Saturday, June 27, 2009

The psychological effects of bullying carry far into adulthood - an analysis by me.

One of the most prominent things that I remember from my childhood was feeling bullied, pushed around and abused, being frightened of other people who enjoyed the fact that I was frightened of them and feeling helpless and controlled by others who had wicked intentions. I was constantly aware of my small size, excessively thin frame and tendency for violent emotional outbursts which instead of intimidating the bullies, simply added further fuel to the fire and caused them to torment me further.

I do not blame anyone for this, nor do I hold bitterness towards those responsible. The purpose of this letter is to acknowledge and confront the fact that this kind of treatment when one is currently going through what is arguably their most impressionable age has a far greater impact on the human heart and soul than what is often realized at the time, and that the deeply felt effects of this abuse carries on far into adulthood and can greatly affect the adult lives of those who were prominent victims of childhood shame, abuse and bullying.

The psychological effects of such abuse is very deeply felt and realized and often subconsciously we build walls around the real depths of our damaged psychological profile and build fake lives around keeping ourselves safe from the damage we have already received into the core of our own hearts. We are not living out of a real place when we do this, but a fake one and our entire lives become a bubble that we create around ourselves. However, reality does not favor those with such bubbles, much as they expect it to. Life is not fair and does not choose to exalt some into a place of complete freedom from suffering - we must all suffer in our existence. Therefore it is inevitable that our bubbles, however thick and well constructed, will one day be pierced and we will be forced to face our own reality.

I write this now as since coming to Taupo my own bubble has been greatly pierced and I have been forced to face up to some of the realities I have carried inside myself for many, many years. The most prominent thing I have been realizing is a direct result of childhood bullying and abuse - the feeling of complete helplessness and powerlessness that comes over you when you realize that there are people who strongly dislike you and take pleasure out of your suffering who will be waiting for you once school finishes, or once the lunch bell rings. You are painfully aware of your own shortcomings and are beaten down on a subconscious psychological level without even realizing it, and are shoved into a victim mentality and head space before you even know it. You begin to dread school, or where ever the bullying takes place, and even once you are in a safe environment such as home you are unable to feel safe as you are continually filled with dread with the knowledge that sooner or later you are going to have to go into that situation again where you are powerless to change anything, as those causing your torment are often far bigger than you, or have much greater numbers.

The resulting psychological profile that you are subconsciously thrust into is as follows - I am weak. I am powerless. I cannot fight anyone who tries to attack me, nor can I stand up for myself or influence anything. If I try to influence anyone or anything, my feeble attempts at taking charge of a situation that is hurting me will result in a complete collapse as I do not have the inner mental strength to see it through. If I am overly nice to people, perhaps they will not hurt me. Therefore I spend my entire life in fear, hoping that someone will choose not to bully me today because if they do I am unable to do anything about it. My life is not mine, but yours and is in your hands completely, so I cannot let myself become angered or defensive as you will not be influenced by it, but will simply destroy me as soon as I do anything that you don't like as the power over my life is not mine but in the hands of the abuser.

The victims lose the ability to take charge of their own lives, make decisions and often find it very difficult to truly trust people and really connect with others in relationships. They feel as if in their life that they are alone on a little boat that is violently thrown around in a cruel, unrelenting storm that never ends and their only hope in many ways is for the storm to just crush them in order to put them out of their misery, as there is no hope for the storm to ever die down. The victim stores all of this up in the core of their heart and without realizing it, lives their entire life out of this mentality, too afraid to do anything and take any chances, afraid of themselves, their own feelings and their own power and of real, honest connections with those around them who genuinely care for them. If unchecked, these deeply held behaviors that are drilled into the core of a persons being from a young age can destroy their entire lives and cause them to live a life ruled by fear, a life of cowardice and a life of unstable hope and foundations that will one day eventually collapse all around them.

My answer to this, and even my realization of this, has come through my conversion to Christianity. Due to my childhood experiences I wanted nothing but a totally safe life, where I could keep a lid on the reality of where I had come from and live in a nice secure bubble. However, God has taken me through everything but that. At first I resented the journey I was on and wanted to live a nice, shallow and safe life, but as time went on and the trials became more persistent I realized that this was no way to live, and that true peace and freedom was never going to come from external circumstances but from inside my own heart. And inside my own heart was a black empty void of pain and fear and if I really wanted my life to improve, the choice I had was not to turn and run from that which I was facing, but to allow myself to really journey into those dark areas and find out what was really going on.

As time has gone on and I have done that, I have found peace, strength and confidence that was never there before. It has not come through evasion of my own truth but doing my best to face it head on, with the help of others who have faced that same journey. It has been excruciatingly painful at times and I have had many days spent in a bleak spiritual fog where I was unable to define what was really going on, but through the help of God and others I have found the answers eventually and moved on to a greater level of strength and confidence as a person. I have been able to take on more responsibility and do things I was never able to do before.

What I have learned from my experiences is that bullying others really does destroy lives, and that lives are not changed through niceness and avoidance of issues, but confrontation and honest reflection. Sitting around in self pity, even if we have been bullied, will not change anything. We must take responsibility for our own spiritual growth - we are the ones who are responsible for our own spiritual development. The world out there, as dark as it is, can be a place of indefinable riches when it comes to the realization of spiritual truths - if we let it. If we really want to live a rich life, a free life and a blessed life, then we must seek to first understand the truth about ourselves - regardless of how dark a journey that can be. Once we have learned to understand who we truly are, we can then understand and speak accurately into the lives of others and share the knowledge we have gained from our own spiritual bodybuilding. Our pain is a rich avenue for spiritual growth and understanding - if we choose to approach it in the right way. It is only through confrontation of the truth about ourselves, regardless of how bleak it is, that we will ever truly be able to become a person of influence - someone who is really capable of changing the world for the better.

I hope this has been some help or encouragement to someone out there.

God bless


Saturday, April 18, 2009

We must lose ourselves to find out who we really are.

The human heart is a deep well. Behind a person's smile, many unknown things can dwell, often without us even realizing that they are there. It is so easy to think who we are on the surface is who we really are. However this is all too often not the case at all.

The human heart goes much deeper than we realize. There are things dwelling deep inside us we don't even really know are there, and when push comes to shove in daily life, those things begin to get exposed, the masks come down and we are shown up for who we truly are and what we truly carry inside ourselves.

There is a huge unknown factor to this. Most of the time the things that we struggle with are not related to our circumstances at all - our circumstances are merely bringing to light who and what we truly are inside, below everything, in the darkest levels of our own minds. Everything in life is a test - a test to get to know ourselves and push us deeper into uncovering our own individual truths about who we really are.

We must learn not to resist hardship when it comes, for it is through hardship that we are pushed deeper into our own minds and hearts and what is there, instead of being hidden becomes exposed and in our faces - we have no choice but to either front up to it or continue to stew in our own agony. As we continue to do this, a light is shed into the darkest corner of our own hearts, and what was once unknown, unchartered and a breeding ground for fear and uncertainty becomes light, becomes known, becomes another brick in the strong foundation we must build in our lives if we ever hope to carry anything worthwhile in this world - anything related to eternity.

Our lives in the western world are made easier - and subsequently destroyed - through our wealth and culture of consumerism. We can go through our whole lives getting everything we ever wanted handed to us on a silver platter, never having to work for anything, never having to really put your heart and soul into anything, never putting anything at risk - including risking the masks we cover our lives with, and never once having to face the hardest thing to face - ourselves.

This culture creates a breeding ground for poor character and subsequently fruitless and unsatisfying lives. We spend most of our lives and most of our days building things around us - and inside of us - to save us from the cold, hard facts about ourselves. Though on the surface it all appears to be ok - all we are really doing is lying to ourselves and subconsciously protecting that which we desperately want to hide, as we think keeping everything in the dark will bring peace - where as the truth of the matter is we need to learn to face the truth about ourselves and keep nothing hidden, as that is the only place true peace, dependable peace, unshakable peace - is really found. Ignorance is bliss, however it only ever ends in destruction. Awareness can be very painful, however if we persevere and uncover the truth through our awareness, our awareness can subsequently bring us great peace.

I know what I'm talking about as well. I am facing a lot of hardship at the moment. My natural urge is to resist what I am going through, to run and hide, to deny the truth and hope for a change in circumstances to protect what I am already feeling. However, I know now that if I do this, this time will be wasted and I will probably end up facing the same thing later on in life. If I really want things to improve circumstantially, I must seek to thoroughly examine and change my own heart, and God will change my circumstances when He sees fit to do so.

This is a quote from Star Wars which, although perhaps a little extreme, hits on what I'm talking about -

"Tell me what you regard as your greatest strength, so I will know how best to undermine you; tell me of your greatest fear, so I will know which I must force you to face; tell me what you cherish most, so I will know what to take from you; and tell me what you crave, so that I might deny you…"

This is very true in many ways. We must seek to throw away the crutches we continue to stand on in our lives. The only thing we can depend on is God, and God wants to teach us to stand on our own two feet and not have the need for crutches. I'm not saying the church should not be united - it should. But each individual congregation member needs to only have one crutch in life - God. Everything else must come second, and we must only fully depend on God, for as much as we think otherwise - we will be let down by our other crutches, which we have put our full weight on, and we will subsequently crash very hard and very heavily.

Or perhaps even worse - live a life without learning what we need to about God and ourselves, and end up at the end of our lives with the realization that in denying the truth and refusing to ask yourself hard questions, we have actually robbed ourselves of a life that could have really meant something in eternity, rather than just a life that gathered a lot of possessions, all of which will just waste away and be forgotten at the end of it all. I can imagine nothing worse than getting to the end of my life, with nothing to look forward to besides the grave - and realizing I have done nothing but waste the chances given to me.

We must not run from our trials. We must embrace them. We must delve into the darkest parts of our own lives when God brings them to the surface, and surround ourselves with those who do the same. We must ask ourselves honestly - what do I really value in my world? Are there any crutches in my life I am depending on that I shouldn't be? Are there any false gods I am worshiping without realizing it that need to be torn down, or else I risk losing everything?

The Psalmist David hits on this in Psalm 139:23 -

"Search me, O God, and know my heart; Try me and know my anxious thoughts."

David is asking God to bring what he carries within him to the surface and reveal it. Jesus also said something similar in Luke 17:33 -

"Whoever tries to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life will preserve it."

If we try to save ourselves and try to resist everything that happens to us, block ourselves off from trials, and fight against our circumstances, we will ultimately end up losing ourselves. However, if we lose our masks and our coverings of fear and allow God to journey with us into those dark places, through those hard times we would rather resist, only then, will we truly save our own lives.