Are you a victim or are you a bully?
These are strong words and they bring up strong feelings. Many of us believe strongly that we are victims and we have the stories to prove it. We rarely think of ourselves as bullies...if ever. But if we are victims, we are also bullies.
If you sit quietly and locate your most basic self, you will see that nothing is really wrong with you. You are fine. The part of you that you would call YOU, your essence, has never been harmed and can never be harmed. Can you find that person? For me, this essence is who I think I really am. I sometimes have to reach way back into mid-childhood to find that feeling, the feeling of 'Stephanie'. That is the part of me that never changed and never will and can't be damaged.
That's the part I want to speak to today. I don't want to talk to the part of you that tells the stories of how you've been 'done wrong'. I don't want to hear your sad story, not today. We all have them, we all believe them, but on some level we know we are okay anyway, if we are honest. We tell the story of the bully---the parent or the system or the teacher or the lover---who treated us badly, made us like this and we keep telling it, hoping it will be truer in the retelling.
But the reason we need to keep talking about this, is because it isn't true. It needs a lot of reinforcement, because it's a story that could and should be let go. You are more than a story in your past. And if you are reading this now, I know you are strong enough to walk past this story and get on with your life.
Who is the Bully?
If everyone is the victim (and we all have a story that proves we are), then who was the bully? Who perpetuated all these crimes? Have you ever asked your bully why they did what they did? If you have you got an answer that said, "I was a victim once too, and that's why I acted like that." It's the belief in being a victim, that makes us overshoot a situation, maybe in self-defense; maybe to get back what we feel we lost; maybe to prove we are worthy of more. And so we bully or victimize another. Maybe our bully thinks we are his bully. Has that been as true if not truer than your original tale? Have you declared that you will NEVER forgive this person, will forever judge them, and will continue to tell this story where this person comes out looking like a criminal?
If this is all sounding a bit ridiculous, well, I couldn't agree more. I spent many years (and lots of therapy dollars) telling my story over and over and eventually I just said, "Where's the exit ramp? How do I get on with my life?" The exit ramp is to stop telling the story.
Stop telling it to your friends, your therapist and yourself. If you must tell a story, tell the ones you have forgotten (as have I) of where you were the bully. Can you imagine telling your friends about when you were the boyfriend dumper? Or how about when you didn't pay money back to someone (even if you were very young)? Have you also talked behind someone's back? Hit a parked car and didn't report it? Cheated on your taxes? You get the idea.
Those stories...well...they seem to be magically erased when we are asked to recall them, don't they? You and I can do the same with our victim story too.
Who is the Victim?
When you declare yourself victimized, then there is a guilty party. There is someone to blame, and they are bad. This is the victim's weapon (inflicting guilt). This is how the victim/bully cycle perpetuates itself.
If I believe (tell myself the story) that I have been bullied by you and you have hurt me, then you are wrong. You are a bad person. You should be punished. This punishment may be "nothing more" than social judgment or rejection. And this punishment will last as long as I, the victim, decide you are the bad guy.
So, now the "bully" (whose weapon is control and power), now feels like the victim, because you made him guilty without an objective trial. He was found guilty without a jury of his peers, if you will.
Once you see this pattern in operation, you have come a very long way toward stopping it. It takes time to see this cycle, and it isn't easy or fun. Very few people will encourage you (though they will continue to encourage victim or bully behavior, oddly). You will be doing this work for you and you alone. But the reward is great. The reward is self-acceptance and peace.
Author's note: Yes, I know about true victimization. I am not referring to people or children who are physically unable to protect themselves. That being said, I hold to my message above---that once we've moved through these painful life lessons, we drop the story of being the victim and get on with our lives.
Just dropping the story is proof of your inner strength. You can also reach back and help someone currently struggling. If that means helping and empowering people to stand up for themselves, or sending in funding for a group that helps temporary victims, these would be huge strides toward stopping the victim/bully cycle in our own life----and turning these experiences into something positive.