Bullying Women &
The Bully In Your Head

October 2015 is Bullying Prevention Month: Defeat The Bully In Your Head

Lifetime TV UnREAL’s Rachel Goldberg (Shiri Appleby) and Quinn King (Constance Zimmer) are the quintessential bullies. They use, torment, humiliate, tear down, and pit their reality show’s women contestants against each other for a chance at Everlasting love. Love is the key word here. Because it isn’t love that’s being offered. It’s a trick.

The women contestants sell their souls to the devil of desire, at least that’s what Rachel and Quinn think. The contestants will do everything and anything to be the one that wins over Adam Cromwell (Freddie Stroma), a rich British playboy. These women want to believe everlasting love is possible. The bullies (Rachel and Quinn), don’t believe in love at all. UnREAL gives us an all too real view of what goes on in the minds of those who don’t, and why.

Fear of Love

Stop, though. Bullies like Rachel and Quinn aren’t simply disbelievers in love. They’re terrified of it. Do Rachel and Quinn want love? Sure they do. But, it’s not that simple. The cynical bully in them says, “You’re going to be hurt. Best not to open up to it at all.”

So, what happens if they let themselves slip up for a moment? An alarm goes off inside their heads. The bully voice ramps up. And that bully starts spewing all the seemingly good reasons to go running right back in their cynical shells. It happens to both Rachel and Quinn. And, ultimaely, it just makes them meaner and crueler to others.

Quinn allows herself to trust Chet (Craig Bierko). And, then, finds him cheating on her. Here bully voice got her to say this: “I actually started to believe the crap we sell here. Love. True love … that’s what I thought we had.” Crap, that’s what love becomes. No reason to want it, then, is there?

Then, there’s Rachel. She’s completely terrified of happiness. Happiness always turns against her. Her mom demeans her, makes her submit to her “therapy”, and tries to bully her into submission. Successfully. In fact, that’s why Rachel bullies the women on Everlasting into revealing secrets as if she’s a friend. It was done to her. She turns the tables.

Rachel lets down her guard and agrees to run away with Adam. But her fate is similar to Quinn’s. He leaves her stranded. So, no surprise that Rachel’s just as much a cynic as Quinn: “Yah … I fell for it. Adam said I won. Me. In the light of day, he changed his mind.” A self-hating voice tells her: “Of course, why would anyone love you?” She’s been stopped in her tracks.

The Bully In Your Head

The bully in Rachel’s mind takes over. That’s no surprise. This is the very loud internal voice that sets both Rachel and Quinn straight: “Are you crazy? Remember what happens if you let anyone in? Don’t be such a fool. You’ll be hurt every time. Here’s the proof of it.” Yes, that bully voice inside has its purpose. Clear and simple, it’s directed against vulnerability. Against needing or wanting love. It makes itself out as your protector. It’s looking all the time for evidence: of rejection, hurt, being unwanted, reasons never to trust love. The bully tries to convince you: “I know the truth and I’m your only friend.”

Don’t believe it for a minute. If you do, you’ll have no choice but tell yourself you don’t need anything or anyone. That it’s better to be alone. Then what do you do with your pain? Give it to someone else and make them feel it instead.

Making Others Feel The Hurt

Rachel and Quinn make the women on the show in UnREAL be the “stupid” ones. They rip them open, expose their most vulnerable secrets, and throw them to the wolves. Better than having the same thing happen to them. Right? Let these women believe: “We’re only here to help.” Then, stab them in the back. Rachel knows it well. Her mom’s the master at it.

Quinn uses Rachel to do the dirty work. She bullies Rachel and teams up with the bully in Rachel’s mind. Rachel can’t say no. And, plus, Rachel gets something out of it, too. She can make them hurt. And, they are the fools, not Rachel. But, she’s not as far gone or hardened up as Quinn – and her satisfaction isn’t so pure.

Rachel and Quinn hate “love” so much, the vulnerability in it, that they’ll screw anyone over just not to give in to any weakness. Their bullying of the desperate women on the show serves the purpose of making others feel the pain of wanting something they won’t allow themselves to feel.  The bully in Rachel’s mind makes her believe, she can’t have any kind of love.

Defeating The Bully In Your Head

Women like Rachel in UnREAL show up in my office when they’re lonely and depressed. These bullies are devastating. They tear down self-esteem. Create hopelessness. And, they interfere with any chance at love.

These voices pose as your friend. That’s the worse thing. Putting themselves forward as voices of reason and truth. And, you believe them. They remind you of hurts from the past. Tell you the past predicts the future: “All relationships will turn out the same. You’re unlovable. Bad. You will never get what you want.” You don’t want to be hurt again, so you listen.

I work with these voices, the bully in your head, every day. They don’t give up easily. And, you’re scared. They’re convincing. Plus, they use tricky “logic” to tell you you’re wrong if you have any hope. Most importantly, they “know best what you should do: Stay in your shell, that familiar hiding place inside. Venture out and you will be hurt.”

So what if you come to therapy? The challenge is to undo the bully’s purpose: to keep you away from love. The bully’s attempts to convince you beyond a doubt that love is dangerous and will never end well must be stopped. If not, they will try to tell you that love will always end. “Listen to me,” the voice will tell you, “and you’ll never be hurt again.”

What happens if you remain hostage to the bully in your head? Maybe you’ll never be hurt again. But you’ll never have any love, either. Maybe the bully in your head was the best self-protection you had when you had no other kind of help. But, the isolation these inner bullies create (we see it in UnREAL) is a very lonely place to be.

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Dr. Sandra E. Cohen

I’m Dr. Sandra Cohen, a psychologist and psychoanalyst in private practice in Beverly Hills, CA. I work with creatives in therapy, story/character development, and entertainment consulting. If you are a writer, actor, or director and want help with a character – or a chance to do some of your own personal work - call at 310.273.4827 or email me at sandracohenphd@gmail.com to schedule a confidential discussion to explore working together.