Stalker Control: How Drama Derails Your Safety, Security, and Peace of Mind & What to Do About it.
Stalkers and bullies get their kicks out of causing you fear and exerting control over you. Whether through direct physical contact or internet communication, or through indirect means (vandalizing your home, exposing you to third party ridicule, or directing others to intimidate you) stalkers and bullies create drama in your life to keep themselves relevant and to rob you of your self esteem, sense of security, and peace of mind.
Fear + Lack of Control = Drama
In modern parlance, we all want a "drama free" life, one where we feel positive about ourselves and our standing in the community, where we feel in control of our lives and our ability to pursue our goals and dreams, and where the behaviors of others don't have a negative effect on our lives. Of course this sense of self worth and security is exactly what a stalker or bully seeks to take. Whether the stalker is someone who harasses you in the physical sense (follows you, physically bullies or intimidates you in person) or is an online bully, their ability to cause you fear is one of their their greatest weapons.
Fear Makes Us "Stupid"
Fear is a physical response to a perceived threat. It triggers the most primal parts of our brain and elicits a hormonal chain-reaction of events in our bodies. It also focuses our entire body on dealing with the immediate perceived threat in a physical way, the "Fight or Flight" response. Unfortunately, our response to fear has changed little since cavemen had to either fight off the saber-toothed tiger or flee into a cave to avoid a T-Rex. The fight or flight response essentially shuts down physical functions that are deemed (by our reptilian brain) as unnecessary for survival. This is why our memory of a car wreck is often fuzzy and eye-witness testimony is so often erroneous. Our brains stop focusing on the details and focus instead on battle or on fleeing.
Since our brains disengage and stop focusing on subtle facial expressions, words being spoken, or details of the situation, we can become reactionary and often physically unable to determine intent or to consider options other then fight or flight. It is at this time when we tend to make bad decisions. Unable to contemplate anything but our own fear, we lash out, attack people (verbally and physically) or we run. We often make ourselves look completely crazy...and isn't that the stalker or bully's goal? To make YOU look bad?
Lack of Control Makes Us Easy to Manipulate
Have you ever watched a horror movie and marveled that the victims always seemed to run right into the killer? From our vantage point and without our own bodies in full flight mode, we can easily see the most logical and safe way out of their situation. But since they are in reaction mode, they see a closed door, they run the other direction, the front door is locked, they run upstairs (or into the basement). They aren't planning a way out, they have lost control over themselves and are simply reacting.
This fear induced lack of self control makes us easy to manipulate. If a stalker knows that by showing up at your work, you will likely go into fight mode, screaming, yelling, attacking him/her they can manipulate the situation into getting you fired or arrested. If the online bully knows that by posting something negative or inflammatory about you online, that you will not respond and go into hiding, a response often unfairly seen as a tacet admission of guilt or fact, the bully manipulates your behavior and the perception that others have about you.
The Attack That Doesn't End: Anticipation and Obsession
A stalker or bully's ability to terrorize you isn't limited to the immediate attack, For many, the fear of when or how the next attack will occur is debilitating. For years, I agonized every day, without fail, "would a new attack happen today?" When it did happen, my fear was justified and heightened. When it didn't, I felt sure that it would tomorrow and I agonized. It didn't take long before I became obsessed with checking the internet for new attacks. I started to feel that if I didn't remind myself that an attack was imminent, if I allowed myself to be happy, I was tempting fate.
I allowed the stalker to create a cycle of fear in my life by losing control. I also made myself physically and mentally unwell in the process.
While you can't control the behavior of a stalker or bully, you can control at least some of the fear and manipulation.
Recognize the Game
A bully or stalker's goal IS TO HARM YOU. We are taught from a young age that people are basically good, that bullies are just sad people who have suffered in their life and are lashing out in pain, or that when someone is obsessed with you, it's romantic. Whether you believe these concepts or not is irrelevant. The person who is stalking you, harassing you, or bullying you is trying to emotionally or physically HARM YOU. How this manifests itself is dependent upon the individual situation, but a person who instills fear and/or attempts to control your actions or your perception is your enemy.
Once you deal with the uncomfortable truth that someone is trying to harm you, you can more easily recognize the game and maintain control over yourself.
If you have a physical stalker or bully, educate yourself as to your rights and the actions that you can take to protect yourself.
If you have an online stalker, find out how to make yourself more internet savvy.
Most stalkers and bullies see their action as entertaining. You are just the pawn that they can manipulate. Don't allow yourself to be used in this way.
Take Control of YOU: make a plan and execute
The best way to avoid slipping into fight or flight mode is to have a plan and the ability to execute that plan.
If you have a physical stalker or bully, evaluate their access. Do they see you at work or at school? Are they following you? Do they follow social media and can figure out where you are likely to be? However they have access, think about what safe guards you can put into place to disrupt that access. Maybe you can adjust your schedule so there is less chance of interaction. Maybe you can try new places instead of using the same grocery store or gym or dog park where you have previously been accosted. Also think about your social media, posting pictures AFTER an event, instead of alerting people that you will be attending a certain event in the future can help eliminate a stalker's access to you.
By the same token, if you have an online bully or stalker, evaluate access and behavior. Is the loser contacting you or your friends and family directly to try and scare you or cause you harm or are they using their access to you or your friends/family to gain information? Are they targeting you in a particular online group or platform? If they are posting about you instead of to you, consider creating and using a rapid response kit.
No matter what methods they are using to harm you, figure out their access and how best to deal with that access. Now make a plan. If "Bob" has been accosting you outside of the cafeteria at work on your lunch break, eat at a different time, find a different place to eat, or go to lunch with a group of people that will put "Bob" off attacking you. If Pauline is posting nasty things about you in your Manhattan Mommies Facebook group, request that the admin block her and/or come up with a response that shuts her down, perhaps "I'm sorry ladies, I have a troll, just ignore her and maybe she will go away."
Freak Out....In Private
Freaking out, crying, being afraid, all completely natural. But if at all possible, freak out in private. The loser focused on you is looking for a reaction. They want you to be scared, they want to see you cry, they want to know that you freaked out and see them as powerful and in control. Don't give them the satisfaction.
Document EVERYTHING!!!!! Seriously....everything. You hope that this is a horrible phase and that this will end pretty soon. Maybe it will. But stalking and bullying tends to escalate. Work place bullies on average target their victim for FIVE YEARS. Online bullies who don't know you, average 18 months. I have been targeted for 14 YEARS!!! I have clients who have been harassed for decades. I can not over estimate the power that you have when you have carefully, chronologically documented every instance of bullying, stalking, and harassment.
1. Documenting gives YOU ammunition and gravitas if you ultimately prosecute. Courts deal with facts and statistics, not emotion and feeling. You can go to court and describe how you feel, but it is much more impactful to be able to show:
Jan 12, 2016 5:30pm Malcolm followed me home and took pictures of me out of his car window
Jan 13, 2016 9:47 Malcolm posted pictures of me on his blog "KillKalley"
Jan 23, 2016 Blogger.com admins removed the "KillKalley" blog
Feb 2, 2016 10:30 Malcolm sent dead flowers to my office
Feb 3, 2016 5:30 Malcolm followed me home and took pictures of me out of his car window
Feb 4, 2016 9:20 Malcolm launched a new site on Blogger.com "KillKalley4Me"
2. Documenting gives YOU more control. When you document activity against you, you can begin to see a pattern and act accordingly. If Kalley notices that Malcolm is following her home, instead of going home, she could drive straight to the local police station. If he is sending things, she can request that the front desk return or not accept anything that comes for her. If she files charges against Malcolm, he may remove all of the online entities. Without documentation, it becomes a matter of he said/she said and he may be successful in painting Kalley as an obsessive nut. But, if Kalley has documented, especially with screen shots, all of the blogs that Malcolm has created, she can clearly show the level of harassment and intimidation.
3. Documenting can also help you to compartmentalize and minimize the emotional effects of some types of stalking and bullying. When you are being targeted, it can feel like every aspect of your life is in a downward spiral. But through documentation, you can actually regain your control if your attacks are limited.
February 1, 2017 10:30 Pauline posted a nude picture that she claimed is me in the Manhattan Mommie group on Facebook. Administrator Removed the post and blocked her.
February 12, 2017 9:30 Pauline photoshoped my picture into a mug shot and posted it in the Manhattan Mommie group on Facebook, using a new facebook account. Administrator removed the post and blocked her.
February 17, 2017 5:00 Pauline made a post claiming that I am not a licensed cosmetologist in the Manhattan Mommie group on Facebook using. Administrator removed the post.
Once Maureen started documenting the attacks, she could stop generalizing and being controlled by fear. This nut was only attacking her in this group, the damage didn't appear to extend past the group, and the while embarrassing, she was able to discuss the matter with the facebook group administrator who kept an eye out for new posts. That doesn't mean that Maureen wasn't effected, embarrassed, and upset by the posts, but she was able to compartmentalize the attacks and minimize their effect on the rest of her life.
Being stalked or bullied can be terrifying, but we often give up our own control to the fear of the potential future threat. By identifying the drama, recognizing the game that the stalker or bully is playing, and planning ahead as to how to react to protect yourself, you can regain control.