Free To Do Self-Care, Despite Our Bully

Demonstration in London supporting Serbia

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Bullying:  Series Continued.  (I didn’t even realize I was writing a series until now!)

  • #144 Leave Space In Your Beliefs To Grow
  • #163 “He’s Never Hit Me.” Abuse.
  • #251 Just Ordinary Bullying – The Bully and The Bullied
  • #253 How to Be A Friend To Yourself When Thinking About Your Bully

Bit’s and parts of us are unbelieving in what number of options to self-care that we have, when it comes to being bullied.  I don’t say this lightly about terrors.  Terrors change us irrevocably and hurt to the brink of our own abyss.

The question is, are we free to do self-care even when we are bullied?

Yesterday, Carl in his candid way, said,

Empathy and forgiveness? You gotta be kidding. Do you know what it is like for a twelve year-old to face this…  for an entire school term? Probably not? Cope? Isn’t coping with a chronic negative stimulus as debilitating as being unable to cope….  There may be situations where “book smart” stuff is not applicable because we cannot negotiate with the bully.

Go Serbia

Image by SanforaQ8 via Flickr

We cannot negotiate with the bully.  True, to the degree that Carl said, if I understand him.  (Carl you will surely set me straight soon.)

It is true that people who like to fight, fight well.  People who bully generally will bully better than I can ever defend myself.  They have had a lot more practice.  Have you heard this?  You never want to go up against someone who has nothing to lose because the only one that will lose is you.

When someone is agitated, in psychiatry we learn that it is good not to make eye-contact.  Avert the body.  Keep your voice low and don’t engage as much as possible.  It reminds me of letting the mist of early morning dew expire the coals in the camp fire.  Getting attacked is something we want to avoid.

Early on in my training, I was rounding on the inpatient psychiatry ward.  We often have people who are agitated admitted there and this morning, I remember it was about seven AM on a Sunday….  This particular patient hadn’t slept well.  He wasn’t well-groomed and he scowled.  All the nurses where in another room in a nurses meeting and I didn’t notice he and I were alone in the hallway.  I looked him in the eyes directly.  I didn’t concern myself with tempering my interview.  I was still sleepy myself and wanted to get out of there as quickly as possible to start my Sunday stuff at home.  (I know.  Stellar attitude for a resident-physician, right?)  He grabbed me around the waist and I nearly lost my water!  I screamed at him like a she-dog and he let go.  That was all.  No big deal right?  Well I was ticked at him and at the nurses for not being available.  No one was at the nurses station, which is illegal too.

In truth, I was pretty much an idiot on all accounts.  It doesn’t condone the assault but I have since been better about not negotiating with the bully.  

That probably wasn’t exactly what Carl was talking about but it is related.  It is by no means a full year of negative harassment, but when responding to the concept of not being able to negotiate with the bully, I don’t know at what point in degrees of trauma experiences that becomes true for us.  Perhaps it isn’t a matter of qualifying them or quantifying them.  Perhaps more depends on the victim.  I don’t know.  Do you?

What I do know, is that Carl and I are both partly wrong.  We can.  I don’t know about then.  We can now.  We are free even from those molesting monsters because of who we are.  We were created free and those horrors can’t extinguish that bit of us.  We are free not because of the protection or lack of protection we’ve lived in life.  We are free.

We don’t claim to know all the innumerable forms of suffering out there.  That is not what this self-care engages with.

Questions:  How do you find yourself free at this time in your life, despite it all?  How do you describe your freedom, even with your bully?  How have you seen others in this context?    Please tell me your story.

Self-Care Tip #254 – Free yourself from your bully.

Additional Resources:

24 thoughts on “Free To Do Self-Care, Despite Our Bully

  1. Self care as you have presented seems to have degrees of value for just about everything. Beside the particulars, it flavors our interactions with everything we encounter. I buy into self care as you have presented it without contest. However, I am hard pressed to find any empowerment this paradigm presents when dealing with a bully. It is fairly delusional if one can convince one’s self that we are free and have dignity when the bully is in our face every moment at school. When you feign sickness so your parent won’t send you to school. When you take the most circumventuous route to class to avoid the bully and are punished for being late. When you are afraid to go to the bathroom because the bully,or his cohorts, may be there to take your lunch money and hold your face in the toilet. Again. When fear and anxiety commands your every waking and sleeping moment. There is no freedom especially when teen minds are apt to magnify the intensity of negatives in their lives. Teens and adults become desparate and are provoked into doing desparate. How can I get this monster off my back? is the question. Exploring options to get free, like going to a different school, may be the freedom that may come with self care by realizing well can get free of the nightmare by examining paths for extracting ourselves from a no can win situation. Once again, upon rereading, I see I have questioned and resolved my dilemma. Ultimately, the kid has to find his way alone. But as a teacher I tried to intervene within limits. I had my “enforcers” (big, dumb, failing kids) to whom I issued A’s to bully the bully. I would call his father at work and inconvenience his father by scheduling a a mandatory conference during his work hours. I stood in the bathroom between classes and made my presence felt in the lunch room. Back then there was a time you could catch a kid and lay a hand on him and get away with it. I did all these and more to protect my students from bullies.

  2. Okay. So that I can pull myself out of my funk and get on with my life, I’d like to describe the bullying I received from my pastoral counselor. I have always thought I’d like to be a minister but I was brought up in the Episcopal church and, back then, a woman being a minister wasn’t an option in my church. That’s background so that you will understand that finding a pastoral counselor, when I was as emotionally ill as I was, who encouraged me to read and write and memorize and discuss with her all things spiritual was a dream come true. I loved it! I wrote volumes, all of which she asked me to read to out loud to her and discuss with her…and she seemed totally interested and impressed. It was like being in seminary, I think, and it took my mind off of my problems but it also actually helped me see them from a spiritual perspective. And then I began to find myself transferring (if that’s the correct word) to her and, because I trusted her and also because my psychologist suggested it, I told her, thinking it might help. Now I know that she panicked. Then I just watched her get hostile and confrontational and she appeared to be backing away in every way and almost enjoying how much it upset me. I was confused and I was hurt. I was devastated when I left to care for my husband’s dying aunt in California and my pastoral counselor refused to answer any of my calls or letters about Marie’s death and my spiritual journey concerning her death. When I got home, after a month or more, my pastoral counselor told me that she didn’t answer the calls because it was for my own good and that, also for my own good, she would allow me to see her for six more months and then I would never be allowed to see her or contact her again. I could write anything I wanted during that time but she would not listen to it or discuss it. She actually had a written list of what I could and couldn’t do in our sessions and I had to sign it….and I did!…and I stayed for those six months and I wrote…and I pleaded for more time…and she told me I could come back in a month and then, when I called for the appointment, changed her mind. The result was three more years of therapy, much more medication, and, to this day, an almost childlike hurt that used to be daily and now is only when I am fairly infrequently reminded of it by something or someone. I was 55 years old and I couldn’t care for myself or protect myself or fight back. I actually fought for more!!! What would I do now that I know how to care for myself? I would like to hope I would have given up after the first phone call wasn’t answered. I would like to hope, had I not done that, that I would never have gone back when I got home. I would like to hope I would never have signed that paper. I would like to hope that the tears and pain in which I sit now are those of anger and embarassment. I would like to hope… But being bullied is so hard to get over…or get away from…and the hurt never seems to end completely….but I would like to hope.

    This is very long. I just needed someone to “listen” and I’m not sure I did a very good job at answering the question. I’m sorry.

  3. What should we do to keep from getting angry when we are forced to interact/negotiate with a bully? Say, in the line of work, when we have to sit in a meeting with them or something. Some people come into those situations with only fight in them. Usually in my previous position I was fairly good at diffusing them…but I would still feel the anger over it. How do we not let a bully get into our inner world, and still deal with them?

    • Enlist support of peer group. Then your oppression becomes the shared oppression of the group. A group retaliation will drive the bully away. His actions are an invasion of yourself and resist tendency to appease. You may not have asked for this war but like it or not the reality is that you are in it. You must have strategies to fight back to retain your dignity and sanity. Positive results may be incremental but you validate yourself with increments of courage.

  4. It is quite hard to free yourself from a bully. I guess the only thing you can do is escape or figure out how to change your attitude. I guess if you try not to let it get to you, you are more free. Some bullies are mean because they’re unhappy and want to bring others down with them, so maybe if we remember that we are happier, nicer people than the bully is, and it’s not personal, maybe we can feel better. It’s hard, though.

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