Researchers estimate that as much as a quarter of the population is authoritarian: bullying, controlling, punishing, and just plain mean.
The likelihood is high that your child will come into contact with mean people—in your own home, at school, at church, among his friends, at after-school activities, at band practice or soccer practice: somewhere. Even occasional contact with mean people can prove damaging. But prolonged contact is inevitably harmful. Is it possible that what’s troubling your child is connected to past contact with a mean person or the ongoing presence of a mean person in her or her life?
In my primary research with victims of authoritarian wounding, I’ve learned that sometimes the mean person is a grandparent, an aunt or uncle, or a sibling; and that even limited contact with that mean person—say, the occasional holiday event with that bullying uncle—can prove wounding. Does your child seem particularly anxious before one of these events or sadder or more troubled than usual after it? Doesn’t that provide you with important clues about what might be causing your child’s troubles? Mean people, aggressive people, bullying people: they do harm. Presume that if such a person is in your child’s life, that contact is negatively affecting your child and may amount to a complete explanation of your child’s difficulties.
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Mad in America hosts blogs by a diverse group of writers. These posts are designed to serve as a public forum for a discussion—broadly speaking—of psychiatry and its treatments. The opinions expressed are the writers’ own.