The Bully Within

Relating Well

We have met the enemy and he is us! Pogo, a cartoon by Walt Kelly

Research on bullies’ shows that people with a delay or disability are often picked on. At FamilyEQ we cooperate with schools and organizations to prevent and reduce bullying. While childhood bullies are real, many of us struggle with a form of bullying into adulthood.

I had an insight about bullies while working at a university. It was in the dining room where I met the worst bully in my life, and I had an emotional melt down. I became upset and filled with shame over one, interpersonal encounter. As I walked toward the table where a colleague sat, I heard a familiar voice call my name. I turned to see my favorite professor, Dr. John James sitting with another man.  He said, “Come over and meet Dr. ________ from MIT. He is a great teacher on management.” I walked over eager to say hello and maybe pick up a few positive insights. But, instead of a build-up, I left with shame. Dr. James said, “Gary is in my doctoral class. He is a country boy trying to act like a city boy.” And they chuckled. My face grew red, and I was filled with anxiety. I mumbled something and quickly exited to a luncheon filled with turmoil within.

You may wonder why I was so deeply impacted, and so was I. It came from attempting to act like I was someone I wasn’t. I wanted to be come across as a sophisticated and educated, scholar but Dr. James saw through my mask and spoke the truth. My charade did not work. That moment of pain was a gift of grace. It allowed me to face the fact that I was ashamed of my rural heritage. I discovered that “The greatest bully in my life was inside my own head!” At first I blamed Dr. James for “Making me ashamed…” After a time of reflection, it became clear that my problem came from inside my head not from his mouth. “No one can control my thoughts and feelings unless I give them that power”. This insight led me to alter my approach to counseling and teaching. Now I teach people to “Take control over their own minds and reject their internal bully”! If I do that, the external bullies will not be able to harm me.

No life is so hard that you can't make it easier by the way you take it. Ellen Glasgow

Do you have a bully within your head? What does her/his voice sound like? What does he or she say to you that hurts and upsets you most? What are your most common feelings when you are bullied?  Made, sad, glad, bad, guilt, shame, fear? Are you able to fight against it? When/how are you most successful at refuting the bully? When are you unable to successfully defeat the voice? Does the bully ever tell you lies?

The last of human freedoms - the ability to choose one's attitude in a given set of circumstances. Viktor Frankl