Anyone can be your bully, even a close friend or family member. Luckily, it’s a one-size-fits-all on how to deal with them.
So many of us have dealt with bullies in our lives, a spouse; it could have been a teacher, a parent, a sibling, a classmate, and yes, even a maid. My friend Neelam rang me up in a shaky voice, terrified that her maid was threatening her as she was a dependant because she had an ailing parent. People often tend to take advantage of a person who is the weaker one in an equation in terms of the dependency factor. I’ve been through this too when I was a child. I had encountered an unpleasant bully who consistently taunted and ridiculed me in front of friends, and made me feel helpless, victimised and scared with her abusive language, threats, she managed to create a poor impression for me of myself. This person perhaps didn’t even have any idea of the far-reaching impact this behaviour would have upon my life. I was wounded and it took me several years to heal, if at all.
Too many people presume that bullies are physically harmful, more powerful and strong people. They fail to recognise the bully in their lives. The bully leads you to believe they are working with well-intentioned reasons to ‘help’ the supposed loved one. In reality, the more insidious and pernicious type of bully is someone you are most often in a relationship with, often a family member.
An interesting insight I’ve discovered from personal experience in my childhood is that the bully derives their raison d’etre from the victim. The victim begins to look to the bully for approval and the bully draws power and self-worth from the victim looking to the bully for approval. It is an unhealthy equation of dependency.
Bullies often make the victim feel very poorly about themselves and then when they’ve got you on a guilt trip they take advantage of the situation. Their repeated aggressive behaviour and threats bring long term psychological harm to the victim. The bully-victim relationship mostly exists where there is a power imbalance. They constantly criticise the people they love and have a destructive impact on the people they love the most.
Bullies are nearly always low self-esteem people themselves, and once you stand up to them they cower away and begin to fade away. Give them half a chance with any show of vulnerability or need and they almost always jump back into the hurtful, controlling and verbally abusive behaviour that is targeted most often at the people the bully loves the most.
An interesting observation is that bullies use long periods of brooding silence to intimidate you. Mood swings and ignoring the victim follow, should the victim dare to expose the bully. In my experience, I remember the bully would address my questions and my whimpering resistance to their temper tantrums with silence if I dared to show any resistance to the aggression I was subjected to so often.
Silence is a great weapon to shame and ridicule you, to leave you out in the cold metaphorically. She could spend days ignoring me. Being young and helpless, I almost always gave in and apologised even when I knew it’s not my fault. Realise this, that in the mind of the bully and if you allow them then even verbally, the bully has laid the blame squarely upon your shoulders.
Watch this space for some solutions to dealing with the bully in your life.
The writer is a columnist, designer and brand consultant. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org