Tag Archives: Bullying

Re-branding my dog ~ a lesson on spin applied to life

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MU…our dear Boxer…rebranded and loved 2003 to 2008.

As a companion to my post on bullying, I dug through my archives to find this piece on branding that I wrote several years ago.

I have taught, and worked, individually with over 2000 people, children and adults. I have witnessed the same patterns over and over in human behavior. I am not a scholar of behavior, but I have found one pattern disturbing. People get branded by the society around them and then behave to fulfill the expectation. The society starts with childhood family and moves on through peoples’ lives.

When people are stuck and I have posed options to them, the responses have stunned me…their roots in voices miles, decades away.  I wrote this for the artist in the engineer and the engineer in the artist; the leader in the the group of followers and the follower in the leader; and of course, the hero in the scapegoat. Circa 2011

Imagine you are walking down the streets of New York City and you have not been branded yet. There is no story tagged to you, like a piece of tobacco rolled up in thin white paper without a name, you no longer have a label or a story. Gone is your award for class clown, bully, or friend, along with your tag lines: the family hero, writer, artist, black sheep, and on and on.

You, like the pieces of tobacco rolled in thin white paper have no brand. You are free to create your own brand. You can shake off what defined you and write your own story. Like the Virginia Slim, you can ‘go a long way baby.’ The projections of you can be wiped out like your fb account. This is what happened when I rebranded my dog Mu.

Mu was our first puppy. I fell in love with her from the beginning; failing to tell my husband she was not a pure bred until we were half way home. Five months into our relationship, things went bad. Mu grew powerful and started yanking at my shirt sleeve at the end of our walk. The louder I yelled, the more she tugged.

We went for walks or rather she did, with me almost achieving lift off as she dragged me down the path. What to do with this mutt, we should have bought a pure bred?

I told so many stories about my bad, bad dog, that people who knew me then, often ask now, “what ever happened with your crazy dog?”

Then one day, I picked Mu up from an overnight at the vet. I could hardly believe my eyes; there she stood, straight and still with the vet. I asked how she behaved: “Great, she is a sweetheart.”

On my way home I realized Mu was not crazy after all. I needed owner training. With the help of a kind friend, Cathy, I took control of the leash.

I then changed the story. Mu truly was a sweet dog and I started telling people that. In a few short conversations, my little Mu, became branded as the best little boxer this side of the Atlantic.

Now, back in New York City, as you walk through those streets smelling the car fumes and seeing the lights of possibility, you can take that energy and mold yourself into the creature you want to be ~ the one that lives on your own terms and sits like The Thinker, real or metaphorical, its own divine creation, living just once in a burst of beautiful light.

Like Don Draper of my once favorite show Mad Men, you can write your soul, for better or for worse. And as Don did, and I did for Mu you can take a story that condemns you, rewrite it, start spreading it, and change it.

©claireaperez@gmail.com

Bullying in the eyes of the beholders

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alone

I worked once, over 30 years ago, with a tragic character.  Her name, fictionalized, was Sephina.  I thought of her whenI watched Charley based on  Flowers for Algernon. A story about bullies ~ adult bullying exists and Sephina was my first introduction to this behavior.

Sephina was the daughter of first-generation Italians raised in an Italian working-class community during the 1930s.  She was odd and she was justifiably paranoid.   Her behavior did not fit the norm; she talked to herself, in between answering phones.  She was the receptionist at an office where I held a temporary job, and the butt of humor for the adults behind the glass door that separated the reception area from the offices.

It seemed Sephina’s fear that people were talking about her increased with their talking about her and that is where, as I recall, her paranoia became evident.  As she sat down at her station, her eyes would become big and bigger with each person that grazed past her desk.  Individuals spoke a casual, “Hello,” then turned to one another and giggled as they opened the glass door and went to their cubicles and desks. Many times I heard small groups whisper to each other, “Oh, there is Sephina, talking to herself, she is so crazy.”

My Aunt, the daughter of Italian immigrants herself, knew Sephina and told me that her husband was a brute.  He controlled her every waking moment, rarely let her out of his sight, and demanded much in the way of household chores. I imagined how after being outwardly shunned all day, never invited to Chicken and Biscuit lunches, and climbing into her husband’s car, Sephina went home to more abuse and labor:  fixing dinner, cleaning, and making her husband’s lunch for the next day, all the while hearing:  “You f____  c ___!”

Sephina dressed in tailored skirts, matching sweaters, and carried a plaid handbag.  I watched her leave the office one day, head bowed, staring at the ground as she opened her husband’s car door and slid into the passenger side.  He looked like one of those guys in life who never smiled, harsh, grumpy.

One day my Aunt invited Sephina over to her house because we both wanted to see how she made homemade noodles.  She taught us step-by-step this arduous process, which I have never done again.  She and my Aunt talked about the old days, the kindness of people back then, and some of their mutual acquaintances.  Sephina acted perfectly fine and made delicious homemade pasta.

Then she went back to work the next day and to the role she was cast in by that small little world she had grown to inhabit.  The role, which her husband  solidified (as my aunt told me) when she was told repeatedly, “you are no good.”   It is natural to assume the part and become the victim of the role cast in:  the unsuspecting person believes it and acts on it.  I learned Sephina was not crazy; she was encased in a socially cemented part that her husband and co-workers reinforced.

It is our social nature to want to belong.  Groupthink is when individuals follow the thinking of the group even when it causes cognitive dissonance.  People with power get away with bullying, not because they are right, but because the individuals around them who comprise the immediate group, do not have the courage to question the behavior of someone in authority.  Things will change, when individuals within groups stop supporting the erroneous myths and behaviors of those around them.  Children will learn from that example as they replicate the behavior of their adult caretakers.

I never saw Sephina again but in my mind, she still sits alone, isolated from the group behind the glass door.  A person with more courage than most.

 

For further reading, Ode to Bucky Goad will break your heart.

©claireaperez@gmail.com