for abusive behaviour, which reflected the national complicity, at the time, in familial and spousal abuse, across the board. I learned there are different kinds of parental complicity in the makings of a bully, especially when denial can be such a beautiful thing.
This is an example of the kind of incident that deepened my personal interest into this kind of aggression; I began to think about what lies at the core of such perpetual abusive behavioural conditioning and began looking beyond the symptomatic patterns to what might be its fundamental bedrock. This is where my reply to you comes from.
I hope this goes some way to clarifying my reply and that it might be clearer now why I was focussed on an aspect of your questions. With the best of wishes and compliments to you Meg.