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Stand up to Bullies - Just One Thing


Power is a natural feature of most human relationships, especially in groups, and it's often used justly and wisely. For example, some popular kids stuck up for me in high school, and many years later, I went to the California labor commission to get a boss to pay me wages he owed me. 

On the other hand, power is sometimes used unjustly and unwisely - and in plain English, I'm going to call this bullying. As individuals, we are affected by bullying at all scales - from preschool playgrounds to international conflicts - which brings me to this week's practice: stand up to bullies.

For bullies and other challenges, we need psychological resources such as resilience, confidence, and self-worth. I've created a comprehensive program for developing these resources, the online Foundations of Well-Being, and I invite you to check it out. We have CEUs for therapists, a moneyback guarantee, and there's still time to join me for a transformational year of growth in 2017.



Just One Thing
Simple practices for more happiness, love, and wisdom
Is anyone being pushed around?
The Practice:
Stand up to bullies.
Humans are the most social species on the planet. Most of us spend most of our lives working, eating, sleeping, and playing in groups that range in size from two people all the way up to nations and humanity as a whole.

Woven through the tapestry of our relationships are several major threads. One of these is power, which plays out in almost every group of any size. The only question is, do we use it for good or ill?

Like a hammer, power itself is neutral. It can be used justly and wisely for beneficial purposes, such as the necessary authority of a loving parent, a child's popular friend protecting her from mean kids, a physically stronger spouse helping a more vulnerable one, or a government defending a country being invaded. Power can also be used unjustly and unwisely for harmful purposes, such as a parent beating a child, a big kid picking on a little one, domestic violence, or a government jailing its critics.

Depending on the situation, the unjust and unwise use of power can be called a variety of things: intimidation, abuse, fraud, discrimination, and tyranny to name a few. For my purposes here I'll pick a term that's down-to-earth and gets at our deep human nature as social primates: bullying.

Bullying and bullies are widespread. At all scales, from homes and schoolyards to boardrooms and presidential palaces, they create a vast amount of human suffering. What can we do?

In this short space, I'll offer some summary suggestions. You can help them be concrete by applying them to bullies you've experienced or observed.

See It
If it walks like a duck, quacks like a duck, swims like a
duck ... it's probably a duck. Bullies have most if not all of these identifying characteristics:

    Dominating - Have to be the "alpha"; fear of looking "one-down"; thus must find targets who seem seem weaker; no compassion
    Defensive - Never wrong; fault and scorn others; avoid personal responsibility
    Deceptive - Manipulate grievances to gain support; blame scapegoats; cheat; hide truth since power is based on lies

Recognize Enablers
Some people and organizations make use of bullies, sort of like profiting from a crime someone else commits. Or they pretend all is normal, or that a relatively small issue to the side is a more important focus than what the bully is doing. Or they try to justify bullying, such as: "both sides do it," "but she's your mother," "kids are like that," or "they need a tough CEO." From playgrounds to parliaments, people with an authoritarian personality style often have an affinity for bullying leaders, and commonly form the core of their supporters. 

Protect Yourself
Sometimes you are stuck with a bully - perhaps a parent, older sibling, group of kids in school, abusive partner, or terrible boss in a job you can't leave. Be careful. You may need to bide your time, weigh your options, and find an exit strategy as best you can. First of all, do no harm - to yourself. Every suggestion I offer here is in this context.

Have Compassion
The mind of a bully is like a hell realm of fended-off weakness and shame always threatening to invade. Lots of suffering there. Compassion for a bully is not approval. It is calming and strengthening, and establishes an inner freedom: "You may have my family/schoolyard/company/etc., but you will never have my mind."

And of course the targets of bullies deserve our care: much much much suffering there. Even if you can do nothing to change their lot, your compassion is still authentic; it matters to you, and it may matter to others in ways you'll never know.

Name It
Tell the truth to yourself. Tell it to others.

And if appropriate, tell the truth to bullies and their enablers. This might get at some of the essence: "You are a bully. You may have power over me but you couldn't earn it fairly, so you cheated and lied to get it. You might be able to harm me, but I am not afraid of you. I see what you are."

Bullies may acquire institutional authority but never moral legitimacy. They know their power is unjust and fragile. The more uneasy they feel, the more they wrap themselves in the trappings of religious righteousness, flag-waving, wealth, or popularity. Name the lie, name the cheat, name the illegitimacy.

Stand with Others
Bullies target lone individuals or minority groups to prove their dominance and create fear. So gather allies who will stand with you if you're being bullied. For example, a teacher was harassing our daughter (and we found out, girls in general), so we reached out to other parents and enlisted the aid of the principal; things changed.

And together, stand with and for those who are bullied. It may make no material difference. But it always makes a moral and psychological difference to those who stand - and to those they stand for.

Punish Bullying
I mean "punish" in the sense of creating disincentives, not cruelty or vengeance, not bullying bullies. Sure, first try persuasion. But the act of bullying itself is rewarding to a bully, even if there's no concrete benefit. It's like pulling a pleasurable lever on a slot machine that sometimes delivers a jackpot: if you're a bully, why not keep pulling? So there must be a cost. Enablers also need to pay a price; otherwise, why stop?

Since bullying is common, people have developed a variety of ways to punish it. Depending on the situation, you could:

    With moral confidence, name the bullying for what it is
    Dispute false claims of legitimacy
    Laugh at bullies (who are usually thin-skinned)
    Confront lies, including denial of harms they're doing
    Build up sources of power to challenge the bully's
    Confront enablers; they're complicit in bullying
    Go up the ladder of authority (e.g., involve a school principal)
    Engage the legal system
    Remove bullies from positions of power

Bullies do often stop bullying, or do it on a much smaller scale. Sometimes there is a complete and admirable change of heart. When possible and appropriate, we can offer opportunities for a former bully to rejoin the group, and use power justly and wisely.

See the Big Picture
Bullying happens in a larger context of enabling and fueling conditions. The playing field might have become unfairly tilted in the bully's favor; tilt it back. Bullies often draw power from the grievances of others; address the grievances, and reduce their power.

Bullies grab attention much as they compel us in other ways. But there is a larger world beyond their control. It contains so many things that are working, enjoyable, beautiful, and virtuous. Disengage as much as possible from repetitive loops of helpless outrage, fantasies of payback, and fault-finding others "who aren't doing enough." Bad enough that the bully is out there in the world. Try not to let the bully invade your mind and stay there.

JUST ONE THING (JOT) is the free newsletter that suggests a simple practice each week for more joy, more fulfilling relationships, and more peace of mind.
A small thing repeated routinely adds up over time to produce big results.

Just one thing that could change your life.
( Rick Hanson, 2017)
This comes from Rick Hanson, Ph.D., psychologist, New York Times best-selling author, Senior Fellow of the Greater Good Science Center at UC Berkeley, and invited speaker at Oxford, Stanford, and Harvard universities. See Rick's workshops and lectures.

Taught by Rick Hanson, Ph.D., the Foundations of Well-Being online program uses powerful science-based methods to hardwire lasting happiness into your brain and your life. Turn everyday experiences into a deep sense of contentment, love, and peace, in just an hour a week.


Voicelessness and Emotional Survival Message Board / Re: Becoming "me"
« Last post by lighter on February 08, 2017, 12:00:11 PM »
Yes, Amber! 

What do we need to face, and prune to make room for something else... that serves us better in the future.  It feels like alchemy from here.


I hope your dental appointment is over quickly with the best possible outcome.

Rest, and let us know how you're doing.

Voicelessness and Emotional Survival Message Board / Re: How Do You Manage Your Stress?
« Last post by lighter on February 08, 2017, 11:55:28 AM »

Scheduling TIME to decompress..... mindfully..... bc it's not something we DO otherwise.  Not consistently anyway.  It makes sense.  It's practical.  It serves a purpose, and who knows where it might lead, right?

This is the confusing part for me.  Self care used to be my life.  I didn't need to pencil it in or set an alarm.... I had an unspoken agreement with myself.  I worked out with a group of people I  liked, we developed awesome, but perishable, skills,  we went to dinner afterwards sometimes, did works of public service, and....... everything sort of fell in place around it.  Laundry, yard work, food, work, social life.... paperwork.  There was a good deal of balance, and...... I have a hard time remembering struggle from that time of my life. 

There was flow..... I'm pretty sure.... it was flow.   

What the heck is so hard about it now?!?!?  I'm confused, frankly.

Have we been convinced we're not worthy?  Driven to the edge.... lacking emotional room to maneuver, plan, and carrying through..... put flow in place?

Learned helplessness?

I think everyone here cares what other people think. 

I think we listen to what other people say..... we want everyone to be OK.... even the people who've harmed us very often, and......   

I think we're pulled in different directions consistently, and that we likely have a hard time honoring ourselves above all others....  51% right?

Confusion.  I feel confused about this topic.  Setting an alarm.... chunking self care and decompression so we don't physically fall apart..... don't emotionally drain down too far.

DOES it, on any level, create conflict to think through, and perform self care rituals as a priority for us?  Is that it?  Does self care bring up conflict with someone else in our life?  With what others think?  What we think of ourselves?  Tupp.... your cost is care for your son, but there's more to it, I think. 

Lack of balance is conflict.... it just is.  Our children not being OK creates conflict.

What would we have to face, now, in order to get self care straight, and on track for ourselves?

I used to DO it without a second thought.  It was my life.  I never questioned my worthiness, or lacked energy to carry it out as a habit I enjoyed.

What's changed now?  Why have some never been able to do it?  IS it the same thing?  Learning how to do it for the first time, and learning how to do what was once very easy?

Is it about some perceived conflict we're avoiding, I'm asking you?  Avoiding conflict is BIG for me.

Does self care, or the idea of it, create some conflict in our minds, IRL?

At a point I had to put down the self care rituals I used to enjoy for pragmatic reasons..... what others thought, and the power they had over my life and freedom.  I get putting it down, I get the fear around it, and connections to the fear NOW, even though the actual threats are over..... I hope.

And now I'm hearing from the pouty inner child that knows it wasn't fair, and hates the unfairness, Amber.  She's critical of the things I've tried, including trying to go back to the old patterns with new people in new places.  It wasn't the same, it was wrong, different, blah blah blah.... heartbreaking at times even.  I've tried. It's never going to be the same, and it's always going to be unfair and how do I stop the inner pouty child from popping up, and taking over?

Acceptance...... that might help me.... very likely.  Going over this helps me tease out the details of what was, what's been lost, and what's left. 

I can see glimpses of what could be, but there's other things, more powerful things, that pop up when I do.  It's where I live in my head that's hampering, I think.

A back and forth between outside stress pressing in.....
my hampered ability to respond/let go of the past.....inability to calm the pouty inner child.....
look ahead and see possibilities.... find the energy to plan, and put uplifting rituals in place while blocking out the negativity and resistance.... so I can create something I had once, without effort.

The word..... alchemy comes to mind. 

There's something dragging us back when we make strides, bc we do have good times/days/moments.   

My ability to respond.... to block out things... has been damaged. 
This see sawing is debilitating. 

I think this thread is helping.



It's gonna be OK, everything will be all right Lighter.

You know what, Amber?

Sometimes it's comforting to read/hear that. 

Voicelessness and Emotional Survival Message Board / Re: Becoming "me"
« Last post by sKePTiKal on February 08, 2017, 07:18:28 AM »
There is big stuff coming up. Twiggy stuff. AGAIN. (well, duh... she didn't just go away)

What Lighter was telling Tupps, about fear and suvival, hits home for me too. As ever, there is also a physical component for me - or at least it's a "symptom radar" and "method of correcting balance". It's not QUITE verbal yet, so this is just a "preview".

Trauma, dissociation, and trusting one's self... and breaking the INvalidating conditioning in our heads & hearts.

I read a fabulous quote about training the other day (I need to actually copy it here, but time is running short)... the essence was, that in order to change our habits - we have to be willing to sacrifice something of us from our "now"... so that we can be or be able to do something in the future. There has to be that exchange. E=mc2 right? But it's also a way to exchange something that "doesn't fit" with our goals for ourselves... for something that does. It's a letting go, to make room for something else.
Sounds like your friend needs a little remedial boundary maintenance, Tupps. It can be gentle - but it has to be clear, in no uncertain terms. (Good luck finding that happy medium, btw... I'm terrible at it.)

Some gigantic chunk of sludge is working loose in me. It has to do with the pouty resistant inner child. Somewhere in the past few weeks I've realized the poor thing still feels really "needy" for validation. So much so, that it's practically a characteristic. So in the external day to day life, I'm still having to deal with a lot of paperwork type stuff; business stuff... but I'm really happy with the work I've been able to do fixing up my house so far... pulled in two directions, while in inner life - I'm overly conscious of that hole that needs filled.

3 things = stress for me. Which one do I deal with?? Before I reach nuclear meltdown stage?

Friday, by some miracle, I either finished or was a stopping point on those projects. I didn't have anything I "had" to do... so I didn't "do" anything except get ready for this last beach trip (last dentist appt). Yesterday, was drive all day - into spring weather. Today, after the appt... it's drive all day back to winter. LOL. I don't "think" when i''m driving - I just drive. And that really helps me "see" what's going on.

Instead of being super-tight in the shoulders, back hurts, hip hurts etc while driving I just consciously relaxed as much as possible. Even though I needed to get here at a specific time to have dinner with my friends. It doesn't sound like much... but just remembering to un-twist the tension that builds up HELPS lower the feeling of anxiety/panic/overwhelm. Set an alarm on your phone: every 3 hours or so... and take 2 mins to just consciously let the tension slide away - even while you carry on with what you're involved in. Some deep breathes, relaxing the muscles, visualize smoothing the nerves...

MIGHT help.

I get what you're saying.... so very much. 

You're in a doubling bind with business of caring for your son/self.  They're both necessary.  You can't do them perfectly. 

Sometimes when I'm stressed it's impossible to think outside the box.  If what I'm doing isn't working, the logical conclusion is that I have to come up with a better plan, and find a way to put it in place.  That means I have to STOP acting out of habit/survival mode.  I have to explore changes.  Part of the process is being aware and taking stock.  I can't do that when I'm operating out of fear and exhaustion. I can't. 

My girls aren't defenseless young children any longer, just as your son is growing up, and gaining strength.  Yes, our children have needs...... my oldest is healing, and your son has ongoing needs, but..... how much help do they need, and how can we accurately gage the level of help/trying to fix them is healthy.  We help them get stronger too when we're on target, seeing what's in front of us NOW, and not in the past.   

Have we fully evaluated and internalized the changes in our children?  Can we step out of protective mama bear mode long enough to SEE the truth? I sure hope so.... I'm trying.  That particular subject resonates with me deeply right now, as does the self care piece.

I do believe you and I are operating from a hyper vigilant state..... for years this is true.  Too many years.  Maybe this time, if we find a way to stop being so vigilant.... we won't get smacked in the chops THIS TIME?  It wasn't true for years, but now?

We're like Pavlov's dogs..... we've been conditioned.

 Unlearning..... finding new habits, and putting them in place.... just so difficult, and esp if we're beating ourselves up for not being able to just make changes.  SO not helpful, and we both do that.... I know we do.

I think part of it is the trauma trapped in our skin, organs, and bones. We can intellectualize all day long, but if it's IN our cells.... we have to find other ways to approach the tender spots, and remove them, IME.  I think trauma lives in everyone's bodies, btw.  Not just ours.

I'm researching Somatic Therapy right now..... along with the Brain Integration, and I'm hopeful about it.  I speak with a T every two weeks who shares a similar history.... she actually divorced her ASPD.  It's helpful, and she's all about the Somatic T.

I'm letting panic wash over me as it comes..... trying to do nothing when it hits..... waiting for pressure to release, if just a bit, and it always does, IME.  Learning to withstand the discomfort long enough to think clearly again, so I can shift to creative solutions.  I try to think outside the box.  I try to find who I was, inside, and pull her back into the light..... ask her for help.  I need her.  I miss her.  I need her strength and fearlessness. 

It's difficult to be hopeful consistently.  I'm sure it's a roller coaster for you as well. 

There's a lot of fear, I'm realizing.  more than I want to admit.  I find it shameful have so much fear.  It's debilitating though.... I have to face it, and work it out.  What's the truth, and what can I do about it?  What do I have to let go of, and just accept?

As for you and self care, my dear...... I'm guessing sleep is something you need and choose over getting up before your son wakes?  I'm wondering if getting up early, doing yoga/something endorphin producing, even if it costs you something in the short term... might lead to feeling better in the long run? 

I'm wondering if you can apply for a motorized wheel chair to lower the physical strain your body takes?  There's been so many changes in your son's condition/dx.  CAN you ask for that?  Perhaps our son would be served well in that case?  Perhaps not.  I don't know... just throwing it out there.  Very often they're for sale, used, (or at Goodwill) around here.

Perhaps you and your son could find a new rhythm for the breaks you need for yourself?  Longer...... without expectation they'll happen over night, but something to work towards?  Change is so hard, and Spring is on it's way.  Perhaps he can go into the garden with you, and work into new habits from there?  I can imagine change for him is quite upsetting..... it's never going to be easy.  It's always a struggle, and costs energy you don't have. 

I know we need our best selves to find solutions..... less fear and panic.  It's hard to come from a place of exhaustion, and paralysis... hard to improve situations, IME.  I wonder if one of your new neighbors could help you brain storm?  You deserve some support and fellowship around this, IMO, Tupp.  Maybe you won't always have to do everything yourself?  Maybe you can find some respite you didn't have before in this new place with such nice people?  Groups for support and help... are there any in your neighborhood?

How to let go of the old thought patterns, and embrace new habits/thoughts to improve our health, and ability to respond?

OK... lets do this.  Let's pat ourselves on the back for being present, protective mothers who care deeply, as a priority, for our children.

::pat pat pat::

We get that, and it's ours..... that belongs to us.   

Now that they're growing up, what are their needs?  I think we have to find that truth, and begin with that piece perhaps?   

::sending Tupp reassurance that things will get better with perseverance::

I promise.....
for both of us, ((((Tupp))))


I've nodded my head all the way through that, Lighter!  It's the getting out of survival mode thing that I think I stumble on.  Take yoga, for example.  I did get up earlier to do it today and it does feel good and I do try to do it when I can.  But I also find because it releases stress, tension and various unpleasant things (as does detoxifying my diet, cutting out caffeine and so on) it can also make me feel unwell, unhappy, focus more on the lack in my life (if I'm stressed my mind focuses on that; if I'm relaxed I start wanting to go out, have a boyfriend, have a mum who loves me and so on).  So it's that see sawing back and forth; do a bit, struggle a bit, do a bit more.

A friend came over last night; not a particularly close friend but someone I've known since I was a kid, a nice bloke, generally quite caring and easy to get along with.  It was the first time he'd visited my new flat and the first time I've seen him for quite a while.  He knew I had a cold so he'd bought cold and flu stuff with him and throat sweets, that sort of thing.  Nice gesture, but he'd asked me if I needed anything before he came by and I'd said no, so I felt like he wasn't listening to me.  We don't have any carpet on the stairs yet and as he walked up them (it's a first floor flat so you come in and go straight up the stairs) he said, sarcastically, "Nice flooring" and then went on to critique the windows and start telling me how I ought to decorate, recommended a carpet fitter for me (the last person he recommended to me for something was awful and cost me a fortune so I'm definitely not taking any more recommendations!) and then started talking about places we can visit over the summer and where we ought to go and I just got more and more fed up but didn't know what to do.  He intersperses this with offers of help, friendly chit chat and a bit of banter, but also kept touching my knee.  I think that's where I struggle with the survival mode; my brain just seems to freeze.  This morning I got up in a mood and was thinking about it all.  At first I'm hard on myself, thinking I should appreciate the fact that he came over, he was kind enough to buy medicines, he's offering to help.  But the more I thought about the more I felt that he's unnecessarily critical (comments on the lack of stair carpet but doesn't mention the lovely pictures on the wall, my prayer flags, the unit that I put together myself, the plants on top of it, the scarves and hats I've hung along the banister that make it look cosy and homely), is making decisions about how I should spend my time (I have a million ideas of how I want to spend my time and don't need any help on that score!) and that he SHOULDN'T BE TOUCHING MY BLOODY LEG!!  And I just wish now that I'd been able to feel all of this last night and deal with it at the time but there still seems to be a big delay between something happening and my brain responding :)

Anyway, I'm rambling again and need to go and get groceries so will check back in later (but yes, you are right, it is necessary to notice and accept our kids growing and their needs changing and I am struggling with that.  I still feel that I need to protect him all the time and it really isn't the case anymore).
MORE LATER, but we need an electric wheelchair for this boy!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Grants? Can you claim it's physically impossible for you to continue pushing him? Surely there's some resource fund somehwere? Can you write a letter to a wheelchair manufacturer and ask for help acquiring one?

This makes me mad.


It's in the pipeline, Hopsie, but it's a looooong process and ,as always with us, my son doesn't fit neatly into any particular boxes; he can walk (and some days he can walk well) but he can't walk a long way every day (or more specifically, he can but then can't do anything else for the rest of the week).  So he falls between the cracks of all the different systems that are in place.  You can apply for funding via a charity but you have to have been told 'No' by the various public sector departments before a charity will look at your application and it's waiting for everyone else to do their bit that takes up so much time!  I am keeping my fingers crossed that if they can get his epilepsy under control then the walking will improve anyway but unfortunately so are they which is why they are reluctant to help in the meantime!  We will keep at it, though :) x


It's been over ten years since I've studied the laws regarding therapy, confidentiality, and warning folks when a client has become a danger to themselves and others.  I remember the particular law involved, just that my fuzzy brain is sifting through the mental files in the wee hours of the morning trying to remember the name of said law.  THIS CASE IS A PERFECT EXAMPLE OF NEEDING TO WARN OTHERS!!!!!!  GEEZ!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Now I remember:



It's been over ten years since I've studied the laws regarding therapy, confidentiality, and warning folks when a client has become a danger to themselves and others.  I remember the particular law involved, just that my fuzzy brain is sifting through the mental files in the wee hours of the morning trying to remember the name of said law.  THIS CASE IS A PERFECT EXAMPLE OF NEEDING TO WARN OTHERS!!!!!!  GEEZ!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
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