I just have to share something with you. As a writer, I follow several blogs, one by author Kristen Lamb. She captured my attention in a recent post about bullying. Actually, she’s been cranking out post after post on that subject. In one she mentions “family bullying.” Here’s the quote that grabbed me:
For every family bully, there are passive members dancing around trying to appease The Great Volcano from erupting. Clean the house a certain way, don’t have an opinion, be invisible and cater to every need Mt. Volcano has and he/she won’t blow.
This brought to mind my client, Paul (not his real name), who was feeling conflicted over spending time with his family at Christmas. The bully in his family is his mother. And the family members, with the exception of Paul, do whatever it takes to make her happy.
His mom recruited a reluctant volunteer from amongst his siblings—a sister—to guilt him into attending. She dutifully obliged even though she has a full appreciation of his position.
Paul has made it a policy to avoid such functions because “family events make me miserable,” he said. “Why do I want to go through that? My mom has to create trouble . . . she’s not happy if everyone is having a good time.”
Paul puts her in the same category as a belligerent child who pouts or storms if she doesn’t get her way or if she isn’t the center of attention.
He doesn’t mind one-on-one interactions with his brothers and sisters. The family dysfunction isn’t occurring then. As for his mother, she’s tolerable when he’s with her alone. That’s mostly because he doesn’t “play her game.” He said, “I see it as a form of standing up to her.” He’s right.
Paul is wary of family gatherings for another very good reason: “Expectations are attached to all family events. People get cranky when their expectations aren’t met.”
Many of us can relate to that.
I can still recall with great clarity a family bullying incident I witnessed firsthand a few years ago. It was painful to watch then, and still is when I think about it today. I described it in a column I wrote about some of the unfortunate consequences of family bullying.
In both of these cases the “family bully” just happens to be the mom . . . that’s a coincidence. Any family member can wear that hat.
On that note, how were your holidays—how did it go? Are there any bullies hiding out in your family?