TB Didion LAL CoverDear Thea,

I have enjoyed your posts and the recommended books to help further think through problems from other perspectives. Maybe you can help me? I am an adult, but suffer from bullying. I do admit that my behaviour and responses have created some of the issues that raised this problem, but it has been taken to a new nasty level by several people who have now enlisted others in the whisper campaign against me. I see so many articles about bullying between children, but what about when it happens to a grown up?

Sad  in my own little room

There’s a place in you that you must keep inviolate. You must keep it pristine. Clean. So that nobody has a right to curse you or treat you badly. Nobody. No mother, father, no wife, no husband, no – nobody. You have to have a place where you say: Stop it. Back up. Don’t you know I’m a child of God.”

~ Dr. Maya Angelou


It was so apt darling one, that when I received your letter I was pondering words by Dr. Maya Angelou,( not these particular ones) because, of course, she has recently died( between that and Nadine Gordimer’s death today I am quite beside myself) and I’ll return to those other words in due course.

July is the month of revolutions…and for you Sad, revelations.

Adult bullying feels impossible to confront, I believe, because it has the perverse effect of shaming the victim especially if they try to fight against it. Bullying is an assault, on your peace of mind, your character, but for the most part the wounds and scars it  inflicts are invisible to others. Nothing you have ever done means you deserve this Sad darling, no matter your past behaviours or thoughts. Nothing.Ever.

Why now? Has this happened perhaps because you are newly vulnerable in some way as most of us are at some point or another?With that in mind ask yourself what sort of person indulges in bullying behavior like this when someone is newly or genuinely vulnerable?The true answer is many many people. But not people you need to carry forward with you in your life and not anyone either of us would care to know, though we do. All of us  have friends who are ‘bullies’. Do they matter?Only you know, but this is a watershed moment for you Sad.

Read Joan Didion‘s essay ‘On Self Respect’. My copy of this piece of wisdom is in the volume ‘Live and Learn’, but you can access the whole essay on the internet.As you will know I’m not usually in the habit of quoting vast screeds of the words of others, but I’m going to make an exception here, Sad, and you will see why…

The dismal fact is that self respect has nothing to do with the opinion of others-who are,after all, deceived easily enough; has nothing to do with reputation, which , as Rhett Butler told Scarlett O’Hara, is something people with courage can do without.’

Joan Didion, On Self Respect.

I am not going to tell you to be brave and strong. I am not going to tell you to tough it out. But what Didion wants is for us to be brave enough not to give too much weight to the opinion of others. I’m not going to suggest confronting these bullies or not( though I would lean towards the not , if pressed).I am not going to suggest you waste one moment more of your valuable and worthwhile life speculating on their motives. But I am going to tell you that you will survive it and it will pass because you survive it.Not a vastly intellectual approach and totally circular but true.

People who indulge in such behavior are usually doing it to mask shame(as they perceive it) of their own,( and there I go speculating away!).They are projecting these feelings onto you because they have no safe place for them. I am not going to suggest that you forgive them their unthinking cruelty, which you may choose to do,one day when you are ready. I AM going to suggest that the good person you are should feel some sadness for them, but only a little,a smidge. Just enough to allow yourself to let them go completely. Sooner rather than later they will take their shame and their inadequacies, their ire and their dissatisfaction, their petty jealousies and their bad behavior somewhere else. Away from you darling Sad. And that is all that matters.

Didion continues…’Self respect is a discipline, a habit of mind that can never be faked but can be developed, trained, coaxed forth…..To have that sense of one’s intrinsic worth which constitutes self –respect is potentially to have everything:the ability to discriminate, to love and to remain indifferent.’

Hold your true friends close and they will hold you Sad. Now you know who they are.

Back to those beautiful words I referred to earlier, by Maya Angelou…

“I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.’

Don’t ever forget how these nasty bullies made you feel, Sad. Knowing that feeling will help you more than they will ever know- to move on, without them.

You’ll notice there is very little Bibliotherapy in my answer Sad. That’s because yours is a very simple prescription and it will work.

Read Joan Didion, On Self Respect…read it every night until you mumble it in your sleep and this situation has passed .Read Maya Angelou’s essays in, Even the Stars Look Lonesome, Wouldn’t Take Nothing for My Journey Now, & Letter to my Daughter.Then write to me again, Sad and we’ll go forward reading wonderful things together…

Thea x



2 thoughts on “Bully for you….

  1. I have to go back and read A Year of Magical Thinking again. Thank you for your post and homage to two powerfully inspiring women.

  2. The Year of Magical Thinking is wonderful book betternotbroken, what a great impulse to re read it. I have three copies, none of which I can locate( it means they are on loan!!!) with underlinings( in red pen for goodness sake!), dog eared pages, cracked spines. Early Didion(incl the Self Respect essay) is fabulous but by TYOMT Didion is distraught and alone, but unbroken.
    Thea x

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