Dealing with past trauma, specifically abusers and bullies

I don't need to go into exact details, anyone who has experienced bullies or witnessed any kind of injustice, can probably recall the memories, the pain, and the shame. But what I need to do is deal with it. This is obviously a very personal thing, but I'm putting this here partly out of catharsis, but more importantly because it might help others.

For years the effects of bullying have pained my life, many years beyond the last time I'd ever seen the bullies. I have been anguished and thwart by my fear and by my shame. I also ended up bullying people myself because of being bullied, and that is a terrible thing, I am sorry from the very bottom of my heart and I hope one day that the people I hurt can forgive me and that I didn't do them any lasting damage. In anycase, the consequences of bullying are horrible, so the focus here is on healing after being the subject of bullying or abuse.

The term bully makes what is being done sound childish, but it is not. It is cruel, and it is abuse. In the most direct description it is people hurting other people, and it is wrong.

Bullying causes many emotions but the strongest of these are hurt, fear, and shame.

When I speak of hurt, I'm principally referring to emotional hurt. Although I've experienced physical hurt at the hands of bullies, this was never for me the major issue. I'm lucky to be blessed with a large frame, and my body is very physically resilient. But accompanying physical attacks is the much more damaging emotional hurt caused. I know others are not so lucky, and may have experienced a much greater degree of physical hurt, even to the point of debilitation, and for that I imagine this is going to be even more difficult.

But no, for me, physical damage was only a temporary inconvenience and my rough physique brushed it off as I would brush off a tumble on the snowboarding track.

The hurt that bullying causes is deep and myriad (humiliation, feeling stupid, feeling ugly, etc), but what damaged me most though, regardless of whether there was a physical assault or not, was the mental feeling of subjugation. There is a lot of fear in those moments when the bully toys with you, when the bully holds you in the headlights like the doe. It is a gut wrenching feeling of exposure and vulnerability. At it's worst, you feel paralysed to act and allow yourself to be abused.

This is where the shame comes from. You feel complicit in the act, because you didn't stop it. You feel ashamed to tell anyone about it, in case they reject you, or I guess fundamentally, you are worried that they will no longer love you. The shame allows it to continue, because you don't tell anyone about it. The shame increases your isolation and makes you more vulnerable, so the bullying continues.

The fear causes damage too. Fear is an incredible learning tool. It is perhaps the most powerful agent of change the brain knows of, and for good reason. That lion really can kill you, so you'd better not go near its pride. The roar of the lion, rightly so, should tell you to stay well away from that place, and you'd better not forget it, lest you waste your life getting gobbled up by a big fat Felix.

Fear projects its tendrils deep into you and in bullying and other controlling/violent situations you can learn associations that are incredibly difficult to unlearn. Those people, the bullies, stick in your mind like nothing else, and can reduce you again to your subjugated state, just by being present again in the future.

So you worry, you worry, and worry, and worry, that you'll see the bully again. Because you don't know what to do, you don't know how to handle the situation. You worry all you will do is freeze again, and all you will do is be abused again. It's a terrible terrible thing, and it's tragic yet understandable how someone can be driven to suicide out of absolute pure desperation and helplessness, because they've been trapped in a cycle of fear, isolation, and shame.

Thus, bullying and generally abuse of all forms, is incredibly destructive, and that it is why it is of incredible importance that you deal with it. This is why I'm writing this letter, to deal with it myself.

Now, for many years I did not know what to do. I was full of hate for my bullies, despite sometimes being afraid even to say their names out loud. I was so full of anger and hate for them that I wanted to kill them. I wanted them dead. Now of course, I don't really want to commit these acts, but a greater fear in me was having to feel that feeling again, having to feel powerless in front of the bully, and be abused again. That was my greatest fear, and I had to deal with it somehow, but I didn't know how.

I would dream of smashing the bullies' head in. To begin with the dreams were principally of me being subjected again to abuse, but over time, they became more violent. As the anger within me increased, and as I did nothing to deal with it, the dreams became increasingly horrific. I had one only last night where I ended up stamping on the bullies head, and it was crushed against a metal door holding, causing the bullies' brains to vacate the skull.

I actually encountered one of the bullies last Christmas and he asked me how I was and tried to shake my hand. I reluctantly shook his hand, but I couldn't function properly. I was trapped by fear and doubt. Would I again become a paralysed wreck laying vulnerable, ready to be abused. But something in me had changed, a lot had changed since this bully carried out his hatred on me. I had nurtured a hatred inside myself so great that it was truly more terrifying than he had ever been or ever could be.

The bully asked me "how you doing", but all I could say was "what do you mean, how am I doing?" as if the anger in me demanded recognition from him, as if the affront of this complete indifference was as bad as the former abuse itself. He became confused, and asked me "what's wrong with you?", again I responded "what do you mean, what's wrong with me?". Things were escalating but I felt I had no means to control the situation, I had again been isolated in the situation, as my family were sitting at a table not far away, but somehow I was stuck alone at the noisy bar with the bully. Finally the bully gave up and turned his back to me saying "Well, fuck you then!". This caused paroxysms of rage to erupt within me.

This was him, spitting in my face again (as he had literally done once), this was him showing me he was still the same. I was livid. Without thinking, from amygdala to mouth, I shouted at him "Fuck you, you fucking prick!". He turned around and seemed genuinely confused and perhaps even slightly afraid "What's a matter with you?" he said to me. I just walked off shaking, feeling a mixture of fear and confusion about what had just happened.

I had ignited within myself an even greater problem by doing this. I had caused for myself much more anguish. But I forgive myself because I didn't know how to handle the situation. Nobody told me, nobody supported me, I never told anyone about these bullies until long after there was any use, so I didn't know what to do. I had allowed anger to consume me, I had allowed it to build up over the years, and this had caused my current problem. I'd escalated things because I hadn't dealt with my anger.

I struggled with myself following this incident, told various people to gauge reactions. Some supported me, saying it was right to stand up to him, others scolded me for not just ignoring him. In anycase, I still didn't know what to do, and what I'd do if I saw him the next time.

So, we come back to the dream I had last night, about smashing his skull in. I spoke to my partner about this in the morning, and she told me I needed to deal with these people, forgive them inside myself. I was annoyed about this, because it made me even more angry that these people still had control over me. Still caused me pain. My mind could not accept this. Didn't want to give them the credit. But now I know that it isn't really them, it's me. It's the anger in me that is controlling me, not them.

We had a long discussion, and I realised many things, many obvious truths that are echoed in many great books and religions. And understanding finally what they meant. I will put this into practice, and hopefully, eventually free myself from fear.

--

The first thing to do is to forgive your past self for being bullied. Yes, you abandoned yourself to fear at the time. Your lovely self. You were a coward and allowed yourself to be bullied, these things are true, but are excusable if you have any compassion. You were under a situation of fear, a wonderful mechanism of nature that is genuinely useful, but it doesn't make great judgements about the real threat, it over-reacts, and this can be abused. You couldn't do anything else, given you knowledge and training. You were overpowered by the situation. It happened, accept it.

You are no less of a person for being bullied, if anything it should help you be more compassionate. You are a good person and have a lot of great things to give to the world. That you were ashamed and told nobody, is only because you were ashamed of yourself. Literally, it was you who was most ashamed by your actions, not the fear the effects of shame from others, but you. Because you felt you abandoned by yourself. I guess in part you also felt abandoned by others, because nobody had come to your rescue. But it's OK. It happened, you can't change it. You have to love your former self and forgive yourself.

Now the next thing to do is to forgive the bullies. Yes that's right, forgive them. You cannot carry around a bellyful of hate and expect to be happy, it simply won't work. We are creatures of higher consciousness, and we do not have to conflict with each other. Nature knows this, you know this, and this is built into you. Anger and hatred, do not bring resolution. If you were to kill all the bullies, you would only cause more anguish to yourself and others. It's impossible to cure yourself from anger. Let go.

Forgiving the bullies does not mean that you think what they have done is right, do not make that mistake in reading this. You will see from what I tell you last, that you should never think what they have done is right, and you will never allow yourself to be abused again. But for now, forget that, and forgive the bullies.

Love them. As trite as it sounds, love them. Have compassion for them as human beings. Regardless of what they have done, somehow find a way to love them. This is a very difficult one, but it's like a wife still loving her husband despite his stroke having changed his personality. Deep down at one point at least, assuming they are not truly sociopathic, they were a child and they did not have these impulses to hurt others. Something happened to them, or someone taught them, to be sadistic. Regardless, the loving them isn't for them. It's for you.

Love thine enemies is not about the enemies, it's about you. If you love all creatures, even the bad ones, you will cultivate love, the most powerful and valuable of all things inside yourself.

This is why you must love, because you deserve to be filled inside with love. And nothing, nothing at all should be in there to hold you back.

You can run up against hatred all you want but it will only burn you to pieces. And of course it will, what else could such feelings do but destroy you? In their very essence they are the things you most abhor. You don't want those things inside you, and you must do everything to get them out. Love is the solution, as you have always known it to be. This is why when you see on the news as you probably have, the mother and father of a murdered child professing their forgiveness for the perpetrator, the strained incredulity of it can be understood. It is the only way these people can move on, the only way they can finally let go.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=K6JsfdJ2lwc

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sJAoEyt96EM

Love yourself first and foremost, then love your family, and then love everyone else as if they were your family.

So to my bullies, I forgive you, and I love you.

And so finally we come to the issue of justice. What the bullies did was wrong. It *was* wrong. There is a right and a wrong, no matter what the greedy and the powerful want you to think, and we all know it. It is wrong to hurt others intentionally, and any form of it is wrong. If you're brain has not been broken like a congo child forced to murder and rape at the point of a gun, or if you aren't one of the tiny percentage of truly sociopathic people, you know it to be wrong. We have courts, we have justice, to deal with people who do wrong. And for the big things, we hope this serves us.

For things like bullying, the actions are often not even illegal, and the assault may not be severe, regardless of the actual damage these things do. But what you have to do, is stand up for yourself. You can never let yourself be bullied again. This doesn't mean running upto the bully as soon as you saw him and headbutting him in the face. That would be offence, not defence. No, reserve justice for cases, where you are genuinely affronted, and there is no possible other way out. Then you must, you absolutely must, stand up for yourself with as much love and courage as you can muster.

Now you might be thinking that still you don't know what to do if you meet former bullies again. And it is true that I haven't given you specific instructions. The truth is, as Burn's said "the best laid plans of mice and men are want to go awry" or thereabouts. The point is, you shouldn't be thinking about what you are going to do if and when you see the bullies again, you should be focusing on yourself, on loving yourself, and then the right action will come naturally to you if it needs to. It's the fear now, and the hatred inside you now, that are a thousand times more pressing than anything else that bully in your mind or anybody else could ever do to you.

But if I were to guess, I'd say you will probably ignore them, as this is the best thing to do with people who haven't changed, unless they come out in sincere forgiveness.

And if you get physically attacked? Well, then you will either run away and get help if you can outrun them, or you will fight as viciously as an alleycat to stop them. You will stand up for yourself out of love, but only when it is entirely necessary. If you can ignore them, you will. If you cultivate love inside yourself, and forgive, and remove the hatred, I trust that you will take the right action if and when the time comes. Until that thing that may never happen, happens, you don't have to think about it. Live now.

Peace

Ashley

NOTE --

If you are in a situation where you cannot defend yourself and you are being abused, you absolutely must tell someone who can help you. Do not be ashamed. Do not stay in the situation. There are people who can help you, and they will. Even if the first person you approach dismisses you, do not give up, keep telling people until someone helps you, do not give up. If someone is doing something illegal to you, tell the police immediately. There is a way out of your situation and I know you can find it.

Comments

Understand the bully

Universal love is the modern world's biggest mistake. To love friend and enemy alike is to render love meaningless. What is appropriate for both friend and enemy is understanding. Love is for friends, hatred is for enemies.

Understand the bully. He is a parasite, defined not by starting from himself and creating, but starting from others and destroying. He feels hollow. His life is pain, deadened only when he is engaged in the temporary transfer of his suffering to a target: the process is known as projection. He is addicted to it in the same way the thinking man is addicted to love. Love empowers and animates the thinking man because it is the celebration of his kind, of life. The bully is the opposite: he is dead inside. He hates love because it has nothing to do with him and makes his task of projection more difficult.

At this point it is tempting to love the bully because, after all, couldn't it just as well have been you? Couldn't you have had an abusive father? Couldn't you have taken the wrong path at some point and joined in with the unheeding juvenile impulse to destruction with a bunch of like-minded assholes? The answer is no. You are defined by a creating spirit, the feeling of which put you at odds with the bully to begin with.

Pay the bully back in kind: destroy him. Pay your friend back in kind: love him.

Interesting Perspective But I don't Agree

I like your passion and I think your description of the psyche of the bully is mostly correct. I don't however believe that people are either absolute bullies or absolute softy snuggles, and even friends can be assholes sometimes. Thus the bully/friend distinction is not a convenient binary partition. Humans are much more complicated than that, and change does happen. But whether or not there exist any bullies in the world that can change is a different question, so I will get back to the point I want to make.

I think that nurturing hatred only blocks the creative process, as creative processes need space, oxygen, and light to grow.

Maybe you can maintain hating someone without it destroying you, but I cannot persist in carrying around rage for no purpose.

I want to distinguish between two important frames of reference:

1. The mind and how you feel
2. The material world and how you interact with it

Consider the case that the bully is not in your current life, you don't see the bully, you don't interact with the bully. It's a past trauma, but you still carry the hatred around. All this is doing is putting the bully into your current life when there isn't a physical bully actually present. This is insane. This is choosing to nurture the same feelings you get when being bullied.

I believe it is possible to choose, or at least alter, how you feel about the internal representations of people. I don't think you can decide to romantically love someone you don't, or be sexually attracted to someone you are not. It however appears to me to be true that you can decide whether or not to hate someone. It is remarkable that this is feasible, given that certain other transformations are not, but it appears to be true.

Now, given your perspective, you might not want to change how you feel about the bully, you might want to continue hating the bully, and that's fine. That's your choice and I don't need to tell you that. But for me, the hatred was spilling out of its confines into other aspects of my life and making me unhappy, so I wanted to remove the hatred.

It isn't directly straightforward to substitute the hatred, it is a process that takes some time and effort, but the tools to do it are there, and one of them is love.

Think about it, inside you is this representation, not a person, just some thing inside your head that you are hating. And that's all you are really doing, getting very angry with a particular pattern of neuronal firing. This is somewhat absurd as the thing in your head is not the bully, nope, it's part of you! No matter how you slice it, it cannot be avoided that you are all of you, including this representation.

Thus hating the representation is hating yourself, albeit a small part of yourself. You can literally see this under a (very powerful) microscope. You can see synapses being strengthened, releasing more vesicles, as a product of learning. These material constructs are as much of you as are the rest of your body. My argument relies on this being true, and if you don't believe in causality, we can't move on. So you should decide for yourself now, are you going to exclude parts of your mind from being "you", or is all of your mind part of "you"?

Abstracting away from the material, it should be clear that these thoughts and representations are part of you too.

So when you look inward and you hate this thing, this internal representation of the bully, how do you control the focus of your mind? How can you be sure that your hatred doesn't spill over into other representations? Since everything is literally physically connected in the brain, if you hate one part of yourself with enough intensity, the changes this induces will spill over into the associated memories. Like someone squirting a dye onto an absorbant paper. Associated memories might even be positive, but your intense inward focused hatred will make those negative too.

This is especially true when feelings of fear might come along for the ride. Just ask the next neuroscientist you meet how powerful fear is as an agent for changing the brain. It is the most powerful agent of change, and it is incredibly difficult to reverse the changes it makes.

So in the end, you end up corrupting your very self, because you hate the bully. That doesn't sound sensible to me. To destroy yourself for hatred of the other. In this case you would have done far worse damage than the bully ever did, because you did it to yourself. You hated yourself instead of loving yourself.

So this is the point. Loving your enemy is about the internal representation and preventing this from damaging you. NOT about the bully.

So how do you deal with it? You take those memories, and somehow associate them with feelings of love and compassion. Instead of feeling hate for the bully, you try and feel compassion. Embrace the belief that the bully is deep down being harmed by his actions, and is in turmoil. Why? Not because you want to give the bully an easy time in the physical world, but because the internal representation cannot be allowed to grow like a tumor of hate, and you need to do anything you can to stop it.

Anything, absolutely anything, you can do to remove negativity from your introspection, will help you. So this has nothing to do with the bully, it is rather an overwhelming and uncompromising love of the self.

Now, the physical world and how you interact with it is a different thing, albeit related.

You do not have to love the bully in the physical world, if you actually meet the bully. I believe it will help you reframe those memories if you do, instead of activating those associated with fear and hatred again. So again, even when you meet the bully, when you love the bully, it isn't about the bully. It's about you, and making sure you don't get yourself in another internal mess.

If the bully attacks you, then you have to defend yourself. This isn't incompatible with loving the bully, as love is an internal measure and just how you treat your internal representations. The bully doesn't take centre stage of the love either. You love everyone, so then you do what's best for the greatest case. If the bully is hurting other people, then your love for the other people far outweighs your love for the bully, so you stop the bully. If the bully is hurting you, then your love for yourself far outweighs your love for the bully, so you stop the bully.

But the caveat is always the belief that:

1) When a good person does bad things, they damage themselves

Thus the good person strives not to hurt others unless it is absolutely necessary and just. He doesn't willfully pursue a path of hate but rather avoids it assiduously as if it were a poison, knowing the internal damage it can do.

Excellent insight

This is so profound and truthfull. Thank you so much for this insight. God bless you.

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