Sometimes we need to replay the horrible things that people did to us – whether it was once or repeatedly, whether they were the perpetrators or they stood by or even colluded and ignored the abuse and our pain.  Sometime we need to get angry and vent and imagine all the ways we could retaliate and extract vengeance and justice.  Sometimes we blame ourselves, wishing we could finally win their love and undo the hurt.  During those times we typically say, “It’s not fair.  Why me?  Why don’t they understand and appreciate me?  What did I do wrong?”

But in the end, whatever the specifics of our situations, we all know where we have to get to if we’re going to make the rest of our lives worth living.  By whatever process we use successfully, through whatever pain we have to endure, after we stop the harassment, bullying, abuse and torment inflicted upon us, we have two choices – to let our lives be destroyed by the rotten people who abused us or to move on somehow, to create families and lives worth living.

I’m not minimizing the damage and the pain or the time it may take, but throughout history, we see the same pattern in response to individual and cultural or societal horrors.  Some people’s spirits are destroyed by what was done to them.  Other people stay alive and vital.

Examples are all around of famous individuals who turned their backs on the perpetrators and moved on – Maya Angelou and Winston Churchill easily come to mind.  There are also inspiring examples known only to our families.  We must keep our eyes focused on the light at the end of the tunnel of pain – the light that reminds us to keep moving ahead despite the temporary discouragement, depression and despair.

What keeps most people stuck in the abyss of pain for years; long after they’re physically and fiscally capable of separating?  Mostly, it’s a combination of:

  • Wanting the perpetrators to acknowledge what they did and to apologize or beg for our forgiveness.  Or wanting vindication and revenge.
  • Wanting the bullies to give us the love or money we desperately desire and deserve.  We waste hours trying to figure out how to say and do the right things so that we’ll finally win the love and respect we want.
  • We don’t know how to stop replaying the pain, which triggers emotional hell and reinforces the connection to the past.

There may be other desires that keep us enmeshed with the perpetrators or with our memories of past abuse but, in order to get free, we don’t need an exhaustive list or even to know the specific one that keeps us trapped.

Real predators – real bullies, abusers, perpetrators – no matter what their reasons and excuses, do not change.  Staying enmeshed in a dance of pain and anger only leads to spiritual death.  On this path, there is no rebirth; there is no new life.

We recognize someone still trapped in the pain and victim talk
, not ready to move on when we hear them:

  • Whining and complaining about how unfair it is, how they don’t understand why the bullies keep bullying them, how there seems no way of getting justice.
  • Beating themselves because they aren’t perfect enough for their abusers.
  • Championing their pain as different and greater than anyone else’s or saying that their hurt and pain was so bad that they’ve been damaged for the rest of their lives.
  • Wallowing in negative self-talk and self-abuse.

The results of this self-bullying victim talk are clear – stress, anxiety, self-doubt, guilt, shame, panic, low self-confidence and self-esteem; huge overreactions as if everything is a matter of life or death; a life ruled by the past, time wasted circling around the carcass of the past, chewing over the gristle of every past and present episode of abuse.

The light at the end of the tunnel is when our spirits rise and make us indomitable and invulnerable, determined and indefatigable; when:

  • We won’t be weighed down by the baggage of the past.  We don’t have to please the perpetrators or excuse or justify our behavior to our abusers and we also don’t have to rebel any more just to prove that we’re independent.  We stop sacrificing ourselves for further flagellation and spurning.
  • The voices of the past become irrelevant; we now make decisions directed by our own spirits.
  • We won’t be at the mercy of external events, especially the past.  Instead we’ll create our own futures, no matter what.

This is the goal of all the talk, catharsis, coaching.  We become our original, fiery selves – strong, brave and determined – and now skilled adults.

In this new state, the fear of failure or success is gone.  We no longer view the world through the lens of “deserve, justify, punish or forgive.”  The emotional motivation cycle – endless self-criticism and self analysis, and then criticism of the criticism, and then criticism of the criticism of the criticism – of the old victim side of us is gone.

We no longer have overwhelming emotional reactions to whatever happens.  Mistakes are no longer life threatening.  Failing at something is no longer a portent of a bleak future.  Doing something wrong no longer consigns us to hell forever.

We ride through these ups and downs, buoyed by certain knowledge that we’ll keep plugging along, doing what we can, following our Heart’s Desire.

From here we can easily recognize other people who are still in the old place – underneath their frantic-ness and self-flagellation, they look and sound like victims, not willing to do whatever it takes to protect themselves; attracting old and new predators.  Predators also recognize easy targets.

From here we can see how boring the victim personality is.  It’s all about their pain and problems, as if that’s really who they are.  They’re still trying to squeeze love or justification from a stone.  They still want to interact with scavengers.

In our new space, we’re interested and interesting, excited and exciting.  We focus on what feeds our spirits; not on endless cud-chewing and psychoanalysis.  We leave the predators behind and seek the families of our hearts and spirits.

The process of leaving the old, victim place usually includes many instantaneous epiphanies, as well as the time necessary to develop new habits through many ups and downs.  But that’s merely a process to leave the old and to be completely comfortable in the new.

When we live in a state of inner freedom, we don’t forget the pain.  We remember that abuse all our lives.  We hold that memory sacred – but we don’t use the pain to motivate ourselves, we convert it to a source of strength and courage to create a new life, a life that’s built on the ashes of childhood dreams destroyed.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Ben Leichtling, Ph.D. is author of the books and CDs “How to Stop Bullies in Their Tracks,” “Parenting Bully-Proof Kids” and “Eliminate the High cost of Low Attitudes.” He is available for coaching, consulting and speaking.  To find practical, real-world tactics to stop bullies and bullying at home, school, work and in relationships, see his web site (http://www.BulliesBeGone.com) and blog (http://www.BulliesBeGoneBlog.com).

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