The bully. They come in all shapes and sizes, and they lurk in every shadow: You will find them at your workplace, the school playground, your closest friendship group, and even your own family. Take a look around, and you might find one breathing down your neck as you read this, or they might discourage you from expressing certain views, or prohibit you from seeing certain friends.
Sometimes we only realize we have been bullied when it is too late; when we have already conceded more than we would have chosen to do, but for some reason, we felt compelled by some overt or covert threat: They would withdraw their love, you would be excluded from their group, they would cross the road when they next saw you, or they might spread lies about you.
So what can we do to survive the bully?
I am an integrative psychotherapist, and this means I use different approaches to help clients to resolve their difficulties. I have set out a range of different approaches to this problem, and you may prefer to lean into one over the other. There is no wrong or right way to handle this –
‘Pain’ Management (from a type of therapy called Cognitive Behavioural Therapy, and also from Mindfulness)
To survive the bully, we need to learn how to tolerate the discomfort they cause. I have helped clients manage physical illnesses, and together we have tried out the suggestions set out below. You might like to try to manage the ‘pain’ this bully causes you –
Assertiveness (Cognitive Behavioural Therapy)
Whether it is the person who is perceived to be the ‘bully’, or the person perceived to be the ‘victim’, either party may feel that the situation has arisen because either party has an issue with assertiveness. No one is assertive all the time, so to assess how assertive you are in a situation, ask yourself: ‘How much do I act on other people’s wishes at the cost of my own?’ If you are frequently doing this, and it is causing you difficulties in your life, you may need to consider working on your assertiveness.
Assertiveness includes the ability to ask for something but also the ability to say no. Consider the following points when you think about times you have asked the bully for something, or when you have had to say no to him –
Karpman’s drama triangle (from a type of therapy called Transactional Analysis)
A concept from Transactional Analysis is Karpman’s drama triangle: In social situations we can sometimes adopt one of the following roles: Persecutor, Victim or Rescuer. If one person is leaning in one direction (for example, they are becoming a Victim), that can often make others appear as if they are adopting one of the other roles (they are becoming the Persecutor or the Rescuer). As a result, people perceive each other in terms of these contrasting roles, without recognising that we have elements of each in all of us.
By adopting one of these roles, there is often a payoff. If we become the Victim, for example, we might be protected by a Rescuer in our life. We do not have to go to the effort of rescuing ourselves. If we adopt the role of Persecutor, we do not have to accept the pain of recognising that we all have vulnerabilities. Our tendency to adopt one of these roles can often be subconscious, so it is hard to challenge this alone, but the more we recognise that these roles exist, the more likely we are to challenge this, and avoid viewing a situation in such a simplistic way as consisting of a Persecutor (or ‘bully’), a Victim and a Rescuer.
To view the ‘bully’ as a whole person, rather than simply the Persecutor –
Find out more today.
Chris Warren-Dickins LLB MA LPC
Psychotherapist, (Licensed Professional Counselor), Northern New Jersey