This is going to be a quick post, to be followed up in detail later.
The trouble caused for me at work by the troublemaker bully (who might be leaving, woohoo!) reminded me of how I react to reprimands or being approached by someone with a reason to tell me off.
I still feel the same fear now that I felt when I was a child. The thought of being told off will make me tense and scared, even before it happens, even if I know I haven’t done anything wrong. It was the same when I was a child. I was always in trouble for something, or at least that’s how it seemed. I was always wrong socially and also always being put in the wrong by my sister (she is clever enough to realise that getting me into trouble made her look good, and, believe it or not, is still at it today), so someone was always telling me off/having a go/having a pop/criticising me etc.
It’s SOOOOOO stressful! You cannot imagine living with fear all day long that you are going to do something wrong. Simply worrying about when in the day you are going to get yelled at or reprimanded or made to feel shame is enough to raise stress levels considerably. I experienced an adult relationship like this and it actually made my hair fall out. I can remember sobbing many, many times from childhood to adulthood at the knowledge that I was about to get into trouble. I sometimes melted down to varying degrees during the trouble simply out of frustration that it was happening again, that I was being made to feel shame again, that I had done wrong again, that I felt like everyone was against me and no one loved me because the other children in the house didn’t get the same treatment as me (and remember that I often didn’t understand fully what I had done wrong, after all if I want to play alone and get whacked by a sister I don’t want to play with, who I then whack in return, who is wrong?), out of frustration that I did not understand what was going on or what I had done or even why it was so bad.
I used to wish my mother would understand how stressful it was to live without knowing when you were going to be in trouble next, that reprimands created fear and tension in me that could only be extinguished by crying, that her methods made me fear her to the point that I thought she did not love me, that my sister used the situation for her own benefit as she enjoyed seeing me in trouble and seeing herself cast as the good one, that my meltdowns were not totally because I had been caught when I was genuinely wrong – they were also deep distress at not fitting in too, as well as the eruption of a dread that had built and built since the last time I was told off.
I wish she would simply talk to me about why I was wrong, explain why what I done wasn’t acceptable, and explained that now a punishment was required as that was normal for children.
What I received instead was tale-telling, screaming (don’t like loads of noise, remember?) manhandling (not keen on being touched!) and often spanking (sometimes with shoes, belts and commonly a wooden spoon). I have a low tolerance for pain – it also makes me angry. And I never once understood that the misdeed and being hit by someone I loved were connected. I thought she just liked hitting me. Add to that the knowledge that sometimes the spanking was induced by another child for reasons I didn’t fully comprehend, think about the deep, traumatic distress I felt. I was being brutalised for not being what everyone wanted me to be.
I have never used this method on my own children. I explain to them where they have gone wrong, and yes, sometimes voices (plural) are raised because we are human beings and there is nothing wrong with a little shouting, and that now they have put me in a position where I have to punish them. They never doubt that I love them, no matter how angry they might be in the moment. Usually once the punishment is determined (one of them is indefinitely grounded after a long period of classroom yapping irritating the hell out of teachers), we start chatting again normally.