Every single week I seem to have to deal with bullies– not the school yard type, although I’m sure it probably started back then, but I mean the grown up version that like to make threats as a sick way of feeling in control or powerful. You can’t let their threats scare you– although of course, you have to be careful and protect yourself, but to give in to their demands just empowers them further. For every inch you give, they will take a mile, so if there is one thing I can tell you unequivocably, it is this: DO NOT CAVE IN.
Whether you win or lose against a bully doesn’t matter as much as the fact that you stand up and fight. This is the same advice I would give to a child just as much as I would to an adult, perhaps much to the chagrin of some school counselors out there, but my point is that sooner rather than later in life you have to make it clear that you will not be anyone’s doormat. For me this defining moment occured at the age of 8, when I confronted my first adult male bully. This is how I know it can be done early on, and your size doesn’t matter, it is your fiesty spirit that will allow you to confront a bully of any age and size.
I understand that some people may lack my resolve, which is why people often hire an attorney to fight their battles. Obviously, I don’t have a problem doing that for you, but I so wish you would all just empower yourselves a bit more. To help you, let me share a philosophy that someone shared with me: in this world, their are 2 types of people– those that screw with others, and those that let themselves get screwed. If you just go with this for a minute, then answer this question: of the two choices, which would you want to be? The answer should be obvious.
Throughout my 15 years as a matrimonial attorney, I have seen people at their worst. I can only hope these people move on to a better place in life after I’m done amputating the part of their life that is no longer functioning for them. But while they are in crisis mode, I often get people that want to treat me like a crutch or use me as a punching bag. I make it very clear from the beginning that I am neither one of those things. I have no doubt they may try to do that with others around them, and for your own sanity, I am begging you to not allow this to happen. Set your boundaries, don’t let down your guard, and remove yourself from unhealthy relationships.
Everyone is entitled receive love, but before you can truly love another, you have to love yourself. Sticking around sick people is undoubtedly going to make you sick– this is scientifically proven. Stress causes disease, and there are certain personalities that unfortuantely have a knack for creating stress in not just their lives, but the lives of all those around them. There are drama queens, narcissists and borderlines with severe attachment issues. These people lack insight into their own actions and rarely can empathize with those around them. They tend to accumulate problems, and they fail to understand that their problems are not everyone else’s problems. When you encounter these types, you need to stand up for yourself– and if you lack the strength, get help. Help is out there!
Some people have the flee instinct when faced with threats; litigators do not. Many, who just want the nightmare to end, want to walk away from certain rights, including in my experience child support, custody, property rights, or alimony just to be rid of an individual that is harassing or berating them. We sometimes call these bullies “tar babies” because no matter how hard you try to make them go away, they stick to you. We are used to tar babies, and a good lawyer should be able to help you develop some coping techniques, at least while you wait out the litigation in the case. Meanwhile, a good therapist/ counselor will provide you with greater tips for managing these people later in life, long after the court case is over. You need both if you have allowed a tar baby into your world.
While I prefer to mediate and facilitate dialogue between parties, I do recognize that 20% of our population is made up of these high conflict personalities, and unfortunately, these types often believe that they are above the law, or I guess they fashion themselves as little dictators, who think they can act as the judge, jury and executioner. They are black and white thinkers or think they are always “right” and everyone else is just “wrong.” They are “good” and those that don’t agree with them are just “bad.” They cannot embrace the world of gray that I live in, and clearly don’t get that we are in the USA, which believes in a balance of power. I try to remind myself of their severe deficiencies regularly in order to feel some sympathy towards them instead of anger. Do whatever you need to do to avoid anger, because it will only cloud your judgment, infect your soul, and it is the the last thing you need when trying to escape them.
I used to think that we all mellowed with age, but sadly I have learned that some people just grow nastier and bitter with old age. Enough blows I suppose, and a person can truly become a FUBAR. Most will not be able to handle a legal situation with one of these individuals, and in fact you may need a whole team by your side– emotional, financial and legal assistance are all imperative when battling with HCPs (high conflict personalities). A good team of experts will help you focus on the big picture and winning the overall war, while HCPs often cannot see that– they are too busy relishing each little “win” they think they’ve accomplished. They fail to see the devastation around them, and this is why even when these jerks do succeed in court, they are baffled by their overall failure in the game of life.
Throughout the years, I have found great safety and comfort in my legal world, where we have developed an elaborate set of rules that try to maintain decorum and predictabilty throughout a legal battle. We pride ourselves on civility, which makes sense since the law was created to maintain a basic level of peace within our society. However, I have come to understand that this is not everyone’s world, and in real life there are bullies that don’t abide by any rules. Whatever you do, don’t try to negotiate with these sickos while you are under duress. Get yourself to a safe place fast. That is priority number one, and don’t let yourself get down because you retreated– we all have to do that at times in order to re-think our strategy. Each day, you will grow stronger and calmer, and you will eventually find a way to stand your ground. Believe in yourself, and just remember this: whatever doesn’t kill you only makes you stronger.
As long as you don’t let the bully kill you, standing up to him/her will bring you this amazing source of strength– this I know to be true, for it is exactly what happened to me all those years ago as a child. 32 years later, I have managed to piece it all together, and if you want to know why I don’t suffer fools well, you just need to go talk to that little 8 year old girl that has stood by me through every single challenge and remains a huge part of my life.
By Regina A. DeMeo, Esq.