Helping You Cope With & Stop



Avoidance: Stopping the Good Things After Being Bullied?

In a target’s efforts to protect themselves, sometimes the boundaries can be set too high, and the challenge now becomes the ability to at least allow the good things in. Avoidance occurs when people stop allowing positive connections (encouragement, support, etc.) in order to protect themselves from an inevitable hurtful exchange.  Here is how this plays out in terms of boundaries:


Avoidance (withdrawal) is used as an energizer.  The target thinks:  Better keep the distance at all times “just in case”.

What They Do:

When others want to give to them, they discount or deflect that they have needs and they do not let other people into their intimate world.  They start to close down the ability to feel good things, because they are overly pro-active in trying to minimize the bad things.

What Happens:

To open up to others is a huge risk of being rejected.  They would rather pre-call that someone would not be interested, and therefore shut down first, before anyone can deny them.


They are unable to receive the help they so desperately need.  We all need community or common-unity in order to validate our experiences and who we are.  They see their challenges as “so bad” and they also see their needs as something to be shameful about.

Why Do They Do That?

Fear of rejection from another – “I’ll shut you out before you have (another) chance to shut me out”.  They believe they do not deserve support, therefore they do not reach out for it.

What They Can Do:

Remain conversational with others and have a good support network that gives unconditionally, so they can trust; as opposed to pulling away prematurely.


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12 responses to “Avoidance: Stopping the Good Things After Being Bullied?”

  1. Robert says:

    First of all, I am grateful for having found this article. It instantly made me feel better by seeing other people with similar struggles. I think the worst thing we can do is ruminate on our wounds. Ruminating will only keep them open if not deepen them. I know is easier said than done, especially with obsessive tendencies. That’s why, I think, reading the Bible, meditating, reading good books or otherwise keeping your mind busy with a hobby helps. But eventually we have to confront the problem. But recharge energy first.

  2. Susan Sheehan says:

    Donna…..I feel your pain. Passive aggressive war is painful to the bone. If I were not a child of God… I would have lost the war. I’m still in the storm…but stronger. Studying the worldly facts about bullies, and studying God Word are my weapons of defense. Peace and Love to all victims of bullies

  3. Donna says:

    What really burns me, is how “friendly” the bully can be, just a few weeks later, it’s as if nothing bad ever happened to you. She can slander you to the boss, but no harm was done, because after all, they can’t just fire you, you’ve still got a job – what’s the problem? She doesn’t seem to understand the harm done. If she doesn’t understand, then why do it? But the addendum is also- there’s no reason to not be “nice” to everyone, no matter what disagreements there have been in the past! I think it’s just more bullying, only done with a smile and fake friendliness. The injustice, that cannot be overturned, is being rubbed-in , I think. Or her values are soo screwed up that she cannot honestly see herself! And, once you have to shut down on the meanies at work, everything else just starts shutting down all around. It’s like a dominoes effect. One can’t think about much else but the wrongs being perpetuated, and one can’t cry on everybody’s (friends) shoulders all the time, and soon one has nothing to say, and there is no cheer in one’s heart or soul even. I can try to be objective, and realize how much worse it must be to be Her, but it doesn’t help much with my reputation ruined. I feel bullies understand the true power of words, the invisible swords that slide in an slice at one’s soul, making bloodless wounds that no one else can see, and that they coldly plan every single word and then watch to see how it lands, and then smile and act all friendly because they are so satisfied with the harm they have done, not to mention how they are getting away with it, because – look – a soul doesn’t get reddened, swell-up, or bleed, like an actual act of physical violence causes. It’s so much cleaner and better! And no one knows because it was said with a smile, and a joke, even. All nice and friendly! The power of words! sometimes I think it would pay to learn how to dish it back, find out what matters to them and do a little verbal soul-slashing of one’s own. But that’s what Soap Operas are all about, and not how I want my life to be. We need better tools to defend ourselves, ones that really work, and maybe workshops where we can practice how to act and be.

  4. Cherie says:

    Mary I know what your experiencing, but not from a female, I went to my union after I had logged all the stuff that had happened, together with statements from people who dared to act in defence of me. I am awaiting an outcome, as I may have to take a formal grievance. Good Look x

  5. Lynn says:

    The subconscious has a big role to play here, It continues to try to protect you in any situation, when you may no longer need protection. Meditation and self-hypnosis tapes can be helpful here, along with a support network. Some people seem to have a target painted on their backs, which stems from childhood abuse or other trauma. So I found therapy to address low self-esteem and problems adjusting helpful in my situation. Fortunately, my workplace provides referrals to such counseling. The most helpful was eventually having a couple of supportive and caring bosses, who appreciated my work and helped bring me out of my shell and get my true personality back. This was not a job for them to do or something they were consciously doing. It’s just that their overall respect for me and treating me like a responsible adult made all the difference to me. I’m sure they have no idea how much they have helped me. I wonder if supervisors knew how much power and influence they have over people, they would step back and show more empathy. I had hoped these experiences would be a type of psychological boot camp to toughen me up rather than having the opposite effect. However, as I infer from your article, it is very difficult to trust people after going through this. One thing to remember is that the behavior of the bully says more about him or her than it does about you. You are just a convenient target for his or her aggression. I had to change my body language, the way I spoke, the way I walked, and the way I made eye contact. My next challenge is not to be fearful of moving ahead to more challenging jobs just because I dread having the boss from hell again. It is very difficult not to avoid that hot stove for the rest of my career.

  6. Bully Free at Work: Valerie Cade says:

    Your question is a good one and of course would need a lot of “unpacking”. My (short) answer is to study the affects of workplace bullying by continuing to read, absorb, talk, journal and gain an awareness of what is happening, and then develop a plan to protect oneself. Each situation is different, however, deserves the respect and attention it needs in order to not be overthrown by such things. If you want to go through a “system” of discovery, many people have found help in reading Bully Free at Work which is the step-by-step plan to move through. The article was intended for one single message of remembering not to cut oneself off from good people, good things and a promising future. Solving the bullying situation – this would require a little more detail in order to give a target the best comfort, support and help possible.

  7. Bully Free at Work: Valerie Cade says:

    Yes, excellent point – suffering at the hands of a bully can be very severe. At this point, it is important that the target realize if this is happening and make sure the bully’s actions do not further steal the target’s joy.

  8. Midastouch Spellbound says:

    Val, the article suggest what they will do – what happens in fact much worse things happen when Workplace mobbing takes place. Its all Bully perfectionists against one scapegoat (the victim). What should be done to avoid the following situations? What strategy should one adopt?

  9. Anne says:

    Or perhaps the bully has psychologically damaged the target to the extent they no longer believe themselves as good enough for anything? They fear another bullying interaction with another, so close off for self protection

  10. Jewels says:

    I am a faculty member at a local college. My colleague does not respond or puts off addressing my emails and suggestions, ideas, or concerns.

    In fact, unless she is emailing information to give to me, she rarely if ever responds to my initiated emails. In the past to improve communication I’ve asked her if she saw my email I sent out? Her response has been one of two things, “no I haven’t seen it yet” or “yes, let’s talk about that at the meeting next week.” Then when I bring my topic up at the meeting, she postpones or delays us making any type of decision or discussion regarding the questions and course improvements or concerns. She often says “no” unless it is her idea. However, if suggestions comes from one of the two senior faculty members she enjoys she usually discusses the topic and decisions are made.

    I have also tried sending the email a second time and written, I haven’t heard back from you… so hear is my email again. Can we discuss this?

    She refused to go to EAP Mediation and has claimed that I’ve been uncivil towards her. This has been stressful for me. Unfortunately, I am not the first faculty member she has used avoidance bullying.

    Any suggestions?

  11. Amanda says:

    How do you deal with your boss, she is a women and she is my superviser, she always said to me that I am a good employee but then when she is talking to another supervisor, she is giving bad reference, when asked she denied and the other supervisor play dumb, as if they don’t know what are you talking about? and you ended up looking stupid and crazy one, what do you do in this sticky suitation…

  12. Mary says:

    I do not know what to do anymore. I am female and have a female bully me now for two years. I filed a complaint but the female friends who heard did not support me and they company said there was no validation. It is horrible. I am 61 she is 45 and I believe she wants me job..paid well. I’m not so sure she is not acting on behalf of the company. What can I do. I am under a Dr. care for strees and on medication. I am hummiliated every day.
    She seems to have so much hate in her and the employeers ear.

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Valerie Cade, CSP is a Workplace Bullying Expert, Speaker and Author of "Bully Free at Work: What You Can Do To Stop Workplace Bullying Now!" which has been distributed in over 100 countries worldwide. For presentations and consulting on workplace bullying prevention and respectful workplace implementation, go to

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