Friday, November 19, 2010

Bullying comes from me

Oxford dictionary

Bully (noun): a person who uses strength or power to harm or intimidation over those who are weaker.


Bully (verb): to use strength or or influence to intimidate someone, typically to force him or her to do what one wants.

There is so much being written right now about bullying. The newest focus of bullying has been put on homosexuality, but in the last week I’ve also read two other accounts of bullying. One is over at Bust magazine, where you can read article about how women are bullied because of their social choices. And the other is on a mama’s blog, where you can read about how a girl was bullied because the daughter chose a water bottle that was different then all the other girls, and was too “boyish.”

The second article is titled “bullying starts in first grade” but you know what? It doesn’t start in first grade. It starts the moment we want our kid to be someone other then they are. It starts the moment we want other kids to be someone other then who they are. And it happens EVERYWHERE. Not just with gay kids, or with sexually promiscuous girls, or girls who choose the star wars water bottle over the pink water bottles. It happens to adults, to parents, to people everywhere! Our country was based on bullying. In fact, it seems as though every industrial country exists because of bullying. And of course that is not to say that bullying does not go on in “non” industrial countries. It seems pretty pervasive…

While thinking about this topic while out on a run, I was mystified and quite overwhelmed at the topic of bullying. “It’s everywhere!” I was realizing. “How did this happen? What can we do?” where some of the questions popping up in my head. One could surely do a historical overview to find some of the original causes of our current culture of bullying, which has basically reflected the last three thousand years or so of bullying. And while I actually might find that interesting, and have gone down paths such as that before (and have some rather long papers from college to prove it!), I thought I’d go a bit inward with this. (and those that know me are saying, "*of course* she's taking this inward"! {BWG!} )

Where does bullying really live? What is this bullying all about, on the inside, for me? Well, we know that bullying lives within us, because it seems fairly obvious that most of us are in constant battle with ourselves. And if I ask the question, “where does it come from” and I go inward a bit, I come up with the pretty obvious answer: on every level, bullying comes from me.

I don’t just mean that *I* bully others. I mean, yes, I do! I can freely admit that I have

bullied my daughter from day one. I bully other kids. I bully my husband. I bully other parents! Every time I have judgment, in my opinion, that has some bullying energy behind it. And when the judgment extends to words and actions, then there is full fledge bullying going on! So yes, bullying comes from me. And I am not happy about that. At all. And I am doing my best to stop bullying. That is a topic in an of itself. HUGE!!!!

But what I also realized is that bullying comes from me, in that *I bully myself.* And here is where it gets a bit more tricky and words start to feel limited to me, but I’ll do my best. When feelings come up, rather then *feel* them, our culture encourages us to do anything but feel them. We might feel them for a bit, especially when we’re unable to hold it all in anymore, but rarely do we feel our feelings to the point of integration. And more importantly, rarely do we take responsibility for our feelings. We are much more likely to get angry at someone or something. Or become a victim. Guilt, shame, blame. Rarely does feeling our feelings lead to integration and empowerment.

So what does this mean for our kids? Well, it can be subtle or it can be quite overt. It can mean that when my kid wants to do something, and I judge her want, and show my judgment through facial expressions or other body language, or in more obvious ways such as tone of voice or value ridden language, I’m using my influence over my kid. I’m using my influence as mother, as “permission giver,” as {insert role here} so that she’ll do what I want, or perhaps so that she’ll not do what I don’t want her to. I choose to name this bullying, because I can purposely use my own power as mama, especially if she wants to please me or if she is looking for my acceptance (hence, using power to influence someone who is weaker). And I can also call it bullying, because I *am* bigger then her, and I do have more power then her, on all sorts of levels.

As I stated above, we’ve all done this. And perhaps not all of it’s “bad.” We’ve all read of how to convey messages to our kids using facial expressions…. The baby goes to something we might think of as dangerous, and we scowl or use vocal inflection to let her know that we don’t approve of that. When the baby changes course, we go back to smiling and coo-ing at her. And then as the child grows older, this type of exchange continues to occur, on a larger scale level, with more intent, and with more judgment and with the desire to exert more control.

So what does this have to do with feelings? When our kids want to do something that we don’t agree with, it seems to be the easiest and most popular route to react to what is being requested.

Kid: “Can I have candy for breakfast?”

Mama: “Why in the world would you want to do that to your body?”

“Only if you want to get cavities.”

“Sure, if you’re ok with acting like a crazy person.”

“I’m not ok with you putting poison into your body.”

Notice how all the responses are judgment laden, and overt a very clear desire on the part of the parent, in hopes that the child will make a different choice. What might happen if, instead of responding with a reaction based in fear, the mom took a moment to think about what was coming up inside of her. And what if she allowed her self to have that fearful conversation *inside of her head* and went into that fear. What if she were to find some clarity about what the reaction of fear was all about for her?

I have the suspicion that if parents choose to completely feel their feelings, and choose to feel what was coming up inside of them when their kid wanted to do something that mentally triggered them into either saying no or wanting to control, then the need to bully our kid into submission would not be occurring on the level it is.

So, how does this fit into the larger bullying that is going on, out in the world? It seems clear to me, that if kids are being bullied from a very young age, by those that raise them, that it would only make sense to bully others as a way to feel a sense of control over their own environment.

The hot topic these days is teen suicide. Is it any wonder why there is an increase in our kids wanting to kill themselves? Is it any wonder why there is an increase of kids in their single digits expressing thoughts of suicide? Bullying is not just coming from parents; it’s coming from everywhere. The energy of bullying permeates across race, religion, class, ect.

What might possibly kill the effects of bullying? I realize it sounds pretty airy fairy, but it seems to me that love might kill the effects of bullying. And not just love from others either, but an inner self-love.

What **is** the opposite of bullying? Acceptance? Love? That might be taking it too far, at least according to the dictionary, which uses the words allow and liberate… (That feels pretty good to me…. To be a liberator of my child, or any other person, rather then a bully…) But the energy behind the opposite of bullying, for me, is found in love and acceptance.

And what, then, is the opposite of bullying oneself? Self-acceptance? Self love? How can we get there? Will blaming, shaming, or feeling guilt lead to self-acceptance or self-love? Not for me! Every person is different, but for me, feeling my feelings has led me to truly loving and accepting myself. And in doing so, helps me to love and accept my child. Is this an easy path? Not always. Is it an empowering path? Yeah, it is. Is it a path filled with love and acceptance? Absolutely.


  1. I just wanted to thank you for sharing your wisdom here. You are right, we are bullying our children when we should be accepting and loving them for who they are. It is so hard, like swimming against the current! Yet reading posts like this reminds me and encourages me in living this "new" way. It is so different from how I was raised. Bless you as you work it out in your family.

  2. I hear what you're saying and yes, I agree that we pretty much all bully in order to feel better by someone else behaving as we wish rather than finding our own internal shift to happiness. Still, I find it easier to see than to act on, as much as I try and as much as I do better now than I used to.

    In your example of candy for breakfast for instance, even if I self-refer it and explain why I am unhappy about that choice due to the effects her eating candy will have on the rest of the family later when she's tired or moody and aggressive and lacking self control to be otherwise (she's only 5), it's still in the hopes of having her choose something that will help her maintain better bloodsugar levels and feel better in herself and also to make the family environment more harmonious.

    I like candy at breakfast time, but I don't enjoy the mood swings it gives me too and neither do my children like it because I have less control of myself, so I choose family harmony over sugar cravings.

    I don't seem to have a strategy or alternative to this kind of "bullying". Where do we draw the line between an individual's right to freedom over the freedom of enjoyment for the other members of a family that it will limit?

  3. What I've found is that grown-up people today don't listen to their bodies. Hardly ever. Why is that? Because we were told what to eat and what not to eat. Why should we LISTEN when we can BE TOLD. For my kids, I share *my* body cues, but in a completely non-judgmental way, and usually not in the moment--Like, I have a running dialog going as I eat my own food--"I am really a protein fan. It sure makes me feel better to eat protein in the morning than carbs. Other people, though, love carbs. Papa likes just coffee. Have you noticed the difference for yourself? Try it sometime--compare a day when you eat meat and eggs for breakfast to a day when you eat french toast for breakfast, and see what the difference is in how you feel."

    My kids are 2-18, and all of them can ignore candy, even though it is available to them all day, every day. My 18 yo knows that wheat gives her a migraine. My 12 yo knows that eating protein will level out his blood sugar and make him less emotional if he's feeling out of sorts. My 2 yo can eat candy any time she wants, and doesn't.

    None of this has anything to do with the fact that bullying is just WRONG, but I hope it helps ease your mind that not bullying about food does not mean having an un-healthy, diabetic, obese child on your hands....

  4. I apologize for not responding earlier. Life has been a bit busy, and even now I'm not going to have the quality of a response I'd like to have. (family walking in the door in 30 min and I need to get a shower yet!)

    Anonymous #2:

    Your main question was

    "I don't seem to have a strategy or alternative to this kind of "bullying". Where do we draw the line between an individual's right to freedom over the freedom of enjoyment for the other members of a family that it will limit?"

    I don't think it's a black and white thing. I think that each moment is different, and flows differently. There are some days when i am in a place of presence and i am not triggered by my fears or by my fear of discomfort. (It seems to me that to a large extent it is your discomfort that you are trying to avoid: kid has sugar and then there is a lack of harmony of sorts and that doesn't feel as good to you)
    There are other days when i am not in presence and i am fighting tooth and nail to avoid discomfort. What happens then is real disharmony, imo. On all levels.

    What it comes down to is a kind fighting for control that we all do sometimes. and we do this to avoid feeling, imo. and the main feeling i personally try to avoid feeling is discomfort. if i am able to relax and expand and be in a place of presence, then i have less of an attachment to any kind of behavior, and hence less 'discomfort.'

    In short, the strategy i use and rely on is inner work, not changing other people's behaviors, or trying to control them.

    In regards to the sugar issue (which is not what my blog post was about but certainly brought up issues for you)--- some suggest it is not the sugar, it is the artificial flavors and colors. Others say it is the lack of other foods that one eats with sugar. Others say there are simply too many variables!

    I did see this article the other day, and found it fascinating:

    Thanks very much for reading and posting! :)

  5. This comment has been removed by the author.

  6. This comment has been removed by the author.

  7. oh good, i thought my post had been eaten, but it came though! yeah! :)

  8. I love this post! Thank you! Liz, a lurker from Shine list.

  9. Another lurker from the Shine list. :)

    I have had these same thoughts and I am so grateful to you for putting it all out here, for us to share and reflect on.

    This came at such a good time for me, too, as I feel I am moving ever more deeply into un-doing bullying in myself.


  10. Thankyou so much for shareing this:)

  11. You're so right, Bullying begins at home.