How to deal with adult bullies

Being abused in various forms (emotional and mental abuse, physical abuse, financial abuse, hazing) by 3-4 groups in two years has taught me a great deal about what it means to be a victim and a survivor. It also taught me a great deal about intuition, karma, and past life pain cycles. Over the years, I had seen many highly sensitive clients end up in similar situations — they couldn’t understand why they were the target of other people’s frustrations. After all, they were meek, kind, smart and resourceful, and wanted the best in their home and work life. But time and time again, they dealt with the brunt of other’s pent-up anger or resentment and couldn’t figure out why. 

Empaths have learned to put up with abuse in its many forms and, as I have witnessed, have in large part remained silent about it. We know that there are unspoken societal rules victims have to abide by to be taken seriously, be liked, and to have the abuse they’ve endured taken seriously once they state their allegations. First and foremost, don’t be “too” abused. 

There is an unspoken glass ceiling if you will — a cap on how much you are allowed to have been abused; on how much you are allowed to communicate and bring to light. Anything above and beyond that is considered pure fiction, fable, story, exaggeration. Anything above and beyond, you are considered a troublemaker.

Like many women I’ve worked with, I spent most of my life working hard to have no needs. I didn’t want to be a burden to others because I knew it complicates ones social life when you’re “needy”, “clingy” or “messy”. I became the mom, the caregiver, the healer of others, the quiet sufferer. I did this so well that I worked my body to its breaking point and became very sick under the stress of unspoken abuse. But I had the affirmation I desired from others because I remained a silent good girl. I was accepted by my perpetrators.

Then, suddenly, I could bear the weight no more. I chose to speak.

You see, highly sensitive and empathic people are put in a catch 22 of sorts when it comes to bullying and abuse — if we tell the truth, we risk being seen as a problem or as paranoid. But the reality is, we are targeted by narcissistic personalities because they feed off of our stress response — and if you haven’t identified this, you will be surrounded by these people. They will have infiltrated your work life, social group, and family dynamics. On the flip side, if we don’t say anything about what these people are doing to us, we face many forms of health problems that will inevitably ensue. 

How to deal with adult bullies:

1. Tell them what they are doing to you. Reflect back to bullies what they are doing to you, very specifically so they can understand how their actions affect others. Often, these people do not fully understand the cause and effect of their actions, so finding a way to communicate what they have done to you and why it has hurt you is important for them to understand the consequences of their actions. It also sets up an environment where they will not be as comfortable hurting you in the future because they are well aware of their behavior.

2. Tell others what they are doing to you. If you can’t get anywhere with these people personally, you may need to those in authority to help stop the behaviors. For example, speak with a boss or H.R. representative, manager, etc. Once those in authority know, it is their ethical obligation to do something to remedy the situation. It will also likely prevent the bully from acting out such things on you again because now someone else understands the extent of the problem. Bullies usually want to look good at all costs so turning to someone else to help remedy the problem can stop the issue because they will want to “save face”. Do not be surprised if they alter their behavior after you have said something so nothing can be traced back to them — ultimately this may leave others questioning you, rather than the bully (“they’ve never treated me like that; I don’t see how this person could have done that to you”.) 

3. Share your story openly. Secrets keep us stressed and sick. We must all actively work to create a cultural climate where secrets are no longer acceptable when we are being hurt on purpose. The #MeToo movement is a great example of this. Sharing your story publicly (whether on social media, a blog, or writing website, etc) helps to change larger societal structures that thrives on silence. This doesn’t mean you use their name to call them out, but you can find a constructive way to share what has happened to you so that strangers and followers can read your experiences, learn from them, and can find the courage to change the cultural dynamics themselves. If others choose to turn a blind eye, it is a form of complicity and is their own karma they will have to deal with in the end. 

4. Strengthen yourself. Bullying is unfortunate and a sick behavioral pattern, but you can and should use it to your advantage to become stronger. The bullies are preying on your supposed weaknesses, and we can use their dysfunction to our advantage to no longer be able to be preyed on in this manner. Bullying is never the victims fault, but thinking of it as a call to action helps victims strengthen their personalities so if another problem situation arises, you will know how to act immediately rather than let it fester or pull you into sadness, depression, anxiety, frustration, etc. This can mean doing internal work and self-development so you see how beautiful and competent you really are, or reminding yourself of your successes and achievements. In doing so, you will see it was never really about you — it was about the bully wanting to pull someone else down to make themselves appear superior.

5. Remove yourself from the situation. If bringing the bullying to the attention of those in authority or strengthening yourself does not remedy the problem, consider totally removing yourself from the environment where the bullying thrives, or away from the bully themselves. Sometimes you have to take extreme measures to get away from these people, but in the long run, your health and well-being is worth it.

6. Understand why these people are bullies to begin with. There is almost always a corresponding wound that is causing people to bully others. They likely feel insecure, inadequate, worry about their standing or power status, so they hurt others before they themselves can be hurt. These people may have a history of being abused themselves so they think this is a natural human behavioral pattern. This doesn’t mean we excuse or overlook their actions, it just means we see that the bullying is the root of a larger issue in this person’s life and psyche and it has nothing to do with us — it has to do with their own wounds. This can help us let go of the pain associated with the bullying because, again, you are not being bullied because of who you are — you are being bullied because of who they are.

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