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Tony Bates

Tony Bates at Moving On Monday, 18th April 2005
Some of this text is choppy and constitutes my notes, some of it is my notes that edited by Tony Bates and makes a lot more sense. For what it is worth I make them available to you – you may find some pearl of wisdom that helps.
At the time Dr. Tony Bates was principal psychologist at St James’ Hospital, Dublin; now he is CEO of Headstrong
The opening question was to do with issues around facing an Equality Tribunal court
Tony>When you have been bullied, it takes a lot of courage to name that this has happened. But when you do, don’t expect a chorus of affirmation. There may be lots of ways that people may try to invalidate your experience. Every time you connect with it, take responsibility for how you are feeling, and seek healing, you grow a little. Talking on a one-to-one, talking in a group, listening to yourself talking when you take time to be in silence, are different ways of healing ourselves.
And if your pain is partly because you were vulnerable to begin with, or perhaps especially vulnerable at the time you experienced bullying, it doesn’t make the bully any less culpable. In law, if you have a weak hip and a car hits you and shatters it, the car is responsible. Sometimes it is your very vulnerability to depression that the bully seeks and goes for. They don’t pick on the people with egos like brass gods.
If you know you have to stand before a court or committee to make your case, take time to practice saying clearly, and simply, what it is you really need to say. Saying less rather than more is generally a good strategy in court settings. Its ok to become emotional, but it may not be so helpful that you become so emotional that you lose your train of thought and become confusing to your audience. Psychodrama, role-play, ahead of time can be a great help in getting your thoughts and your emotions lined up so each support the other and add conviction to your message.
P>Write out what you want to say, more clarity in writing than speaking and it lets some emotion out. The problem with bullying is that it is quite “normal” – it is in the culture. We are in the job of promoting clarity and education. So state your case: you were bullied; isolated; intimidated. Create structure. The problem has the effect of making us very scattered. It becomes hard for someone else to come in to this world. As they are listening to your story they are also running their own.
Tony>I have a problem about sounding too rehearsed and too rational. It may not be your style. Say it as your own experience: I am here because I want to have something that happened that I would like to have heard by others. I do not intend to create trouble or be vindictive. Let them see that you are genuine.
P> What impact does my story have on listeners? My metaphor is that it is like a cancer. Something happens. I take it home. It leads to irritability etc. As long as it is not spoken about it grows. Incorporate all of this into the story and show what is really valuable and important to me, and the cost of that. I hate waste and my bullying is to do with the amount of waste in the health system. Honour that aspect of the story and be proud of the steps, perhaps not of the outcomes, when they are not skilful, but have the courage to take another step, it might be more skilful, and be proud of each step.
Have to let go. It’s like chronic pain only it is in the mind. Inwardly march down the street and get a petition going about this cause, what was done to you – be with it and present to it, without adding to it.
Tony> I have heard a story about a method for catching monkeys: place a banana inside a coconut shell with an opening just big enough for the monkey to reach inside and grasp the banana. The monkey can’t withdraw his paw with the banana in it. He has to let go of the banana.
Book reference: Pema Choden :   When Things Fall Apart     ISBN 0007 183158
Poem: Patrick Kavanagh: The Self-Slaved
Me I will throw away.
Me sufficient for the day
The sticky self that clings
Adhesions on the wings
To love and adventure,
To go on the grand tour
A man must be free
From self-necessity
See over there
A created splendour
Made by one individual
From things residual
With all the various
Qualities hilarious
Of what
Hitherto was not:
A November mood
As by one man understood;
Familiar, an old custom
Leaves falling, a white frosting
Bringing a sanguine dream
A new beginning with an old theme
Throw away thy sloth
Self, carry off my wrath
With its self-righteous
Satirising blotches.
No self, no self-exposure
The weakness of the proser
But undefeatable
By means of the beatable
I will have love, have love
From anything made of
And a life with a shapely form
With gaiety and charm
And capable of receiving
With grace the grace of living
And wild moments too
Self when freed from you.
Prometheus calls me: Son,
We’ll both go off together
In this delightful weather
J >There are two sides of me, one is happy and one is tackling and championing this cause and not letting it go.
Tony> I was very bullied by a very famous individual in the USA. I was a prime target, having lived a life based on feelings of guilt and shame about almost everything! This person could tease off the scabs of my old wounds, and resurrect every doubt I ever had about myself. It felt to me like he must be right – why else would he say these things? He accused me of everything from being selfish to being sociopathic. The real release was when I found the part of myself that, finally, refused to believe this and answered him back out of my own self-respect and sense of dignity.
P>This is life. Where do I focus? On music, dance, theatre, something other, rather than bullying. At one time racism was normal. Focus on stories that validate and give hope. It’s very easy to speak stories of absolute truth but end with less hope. We can choose to leave empowered and encouraged and five percent more human.
J>I started to see the bully as an emotional Neanderthal, to see that he was not evolved, and I am.
S>I felt stronger afterwards. I have four buddies. I was isolated and now I am supported.
Tony>People bow to the formidable, dominant bully. It is not very rational. But we naturally assume a submissive posture because it is an evolutionary strategy for getting the dominant other to back off. We hope that by showing weakness, we will be left alone. But there are bullies who won’t back down when they see weakness. The sight of weakness is fuel for their sadism. Bullying can reflect a dark and cruel side of human beings. 
When you try to name something that is wrong, like that you have been bullied, people can seem to go blind. What are you talking about?? There is nothing bad happening here! But you need to listen to your own experience and trust that maybe you’re not mad, irrational, imagining thing things. Maybe you are being treated in a way you find dehumanising. Maybe part of you has given permission for this behaviour to continue, but you finally reach a point where you say, “I deserve more, I deserve better than this”

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