Yes, I do.

Throughout my life I have had to deal with bullies. Some of my first memories are of my mother mistreating me physically and emotionally. I encountered numerous bullies as colleagues, and too many of them used me for target practice. I also married a man who nearly destroyed me emotionally, and I had other relationships and friendships that did nothing for my self-esteem.

The treatment I had from my mother led me to much introspection. I just could not understand why she disliked me so much. It took me years to realise that her role in my life was to teach me to understand my own value. I had to realise that my self-worth does not come from the people in my life, but from the way I look at myself. Do I recognise my own worth? Or do I wait for others to convince me that God knew what he was doing when he created me?

My mother has since passed on, and with my understanding of her behaviour came peace. We now have a good relationship and I honour her as one of the greatest teachers of my life.

I recently had a fascinating experience. I was on an overnight flight from Johannesburg to Istanbul. When I checked in I asked for an aisle seat because I like to stretch my legs without disturbing other passengers. I was told that there were no aisle seats available.

Early on in the flight, I noticed a vacant aisle seat three rows back from where I was sitting. There was a man sitting in the window seat. I asked a stewardess whether I could move to the aisle seat, and she said it was OK.

There were some newspapers and overnight blankets on the seat. The man in the window seat made no effort to remove these items and just looked at me picking up the newspapers and blankets and putting them under the seat. He was wide awake while I sat down and fastened my seatbelt.

I settled down and fell asleep.

About three hours later the man woke me up because he wanted to go to the toilet. I got up to let him pass. He stood in the aisle and told me that I had stepped on his newspapers which he had paid for (to me they looked just like the newspapers that the staff handed out after take-off. They were Turkish newspapers and the man spoke with an accent that gave away the fact that English was not his first language.) He demanded in a loud voice that I pick up the newspapers and put them where I found them. He then pranced away to the toilet.

My first concern was for the rest of the passengers. Nobody wants a fuss at 2.30am in a confined space. I picked up the newspapers and put them on the man’s seat. I also had the distinct impression that this man had been badly hurt by someone and that he was very angry at life in general.

When he returned from the toilet, he told me that I had taken his blanket that was also on the seat and demanded in a very loud voice that I move back to my original seat. I picked up one of the two sealed blankets from under the seat and handed the blanket to the man, still saying nothing.

The man demanded again that I move back to my original seat. I calmly asked him how many seats he had paid for, and this resulted in another tirade. I then told him that I had permission to use the seat.

He went to sit down, and slammed the newspapers onto my seat. I sat down, held the newspapers out to him and politely asked whether he wanted the newspapers on his lap or on the floor. He grabbed the newspapers and bundled them into the seat pocket in front of me. He then told me that I was “unmannered” – I think he meant disobedient. I did not respond to any of this and simply settled down to sleep again. I fell asleep immediately.

When we were served breakfast the next morning, the man had two bread rolls and I had none. I offered him my butter, but he only mumbled and did not even look up.

At this point the cabin lights were on, and I could get a better view of the man. He was one of those men who are balding and refusing to accept the fact. One of the first things he did was to meticulously comb his remaining hair to cover his bald spot. I also noticed that he looked slightly sleazy, even though his suit was obviously expensive. I had a feeling that he was quite insecure, and that my lack of response to his bullying probably added to his insecurity. I felt sorry for him.

As we left the plane, I noticed him fawning over a young woman who looked slightly frightened. I had the impression that they were colleagues, and I realised that his middle-of-the-night tirade was probably also aimed at proving some point to her, because she was sitting opposite the aisle in the same row and had heard everything.

Two days after the incident I still caught myself thinking about the incident. I was wondering why I was giving a complete stranger so much head space.

Then I realised that my memories were focused on my own inner experience and not on the man. I remembered how I felt during the entire incident. It was as if I was outside of my body, looking on to the situation. I felt complete peace and tranquillity while this man was ranting – as if it was happening to someone else.

Most of what I recalled from the incident focused on the fact that I did not respond to the man’s insults and attitude. I felt no emotion. I felt no desire to attack him, or even to defend myself. I felt like a spectator standing on a river bank, watching a branch swirling and desperately trying to latch onto anything that would get it out of the turmoil of the water.

I realised that this incident underlined a closing chapter in my own life. I had dealt with all the bullies in my life and moved on. I had thanked them all for teaching me very valuable lessons about myself. I thanked them with pure gratitude and no condescension.

I felt that this man was some sort of final test for me. He did his best to needle me with very unreasonable behaviour, and I barely noticed it. I did not feel threatened at all. I did not feel hurt. I felt his own deep hurt and my heart went out to him. During the entire incident and afterwards I found myself in a place where there is only peace, tranquillity and compassion.

When I discovered all this, I felt a deep gratitude and Love. I realised that I had already closed the book on the life theme of being bullied and discovering my self-worth.

I am ready to move on and use this experience to help others achieve the same inner peace.

Author's Bio: 

Elsabe Smit is a professional transition coach, helping individuals and businesses to achieve their personal and commercial objectives. What is the one thing which is consuming all your energy at the moment?

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