Beating the Bully at His Own Game: A Waking Dream
Anti-anxiety Tool of the Week: Patting
This is another zapchen exercise. Remember zapchen? Simply pat yourself all over with the palms of your hands. Pat very gently or more firmly, as you prefer. If you start at the top of your head and go down your torso, it's easier to know you've covered everything. Pat one arm with the other hand, starting at the fingers and moving up to the shoulders, then do the other arm. Same with the legs--start at the feet and pat up, using two hands on each leg. Be sure to pat everything, including all features of your face. You can use a pillow to pat the areas of your back that you can't reach, or gently bump those areas up against a doorway, or if you have a friend or partner handy, ask them to pat your back.
Julie Henderson, zapchen creator, notes that patting can help you have an "increased awareness of physical, energetic and psychological boundaries [and] helps the immune system know its 'job' more accurately." All this can help "increase confidence and clarity and impact." Therefore decreasing anxiety.
This tool is from the seventh Toolkit. Here's the Index of all toolkits. And The Mini-Toolkit: For Those with Little or No Time.
Beating the Bully at His Own Game: A Waking Dream
Let's just say I know what it's like to be bullied, what it's like to have an aggressive brother, five years my senior. I know the feelings of fear, humiliation, anger, shame and frustration when someone a lot bigger and stronger than you are teases and taunts and pushes you around, literally and/or figuratively.
There can be long-lasting scars from this kind of thing, so I was still dealing with some of those issues years later when I had a waking dream about bullying.
What is a waking dream? Collins online dictionary defines it as: "an experience you have while you are awake that feels similar to dreaming." I would describe it as a slightly odd, stand-apart piece of a day--usually brief--during which you become aware that what is happening to you and/or around you is archetypal, usually with an embedded message of some sort. It may feel as if you are watching a movie or even as if there are some kind of invisible cosmic quotation marks around the event.
That said, here's the set-up for the waking dream I mentioned. One spring day Lawrence and I decided, for some reason I can't remember, to take a walk in a rambling apartment complex a couple miles from our house. The complex stood on a gently sloping hill and as we walked around the top, we could see a swimming pool, surrounded by a chain link fence, and an area of lawn, down below us about 100 feet away.
Then we noticed three kids--a heavyset blonde boy who was probably around twelve, and two girls, both around seven or eight years old, one with blonde hair, the other sporting a dark ponytail. We couldn't hear much of anything, but as we watched it quickly became apparent that the boy was aggressively teasing the blonde girl. We could see her visibly droop as he mocked her, and begin to cry. That seemed to encourage him--he began to poke at her and push her around.
I shivered a little--part of me was that girl, harassed and helpless, feeling sad and angry and shamed, just wanting it to stop but being too afraid to do anything for fear of getting hurt.
Should I intervene? I asked myself. Sometimes that can make things worse in the long run. Maybe if it gets more violent?
Fueled, apparently, by his success with the first girl, the boy turned to the dark-haired girl and started trying the same tactics on her. But as we watched a totally different tableau unfolded. Instead of shrinking from the bully she started yelling at him, then took a swing at him--and he ran! Even though he was quite a bit bigger than she was. She chased him across the grass and right up the chain link fence, almost to the top. Eventually he half-jumped half-fell down and she charged him again. He ran again. I wanted to laugh out loud and cheer her on.
Finally the boy appeared to make some kind of sheepish peace with her, and did not go back to teasing the first girl, so Lawrence and I continued our way. It almost felt as if we had seen three child actors doing a scene entitled "Beating the Bully at His Own Game." And it had all happened within the space of about a minute.
At first glance, the two responses might look like a simple choice between letting someone else take advantage of you and standing up for yourself.
However, perhaps the first girl was the boy's sister, trained by years of aggression to take the path of least resistance. Perhaps she had been abused by others or had been told (by word or deed, or even accidentally) that she was less important than other people. Perhaps she had had experiences that had taught her that it was dangerous to resist someone stronger than her.
And the other girl? Maybe she had an older brother who did what older brothers should do--taught her how to take care of herself. Maybe her parents had helped her find her power and agency. Maybe someone had helped her understand that anger is a reasonable response to someone trying to bully you.
We'll never know.
My bullied child self saw the second girl's response work and was amazed: He actually ran away from her! He seemed to be scared of her!Wow.
This experience did not utterly and finally change my ability to resist bullies--as I said, childhood patterns can run deep. And, of course, it isn't always safe to stand up to a bully. But it gave me a rather vivid example of the contrasting responses to bullying that are possible. And how a bully might respond to them. And the option to--gently and non-judgmentally--encourage my scared self to learn to stand up for herself.
Waking dreams. A special form of what Carl Jung called synchronicity, which he sometimes described as "meaningful coincidence." You can't make a waking dream happen, but you can be alert to them. In fact, I would speculate that they are happening all around us, but we just aren't paying attention. What wisdom, what messages, what entertainment are we missing when we bury ourselves in our electronic worlds? Or in worry and stress?
May we each wake up a little more so as to better see these dreams.
Until next time,
Cat and her human, Jonas Vincent, unSplash
Depressed person in the dark, unknown
Sunlight through trees, Kristine Weilert, unSplash
Sad girl, unknown
Stronger than you think, NewMoonGirls.com
Children playing, Robert Collins, unSplash