Essay on shame and jealousy

by Anita Menon

One of the first few emotions I remember feeling were shame and jealousy.

Shame -It is easy to shame a child. There are so many do’s and don’ts that a child needs to follow that it quite easy for the child to overstep her boundaries. Shame is the swiftest and the most effective weapon that all grown- ups use to achieve their ends. A naturally curious child will overstep her boundary and if shame is used to restrain her, then it is going to kill her spirit of adventure. Shame lingers in her memory threatening to expose her as an aberration for all to mock at. Shame enters the child’s psyche like a swarm of locust invading healthy crops. It perishes every good thing that comes in its way. Confidence, curiosity and self –esteem are affected when a child is subjected to shame for every instance of ‘misconduct’. Over many years of shame infliction, the child learns to stay in the approved frame of conduct with a morbid fear of being shamed even when she grows up.

Jealousy – Jealousy is a naturally occurring emotion that is born because of attachment. Even infants display jealousy on instigation which makes it a primal emotion.  As a child my earliest memory of being jealous goes back to the time when my brother was born. I was four and a half that time. I struggled with the idea of this little person suddenly coming into my life and threatening to take away everything that belonged to me. I wanted to keep all my favourite things close to me -my brown one-eyed teddy, my favourite blanket, my left thumb which I so vigourously sucked and my father. Funnily, I don’t ever recall being jealous when my mother’s affection was shared. But my father was only mine and this little person did not have any right to come and invade my space like this. I saw a crowd coming to the hospital and visiting my brother. Honestly, I didn’t understand what the fuss was all about. Afterall, my mother was pregnant for 9 months and everyone in town did know that a baby was on his way. Well, maybe we didn’t know it was going to be a ‘he’. This was another reason for my discontent. I felt cheated for not having a girl baby as my sister. A brother was the most boring thing to happen to a four year old. What’s more he had a large head and saucer-shaped eyes that intimidated me. Growing up I would realize that he had several advantages over me apart from the fact that he was from the male gender. He was fair. The colour of his skin was a beautiful hue of pink and gold. He was gorgeous indeed, lying on his back and sleeping while the whole world admired him. That night I went home with my father after a humiliating day at the hospital. I could sense my father looking immensely pleased with himself. A debilitating sense of defeat overcame me. Suddenly I felt like I was nothing and my presence did not matter at all. He was desperately trying to put me to sleep and I was succeeding at dodging every attempt of his. Finally as an act of truce, he picked me and walked around the bedroom, singling me a lullaby and urging me to sleep. At that moment, in an intense state of hate and sadness, I bit him on his shoulder. He sensed his body tensing up due the sudden shot of pain and he put me down on the bed unable to believe what I had done. He nursed his deeply gashed shoulder and looked at me with remonstration. I remember looking into his eyes with a defiance I rarely showed. Perhaps he understood my act of rebellion  which prompted him not to react.Maybe he put me to sleep a bit later than usual that night but that feeling of restless jealousy was never forgotten. Years from that moment, my father and mother would both recall this incident and everyone who listened to it had a good laugh at my expense. As a grown up, I laughed with them too, but in my heart I can still sense that feeling of wild jealousy that I felt when my brother was born.