Disclaimer: For those of you who know me and my work around healing from abuse, please note that this blog is not about clinically abusive people (aka narcissists, sociopaths, or psychopaths). This series on adult bullies is about the other type of difficult people. The average garden-variety type of folks we run into out in the world.
The Different Types of Adult Bullies
What happens when we run into adults who don’t know how to treat other people? Our reactions can range from explosive anger all the way to deeply internalizing the ugly messages that bullies send us. Why do bullies exist in the adult world? As kids, weren’t we all told that schoolyard bullies would one day “grow up” and realize the error of their ways? I know I heard that mean kids would grow out of the need or desire to bully and yet, I see adult bullying in too many life situations.
There seems to be a few different variations of behaviors from individuals who clearly are old enough to know better, and yet, roam the adult schoolyard looking for someone to kick in the shins. Over the course of several blogs, I am going to share with you a few of the types of bullies I have either experienced myself or have been witness to through other people.
The Bitter Bully
I have personally come in close contact with this bully. It is one who appears in the form of a friendly face that is all good with you until, wait for it, the seed of bitterness comes to full harvest. What causes this person to shift from a caring friend to a snarky person who you cannot associate closely with anymore? Bitterness usually shows itself when the adult bully feels threatened by you in some way. Perhaps you stepped on their toes by achieving success in “their” self-designated area of life. It’s as if they have metaphorically tinkled on a bush like a dog to claim it as their own and you dared to come sniffing too close. You hear the low growl and turn to see their teeth showing. They don’t like you anymore. Suddenly you’re now annoying and they have numerous previously unspoken complaints of you. Their view of you has changed but the only thing that is new is your success.
Maybe your success stepped on their toes and rather than coming clean with you about their internal conflict, it seeps out through their pores in bitterness. Of course, they would adamantly deny any jealousy or bitterness. Didn’t they already tell you they are not an angry person? They are the outward picture of confidence but as an intuitive person, you feel the wave of bitterness and it pushes you away from them.
What causes the bitter bully to emerge from the outer covering of a good friend? I believe it is deeply held insecurities. When people feel overly territorial it is because they are scared that you are taking something away from them; that they will lose the goodness in their life. These individuals may have dealt with scarcity or neglect previously and they are triggered on a subconscious level by you coming to close to their now good life.
Is this your fault? Not at all. Are you expected to shrink back in life just so you don’t push insecurity buttons in someone around you? Never. We do not clip our own wings for fear we might fly too high for another person’s comfort level. Their bitterness and internal conflict is theirs, and theirs alone, to work through. However, it is helpful to pause and ponder the “why” of the bitter bully’s projection outward towards you. When we can cognitively understand why people behave the way they do, it takes the personalization out of it. We stop going over what we did to make that person change their ways with us. We start recognizing that not everyone can stay on the same road.
People say that failure will show you who your friends are and that is true. Success will show you the insecurities hiding in those around you. Sometimes, it’s not pretty. Sometimes success brings a chill of loneliness as people react in different ways and bitter is one of them.
Personally, I would rather be surrounded by a few key people who love themselves and their lives so much that anything I might have going on positively isn’t at all a threat to them. It is also my gift back to them because real friends don’t pour bitterness on one another like acid.
Keep Dreaming Big! (so big it makes people uncomfortable)
“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times…” – Charles Dickens
Almost three weeks ago I published my first sole-authored book. The lead up to launch day reminds me of this famous quote by Mr. Dickens. It truly has been the best and worst of times. Through each season of life we get to glean a little more wisdom and, sometimes, a little thicker skin. Now that I am a couple weeks out of the post-launch vortex, it seemed like a good time to encapsulate some of what I have noticed while running this intense sprint to complete the book and get it into the hands of readers.
As an entrepreneur, there are times when not only the candle is burning at both ends, but in the middle and just about melted down to a puddle of wax. That basically sums up my energy levels during the book project. It was a slow slide into chronically living on fumes. Many of us can recall times when we would have to muster up enough energy to get through the must needed tasks of adult living, and the fluffy extras just dropped off the cliff into the abyss of not going to happen.
When we are in seasons like this, it is a great time to watch ourselves and the attitude of those around us. For our own self-reflection, we need to be aware that our reactions may be more exaggerated because we are crazy tired. Little life annoyances that would have left us shaking our heads before, may now be dealt in ways that are unusual for us. Example? While driving on a busy street that resembles a slow freeway, I was first off the blocks at a light and apparently I did not gun by car’s engine quite fast enough for the lady behind me so she kept incessantly honking at me. When I jerked my head up to look in the rear-view mirror, I saw that she was wildly waving her arms in the manner as if to shoo me forward and then, she gave me the middle finger salute. Oh no she did not! Oh yes she did!! I would like to say I just shook my head in calm, I-have-my-emotions-under-control disbelief and drove my car normal from that point but, I did not. Remember, I have been living life on empty and right at that moment, rude-lady-driver was the tipping point of my patience. So I very passive-aggressively slowed waaaaaay down and continued to check my rear-view mirror to watch this lady alternate between waving me on, to flipping me off again, to then jerking her mini-van into the lane next to me and zoom past. Did I just keep my eyes on the road and my hands at 10 and 2? No, I did not. I jumped into the cesspool with her and we exchanged “friendly” gestures.
Did our road rage stop there? Nope. It continued light after light after light. After a while I started to worry that perhaps she was headed to the same school pick up that I was and good grief, was this rude-lady-driver a fellow school parent?! Oh, please say it isn’t so. Reality set in of just how ridiculous I had behaved in response to this extremely annoying person. Luckily she kept going when I turned left to head to the school and I really felt stupid by my exhaustion induced actions.
Now, being in a busy season does have some benefits. Maybe not the most patient while driving but living on empty can bring into crystal clear clarity who we want to spend time with and who is a soul drain. When we find ourselves very thin on time and attention, we see which individuals are there to walk along side of us and who is there for their own benefit.
When we have nothing to give, the takers seem to vanish and that’s a good thing.
Often times when we are well-rested we have the energy to make excuses for people’s poor behaviors or attitude towards us. We may fill in the gaps where they failed to do what they were supposed to do and our actions cover up the truth about them. When we have normal energy, we will do the heavy lifting to maybe keep a broken relationship limping along. This can occur among family, friends, or in the workplace. During normal energy times, we may take on more weight than the other person. Now, enter into a season of spinning deadlines or high stress and no way are we expelling time or resources to make a bad situation slightly better. Sweep the issues under the rug? Nope. Have the desire to bounce back again and make something keep going that needs to end? Nope. Going to spend time with people who have shown their true colors? Nope. Nope. Nope.
Your true friends and your true foes become a lot more clear during and after a season of living on empty.
When you have sorted through who is there for you, these people become like little breaths of air in a stuffy room. They shine like gems of many beautiful colors. They are your people and your appreciation of them runs at an even deeper level. Relationally cleaning house is a good thing and a time of being on empty will help facilitate healing changes.
If you find yourself in a tough, busy season, I hope that you will give yourself the gift of acceptance for where you are right now. Make a plan for when your busyness will end so it doesn’t feel like a never ending dark tunnel. If you are working on a project (like I was with the book), I hope it is a huge success for you. Trust me when I say that you will learn about yourself, but mostly about how other people relate to you going after your dreams.
Keep dreaming big!
I had a wonderful time visiting with Alise Cortez on her radio show:
Working on Purpose.
To listen to the show: Click HERE
A Quest to Improve the Lives of People Who Have Experienced Psychological or Spiritual Abuse
“Let’s face it – relationships of all types can really be difficult. That’s especially true when we find ourselves living, associating or working with individuals who use psychological or spiritual abuse as a method of harm. A surprising number of people exhibit various personality disorder characteristics that manifest themselves in behaviors toward those closest to them. Our guest in this episode has a unique window on this world in her counseling practice focusing on recovery from hidden abuse. In this episode, we discuss Shannon Thomas’s choice to enter the field, how she developed her career into her own business today, the six stages she uses to guide her clients toward recovery, her perspective of how and why psychological and spiritual abuse occurs today, and the signs we might use to recognize that we ourselves are in a toxic relationship and then what we can do about it.” – Alise Cortez