heroism


I’ve been thinking about bullying a lot lately. My younger clients are often getting bullied at school, so I started looking for videos about how to handle bullying. That genre, it turns out, is both boring and useless. On the way, though, I fell down the strange and compelling rabbit hole of bully-fail videos. Someone is getting picked on, has enough of it, and fights back effectively. The bully thinks they are picking on someone weak, but they turn out to be tough. They make me squirm, just watching people treat each other so badly, but there’s something gripping about them, too.

Here’s an example:

This  next one is a compilation mostly of the same type, but the section that got to me runs from 7:07 to 9:28, and is part of a less common but more moving version: Someone is getting bullied and someone else steps in to protect them.

I’ve watched the section from 7:07 to 9:28 many times now, and my reaction changed over time. The first time I was just really uncomfortable, waiting for Will to protect himself and then oh, so relieved when someone stepped up. After the first time, the painful part is how long it takes for anyone to stick up for him. I suppose they are giving him a chance to fight back, but it’s a really long chance. The other kids want to see a fight. After getting to that point, I started noticing how all these bully-fail videos are really bystander-fail videos. How is it OK, or even funny, that this particular bullying is going on? Where are all the tough but nice kids stepping in to stop bullies? There are no principles at play here except dominance, until someone steps up. And when someone does, it’s a major leveling up for the hero, from might-makes-right to some sense of principled right and wrong. From the standpoint of physical dominance hierarchies, protecting a weak person is taking on a liability to do the right thing. That weak person will be grateful, and might help you finish your math homework, but they will almost never help you out in a fight. And let’s face it – you probably don’t care much about your math homework.

I know those moments are a big deal because it happened to me. In 6th grade there was a kid who’d failed a couple times, much bigger than any of the other kids, who started pushing me around one day on the basketball court. I was small and sensitive and felt completely helpless. Suddenly, another kid knocked the first kid down, probably hit him a few times, and said something like, “If you touch my friend again, I’ll  kick your ass again.” I still feel choked up, thinking about it, more than 30 years later. That’s how it should go.

[I look for this hero every year or so on the internet and he’s never turned up. Terry Quakendal. I’d like to thank him, as an adult, for what he did.]

This last one is not a bully fail video, but quite interesting. An adult calls his childhood bully to talk about what happened:

If you’re in grad school or going to start soon, consider getting engaged to an amazing woman. I have had the good fortune to do that, and believe me you won’t regret it. I could (and maybe will at some point) write long into the night about the qualities that I am talking about, but for now I’ll just focus on one telling detail.

In graduate school, you do a lot of reading. Many, many, many hours and hours of reading. Few people do all the reading that they are assigned in a grad program. The eyes and attention can’t take it. I have the advantage of being engaged to Reanna. She reads a chunk of my assigned reading to me each term. Understand that this is mostly dry, academic stuff, interesting if you really want to be a family therapist, but otherwise only tolerable if you are extremely intelligent, curious, and dedicated. Understand also that she doesn’t even get social time with me out of it. I live in Oregon and she lives in British Columbia. She reads my assignments into a voice recorder and emails the files to me. I get to do the dishes or whatever while hearing her voice and getting reading done. She gets to sit in front of a computer screen, reading. (Well, she does get to criticize the bad writing, of which there is plenty, but that’s not much of a payoff, especially for a professional editor.)

She also reads relevant books that she finds that I have not been assigned. How cool is that? I’m going to have a term on Susan Johnson’s emotionally-focused couples therapy next fall, and she’s already read me Johnson’s popularization, Hold Me Tight.

Here is a partial list of what she’s read, from my iTunes. Some of the times didn’t copy out (Open Office couldn’t recognize them, apparently, and made them into times of day), but take my word for it, this is about 50 hours of reading.

A Walk Down the Aisle – Prologue Kate Cohen 17:05
A Walk Down the Aisle – Pt 1 Kate Cohen 22:06
A Walk Down the Aisle – pt 10 Reanna A Walk Down the Aisle 23:01
A Walk Down the Aisle – pt 11 Reanna A Walk Down the Aisle 16:11
A Walk Down the Aisle – pt 12 – ch 8 Reanna A Walk Down the Aisle 43:12:00
A Walk Down the Aisle – Pt 13 – ch 9 Reanna A Walk Down the Aisle 30:41:00
A Walk Down the Aisle – pt 14a – ch 9 Kate Cohen 7:32
A Walk down the Aisle – Pt 14b – ch 9 Reanna A Walk Down the Aisle 1:28
A Walk Down the Aisle – pt 15 – ch 10 Kate Cohen 1:26
A Walk Down the Aisle – pt 16 – ch 10 Kate Cohen 1:47
A Walk Down the Aisle – pt 17 – ch 10 Reanna A Walk Down the Aisle 29:18:00
A Walk Down the Aisle – Pt 2 Kate Cohen 10:18
A Walk Down the Aisle – Pt 3 Kate Cohen 10:25
A Walk Down the Aisle – Pt 4 Kate Cohen 41:25:00
A Walk Down the Aisle – Pt 5 Kate Cohen 7:51
A Walk Down the Aisle – Pt 6 Kate Cohen 12:49
A Walk Down the Aisle – Pt 7 Kate Cohen 11:07
A Walk Down the Aisle – Pt 7 Kate Cohen 10:24
A Walk Down the Aisle – pt 8 Kate Cohen 45:32:00
A Walk Down the Aisle – pt 9 Kate Cohen 1:08:43
Pt 1 – Chapter 3 – Emotional Responsiveness Dr. Sue Johnson Hold Me Tight 34:40:00
Pt 2 – Conversation 1 – Recognizing the Demon Dialogue Dr. Sue Johnson Hold Me Tight 41:25:00
Pt 2 – Conversation 2 – Finding the Raw Spots Dr. Sue Johnson Hold Me Tight 35:02:00
Pt 2 – Conversation 6 – Bonding through Sex & Touch Dr. Sue Johnson Hold Me Tight 47:05:00
Pt 2 – Conversation 7 – Keeping the Love Alive Dr. Sue Johnson Hold Me Tight 23:59
Chapter 1, Part 1 Why Don’t Zebra’s Get Ulcers, ch1 Reading Aloud to Nathen 10:06:00 PM
Chapter 1, Part 2 Why Don’t Zebra’s Get Ulcers, ch1 Reading Aloud to Nathen 07:21:00 AM
Chapter 1, Part 3 Why Don’t Zebra’s Get Ulcers, ch1 Reading Aloud to Nathen 06:10:00 PM
Children’s Attachment Relationships Phillis Booth Reading Aloud to Nathen 30:05:00
Circle of Security – Terminology CoS Reading Aloud to Nathen 12:46:00 PM
Committed Ch 5 (pt 2) Marriage and Women Elizabeth Gilbert Committed 03:52:00 AM
Committed Ch 5 (pt 3) Marriage and Women Elizabeth Gilbert Committed 08:07:00 AM
Committed Ch 5 (pt 4) Marriage and Women Elizabeth Gilbert Committed 04:13:00 AM
Committed Ch 5 (pt 5) Marriage and Women Elizabeth Gilbert Committed 09:02:00 AM
Committed Ch 5 (Pt 7) – Marriage and Women Elizabeth Gilbert Committed 06:22:00 PM
Committed Ch 7 (pt 1) – Marriage and Subversion Elizabeth Gilbert Committed 10:21:00 AM
Committed Ch 7 (pt 2) – Marriage and Subversion Elizabeth Gilbert Committed 42:02:00
Committed Ch 7 (pt 3) – Marriage and Subversion Elizabeth Gilbert Committed 05:21:00 PM
Committed Ch 7 (pt 4) – Marriage and Subversion Elizabeth Gilbert Committed 12:34:00 PM
Committed Ch 8 – Marriage and Ceremony Elizabeth Gilbert Committed 08:25:00 PM
Committed: Ch 1 Marriage and Surprises Elizabeth Gilbert Reading Aloud to Nathen 50:31:00
Committed: Ch 2 (pt. 1) Marriage and Expectation Elizabeth Gilbert Reading Aloud to Nathen 35:17:00
Committed: Ch 2 (pt. 2) Marriage and Expectation Elizabeth Gilbert Reading Aloud to Nathen 08:50:00 PM
Committed: Ch 3 (pt. 1) Marriage and History Elizabeth Gilbert Reading Aloud to Nathen 01:05:07 AM
Committed: Ch 3 (pt. 2) Marriage and History Elizabeth Gilbert Reading Aloud to Nathen 03:38:00 PM
Committed: Ch 4 (pt 1) Marriage and Infatuation Elizabeth Gilbert Reading Aloud to Nathen 01:34:14 AM
Committed: Ch 4 (pt 2) Marriage and Infatuation Elizabeth Gilbert Reading Aloud to Nathen 07:37:00 PM
Death on a horse’s back Robert J Barrett Reading Aloud to Nathen 168:00:00
Dharma Punx Noah Levine Reading Aloud to Nathen 05:33:00 PM
The End of Innocence 1 Dusty Miller Reading Aloud to Nathen 12:45:00 AM
The End of Innocence 2 Dusty Miller Reading Aloud to Nathen 42:08:00
Family Process // The Language of Becoming Ellen Wachtel Reading Aloud to Nathen 01:04:24 AM
Feminism & Family Therapy 1 Virginia Goldner, PhD Reading Aloud to Nathen 34:43:00
Feminism & Family Therapy 2 Virginia Goldner, PhD Reading Aloud to Nathen 01:03:00 AM
Feminism & Family Therapy 3 Virginia Goldner, PhD Reading Aloud to Nathen 28:33:00
Feminism & Family Therapy 4 Virginia Goldner, PhD Reading Aloud to Nathen 03:49:00 AM
Fixed (New Yorker) Jill Lapore Reading Aloud to Nathen 32:04:00
Impact on Family Therapist of a focus on death, dying Becvar Reading Aloud to Nathen 06:41:00 PM
Impact, pt 2 Becvar Reading Aloud to Nathen 10:59:00 PM
Introduction, 1 Appetites Reading Aloud to Nathen 05:36:00 AM
Introduction, 2 Appetites Reading Aloud to Nathen 04:32:00 AM
Introduction, 3 Appetites Reading Aloud to Nathen 06:34:00 AM
Introduction, 4 Appetites Reading Aloud to Nathen 37:26:00
The last time I wore a dress – CH 11 Daphne Scholinski Reading Aloud to Nathen 08:28:00 PM
The Last Time I wore a dress – Ch 12 Daphne Scholinski Reading Aloud to Nathen 38:52:00
The Lobotomist Jack El-Hai Reading Aloud to Nathen 24:06:00
Marry Me St. Vincent Marry Me 04:41:00 AM
Minnie Mouse and Gunfire, Lucky Child Luong Ung Reading Aloud to Nathen 29:49:00
My Angel Rocks Back and Forth Four Tet Rounds 05:07:00 AM
My Lobotomy Howard Dully Reading Aloud to Nathen 32:41:00
Paris is the cruelest month Alan Alda Reading Aloud to Nathen 09:32:00 PM
Passionate Marriage David Schnarch Reading Aloud to Nathen 42:45:00
Prozac Nation Elizabeth Wurtzel Reading Aloud to Nathen 42:05:00
Real Weddings Media Hill Publication Reading Aloud to Nathen 06:44:00 AM
Running With Scissors Augustin Burroughs Reading Aloud to Nathen 38:30:00
Solution Focused Therapy – A Molnar & Shazer 1987 Reading Aloud to Nathen 10:01:00 PM
Solution Focused Therapy – B Molnar & Shazer 1987 Reading Aloud to Nathen 12:49:00 AM
Solution Focused Therapy – C Molnar & Shazer 1987 Reading Aloud to Nathen 05:39:00 AM
Stubborn Twig Lauren Kessler Reading Aloud to Nathen 52:15:00
Sybil, CH 7 Flora Rheta Schrieber Reading Aloud to Nathen 37:47:00
Truth Telling Candib Reading Aloud to Nathen 39:31:00
Truth Telling, pt 2 Candib Reading Aloud to Nathen 08:22:00 PM
Understanding the Rainforest Mind Paula Prober Reading Aloud to Nathen 09:36:00 PM
An Unquiet Mind Kay Jamison Reading Aloud to Nathen 38:33:00
The Voices of Children – 1 Sandra Stith Reading Aloud to Nathen 04:45:00 AM
The Voices of Children – 2 Sandra Stith Reading Aloud to Nathen 03:06:00 PM
The Voices of Children – 3 Sandra Stith Reading Aloud to Nathen 36:03:00
Where is the Mango Princess Cathy Crimmins Reading Aloud to Nathen 30:07:00
You Ain’t Got No Easter Clothes Laura Love Reading Aloud to Nathen 38:06:00