Category Archives: Bullying

Are You Tired of Being A Vicitim?

Raging Bully
Raging Bully

I remember while growing up in the 60’s that I was a constant target of bullying. I was small and just wanted to be a kid like everyone else, but there were always those people who had to try to control and victimize. It was not something that I wanted, but the day I became frustrated enough about being bullied and decided that I was not going to be pushed anymore, that was the day that I began to quit being a victim. Unfortunately, that was not the last bully that I faced, I have discovered that they are there everywhere that you go. The tragedy is that people in the workplace, in families, churches, and social relationships are being bullied everyday: they have accepted that as a way of life that they feel no escape from. The best thing that you can arm yourself with is not a gun or knife, not even a body-guard, but with understanding about the behaviors of bullies and how people are trapped into victimization.

They Are Abusers

The violence (not only physical) committed by a serial bully is almost entirely psychological, for psychological violence leaves no scars and no physical evidence. Most commonly, the violence takes the form of verbal abuse and emotional abuse including trivial nit-picking criticism, constant fault-finding combined with simultaneous refusal to recognize, value, acknowledge and praise. Manipulation, isolation and exclusion are other favorite tactics, as is feigning victim-hood or persecution, especially when held accountable.

They Are Controllers

The objectives of serial bullies are Power, Control, Domination and Subjugation.  These are achieved by a number of means including emotional dis-empowerment, stimulating excessive levels of fear, shame, embarrassment and guilt, manipulation (especially of emotions and perception), ritual humiliation, and constant denial. When you live with someone who is constantly denying what they said or did a day ago, or an hour ago, or even a minute ago, it drives you crazy. When the symptoms of injury to health start to become apparent, the bully will tell others you have a “mental health problem” and try to make you feel guilt about your response. However, you may be mad, but this is not mad-insane, this is mad angry.

Control is a common indicator of the serial bully.  Control of finances, control of movements, control over choice of friends, control of the right to work, control over what to think, and so on is the central motivation of bullies. Consequently,  all efforts to control are designed to dis-empower the victim and empower the bully.

They Are Dividers

A favorite tactic of the bully in the family is to set people against each other. The benefits to the bully are that:

  • The bully gains a great deal of gratification (a perverse form of satisfaction) from encouraging and provoking argument, quarreling and hostility, and then from watching others engage in adversarial interaction and destructive conflict.
  • The ensuing conflict ensures that people’s attention is distracted and diverted away from the cause of the conflict.

Bullies within the family, especially female bullies, are masters (mistresses) of manipulation and are fond of manipulating people through their emotions (e.g. guilt) and through their beliefsattitudes and perceptions. Bullies see any form of vulnerability as an opportunity for manipulation, and are especially prone to exploiting those who are most emotionally needy. Elderly relatives, those with infirmity, illness, those with the greatest vulnerability, or those who are emotionally needy or behaviorally immature family members are likely to be favorite targets for exploitation.

The family bully encourages and manipulates family members and others to lie, act dishonorably and dishonestly, withhold information, spread misinformation, and to punish the target for alleged infractions, i.e., the family members become the bully’s unwitting (and sometimes witting) instruments of harassment.

They Are Manipulators

Bullies are adept at distorting peoples’ perceptions with intent to engender a negative view of their target in the minds of family members, neighbors, friends and people in positions of leadership and authority; this is achieved through undermining, the creation of doubts and suspicions, and the sharing of false concerns, etc. This intentional poisoning of people’s minds is difficult to counter; however, explaining the game in a calm articulate manner helps people to see through the mask of deceit and to understand how and why they are being used as pawns.

They Are Deceivers Who Want To Be Your Confidant

The bully may try to establish an exclusive relationship (based on apparent trust and confidence) with one family member, such that, they (the bully) are seen as the sole reliable source of information. This may be achieved by portraying the target (and certain other family members) as irresponsible, unstable, undependable, uncaring, unreliable, and untrustworthy.  Perhaps by the constant highlighting, using distortion and fabrication, reminders of alleged failures, breaches of trust, and lack of reliability, etc. This process is reinforced by inclusion of the occasional piece of juicy gossip about the target’s alleged misdemeanors or untrustworthiness in respect of relationships and communication with people. Mostly, this is psychological projection of the bullies failures and inadequecies.

The objective is to manipulate the family member’s perceptions and create a dependency, so that the family member comes to rely exclusively on the bully and see, the bully, as the sole source of reliable information whilst distrusting everyone else. Any person who is capable of exposing and breaking the dependency is targeted with venom and will find their name blackened at every opportunity.

They Are Attention Seekers and You Are Their Audience

When close to being outwitted and exposed, the bully feigns victim hood and turns the focus on themselves.  This is another example of manipulating people through their emotion by invoking guilt, i.e., sympathy, feeling sorry, etc. Female serial bullies are especially partial to making themselves the center of attention by claiming to be the injured party whilst portraying their target as the villain of the alleged event. When the target tries to explain the game, they are immediately labeled “paranoid”.   Therefore, attention-seeking behavior is common with emotionally immature people trying to control others to feed their low sense of self worth by controlling their audience.

They Are Easy To Spot, but Usually Missed

The serial bully is easy to spot once you know what you are looking for: a Jekyll and Hyde nature, compulsive lying, manipulation (of emotions, perceptions, beliefs, etc), unpredictability, deception, denial, arrogance, narcissism, attention-seeking, etc., whilst always charming and plausible, especially when impressionable witnesses are present.

Serial bullies can be male or female –the main difference is that female bullies are more devious, more manipulative, more cunning, more sly, more psychological, more subtle, leave less evidence and will often bully with a smile. Female bullies will often manipulate a male into committing their violence for them. Male bullies tend to be less subtle, have a tendency towards physical aggression, and are generally less clever than female bullies.

The best response to a bully is to avoid conflict if you can, but arm yourself with information and then you can take your life back and quit living like a victim.

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Invalidation, Control, and Bullying: Who Wins?

Nacicisstic InvalidationDo you recognize the picture? Better yet, can you identify with the feeling of repeatedly experiencing the sting of emotional abuse coming from invalidating words, attitudes, and actions?

Invalidation is the tool that abusers, bullies, and manipulators use to attack the emotional self-confidence of the object of their destructive actions. The recipient of invalidation unwittingly is marked by the abuse as a victim who can be emotionally controlled by taking away their virility, or power to create a meaningful life apart from the abuser.

What is invalidation and how does it affect what happens in life? Some ways that invalidation is expressed comes through rejection, being ignored, mocked, teased, judged, or having your feelings diminished. It is an attempt for one person to control how another person feels, thinks and behaves. As a result, invalidation is an attempt to gain control of the emotions, what is felt, to tell you what you should think, but most of all to control what you do. The goal of invalidation is to gain an advantage over you resulting in control over what you do, think, and feel, so as to benefit the abuser personally, i.e., meet their emotional need and validate a feeling of control.

How does invalidation affect emotional development?

The effect of constant invalidation in families and relationships unfolds systemic patterns of interaction that inhibit a secure sense of self in the world. Invalidation may be one of the most significant reasons a person with high innate emotional intelligence suffers from the effects of unmet emotional needs later in life. The crisis point for many people who have been invalidated or feeling dis-empowered comes in the middle years, or at times characterized by significant developmental changes. While growing up, a sensitive child, repeatedly invalidated becomes emotionally confused and begins to distrust his feeling and intuition. The impact of invalidating emotional abuse is that the developing child fails to develop confidence– a sense of the self and healthy use of the emotional brain. What occurs is that the child adapts to adapt to life an unhealthy and dysfunctional environment that creates an image of the social world characterized by the experience of invalidation. The child adapts to a way of understanding life resulting in a working relationship between thoughts and feelings built upon faulty beliefs about self, others, and life. As a result, emotional responses, emotional management, and emotional development will likely be seriously, as well as, permanently affected by the results of abusive relationships. The results understood by a victim of invalidation reveal that the emotional processes, which worked for the person as a child; begin to work in opposition to an effective adult life. Indeed, invalidation links, in effect, too many of the mental health challenges and disabling relationship problems that adults face in the family system.

How does invalidation occur?

Do people set out to be invalidated or are people just born to be abusive, making it their life’s mission to invalidate and control? The answer may be yes, and it may be no. People are the product of their parents, are born in a certain order and are predisposed to a certain genetic makeup, but what happens in the process of life is largely because of experiences through life. Abusive people may have certain characteristics of behavior, but they learn very early in life that they can get results through abusing someone else. Abusers learn to control by abusing and victims learn victimization through abuse. An older child tells a younger child that they are going to be held back in school because they are stupid or not smart enough by an older child. What impact does that have on self-esteem? When a mother who tells a child that they are mentally ill, they are stupid or retarded. What impact does it have on a developing child? The answer is that it depends on the child and the way that particular child will emotionally process what is being said to them. Attach those remarks to an emotionally sensitive child or place it in the family system characterized by insecurity and self-esteem problems and invalidation takes on meaning not felt to someone who has a different life experience.

What does yesterday have to do with today?

People may not set out to be an abuser, but what happens is that the pattern of relating so ingrained in behavior is automatic. Invalidators and abusers have difficulty stopping the behavior because responses are from a learned pattern in a system of behaviors, which have worked throughout the life experience and reinforced by getting by with abusive behavior. What can be observed is that abusive people have patterns of relating that are evident, which like a scarlet thread run through working relationships, professional and business affairs, family interaction, and marriage, and children.

A personal experience reinforced the lengths that abusive people will go to in when someone resists their control. I remember one night after a business meeting that one of the persons who had always been in control exploded after things did not go his way. Anger led to accusing words, words to physical aggression until physical restraint had to be used to calm him down. In the exchange, there was heated verbal abuse, invalidation, physical aggression, and an effort to control through intimidation. What I knew about this person was that there was a history riddled with abusive behavior against others over a period of 25 years. The same efforts had been exhibited in a life-long pattern abusive behavior used to demoralize and exert control over people perceived to be weak. The outcome was not what the bully hoped for, and he was introduced to someone who would not be bullied. Something learned from the story is that when people who are constantly being invalidated make an effort to assert independence, the abuser feels threatened and will mostlikely trigger a drama. Unfortunately, in this case, the bully became verbally and physically abusive found himself in a position where he became the victim of his own destructive behavior. The connection between childhood patterns and the lived-experience of an adult is the systematic ways of relating formed in the early years affects the way relationships are acted out through life. For the abused person, until there is enough strength of character discovered to stop the bullying, invalidating, and abuse, the pattern continues in relationships.

Boundaries and outcome

Some people rationalize the behaviors of bullies and abusers by saying, “It is what it is”, but, in reality, it is what you allow it to be.

The unfortunate result for people feel trapped inside a social or family-system characterized by invalidation, abuse, and dependence is a loss of essential hope felt. It is a loss of a fundamental belief that life cannot be any different. One of the reasons for hopelessness is that every person in the system is intertwined in a maze of assumptions behaviors, rules, mores’, and perceptions that are connected to self-esteem and value in the social construct. The pressure of social acceptance felt in family, groups, systems, or sub-systems have a direct impact upon efficacy in life. When life is characterized by emotional abuse, physical abuse, invalidation, and self-esteem problems, it will normally go on until a crisis occurs that requires-forces a change to take place.

An important matter that every person needs to understand is that, even while life is lived in a community, the potential quality of life comes through an individual choice –a personal journey toward wholeness. Every person must individually take responsibility for what they will do and what life will become. The hard truth is that people who have invalidated you will continue to do so until you take responsibility for life, draw a line in the sand, and not allow others to determine your happiness nor outcome in life. A popular saying states, “When you choose a behavior, you choose a response.” How people live can be a personal choice when it is empowered by clear boundaries.

Creating healthy boundaries for relationships is a way of choosing what will happen in life through relationships. Unfortunately, constant invalidation eats away the energy of life that enables creativity, well-being, security and healthy boundariesthe ability to live in an effective manner. The truth is that the only person that can change your life is you. So, what are waiting for?

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