Anjana’s family called her a “tube lamp” because she took longer to process things than the other people around her. When she was angry, her mother also called her a “dumb” and a “dumb”. Over time, this impacted his self-esteem. “For a long time, I thought I was ‘slower’ and ‘dumb’, and I let people laugh at me … lower IQ,” she says.
Like many Indians, the 23-year-old was also bullied during her formative years. Yet the term “bullying” only refers to the abuse inflicted by peers in school. Conversations about bullying thus often exclude instances of violation of one’s boundaries under the guise of “love” and “care” from one’s own family.
“The use of demeaning speech and other techniques are used [by parents] make the child feel bad about himself [that] leaves mental scars and leads children to depression. [Many others] enact autonomous rules and have unilateral expectations vis-à-vis their children. They do not have the right to question or discuss any rule, ”notes an article on the different facets of harassment.
Besides mental health issues, this type of bullying can have other lasting effects on people’s psyches as well. Being in control of different aspects of their lives for years from an early age can make people unable to make seemingly insignificant decisions independently.
Priyanka *, 26, says her mother would accompany her to salons into adulthood to “make sure I didn’t cut them too short because she knew I liked short hair and not cut it too short. she. Later [in life], you understand the kind of impact it had on you when you weren’t able to decide on something as simple as what kind of hairstyle you wanted for yourself.
People are so used to being told ‘what to do’ and ‘not to do’ that they experience ‘decision paralysis’ when they have to make choices for themselves, explains psychotherapist Zohra Master, associate member and supervisor of the Albert. Ellis Institute. Bullying, which society constantly calls “looking out” can make someone dependent on others.
One of the most extreme and high-profile cases of such bullying is the guardianship of Britney Spears, who allowed her father to harass her for years under the guise of caring for her and protecting her interests. Such behavior, however, is quite common in Indian households. Where parents dictate to their children the choice of career, the life partner, the clothes they wear. Why? Because they are part of the family and “they know better”.
Kavita’s mother *, for example, “stuffed her opinions and beliefs down my throat under the pretext of motherly love.” While the 20-year-old even chose to have a different opinion, she was told she was selfish and should be disgusted with herself and not welcome at the table. .
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But growing up in an environment where standardized bullying can prevent people from recognizing the abuse they are subjected to, even as adults.
Ananya *, 31, says her friends constantly violate her boundaries by reading her text conversations with potential dates and feel entitled to have information about the men she talks to. They don’t give her the same privilege when it comes to sharing details about their life. Their reason: Ananya had made bad choices with the men she had dated in the past, and they were just watching her. She found herself unable to dismiss such unwanted intrusions because she could not immediately realize that it was a violation of her boundaries and because she felt compelled to please people all the time. . The latter is a common consequence of different forms of childhood trauma, including bullying.
When you grow up in a home where people normalize bullying to express care, they associate it with respect. This often prompts them to seek out relationships where bullying is once again the norm, as this is what they associate with the idea of comfort, with “feeling at home,” says Master.
While they may not actively seek out bullies, normalizing childhood abusive behavior can leave adults confused as to whether they are truly being abused or misunderstanding the care and affection of those closest to them. This happens even when their experiences clearly fit the classic definition of violence.
“When a woman is’ asked ‘about her whereabouts – like,’ Where were you? Who were you talking to? Why did you come out so late? – it looks normal because she probably grew up seeing men in her family asking these questions of their female partners, ”Samriti Makkar Midha, a psychotherapist based in Mumbai, told The Swaddle.
Being bullied under the guise of being taken care of uses ideas of “noble” and “clean” to exert control over someone. Imagine how easy it becomes to turn on someone, even if they manage to recognize the abuse they are experiencing. “There is a thin line between healing and gas lighting,” adds S., 18, explaining that although as an adult, she finds it difficult to understand when the people in her life violate her boundaries.
Additionally, because caregiving bullying often occurs in close relationships, people find it difficult to deal with the abusive behavior and come to terms with the fact that they are being abused as part of an existing relationship that they are dealing with. considered “safe”. “We don’t protect ourselves enough with people we consider ‘close’ or ‘friends’,” says Nidhi.
Bullying, essentially, occurs in relationships where there is a power gap between two individuals – whether in terms of age, experience, finances, strength, influence or any other factor. which allows you to be in a position of superiority, notes Master. In a parent-child equation, for example, when a parent threatens to throw their child out of the house because they did not obey them, all the child knows is that if they do not regardless of what he is told, he could find himself penniless and homeless – forcing them to oblige, explains the Master.
Even though a person tries to confront the family member who bullied them, the family simply tells them that there are no boundaries between Indian family members. N., 22, experienced this when she finally stood up to her older sister. The latter had tried to control all decisions in her life until she left home to pursue higher education. Due to being 5 years older than her, her sister claimed that she knew what was best for N.
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But normalizing bullying is a double-edged sword. This prevents people from recognizing and respecting the boundaries of those they love. They grew up with the idea that this is how people express love. “You tend to disrespect, say, your partner’s limits, because that’s what you’ve been used to. [seeing around you] your whole life, ”Priyanka notes, adding that she has had to work hard to make sure she is aware of the personal limits of those around her.
“It wasn’t until recently that I realized I had a problem with respecting personal boundaries… I was making mean jokes and felt the need to correct people’s behavior,” says 24-year-old Vandana. She grew up with a parent who not only prevented her from “having [her] own opinions ”, but also constantly violated its boundaries. His parents watched his every move, contacted his teachers at school, his counselor in his college hostel, and his friends.
Unfortunately, the normalization of bullying perpetuates it further, sometimes across generations. In the third season of Sex education On Netflix, Micheal Groff bullied his son because his father and brother bullied him as a child. They forced him to behave like a “proper man”. But Michael’s years of abuse also turned his son Adam into a bully – despite Michael’s intention behind his behavior to improve Adam’s academic and extracurricular performance.
This vicious cycle of familial perpetration is often not the result of bad intentions, but simply the product of social conditioning and the normalization of bullying as “love” and “care.” Yet its consequences are too frightening to ignore. But even if individuals educated in this way realize what it has done to them and try to raise their children differently, how many generations will it take to undo our distorted idea of boundaries?