Whatever the setting or relationship in which we were victimized by a toxic person, one thing is for sure:
We are Brave (with a deliberate capital B).
Not only have we survived the bullies. We have found a way to understand how not to perpetuate the cycle of abuse. How to reach out and talk about the pain we have lived, and decide to heal from these experiences. At the same time we even manage to support others; perhaps the bravest task we ever faced.
The Hidden Truth of Bullies
It is made very clear to us from the beginning: we must keep what we endure secret. Not only by being isolated by the shame we feel, but through real threats too. We are programmed not to let our imperfect families have their dirty laundry spoken about in public. What bullies these people are! They are truly frightened that their abuse could be made public. That they will be seen for whom they really are, and will have to face the consequences. So they terrorize us even more to ensure our silence.
The enablers are just as guilty. They too want the truth to be hidden. They have a fear of being associated with the abuser, of having to share in the responsibility. They have never protected the victim, despite having been in a situation where they could have. These are spineless bullies, but bullies nonetheless.
The Workplace Bullies
In the workplace where there is a bully, it seems that most employees will align themselves with the bully in order to not become the next victim. Even those who actually sympathize with the victim will not speak out because of the fear of becoming targeted. When having first hand experience of bullying, a survivor is more likely to stand up for their fellow-target. Maybe even considering that they may not have been able to speak up to their own bully, and feeling determine not to permit that to happen others.
The Family Bullies
In families the bully is often one (or both) of the parents. That means they are in an excellent position to influence and direct the family dynamics to suit them. Some kids will be scapegoated, while others are made to be the golden child. There can often be a liaison between the golden child and the parent, making the first act as an extension of the bully. The dynamic however can also reach the opposite, where the scapegoats are suspicious and jealous of each other, but seem to bond well with the golden child.
The manner in which siblings split and bound are governed by so many emotions that there really is no way to predict them. Some will want to hide their shame, because they feel they deserved the abuse. Some don’t want others to know they were weak. Others still, feel like they supported the abuser, and want to create a distance from that person. Only those victims who want to understand what happened and why, are unafraid of actually addressing what has occurred. They want to move on from being a victim. This in fact shows they are no longer a victim, but a survivor who will no longer tolerate the abuse. Such a realization in one sibling, disturbs the dysfunction between the siblings yet again.
The Romantic Bullies
Within an abusive partnership – be it emotional or physical abuse – the victim always has the need to take the abuse while trying to employ ways of improving the situation. It is indeed a conundrum. After all the abused wants the person they fell in love with to be the way they were in the beginning, usually loving and kind. So they take the punishment, in the hope of improvement. And so the cycle of abuse continues as in the diagram below:
The honeymoon phase is the beginning where everything is wonderful and the victim feels they have met their soul mate. Then the tension builds, the abused us not paying their partner enough attention, or they are flirting with a friend, that skirt is too short, that is too much make-up… The possibilities are endless and it matters not whether it is the husband or wife that is the abuser. Whatever happens there will certainly be an incident and that can be verbal, physical or emotional abuse.
An incident is always followed by an apology, and the promise of never doing such a thing again. This has the ability to make the victim forgive the abuser, and reason that their behavior is out of character. So the honeymoon phase is re-establish. Everything is hunky dory again, and calm restored. At least until the moment where the abuser cannot control their negative emotions and the tension will again build up to the next incident.
The very purpose of the apology is to make the victim stay and even inspire feelings of love. And there is no need to tell family and friends, because after all it was unintentional. This is how the abused becomes totally isolated.
You Can Be Brave Too
When you are being bullied and abused it can be hard to believe you can be brave. When a person starts to see their bully for who they are, there are some things they can do to start becoming a survivor, rather than a victim.
Knowledge is power!
So read, read, read (or watch, or listen). There is a wealth of information out there. So start digging through this site, use the power of Google (or any other search engine of course). Start educating yourself on emotional abuse, bullying, personality disorders… Empower yourself through knowledge!
Building Boundaries and defences to protect yourself from future attacks.
Whatever your situation, a bullying will not leave a willing victim alone. If you do not change the dynamic you can be sure there will be future attacks. So whether you are staying in the relationship or not, start setting boundaries.
You don’t have to be brave all by yourself.
Isolation is the power tool of the bully. Making you feel lost and alone serves their purposes, not yours. So break the isolation, find people that will help you be brave. Get in touch with a local charity, if you feel in direct danger call the authorities for assistance. Join our community of peers for support and feedback.
Do not mistake Force for Bravery.
Bravery can hide in the smallest actions, it is not about force or strength. Strength is something you can build as you heal. Being brave is listening to that little voice that says: enough! Bravery can be admitting there is a problem. Bravery is crying your eyes out because you feel so tired and broken. Bravery is asking for help.