How to stop self-bullying and feel better about yourself – opinion

Bullies love to tell lies.

“You’ll never become anything.”

“It’s easy to be replaced at work.”

“That pain in your stomach will never go away. You will die. Probably soon.”

“Bibi is coming back. trump too. Get ready for the end of civilization as we know it.”

US PRESIDENT Donald Trump shakes hands with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu as they pose in the Rose Garden of the White House this week (Credit: REUTERS/Leah Millis)

The bullies I just mentioned aren’t real-life ones. Rather, they are the bullying voice in our brains, always present and ready to spring into action when they sense weakness.

When I’m feeling uncomfortable, anxious, or depressed, my brain bully sees an opportunity to beat me up. My bully especially likes it when I’m in any kind of physical or mental pain or I’ve had a bad night’s sleep – it really pisses me off.

My bully knows me really well. After all, I experienced enough real-world bullying as a teenager to create significant trauma.

There were the bullies who would smack the books out of my hands if I got too close to my high school’s “senior track.” And how could I forget the brute who once kicked my throat so hard I could barely move for days.

Real world bullies grow up. They become obnoxious politicians, crazy drivers and rude customer service representatives. What they have in common: they all lie.

“Of course you can cancel at any time.”

“I didn’t drive up. You were driving too slowly.”

“I declassified these documents before confiscating them in my bedroom.”

Self-bullying is the worst type of bullying

However, SELF-BULLYING is the worst. While its origins make sense — it was an evolutionary adaptation that served us well when predators could lurk behind every rock — bullying lives on in our fight-or-flight-focused lizard brains, which is why it’s so hard to banish Bullying Scream.

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Bullying is not the same as teasing. Teasing is mostly harmless; You can laugh at the situation. Bullying breeds shame.

Bullying yourself goes hand in hand with catastrophizing. It eliminates your ability to see possibilities other than the worst-case scenario.

Defying the disempowering voice in your head means understanding that the words a bully uses are not necessarily true.

It’s a message I internalized when I first started meditating. Your thoughts are not you. In fact, when you sit quietly, it can be overwhelming at how many ideas and feelings dart unbidden into your head.

Did I create this thought? no Then why give him power?

My worst case of Bully Brain came when our family contracted COVID earlier this year. My daughter Merav and my then two-month-old grandson Ilai already had symptoms. I knew it was only a matter of hours before I would most likely get sick too. To get some sleep, I upped my usual dose of medicinal cannabis that night.

Then the phone rang.

Ilai was taken to the hospital by ambulance with a fever of 104 degrees. It was serious, of course, but my reaction got out of control. I would never see Ilai again. He would not survive the night. The cannabis made me catatonic and literally lost the ability to speak. (Spoiler alert: we’re all fine now.)

How to stop bullying yourself

WHAT CAN you do to calm down an overactive bully in the brain? There are several techniques to consider here.

  • Stop perfectionism. Basing your self-esteem on your achievement or success can set unrealistically high standards. The result is demoralization, failure, underperformance, and procrastination. Exactly what a brain bully wants. Can “good enough” be good enough?
  • Not to personalize. If you immediately think that a friend’s worried look means you did something to upset that person (rather than something unrelated to you), you’ve given your bully ample room to settle down. Remember: It’s not just about you.
  • Talk to your bully. You don’t have to just accept what the bully dictates. Enter into a dialogue with him. To quarrel. “Yes, it’s expensive, but I can afford it. What you say is a lie.”
  • Do a CBT reality check. Cognitive behavioral therapy can help you challenge bullying, distorted thinking with charts. I have adapted a CBT document to work specifically against self-bullying. In the first column I write down the thoughts of bullying. “My tumor will grow and I’ll have to start cancer treatment again soon.” Then I write a reality check. “Yes, there was some growth, but it wasn’t significant. My doctor is not worried.”
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And finally, I write a thank you line. “My cancer remains stable; I’m so thankful I don’t need more chemo now.” Therapy may not drive a bully away completely, but it does provide tools to slow them down and learn how it feels when the bully backs down.

  • Avoid self-blame. Blame promises seemingly simple solutions to complex problems. “It was you, not me!” Self-reproach ups the ante. It can make you feel like you have the power to change things, as failure must be within your own control. That’s another lie bullies tell.
  • Don’t let the bully make you forget the good. When fear calls, it can be difficult to remember the positive qualities you possess. Don’t let a bully overshadow all the wonderful things in your life.
  • Don’t compare, inspire. What you envy in others also exists in you. Rather than serve as a source of stress, first acknowledge what you admire in someone else. Then reach out and tell that person that they inspire you. Your bully certainly didn’t expect that!

For more on bullying—and CBT in particular—especially if you’re a parent, a particularly good guide is Dawn Huebner’s What to Do When You Worry Too Much: A Kid’s Guide to Overcoming Anxiety. 

The author’s book, TOTALED: The Billion-Dollar Crash of the Startup that Took on Big Auto, Big Oil and the World, is available at Amazon and other online booksellers.

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