Butterflies and Bullies

First time I’ve talked about this in years.
I was bullied.
In first and second grade, three older kids would pick on me. They would slam my head into the monkey bars. They would push me in the mud. They would shove me, punch me, and kick me. They would laugh at me when I cried. Two of them were twins. Taller, white, short hair and lots of freckles. The other one was shorter with brown skin… Latino or Asian.

I was a pretty sheltered, innocent kid. I didn’t comprehend what was happening. I didn’t have the tools to stop it. I didn’t have the Psychology doctorate I have now. I didn’t understand the dynamics of power. I didn’t understand topics like intergenerational transmission of abusive behaviors. I didn’t understand compassion or empathy or mindfulness.

All I understood were heroes and villains. There were no heroes to save me from these villains.

I honestly don’t remember much more about the incidents. They would happen either at 10 am recess, lunchtime, or during after school care. Usually, it happened by the space-ship shaped monkey bars in the corner of the yard, by the red wooden fort that gave everyone splinters.

It leads to interesting thoughts about bullying. A dichotomous view of the situation.

On one hand, I sympathize with them. Something is going wrong in their lives, and they’re taking it out on others. Power, or abuse, or learned behaviors. Drug use in the family, or socioeconomic factors. I want to help them. I want to understand. I entered the field of Psychology because I truly believe that people can change. Heal. Grow.

On the other hand, I feel the need for justice that permeates through our culture. I feel hunger for the sick pleasure of vengeance when somebody receives their comeuppance. I feel the need to defend the innocent…

but aren’t bullies innocent too…

…victims of bullying. The kids who are shoved into lockers and have their money stolen and…

come home to broken families…

…get beaten…

they get beaten…

…for no reason…

no reason at all.

There are also bullies of privilege. Kids who grow up feeling superior because they were taught to be that way…

they were taught to be that way…

and have no reason to view the world in a different light.

One hand wants to reach out. The other wants to throw a punch. Yes and no, love and hate, vengeance and forgiveness… all these things swirl in my head. The movies and books and TV shows all taught me that it was black and white. Bad guy, good guy. Evil, providence. Bully, hero.

I wish it were still that easy.

I don’t know where those guys are now. I don’t care to find out. Part of me hopes they’re living happy lives, and teaching their children to love and care and foster friendships.

Part of me hopes they’re dead.

Life is complicated, isn’t it?

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