You feel humiliated when someone deliberately does something that makes you feel inferior or look bad in the eyes of others. For example, when someone physically bullies you, when someone publicly makes a belittling remark about you, or when someone spreads bad rumors behind your back. In each of these cases, there is an act that makes you feel inferior, stupid, or unworthy, and someone who deliberately caused this. The word ‘deliberately’ means that someone who humiliates another person is aware that they are making this person feel bad. In general, there are two possible reasons why the person is doing this. First of all, it can just be their intention to make the other person feel bad, for instance, because they plainly dislike the other person or because they want to retaliate for an earlier wrongdoing. However, the other person’s feelings may also just be the by-product of another goal. For example, someone may make a joke at another person’s expense to look good in front of others. Clearly, they don’t care that this makes the other person feel bad, but it was not the goal either. Similarly, a woman may feel deeply humiliated when it is revealed that her husband cheated on her. Likewise, her husband may not have intended her to feel bad, but the awareness that this would probably happen also did not deter him from the act.
‘Being put down’ is usually relative to one’s (perceived) current status. For example, a writer who believes she enjoys a certain level of fame and respect, feels humiliated by a devastating review in an important paper. Additionally, someone can be put down relative to the person who caused the humiliation. In this case, the act is a display of power between the ‘humiliator’ and the humiliated person. The humiliator shows that they have a superior status to the humiliated person by putting them down without repercussions. This also explains why this type of humiliation typically needs an audience – if there are no other people to witness the power play, it would not have its effect.
In the comic, Murphy is the victim of an office prank: his colleagues have secretly unscrewed his thermos flask, which causes him to spill its contents all over his desk and notes.