Standing Up for Yourself?

"Why don't you stand up for yourself?" is an oft-asked question. We're adults, aren't we?

In most cases, the bullying follows a two-phase procedure. Phase one is control which is exercised through constant trivial daily nit-picking criticism etc. Eventually there's a defining moment when the target realises that the criticisms have no validity and that they constitute bullying; the target asserts their right not to be bullied, perhaps by initiating a grievance, and the bullying moves into phase two: elimination, which is achieved by dismissal on false charges, ill-health retirement, forced resignation, redundancy, or death from suicide or heart attack due to prolonged negative stress.

The reasons people don't assert their right not to be bullied are complex as the following list shows (all the fears are justified):

  • the target of bullying has been disempowered through isolation and exclusion and the manipulation of co-workers and management's perceptions
  • the bully is constantly threatening and intimidating the target and co-workers
  • there is a climate of dysfunction and fear in which people are frightened to assert their rights
  • the target now has artificially high levels of shame, embarrassment, fear and guilt - all stimulated by the bully, for this is how all abusers control their victims
  • the target feels bewildered and often still cannot believe that what is happening is happening; the target feels responsible in some way, as evidenced by the nagging thoughts "Why me?" and "Why did I let it happen to me?" (Click here for some answers)
  • the target fears for loss of their job
  • the target fears they will be unable to obtain a reference (this is especially true in the professions) and the bully never misses an opportunity to strike at their target, even after the target has left; being asked for a reference is an ideal opportunity to bad-mouth their target
  • if you take your employer to an employment tribunal you're obviously a troublemaker and no employer will take the risk employing you - despite the fact that you did nothing wrong
  • there is no law against bullying and the laws that do exist are difficult to apply to bullying
  • real jobs are scarce and if you're over 40 and in a permanent full-time position the chances of obtaining another permanent full-time position are slim (the government likes to give the impression that there are under one million people unemployed in the UK but the figure quoted is the number of people who qualify for jobseekers allowance - the number of people aged between 18-65 without a job is between 4-6 million)
  • by this time the target is suffering a severe psychiatric injury, is traumatised and unable to articulate their circumstances - whilst the bully remains glib and plausible
  • trauma and fear combine to prevent the target from being able to find the right words to identify, unmask and call to account their tormentor
  • when the symptoms of psychiatric injury start to appear the bully plays the mental health trap, claiming this person "has a mental health problem" (psychiatric injury has nothing to do with mental illness - click here to see the differences)
  • the target has no knowledge of serial bullies, sociopaths, etc, and no experience of dealing with these characters
  • the bully relies on compulsive lying, Jekyll & Hyde nature, deception, deviousness, evasiveness and charm (click here for details) and uses denial, counter-attack, projection and feigning victimhood to evade accountability (click here for details). Charm has a motive - deception.
  • the serial bully abuses power, exhibits amoral behaviour and lacks conscience and remorse
  • there's a lot of ignorance and unenlightenedness about bullying
  • the silence is deafening
  • denial is everywhere
  • disbelief is prevalent too - the target fears that no-one will believe them and even the target eventually questions their belief that this is happening, especially as the bully persistently and plausibly denies everything
  • bullies are encouraged and rewarded, often by promotion
  • cases that are settled are subject to gagging clauses
  • employers network with each other, sometimes discussing cases and people at fraternal meetings
  • in many cases unions are unhelpful; in some cases the union is part of the problem
  • the target doesn't want to have "stress" on their health record
  • the target doesn't want to get others into trouble and is reluctant to initiate a grievance against a fellow human being
  • the target naively believes that the system is there to protect them and will work for them (it isn't and it doesn't)
  • the target naively believes that their loyalty and good service record will stand them in good stead (it won't and the employer is likely to ignore and dismiss it)
  • the target naively believes that Human Resources and personnel are there to protect employees (they're not, click here for the reasons why)
  • grievance procedures are notoriously useless for dealing with bullying, as the manager, with whom the grievance is normally conducted, is often the bully - or is supporting the bully, either by colluding (active support), or by refusing and failing to deal with the bully (passive support)
  • even if another manager handles the grievance, he or she is usually connected with the bully in some way
  • bullying is a betrayal; the target trusted and depended on the integrity of another (eg manager) and that person betrayed them; the target fears and anticipates that when they report the bullying, they will be betrayed again (they often are)
  • those in authority did nothing to prevent the bullying while it was happening, nor did they do anything subsequently; very often it is the person in the position of authority who is the bully; trust in authority is low, with justification
  • bullying is a form of psychological rape because of its intrusive and violational nature
  • the target felt and continues to feel guilty about what happened, having been encouraged by the bully to believe they were responsible
  • the target may have been encouraged to withdraw from legal action by the bully feigning victimhood and playing on their target's forgiving chord and manipulating other people's sympathies
  • bullying causes Complex Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and any thought, memory or reminder of the bullying immediately results in the sufferer experiencing the following PTSD DSM-IV diagnostic criteria:
  • B4. intense psychological distress at exposure to internal or external cues that symbolise or resemble an aspect of the traumatic event
    B5. physiological reactivity on exposure to internal or external cues that symbolise or resemble an aspect of the traumatic event

    as well as

    C1. efforts to avoid thoughts, feelings or conversations associated with the trauma
    C2. efforts to avoid activities, places or people that arouse recollections of this trauma
    C3. inability to recall an important aspect of the trauma
    D3. difficulty concentrating

    PTSD is a normal and natural emotional reaction to a deeply disturbing and shocking experience. It's possible half the population suffers PTSD to varying extents; mostly it is diagnosed as "stress" and "anxiety". Recovery from PTSD is described in David Kinchin's book Post Traumatic Stress Disorder: the invisible injury, 2005 edition.

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