This hadn’t happened for many years. Last night, I had a dream that I was sitting face-to-face with the school bully who hurt me the most.
How odd. I used to have those dreams frequently. But I finally made peace with this particular childhood bully, and I thought he’d stopped occupying space in my head. It puzzles me that I was evidently wrong; the dream bubbled up right out of my subconscious because I was stressed out and anxious.
Holding Power Over the School Bully
Granted, there were differences in the content of last night’s dream compared to the nightmares of past decades. This time, the bully had little power over me. He wanted anonymity, but I wouldn’t allow him that. I recognized him, and I confronted him with the truth about his identity. It made him uncomfortable, and it gave me strength. He wasn’t in as powerful a position as I was.
There was another departure, too, from the old recurring dreams. This time, I’d characterize the dream only as a dream rather than as a nightmare. Seeing the bully was an annoyance, to my dreaming self, but I could handle it. All I had to do was hold my ground and stay strong.
So, yes, I see progress here in getting past my most horrifying childhood bully.
The Lingering Impact of Childhood Bullying
But I also see proof that closure is harder to come by than simply believing, and hoping, you’ve reached it. At times, the memory of the bully can resurface and, for a moment, occupy the mind completely.
Last night’s dream also serves as additional proof that the impact of childhood bullying doesn’t merely evaporate over time. The trauma of bullying mattered then, and it always will. It’s still an integral part of who I am.
Maybe the measure of how fully you have recovered from childhood bullying isn’t whether or not you’ve eradicated the bullies from your thoughts. The bullies from your childhood may show up in your mind, no matter how hard you’ve worked to banish them — particularly, when you’ve feeling stressed and anxious. But that may be okay.
How you deal with the memory of the bullies from your past when they do swim to the surface of your mind may matter a whole lot more than whether you think of them at all. Getting past childhood bullying may just be another way of saying the bully may still show up…but you can live with that and still be okay.