“You are either in your body, or you aren’t. This is the ‘power of then’- if we don’t deal with our stuff, it deals with us. There is NO substitute for going deep into the unresolved past and working the material through…” – Jeff Brown
Do you know anyone who has not suffered some form of humiliation at some point in life? We probably all feel it and have it imposed on us by someone sometimes. For adoptees it can have a special focus, that unique twist that can only come with adoption and is associated with stigma and being made to feel inferior, not worthy, never good enough, second best, a ‘ring-in’, wrong, a replacement, lessened. For adoptees of course we may not as Klein says, be ‘made to feel less than one feels oneself to be’ because we may already be in a state of being/feeling less, because of the trauma and loss we have previously suffered through abandonment and adoption. A new humiliation reinforces our sense of worthlessness/ being unacceptable/ unloveable/ashamed and we may plunge further into our sense of having no self-worth, depression, uselessness, fragility, vulnerability and flounder in a place where we can’t find our footing or touch bottom.
“Donald Klein described humiliation as “a powerful factor in human affairs that has, for a variety of reasons, been overlooked by students of individual and collective behavior. It is a pervasive and all too destructive influence in the behavior of individuals, groups, organizations, and nations.”Though it is a subjective emotion, humiliation has a universal aspect which applies to all human beings: “it is the feeling of being put down, made to feel less than one feels oneself to be.”
It is enormously sad when we see humiliation being used as a parenting ‘technique’, a relationship ploy, even a way to train dogs, and as a ‘joke’ on Facebook and elsewhere. Humiliation is never comfortable for those who have experienced it and it seems to produce those who want to humiliate others as a power play and those who decidedly do not and respect the power it has and abolish it from their repertoire, along with it’s sometime public friend and face, sarcasm.
In writing blog posts I am never short of ideas, topics or motivation. This one is proving difficult to write and is being done in stages, that is, I believe, because humiliation has played a painful part in my life and is something I usually push to the back of my mind and my memories. I am grappling with it now it seems because I am trying to confront parts of my childhood and growing up, which are right at the bottom of the pit, the bits I hide and don’t want to deal with because of the pain and the memory of humiliation, shame, embarrassment and angst. I’m dealing with it because in every likelihood it has dealt with me and will continue to deal with me if I don’t do something. The cringe factor is huge and I know that getting it into the light, facing up to it squarely and confronting what it contains will in time produce nothing but good results.
It began by my making contact with the brother of an old BBF from when I was a pre-teen until I was an early teen. I have a strange set of transition photos – her and me on holidays with a new High School friend who was a year older, while my BBF was a year younger and my nearest neighbour. I was conflicted, torn in my allegiances and loyalties. I wanted to be accepted in my new school, but held dearly to what I knew and treasured. I always felt the outsider, the ‘fringe dweller’ and the one poised precariously between acceptance and rejection, being ‘in’ or bullied, teased and stigmatised for what, it took me decades to understand. I was the village bastard and labelled clearly as such. My family name alliterated with bastard – convenient, tripped off the tongue, but never used to my face. It hovered in the background, more a sensation, an unspoken barrier and a point of difference, until revealed by a friend many decades later and blew apart everything I thought I knew, valued and depended on. The world changed, my relationship with that person changed and I stopped being reliant on them, going to them for help and being dependent in any way. I more or less cut them out, but their own inability to keep contact and do any running except for when they had needs, requirements and desires. It felt grown-up, solid and more comfortable, although a little sad. Some people have known me a long time and I find it mostly difficult to be comfortable with that. Oddly enough the only person so far is my 1st partner who’s mother became a treasured mother figure, perhaps the only adult woman mother figure who ever truly loved me for myself. I miss her. I miss her challenges, her listening capacities and her unswerving love. I was for some years part of a her very dysfunctional but loving family, where displays of affection were often, genuine and welcome.
Life deals us some strange sets of cards, some odd conjunctions and synchronicities. The opportunities for change and for dealing with the past, the memories and the uncomfortable stances we once took or the positions we were put in, arise all the time if we are alert and prepared. We can let them pass, note them for future observation or stop them in their tracks and deal with them head on, or obliquely, whichever we are capable of at the time. We just need to do it!