Emotional Abuse and Bullies: If You Don’t Like What You See When You Look in the Mirror, Don’t Blame the Mirror
Do you like what you see when you look in the mirror? If you don’t, do you confront it and change if necessary? Or do you get mad at the mirror, threaten to destroy it or drape a cloth over it, and deny what you see?
Since beginning this blog a month ago, I’ve received both positive and negative feedback via comments. Many of my posts describe emotional abuse and bullying behaviors, which are typical of those who have Borderline, Narcissistic, and/or Antisocial personality traits.
People who abuse others maintain their power by keeping the truth of what they do secret. When you speak the truth, they begin to lose power and control. That’s what abusive personality types are after–power and control over you. When you speak the truth you also tick them off big time and there are usually negative repercussions–for you, not for them.
A friend described my blog as “waving a red cape in front of a raging bull” and asked why I’d deliberately try to antagonize people who are like this. The friend also pointed out this is a pattern for me.
This was hard feedback to receive. It felt a little bit like blaming the victim. Instead of becoming defensive and lashing out, I held the mirror up to myself and saw this to be accurate. I’ve provoked bullies in my personal and professional life in the past to expose them for who and what they are and made myself a target by doing so.
Even though I didn’t like having this reflected back to me, I didn’t get mad at the mirror. I didn’t denounce the mirror as irresponsible, tasteless, or cruel. I didn’t break the mirror or cover it up to deny what I saw. I looked into it and said, “Yep, that’s right.”
There’s something that compels me to say, “This is wrong. The emperor’s naked. We’re not the crazy ones. You are. Stop it.” I had a parent with Narcissistic Personality Disorder traits who bullied us. Having a bully in the family meant you couldn’t speak the truth for fear of setting them off. Confronting a bully, especially if they’re not afraid of you, is like throwing gasoline on a fire.
And what am I doing exactly to provoke them? I’m not naming specific bullies I’ve encountered in my life. I’m not outing anyone’s identity. I’m describing what emotional abuse and bullying are in general terms, the etiologies of these behaviors, and the effects and damage to those on the receiving end.
I’m telling men who have been abused and bullied they’re not alone, that the way they’re being treated is wrong, and they don’t have to accept it. You can find this information on other websites, psychology and self-help books, and professional psychiatry and psychology journals. The only difference is I’m tailoring this information for men who are emotionally abused instead of portraying women as the only victims of abuse.
And that’s why the emotionally abusive, professional victims/bullies don’t like what I write. It’s not their highly controlled and distorted spin on the truth. It’s the truth as I see it and as many people who have been bullied and hurt by these people see it.
The worst thing you can do when you’re involved with an abusive person, at work or at home, is to speak the truth. You get brutalized for it and they gun for you all the harder. It’s like the schoolyard bully who takes your milk money and then threatens to beat you up if you tell anyone.
In order to keep the peace and get along, should the rest of us surrender our “milk money,” our truth or our well being, so we don’t trigger the bully and get beaten up? I don’t know. Maybe.
When you’re bullied as a kid you go to your teacher, a parent, or some adult who’s in a position of authority to make the bully stop. But what do you do now as an adult when the person bullying you is your boss, co-worker, wife, girlfriend, or ex? Who is there to step in and say, “Enough?”
Since bullies won’t take responsibility for their actions and won’t stop until someone with authority makes them stop, the rest of us have to take responsibility for ourselves. Why did we become involved with them? Why do we stay with them? Why do we allow them to get away with their bad behaviors? Why is it so hard to speak the truth? (Actually, I know the answer to the last one. It’s because they get even nastier).
I used to try to get along with the bullies in my life by not having the “audacity” to disagree with them, have a better idea than them, or point out that they were being hurtful and unfair. “Just trying to get along” made me physically ill and depressed after a while.
I encourage those of us who just smile and swallow it, to collectively stand up for each other and say, “This is wrong. The emperor’s naked. We’re not the crazy ones. You are. Stop it.”
It’s scary to do this, but it can and must be done. When enough people take a stand and say “we’re not going to tolerate and excuse these behaviors anymore” the bullies lose their power and their control, which means they can’t hurt you anymore–well, they can try to, but it’s a little harder to do once you’ve de-fanged them.
by Dr Tara J. Palmatier, PsyD
Private Consultation and Coaching
I provide confidential, fee-for-service, consultation/coaching services to help both men and women work through their relationship issues via telephone and/or Skype chat. My practice combines practical advice, support, reality testing and goal-oriented outcomes. Please visit Services and Products for professional inquiries.
If you find the information I provide free of charge helpful and valuable here on Shrink4Men, please consider making a donation via PayPal to help me maintain the site.
Woman in a mirror by alex itin on flickr.
Man by Matthew Ahern on flickr.