Before addressing the issue of breaking out of the bullying relationship, it is important to note that there’s an underlying dynamic that makes the process of ending the abuse so much more difficult: codependence. We’ve all had the experience of knowing someone in an obviously bad relationship, be it intimate or professional, and wonder why he or she insists in staying in that relationship. The answer seems simple: just get out. In reality, it’s not that simple. Both parties have come to depend on one another to meet certain needs; hence, they are co-dependents.
From the point of view of the bully, we’ve already pointed out his dependence: he wants his scapegoat and source of narcissistic supply. But what is the victim trying to get out of that relationship? Usually, for the bully to change the situation: an apology, a change of heart, an awareness of the pain he’s inflicting, validation, etc… Perhaps the victimized one is secretly hoping that his abuser will become a rescuer, since there is no one else who seems to be able to save him, due to his isolation from all support. When all hope of rescue is gone, it is then that the victim either throws in the towel to accept moral death (sometimes leads to suicide) or snaps and attempts to take control and fight off the bully.
Neither one ends up happy as a result of the abuse. The bully will never be fulfilled in the abuse because the source of his problem is his own insecurities that won’t get resolved until he faces them. The victim can’t wait for a superhero to come and offer him redemption from his woes of life. The only way the victim will attain or regain his happiness is if he starts standing up for himself and breaking the cycle of abuse.
For those of you who have had the experience of breaking the cycle of abuse, what did it take and what was the cost? Breaking free of the relationship came with a price that was far outweighed by the benefits that followed, but probably not obvious in the moment when you had to make that decision.
Our next post will deal with the process of breaking the bullying relationship.
Reworked and published on CCPA’s Counselling Connect Blog: https://www.ccpa-accp.ca/adult-bullying-codependence/