Sometimes we must fight ferociously to stop bullies at school, at home and in the workplace because the responsible authorities won’t act, despite the evidence. But other times, we are the problem.  We have conflicting values we can’t choose between so we don’t act effectively; we stay stuck – uncertain and indecisive.  We vacillate instead of acting with determination and perseverance.  We give in.

A few examples in different areas of life are:

While many other values and reasons can factor in, including important ones like keeping a job that puts food on the table or even survival.  I hope you can see that if all of our values are held to be equally important, then when they contradict each other, we’ll be stuck.  Or, if one value is always held to be most important, for example, non-violence, or being nice and sweet, or never disagreeing or upsetting someone, then we’re guaranteed to fail in some situations.

The way out of this impasse is to:

  1. Rank our values in importance; have a hierarchy of values. Then we know which one is more important in which situations.  For example, is it more important that your children have contact with an angry, hostile, bullying, controlling, abusive, brutal parent because children need parents or is it more important for your to set an example of standing up to bullies and protecting them from being beaten, even if that means they don’t see that parent?
  2. Honor the most important values first. Don’t honor a lesser value if that means you won’t be able to honor a more important value.  If honoring a more important value conflicts with a lesser value, honor the ones that are most important.
  3. Plan a strategy that’s most likely to succeed. Children tend to blurt things out.  They think that if they’re right, that’s enough.  Everyone will follow them or some protector will rescue them and make things right.  Adults know that in order to succeed we often have to be careful in how we do things.  And there may be no rescuer, no matter how right we are or what we think we deserve.
  4. Carry out the strategy with single-minded focus, determination, courage and perseverance. Be relentless in a good cause – your most important values.
  5. I am not recommending situational ethics; I am recommending situational tactics.

We won’t make things better for ourselves or our children by being a peacemaker.  Tactics like begging, bribery, endless praise, appeasement, endless ‘second chances,’ unconditional love and the Golden Rule usually encourage more harassment, bullying and abuseWe won’t get the results we want; we won’t stop emotional bullies or physical bullying unless we’re clear about which values are more or less important to us.

If we don’t create a hierarchy for conflicting values, we’ll wallow in negative self-talk, blame, shame and guilt.  We’ll get discouraged, depressed, despairing and easily defeated.

We can use many techniques to clarify our patterns and to prioritize our values in a way that will make us more effective and successful.  The take-home message is always to cut through impasses and solve our problemsDon't be a victim waiting forever for other people to protect you.  Use your own powerSay “That’s enough!”  Say “No!”  Stopping bullies is more important than never using violence.

For some examples, see “Bullies Below the Radar: How to Wise Up, Stand Up and Stay Up,” “How to Stop Bullies in Their Tracks” and “Parenting Bully-Proof Kids,” available fastest from this web site.

Since all tactics depend on the situation, expert coaching by phone or Skype helps.  We can design a plan that fits you and your situation.  And build your will and skill to carry it out effectively.

You want the people on your team to get along with one another and to work well together. But beware of self-appointed middle-men or peace makers.  They actually promote whining and complaining, and lead your team to wallow in emotional turmoil and dissention.

For example, Carl felt it was his job as a “people person” to smooth over ruffled feelings and make his teammates happy.  He said, “When we get along better, we produce more.  Happy employees are productive employees.”

To read the rest of this article from the Pacific Business News (Honolulu), see: Well-Meaning ‘peacemakers’ can disrupt your workplace http://www.bizjournals.com/pacific/stories/2010/04/26/story11.html

The Carl’s of this world:

Meddling managers, setting the tone for their teams, cause the most damage.   Of course, women meddle just as much as men.

Distinguish the Carl’s of this world from the bridge people who are crucial to the success of any organization.

There was a way Carl’s manager could eliminate the high cost of his bullying and low attitudes.

All tactics are situational.  Expert coaching and consulting can help you create and implement a plan that fits you and your organization.

Many children are raised with a set of rules such as: “Don’t make anyone uncomfortable.  Don’t hurt people’s feelings.  Don’t upset anyone.  Don’t be disagreeable.  Don’t argue.  Be polite.  Be nice.  Follow the Golden Rule.  Make everyone like you.”  But those are not effective rules for adults in the real-world. Of course, we know why we teach children those values.  Who wants to raise hostile, nasty, argumentative, vicious, abusive bullies?

I’m not encouraging bullies to be nastier.  I’m talking with nice, decent adults who are being harassed, tormented, controlled, abused and bullied, and yet who hesitate to speak up or to protect and defend themselves effectively because they don’t want to break those childhood rules.

Mary is a typical example.  She held her tongue in public when her toxic mother abused her.  She held her tongue when relatives criticized, mocked and demeaned her.  She held her tongue when friends told her what she should do to be the good friend they wanted.

She held her tongue but she built up huge resentment that eventually exploded.

With friends and a few relatives, either she’d get in a fight so she could be righteously angry, blame them and never talk to them again or she’d nurse a cold fury until she felt justified in simply cutting them off completely without explanation.

With her parents, she’d explode and tell them off.  Then she’d feel guilty for being so mean and she’d come back groveling and apologizing.  Nevertheless, she still felt she was the one who’d been wronged and she resented the price her toxic parents made her pay for forgiving her outburst.

With strangers, she sat quietly and never shared what she thought or what she was interested in.  She didn’t want to make them uncomfortable and she was afraid of hurting their feelings or raising a subject that would be contentious.  Most people thought she wasn’t very bright.

Mary was also a master of self-bullying. She’d flagellate herself with self-doubt and self-questioning.  She’d obsess on every slight taken or given and always end up blaming herself.  And she’d judge herself as guilty, no matter what they’d done to her.  She was never perfect.  Her anxiety, stress and negative self-talk led to sleeplessness, loss of confidence and self-esteem, and to depression.

Mary had two underlying and interlocking problems:

  1. The set of rules that made “not upsetting people” her most important value, no matter what.
  2. Having only all-or-none responses of holding back totally or exploding.  In a sense, she could remain at zero mph or she could go 100 mph, but she didn’t know how to go 30-60 mph.

The solution to the first problem required that Mary examine, as an adult, the rules she’d accepted all-or-none when she was a child.  Children do think in black-or-white but adults have more experience and wisdom.  Mary could see the kernel of value in her old rules, even though her parents had used them to control her all her life.

But as an adult, she could see where those rules were insufficient and what changes were necessary:

  • She felt the pain of all the times she’d made those rules the most important ones instead of protecting herself.  She could now see situations in which speaking up or pushing back verbally in order to defend herself were more important values.
  • She could see the difference between people sharing their tastes and opinions, versus having an angry exchange with someone trying to convert her to their “absolutely right” way of seeing things.
  • She could also see which subjects she simply didn’t want to discuss with which people.
  • One of the most compelling moments was when she saw which people she did want to disagree with, whether or not they were uncomfortable or had hurt feelings, because to be “nice” to them would have violated her most important values.  In fact, she reached a point where making a few people, like her toxic mother, uncomfortable or angry was a sign that Mary was on the right track.

She changed her old, out-dated and ineffective beliefs to new, effective ones, encapsulated in the phrase, “Not hurting people’s feelings is a much lower priority than protecting myself or being myself.  I’ll speak what I think and say what I want in the nicest, firmest way and if they don’t like it, it’s their problem.  That way I’ll test whether I want to allow them to be on my Isle of Song.

That simple change gave her a rush of peace, freedom and energyShe felt powerful enough to create the life she wanted, which was more important that not making anyone uncomfortable.  She now had the will and determination to learn how to be skillful in protecting herself.

How she learned to respond clearly, simply, kindly and firmly from 30-60 mph will be the subject of another article.

Expert coaching by phone or Skype helps.  We can design a plan that fits you and your situation.  And build your will and skill to carry it out effectively.

Being judgmental has gotten a bad name and for good reasons. Our whole world has experienced the horror wrought by people who felt superior and righteous in destroying other people they thought were inferior or even non-human.  Also, in our personal lives, we’ve experienced the damage done by arrogant, righteous spouses, parents, relatives and others who always knew best and felt entitled to taunt, tease, harass, bully and abuse us or to cast us out.

However, it’s a mistake to use these examples of righteous people with poor judgment as proof that:

  1. The process of making judgments is bad.  It’s not.  It’s necessary.
  2. We should accept all perspectives and ways of living in the world as equal or as equally valid.  They’re not.

But that’s all abstract.  The real questions are whether we need to be more or less judgmental and which of our judgments are worth keeping and how.  Take the quick quiz.

Before you take the quick quiz, see “Being Judgmental” as having four parts:

  1. Discerning; making judgments, estimating what the consequences of some action will be, deciding what we like and what we don’t like.
  2. Deciding which ways of behaving are acceptable in our personal space.
  3. Making these boundaries in our personal lives stick.
  4. Getting righteous, indignant or angry when people do what we think is wrong or dumb, or when they don’t do what we think is right or good or best.

Understanding this process, we can now take the quick quiz to help us decide whether you’re being bullied and whether to be more or less judgmental and in which areas of our lives:

  1. Do you ignore early warning signs and get stuck in situations that are painful?  Do you distrust your own judgment?
  2. Do other people often tell you what’s right or what you should do?  Do you need to act more on your own judgment and listen less to other people?
  3. Do you feel like other people or one other person runs your life or decides what you can or cannot do?  Do you accept harassment and bullying?
  4. Does someone else have more control over your time, money, friends or activities?  Do you try to understand, compromise or give in but they don’t?  Are you anxious, stressed or afraid of what they might do?
  5. Do you need to get angry before you act?  Do you often feel guilty or ashamed afterward?
  6. Do people ignore, laugh, argue or avoid what you want when you insist that they act in certain ways in your personal space?  ?
  7. Do people trample over your boundaries?  Do they get away with not changing?  Do you let them stay in your life?  Do they wear you down?  Is life an endless struggle?

If you answered “yes” to most of these questions – if you feel bossed and controlled, if you get taken advantage of, if you’re the one who almost always gives in or tries to make peace, if you rarely get your way, if you have to justify everything you do or ask permission before you can do anything – then you’re not protecting yourself enough, you’re not being judgmental enough and you’re not acting based on what you know in your heart-of-hearts to be true.

If you answered “yes,” to most of these questions, you need to act firmly, courageously, strongly and skillfully on your own judgments.  You need to build your confidence and self-esteem.  You need to take power over your own actions, whether the other person likes it or not.

Many people ask, “But how do I know if I’m right or fair or normal in what I want?  How can I demand what I want when I’m not sure I deserve it or if I might be selfish?”

That way of thinking leads us no where.  That way of thinking puts us under the control of someone else who thinks they know better than we do.  There’s no chance for happiness down that path – only submission.

The path that has a chance of yielding happiness and joy and fulfillment is the path of being discerning, of having more and better judgments, and of making our judgments stick in our lives.

Getting angry, righteous and indignant are motivation strategies.  We typically generate those feelings to get ourselves angry enough to act.  The problem with that method of motivation is contained in “The Emotional Motivation Cycle” (See “Bullies Below the Radar: How to Wise Up, Stand Up and Stay Up).  This method usually isn’t effective long-term.

Instead, a better method is shown in “How to Stop Bullies in Their Tracks.”  Trust the signals from our guts when they’re just at the level of irritation or frustration, and use the effective five-step process.  When we act based on that level of emotion, we’ll make better plans and carry them out more effectively.

That doesn’t tell us how to accomplish what we need; that doesn’t tell us how to get free from oppression we’ve previously accepted, but that tells us that we must.  All plans and tactics must be designed to fit us and our specific situation.  That’s why we need expert coaching and, maybe, legal advice.  But now we know the direction we must set in our lives.

Many bullies succeed in getting what they want by being angry.  Even if they don’t hit physically, they beat their targets verbally, mentally and emotionally.  And the threat of physical violence makes other people give in.  These bullies have enough control that they haven’t been arrested and sent to prison.  That’s why I think of their anger as a tactic. I’ve coached many of these bullies through the stage of anger management to finally ending anger and creating a different way of Being in the world.

But let’s focus here on what the spouses of these bullies can do in order to have bully-free lives.

For many of these bullies anger is a whole way of life.  Their rage is a tactic operating 24/7.  No matter what’s going on, no matter what we do to try to please them, they always find something to be angry about.  Any moment of peace is just the calm before the storm.

However these bullies got that way – and there are only a small number of typical scenarios – they mastered the use of anger years ago so it feels natural, like that’s who they are, like it’s their identity. They love “revving their engines.” They feel strong and powerful when they’re angry.  They always find good reasons and excuses to be angry, they always find people who are wrong and dumb in the news of the world or in their personal lives.  And they always focus on what’s wrong or dumb, and respond to it by getting angry and enraged.

If something in the moment isn’t worth getting angry about, they think of bad things that happened or that might happen so they can get angry.  Then they “kick the dog” – whoever happens to be around and does or says something wrong, or does or says nothing and that’s what’s wrong.  You or the kids think you’re having an innocent conversation when suddenly you’re attacked for being dumb, stupid, ignorant, wrong, insulting – or simply breathing.

The attack escalates into a listing of all your faults – which loser in the family you’re just like, you’ll always be a loser, you’re lucky to be alive and with them because you’d fail without them.  Their anger is never their fault; you’re always to blame.  Even if they don’t brutally beat you and the kids, the verbal and emotional abuse takes its toll.

Victims feel blame, shame and guilt.  Victims suffer anxiety, fear, frustration, panic and terror.  They lose self-confidence and self-esteem. They feel like they have to be perfect in order to deserve good treatment.  They feel isolated and helpless.  Targeted children often grow up with negative self-talk and self-doubt; they often move on to self-mutilation or rage and revenge of their own.  They often grow up playing out the roles of bully or victim in their marriages.

Seven tips to keep anger out of your personal space:

  1. Don’t be an understanding therapist. Your understanding, forgiveness, unconditional love and the Golden Rule won’t change or cure them.  And you’re not being paid as a therapist.  Those approaches simply prolong the behavior and the typical cycle of anger and rage, followed by guilt and remorse, followed by promises and good behavior temporarily, followed by the next episode of angry and rage.  Or the typical escalating spiral of anger, rage and self-righteous justification.  The reason the bullying continues is not that those bullies haven’t been loved enough; it’s that the behavior is a success strategy.  It’s never been stopped with strong enough consequences that the bully has enough reason to learn a new way of Being in the world.
  2. Don’t minimize, excuse or accept justifications. See anger as a choice.  If you accept that anger is a normal or appropriate response to what they’re angry at, if you accept that anger or any emotion is too big to manage (e.g., that they’re in the grips of something bigger than themselves) them you’re right back to “the devil made me do it.”  That’s the same excuse, even though the modern words for “the devil” are heredity, brain chemistry, what their parents did to them, how they never learned better.
  3. The best thing you can do to help both of you is to have consequences that matter. That’s the only way to stimulate change.
  4. Face your fears. Don’t be defeated by defeat.  Protect yourself.  Be a good parent and model for yourself and your children.  Emotional control – control of moods, attitudes and actions – and focus of attention are the first things we all must learn.  These bullies haven’t learned.  Lack of success in this area gets big, painful consequences.
  5. Make your space anger-free. You and the children are targets, not victims.  Their anger is not your fault.  Dedicate yourself to protecting yourself and the children.  Decide that only behavior counts, not psychoanalysis.  Clear your space.  Don’t give an infinite number of second chances.  Either they leave or you and the kids leave, depending on the circumstances.
  6. Promises no longer count. The lesson for your children is that when we’re very young, we get by on a lot of promises and potential, but when we become older than about 10, only performance counts.  Let these bullies learn to practice changing on other people’s bodies.  How much time do you need before you become convinced that they’ve faced a lot of potential triggers and mastered a different way of dealing with them?  A year?  Two?  Three?  Forever?  Do this because you want and need to in order to have a chance at the happiness you want, in order to have a chance to find people who treat you the way you want.
  7. Be smart and tactical. Of course, the longer you’ve known them, the harder it will be.  Dump angry jerks on the first date; don’t hook up with them.  Get legal advice.  Get help and support.  Get witnesses.  Don’t listen to people who want you to be a more understanding therapist.  File for divorce.  Get custody of the children.  Get the police on your side.

Post #176 – How to Know if You’re Bullied and Abused

Men aren’t the only angry bullies.  We all know about angry, vicious women on dates or in marriage.  There are clichés about venomous wives and mothers-in-law because there are so many.  Everything I’ve said applies to them also.

Many people still have friends that use anger to control interactions.

At work, angry, bullying bosses and co-workers are also clichés because there are so many.  Anger often succeeds at work.  Both the feeling of power and the success at making people do what bullies want function as aphrodisiacs.  And the addiction must be fed.

Be strong nside.  Ask for what you want.  You’ll get what you’re willing to put up with.  So only put up with good behavior.

All tactics are situational so expert coaching is required.  We’ll have to go into the details of specific situations in order to design tactics that fit you and the other people involved.

How to Stop Bullies in Their Tracks” has many examples of people commanding themselves, stopping bullying and getting free.  For more personalized coaching call me at 877-8Bullies (877-828-5543).

We don’t need more research and statistics to know that domestic violence is a travesty and must be stopped.  For example, watch the graphic five minute video about the effects of that brutality and the work of one safe house helping women and children.  Domestic violence is obvious – you can see the results of physical battering. On the other hand, even though domestic bullying and mental and emotional abuse are more wide spread than overt beating they’re often hidden from view.  Since harassment, bullying and abuse often fly below the bullying-radar of the targets and the public, I want to focus on it here.  Targets who accept the bullies’ promises or threats or on-going torture often don’t recognize how bad it is; how demoralizing and defeating it is; how their souls are being eroded over time.

Of course, some men are bullied by women, but notice the patterns of the bullied women who have written these (edited) comments:

  • “Out of the blue, he started taking control over me (commanding me), which I am not liking.  He is not letting me meet my friends or go out with them on weekends.  He doesn’t let me wear dresses, saying his parents don’t like it.  I am not allowed to do anything; no friends, no meeting people, no phones, nothing.  These things were never an issue previously.  I tried to work out things during last five months by listening to him and not meeting or talking to my friends.  He just keep saying ‘Listen to me and things will work out; otherwise pack your bags and leave.’  He doesn’t let me go out anywhere without him.  He doesn’t want to sort it out by talking.  Whenever I try, he says, ‘I am not here to listen to you.  You have to do whatever I say.   I don’t want to hear a ‘No’.  Now, I am always depressed and sad and smoke a lot more.  I lost my smile.  I lost myself in this relation.  Shall I give up or keep compromising without any expectations in this relationship?”
  • “I have been in a four year relationship, and have a two year-old daughter with him.  I have been feeling depressed lately and having second thoughts about us being together.  He controls me.  I can’t go any where without asking him first.  Sometimes I feel like a little kid asking for permission, even if it’s to go to the store.  My friends ask me to go out for a girls’ night and he gets mad if I mention it, so I stopped asking and him and just tell my friends I’m doing something that night so I can’t go.  Now, they don’t even ask me anymore.  When his friends are here he acts like he’s so cool and even yells at me in front of them.  It’s extremely embarrassing.  I feel alone.  I tried leaving in the past and he won’t let me take the baby.  So I stay because I don’t want to fight and I’m not leaving my child.  What do I do?  How do I make it an easy break up?  How do we get out?”
  • “At first my husband was the sweetest man I ever met.  He complimented me and had such great manners.  Then slowly but surely he began changing into the worst thing I could ever imagine.  The sick thing is I know I don't deserve it, but I can't leave.  It's like he has some strange control over me.  He constantly puts me down about my intelligence, appearance and my mothering abilities, which hurts the most.  It’s such an everyday obstacle that I find myself questioning why I stay.  It's gotten so bad I'm beginning to believe the things he says to me about how I'm useless and no one will ever want me but him.  Every bad thing that happens, he takes out on me.  Every single thing is my fault.  I want to leave but I still find myself staying, feeling bad for him and his feelings.  He can't even compliment at all without letting me know that I'm ugly and lucky he even loves me.  I'm just so sad anymore.  I don't even recognize myself.  I'm not allowed to speak to my family or friends.  I just don't know what to do anymore.  I'm so lost.”
  • “My husband and I have been together for eleven years with four children.  We go through the cycle of an abusive relationship.  Every time we argue, I get called a ‘bitch,’ which I have asked him many times to not do.  We kiss and make up.  Then everything's fine and dandy again.  He doesn't like to talk about our fights and says he will not name-call me again.  But every opportunity he gets, he's right at it again.  I guess I keep hoping he'll change, but I know he never will.   I don't feel any love from this guy.  He has fooled around on me and even went as far as marrying someone else while we were married.  Just recently he took my wedding ring away and threatened to pawn it.  He also promised my kids that he'll take them on a vacation.  He doesn’t even work, so I ended up having to get funds just to take the kids on the vacation.  Today, we fought again and he said sorry and he'll start today on not calling me a bitch.  Then ten minutes later it happened again.  I feel so stuck.  I feel as my only way out is suicide.  But I don't want to give him that satisfaction.  All I did today was cry.  And I don't even have anyone to talk to because everyone is sick of hearing me cry over him.”

Some patterns I see are:

  • He commands, bosses and embarrasses her in public.  She submits because she wants to avoid bigger fights.  She hopes that since she gave in this time, he’ll be nicer next time.  But he’s relentless in arguing, bullying and abusing; he never stops.  If he doesn’t beat her, the threat is there.
  • When she’s nice and logical – discussing, asking, compromising, begging, arguing, appeasing – she may get peace because he’s gotten his way, but it’s only momentary.  Her good behavior doesn’t buy his in return.  He never reciprocates by letting her have her way next time.  Eventually, she submits completely and asks permission to do anything.  He’s in complete control.  When he’s mean, angry or out of control, it’s her fault because she isn’t perfect.  It’s as if, “Since he’s angry, you must have done something wrong.”
  • She’s mocked, criticized, demeaned and humiliated until she doesn’t know what to believe.  She thinks she’s helpless and wouldn’t be loved or succeed on her own.  He’s so convinced and convincing that she begins to question herself, increasing her self-doubt, stress, anxiety and insecurity.  Eventually, the results of emotional and spiritual defeat are physical defeat and sickness.  Even though she knows she doesn’t deserve such treatment, she usually has some self-doubt and guiltShe makes many attempts to be perfect according to his standards.  She forgets that it’s her standards that should matter to her.
  • Step by step, she’s isolated – cut off from friends, family and sources of her own income.  She loses her old self; she loses her confidence and self-esteem; she becomes depressed, heart-broken and ready to give up.
  • It’s even worse if there are children she thinks she’ll have to support if she leaves.  Eventually, she begins to think like a victim – she can’t see how to get safe house help, legal help or the police on her side.

These targets keep hoping they’ll find some magic wand to change him; he’ll become a loving, caring, nice and reasonable person.  But that’s not going to happen.

Or they think that the most important value is making a marriage last even though it’s a marriage of torture.  Or that what matters is whether he loves her or not, when what really matters is how he loves her.

The question they must answer is whether it’s more important to keep a marriage at any cost, while giving in to fear and despair, or whether it’s more important to risk demanding the behavior they want in their personal space.  And if someone won’t behave decently, either they’re voted off our island or we leave theirs.

Maybe if these targets thought that they’re dealing with relentless bullies or predators, they might summon the strength to take steps to get away.  They might accept that the Golden Rule won’t stop narcissistic control-freaks; that appeasement won’t change predators; that unconditional love won’t convert carnivores; that unconditional forgiveness won’t heal the wounds they think drive him to be so abusive.  Maybe they’d realize that asking, threatening, yelling, demanding or an endless number of second chances without consequences are merely begging.

Those abusive, bullying control-freaks always interpret their target’s kindness, reasonableness and compromise as weakness and an invitation to take more from them, to control more of their lives, to eat them alive.

Ultimately, these women get the worst that they’re willing to put up with.  And eventually, the price they pay is slow erosion of their souls.

That’s why the first step in creating a bully-free personal space is for us to rally our spirits; to become strong, brave, determined and persevering.  Endurance endures.  Then we can make effective plans, take skillful steps and get the help we need.

No matter how difficult it seems, getting away is the only way to have a chance for a wonderful future.

All tactics are situational, so we’ll have to go into the details of specific situations in order to design tactics that fit the target and the other people involved.

How to Stop Bullies in Their Tracks” has many examples of people commanding themselves, stopping bullying and getting free.  For more personalized coaching call me at 877-8Bullies (877-828-5543).

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AuthorBen Leichtling
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Sometimes toxic parents think they have us over a barrel even after we’ve grown up, gotten physically and financially independent, and started our own family.  They count on our loyalty to some ideal of “family” no matter how badly they treated and still treat us.  They count on our self-bullying and guilt.  They count on us still trying to jump through their hoops to win their love and approval...  They count on our fear that they’ll manipulate the rest of the family into thinking we’re ungrateful and bad.  And they often count on our enduring the verbal and emotional abuse so we can inherit our share of their fortune. Of course, I’m talking about those toxic parents who are still blaming everything on us and abusing us because “It’s your fault” or “You are selfish, ungrateful and don’t deserve any better” or “It’s your duty to do what they want in their old age.”  They’re the toxic parents who know our every weakness and sensitivity, and still poke them hard when they want too; still find fault with every little thing we do; still compare us unfavorably to someone else or to their standards; still criticize, belittle and harass us and our spouse and our children in public or they’re the sneaky ones who criticize, demean and denigrate us in private but pretend they love us in public so everyone thinks they’re wonderful, loving parents.

Of course, we’ve tried everything we can think of, but the negativity, harassment, criticism, blame, shame, bullying and abuse haven’t stopped.  We’ve tried to do exactly what they want, but it’s never enough.  We’ve apologized and pleaded with them to stop, but that just makes them act nastier.  We’ve gotten angry and threatened not to see them, but they broke down in such tears of distress we felt guilty or they blamed on us even more or they acted nice for a few minutes but, when we relaxed, they attacked us more about something different they didn’t like.

So what can we do now?

  1. For the sake of peace and quiet in the whole family, we could keep trying to endure the abuse while begging them to stop.  After all, we never know; if we only kept trying, if we only did enough, they might change.  Also, they might leave us in the will.  And it’d be our fault if we quit too soon.  Many people fly low until they have children and see their toxic parents either criticizing and emotionally abusing their children or belittling and criticizing them while being sweet to the grandchildren.
  2. We might continue objecting and arguing; enduring our frustration and anger.  Usually this tactic repeats endlessly and often spirals out of control.  Relentlessly toxic parents won’t admit they’re wrong and give up.  Eventually they’ll escalate and cut us out of the will.
  3. We might try withdrawing for a while; not seeing them, telling them we won’t return emails and calls, and then carrying through.  People usually shift from the first two tactics to this one when they see the effect of their toxic parents on their own children.  This tactic sometimes convinces nasty, mean, bullying parents that they’d better change their ways or they’ll lose contact with their grandchildren.  But the relentlessly toxic parents don’t care.  They’re sure they’re fine and they’re sure they’ll win if they push hard enough, like they’ve always won in the past.  So they don’t change and we go back to arguing or we give up or we finally respond more firmly.
  4. The next step is to withdraw for a long time, maybe forever – no contact.  It’s sad but we have to protect the family we’re creating from our own predatory parents.  It’s usually both scary and very exciting.  Most people, despite any guilt they feel, also feel a huge surge of relief, as if a giant weight or a fire-breathing dragon has been removed from their shoulders.  Our spouse and children may celebrate.  Get out of town, go on a vacation, turn the phones and email off.

What to expect and how to respond?

  1. They’ll attack when we withdraw.  Expect them to make angry calls and send hostile emails.  Save these on an external drive or a cheap recorder before deleting them.  They want to engage us, so do not engage endlessly and fruitlessly; no return calls or emails, no hateful or vindictive responses.  We’ve only gotten to this point because they haven’t changed after many approaches and warnings.  We might have to change our phone numbers to unlisted ones and change our email addresses.
  2. They’ll rally the extended family.  Prepare by making cue cards of what to say; no excuses or justifications.  Just tell the family what you said and did, and what you plan.  Ask them not to intervene.  Tell them we’d like to see them but only if our toxic parents are not present.  We’re sorry they’re caught in the middle but that’s life.  They do have to choose who to believe and what behavior to support.  Be prepared to withdraw from anyone who attacks or interferes.
  3. They’ll disinherit us.  When they can’t manipulate us through love, blame, shame and guilt, they’ll try greed.  If we don’t do what our toxic parents want right now, they’ll cut us out of the will.  Don’t be a slave to greed; it’s a deadly sin.  If we want to have a bully-free family life, we’ll have to make it on our own.  The real benefit is not merely ending the brutality, it’s the strength of character and the skills we gain when we make decisions for ourselves and chart our own course in the world.  We’ll end the negativity, stress, anxiety and depression usually caused by toxic parents.  We’ll develop the strength, courage, determination, perseverance and resilience we all need to make wonderful lives.  We’ll be able to express our passion and joy without cringing, waiting for the next blow to fall.
  4. We’ll have an empty space in our lives.  Even more than the empty physical space we’ll now have at the times when we used to get together with our toxic parents, we’ll have a huge mental and emotional space.  How many hours have we wasted thinking about our parents, worrying about the next episode, dreading what might happen next, agonizing over what to do.  We don’t have to do that any more.  Of course, being weaned from an old habit takes a little time.  We must be gentle with ourselves.  Focus on the freedom we now have.  Now we can think about the things we want to think about; not about pain and suffering, not about past failures.  Now we have space to bring into our lives people who will be part of the tribe of our heart and spirit.
  5. Our children will wonder why.  Tell the kids in a way that’s age appropriate.  Are we protecting them from the verbal abuse of their toxic grandparents or from lies that paint us as bad people?  They’ll want to know what’s going to stay the same.  Will they have fun, celebrate holidays, get presents, have extended family?

The most important lessons we offer our children are not through books and lectures.  Those are important, but the most important ones are the ones they see in our behavior when we’re models of behavior we want them to learn.

Be a model for them of someone who protects himself and them from anyone who would target them, even someone who’s close by blood.  Being close by behavior counts more than blood.  Show them not to be victimized even by blood relations.

Show them to how to be the hero of their lives.

With expert coaching and consulting, we can look at individual situations and plan tactics that are appropriate to us and to the situation.  We can overcome the voices of our fears and self-bullying.  We can overcome childhood rules to endure whatever bullying and abuse our toxic parents dish out simply because they’re our parents.  We can become strong and skilled enough to stop bullies in their tracks – even if those bullies are blood relatives. “How to Stop Bullies in Their Tracks” has many examples of children and adults getting over their early training and freeing themselves from toxic relationships.  For more personalized coaching call me at 877-8Bullies (877-828-5543).

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AuthorBen Leichtling
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Jane was stuck in an internal war.  Every time she made some progress toward goals she’d been pursuing for years – cleaned her house, did things on her to-do list, met people she’d wanted to, signed up for classes toward a better job, courageously risked being honest – she’d start beating herself up in ways she was familiar with since childhood. A part of her would say, in an old, familiar voice, “Who do you think you are, you’ll never succeed, you’ll fall back into being a failure, you’re fat and ugly, you’re not good enough to stay on track, you’re weak at your core, you’ll never do the right thing, you’ll fail like you always do, no one likes you, no one will love you, you’ll be alone all your life.”

Then she’d isolate herself and start picking on herself physically.  That’d only make things worse.  She’d feel ashamed and guilty.  “Maybe they’re right,” she’d think.  “I’m not good enough.  I’ll always be a mess.  I’ll never change.  I’ll never succeed.”

She’d become angry at her parents and all the people who’d taken advantage of her, at all the people who weren’t supportive now and finally at herself.  And the cycle would continue; a little success leading to self-loathing and predictions of failure, followed by anger at everyone in her past and present, followed by more anger and self-loathing.  After several wasted days, she’d get herself together to try once more, but the emotional and spiritual cost of each cycle was huge. Self-bullying – negative self-talk, an internal war between the side of you that fights to do better and the side that seems to despise you, that’s full of self-loathing and self-abuse – can go on a whole lifetime.  Of course, the effects can be devastating – anxiety and stress, discouragement and depression, loss of confidence and self-esteem, huge emotional swings that drive good people away and attract bullies and predators.

Perhaps the worst effect is a sense of desperation and panic, isolation and loneliness – it feels like this has been going on forever and doesn’t look like it will ever end; every failure feels like the end of the world; like there’s no light at the end of the tunnel.  You feel helpless and are sure that it’s hopeless.

Or maybe the worst effect is marrying someone who bullies you and stimulates your most negative self-talk.

This is not a war between the left and right sides of our brains.  This is usually not our being taken over by an evil spirit that needs exorcised psychologically.

This is usually a battle between two sides of us that split apart because of terrible, overwhelming pressure when we were kids.  Back then, we didn’t know how to cope with the horror so we split into two strategies that have been battling with childlike intensity and devotion ever since.

On the one hand, we fight to feel inspired and centered and to do our best; to be courageous and bold and fierce; to try hard, be joyous and hope for success.  On the other hand, we fight to make us docile and not try to rise above our meager lot in life, to accept what they tell us and give up struggling against them so they’ll let us survive, to motivate ourselves by whipping ourselves so we’ll make enough effort and do the right things, and maybe then they’ll give us something in return and we’ll have those feelings of peace and joy.

Both voices want us to survive and to feel centered, peaceful and filled with joy.  Each takes an opposite path to get there.  Instead of a psychological exorcism, we need an internal reconciliation and a release from old battles with our external oppressors and between our internal, battling voices.

The inner goal is clear: We’ll be whole and unified, both sides will be working together toward the same end (http://www.bulliesbegoneblog.com/2008/04/25/getting-over-parents-who-wound-their-children-the-2nd-stage-of-growing-up-and-leaving-home/#more-35): the different possibilities for action will be presented to us in the encouraging voices of coaches; we’ll be inspired and motivated by encouragement, not whipping: we’ll have an adult sense of our strength and capability; we’ll feel like we can cope successfully without tight control over everything and we’ll act in a timely manner; situations won’t put us into a panic; mistakes won’t be a portent of doom.

The path or process toward that goal varies with each individual.  It’s not easy; it’s not instantaneous.  There are steps forward and steps back.  Sometimes it will seem like we’re back at square one.  It requires great helpers and guides.  But, as we are able to step back more and more easily and look with adult eyes at the big picture, we’ll recover our poise and press on more easily. Have I ever seen these wars overcome?  Many times.

For example, Jane finally made internal peace.  Her warring sides accepted that they had the same outcome – making a good life for her, filling her with the joy she’d always wanted to feel.  They realized that neither side could defeat the other; their only hope was to work together using adult strategies of motivating her to take actions that would help her succeed.  They saw that her situation now, in middle age, was very different from when she was a helpless child and had to depend on parents who seemed to despise her character, personality and style.

In order to end the external war, she moved far away from her birth family and cut off contact.  She started a new life.  She knew she’d have to bear unbearable loneliness until she made friends and loves worth having.  It wasn’t easy but she did it.  You can too.

Should you tell your children about your toxic parents, their toxic grandparents?  What should you tell them and how? Imagine that your parents no longer abuse you physically or sexually, but they still demean you, scapegoat you, ignore or scorn you, make nasty, hostile, sarcastic remarks and put-downs, and let you know that you’re not good enough.  No matter what you do or don’t do, you’re wrong.  They take charge of your life when you see them and break appointments whenever they feel like it.  Their wants and feelings are the center of the world and you don’t count.

Imagine also that you used to think that if you told them, in just the right way and at the right time, how hurtful their treatment was and is, they’d stop.  Or that you used to think your job was to rise above that treatment because they’re your parents, they’re getting old, they’re suffering, they deserve a little peace and happiness, and you owe them.

When can you stop trying to build bridges?  When can you cut off communication?  When can you tell your children why?

Harassment, bullying and verbal, physical and sexual abuse is usually multi-generational.  Families help perpetuate the abusive behavior by keeping secrets and telling lies.  If you give them a chance, your parents will likely do to your children what they did to you.  The old wounds still throb even if your parents are nice sometimes.  They still bleed when your parents repeat the same old treatment even now.

When you grow up, you may vow to break the cycle and treat your children better, but how can you protect them from the example they see of their grandparents still bullying you or them now?  And how can you stop obsessing on your childhood trauma or yesterday’s verbal battering?

Once you’ve tried everything you can think of, every approach, every sweet way of suggesting or speaking truthfully (say, a thousand times) and your parents (or step-parents) still protect each other, perpetuate the lies and tell you that you’re nasty and crazy, I think that’s enough.

Protect yourself and your children, turn your back to them, and create a safe and wonderful island of life for your family.  That means that your parents don’t get on it.

See the case studies of Carrie, Jake and Doug in “How to Stop Bullies in Their Tracks,” for some tactics that were successful.

Some suggestions:

  • Always remember the effects on your life and how they tried to crush your spirit.  Don’t let a running, internal debate about them suck all your energy down a black hole.  Stop negative self-talk; it’ll only discourage and depress you, increase self-doubt, destroy self-confidence and self-esteem, keep you fixated and stuck, and take your eyes off the great future you want for yourself and your family.
  • You don’t need more understanding of them.  You don’t need to save them from themselves or each other.  Don’t be their therapist.  Let them fix themselves on their own time and their own bodies; not yours.
  • Spirit counts more than biology.  Start calling them by their first names.  Don’t give them titles they don’t deserve, like “Grandma” or “Grandpa.”
  • Don’t argue or debate with your parents.  You’ll never convince them that you’re doing the right thing.  Bullies always want what they want – to feast on your feelings and flesh.  Simply tell them that they’re off your island.  Take steps to cut off communication.  Change your phone numbers and e-mails.  Move if you have to.
  • Tell your children what’s age appropriate.  They don’t need the gory details when they’re six, but they do when they’re sixteen.  Gather them together and make it a serious occasion.  The framework is that they need to know how to protect themselves and to set standards for their own behavior.  Don’t go into psychoanalytical reasons why your parents did it or why they, and maybe the rest of the family, collude to protect them.  That’s obvious.  You’ll probably have to re-visit the conversation.
  • Be invulnerable.  That’s the term coined by Victor and Mildred Goertzel in their study of the lives of more than 300 famous 20th-century men and women (“Cradles of Eminence,” 1962).  Instead of finding that these highly successful people had wonderful parents, they found that many had agonizing childhoods spent in bleak, troubled homes, including domineering, alcoholic, rage-aholic or neglectful parents. They described the children who succeeded, despite a psychologically damaging childhood, as resilient or invulnerable.
  • Be a model for your children.  Show them that abusive behavior drives people away.  Show them how to stand up to abuse, which sometimes means creating distance instead of being sucked into a battle that ties up your life.
  • Create a new family including new elders; a family of your heart and spirit.  Have so much fun, bring so much joy that there’s not a hole anymore that would be filled with thoughts of biological grandparents.
  • Get an expert coach to increase your determination, perseverance, courage and resilience, and to create tactics for your individual situation.

Your task is to create a fabulous life.  Don’t let toxic parents or grandparents – or siblings or friends – ruin it.  Shine a light on bullies.  Your children need you to show them how to thrive in the face of abuse, cover-ups and lies.

The holidays may be over for a while but family harassment, bullying and abuse because of a favorite child still needs to be stopped.  Typical situations are where the parents:

  • Praise, defend and give the best presents or position in the Will to their favorite child.
  • Put down the rest of the children or designate one as the scapegoat.
  • Ignore the faults of one child while continually criticizing the other children.
  • Cater to the whims of the favorite child and blame other children who resist.

Of course, I’m not talking about the situation where one child has an illness or disability that requires lifetime care, although even in this case, parents can use the rest of the children to serve the needs of the most needy.  Some parents even decide to have a second child as an organ donor.  I’m talking about the situations in which the children are basically okay, but one is selected as the favorite.

In some cultures the favored child is the son who will inherit everything while the daughters are raised to serve the ruling male.  You can hear them say, “If only you did what your brother wants, we’d have peace and be a loving family.”

Other families label one sister as the “good child” who is held up as a paragon of virtue or success impossible for the other daughters to reach.  You know who the “bad” or “failures” daughters are.  You can hear the parents say, “Ah, if only you were as loving, kind and good as your sisters.”

Sometimes, one child is favored because mom and/or dad think that child is the sensitive one.  His feelings count more than everyone else’s.  Therefore, they say, we must organize our schedules and plans around the wishes of that child.  “After all,” they say, “We wouldn’t want to disappoint your brother or hurt his feelings.”

The situation is even worse when the favorite children know they can get away with anything and use the power to bully and torment the other children.  You recognize all those sarcastic remarks that have hidden meanings and can drive you crazy.

But no matter how hard you’ve tried, no matter what good deeds you’ve performed or sacrifices you’ve made, eventually you realize that nothing you do will ever be good enough.  The favorite daughter’s wish that they could do more or slightest effort will be counted and praised more than yours.

So what can you do?

These situations are tough because they’re based on hidden feelings and attitudes, and because they’ve been going on for decades.  It feels natural by now; “It’s just the way we do it.”

Some typical steps people use to get free from the domination of the family by one sibling are:

  1. Inner commitment to break the pattern even if that means going your own way.  Stop your negative self-talk; it’ll create self-doubt and destroy your confidence and self-esteem.  It’s not your fault.  It’s about them and their decision to favor one child over the others.  Your goal can’t be to change their behavior; that’s often impossible.  Your goal is to stand your ground so you can create your own island of good cheer if you have to.
  2. Give people a chance by telling them, in private, what you plan to do.  Line up allies if there are any to be had.  Plan specific actions so you can support each other effectively.
  3. Plan tactics carefully.  Pick your fights selectively; don’t fight about everything.  You know what’s likely to happen.  What will you say or do in response?
  4. Stay calm.  Ignore the little snide comments and put downs that used to drive you crazy.  Don’t argue about the details or the old family history.  Don’t debate who is more worthy or who has suffered the most.  Simply state your needs, standards and decisions.
  5. Expect the bullies to spin the story their way, lie and go behind your back to create alliances and pressure groups.  Prepared to be blamed, labeled and shunned.  Prepare to be cut out of the Will.
  6. Be persistent.  Have real consequences, like not attending or like leaving early.  Words, arguments and logic don’t count; only actions count.  Stand your ground.
  7. Prepare to be surprised.  Often, families will accommodate the most stubborn and difficult person, whether they’re right and fair or not.  You may have to be more stubborn than anyone else.

Get a good coach to help you rally your spirit and plan effective tactics.

Your task is to create a family that honors, respects and appreciates you, a family in which your great efforts are worthy of being honored, a family of your heart and spirit.  That may or may not be the family you were born into.

Some people believe fervently, passionately and whole-heartedly that if you love bullies, if you give them what they want, if you’re kind enough, then you’ll melt their hearts, they’ll come to their senses and they’ll stop bullying.  Sometimes, rarely, that does work. But the wisdom of both history and the world’s great literature tells you that you’ll usually get hurt if you put your head in a dragon’s mouth.  By definition, if bullies stop harassing or abusing you because you appease them or if their hearts melt because you love them enough, they’re not real bullies.

And I just read another fabulous example.

The “Shahnameh – The Persian Book of Kings,” by Abolqasem Ferdowsi, written between 980 and 1010 AD, is part of the universal and ancient wisdom tradition that contains a more accurate view of human nature, character and interactions than is found in the wishful thinking of most modern parenting, self-help and psychotherapy literature.

Here’s the story.  Good King Feraydun is old and divides his kingdom between his three sons.  He gives the oldest the eastern part, the middle son the western part and to the youngest, the best and most able, he gives the central part, including Persia.  Soon, the older two become jealous and angry.  They band together and raise a great army to defeat the youngest son and strip him of his kingdom.  Ah, we’ve heard that theme before.  Remember Charlemagne and also “King Lear,” to name just two.

The worthy and noble youngest son, Iraj, says that his brothers and peace are more important to him than his kingdom and the bloodshed that a war will cause.  He says that he will travel to them unarmed and will give them his kingdom.  “I’ll speak to them in kindness; this will be better than angry words and enmity.”

Feraydun replies, “My wise son, your brothers look for war, while you look for reconciliation.  I am reminded of the saying that one should not be surprised that the moon radiates moonlight: your answer is noble and your heart is filled with love.  But what will happen to a man who knowingly places his head in the dragon’s maw?  Surely poison will destroy him, since this is the dragon’s nature?”

You can imagine the rest of the story.  Iraj is welcomed with open arms and sweet words by his brothers.  He is wined and dined.  Later that night, his brothers “washed all shame from their eyes,” sneaked into his tent, split him from head to foot with daggers and cut off his head.

There it is again: The wisdom of the ages.  Beware of real-world danger.  Take adequate precautions.  Appeasement won’t stop real-world bullies.

People who cling to the Secret, to formulas for affirmations and to laws of the universe that tell them that the love and kindness they put out will always be returned with love and kindness are indulging in childish, magical thinking.  Not everyone you befriend will return the compliment.  In fact, some people will take your open hand as an invitation to feast on whatever you have.  Real dragons will act like dragons naturally do.

There are many other examples in the world’s literature – think of all the saints (of every faith) who were martyred, sometimes by dissidents even within their faith.  If you insist on peaceful means as the only means you will try, if you insist on putting your head in the dragon’s maw, then be prepared to be poisoned 99 times out of a hundred.

On the other hard, if you want to keep your children safe when they’re away from home, if you want to keep them safe from cyber bullying, then get coaching, consulting and real-world books so you can prepare them to face real-world bullies with skill and effective strategy.  You may want formulas and rules, but you’ll learn more from case studies and examples that you can adjust to your specific situation.  Their self-esteem and self-confidence depend on your helping them be successful.

The success of Mahatma Gandhi and non-violent protest or non-violent resistance is often cited as absolute proof that such non-violent methods can defeat oppression and stop bullies.  That idea is often linked to the assertions that the world was a simpler place back when people came together face to face, a small group of committed people can change the world and there’s nothing we can’t accomplish. As much as I almost always try non-violent techniques first, I disagree strongly.  You’re better off thinking of non-violent protest as a method, a strategy or a tactic; not as a philosophy.

Let’s examine non-violent protest as if its truth as a philosophy can be tested against history.

Gandhi-ji was successful against the British and I wouldn’t argue that any other tactic he could have employed would have succeeded.  But his success only proves that in that particular circumstance, lead by that unique individual spirit, the tactic of non-violent protest was successful in getting the British to leave India.  Do you think that non-violent resistance would have been effective in India in 1857?  Or that it would help the Indian people now against Pakistan (or vice versa) or against the Muslim terrorists who recent launched their attacks in Mumbai?

I remember Martin Luther King, Jr. and the civil rights movement.   I was actually in Chicago when he led the march and rally.  Do you think he would have succeeded in leading a march in Chicago in 1920 or New York in the 1830’s (read about the mass atrocities and killings during the riots there)?  Do you think the movement would have succeeded integrating schools in the South without the Federal troops willing to shoot?

Gandhi and Dr. King were in the right places at the right times for the methods they chose.  Would either have even gotten obituaries in the newspapers if they tried non-violent protest in Hitler’s Germany, Stalin’s Russia, Mao’s China, Bosnia, Rwanda or Darfur, or against the Ayatollah or Sadam Hussein, just to name a few?

The wisdom and lessons of history are clear, whether we like them or not.  They’re found in the great literature of the world, as well as in the facts we know:

  • The world was never a simpler place.  Try living your life on a self-sufficient farm, especially when the locusts or drought or flood or fire comes.  Or when a conquering horde comes over the hill to kill all the men and take the women and children into slavery.  That was dealing with problems face to face.  Remember in the Iliad what happened to mighty Hector’s wife and son.  No unemployment insurance, retirement funds or welfare.
  • A small group of people can change the world.  Usually that’s what has happened, whether they start a Renaissance or a dictatorship or they’re called the Founding Fathers or Mothers.
  • Although there are many things we’ve accomplished through science and technology in the physical, material world, there are many things we can’t accomplish in the organic, living world.  We will never have world peace.  We will never have a global society that encourages and makes possible everyone’s individual freedom.  Power is a reality of human nature, not freedom (as much as we Americans value it).  Protecting me and mine against you and yours, or people grabbing what they want is a reality of human nature.
  • In response to a question about peaceful, non-violent protest being effective when facing Chinese soldiers with machine guns, the Dali Lama said, about two years ago, that had we stood there and prayed and chanted and reasoned, they simply would have shot us all.  Similarly, the Quakers in Pennsylvania were barred from holding office because their peaceful methods did not protect the colonists they served from Indian attacks.
  • History shows that, for the most part, those who succeed practicing non-violence live in caves, deserts, misty mountains or monasteries.  Usually, they live on practically nothing or are supported and taken care of by people who brave the world in which violence is a probability.  For example, Gandhi could live poor and politically active because, in part, he was supported by the efforts and money of one of the richest women in India.

To think that we can have sustainable world peace is to indulge in childhood, magical thinking – very 60’s and 70’s.

So what can we do?  Keep working at it; be strong, skillful and resilient in your efforts; think strategically, being right isn’t enough.

Start with your personal world.  Deal effectively and individually with the bullies you find, whether they be face to face or cyberbullies, bullies at work, home or school.  Help make laws against those behaviors, but if you want society or the government to actively guarantee security, you will create Big Brother and you won’t like the consequences.

Think of non-violent protest and reasoning as initial tactics to employ.  Sometimes they’ll be effective.  Bullies will show you if non-violent protest enough to stop them.  But if non-violent resistance doesn’t stop a bully, you have to be more clever and firm.  History actually shows that usually the best way to prepare for peace is to be strong enough to wage war successfully, despite the seductively catchy bumper sticker to the contrary.  Remember, no method succeeds everywhere and every when.

Prepare yourself to be ecstatic and joyful in the world the way it is, whether you decide to change it or not.  That joy and ecstasy are signs of the saints.  As much as the world is full of all the awful things we can think of, it’s also full of beauty, grace, love and nobility.  Fill yourself with joy in the face of the full range of life.

If you can’t be happy until the world is totally peaceful and all the problems are solved, you’ll have a lousy life.  That would be a waste of your potential for wonder, awe and joy, as well as for effecting change … even knowing that change won’t last beyond your life span.