I deal with a bully on the daily.
Day in, day out. This bullying has been going on for years and, as circumstances will have it, will continue for several more.
I am the target of bullying in the form of verbal and emotional intimidation, blame placing, shame shifting, projection and threats.
As this happens so consistently, I have learned to become militant in asserting personal boundaries, enforcing extremely detached contact, and refusing to react or engage in any sort of interaction with this person.
Generally, I am able keep this bullying private, as to not expose my children to its negative ramifications. However, recently this was not the case. My son happened to be present during an encounter and witnessed, from the front line, the ugliness of what one adult bullying another looks like.
As I held my ground, my boundaries, my detached contact and refusal to engage by staying in my own lane, my son, couldn’t help but ask questions about my responses, or lack of, my calmness, my non-reaction and engagement.
Where I had, in the past, spent so much energy protecting him from this behavior, I suddenly realized I could use this instance to teach him a valuable lesson.
As the verbal and emotional intimidation escalated, my son asked why I was not defending myself. My answer “This person isn’t trying to intimidate me. They are speaking their own personal inner script. A script they have heard internally for so long and so often, they believe it to be true for everyone but themselves.”
As blame was placed on me for all the perceived wrongs in this person’s world, my son asked why I was not responding with the truth. My answer “People are only able to see things from their perspective. This person is completely convinced they are right and I am wrong. Nothing I would say at this point is going to change their mind. It would be a waste of my time and energy to respond.”
As guilt was used to manipulate and shift the shame of the wrongdoing on to my shoulders in an effort to get the bully’s way, my son asked if it would simply be easier to give in. My response “Sure, it would be easier but, where does it end then? When this bully gets their way, they then believe they can have their way each time, no matter the circumstances. If I give and inch, they will take a mile. If I compromise on my boundaries, I may as well not have any and that is not how I choose to live.”
As all the inappropriate, unhealthy, abusive behaviors this person was demonstrating were projected onto me, my son asked why I didn’t fight back. My response “Everything this person has said, every choice they have made tonight is about them, and them only. Nothing that has been said or done is about me, you or anyone else. The battles they are fighting within themselves have nothing to do with anyone but themselves. I am simply a target, used to relieve their inner pain. No, I do not appreciate it, nor will I apologize for refusing to be disrespected, however, I do understand it has nothing to do with me.”
When the threats finally arrived, as they often do when all other tactics have failed, my son asked what I was going to do. My response: “Nothing. These threats mean nothing to me. They are words thrown around carelessly for effect. Words that cannot affect me unless I choose to allow them to, which I do not. You see, just as this person has the choice to say and act in the way they are choosing right now, I have a choice in how I choose to respond. I choose to not respond. I choose to stay in my own lane.”
“Stay in your own lane?” my son asked.
“Yes, stay in my own lane. Realize nothing about this encounter is personal; nothing about this encounter was brought upon by something I was responsible for saying or doing; nothing about this encounter can affect me unless I choose not to let it. This is staying in my own lane. Minding my own business. Taking care of me.
I can’t change the mind, words or behavior of a bully. I am not even interested in trying.
But, there is one thing I can do…
I can take care of me. I can make sure I am safe, protected, and okay.
I can flood myself with self love and compassion. Protect myself by reinforcing my boundaries. Comfort myself with the knowledge and understanding by maintaining emotional maturity in a highly charge situation.
Stopping a bully from bullying is virtually impossible. Bullies bully because they are wounded and hurting and need to hurt someone else to ease their pain when it becomes too much for them bear. This isn’t right, it isn’t okay, but it is…
My job, when targeted by a bully, isn’t to try to stop the bullying, it is to make sure I am safe, protected and loved in my own lane.
When dealing with a bully, stay in your own lane.”
Shortly after, as the bully finally relented out of sheer exasperation at my non-response, my son turned to me and said…
“Way to stay in your own lane, Mom.”