My YA novel, Against Her Will, is being published at the end of March. The publisher has made it available for pre-order on Amazon now! An official launch and book signing will happen at Teen Author Boot Camp on April 11th. The story follows the struggles of teens in a psych ward who battle their inner demons in a place where not everything that happens is for their own good.
Co-author, Serita Stevens, is a nurse in a facility where she witnessed the sometimes horrific outcome of young people who have been the victims of mistreatment. The book has strong themes about bullying and the dire consequences it can have.
Bullying has become a universal issue. Recently, I've had to deal with my own young, special needs son being bullied at school. The affects of bullying can be heartbreaking and sometimes quite serious. Studies have connected bullying to the rise in youth suicides.
* Suicide is the third leading cause of death among young people, resulting in about 4,400 deaths per year, according to the CDC.
But bullying doesn't only affect young people, it's a problem with adults as well. Most of us have been bullied at some point or other. Whether it be by the kids at school, our peers, a parent, a boss, or even a spouse or the person we're dating, bullying hurts.
Bullying on a grand scale takes the form of a benign or aggressive dictator, ruling in fear and with supreme control. I recently watched a documentary on North Korea that made me ill. The way the people scrape and bow and cry with "gratitude" when speaking of their beloved oppressor is disturbing. They clearly fear his disapproval and the consequences of his displeasure to the point that they pray to him and pour on the worship. It's chilling to see.
On a smaller scale, bullying takes many forms from: stonewalling, withholding affection and approval to criticizing, demeaning and physical aggression. Almost always its about control and manipulation. A lot of people find themselves ensnared in an abusive relationship without realizing they are being bullied, because a bully isn't just the scary kid at school who beats you up for your lunch money or the mean popular girl who publicly shames you for wearing last years' fashions. Bullies can be in a position of trust, a person whom we should be able to count on for fair treatment or loyalty.
Some bullies are hard to pinpoint because they are sooo nice and have done so many things for their victim, as is often the case of an abusive parent. Beware of a person if their sticky sweetness becomes, harsh and punitive when you fail to meet the needs or expectation of the bully. No matter who the bully may be in your life, you can choose to say "No". When they threaten and demean you, or try to scare you into compliance--no carrot they dangle or consequence they may bring down on you is reason to allow the continued damage to your core self.
In researching bullying and abuser behavior these personality traits and behaviors were mentioned over and over:
Insincerity (their compliments come at times when they want something or just feel wrong and forced)
Jealousy (threatened by success of others, resentful of your other relationships etc)
Negative thinking (assuming worst, harsh judgement of others, mean gossip, poor sportsmanship etc.)
Controlling Behavior (everything from who your friends are, what you're allowed to say or the micromanaging of a tyrant boss)
Unrealistic expectations (you'd better not mess up ever!)
Isolation (want you to themselves, resent other people or things in your life that may take precedence)
Blame-shifting for their problems
Blame-shifting for their feelings
Hypersensitivity (constantly ready to bite your head off for mostly imagined offense)
Cruelty or Disregard for people of no use to them (children or people without enough power or connection)
Verbal Abuse (shaming, criticizing, blaming, accusing, threats, blackmailing, name calling, sabotage of the reputation of others etc.)
Jekyll and Hyde behavior and mood swings
History of substance abuse
History of unstable interpersonal relationships (repeated dating/marriage disasters, no long term friendships/relationships or only very few close family)
Not all of these have to be true to mean you have a bully or abuser in your life. If you now wonder if you are being bullied or are in an abusive relationship, consider these points: A bully wants you to kiss their rear, obey them without challenge,they want you to question your own worthiness, they want to feed your paranoia that you deserve what you get and everyone thinks badly of you (This is possibly most apparent in abusive relationships where a partner tries to convince you that you are nothing without them and nobody else could ever see any value in you). "You're lucky I put up with you," is not something somebody who is loving and trustworthy says.Disagreements and arguments are normal parts of life but an abuser will yell, scream and hurl stinging remarks and even if they don't raise their voice their words will be mean and punishing rather than an attempt to find agreement and understanding. And a bully can rarely apologize, but when they do it is an insincere manipulation because they want something or fear losing control.
If there is somebody in your life who is toxic in this way, reach out for the support of good friends and get help if you need it. Get out while you can. Leave that person behind with a heart full of forgiveness and equity. If it is a family member or somebody you cannot cut loose for some other reason, draw strong boundaries and do not give power to the bully. Let them throw a tantrum but hold your head high. Their behavior is not your responsibility.
On the other hand... if you read this and are self aware enough to see yourself in the list, you might want to get some help so you don't burn all of your bridges and continue in an unhappy pattern that will only bring a stormy life and ultimately end in loneliness. It's really no way to live to wonder why all your relationships go bad and wondering if you can ever be loved for who you are. Because in the end, a bully is always somebody who feels worthless. You aren't worthless. You can find happiness another way besides owning and controlling other people. You''ll never find true love that way.
Wise teachers in all cultures agree that real love is: Patient, kind, not envious, not prideful, doesn't put itself first, is not easily provoked or offended, does not think evil and negatively, is full of hope. This is something worth fighting for--both to have and to give.
Despite the heavier themes in Against Her Will, the prevailing message is that of hope. There is hope for the oppressed and even the oppressor. When people own their life and decide to live consciously no matter what anyone else does, they will become empowered. I believe in the healing power of real love, humility and forgiveness. In the end, our will is something nobody can truly control but us.
As wisely and beautifully said by Holocaust survivor, Viktor Frankl:
“Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms ... to choose one’s own way...The one thing you can’t take away from me is the way I choose to respond to what you do to me. The last of one’s freedoms is to choose one’s attitude in any given circumstance.”
― Viktor E. Frankl
CLICK HERE to order Against Her Will.