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The Bullies and Allies Series Talking Points
Bullies & Allies is a beautiful and realistic story of the destructive power of Bullying & the healing power of Friendship. It brings light to lifelong Trauma & to lifelong Healing
The Bullies and Allies Series Overview
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Kyle now has Complex-PTSD from a trauma he can't articulate. A trauma that was too big and went on for too long. The trauma was his entire childhood. His way of life. Each day becomes another battle to survive. After he finally becomes suicidal, he even has to fight against his own urges, just to survive each day. He can't recall a single accident or explosion that caused the complex trauma, so as he grows up, and puts more years behind himself, he finds it more and more difficult to identify what it is that keeps triggering his current day complex reactions. These mystery-triggers make him feel like an abused child again. But why? He must simply be crazy. He's a puzzle.
This novel series was written to allow readers to live inside the thoughts and observations of a person who is being gaslighted into suicidal spirals by the very people who claim to love him. But to his great fortune, Kyle finds an unlikely friend in Tuck Taylor. A lost and confused young man who chooses to put his own life in danger so he can take a side and make a difference. By the end of the story, Tuck discovers that by choosing to take a side, he has not only become vulnerable himself, but he has also given himself the gift of a long and rewarding life.
Kyle Rickett is a straight, white, intelligent, friendly middle class male who should be having an easy life. But, almost as if some cosmic role-reversal has taken place, he has found himself the victim of the types of abuse and problems that straight, white, intelligent, friendly middle class males aren't thought of as having to deal with. What happens to Kyle proves it isn't "who you are" that brings on the confusion, it's how you're bullied and unsupported by those who have power over you. People who have strong support networks can stand up to bullies a lot better than people who believe they have no one on their side.
Kyle's life is a perfect storm of small coincidences that add up to a mountain of confusion too high to climb. He is mob-bullied and harassed sexually at private school. He's sexually exploited by his pediatrician, who is a family friend. He's unsupported at home. It seems no one, anywhere is on his side. He's ostracized for being "different." He's accused of being too emotional, unimportant, untrustworthy and weak; none of which are true, but all of which are targets for punishment by his peers and by those puppets who choose to simply believe rumors, which allows them to remain neutral and unsupportive. Unable to find support at school or at home, he withdraws into his head which makes things worse. His withdrawal puts an even bigger target on him, which leads to even more bullying. The complexity of all this makes him lose sight of who he is. Now that he believes he's worthless, he's bullied and unsupported by himself as well. Kyle eventually becomes his own worst enemy.
We’re Strong Together:
When you meet someone who seems to have the world by the tail, dig a little deeper and you might find out they don’t. As it turns out most of us are struggling. One way to really allow yourself to feel isolated and alone is to believe you are the only person suffering. Don't let yourself fall into that trap. Most people are struggling in some way, and when we share our struggles with each other, we can rise up out of the very loneliness that had made the struggle seem so much more hopeless than it really is. In the study of human happiness, one of the main attributes of happy people is not that they are rich, or healthy, or attractive, but that they have about the same level of poverty, illness, and attractiveness as their peers. When we reach out to others, share our struggles and let them share theirs, we may still have struggles, but we're not alone with them anymore. Struggles or no struggles, we're strong together.
Trust can be taught and learned:
Trust is more or less the ability to predict someone’s reactions. This series teaches that you can become a trustworthy person by behaving predictably. When a person begins to trust you, you need to be even more predictable. You need to react to things in consistent manners and you need to do the things you say your going to do. You need to stand behind your word. Breaking trust, or “betrayal” is the act of building someone’s trust in you, and then behaving differently after they expect you to be who you once proved you were. Trust is a two-way street. We each need to be people who can be trusted, and we each need to know who we can and cannot trust ourselves. If we have people in our lives we can trust, those are our allies. When we can’t trust someone, they are our bullies. Even if they say they aren’t.
Aggressive Isolationism (Mob-Bullying):
Aggressive Isolationism, or "Mob-Bullying", is act of intentionally isolating a person from everyone else, usually done through gossip, lies, and ridicule. The mob itself is then made up of followers who believe the rumors and don't want to stand up for the victim. Mobs can be made up of people who know they are in the mob, and of people who don't realize they're being played like puppets by an instigator. Mobs are made up of the people who join the bully's team, or those who leave the victim's side, or even those who just stand back and ignore what's happening (choosing not to stand up for the victim).
The series is named Bullies & Allies because they are often the same people. Often, our greatest bullies are our own families, our own bosses, our own friends, our own schools and churches…the people we believe we should be able to count on for support.
On the other hand, often being a bully or an ally to someone is a binary choice. No middle ground. You are part of the problem or part of the cure. "A friend of my enemy is my enemy." Once a person has been successfully isolated, and is now unable to trust anyone, they may perceive that everyone in the world is against them. Then their Confirmation Bias kicks in, and everything that happens is perceived as proof that they are alone and worthless. Mob-Bullying is an aggressive and deadly act meant to build an army, and feed the victim's feeling of being outnumbered and isolated. It should be considered a crime, carrying the same sentence as attempted murder, not unlike texting and driving, drinking and driving, and shooting someone in the head with a pistol.
See Aggressive Isolationism and then add the practice of watering down, or altering the truth on a daily, long-term basis. You are being gaslighted when someone who you trust, love or depend on tells so many lies to you and about you, that you lose your ability to trust the truth, even inside your own mind. They tell your friends so many lies about you, that you lose any sense of who is, or isn't on your side. What do people think of you? Why don't they like you anymore? What did you do? The worst of these lies are those that are based on a truth, but add a twist, to make the truth into a lie. Once any person is put on the defensive, they are at a nervous disadvantage. Gaslighters put their victims on a permanent defensive stance, changing the lies up, and adding new ones every single day, sometimes for years, until the victim just feels neurotic or crazy, and completely loses all credibility, even within themselves. These lies eventually turn your own allies (even your own trust of your own motives and memories) into your own bullies. Who do you trust now?
Sociopaths are people with no capacity for remorse, and no ability to discern right from wrong, or truth from lies. They are Narcissists with a false sense of grandiosity, who intentionally hurt others for self gain, or even just for sport. They often rise to positions of power, so as to feed their self-aggrandizement, and to gain access to more victims.
In the Bullies & Allies series, three main sociopaths give Kyle a run for his money. All three use the tools of the sociopath to make his life as miserable as they can. (examples: Gaslighting; keeping Kyle on the defensive; creating constant confusion around Kyle and his allies; constantly twisting the truth; gossip; name-calling; making alliances with Kyle's other friends; etc.) But all three are handled differently;
In all three scenarios, Kyle's moral dilemma is complicated. The solutions are too complicated to "just stand up to his bullies." He discovers he must handle each differently. He discovers he needs allies in all three.
This entire series is about the empathetic connection that binds us all together at the heart/spirit. Empathy is the opposite of sociopathy. Empathy is the ability to share experience, or to walk in the shoes of another, because you have walked in those shoes yourself. Good people can sympathize with others who are experiencing bizarre things, but even good people can’t feel what another is feeling unless they have experienced it also. Sympathy is a nice thing to show. Empathy is a universal power that heals and saves lives.
How do we empathize with people we don’t relate to? In order to give white/straight/male America a chance to walk a mile in the shoes of another, Kyle is a white, straight, attractive, middle-class male, realistically dealing with social problems that we typically associate with other people; addicts; females; minorities; abandoned kids; or LGBT teens. The world has many stories already written about the social struggles of characters who are living in the white-man’s world, but who are not white/straight/men. While the stories are excellent, many readers can't really connect to something they haven't experienced. The most powerful stories are those we can relate to from our own experiences. When we see that we are just like the heroes in our stories, we are more able to digest their experience deeper into our minds, hearts and souls. Kyle represents a community that doesn’t usually have to deal with the mobbing, bullying, or sexual abuse that other communities deal with on a daily basis, so they don't fully grasp how horrible an experience mobbing is. My hope is for readers who associate themselves with straight/white/America, to find it easier to connect with Kyle and experience this type of abuse more internally. With more realism. We humans can more easily understand what we can connect with. I hope Kyle becomes a fresh voice for an old message, and is able to help more people see the truth about how satanically evil it really is to mob-bully other people—no matter who they are—just because we can.
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD): Take the term apart: P=Post means the stress is in the past. T=Trauma is any damage done by an outside force, physical or emotional. S=Stress is the strain that is put onto something or someone; and D=Disorder means it has now become an unwanted and possibly permanent part of you. PTSD is as old as human recorded history. It changes names generation after generation. But it's nothing new.
Being in a car accident is Trauma. The next day is Post Trauma. Spending the next 3 days reliving the accident is Post Traumatic Stress. That's normal. It's how our brain processes the trauma into a learning experience to ensure we don't ever make the mistake again. But if that Post Trauma Stress lasts for more than several months, or years, or decades, it becomes Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.
Many of the Bullies & Allies characters have PTSD for various different reasons. PTSD affects each of them in unique ways, because of a combination of nature and nurture. Each of us is born with a certain emotional constitution, and each of us then experiences different traumas. This combination makes each of us unique. But more importantly, in keeping with the overall message of this series, we can form alliances that change how we react to the traumas of our lives. The traumatized characters in this series receive various levels of support during the traumas. Those who receive no support suffer far worse than those who can trust strong allies to be on their side during and following their unique traumas. These variously affected traumatized characters now interact with each other in ways that cause even more problems decades later. Like a demolition derby, damaged characters seem to crash into other characters, creating more damaged characters as the story gains complexity.
Suicide is Not Painless:
Suicide is not always a choice. Some people don’t choose to kill themselves, but feel as if they are drawn uncontrollably into it. Not all suicides can be prevented, but some can. Some victims fade slowly away from their friends and families, as they withdraw into a private hell--one that can sometimes be stopped by trust and friendship. The world is filled with reports of people who have almost killed themselves, but now recall just one person who said one kind thing that stopped them that one time. If the people around a potentially suicidal friend can see the signs, (sometimes they can, sometimes they can’t) many suicides can be prevented by doing something as simple as lending a helping hand at just the right moment.
Choosing who to trust:
We are born into families, churches, and communities that may or may not be good for us. Our brains are prewired to stand firm with our clans, our tribes, our bloodlines. But again; that’s not always working for us. Sometimes, people need to make it clear that if the bullying is happening at home, and the victim can't stop it, then the victim may be allowed to leave (without leaving a forwarding address). Sometimes, the right move is to shake the dust off their feet and go make a new family that can be trusted. Blood is thicker than water, but it isn’t so thick it can’t be washed off if it needs to be.
What is a Happy Ending?:
Some happy endings look different than others. Too many movies and books end their wild stories of hair-raising explosions and murders, and wars, and crashes with a sense of relief and joy, and a theme: “and they all lived happily ever-after.” In real life, this is seldom true. Most people live long, complicated lives in which past traumas come back on them from time to time. People with PTSD need to understand that the past is unchangeable. It may come back to haunt them--and it may do so when they least expect it to. They need to be ready for it. People who believe they’re completely cured from horrific traumas can set themselves up for a shock. They may lose hope when ten, twenty, forty years later, they find themselves drowning in old, unresolved sorrow...again! The Bullies & Allies series shows that people can certainly live productive, long lives after trauma, but that they may have to learn to manage their triggers, and the associated responses, for the rest of their lives. Otherwise they may be caught off guard or unprepared for triggers which, when pulled, tend to revive unwanted reactions that repeat, even decades later.
A happy ending in the life of a severely traumatized child or teen may not include full recovery, but can easily be accomplished through full acceptance of their lifelong situation. Some Bullies & Allies readers may become mildly fatigued when Kyle’s triggers come back on him again, and again, and again, and again. This is part of the design of the series. For readers who want to know what it feels like to live a long life with PTSD, then the fatigue itself is one of the things you need to feel with Kyle. He will deal with his triggers for the rest of his life. But like a person who’s lost a limb, he/she may not get back what he/she lost, but he/she can still create joy for him/herself. The triggers will be as annoying for the individual with PTSD as they are for the people who love him/her, so he/she needs to learn to accept and embrace those triggers as one of the beautiful things about being a person who has graduated with honors from the prestigious school of hard knocks.
People with PTSD are people who have typically survived something other people can't survive. They are, in many ways, Superheroes. I guess, they just have a little baggage they need to carry with them. That's all.