When a person becomes shame-based as a result of being continuously shamed by their family they have no psychological defenses in the outside world. As a result the shame-based person becomes either a bully (in order to get some relief from his own shame) or a target of bullying (because he cannot defend himself). The following are a few examples of how I interacted with the outside world as a shame-based child.
There was this one family in particular that picked on me all the time throughout my childhood. There was an older brother my oldest sister’s age that I never knew but heard second hand that he was an asshole. Then in age came the fat older sister named Hanna who constantly had a vindictive, cruel expression on her face. Then came the bully, Greg who always picked on me but and then treated me like I was somehow offending him by not wanting to take his shit. Then there was this pipsqueak of a little brother named Jake who was probably the meanest of them all. They all carried vindictive, cruel expressions. They were always on the lookout for the slightest opportunity to humiliate me. They had absolutely zero compassion and my mere existence seemed to carry its own offence.
Ironically (perhaps) their father was a deacon in our church and would give loud, arrogant sermons from the pulpit. Their mother sang and played guitar in the “folk mass.” They owned a local business that I would never make use of if it was the last business in town. I hate them all to this day.
No one in my family protected me from them or stood up for me. If I spoke to my mother she did nothing. I don’t think my father would have cared if I ever thought of telling him. In fact I suspect they both would have blamed me before coming to my defense. I have no memory of either of my sisters doing anything either.
One time I rode my bike on their semi circular driveway. They came to my house to lecture me on going on their property with out their permission. A friend of mine was with me at the time. He asked, “who made you guys the cops?” They snarled at him. One of their lackeys (a neighbor of mine) was with them and under their protection. He walked up to me and tried to hit me as if I was this horrible person who had committed some great crime and he was standing up for what was right. I wish I had beaten the shit out him right there and then.
Village Day Camp was a horrible place. The kids in the group “Boys 5” all picked on me unmercifully. They would identify the smallest detail about me that stood out and make fun of it. I was not very good at sports and they made fun of that. Even the counselors made fun of me. The bus ride there and back was intolerably long and I remember getting car sick and being bored. At the time, I told my mother how I was constantly humiliated she did nothing about it. Recently the subject came up at a dinner party. I said how much I hated that day camp but my mother claimed that I loved going there and asked to be sent back. I asserted, “no I hated it and was humiliated on a daily basis!” She seemed embarrassed and turned to the person next to her and defensively claimed that I never told her that.
In the Cub Scouts Pine Wood Derby no one helped me with my car. I think my mother bought a can of gold spray paint. My father did nothing to help. He did come to the event and when my car did not even cross the finish line and I sat in the corner of the room crying he seemed very ashamed of me. Later I was mocked by the other kids for crying at the Pine Wood Derby. During the Cub Scout meetings we would play a game of Simon Says. I remember I came I made it third to last (or maybe second to last) man standing. When we got home my mother exclaimed “the winner of Simon Says!” I remember feeling humiliated that I was not actually the winner and did not deserve to be labeled as such.
I went to sleep over Boy Scout camp. I did not earn any merit badges. A friend earned all three. I remember feeling humiliated about that. In the winter my troop participated in the Klondike Derby and went camping in sub zero weather. One time I woke up feeling really cold. My toes hurt from the cold. A scout leader told me my socks were not warm enough. He also yelled at me in a sled packing meeting. I was goofing off (because that was one of the few things I did well). He yelled, “Can’t you do anything useful?” My father was there but he did not say anything.
One time there was an opportunity to be selected for the “Order of the Arrow”. This was an elite group (supposedly) that would undergo a ritual, boot camp like training over the course of a weekend. I wanted to be selected but instead of campaigning for it I whined that everyone knew who would be selected. It would be two more popular kids in my troop. I eventually was selected but I suspect if I had not whined about it those two would have been the ones selected. I sort of feel embarrassed about the way that all went down. However, I do remember enjoying the experience. There was a ritual opening where Scouts dressed like Indians spoke to us before a fire with ritual solemn voices about how this was a serious occasion and how we would eat sparingly and not talk, and sleep outside in just a sleeping bag for the whole weekend. I don’t remember much else about it. I enjoy ritualized silence and hardship. Once we were initiated I did not do much else in the Order of the Arrow. I received a white sash but I don’t think I ever wore it.
I think the highest rank I achieved was Star. The troop seemed to have dissolved at some point. I guess people lost interest. I remember when I first started we were known for being very successful in the Klondike Derby. Towards the end my friend did not participate and we didn’t do that well. I remember him bragging that the reason we did not do well was because he was not there. The implication was that the people who did participate were incompetent. I remember being annoyed, frustrated, angry and humiliated by that. It was another example of me feeling like I tried to uphold some dying tradition that other people abandoned. The fact that I participated and it failed indicated that I was somehow to blame even though I was the one trying to keep it alive.
These are a few examples of how I as a shame-based person interacted with the outside world as a child. I can have compassion for the times when I was picked on and humiliated. I feel a little embarrassed about some of my behavior. This embarrassment (for crying at the Pine Wood Derby or whining to be selected into the Order of the Arrow) used to be much more intense. Now I understand better that I was overwhelmed by shame (in the case of the Pine Wood Derby) and trying my best to reach for something better in the only way I knew how (in the case of the Order of the Arrow). I wish I could have done it differently. But now, I at least understood why I did it.