Tonight in my job as a therapist in a drug and alcohol oupatient treatment center, I facilitated my weekly Women’s Group. The topic of negative self talk came up and the ways in which it sabotagued their successes and undermined their wellbeing. Some had habitual gloom and doom thoughts, envisioning the worst possible outcome. That ‘stinkin’ thinkin’ as it is referred to in 12 step reccovery circles could be as addictive and insidious as the substances they had used that brought them to treatment. It occurred to me at that moment, that each of us has an inner bully and an inner ally. After writing those words on the white board, I asked the women to call out the attiributes of each. The words controlling, robbing self esteem, loss of respect, damaging, abusive came to mind. On the flip side, the words supportive, freeing, safety, got your back and by your side were some of what showed up on the ally tally.
In the same way that an external bully can devastate us and perhaps, in some cases, already have, so too can our overbearing (who put you in charge?) persona that can have us cowering in tears in a corner somewhere with just a raise of an eyebrow or a sarcastic comment. The sad part is that we believe the garbage that the bully spews at us, rather than challenging it and saying, hands on hips, “You’re not the boss of me,” in your best, determined to stand- your -ground voice. Remember that bullies are really pretty insecure and immature, who want to have the illusion of control when inside, they may be quivering in fear.
So how can we turn it around for ourselves and recognize the bully for what it is; the scared little kid part of ourselves that just wants to be heard and loved and is demanding attention, and is willing to receive it in negative ways? Chances are, it will go sulking back into its lair. What do your inner bully and ally look like? What do they say to you to both support and sabotague you? Whose voices come out of them? Do the messages sound familiar?
My inner bully sometimes looks and sounds like a snide, snarky know it all, garbed in a trim little black suit (not the fashion choice for this gracefully aging hippie who prefers flowing and sometimes colorful accoutrement) looking over her glasses at me, wagging her finger and demanding that I explain myself. She expects me to earn my keep, justify my existence, while encouraging me to play small, since after all, there are many more talented writers and teachers out there…hmmmmppphhh. My ally IS that gracefully aging Earth Mother hippie with the long hair of my early adulthood who in 1981, had just returned from Outward Bound with a broken pinkie, frostbite on both hands, bronchitis and a sprained ankle who never moved to Vermont as whe had once contemplated….after 10 days in the wilds of Maine and New Hampshire, she found it was too damn cold! This enthusiastic, take life by storm ,compact, fiercely independent young woman is now an integrated part of the 54 year old, more curvaceous, laugh lined, seasoned woman. Over the past 30 some years, she has invited kindred spirits to join the party, who believe in her, cheer her on, remind her who she truly is. With them at her side, that bully doesn’t stand a chance!
www.youtube.com/watch%3Fv%3DZuzi-yH9VLo Friends- Elton John