What happens when someone unfairly bursts into your world with aggressive energy?
Bullying can feel like a physical attack, like a gong being banged loudly in my ear, like someone jumping on me, or jumping down my throat, like being crushed or trodden on. These are all things I have heard bullying or power misuse, described as. And what does it look like:
- · Shouting or using the voice with aggression;
- · Using body force or posturing;
- · Making direct or indirect threats.
It can also be subtle. Someone who constantly assumes a right, a preference or a control over my rights, time or belongings, is also oppressive. This can be insidious, and it’s tricky to think straight about, but the discomfort is my instinct telling me that the power balance is wrong.
When someone uses power against me unfairly, it invites me to take a “one down” or an “I’m not ok” position. It’s as if the person, and the words they bring, crash into the space around me that I would usually want to keep safe. It throws me off kilter. At certain times, if I’m already struggling to maintain balance, it can feel worse. It’s like riding a uni-cycle in heavy traffic when a car gets way too close and I fear falling. Or that I am trying to steer a boat in rough seas with a stick instead of a pair of oars and an aggressive intrusion can feel like the person has taken the stick. The last straw!
You know those days. Even on a good day unfair use of aggression triggers adrenaline. I feel threatened, shake, get butterflies, feel confused about the ground I’m standing on, and worst of all, lose my, often tenuous sense that I am acceptable to the world. If I also find I’m unacceptable to myself, I’m much more likely to swallow and accept the aggression as deserved. I yield to it and bare my neck and hand the authority of the space and my self, over to that person or power.
My memory recognises that pathway and it reinforces earlier experiences of bullying, abuse and oppression and I find myself in that old place again, feeling diminished with fewer or no rights and it eats away at dignity, self-esteem and confidence and I know I lower my eyes to others and shame myself in our my own eyes. Even as I’m describing this internal process, my stomach is knotting and sinking. The saddest thing is that I know I’m not alone and come across others that feel this cycle regularly, especially because we’re susceptible to being drawn to that kind of person. Why???? Because we want to have a different ending and finally experience respect and equality from the original bully? Because it’s familiar and we “know” this energy? Because you just can’t avoid some bullies, even when you try and they always manage to press those same buttons?
I hate bullying and the behaviours that go along with it because it is corrosive to the human psyche, to a person’s life path and the free choices and rights to be fully who we are. Bullying and oppression impacts a person’s internal and external world. Everyone has the right to stop bullying from coming inside themselves.
What do we do with the feelings that we are left with, if someone bullies us?
When somebody attempts to over-power me, for whatever reason, it can throw me for hours or days. I can feel very dejected. At times, I’ve responded to repetitive bullying with an over-reaction of rage which leaves me feeling absolutely horrible. Because I then know that I am bullying too! It’s an over-reaction because it’s triggered by old experiences of bullying and I know I’m reacting from that place too. I don’t want to do that and only want to give back today's negativity.
The point where the aggression hits me and knocks me off balance is the point I start with. You can rarely stop a bully from bullying, although that can come later with some, if you really empower yourself. What is important in the moment is to take charge of my response. “No-one has the right to de-stabilize me by using power unfairly.” I’ve tried all sorts over the years to regain my balance quickly when this occurs, so that it doesn’t resurrect those old ghosts. I rarely manage to catch it in the moment, by having the right thing to answer back with, or let it slide off me as “that’s not my stuff”!!! but when I do, it can help stop that internal chain of self-criticism and the desire to crawl under a stone!
After a meeting with a bully’s energy, I find the most useful thing is to find some privacy and stand back and visualise the person putting their words and energy on an imaginary table in front of me. It helps me separate from them immediately. I then have a choice as to whether I pick up this attack or not. If I feel some is deserved, I can take that bit, but leave the aggression, diminishing and controlling behaviours on the table. At the same time as visualising this, I stand up straight and strong in my spine and breath slowly in and out, repeating something self-supportive either in my head or out loud. “I deserve respect”, “I am as good as every other person”, “I have good instincts”, “I have a right to be treated in a respectful way”, “I will not be bullied”, “I do not accept oppression and I’m leaving it on the table”. You can define your mantra for whatever is right for the moment as a counter to whatever the bullying person is attempting to throw into you.
When someone repeatedly crashes your respect boundaries, it is an invitation to re-evaluate the relationship. Sometimes, this is really hard, especially if it’s a relative or a boss, a neighbour or a care-giver. Get support, good support. Friends that are really in your corner, or professionals that you’re in touch with. Don’t continue to tolerate being bullied. It is destructive to your internal and external world and can stop you being who you are meant to be. As much as you can, spend time with people who build you up by being respectful rather than being out to exploit you. You’re worth much, much more than where bullying energy puts you. Let the dejection help you to make a decision to commit to resilience and to not continue the bullying by bullying yourself and accepting the negative and misplaced attack.