Serious post time.
Call it what you will. It takes many forms. I’ve been reading up on all this a lot recently – surprise, surprise and while there’s a lot of stuff out there on bullying, it’s still mostly school-oriented. I observe it everywhere. I may be a recluse, but I still like to sneak out and people-watch. The problem is, it doesn’t stop when you leave school. There is no age limitation on being a bully. Or on being bullied. There is still very little is about bullying in the workplace or within families – even with recent events. ‘Straightforward’ harassment / abuse, yes, but not much else.
So, what have I gleaned from my research and my own observations? It’s like that story of the three people in the dark room with an elephant… One feels the leg, thinks it’s a tree. One feels the trunk, thinks it’s a snake (he may have been the one who ran screaming to find the light switch), while one feels the tail and thinks it’s a rope.
I’ve realised that all these little snippets of information form a cycle. I suppose it’s also relevant to continued bullying in general. All of these little snippets feel like platitudes until you link them all up…
1) You’re kind/pleasant to the bully.
2) The bully mistakes this for weakness.
3) The bully tries to control you (and hopefully fails).
4) The bully realises they can’t (hopefully).
5) Then follows abuse, lies, misrepresentation, manipulation of how others see you.
6) There’s a break.
7) Reconciliation of some sort.
8/1) You’re kind/pleasant to the bully.
AND OFF WE GO AGAIN
And that’s only if you’re lucky. Sometimes the process ‘succeeds’ (for the bully) at step 3). Usually the target cracks at that step. If they’re lucky /strong / have support, the targeted person may get to step 4). If you don’t have support, then please, please, please find some.
The difference being that hopefully the bullied person learns and either stops the cycle at 6) or changes themselves before they re-enter the fray because, let’s face it, the bully will never learn. They’ve been way too successful for way too long to stop using a winning formula. Plus, if an outsider calls them out on their behaviour, all it takes is a few crocodile tears and they’re safe again.
Sadly, for my own part, I realise that most of the major changes in my life have come about as a result of being bullied… Leaving my home country (twice), becoming a first-time homebuyer, leaving a profession (the same one – twice)…
And why does it keep happening? Because of step 1). Does that mean we take it out of the equation? No. Let’s face it – bullies won’t change. I mean, why would they? They’ve got a winning formula.
You say to yourself…
If the bully/harasser isn’t going to change what they are or what they do, then I’m not going to change what I am (let’s face it, I personally wouldn’t be able to). But I do need to change what I do.
So stop the process at 6). Don’t go to 7). Let them try doing a little of 1) for a change. But it’s quite safe, because we all know they won’t. They won’t ‘lower’ themselves to ‘your level’. They’re too proud / powerful. They have too many people already in their pocket to make it worthwhile. And you can always tell who those people are – they’re the ones who say things like:
“Surely it’s not as bad as that?”
“I think you’re making a mountain out of a molehill.”
“I think you’re overreacting.”
“Well, you’re not exactly perfect, you know.”
“Ignore them, they’ll soon get bored.”
“Well, I’ve never found X to be like that at all.”
“Some christian you are. Aren’t you supposed to forgive /l ove everyone / turn the other cheek?”
“It takes two to tango.”
But, whatever you do…
DON’T STAY SILENT.
Does it take guts? Undoubtedly.
But is it possible? Heck, yeah.