Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Taming "The Bully"

…..If we get rid of the Bully, we would also get rid of the Mentor.  Often when the Bully is dominant loud and nasty, you may not be aware of the Mentor.  In her positive role, the Mentor manages, organizes and plans our day-to-day life.  Think about all the different tasks that the Mentor does: paying bills, organizing schedules, planning social events, managing multiple project deadlines, figuring out finances, and juggling the upkeep of our cars, houses, possessions and our bodies.  The list goes on.  When something goes wrong, the Mentors tap into their creative thinking skills and take on the role of problem solver, in a non-judgmental non-critical way.  In addition, the Mentors want to motivate us; they push us to learn, grow and to move forward in our lives. The Mentor helps us to live our lives with integrity and values.  Their goal is for us to be the best we can be.  In the long run, the Mentors want us to find fulfillment and meaning in our life. 

Sometimes, when picturing the Mentor, a client will take the “non-judgmental non-critical” aspects to extreme as well.  Imagine an ideal “Fairy Godmother” who would always let you off the hook, no matter what, without any responsibility or remorse, “That’s OK.  You couldn’t help it.  Don’t worry about it.  You poor thing.”  In comparison to the Bully, our first reaction again might be one of relief.  But if we never took responsibility for anything, what would go awry?  We’d never change, forever doomed to repeating our mistakes over and over.  That is not the Mentor. 

If you have ever had an actual Mentor in your life, a good Mentor will not make excuses for you.  She would not overly coddle you.  The Mentor challenges us to be the best we can be, while still allowing us to be imperfect and human.  She encourages you to learn from your mistakes and figure out how not to repeat the mistake in the future.  She might get firm with you, but in a respectful and caring way….

Here’s an example to illustrate the relationship you would have with your Mentor.  Let’s say that you forget to set your alarm clock and you miss an important meeting at work.  Your boss is angry and sends you a heated voicemail.  How would your Mentor deal with this?  In a serious tone she would say something like, “So, you overslept.  This is not OK.  We need to find a way to make sure this doesn’t happen again.  If we put the alarm clock on our pillow in the morning, we will have to set it before we go to sleep.  We had better call our boss and apologize right away.  Let’s also talk with Pat to get the notes from the meeting.”  Notice that the Mentor often uses the pronoun “we”; this implies that you and she are working together cooperatively.  She does not attack you or your personality.  Mistakes are viewed as
, well, mistakes – a temporary unfortunately event, not as a permanent character flaw. 

The Mentor speaks in a respectful tone.  You can easily find what I call “the nugget of truth” in what she wants to tell you.  In this case the nugget of truth is “Acting in this way goes against our basic values of respect for others and living with integrity.  We need to act in a professional way and take responsibility for our mistake.”  The Mentor, when necessary, slips into problem solving mode and helps you to see the steps to learn from and correct the mistake.  You walk away from this encounter feeling like you are still a worthwhile human. 

As the Part moves towards the middle of the continuum, let’s call her The Critic.  The Critic has difficulty seeing events objectively, and her behavior, thoughts and attitudes are less balanced.  The Critic may be still able to see that mistakes happen but she probably would speak to you roughly, “That was a dumb thing to do!  You’d better shape up or all your coworkers will think you’re stupid!  You’re lucky that your boss doesn’t fire you.”    The Critic uses colorful dramatic language and talks about “you”.  Notice in the example above, she uses all-or-nothing thinking, lumping all your coworkers together as a mass entity with only one mind.  She immediately runs to the worst-case scenario but does not offer an actual solution other than to vaguely demand, “Shape up”.   The same nugget of truth is hidden, but with a bit of sifting we can find it. 

If the Part does not get what she needs to stay in balance, she will become more and more extreme in her thinking, acting and attitudes. In this extreme state I call her The Bully. “Oh My God!  What the #$%&* is wrong with you!  You are completely hopeless!  You don’t even deserve this job!  I don’t know why your boss puts up with you.  If they knew the real you, none of your coworkers would ever talk to you again.  If you weren’t so fat, this would never have happened.  You can’t eat today…”  I’m sure you can fill in the rest.   The Bully is abusive, punitive and shaming; she uses humiliation and name-calling as punishments.  She will use swearing and profanity even if you normally don’t.  The nugget of truth is buried deep beneath layers of shame and judgment.  It takes a lot of digging to find it.

The Bully is locked into very distorted perfectionistic black-and-white thinking: If you’re not perfect, you are a Failure!  If you made a mistake, you are complete Loser!  If one person doesn’t like you, then everybody HATES you!  If you are not faultless, then you are Worthless!  Through her eyes you don’t make mistakes, you ARE a mistake.  You didn’t fail at something, you ARE a failure.   She also goes off on a tangent blaming your mistake on your eating or weight – even if there is no logical tie.  The punishment does not fit the crime!

Because the Bully talks to you this way over and over, day after day, your younger parts, the Kids, believe her down deep inside, feeling more hopeless, anxious and worthless after each encounter.  Each time the Bully criticizes, a core of shame is reawakened.  Not to be left out, the Rebels, Distracters, Numb-ers get involved….  Do-si-do, around we go, in this never-ending cycle.  The Bully never looks at her role in this cycle, she projects all the blame outward: she is not the problem! You are.  She is not responsible!  You are.  She has to talk to you this way, because you are hopeless!  As the Kids feel more hopeless, the Bully yells louder, the Rebels act out, the Bully yells louder… 

You would think that after a while the Parts would see that this cycle doesn’t work.  But no, in their extreme state they are unable to do this.  They are locked into this cycle and cannot get out of it.  Since they are unable to do anything else, and are afraid of what would happen if they did nothing, they continue to repeat this cycle forever. 
So how do we stop this cycle?  How do we get the Bully to stay as the Mentor?  Your first reaction is to shut her up, push her away, get rid of her, to hate her.  This actually makes the cycle worse.  All of the Parts need the same things:  They need to know that you won’t try to get rid of them.  They want you to listen to what they have to say; they need to feel heard.  They want you to appreciate what they are trying to do for you.  Lastly, they want you to take care of their needs.  Sounds simple?  No, this is a slow and difficult process – but I will walk you through it.

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