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defending yourself

If you have found your way to this site, chances are you or someone you love has or is being bullied. My purpose in creating this site is to inform and educate. I do this by presenting the wisdom and words of others- professionals in the field and experts (those who have experienced bullying) One question remains. Does one EVER get over bullying? Only those (and their professional counselors) who have been through it can answer the question.

If one can not get over it entirely, at least one can benefit from the experience by realizing he/she is now an expert- one who knows first hand how it feels and what effects it has had on their lives. That information can be used to help others.

Why is it so hard to defend oneself? By the time the bullying is in full force, one feels immobilized, isolated, and unable to trust that anyone will believe them. One may even doubt themselves, or worse- blames themselves. Their self-talk may be; "it's not all that bad... it's really their problem... I'm not going to let it bother me... They must have had trauma in their childhood to make them behave this way.. (and my personal favorite) I need to forgive if I want a blessed life."

This is not about refusing to forgive; it is about staying healthy- avoiding a type of stress that can lead to serious illness. Enabling a bully may mean enabling his/her next victim.

This site explores overt actions that are recognizable if not to the victim, to others. Recently I have become aware of an insidious form of bullying. That is discounting, ignoring, and isolating the target from peers or family by the bully. I hope to post more about it in the future, especially in regards to how it is used to victimized elders.

It is important to recognize the damage done by bullying. The following is by Hans Selye:

Stages of Stress

The Bully is the source of stress, the Stressor. It's the body and mind's response to stressors that determines the extent of damage inflicted. The sequence of biological stress is well known. There are three stages (Hans Selye):

1. Alarm--the turning on of the body's defense systems, that is designed to be brief for it is truly widespread in its effects throughout the body--it enables the "flight or fight" response in the face of danger--physical or psychological. The body reacts the same to fright from the impending pounce of a tiger as it does to an insult from the bully. Alarm triggers the sympathetic nervous system that releases adrenaline, in addition to many other functions.

2. Resistance--the maintenance of an alert stage that the body expected, and needs, to be turned off. Resistance to the bully and all that that requires depletes the body's defenses. If you stay in the resistance stage too long, the body will rebound then it's finally turned off, the body rebounds and the actual damage occurs when the stressor is gone. The parasympathetic nervous system restores normalcy; it turns off the sympathetic.

3. Exhaustion-- which can lead to death if the stressor never disappears and the body and mind must fight indefinitely. Exhaustion is a full system breakdown, mentally and physically. It demands that the stressor be removed or it will claim your life. To get to exhaustion, you have to ignore all the warning signs that your body gives you (see above psychological and physical effects).

A cautionary word about stress "management." It is usually the wrongdoer's prescribed solution for the Target. No amount of cognitive distortion or discounting will stop life-jeopardizing stress caused by a bully and her accomplices. The only long-term solution to stress is to REMOVE THE STRESSOR. Separation from the bully is an imperative first step. To argue otherwise prolongs the Target's misery.

The following from Tim Field's "Bully on Line" about workplace bullying is invauable information for those wondering why it is so difficult to defend oneself.


Asserting your right not to be bullied, fighting back, taking action

"Why don't you stand up for yourself?" is an oft-asked question. We're adults, aren't we?

In most cases, the bullying follows a two-phase procedure. Phase one is control which is exercised through constant trivial daily nit-picking criticism etc. Eventually there's a defining moment when the target realises that the criticisms have no validity and that they constitute bullying; the target asserts their right not to be bullied, perhaps by initiating a grievance, and the bullying moves into phase two: elimination, which is achieved by dismissal on false charges, ill-health retirement, forced resignation, redundancy, or death from suicide or heart attack due to prolonged negative stress.

The reasons people don't assert their right not to be bullied are complex as the following list shows (all the fears are justified):

the target of bullying has been disempowered through isolation and exclusion and the manipulation of co-workers and management's perceptions

the bully is constantly threatening and intimidating the target and co-workers

there is a climate of dysfunction and fear in which people are frightened to assert their rights

the target now has artificially high levels of shame, embarrassment, fear and guilt - all stimulated by the bully, for this is how all abusers control their victims

the target feels bewildered and often still cannot believe that what is happening is happening; the target feels responsible in some way, as evidenced by the nagging thoughts "Why me?" and "Why did I let it happen to me?"

the target fears for loss of their job

the target fears they will be unable to obtain a reference (this is especially true in the professions) and the bully never misses an opportunity to strike at their target, even after the target has left; being asked for a reference is an ideal opportunity to bad-mouth their target

if you take your employer to an employment tribunal you're obviously a troublemaker and no employer will take the risk employing you - despite the fact that you did nothing wrong

there is no law against bullying and the laws that do exist are difficult to apply to bullying

real jobs are scarce and if you're over 40 and in a permanent full-time position the chances of obtaining another permanent full-time position are slim (the government likes to give the impression that there are under one million people unemployed in the UK but the figure quoted is the number of people who qualify for jobseekers allowance - the number of people aged between 18-65 without a job is between 4-6 million)

by this time the target is suffering a severe psychiatric injury, is traumatised and unable to articulate their circumstances - whilst the bully remains glib and plausible

trauma and fear combine to prevent the target from being able to find the right words to identify, unmask and call to account their tormentor (contact us for a list of phrases and strategies)

when the symptoms of psychiatric injury start to appear the bully plays the mental health trap, claiming this person "has a mental health problem" (psychiatric injury has nothing to do with mental illness

the target has no knowledge of serial bullies, sociopaths, etc, and no experience of dealing with these characters

the bully relies on compulsive lying, Jekyll & Hyde nature, deception, deviousness, evasiveness and charm
and uses denial, counter-attack, projection and feigning victimhood to evade accountability

Charm has a motive - deception.

the serial bully abuses power, exhibits amoral behaviour and lacks conscience and remorse

there's a lot of ignorance and unenlightenedness about bullying

the silence is deafening

denial is everywhere

disbelief is prevalent too - the target fears that no-one will believe them and even the target eventually questions their belief that this is happening, especially as the bully persistently and plausibly denies everything

bullies are encouraged and rewarded, often by promotion

cases that are settled are subject to gagging clauses

employers network with each other, sometimes discussing cases and people at fraternal meetings

in many cases unions are unhelpful; in some cases the union is part of the problem

the target doesn't want to have "stress" on their health record

the target doesn't want to get others into trouble and is reluctant to initiate a grievance against a fellow human being

the target naively believes that the system is there to protect them and will work for them (it isn't and it doesn't)

the target naively believes that their loyalty and good service record will stand them in good stead (it won't and the employer is likely to ignore and dismiss it)

the target naively believes that Human Resources and personnel are there to protect employees

grievance procedures are notoriously useless for dealing with bullying, as the manager, with whom the grievance is normally conducted, is often the bully - or is supporting the bully, either by colluding (active support), or by refusing and failing to deal with the bully (passive support)

even if another manager handles the grievance, he or she is usually connected with the bully in some way

bullying is a betrayal; the target trusted and depended on the integrity of another (eg manager) and that person betrayed them; the target fears and anticipates that when they report the bullying, they will be betrayed again (they often are)

those in authority did nothing to prevent the bullying while it was happening, nor did they do anything subsequently; very often it is the person in the position of authority who is the bully; trust in authority is low, with justification

bullying is a form of psychological rape because of its intrusive and violational nature

the target felt and continues to feel guilty about what happened, having been encouraged by the bully to believe they were responsible

the target may have been encouraged to withdraw from legal action by the bully feigning victimhood and playing on their target's forgiving chord and manipulating other people's sympathies

bullying causes Complex Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and any thought, memory or reminder of the bullying immediately results in the sufferer experiencing PTSD symptoms

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