How Do I Get Over the Pain Caused in School?

How do I get over the pain caused in school? I don't understand why it keeps on hurting. I also tend to block past memories in such a successful way that it's hard to identify the bullying anecdotes, but I just know there are many down there. I've been in therapy for some months and it's been hard, but it has helped to identify some problems. I still feel trapped with these feelings I can't put a name to. Thank you. - Bullied
Dear Bullied,

There’s a saying, “Sticks and stones can break my bones, but words can never hurt me.” That’s only half right. It’s true that sticks and stones are bone crushers, but cruel words crush your spirit and cause serious injury to your self-esteem and even to your sense of who you really are. I don’t know if the bullying you endured in school was verbal, physical, or a combination, but the experience of being bullied leaves painful layers of fear, shame, and rage. I was bullied when I was in junior high school, and I can still remember a few incidents, although they lost their sting long ago.

You write that you are blocking painful memories. That’s a strategy that keeps you from being conscious of pain, and you say you are good at it—doesn’t that mean that you have powerful internal strengths? Not every single detail needs to be dredged up.

Therapy is an organic process. People often say they are blocked, which implies that there is a block or a brick wall or something and it must be broken or smashed down. I think that with time and empathic attention this wall will slowly crumble, and the memories that you are looking for will emerge. Meanwhile the strength that is part of you will become more available and you will be energized to try the new, exploring and developing your beautiful life.

Your decision to seek therapy to get over those painful school experiences is a good one, and I salute your courage. You have to be brave to start therapy. You need a lot of stick-to-itiveness too, because therapy takes time, commitment, and persistence.

What makes a bully? Most of the time, bullies learned their behavior from people who bullied them, who treated them violently and taught them to see the world as a dangerous and awful place, where you have to be aggressive to protect yourself.

Bullying behavior is pernicious and should be stopped. Making room in our society where people can speak freely about their feelings to other people who are able to listen with sympathy will help us all to reflect and act wisely and so there will be fewer bullies, which is good for everybody.

Your openness when you speak to your therapist and write to Good Therapy will spread positive energy around. My heart goes with you.

Take care,

Lynn Somerstein, PhD, NCPsyA, C-IAYT is a Manhattan-based, licensed psychotherapist with more than 30 years in private practice. She is also a yoga teacher and student of Ayuveda—the Indian science of wellness. Her main interest is in helping people find healthy ways of living, loving, and working in the particular combination that works best for them, connecting to their deepest energic source so their full range of abilities can be expressed. Lynn's specialty is understanding and alleviating anxiety and depression.
  • Leave a Comment
  • Bill

    November 11th, 2012 at 5:32 AM

    There are often some pains that are simply too deep to get on from. Yes you may find new ways to cope and understand what happened to you, but does that mean that you will never remember the pain inflicted upon you? Of course not. It just means that it gives you something to feel a little stronger about when you can’t necessarily bury it, but that you find that it doesn’t hurt you quite so much anymore.

  • leanna

    November 11th, 2012 at 11:20 AM

    its important for you to first and foremost know the bullying episodes are over and can cause you no harm.yes they exist in the past but ask yourself why you need to ruin your present due to the past?now that you are free of them you should in fact look to move ahead leaving all that not let their presence in the past hurt your now,your present!

  • Hayn

    November 12th, 2012 at 12:10 AM

    Bullying, when it is truly bullying, is a horrible form of abuse. Those who are bullied need immediate help from those in authority. However, I caution our nation against rushing to the aid of someone who isn’t really being bullied. Bullying seems to be the new “thing” and everyone is crying foul. If someone is being a bit unkind, they aren’t necessarily bullying you. Kids do have to learn to stand up for themselves and should be given those tools. If a kids goes through all of those tools and still needs help, it is up to adults to intervene. But, if adults intervene in a situation a child could have handled, the adult is robbing that child of the opportunity to develop some great coping skills that will be useful in adulthood. Again, a true bully needs to be stopped cold in his or her tracks. But, adults need to evaluate the situation before rushing in to fix it.

  • S Earle

    November 12th, 2012 at 12:12 AM

    Hayn, I will have to disagree with you. I am a teacher and if I have a child who says he or she is being bullied, it is my moral obligation to check and see what is going on. What if I dismiss the one kids who is really being bullied and mistakenly think that child can handle the situation on his or her own? I really don’t want that on my hands.

  • Cale frank

    November 12th, 2012 at 4:09 AM

    Can I be honest with you here?
    There was a time when I too experienced bullying in school, and no it wasn’t necessarily of the same ilk that many kids are facing today but it was there.
    It was demeaning and often made me feel bad about myself, but I had great parents at home who always stressed to me that I was so much better than those bullies were making me feel like I was and somehow with their support that’s how I got through it.
    It’s not that it didn’t hurt at the time but I try not to even think about it anymore.

  • sam

    November 12th, 2012 at 7:07 AM

    you say you can block past memories easily.maybe that is the problem.if there are wounds,simply blocking them from view does not help.they need to be looked in and treated.maybe you need to revisit all of those painful memories and see how you can move ahead and leave them behind,not carry them with you while still covering them!


    November 12th, 2012 at 12:49 PM

    Some things can leave a mark on our minds long after they have passed.But it is intriguing to hear that you can block out those memories and yet be affected by them.As the therapist above answering your question says,use this ability of yours as a strength.

    Also,please remember that we cannot change the past but we should not let that ruin our gift,our present!

  • Mark

    May 4th, 2013 at 3:27 AM

    Bullying is as much an issue today as it was back when I was in school 40 years ago. In fact I don’t know too many people that can not relay an instance where they were bullied during their school years no matter what the age. Talking it through is the best way to treat the pain from this type of mental violation, don’t hide from it or try to forget it, the situation will not get easier to deal with that way. Lay it out on the table, map it, recognize the issues and ask yourself, is anything about this true? Remember everyone is a critique, self empowerment is the only defense against those who try to make themselves feel better at your expense, this makes them small and the fact that they see something special in you that they don’t have makes you the stronger person.

    Good Luck!

  • June D.

    February 5th, 2016 at 9:53 PM

    Dear Sir
    I have a siblings that was bully in High school.I can get them to quit talking about it and told them you have to move on .Why is it so hard for them and how can they over come this problem after 40 years.

  • Lynn

    February 7th, 2016 at 10:08 AM

    When you have been bullied it is a trauma that is hard to forget.
    Take care, thanks for asking,

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