So, I had a difficult parent conversation. The details might not be important. I spoke to her before going home, but the situation had been brewing all day. I was, I think, pleasant, calm and understanding.
She became verbally abusive, and I said something about not being comfortable about the level of disrespect for me as a professional, suggested an in-person meeting with the two of us plus my principal and got off the phone fairly soon after.
She’s fucking crazy. As was noted in her daughter’s record. Not that, obviously, but a previous meeting having been ended because it wasn’t moving towards resolution.
Later, I got to unpack some of the feelings I had kept under wraps speaking with her.
I knew, really, the issue for her was her daughter’s grade, as well as the idea that really the problematic element was the home-piece, because what is bringing down her grade is homework. I had a pretty good idea if the parent spoke to me that way, she speaks to her daughter in an even more demeaning way, and that what might have happened is she saw the grade, lay into the daughter, and the daughter quickly tried to get her mother to shift her attention to another enemy to defeat. So the shame and blame got shifted to me. Hurrah for shame and blame.
Anyway, I was thinking about this and thinking how it felt to be spoken to by someone trying to shame me–someone whose opinion doesn’t particularly matter to me, because I have my principal’s support, I’ve seen that this parent does this to other teachers, and I’m out of the school in 2 weeks anyway.
But I did have feelings. I could feel the shame the parent was trying to prompt as well as the rage. I thought, “That’s what verbal abuse feels like.” You feel overwhelmed by shame and confused, and it’s hard to process, because it’s hard to get your head around the idea this person is saying these bad things about me intentionally to hurt me–not necessarily because they are true, although they might be, but because they want to inflict a wound on me. Shame hurts, lack of connection hurts, and people invoke lack of understanding for why you might do something or be something or say something intentionally in order to punish you when they feel angry. Some people do, anyway.
If you spend your whole life avoiding feeling the shame that was intentionally called up in you in order to cause you pain, you never recognize situations of abuse. You never recognize, this person is doing this purposely in order to hurt me. And it’s likely to just keep happening.
I remember saying in couple’s therapy, “She’s making me feel….” whatever.
And the fact is it suggests I didn’t take responsibility for my own emotional states, and it’s entirely possible I didn’t. But there is this other element of, I imagine, my trying to articulate that this is purposeful. These are not positive intentions gone wrong. This is maliciousness, and I don’t know why someone would do that. I don’t understand abuse.
I do understand now it’s about a) power and b) anger. When we don’t feel safe, we want power–it makes us feel no one can hurt us.
There was no way in my young mind I could process that my parents were purposely making me feel ashamed in order to hurt me. I knew words hurt. I didn’t grasp they wanted to hurt me, nor did I grasp later in situations when I felt ashamed that I can’t process this because it involves the unspeakable memory of the hurt.