Isn’t it interesting how some people who have behaved badly, immediately set about pretending to themselves and to everybody else that they haven’t?
And of course the first thing that goes out of the window is the truth.
‘What do you mean by bad behaviour?’ I hear you asking.
Well, let’s take bullying. It usually involves:
some kind of physical, emotional or mental abuse…
constant fault finding…
generally behaving in an aggressive or hurtful way.
Say there’s a bully in your family, with a raging temper. We all have our own experiences, but let’s just say it’s a sibling who fights as if there are no rules.
They’ll hit you when you are down, they’ll hit you below the belt; they’ll blame you for their mistakes…everybody’s tried everything, but in the end you all keep quiet because it seems that nothing anybody can do will ever make any difference.
What I want to touch on here is the relationship between the bully and their target.
You’ve got the person the bully has targeted who wants to forget, but largely can’t and the ‘perpetrator’ who wants to forget and largely can…and it’s an interesting road they travel:
First off the bully won’t want to talk about the specifics of their own behaviour
Secrecy and silence will often be their first line of defence and their target will be too gob-smacked, upset, furious or just plain terrified to utter a word…but what if they do manage to squeak something out?
Well, the bully will then attack their credibility…saying that they are over-reacting or making a fuss about nothing. Sentences beginning with ‘the trouble with you….’are quite common at this point..
If this doesn’t work the bully will try to make sure that nobody listens to the tale their target has to tell. From denial to rationalising they will try to evade responsibility at every turn. For example:
- It never happened, they are lying.
- They are exaggerating – it wasn’t that bad.
- They brought it on themselves, they had it coming.
- One interesting approach is to dress bullying up as being helpful – I am only shouting at you for your own good – you need to hear this (More likely is that the bully needs to say it and in that particularly nasty way – the question you could ask yourself is – Why?. And the answer will have nothing to do with you and everything to do with them.)
Or they could introduce so much hype and spin into the story that it becomes unrecognisable – and their already stressed out target is left bemused – wondering whether they were ever even there.
A more toxic form of this approach is when the bully changes the story and then tells everybody the new improved version before their hapless target has even had a chance to fully assess what has happened.
Or sometimes they just make so much noise that nobody else can get a word in.
And if all else fails, how many times have you heard – ‘that was ages ago, when are you going to forget the past and move on’?
So what do you do?
Well, if you’re on the receiving end of this kind of behaviour, it’s simple – You Speak.
But there are ways of telling people….and you need to choose carefully who you tell and how you tell it because the idea behind speaking out is that by doing so the situation will improve:
You might be:
looking for support
hoping that something in the situation will change
wanting to respond in a different way
looking for somebody to believe you.
Whatever the reason, in your mind think, every time I tell this story, I want come away feeling stronger as a result.
If you recognize your own behaviour as being hurtful to those around you, we could be talking about quite complex issues around fear and low self-esteem. You might begin by asking yourself:
- Why do I need to be like this?
- How does being like this benefit me?
- What are my relationships like as a result?
24th July 2012
* Steve Biko’s words have been taken out of context, but the title was inspired by his writings on Apartheid . I first saw them in a book by John Pilger – Hidden Agendas, Vintage, London, 1998, P.5
If you feel you need support or would like to discuss your feelings in a safe and comfortable environment –
Please e-mail Nayna Kumari for a preliminary and confidential discussion…