You may be the target of a bully, but you don’t have to be a victim.

Bullies can go after you in many ways; physically harming you or threatening to hurt you; inflicting emotional pain through harassment, relentless criticism, taunting, put-downs, cutting out, manipulation, controlling, back-stabbing, spreading rumors, telling secrets, embarrassing you or generally mean behavior; cyberbullying.

In all these situations, the first step in defending yourself and in stopping bullies is the same and always has been.  This is the first step, even before you use any programs in schools or at work that are designed to stop bullies.

For instance, we can go back to Homer’s “Odyssey.”  At the end, after Odysseus and his son, Telemachus, have killed all the abusive suitors, they flee with two faithful servants to the mountain home of Odysseus’ father, Laertes.  They know they will pursued by all the older men in the city, the fathers and uncles of the dead suitors.

In the final confrontation, hopelessly outnumbered, Laertes kills the father of the most evil suitor.  Odysseus loses control of himself and goes berserk.  He advances in a murderous rage to kill all the fathers and uncles.

Athena suddenly appears and speaks the words that that exemplify the central belief of the Greeks: in the face of whatever the world throws at you – in the face of overwhelming odds, of verbal and physical abuse, of unfairness, of your fear and hesitation, of your own loss of control; in the face of bullies.

Take Athena’s command out of context – it’s not about the trigger; it’s about your necessary first step in response to any situation.

Athena says, “Odysseus!  Command yourself!”  And when Athena commands, we best listen.

There it is; the key to all success; the start of everything we must do – “Command yourself.”

  • Don’t give in to your feelings, no matter what they are.  Don’t give in to embarrassment, weakness, hesitation, anxiety or fear.
  • Don’t give in to your racing mind – when your reasoning and logic might discourage and depress you into giving up or might spook and panic you into doing something dumb.
  • Don’t give in to your lust or greed or laziness or any other of the Seven Deadly Sins.
  • Don’t give in to your old beliefs, roles and rules that would trap you into enduring abuse and bullying.

Begin by commanding yourself.  In Odysseus’ case, commanding himself meant not starting a bloodbath, which would lead to generations of vendettas that would ruin the country.

In the case of facing a bully, we must take charge of ourselves, we must gather ourselves and we must command ourselves.  If we give in to fear, anxiety and self-doubt we’ll do nothing to protect ourselves – we’ll become victims of our own panic and terror.  If we give in to anger and rage, we’ll explode, act unskillfully and do things we’ll regret.  If we don’t command ourselves, we’ll lose confidence and self-esteem; we’ll get depressed and become easy victims to the predators.

If we don’t command ourselves, nothing we do will have the power and energy needed to succeed.  We will be weak, hesitant, vacillating.  We will become victims.  We will take our first steps down the path to suicide.

But when we command ourselves, we can overcome whatever confronts us.  We will let nothing crush us; our spirits will remain strong.  We can plan and take charge of our actions.  We can act with strength, courage and skill.  We can act with perseverance and resilience.  We can get the help we need.  We can succeed.

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Resources Cited: http://www.nytimes.com/2010/10/26/education/26bully.html?emc=tnt&tntemail0=y

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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