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Why does standing up to gaslighting or bullying scare us?

Updated: Jan 15, 2020

I recently sold an item on Ebay. It was a security camera that I had received for free when I purchased my new security system. However, I have no desire to have a web-enabled camera in my home all the time, so I sold it to someone that is OK with that. Simple transaction, right?

Except that once the bidding was completed, I received this message from the buyer who had won the auction:

“Since you have a 14 day return policy please cancel this transaction as I also have a best offer on another camera that it looks like I will be getting”

In other words, even though he had entered into a legally binding agreement to pay for the item when he bid on it, he wanted me to just give him a pass. So, I called customer service to alert them to this behavior and to confirm my understanding that 1) a return policy is intended to protect the buyer if something is wrong with the product and 2) you DO enter into a legally binding contract to pay, if you win, when you bid on an item. So, I emailed him back this information stating that I would not cancel the transaction.

He went a little crazy.

(based on the account name, I am making an assumption that it is a man. I could be totally wrong)

He told me how many other people had canceled items this for him on the site and what was wrong with me? He told me how many transactions he had had on Ebay (how important he was). He told me that customer service agreed with him (even though their records do not show that he called). He told me that he had an hour to cancel after winning the item, because he had heard it from someone (this is not true. I confirmed it). He told me I was being a bad community member for not acquiescing to his request, and that I was ruining the platform. He called me stupid.

Gaslighting. Classic abusive behavior when someone does not get their way. And, I told him in the next email that I did not appreciate him trying to bully me, or other people, into doing something against the rules. Let me tell you, he really liked that!

The next string of demands and falsehoods were all in caps!! He was yelling at me on Ebay email. And, all of the customer representatives can see the thread and threats. So, again, I called customer service to see what they could do about his behavior. Thankfully, they put a hold on his account for abusive behavior on the platform and apologized profusely.

This, obviously, is a small blip in my life. I could have just let it go. It would have been much easier for me to cancel his transaction and re-list it like he wanted me to do. But, I knew it was wrong. Not only for me, but for anyone else he in interacting with, and especially those that have trauma around bullies and gaslighting.

And, I did it for myself. For healing my own trauma and self doubt that comes from a patriarchal win-loose, do what I say or you will be in trouble, world. With each email, I felt anxiety. I was nervous and uneasy. My head pounding, unable to focus, heart racing, and stomach upset. Over a stranger on Ebay. That is how deep this trauma is for most of us when we choose to stand up, go against any kind of authority, or to merely speak our truth in the moment.

So, I stopped for a moment each time this feeling arose. I took a deep breath, opened the email, took the rational and measured course of action that was required in the moment, meditated, and continued with my wonderful day.

I spoke my truth, and what was legally correct, and I survived. In fact, it was a glorious exercise in flexing my muscles of dismantling the old, tired patriarchal systems of being , with firm compassion and love, for both myself and the other person. I practiced standing strong, while still being present in flexibility and kindness. What an amazing gift I gave myself by making choices to learn and grow from an unpleasant and demanding Ebayer!!

We can live in a win-win world. When we show up with our greatest strengths; vulnerability, presence, compassion, love, and making a calm stand when necessary; we are creating that world together.

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