Friday, December 3, 2010
HER STORY: HEALING IN THE AFTERMATH OF BULLYING
I recently did a show on 'Conversations with Christopher' that had to do with bullying. I asked a couple of weeks in advance for all of you to email me your own personal stories and struggles that had to do with bullying. The letter below I read on air and I've received so many requests from listeners asking where they could read the letter. With permission from the author (Ingrid; who is one of my greatest friends) I'm posting it on my blog to help others who are going through or have went through the pain of being bullied, and to know that there is life out there and ways to heal yourself from painful experiences.
Thank you Ingrid, and to the many others who contributed to this show by emailing in their challenging stories of pain, hope and life.
To those of you who missed this show, here's the archive link to it:
Unfortunately I have had the experience of being bullied throughout my life, as a child as well as an adult. Even though there was nothing "wrong" with me on the outside as in any physical traits, which would make an easy excuse to bully someone, I always was the person who was different. I stood out for some reason.
It has meant terribly lonely and isolated periods in my life, often resulting in me having to start over somewhere else. Being bullied gives you the feeling you're never safe, feeling scared all the time, always waiting for the next bomb to drop. Physically you are just drained, tired and depressed, always on high alert, energy that you could be using for other things that are important when you're developing.
I adjusted myself many times out of survival, but there is a thin line between adjustment and self betrayal. It meant for me even losing myself more than what was taken from me by being bullied. I therefore learned that I always have to stay true to myself, no matter what. Giving in to being bullied or becoming one, is self betrayal and there is nothing more damaging than that.
I considered suicide at a very young age, below ten years, surprised I even knew what it was. I decided that I would never give in to that, because by giving in, I would let the bullies or my opponents win, and that was something I definitely didn't want.
Living with the consequences of bullying meant experiencing difficulties in evolving myself socially. Like starting relationships with people due to trust issues, the fear of opening up or really feel free to be myself. Because of low self esteem I felt like I had to step up in friendships, as if I had to "prove" that I was really worth a friendship or relationship.
Sometimes it even feels like a life sentence, even now after some time has passed. I'm not saying that my life didn't work out because of the bullying, but the vulnerability and the scars it left, were picked up by other predators, even with all the time and energy I took to heal. Apparently the scars of bullying remain visible. Bullies always find another reason to target someone, so it has meant an ongoing fight and struggle throughout my life.
In my opinion bullying is abuse and a crime. You can be bullied mentally, physically and even spiritually. It's that damaging to your body, mind and soul, it could kill you. It is that serious. Nobody wants to go through this, we all want the same thing: to evolve, to learn, to experience, to grow, to love and be loved in an accepting way. It's obstruction of a person's natural development, which can result in drastic choices like suicide.
When you are being bullied you don't want to give any more attention and energy to it than it's already taking and you're sometimes inclined to accept it as long as it's "tolerable". This is very difficult to determine, because to do nothing is just an encouragement for them to see how far they can go. By tolerating bullying you might end up pushing your boundaries further and further.
To people on the outside, bullying might seem like innocent teasing. However, kids and young adults might not know or understand boundaries yet and they can go on and on until something terrible happens.
If the bullying goes on too long or is that intense and traumatic, you can find yourself in a place where you do not feel like yourself any more. Connecting with yourself is almost impossible because you feel cut off from yourself, who you are and want to be. It's almost as if the non acceptance of others is a huge part of you and you start rejecting yourself. This alone is enough to cause a lot of despair and at which point life is almost unbearable.
Using the affirmation: "the world's a better place with me in it" and "I have as much right to be here as anybody else." helped me many times to uplift my spirit after a rough day of dealing with all the abuse. It might seem a bit strong, but when non acceptance is all around you it does shield you from the negative energy and pushes it away.
Bullying is about power and control of a social situation for instance in a classroom, at work or in a family. The most encounters I had with bullies are the ones who operate in a group, a bully alone is much less powerful. From my experience there are mostly one or two persons that lead a number of people astray within a group, by having them engage in bullying. These people are being manipulated and are allowing themselves to be used as a harmful instrument against someone else. With apparently no real identity of their own, they are far from the truth about themselves.
Then there are the bystanders, the ones who witness it all, but decide to do nothing about it, because they don't care or are glad that they aren't the ones being sought after and/or do not want to get involved. Which gives the bullies and their accessors the chance to make a person's life a living hell. Those people should be aware of the fact that even when the bullying energy is not aimed directly at them, the abusive energy is all around and therefore affects everybody in it.
Those who engage in bullying might feel that they are vindicators, but spiritually they're just setting themselves back. By putting others down, they are putting themselves down, even if it may seem like all is going well for them in the outside world. This is no comfort for me, because it would be so much easier if people would make the choice not to do it, so we can all evolve and move on quicker to the same goal.
Bullying is a problem of all ages and nationalities, there are so many "reasons" why bullies feel they can pick on someone and get away with it. They often know which person to pick: someone who is "low" on social status, who people most likely will not stand up for, hasn't learned to defend themselves and is not likely or capable to say or do anything about it. They can sense that someone hasn't fully accepted him/herself yet and this triggers them to target this opening.
Being different brings out the biggest fear in a lot of people, namely to be labeled an outsider, outcast and therefore not to belong. Most people want to feel safe and an easy way to do that in their belief is to join others in a group and attack those who "mess" with their sense of security.
A lot of people can't accept a person who isn't like themselves. They're mostly focussed outbound, connecting only with what they can see on the outside. They don't consider the effects of their behaviour, justify their actions as if it were a fact of life and someone's own fault for being attacked. They feel you should adjust yourself and being different in their view is just a way of seeking attention, or not being able to get by with what is expected in a social system based on their own cultural or religious beliefs.
People who are that insecure, consider and use others as a reflection of how well they are doing and let themselves be dominated by the rules of a group, which in the prehistoric times meant survival, but is totally outdated nowadays if you ask me. Ofcourse it's your own responsibility to fit in and to do what is asked of you, but never should it be expected that you change in order to fit in. To be different can be an amazing asset to a group, work place or a society, but people have to be willing to appreciate it.
It's a shame that people are so focussed on those things that set us apart in stead of what connects us all. If they were to let go of their own insecurities, they would be able to see how much they could benefit and learn from someone who is not like them. Even if you don't like someone or don't feel comfortable around someone, you have a choice to leave them in their own self worth.
There is the belief that bullies get bullied themselves, at home for instance, and are just looking for an outlet for their own pain and the pressure they are under. I'm sure it could be true in a lot of cases, but bringing pain to others is hardly a good way of coping and in my opinion should never be tolerated.
Acceptance is something to strive for, not merely tolerance, because tolerance leaves an opening for negativity, since you can also tolerate that. Really accepting yourself and others is what gives freedom to us all. It's a process in which we all must take part in order for it to succeed.
Being bullied is not who you are but merely a challenge to overcome and nothing more than that. Going through life being bullied puts you in a survival mode. Merely surviving is not a life, but if you want and do survive, there is a possibility for healing and growing stronger BECAUSE you survived.
The only thing you know when you kill yourself, is that this life is over. It may seem like freedom, however, lessons unlearned or unfinished might mean you have to try again. So although it may seem like a way out for now, it could prove to be no more than just a postponement. Most importantly, you will never know how wonderful your life might have turned out to be after overcoming the bullying, what you would have accomplished and what kind of wonderful person you would have become.
I'm so glad Christopher and Trish did a show together on this sensitive subject. Being bullied is still covered in so much shame, which isolates someone being bullied even further. However, it won't go away by itself. After so many incidents with young people taking their lives for not being accepted for who they are, I hope that people will start to understand how serious it is and how terrible someone's life can be while having to go through this.
I also hope that people will speak out the next time they witness a bullying situation. To stand up against bullying is standing up for yourself and what is right. Ofcourse you can't expect others to fight your battles, but when someone is attacked, we basically are all under attack. Bullies will always find someone new to bully, next time it might be you or someone who is close to you.