• Valentina Poletti

Bullying and secure connection


When we think of bullying, usually what comes to mind is images of nasty kids ridiculing or shaming a weaker target in school, in the middle of child play courtyards or in the school hallways.

However, bullying can be quite more subtle, and to this regard I'd like to tell you about one of my many bullying episodes, that re-surfaced recently. It surfaced while I was trying to resolve my secure-connection shadow. At some point in my life I have internalized the belief that people will stick around me as long as they need to use me some how, and will discard me with no second thought when they no longer need me. I have normalized this perception to the degree that it was confirmed over and over during my adult life, in most of my relationships.

Obviously this belief system makes it impossible for me to create secure relationships, and today the shadow attached to this belief started to surface, as I'm in a rather still place, where a lot of memories can easily bubble up. It started to reveal itself through a memory of my communion - a sort of religious celebration for kids in my early community, where my mom had organized a lunch party with my cousins and relatives in the garden, as the warm and freshly perfumed air of late spring caressed the tables, dressed in white cloth, along with delicate but bright rays of sun. I remember playing with my cousins all afternoon and being ecstatic, until the moment I realized that that was only one day like that, the next day life would go back to normal, I would mostly be alone at home, and I would probably not see these people for months.

I went into that painful sensation to release it, allowing my inner child to express its disappointment for not being able to have much play time with other kids, and often being cut short during those times. I thought I had come to the root of my shadow, so I allowed my inner child to express its desire for more long term and constant friendships instead. But as I tried to do that, I ran into a block. My body sort of froze, stopping to move (I was doing yoga while working on this), and suddenly a sinking sensation dropped me into a kind of depressed state. I recoiled myself, pushing myself to move again and back into the positive sensation, but I was blocked again, and again, till I realized I had encountered yet another shadow.

As I allowed myself to dive into that sensation, memories of school came up, specifically of my interactions with school kids. It was all rather fuzzy, but as the memories popped up, a kind of freezing and cutting sensation also started to appear and take shape, till finally the culprit episode came to mind. I don't remember the exact details of the episode, but I was probably in school or coming back from school. One of the kids that used to be my friend - or so I thought - after playing with him and other kids - took me apart and said something remarkably cruel to me. Now, I don't remember the exact words he uttered. I don't even remember what the whole thing was about. But what I do remembered vividly, was the sensation of my blood freezing in my veins as he spoke, and wanting to instantly die, as I did not deserve to exist. I was frozen in a state of shock and shivering at the same time.

The reason those words cut me so sharply at the moment, was not because they were particularly terrible, or because he did something horrible to me, or even because something terrible happened to me at school. The reason why those words cut me to the bone at that moment, making me feel like I wanted to die, was that I had heard those words over, and over again already in my home, uttered by my dad. Until that moment I had a sort of safe heaven in my school mate kids, where I felt still accepted somewhat for who I was and cared for. That was my escape from the cruelty I underwent at home almost each day at the hands of my father, and it allowed me to slip his words off me and still somehow be ok. But in that moment, when I heard those same words being uttered by a school kid, one of my friends, one of the very people I was relying on to feel sort of ok, my whole world fell apart. In that moment I realized I had no safe heaven: I no longer had a place where I could connect. The juice of those words was more or less the following: you are not worthy of being loved.

I realized that was the moment when I stopped believing in secure connections. I stopped believing friendship was truly possible, and that people would stick around me just for the sake of it, because they cared about me, rather than because they needed to use me. Since then I struggled to create long-lasting secure relationships in any realm, weather at work, at home, in romantic relationships or in friendships. I spend about half of my life trying to prove those words fall, while half of it confirming them.

I realized I had found the origin of my secure-relationship trauma. I sank into the freezing feeling and the sharp cutting sensation in my heart, and as I allowed myself to sink into that feeling, I started to release it, to let it free. I started to see how false those words actually were, and how I had no responsibility for the cruelty of my father. I allowed myself to release those sensations, until I started to truly feel my worthiness of love and to automatically change my belief system.

I realize that this is a common shadow in our society. A lot of people hold similar belief systems during their life. Many people believe they can never truly rely on others, or trust other people. They are scared of being used and betrayed, or disappointed and let down. This is a collective shadow in our society. And it stems from childhood traumas that did not allow us to feel truly loved for who we are.

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