Kiki) Sara, you have made a lot of changes to the Luminous Warrior offerings in recent weeks and one of the first things you did in the new format was to conduct a workshop on bullying. Why?
Sara) There has been a lot of processing with regard to the bully dynamic, but so far nothing is truly working. Most approaches have to do with pushing back on bullies and it has not worked so far, at least not permanently. The other dynamic that often happens with this approach is that you become a bully in return. I wanted to do something different, something that breaks the dynamic of bullying completely.
The workshop focused on emotional presence. It was about how to remain calm in a bully situation and understand that the bullying is not about you. We focused on:
- Knowing your fears intimately
- Knowing what triggers you
- Knowing what are you are willing to die for
Understanding non-engagement energy is also a key when it comes to bullying. If you carry less “bully energy” in your energy field (which includes your emotional state), you lessen the magnet that pulls any bullying in toward you.
Kiki) So there are ways to really take the charge out of a bully?
Sara) Now let’s be clear that truly the only person that can stop bullying is the person bullying, not the person being bullied. We are not talking about blaming the victim here. What we are talking about is taking the energy out of the bullying dynamic, not giving the bully anything to hook into. And of course there are different degrees of bullying as well and there may be instances where you do have to defend yourself, but any “defending” dynamic empowers the bully. We must work on our own emotional and mental resilience and our social support network so that we can take away any hooks that a bully is trying to trigger.
Kiki) I’m also having a hard time getting my mind to really embrace the question – what are you willing to die for? Are there ways to help think about such a serious question?
Sara) When we are talking about self defense at Luminous Warrior, we typically use a continuum that ranges from awareness to avoidance, self defense, and self care. In instances where you have to physically defend yourself, it is only worth going into the physical fight if you are willing to die for it. There are so many other factors at play in a physical fight…possible weapons, multiple attackers, location and environment etc. Even just a simple “punch” in the face can end fatally. Putting yourself and perhaps your loved ones at risk is not worth it unless you are in fear of your life.
Knowing what you are willing to die for is an essential question for life. It may not be something people like to think about, but when we are thinking about doing physical harm to one another, this question must be reflected upon so that in life threatening situations you can act consciously, and not simply react out of impulse and then regret the action you took. Situations don’t end at the fight. You have to live with your decisions. So that question pertains to making a decision about when to engage in a physical fight and getting a reality check on what is actually at stake. Knowing this component about yourself helps when faced with a truly life threatening situation.
Kiki) To get a better understanding of this different approach to bullying, what would you say were some of the key takeaways from this workshop?
Sara) Overall, the workshop brought to light a variety of options / choices people have when faced with a bully. The exercises aimed to help people go within so that their responses are more conscious. People need to wake up and realize that you may not have to physically defend yourself when you make conscious decisions. It may have been a surprise to some but the workshop was not just about the physical side of bullying – the emotional presence aspect was equally important. Sometimes people ask for direct guidance on what action to take but there are times when I don’t want to tell people what to do because it takes away their own decision-making power. Instead, I focus on offering different options and choices, laying out the possible consequences of each, and then allowing individuals to try it on for themselves. After all, any solution has to work for them, and that solution can only be found by going within. This workshop was about helping people understand their choices and make their own conscious decisions.
Kiki) I understand that part of the drive to do this workshop came from a TEDx conference?
Sara) Yes, Scilla Elworthy laid out in TEDxExeter that bullies use violence in 3 ways:
- Bullies use political violence to intimidate
- Bullies use mental violence to undermine
- Bullies use physical violence to terrorize
Elworthy, S. (Filmed Apr 2012 • Posted Aug 2012) Scilla Elworthy: Fighting with non-violence.
[Video file]. Retrieved from
The first two of these can most likely be overcome by a strong social network and sense of self worth. It is only in the third instance (of physical violence) that we may have to resort to violence ourselves. And even then, it is not a permanent solution when we become bullies in return. Let’s not forget that bullies themselves have an extremely low sense of self worth. Why else bully to begin with? We must change the environment we live in to create individuals who are supported and raised with a high sense of self worth.
We all have the capacity to be loving and violent. It is the internal as well as external environment of a person that pulls out a desired response. Deep inner work coupled with a society that supports, elevates, and uplifts the community are important if we are looking for long-term success in addressing the bullying dynamic. Pointing fingers and alienating ourselves from the bullies in not going to help. We must also take responsibility for having created an environment in which bullies thrive. By doing so, we can use that power to create something different. An environment where bullies can heal, and where we no longer create as many bullies as we do today.
Kiki) Thank you Sara. You have certainly given me some things to think about for my inner work. While it feels a little uncomfortable, I’m going to start thinking / journaling about what I would be willing to die for.