Disclaimer: For those of you who know me and my work around healing from abuse, please note that this blog is not about clinically abusive people (aka narcissists, sociopaths, or psychopaths). This series on adult bullies is about the other type of difficult people. The average garden-variety type of folks we run into out in the world.
The Different Types of Adult Bullies
What happens when we run into adults who don’t know how to treat other people? Our reactions can range from explosive anger all the way to deeply internalizing the ugly messages that bullies send us. Why do bullies exist in the adult world? As kids, weren’t we all told that schoolyard bullies would one day “grow up” and realize the error of their ways? I know I heard that mean kids would grow out of the need or desire to bully and yet, I see adult bullying in too many life situations.
There seems to be a few different variations of behaviors from individuals who clearly are old enough to know better, and yet, roam the adult schoolyard looking for someone to kick in the shins. Over the course of several blogs, I am going to share with you a few of the types of bullies I have either experienced myself or have been witness to through other people.
The Bitter Bully
I have personally come in close contact with this bully. It is one who appears in the form of a friendly face that is all good with you until, wait for it, the seed of bitterness comes to full harvest. What causes this person to shift from a caring friend to a snarky person who you cannot associate closely with anymore? Bitterness usually shows itself when the adult bully feels threatened by you in some way. Perhaps you stepped on their toes by achieving success in “their” self-designated area of life. It’s as if they have metaphorically tinkled on a bush like a dog to claim it as their own and you dared to come sniffing too close. You hear the low growl and turn to see their teeth showing. They don’t like you anymore. Suddenly you’re now annoying and they have numerous previously unspoken complaints of you. Their view of you has changed but the only thing that is new is your success.
Maybe your success stepped on their toes and rather than coming clean with you about their internal conflict, it seeps out through their pores in bitterness. Of course, they would adamantly deny any jealousy or bitterness. Didn’t they already tell you they are not an angry person? They are the outward picture of confidence but as an intuitive person, you feel the wave of bitterness and it pushes you away from them.
What causes the bitter bully to emerge from the outer covering of a good friend? I believe it is deeply held insecurities. When people feel overly territorial it is because they are scared that you are taking something away from them; that they will lose the goodness in their life. These individuals may have dealt with scarcity or neglect previously and they are triggered on a subconscious level by you coming to close to their now good life.
Is this your fault? Not at all. Are you expected to shrink back in life just so you don’t push insecurity buttons in someone around you? Never. We do not clip our own wings for fear we might fly too high for another person’s comfort level. Their bitterness and internal conflict is theirs, and theirs alone, to work through. However, it is helpful to pause and ponder the “why” of the bitter bully’s projection outward towards you. When we can cognitively understand why people behave the way they do, it takes the personalization out of it. We stop going over what we did to make that person change their ways with us. We start recognizing that not everyone can stay on the same road.
People say that failure will show you who your friends are and that is true. Success will show you the insecurities hiding in those around you. Sometimes, it’s not pretty. Sometimes success brings a chill of loneliness as people react in different ways and bitter is one of them.
Personally, I would rather be surrounded by a few key people who love themselves and their lives so much that anything I might have going on positively isn’t at all a threat to them. It is also my gift back to them because real friends don’t pour bitterness on one another like acid.
Keep Dreaming Big! (so big it makes people uncomfortable)
This political election has divided many friends and family members. Just to get a break from the heated rhetoric, people have had to unfriend their own parents or siblings on social media. Friendships have been severed and tension is present in the workplace. No time in recent history has a more divided ideology been present in our culture. We simply do not agree with the “other side” and cannot wrap our thoughts around how the opposing viewpoint can come to the conclusions that they have recently. Now, welcome to the holidays where we are expected to come out from behind our computer or phone screens and interact with people that we previously withdrew from out in cyberspace. Face to face, in the same physical space for hours or even days at a time. Heaven help us! I know many of you are nervous about it and with good reason, honestly.
If you find yourself dreading getting together with your family members who see life very differently than you do, let’s talk about some of your options and a few coping skills that might help.
#1: Just Don’t Go
You do have the right to say that given the tension that is already present because of this election, you are simply going to sit this holiday out. Your relatives might not like that decision but as an adult who has complete domain over themselves, you get to choose where and when you engage with people. This is especially true if these family members have been abusive or very ugly to you about your beliefs. There are consequences for being unkind to people and maybe you choosing to not join them is the feedback they need to hear.
#2 Set Boundaries Ahead of Time
If you decide that going is the best option for you, then maybe consider a family group text or email letting everyone know that you are looking forward to seeing them and under no circumstances do you plan to stay if anyone brings up the election. Weren’t we supposed to stay away from discussions of politics and religion anyways with people? This year has taken that etiquette suggestion and put it on steroids.
#3 Simple Answers
You have decided to go to the festivities, sent your group warning to talk about anything but the election (and religion), and someone decides to ignore your boundaries. What do you do? You could immediately put your fork down, stand up, and walk out but that’s a bit dramatic for most people. Let’s at least try to defuse and redirect before you grab your coat and head home. Simple replies such as the following might be helpful:
“My text (or email) was very clear. I am not talking about this. Thanks.”
“There are many opinions on this topic.”
“We will have to wait and see what happens.”
“Did you know the Cowboys are 9-1?” (that might only work in Texas but you could reply with a very random fact that shows you are not going to take the bait to get into a political argument.)
The absolute worst thing would be to start talking about the popular vote or protests or God’s specific opinion about America’s election. Back away, back away, back away.
#4 Don’t Drink Too Much and Don’t Stay Too Long
Get in, get out, and don’t get drunk. That’s actually really good advice for many of life’s situation but especially around the holidays in the middle of the social climate we have now. If you find yourself wondering how this holiday will go, then don’t stay too long and wear out your welcome. Quality and not quantity will be your friend. Maybe by Christmas tempers will have cooled and you can plan for a longer visit. Right now for Thanksgiving, let’s not add any new wounds. It might feel odd being a bit more formal and emotionally distant with your family, but I assure you it is a much better option than allowing emotions to spill over and letting it get out of hand.
I wish you well as we head into this holiday week and don’t forget self-care if your plans include extended periods of time with family who might want to drag you into discussions you do not want to have. My hope is that most people are more obnoxious while hiding behind their social media accounts and will soften as everyone sits down around the table to give thanks. If that doesn’t happen, know that you have the power and right to leave any environment that is not safe for you.
Happy almost Thanksgiving. I am thankful for each of you!
As I looked at this picture on my friend’s phone, I had the thought of “sometimes we need to put on a pink tutu and run through bubbles.”
It got me thinking about some of the other “sometimes” moments that happen.
Sometimes we need more sleep.
Sometimes we need to sit on the couch and watch a marathon of Marvels on Netflix (a Boy Mom thing to do for sure).
Sometimes we need to have a bag of popcorn and glass of wine for dinner.
Sometimes we need to take time away from work.
Sometimes we need to jump in the warm ocean waves.
Sometimes we need to share our opinion on a topic.
Sometimes we need to not take another person’s irritation personally.
Sometimes we need to stop waiting for someone to get emotionally healthy.
Sometimes we need to say “Go away.”
Sometimes we need to not feel guilty for saying “Go away.”
Sometimes we need to trust our gut.
Sometimes we need to welcome new people into our lives.
Sometimes we need to know that everyone has a story.
Sometimes we need to remind ourselves of how far we have come in our personal growth.
Sometimes we need to not care what other people are doing in life.
Sometimes we need to laugh loudly with our friends.
Sometimes we need a couple of friends who love us unconditionally.
Sometimes we need to not be a part of a person’s life just because they invited us in.
Sometimes we need to say “No.”
Sometimes we need to say “Yes.”
Sometimes we need to act silly and not care about our age.
Sometimes we need to take someone’s name and contact information out of our phone.
Sometimes we need to take a nap.
Sometimes we need to push ourselves out of our comfort zone.
Sometimes we need to tell our story.
Sometimes we need to not sit on the sidelines.
Sometimes we need to stop making an excuse for being mistreated.
Sometimes we need to buy ourselves a bouquet of flowers.
Sometimes we need to buy a plane ticket.
Sometimes we need a new stamp in our passport.
Sometimes we need to know other people love us.
Sometimes we need to face our fears.
Sometimes we need to listen to other people’s viewpoints.
Sometimes we need to fight for a relationship that is important to us.
Sometimes we need to know when to let go.
Sometimes we need to buy a Groupon to something we would never think of trying.
Sometimes we need to realize we are doing better than we think we are.
What are your “sometimes” thoughts?
Keep dreaming big!
Christmas is literally right around the corner and are you ready? Not just ready with the activities planned and ready with shopping done, but are you ready? Ready for whatever may come up, both positive and potentially negative. I don’t know about you, but into each of my own holidays, a little bit of good and a little bit of hassle always seems to go hand in hand. Some years it’s a lot of good and some years it has been a lot of hassle. Such is life, right? Our hope is that we can plan ahead to help create realistic expectations and remove (when we can) the problems that could pop up.
We all want to have great memories of Christmas 2015 and feel included in the club of functional families and individuals who had a wonderful holiday. We want the picture-perfect Christmas morning and day full of laughter and warmth. We don’t want kids to wake up that morning vomiting with the flu or a grumpy family member who decides that December 25th is the perfect day for them to be a scrooge all day long. Yet, both realities happen sometimes. So, what is the best way to squeeze out as much enjoyment of the day? I think it includes planning the things we feel we can control.
For example, I love baking on Christmas day. I love the warmth of the oven on and the good smells filling the house. I pre-plan what I want to bake and have all the necessary ingredients ready ahead of time. I love to watch movies with my family on Christmas day so the day before we will go and pick out some favorites and have them ready for the afternoon lull that hits after the presents are opened and before dinner. I really don’t enjoy cooking dinners because inevitably not all the food is hot at the same time and it drives me nuts! After the frustration of last year, when half the meal was hot and the other half was stone cold, I have decided to set a crock-pot for Christmas dinner. It can sit and slowly warm while I am busy baking and all come out hot at the same time!
I encourage you to think back to last year or years ago and what were sticking points that made the day either really enjoyable and that you can duplicate or on the opposite, what are some things that need to be changed up this year to make the day go smoother.
I wish you all a very Merry Christmas and send you wishes for a day that is enjoyable and leaves you satisfied when you lay your head on your pillow on the evening of December 25th.
Keep Dreaming Big!
One of the things in life that interests me is the collective experience of being a human in this world. We often hear about someone who has a “great testimony” because their life was once down and out but then radically changed for the better. You may even have read my own story and were more than a little surprised at the different trials that I have walked through. The truth is that a dramatic transformation or a life story full of chaos, doesn’t make the person any different than someone whose story isn’t as speckled with the highs and lows. We all feel the same on the inside. Sure, there is wisdom that comes only through pain that has been properly dealt with but does that pain have to be extreme or intense in nature to count? I don’t think so.
No matter what our journey has been so far, the emotions we experience are not unique. We all have shared in fear, hope, letdowns, nervousness, loss, loneliness, joy and so on. The circumstances that triggered those emotions are certainly going to be special to the specifics of our own life story, but the embodiment of the feelings are exactly the same for each human being.
For instance, let’s say we have anxiety while doing something normal in life. What is ignited is the same part of the brain that would be active if a bear were chasing us. The body doesn’t really differentiate between a bear and some other less than life threatening trigger for anxiety. The same goes for other emotions. As I have been known to tell many people: tears are tears. It doesn’t matter what caused them to flow. Once they are present, we know the person is experiencing them in all their depth to that person’s capacity.
Why do we honor or revere the life stories that are more like a Greek tragedy, while the quiet life stories seem to be downgraded? Perhaps it’s because we as a population feed off of drama. The tragedy of the plot pulls us in and keeps us watching. We as people relish in the under-dog coming out of the shadows to pull out the victory. Those are wonderful stories. I won’t deny that but I will say that if we are going to truly get to know ourselves and the value that our story brings to the entire picture of humanity, we must stop being as awed by the drama of a tragic life and honor all experiences as valuable.
Imagine if we each honored our individual journey and were very comfortable with sharing all that we have learned. The knowledge base of those around us would be beautifully enriched. We could learn from one another at a much richer level and perhaps, we could even avoid some of the pitfalls that many of us unintentionally fall into.
To know me is to know that I truly value life lessons; no matter how they are learned. Sometimes our best teachers are those that have quietly gained wisdom through truly observing their own lives and living fully aware of their own emotional state; tragic or not.
Everyone has a story.