Author, Katherine Mayfield shares a 2nd excerpt from her book “Bullied: Why Do You Feel Bad Inside and What To Do About It”. This short, easy-to-read, and helpful resource for kids and adults who are being or have been bullied as well as parents, teachers, and friends who are trying to understand and help. (Links to radio interview and all excerpts at bottom of post).
What Feelings Do People Have When They are Bullied?
Being bullied at home or in the workplace can cause many different kinds of feelings. Along with other emotions, many people feel ashamed when they’re bullied, as if they’ve done something wrong, even though they haven’t.
Shame is a natural feeling in that it helps us know when we’ve done something wrong, or hurt another person. Another word for it is “conscience.” But when other people criticize us and put us down, we can develop “unhealthy shame,” which is shame that is not based on who we really are or how we behave—it’s based instead on believing that we’re wrong or defective, because someone else has said so.
This kind of unhealthy shame is an error in our thinking. We stop looking inside and seeing the good parts of ourselves, and begin to focus on what other people say about us. Knowing that their taunts and ridicule come from an unhealthy place within them allows us to see that the comments they make are probably untrue, because the words are based on their own distorted perceptions, and not on who we are inside.
Sadness, anger, and despair are more authentic emotions—they are natural human responses to being threatened or humiliated. Fear is also an authentic emotion, and it can be amplified by previous experiences you’ve had where you felt threatened (such as memories of being yelled at as a child). These memories can be “triggered” by your current experiences—which means that the feelings associated with the memory can pop up unexpectedly in your mind and body in response to a current situation, making it harder to think and respond in a healthy way. Which emotions feel the strongest inside of you?
When you’ve figured out which of your emotions are the biggest at the moment, the next step is to express some of that emotion, and get it out of your system. People used to call this “getting something off your chest”—which makes sense, because you are releasing a difficult emotion from your heart.
If there’s someone in your life with whom you feel comfortable expressing your feelings, ask that person if they can spend some time listening to you—not to offer suggestions or try to help you solve a problem, but just to listen, so you can “vent” your emotions as you need to. This person should be a good listener who you know will give you space to talk when you need it, someone who makes you feel safe.
If there’s no one in your life like this, you can express your feelings in private, someplace where you feel safe and know you won’t be disturbed. In this case, imagine that a part of you will act as a “witness” to your feelings—as if you’re being a friend to yourself while you express your feelings.
You could think of the “witness” as your soul, or a higher power, or the memory of a grandmother or other person who helped you feel safe and loved. The idea is that part of you can stand outside of what you’re thinking and feeling, as if you’re watching what goes on inside of you from another perspective. This aspect of you is different from the part of you that thinks and feels and remembers.
Allow your body to guide you in expressing your feelings—it already knows what to do. Try to let the feelings run their course—even if you feel like you will never stop crying or being angry, there will be a time when you’ve expressed whatever you needed to get off your chest for the day. Over time, you’ll begin to feel much lighter and freer as you let go of all the difficult emotions that have been struggling for expression.
After you’ve let some of the pain and anger go, indulge yourself in a pleasurable activity, such as petting an animal, having lunch with a friend, or working on a favorite hobby. This helps your psyche to heal from the pain, and reminds you that you can create positive experiences in your life.
Do you have questions about school or workplace bullying?
Katherine Mayfield is the author of the award-winning memoir, The Box of Daughter: Healing the Authentic Self, the story of her recovery from childhood emotional abuse, and Bullied: Why YouFeel Bad Inside and What to Do About It, a guide to recovery from bullying and abuse. She speaks to schools and organizations about recovering from trauma, and blogs on dysfunctional families on her website, www.TheBoxofDaughter.com.
Radio interview with Katherine Mayfield- The Matthew Brower Show!