What is it?
Well , let me begin by saying that it is a tactic that, for most women, is well used in their armory . I’d dare say that most of us are taught (whether intentionally or not) that it is a “skill” to be fine tuned and honed in upon. I think in many ways, we know what it feels like when it happens to us, but the best emotional bullies are so subtle we can hardly articulate what just happened.
Let me also confess that this is not a trait that I have been innocent of in the least. In fact, it is something that I ignorantly used for many years to make things go my way. It was not until I realized that this was what was happening to me, dealt with that hurt, and forgave those who had hurt me that I was even able to recognize this action in myself and have the personal security to stop.
What is emotional bullying? I have no letters after my name or any other person to back up this definition - this is only a functional definition to describe this word that came into my head that we are discussing. So for our purposes…
Emotional Bullying is using forms of emotional manipulation to get one’s own way.
Some examples of emotional bullying include trying to force everyone to agree to see and do things one’s own way. There is no room for differing opinions unless they are kept silent and actions lend toward agreement.
For example, in an argument, an emotional bully can tell you their point of view in a way that makes it appear if you do not agree with them, there is something wrong with you (you are mean, naive, selfish, etc). They prey on others who are sensitive to others feelings or need approval. By the way, you can still be sincerely sensitive to others feelings, and yet hold your own separate point of view.
Emotional bullies might throw out terms like “loyalty” to keep others guilty and tied to them. There is no freedom to be separate. Emotional bullies will undermine your values. They will often paint others as overly sensitive or needy to keep them from having validity in their point. Emotional bullies say they do, but they truly not want to hear others thoughts or opinions; often they only allow them spoken in short bursts so they can say that they did listen, but they are not valued or considered. They might even allow you to explain so they can use that information to convince you to change your mind or plans. Ironically, this is what the emotional bully will often say the person they are preying upon is doing. It's a sick cycle.
There is much more to say on this, but this is all I have so far in the way of description and examples.
My greatest point here is to recognize that healthy minded people do not force you to agree with them or trust them or tell them everything. They are secure in themselves, secure in your separateness, and you should experience freedom in relationship with them.
What if you recognize that you are an emotional bully. First of all, don’t beat yourself up, many of us have been bullied by so many people that this feels like the only way to hold our own in the world. Second, try to take a look at why you need others to agree with you and who might be also doing this to you (behind every bully is usually an even bigger one). Third, be willing to go to God with confession and ask Him to change your heart and mind. Don’t be afraid if He asks you to take some greater steps toward healing, like counseling, to deal with the things that cause you to bully others. He can and will heal your heart and mind completely if you’ll let Him (but you must be willing to obey and invest the time that He calls for us).
What if you recognize that you are being bullied. Recognizing it is the first step. The next step I would say, if possible, is to remove yourself from the person (or people who are doing the bullying) for a time while you gain the security to recognize and deal, but sometimes that is not possible (for example with coworkers or members of your own household and you'll have to take each situation to God, but anyone else can be kept at a distance for a time so you can gain perspective and health).
To stand up to emotional bullying, you must have the confidence and security to recognize that you are separate and experience the freedom to say no. Sentences like “I’m sorry you feel this way but this is my choice” are the cornerstone to this kind of thinking, but I’ll be honest with you, unless you deal with the hurt from bullying in a safe place outside the situation…it is not likely to heal itself. Here God is also the master healer, and you can go to Him for help and healing, but He may call you to Christian counseling or some type of support group as well. Be brave enough to do to get your life back.
Christ can and will make a total transformation that gets you out of this cycle. He does not manipulate or force us into anything, we are free to come and go and receive His unconditional love no matter what our choice is. He also sets clear boundaries and lets us know the consequences of those, so that we can make educated choices, but they are still ours to make. Two good resources on this subject that I have found very helpful are by John Townsend and Henry Cloud Boundaries and Safe People…they also have a website devoted to such subject matters.
Wishing you much freedom!