Sunday, May 06, 2007

A Few Thoughts on Bullies

I hate bullies. Despise them. I loathe them.

Now that I've been upfront with you on my overall opinion on bullies I'll elaborate a little.

I think we in America have become soft in our attitudes about bullies. We are too often seen trying to placate, ignore or psychoanalyze bullies rather than the only thing that works...confrontation and some ass-kicking. I'm talking about effective confrontation and ass-kicking which means you apply some old-fashioned pain.

There is no doubt that my attitude on bullies is the result of being a recipient of it for far too long by the narcissists in my life. Being raised by a narcissist, I was taught from my most formative years that it is wrong to resist. It is wrong to get angry when bullied. It is not "nice" to try to defend oneself.

Bullies are terrorists. Like a terrorist, the bully looks for your weakness, or your soft spot, and attacks you there. They attack you when your defenses are down. They pick on you when they are least likely to get caught. There is no such thing as a fair fight. They are underhanded and sneaky in their tactics whether it is an emotional or a physical attack.

Perhaps not all bullies are narcissists, but I know all narcissists are bullies. Both bullies and narcissists pretend they are big, strong and invincible by picking on someone smaller, weaker, vulnerable. Somehow they prove to themselves they are godlike as they crush the bug (that would by you) under their shoe. The narcissist bully lives in their alternate universe where such ridiculousness passes for sense. Bullies also interpret kindness as weakness. Beware.

Bullies are, above all else, cowards. Which is why they only attack those whom they perceive to be weaker in some way to themselves. Narcissist bullies specialize in emotional terrorism. They have keen perception of human nature and are very quick to hone in on your vulnerabilities. I have stressed before the necessity for you to introspect, to really know yourself, to be unafraid to identify and acknowledge to yourself what your weaknesses are if you are going to be able to keep the narcissist from using your weaknesses to control you. Just because you can ignore your own character, emotional or moral weaknesses doesn't mean the narcissist will do the same. Oh, no. They sniff 'em out like a vulture sniffs out carrion.

Assess your vulnerabilities. One way to do that is to ask yourself how a person can best flatter you. For example, are you easily flattered when someone compliments your looks? This could be a handle the narcissist can grab to make you jump when they say jump or to crush your soul. If you are overly concerned about your appearance then someone flattering you on it may be a quick way to soften you up. It can also be the fast track to beating you up emotionally by tearing you down on this point. The more you are susceptible to being flattered, the less defense you have in that area. It is a soft spot. Do not swallow flattery whole. You may take a little sip, but do not over imbibe otherwise you are likely to help someone get you drunk so they can emotionally rape you later.

Your moral failings can also be a big handle. Bullies are good at emotional blackmail. Your moral failings weaken you. We see this in politics all the time. The whole objective of "opposition research" is to hunt down every scent trail in the hope of finding some moral failing of a candidate to use to weaken them. Some uncovered indiscretion is all it takes to disarm you against the assault of an emotional bully. Your sins weaken you because your conscience becomes a bludgeon in the hand of the bully. Nothing like an accusation that has some foundation in truth to weaken your knees and make you submit to the abuse and perhaps become an accomplice with the bully. I'm not saying the bully has the right to beat you up for your moral failings. They don't. It is hypocritical for them to do so. I only hope by pointing out this possible tool of the bully that you will be prepared to stiffen your spine and not let them use your conscience against you. Forewarned is forearmed. You will feel overwhelmed at the moment they use this tactic. Even if it is something you long ago stopped doing and repented of. They love to throw it in your face anyway. Many decent people can be blindsided by this cruel tactic. Don't crumble. Don't cave. Stand up straight and blow it back at them. I hope I've given you some idea of how to take a good hard look at your self so the bully can't use YOU against YOUR SELF.

I recommend you sensitize your bully-o-meter to go off at the first small sign. Aim for a zero tolerance policy on bullying. The reason I recommend this is because with narcissists the bullying always starts small. Little things. Push, push, test the limits of your tolerance. If you have zero tolerance you can see why the narcissist won't get far with bullying tactics on you.

The only effective way to deal with a bully is to show that you are not intimidated. What form this takes depends on the circumstance. The principle is push back. Do not act like you didn't notice. Don't tell yourself "he didn't mean it the way it sounded". Don't try to understand the "pain" of the bully in order to excuse his behavior. Bullies are small-minded, small-hearted creatures who feed off the pain and intimidation of others. Stand up to it. If you aren't up to that, then leave. Get away and stay away. Keep in mind, though, that the only way to get a bully to back down is to get in their face, show courage, call them on their crap. After you've done that, then walk away. There is no point to keeping a bully in your life. They are mean, evil little freaks. Kick 'em hard and wave good-bye.

For all you "nice" people out there who wouldn't dream of hurting a fly, I'm sorry if my promotion of emotional or physical violence in self-defense offends you. Well, I'm not sorry. Never mind. There are some realities that have to be met with force. Because bullies only understand the language of power, sometimes self-defense requires the use of it. I will tell you that when I come up against a pacifist I tend to suspect they are closet bullies themselves. It seems those who expend the most energy trying to disarm us against bullies are really reserving to themselves the right to use terrorist tactics when it suits them. So, as far as I'm concerned, pacifists are cloaked despots.

Disclaimer: this is not an exhaustive treatment of the subject of bullying. You can go other places for that. These are just a few of my personal thoughts about this lower life form. Take it, or leave it.

[Icon by gryphonsmith]


chickwithbrain said...

CHEERS from the peanut gallery!

soma said...

hmmmm,i agree that they only respond to aggression as they recognize power,but confronting them is having a v hard time with my mom but we live in a rental and i have nowhere to go and iam applying 4 a job,luckily am getting ,good offers hopefully i will just move on-soma

Anonymous said...

I have just gone back to a bully who I left four years ago. I am probably going to leave again. He is even worse than he was before.

Anonymous said...

You go, girl. I actually DID stand up to the bullying narcissist (a same-sex "friend") a couple of weeks before I read your original post. And you were dead-on correct...she backed right off. After years of her bullying, she finally pulled something so sick, I had her where she couldn't B.S. her way out of it. I called her on it but good. While I was at it, I decided to let her have it for all the other lies and shameless manipulations she had been tossing about over the years. I didn't even realize it while I was doing it (because I was so intent on what I was doing), but she was actually silent. When she did speak, it was the quiet and disconcerted voice of FEAR. SHE actually feared ME. After that, the only question I was asking myself was "Why oh why did I not do this years ago?" She will undoubtedly move on to some other unsuspecting, kind-hearted person, but I won't allow her around me any more. Thank you so much for your website. I love your writing and your no-nonsense style. Keep it up!!

Unknown said...

hey anonymous...perhaps...just perhaps your experience of standing your ground will catalyse a change for this bully so they begin to see the errors of their ways and step onto better pathways...lets hope so eh? onelove

Juan Echo Mota said...

WOW!!! Thank God for your blog, Anna!!! I just found this cyber-place yesterday and it is so good to see your posts and the comments of other readers because I don't feel so freaking alone anymore.

I just read through the topics where you describe the abusive tactics of narcissists and it blew my mind. I found myself nodding and saying "Yep...yep...she hit that right on the head...yeah, I definitely know how that feels..." and so on throughout them all. I could have left comments and stories on all of them.

I've decided just to comment on the bullies because I want to get to my daily business with a positive frame of mind and having brought a smile (hopefully) to some of y'all's faces.

First, a brief introduction. I'm a 42 year old man and both of my parents are N's. They both sucked and continue to suck. The good news, however, is that I wised up to both of them somehow long before I'd ever heard of narcissistic personality disorder 3days ago -- I just thought they were abusive loons.(NC with Dad almost 12 years ago and NC with Mom almost 3 years ago).

So, on to the bully stories:

1) It is absolutely essential to PUSH BACK. Up until 7th grade, I got bullied at home AND at school. At school there was another boy, bigger and meaner than I, whose last name was alphabetically next to mine and so we got to sit together in every class and both our hall and gym lockers were right next to each other. To make a long story short, this jerk would always look for an opportunity to hit me, usually in the shoulder. He'd make sure the teacher wasn't looking and, if not, would slug me in whichever shoulder happened to be adjacent to him in any particular class. I had bruises on both shoulders for about 6 months.

Well, one day we were at our hall lockers getting ready to go to lunch and I saw him doing his little "teacher scan". Apparently, he missed our music teacher observing from down the hall (I was unaware of this 'til later) and proceeded to pound me on my left shoulder.

In the past, I'd always suppress my anger (as I'd been taught at home). But this time I did something. As bully-boy tried to slam his locker, I jammed a textbook into it and the locker door bounced back and hit him in the back of the head. It didn't really hurt him but it p*ssed him off so what did he do? He punched me in the face.

I'm glad he did this because it was a big turning point in my life. When he hit me in the face all the suppressed rage of years of bullying abuse exploded in me. I literally saw red. The end result was that I started swinging. I busted him twice in the face, twice in the stomach and the the chickenturd turned his back to me and tried covering himself. Then I went to work on his back and kidneys. I don't remember anything else until I noticed that two of my friends were pulling me off of him while I was screaming "I'M GOING TO KILL YOU!!!" repeatedly at the top of my lungs.

The coolest part of the story is that my music teacher waited until I had thoroughly pounded the crap out of bully-boy. Then she "broke up" the fight, told the bully to go to the office and told me I could go to lunch. (I did get called to the office on the intercom a few minutes later).

The end result. That jerk never touched me again and was genuinely afraid of me for the rest of the year. Sweet.

Juan Echo Mota said...

2) When I was 17 I'd gone to college for one semester and then dropped out. The reason for this was that this one semester at school was the first time I'd ever really been able to escape my parents' control. Free at last, I partied like it was 1999 (it was 1984, though). I passed my classes but just barely.

So, I went home to the folks again and the usual crapola. All I could think about was "How do I get away from these lunatics again?"

One day just before Christmas I walked by an Air Force recruiters office and the answer hit me: Enlist and you'll definitely get away from the parents AND you won't be dependent on them for anything. So I signed up. The only possible catch was that I was 17 and needed parental consent. But I wasn't worried about that since BOTH my parents met in the Air Force.

At dinner that night, I hadn't yet told my parents about enlisting. We got into an argument about me dropping out of school. I said "Enough, I'm going out." I called one of my friends and we went out and did a little underage drinking and smoked a bunch of cigarettes and a little weed. I had a good time and got back home about 2AM.

Well, I went to the bathroom to get ready for bed and while I was brushing my teeth, my dad bursts into the bathroom in his underwear screaming at me: "What the f*** do you think you're doing?"

Something about alcohol releases one from one's inhibitions. Instead of making an excuse, I mumbled through the toothpaste: "I'm brushing my teeth, dumbsh*t. What the f*** does it look like I'm doing?"

Then he punched me in the face (inadvertently getting some blood and toothpaste on his fist). But he failed to scan that, at 17, I was now about an inch taller and weighed almost as much as him.

What did I do? I laid an uppercut into his solar plexus so hard it lifted him 3 inches off the ground and left him gasping for air.

While he gasped, I whipped my enlistment papers out of my back pocket and said: "Before you try to hit me again, sign these."

He signed them. HAHAHAHAHA!!!!

(Funny note: After dealing with 17 years of Nparents, I found basic training to be REALLY, REALLY easy. It was like being at summer camp. You can actually SATISFY your sergeants.)

I didn't know everything then that I know now, obviously, and continued to try to have a relationship with my parents for years.

One day, I was visiting my father and offered to show him some martial arts moves I'd learned. I wasn't going to hurt him. Just teach him.

What's funny is that when I mentioned it, he flinched and cringed. At the time I was puzzled by this but now I understand why:

Bullies are all just cowards deep inside. Period.

Anna Valerious said...

Love your comment, Joel. It is a perfect illustration of the points in this blog post. Thanks for contributing to the collective knowledge on this subject.

Unknown said...

This is a fantastic article. Thank you for sharing it, because I'm stuck in a situation at the moment with my boyfriend's "best friend" who is, in reality, a narcissist who bullies him all the time. He's really soft, afraid to hurt anyone, and she, the narcissist, makes my blood boil when she uses that against him. He has, unfortunately, shared his weaknesses with him and he hasn't spotted how she's been gradually increasing the bullying over time since they became what he thinks is "friends". I can't get it into his head that bullying of ANY kind is absolutely not excusable. He's so afraid that she'll think he's mean that he'll even side with her over me just to avoid her wrath. I will show this to him as soon as I can get him to really listen to me. 0% tolerance is THE KEY. Thanks again.

Bett said...

Yo - I am a psychotherapist - yeah we are human with our own vulneabilities- recently having insight to narcissism and/or bullying - what an epiphany! And a massive learning curve. My recent former partner and a current Management Committee member where I am employed - whoa! Supreme sabotagers, who are now ineffective and non-toxic. I am so impressed with the Nnnnuuurgh expression "emotional rape". I know a lot of my ground, but now knowing and understanding how I have been, and am now, with this aspect, is liberating. Manipulated no more.

Unknown said...

Wow was that insightful! I loved it. I am a bully magnet. I hope that my first step to recovery. I have been kicking myself and beating myself up for so long because I could not figure out why I attract these people. And over the years I've stood up for myself sometimes it worked and some times it has not with a result in job loss. Just trying to convince myself I didn't belong there anyway. I wish I knew how "NOT" to be a bully magnet because being confident does not seem to help me. I need to work for someone who has my back and I know that may be hard to find. However, now that I know this, I can breathe easier. Thank you....

Anna Valerious said...

Glad you're feeling encouraged by this post, Angie. Don't forget that bullies see kindness as weakness. It could be that you're a VERY nice person. Decent people won't try to exploit you for your kindness. Bullies and narcissists will see a big target. Don't stop being nice. You just have to learn how to discern when someone is exploiting your kindness to their own ends. Hint: reciprocation. If there isn't any then beware.