In client collaborations around psychological distress, one cause is often attributable to the experience of bullying in the person’s earlier life. I have seen the effects from age 11 to over 60. I ask, is it inevitable that the residual, harmful effects of abusive events must define our present moment – and therefore our future?
Bullying. We all have a view about just what bullying means to us, or someone we know or love. Perhaps we have been bullied, perhaps we have been the bully? Do we even recognise either of those positions? Be honest. Where was the first environment you visualised when you thought ‘bullying’? School or college? Home? the workplace?
As a bully, I suspect it’s easy to choose to forget! Wouldn’t it be something if a victim could exercise such a choice.
If you are a victim, I suggest it may be unlikely you’ll ever truly forget, but it can be possible to remember with reduced emotional impact.
The emotions associated with having been a victim to any form of abuse are usually appropriate around the time of the offensive behaviour, that’s a given. However, holding those emotions and reinforcing the associated beliefs such as… “I somehow deserved it, I can’t have been good enough, and why me” are questions that are, by themselves, unlikely to get answered. Holding these negative beliefs and owning them is binding you and those thoughts and emotions – to the abusers.
I know it is possible to forgive, but I rarely ask that of my clients. However, I do ask that they consider the failings of the bullies, and attempt to see through the eyes of the attackers, attempting to learn how wretched they were, or are, that they behave in such an appalling way, because when we do this, we can begin to hand ownership of those actions back.
But this isn’t nearly enough. We have to explore for evidence, seek permission and confirm with the conscious, and subconscious, that we really are of value; we always have been equal with every other person, be they your neighbour or the Queen of England, the Prime Minister, Dalai Lama, or wealthy entrepreneurs such as Richard Branson.
We are all flesh and blood. We are all born – and clearly we will all die – regardless of position there are no exceptions; not for your abusers, not for the ‘powerful’, not for you.
Holding on to the pain associated with emotional and physical trauma is a learnt thing. It can also be un-learned! But it’s no use simply saying, “it’s finished, it was ages ago – get over it“, any more than saying “cheer up” to a sufferer of depression is going to work.
We have to process what has happened in order to give ourselves permission, and to come to know it is safe and reasonable to hold a new outlook. This will have to explored with compassion for self, and the reasons behind the actions of others who were weak, and without the appropriate skills to operate in another way.
It matters not whether you are currently a victim, or were 60 years ago. You can re-learn to believe in yourself, let go of a time no longer here (other than in your mind) and exist fully with a new, fresh outlook and belief. You may have been dis-empowered by bullies at those times from your past, but you get to choose whether to take control again of your beliefs around you – and your place in this world.
You really are good enough and if you are currently a victim, consider if you can remove yourself from the abusers reach, especially online I also encourage you to check out the Anti-Bullying Alliance.