Thursday, 14 January 2016

Why do people pick on those they see as "weak"?

I have decided to write about my own personal experiences in an attempt to understand and explain why I think people lack empathy and are quick to pick on others to avoid facing up to their own vulnerabilities. 

I am taking single mothers as an example because this is my own experience, but this is about when people pick on a person who needs support most or someone they see as an easy target who they can easily dominate. To try to understand this behaviour (because I think that by gaining an insight into it helps us prevent it in ourselves) I believe that there are many people who don’t believe that injustice exists or don’t want to believe it, because to believe in injustice means that something unjust could happen to them. Maybe this is too simplistic but aren’t we all quick to judge and to gossip? I think so. I truly think that people believe that ‘you reap what you sow’ and that for example, those born with money deserve it over those less fortunate.
I have had a nice, middle-class life. I am educated, articulate and well equipped to stand up for myself. Some would call me assertive. I’m certainly someone who makes my opinions known. I mention this only because if I feel the way I do when very well prepared to stand up for myself I wonder how others less assertive must feel. I am a single parent but I was always happy with that - I knew that I would be bringing my son up alone from the outset and had friends, fantastic parents and enough money and having a child was something I really wanted. I am happy to say that my son is now a well-adjusted, sociable boy with lots of friends and I am settled with my partner. 

It hasn’t always been easy though and a lack of support and some judgemental attitudes towards me from a few people were things that I hadn’t accounted for. To say that I expected help, support and understanding is wrong, I didn’t – I was well prepared as I said, but I didn’t expect people to offer less support because I was on my own rather than more, but that was exactly what happened. There are lots of examples I could give including the time my son was a baby and seriously ill and my lovely parents were away. At that point, the very time I did need support, I got none. Did people, including members of my own family think, ‘what goes around comes around’ then? Had they always thought that but hadn’t had the chance to show it? Did they think I deserved the worry because I didn’t have a partner? Who knows? Suffice to say the only help I got was from other single parents, maybe they were the only ones able to put themselves in my shoes but actually I think not because from what I see in society the more unfair the suffering appears to be amongst others, the less help they receive. My experiences and those of others I know back this unfortunate view up. Friends who split from their husbands and partners tell me how their friends disintegrate, how they are no longer invited out, how their opinions are less valued and how they are excluded more. To some extent I assume they are seen as more of a threat now and a warning to other women to keep a close eye on their own husbands but I also think they are now easy victims and the ones to isolate because sadly as humans we all seem to love being just a little bit more superior to someone else. Friends have told me how now they are single and would like to be invited out more, they are in fact invited out less and how they are accepted again only once they have a new partner. As women tend to value relationships, what these ex friends are doing is a form of bullying because they are using relationships as a vehicle for harm, because by taking that away, they are really getting at her.

I have found one of the benefits of no longer being single is the improved way I am now treated by others. When I was single I found myself on occasion patronised and quite frankly, excluded. Sadly, because this is what really riles me, when I got stronger in their eyes (i.e. got a partner) and needed less (or no) support I became more accepted and offered more support. I feel safer as a part of a couple and am included more than when I was on my own and it doesn’t sit well. We should be helping those who need help, not derogating them. My sad conclusion is that instead of recognising that it could have just as easily been them many want to believe that they have escaped difficulties through their own doing. 

So, what can we do? My view is to fight back and to encourage people who’ve been picked on to help others once they too are in a position to do so. But if all else fails, the best advice might be to recruit a friend; just as having a friend on the playground is one of the most powerful protectives, knowing and sticking with others in a similar situation in one of the strongest ways to protect yourself as an adult.

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