Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Tuesday Voice: Feel

Others can’t make us do it

By Vic Midyett

Others cannot make us feel – we allow that to happen to ourselves. This is a very difficult subject, but I am going to try to write about it simply.
    I just said it was a very difficult subject, but I wonder? Is it difficult because we make or assume it so? We even seem to be in the habit of looking to schools, authorities, and governments to fix our reaction/feeling issues for us. Surely the solution must be rooted in individual families – I suspect that good, solid parenting is the foundation.

    Young people these days may not have heard the following parenting advice, but when I was young there was a saying most parents used with their kids: “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.” We were taught that whenever we were confronted with a bully, we should repeat that straight to the bully’s face. (Then, perhaps, run!) But a lot of the time, that was the end of the confrontation. It was a response that left the bully nowhere to go and sent his words bouncing off us, it seemed. Verbal Tai Chi.
    Today though, bullies are not usually in front of our kids’ faces. They hide behind technology in social media. So, what do we do? How do we help our kids? I am thinking that most of the time our child, the receiver, knows the name of the sender and knows that the statement sent will not be a nice one.
    I would tell the child, Delete it before you read it. Just don’t go there. But if you do read it, you have two instant choices.

  1. React it as though it’s the truth and feel hurt.
  2. React as though it bounced right off you.
It is your choiceour choice how we react. How about we develop internal, personal power by choosing the latter?
    Is it really possible to dismiss it? Yes!
    In life there will always be bullies. We cannot change that. So we must change ourselves. It comes down to making a conscious choice, a conscious decision ahead of time, before we are confronted by the bully. It’s called a fundamental life decision. It gets written in stone in our hearts and minds and remains useful for our entire lifetime. We may need to revisit it from time to time, but it is always there for us.

How about a metaphor to help with this fundamental life decision? If mine doesn’t help, come up with your own.
    We are standing near the road’s edge in front of a big, horribly dirty puddle of water. Let us imagine we are wearing a full-body raincoat and that a bully’s words are in that dirty puddle. The words are just floating there doing nothing; no bully is anywhere to be seen. But then along comes a bus, which runs through the puddle and splashes us with the horrible, dirty, bully words. Well, because we first put on that raincoat – made our fundamental decision that words cannot hurt us – none of the dirt reaches us underneath our raincoat! We remain powerful inside. We remain true to ourselves inside. The bully words just bounce off us.

Another way to look at this subject is to compare “pushing against” with “pushing aside.” Pushing aside takes way less energy than pushing against, doesn’t it? When we react to a bully in anger or hurt, we are pushing against. When we choose not to react, we are pushing aside.
    Others cannot make us feel. That choice is our own – and therein lies our power.

Copyright © 2015 by Vic Midyett


  1. Vic, the following passage from Hilary Mantel's novel Bring Up the Bodies reminded me of your "full-body raincoat"; the novel is the second of three about England's King Henry VIII's minister Thomas Cromwell:

    On Passion Sunday a sermon is preached in the king's chapel by Anne's almoner, John Skip. It appears to be an allegory; the force of it appears to be directed against him, Thomas Cromwell. He smiles broadly when those who attended explain it to him, sentence by sentence: his ill-wishers and well-wishers both. He is not a man to be knocked over by a sermon, or to feel himself persecuted by figures of speech.
        Once when he was a boy he had been in a rage against his father Walter and he had rushed at him, intent to butt him in the belly with his head. But it was just before the Cornish rebels came swarming up the country, and as Putney [their local community] reckoned it was in their line of march, Walter had been bashing out body armor for himself and his friends [Walter is a blacksmith]. So when he [Thomas] ran head-first, there was a bang, which he heard before he felt it. Walter was trying on one of his creations. "That'll teach you," his father said, phlegmatic.
        He often thinks about it, that iron belly. And he thinks he has got one, without the inconvenience and weight of metal....[pp. 225-226]

  2. Great timing and good comparison. Thanks.

  3. No doubt. I didn't have that power as a kid. The only thing I could think to do with bullies was to insult them back as viciously as I could, and/or try to maim them. I find to this day that I still wish some of those maimings had succeeded.

    1. I surely understand your lasting desire to want "those maimings had succeeded." My guess is, the bullies have probably met their own by now. Life and "right" has a way of doing that before their 'end'..