My maternal grandparents made me feel special. Unfortunately, they both died when I was just thirteen. This loss was devastating to my development as a person with a healthy sense of self-esteem.
I remember an instance in which I heard Grandma yelling out "don't hurt Bruce," on some evening when I was about 11 or so. She was yelling at Mom, her daughter, and Dad. Grandma was staying in the room near the kitchen and we were on the steps going upstairs to the second floor, right outside her room. "Leave him alone." As the southerners would say, Grandma was cussing out her own daughter and son-in-law!
I remember thinking "but I am bad, Grandma." Looking back it is strange that I had that sense of being bad as an 11-year-old boy. There never was ANYTHING bad about me as a child or an adult. This is a truth that I know now. Yet in an abusive and narcissistic home - in my personal experiences - I was NEVER good enough.
I think that in the back of my mind I was thinking I want to be just like Grandma when I grow up. I wanted to be the person who speaks up for those who are weak or vulnerable. However, what I would later discover is that I had a slightly different calling.
My role would be more of a healer, counselor, psychotherapist. I guess it's almost like a nurturer. I can understand the needs of others, empathize with them, and help them to be stronger.
The notion that I needed protection was planted in my mind fairly early in life.
I remember walking up the hallway steps at DePaulo Junior High School as a 7th grader, early in the fall, and Tom, a guy from the old neighborhood told me that the 9th graders might pick on someone like me someday and that if that happens I should tell him. He was a 9th grader and he had lived across the street and a few houses down from where I lived on Woodruff Street before we moved to East Mountain Drive. I said "Okay." Then I wondered, "what did he mean they might pick on me? Hmm."
I never saw any of the 9th graders picking on the 7th graders. However, the idea that I needed protection would occur on a few different occasions during adulthood.
My friend Paul seemed to be a big guy to me and he didn't seem afraid of anyone. This would come in handy. I never had to take up Tom's stairway offer of protection from the 9th graders because none of the 9th graders did anything to bother me, they probably didn't even notice me, which is fine.
There was one instance in which someone was messing with me and pushing me around in the lunch line. He didn't seem aware that Paul was my friend until Paul turned around and pushed this guy up against the wall rather quickly. Somehow this guy didn't look as frightening and tough as he had a moment earlier.
A male teacher saw the whole incident and just gave a look of approval. I don't know if it was a situation in which the teacher thought it was better for me to get assistance from my friend than the teacher or if he just thought the matter was resolved properly. For me, I had not seen adults as people who would care about protecting me. I never felt that my own parents were a source of safety and protection.
I suppose I should have remembered this when I was victimized as an adult. I reached out to my parents for emotional support - protection. They seemed not to care at all about what was happening to me. I have never seen anything like that in any scenario in which a son or daughter is hurt by injustice or the cruelty of another person. Time after time, I have seen parents respond with determination, passion, and anger in situations like those I experienced as an adult during the years from late 2000 through some time in 2006.
Anyway, getting back to the teenage years... I had Paul as a protector. I got stronger than that puny, wimpy guy that I was in elementary school by lifting weights in our basement. I never had the occasion to stand up for myself in a fight. The most I ever did was to stand my ground when some teenage boys from the neighborhood tried to mess with me. I suppose I didn't want to run away scared all the time like a wimp.
If you ever watched "Happy Days" which ran during the 1970s, you would have seen the Fonz showing up to protect Richie and his friends from guys who I guess were bullies for lack of another way of describing the situation. At times, Richie would want to fight his own fights. I suppose every teenage boy wants to fight their own fights. It's a masculine or guy thing. As a teenager, I could never imagine embracing the feminine side of myself. That would come later.
On one occasion, I had the bright idea of having a boxing match with one of my friends from the neighborhood. It was more like a situation in which I let someone use my face as a punching bag. I had learned to dissociate from the experience of pain in some situations. My mother's history of punching me in the face and elsewhere contributed to that, no doubt. My father had assaulted physically me a few times as well, though much less often than my mother had.
As I was saying, I was very shy. Obviously, I did not have good social skills either. It was amazing how much I was able to change when I was away at college as an undergraduate student at Georgia Tech during the mid to late 1980s. Previously, I had no idea that this was something that could be overcome.
It was hard to believe that the guy I had become by the early 90s, was the same shy guy who started out at Georgia Tech in 1984! The possibilities offered by psychology were amazing and I would begin to think that I want to help others using the tools offered by psychology.
Unfortunately, none of this was available to me before I went to college. There were no high school classes in psychology at Southington High School back then. I also was never taken to a counselor when I was growing up. It would have seemed like an obvious thing to do when you consider all the problems I was having adjusting and struggling with shyness. My parents were more focused on themselves and their needs and expectations.
Another sad aspect of being raised by a narcissistic mother is my own ideas, thoughts, dreams, and aspirations NEVER developed until later when I went off to college and lived on my own.
Anywhere else it would seem like a natural thing to realize that sons and daughters are going to be unique individuals with their own ideas and points of view. This was not a concept that our parents could figure out. This might be why my sister never thought to figure out who she was and what deeply interested her. I mean her career choice was something that she landed upon as opposed to exploring and discovering who she is as a person and what career might best match her personality and unique characteristics.
As you might imagine, I never dated in high school or junior high school for that matter. I didn't go to any of the dances. As I indicated, I was for the most part invisible in every classroom where I sat for the entire period from my pre-teen years through my teenage years.