Friday, 17 October 2014

Input, Reaction and Outcome

Bullying has been the thread underpinning a lot of my conversations today. Watching some stand up to being bullied, watching others avoid the bullying by leaving Facebook groups, talking to people about coping strategies.

I have way too much experience of bullying and its after-effects, be it my own childhood, my children's experiences, work, domestic violence ...

Bullying has changed me. I'm still the stubborn protector of others that I was as a child, but I have an awareness you can only get from traumatic experience.

That awareness could have poisoned me, weakened me, made me less human. I am blessed that I found another way to deal with it, although I struggle still with post-traumatic stress in some areas of my life.

I taught my children that they could control their reactions to the bullying, that how they chose to live their life was what was important, not what others might say or think. Turns out I taught them to defend others by my own example, to the point where, when my daughter saw children walking to school being bullied, she ran home to get me to come and protect them.

The one thing that makes a difference isn't easy. From personal experience, if you forget to do this until you're embedded in the bullying cycle, it's well-nigh impossible to do without somebody you trust being there to remind you. But it does work.

Whatever the input - ridicule, bile, physical attack, to name a few - you need to remember that the input is outside your control. You cannot undo a hurtful comment before it has been said, let alone afterwards. No matter how safe you try to be, you cannot always avoid a physical attack, especially not from somebody close to you.

You can control your reaction. It's not easy and it may be impossible to control the initial reaction of pain or physical defence. That's instinctive, not rationalised. But you can control the subsequent reaction. You can choose to stand there and quietly, assertively state that you are no longer prepared to tolerate their behaviour. You can choose to turn their ridicule into a joke. It doesn't have to be stated out loud, you can talk to friends you feel safe with afterwards. You can walk into a solicitors' firm and take out an injunction.

Because it's the combination of their input and your reaction that determines the outcome. You can make a better outcome for yourself. I know you can, because I've done it, over and over again.