Learned behavior: Unlearned behavior

Tomorrow a bullying will happen.  My father and his girlfriend are driving 1,000 frozen miles to bully my aunt.  We’re both scared.  Angry.  His MO is to get you in a situation where it’s difficult to leave – a restaurant where the food has just been served, or a car miles from home, and start in.  You leave bloody and bereft of any feelings of self-worth.  He’s proven his case against you theologically: He’s against you, God’s against you, you are a piece of shit.  His draconian actions against you are totally warranted.

When I was very little, my mother would make us confess all of our sins to her every night in the dark, and ask for forgiveness.  I remember white baby-print sheets bunched in my hand, tears, and “you have to tell everything or you won’t be forgiven and will go to hell”. Every secret sin, mean feeling, childish jealousy, and plea for privacy was harboring sin.  I felt worthless, naked and ashamed. All information garnered could be used against you later.  Scientology without the hardware store components. Thus began my nightly reviews of all the evil I have done, which continue to this day.

But back to my aunt who will be bullied tomorrow.  We are scared, trying to think of how to minimize the damage, cowering, making plans for getting away.  A wall of anger in me wants to stand up and threaten my dad with something he so dreads that he will keep his maw shut.  It’s still bullying when you protect someone else by bullying, isn’t it? But not protecting is complicity and falling into learned behaviors of helplessness.  You can’t win.  Just a little something to beat myself up about later.

It’s beginning to make sense why he didn’t defend me from bullies when I was in school.  He thinks victims are weak and deserve what they get if they don’t stand up for themselves.  Well.  I think it’s time.


Just do it

These are the last words you say in every conversation with a mentally wild person.


Which means


The assumption is that the light at the end of the tunnel is a natural, universal human experience.  If you don’t see it, you’re not trying or you’re lazy or you’re lying:  It is your fault.  Everyone can see the hope if they try, the one thing in the future worth living for, even if it’s just a walk in the park.  Or maybe the light at the end of the tunnel is a middle class thing, that we have so much inbuilt support that nobody gets that far out.  Maybe it’s a mentally average thing.

Or you say:


Memory is the same for everyone.  If four people witness an event, they will have identical impressions of what happened.  And they will forget what happened at exactly the same time.  Further, everyday events and traumatic events are stored in the brain in the same way and should be reacted to in the same way.  So if someone remembers something differently or longer or deeper, or remember nothing at all, it is a conscious choice to deviate from the appropriate way of remembering things.

Or maybe:


Joel Osteen, take a bow.  You have shown us that poor self-esteem is also an inappropriate choice on our part, and something we can easily fix if in fact we actually want to.  If we don’t fix it, it is our own fault that we are unsuccessful.  Those old voices in your head can easily be taped over – in fact our whole mind is just a big cassette recorder where we push PLAY too much and RECORD not enough.  It’s totally under our control which buttons we choose to push.


So stop telling me that there’s light at the end of my tunnel.  I’m not walking toward any light; I just keep walking out of habit, nothing more—nothing less.  Stop blaming me for the way my memory records things.  You say you wish you had my memory when we talk about art history, but shame me for not letting go when the past gets in the way.  Stop giving me that prosperity gospel bullshit.  My self-esteem is not the issue here:  The things that happened to kill my self-esteem are the issue.  People believe these silly platitudes because they’ve never been in a place where they were really tested.  If you believe them, you’ve never been there.  So stop giving advice to people who have more experience in these things than you do.

Nobody’s world view is threatened here.  Just stop trying to sell me that shit, and more importantly stop pushing it on my mentally wild kin.