Dealing with Bullying

1902780_825582470792076_380046463_nBullying in any shape or form, whether in person or online, is a very difficult thing to deal with. I’ve had my fair share of it, with trolling on my social media sites and the occasional personal attack/character defamation (mostly from people whom I’ve never even met). This has again happened to me very recently, and thankfully it’s only the second personal attack that I’m aware of using myself as the subject.  It’s a slog to get through it all, and can make you despair at the human race entirely, but I’ve come up with some ways to deal with bullying, which may help you if you ever find yourself in such a situation. If you are in physical danger, please contact the authorities at once. Here are 10 ways you can work through this situation, should you find yourself being bullied in any shape or form.

  1. Don’t take it personally. Though you may be the subject, actually, it’s not about you at all. It’s about them, and their own insecurities, fears and suffering. When you can see that, you can also develop compassion for them. They are not faceless entities, even though they may have piled on you as such. These are real, living human beings, who are someone’s son, daughter, lover, mother, father, brother, sister. They have their own difficulties, their own lives, their own past experiences and suffering. They have some very large misperceptions about you, and that’s all. You are not the cause, but the subject of their misperception and subsequent projections and personal suffering.
  2. Don’t lash out emotionally. Disengage. Hurting someone who has hurt you only prolongs and increases the suffering in the world. Define your boundaries, so that you do not hopefully have to undergo something like this from the person again. If this means blocking someone on social media or email, or avoiding them in public, then do so. If the circles you work or live in don’t allow for a full disengagement, then do what you can to not allow their misperception into your physical space or your mind.
  3. Talk to and find a support network, whether that is your family and/or friends. Don’t encourage people to take sides, and turn it into a “flame war”. Simply find support from them, allow them to remind you of who you are in their eyes, what they mean to you and the difference that you make in their lives. We can often forget this when we are going through bullying, and can easily get sunk into a pit of suffering and wondering, “why me”. Allow these people who are a real part of your life to rekindle your sense of self, and your life’s meaning for them. Then find out what your life’s meaning is for yourself.
  4. Work with gratitude. After you have disengaged and hopefully have found some support, take a moment to remember all the good things in your life. These will usually far outweigh the bad things that are currently happening, which can seem overwhelming at the time (thanks Kris for this one). Take some time to yourself, make a cup of tea, and sit down in a comfortable, cosy room, taking time to remember everything that you can be grateful for: a loving family, good friends, a roof over your head, your snuggly cat, the beautiful sunshine, the nourishing rain, your heroes and heroines, the delicious cup of tea. You can even make a collage with photos of all these things and hang it in a prominent area of your home, to provide you with a visual reminder each and every day.
  5. Talk to respected people in your community. Chances are they’ve gone through something similar. If you poke your head above the parapet, expect to be shot at. So, they may have some good advice to give you on getting through, as they’ve been through it themselves. You don’t even need to give them the full details, just ask for their advice on bullying in general, and how to overcome the horrible feelings that it invokes.
  6. Have compassion for yourself, as well as for everyone involved. Acknowledge your feelings, your sadness, your anger, your despair. Don’t try to push them aside, for they will most likely come back in some shape or form that is totally inappropriate. Sit with your feelings, allow them to move through you, and then you can let them go. Water needs to flow in order to not become stagnant. So too does energy, in my opinion, and energy needs to flow. Emotions are a form of energy, and so let them flow, in a safe and responsible way. Be emotionally responsible for your own feelings, and know what belongs to you, and what does not. When you can let go of what does not belong to you, you are well on the way to your own personal sovereignty.
  7. Everything is impermanent. This is pretty much the first and foremost Buddhist teaching. What you are currently going through may seem like hell, but in a few days, weeks or months, where will this all be? If it helps, remember past difficult times, and how you survived those (without engaging in the suffering from these past experiences – look at it like a scientist would look at data, and make a conclusion based on that). Look to your family tree, and find out how your ancestors struggled, and made it through. Again, your friends may help in this regard as well. Next year, where will all this be? Where will this episode be? Most likely far, far away, remembered as an experience from which you learned how to become more resilient and compassionate.
  8. You are not better than them. Often, the advice given to you can be “you’re so much better than them”. While you may not cause suffering the way that they do, you are not better than anyone else on this planet. As soon as you think this, you have elevated yourself above someone else, which means that you have de-humanised them or turned them into a faceless “other”. We are all in this together. Do not let ego interfere in the process. Remember who you are, without any ego inflation tactics, which are only temporary, and which in the long-run can lead to very poor behaviour on your part.
  9. Integration. This is at the heart of all the Druid teachings for me. Remembering that we are all part of an ecosystem, and that everyone has a role to play. This correlates to the point above. Everyone has something to contribute, and from everyone a lesson can be learned to help us become better in ourselves. Not better than any other person, but better in ourselves so that can positively contribute and make this a truly flourishing, functional ecosystem.
  10. Endurance. Treat it like an athlete treats endurance training. See it as good practice for holding on to your principles. See it as an excellent workout for the mind and the soul. But remember to take breathers when you choose not to engage or think about it. Do not think ‘this is ill fortune’, but ‘to bear this worthily is good fortune’. (Thanks to Katie, and her Stoic studies for this one!)

I hope that this helps, if ever you find yourself in such a situation. If you do, remember that many people have experiences this, and that you are not alone. Get outside, look at the birds flying overhead, the bees in the garden, and notice nature all around you. You are never alone. You are part of something truly beautiful, so do try to focus on that. And have a big, virtual hug from me.

Kierkegaard and the Bullies

Perfect love means to love the one through whom one became unhappy – Soren Kierkegaard

Following on from a recent blog post about forgiveness, putting into practice the habit of it is, as is everything, much easier said than done. So I’m going to share some personal things in this blog post, which I don’t often do, but which I think is necessary to give it some context, and to perhaps allow for people in their own situation to relate to it in some way.

Kierkegaard’s reflection on forgiveness inspired me today to do something which I have never been able to do.  Forgive the bullies.  Thinking about forgiveness a lot lately, I have decided that the best place to start was at the beginning, when the first people who treated me badly first made an impression on my mind and my life.

I had a really happy childhood, growing up in beautiful countryside in a very loving family.  I exceled in school – primary school was a breeze.  I was top of the class in both academia and athletics – I loved them both. I was confident and happy – it was a great time for me.  However, things changed when I went to secondary school.

The first half of the first year went well – though it was a shock moving from a Grade Six class that had five people in it to class sizes of twenty to thirty children.  The school was enormous compared to my primary school, but I adapted pretty well (and much thanks to a map my sister drew especially for me to find my classes in the many halls, which was my saviour that first month!).  I was confident and smart and making new friends under quite difficult circumstances to a very sensitive child.  And then came the bullies.

They were two years older than me, and came from the same region, so we shared the long bus journey together (an hour each way, a total of two hours a day). That was where it all started.  Name calling on the bus – for whatever reason, began the whole affair.  I assume that it was because I was tall, pretty, blond and happy – though I can never truly know the full reason behind it.  Sometimes people simply think that blowing out another person’s flame will make theirs shine all the brighter, but that just isn’t the case – everyone knows two flames are brighter than one alone.  For whatever reason, the bullying started.

Being confident, I decided to fight back.  I was smart, and could have a comeback for anything. Everyone, from television and film and books, said that if you fight back, the bullies will leave you alone.

That is not the case.

I fought back, with words, not allowing them to see that they were hurting me – throwing it back at them, and also hoping that others around me would rally to the cause and that we would all overthrow this minority of bullies who seemed to control “the bus”.

That was not the case either.

People didn’t stand up for me. But I still persevered, fighting back as best I could. Eventually it did get me down, and I started to doubt myself. But I stayed as strong as I could. They put glue in my hair. They threw food and garbage at me. They called me names. They threatened me.  They taunted me every time we passed in the hallway until I avoided all the main halls and used the back stairs, entrances and exits as much as I could. I still held fast to the belief that it was because they were jealous – I stayed strong in my convictions, but it really, really started to get me down. I dreaded going to school every day, and dreaded the bus ride there and back.  I joined after school clubs just so I wouldn’t have to take the same bus as they did home – I could take a later bus. I longed for the two days of respite that the weekend brought – Fridays after the bus dropped me off was like a whole new world of freedom to be me again.

It became so bad one day though, that I had had just about enough of it all and, with no holding back, turned around to where they had moved up in the now almost empty bus to sit directly behind me and taunt me ceaselessly.  I let it rip, verbally, with all the hate, spite , viciousness and intelligence that I possessed. Their faces were shocked, and then anger took over. One girl grabbed me by the hair and started banging my head against the bus window, over and over again.  An older boy came down from the back of the bus and pulled her off of me – I had started physically fighting back – and we were separated.  I got off the bus seconds later at my stop, adrenaline bursting along with tears as soon as the bus was out of sight – I wasn’t going to let them see me cry.  I hated myself and my life.

The next day we were, of course, called into the Principal’s Office.  After a few minutes, where I (with seething calm) stated my case and then the other girl was allowed to state hers, she simply began to cry.  I was too angry to care about why she was crying – she had made my life a living hell.  I sincerely hoped the Principal was not “duped” by her show – though on reflection I do believe that she was a truly unhappy girl in an unhappy situation, the details of which I still am not aware of to this day – only rumours.

Nothing came of it for me – but I think she may have received a three-day suspension or something similar, though the memory of that is a little fuzzy.  What I do remember is that evening she called my house, and my mother answered the phone.  The girl threatened my mother and family, and also said that she didn’t care if she got expelled from school – she could always transfer to SAA.   My mother said, “Go ahead, please do.  BECAUSE THAT’S WHERE I WORK.” We never got a phone call from her again.

The bullying eased off from then on – just some taunts and words passing in the hallway. By this point, I saw the light at the end of the tunnel – the bullies were graduating that year, and once they were gone the school “was mine” again, in the sense that I could live, learn and do as I pleased and enjoy every second of it.  They graduated, or failed – I don’t really know, but they left. Those last two years of my high school life were some of the best years of my life.

I still suffered from confidence issues – walking past a group of people laughing, I would assume they were laughing at me.  Sometimes I still do – though now I catch myself and, with a wry grin, shrug it off.  But one thing I’ve never been able to do is to forgive them for the years and years of torment that they put me through.  Well, today I decided that enough is enough.

I have carried these bullies with me for 27 years now, and I’m more than ready to put them down.  As in my previous blog post, the story of the monks and the sack of potatoes, I really don’t want to carry anger and hate to these people anymore – I’m going to empty the sack, and maybe one day lose the sack altogether so that it can never be filled with anger again.  For anger is the cause of pain and suffering in the world – it is the root behind most, if not all, sufferering and “evil”.  So, no more, thank you very much.  I forgive you, CB, KJ, WG, D and A – I don’t want to carry you around any more.  I hope that your lives are much happier now, and filled with love.  Tears are welling up in my eyes even as I write this – the release is overwhelming.  I have compassion for myself and for you.  May you live well.

And so, I aim for what Kierkegaard wrote – for love is compassion and forgiveness.  I am emptying my sack, one by one, and looking for perfect love with every person who has made me unhappy.  In this way, I believe, the world can and will be a better place.  Namaste.