My Experience Being Bullied by Customs Officers (10 Tips to Handle Bullying)

This is part of the Dealing With People series.

  1. How To Deal With Energy Vampires
  2. 8 Tips to Tackle Naysayers
  3. 8 Helpful Ways To Deal With Critical People
  4. How To Deal With Dishonest People
  5. How to Deal with Rude People (3-part series)
  6. 10 Tips To Make New Friends
  7. How To Handle Bullying: An Important Guide

How To Handle Bullying

Have you ever been bullied before, whether as a kid, teenager, or adult?

What did you do about the bullying situation? Did you let it go? Did you stand up for yourself? Did you suffer in silence? Did you seek help from others?

Today’s article is an important, 6,600+ word guide on how to handle bullying.

Bullying

What constitutes bullying? Here’s what Wikipedia has to say:

Bullying is a form of aggressive behavior, which may manifest as abusive treatment, the use of force or coercion to affect others, particularly when habitual and involving an imbalance of power. It may involve verbal harassment, physical assault or coercion and may be directed persistently toward particular victims, perhaps on grounds of race, religion, gender, sexuality, or ability.

The “imbalance of power” may be social power and/or physical power. The victim of bullying is sometimes referred to as a “target”.

Bullying consists of three basic types of abuse – emotional, verbal, and physical. It typically involves subtle methods of coercion such as intimidation.

There are various contexts where bullying behavior can manifest. Some examples:

  • Relationships – From one partner to another partner.
  • Household – From one spouse to another spouse; From parent to child; From guardian to child; From child/parent to grandparents; From landlords to tenants.
  • School – From the seniors to the juniors; From the “in” crowd to the “out” crowd; From more popular, well-regarded students to less popular ones; From teachers to students.
  • Friends - In high school cliques, there’s usually a “leader” within the clique. This leader may abuse the power and bully the new or lesser members of the clique.
  • Workplace - From a manager to an employee; In a work team toward a newcomer.
  • Prison – From police to inmates; From one inmate to another.

In each bullying situation, there are 2 parties involved – the bully, and the victim. For bullying to take place, there has first to be (a) an imbalance in power (b) abuse of that power, which subsequently results in the infliction of pain on the victim, whether emotional or physical.

My Encounter with Bullying

Last week, I traveled in from UK to US, for a conference. When I was at the immigrations, I experienced treatment which I have not faced since I was a kid. In fact, I would categorize what happened as pretty much bullying.

As some of you may know, I was recently invited to present at the Wharton conference, in Philadelphia. Since this would be my first time in the states, I decide to make the best out of my trip and stay on for three months (88 days, really), so I could experience US in its entirety.

As a Singaporean, I am eligible to stay in US for 90 days or below without a visa, for either tourism or business purposes, under the Visa Waiver Program (VWP). This is provided eligibility requirements are met. For all intents and purposes of this trip, I meet the requirements.

Even though I was upfront about my 88-day long trip, I was deemed as a suspicious entrant, which was fine, since I reckon it’s probably uncommon that visitors that long. So, the officers from Customs and Border Protection (CBP) called me to a private room for further questioning.

Update: One of the readers, Alireza, has informed me that the officers in question are from Customs and Border Protection (CBP) and not Transportation Security Administration (TSA). He shared a helpful guide on how to differentiate between CBP and TSA:

TSA are not police (or, as Americans like to call them, law enforcement officers), rather they are civilian employees tasked with doing airport security screening (x-raying bags, operating metal detectors, operating those disgusting machines that radiate people while looking through their clothes).

CBP are a federal police organization that is tasked with immigration and customs activities. The CBP have significantly more (though not absolutely limitless) power than the TSA (who can basically just waste your time). Indeed, they have more power in their little realm than just about any police group in the US. 

An easy way to tell between them is where they are. If at the airport security line, its the TSA. If in immigration/customs halls, its CBP. Also, TSA have more of a “true” blue uniform, while CBP uses a midnight color.

However, this was when things went downhill. It would be almost an hour before I was let out.

Inside the CBP Office

It first started with casual questions, where the officer fired me a series of standard questions, like how long I was planning to stay in US, what I was doing there, why I was planning to stay for so long, who I was going to stay with, how I knew the person, how long I knew the person, what the person’s name was, and so on.

The attitude was not exactly amiable, but tolerable.

The first incivility took place when the officer wanted to know the telephone number of the person I was staying with in US. As I had it on paper, I reached into my bag and took out my stack of documents to look for it.

Before I could do anything further though, the officer, instead of taking down the number he had asked for, reached his hand across the table, took the documents forcefully, and started looking through them, one by one – without seeking permission.

None of the documents were meant for the officer, save for one where I printed my friend’s details on. Not only did he ignore my protest to stop browsing through the papers, he went right into a string of questions about its content, which I found highly invasive.

Bizarre Accusations

Because some of the papers were of the Wharton conference which I was attending, the officer somehow concluded I was planning to stay in US for good. He also concluded I was planning to set up my business there. Except that I wasn’t:

  1. I only planned to stay in the States for 88 days. I already had a return ticket booked in early Feb (departing from Philadelphia to outside America), 88 days from the point of my entry in US. I had no intentions to stay in US beyond 90 days, because it is not legally allowed and I am a law-abiding citizen.
  2. The key objectives of my trip would be to: (a) experience US (b) make new friends and connections – just like what I had been doing in Europe prior to my US visit. I would also be speaking at a conference, for one day out of the 88 days I would be there. These objectives are in line with what is outlined in VWP, which waives the need for a visa for a trip that’s for tourism or business purpose, if it’s lesser than 90 days.
  3. Under the VWP, I wouldn’t need a visa for my trip. I have to meet the eligibility requirements to qualify for the waiver, which I do.

What ensued was a series of absolutely bizarre interrogation and accusations:

  • I was erroneously accused of intending to set up my business in US and to stay in US beyond three months in my trip, despite my attempts to explain otherwise. They refused to acknowledge my departure ticket as evidence (booked 88 days from my point of entry into US) because “flights can be changed.”
  • I was repeatedly threatened to be charged with fraud unless I told the “truth” (even though I was already telling the truth).
  • My luggage, handbags, laptop bag, wallet, papers, and name cards were seized and searched.
  • My mobile phone was confiscated and private messages looked through without my permission. People on my contact list were also contacted without permission.
  • I was told to “admit” that I was going to stay in US beyond three months and that I was going to set up my business there (even though this was not the truth), else I would be charged with fraud, deported back to Singapore right away and permanently barred from ever entering the States.
  • I was, on numerous occasions, cut off in my attempts to explain myself. In one of my attempts to speak, one officer cut me off with this: “Look, LISTEN. I’ve been doing this for YEARS. I know when people are coming to live in America and when people aren’t. You ARE coming to LIVE here. You better tell the truth or it’s going to be a lot worse for you.” (Ironically she really was wrong.)
  • I was repeatedly accused of lying despite what I said. (Which I considered highly slanderous because my entire career and life is based around honesty and truth.)
  • I was perfectly polite and compliant throughout the whole exchange, while their attitude toward me was very abrasive and uncivil.

State of Powerlessness

For the first time in my life, I felt like a prisoner. Suddenly I felt I was transported to an alternate universe where personal rights or basic civility did not exist.

I still remember my hands and knees were shaking inside the booth toward the later half of the interrogation, even though I was overall calm, composed, and holding my own despite the threats. While I looked like I was unfazed, I was terrified on the inside.

When I questioned myself on why I was shaking, I realized it was because I felt powerless.

  1. While basic civility and personal rights was a given in the modern society we live in, this did not apply behind the closed doors, inside the booth. I could not rely on the standard behavioral norms in my interactions with them. The things they said and behavior they rendered to me were out of line when benchmarked against what’s considered normal, civil behavior.
  2. I had an agenda laid out before me for the next three months — to speak at the conference, to travel and experience new cities and cultures, to meet new people and make new connections. These were important to me. However it seemed like they could easily wipe away all of that at their whim. They repeatedly threatened to deny me entry and deport me back to Singapore, despite the fact that there was no concrete evidence to support their claims. As authorities with power invested in them by the government and people, it felt they were misusing their power. (Whether they were really able to do that is a different matter altogether)
  3. I have been a law-abiding citizen (of the world) all my life, and will continue to be. To suddenly be accused of fraud and threatened to be incriminated with fraud when I had committed nothing of the sort, by people who were supposedly representatives of the law and supposed to use the power they were vested with to help fellow world citizens including me, was shocking.
  4. There appeared to be no objective checklist behind the incrimination claims. The accusation of fraud, and threats to incriminate me with fraud, seemed to spring from highly subjective evaluation, whereby the evaluation was by them.
  5. Despite what I did or said, I was disregarded. At the crux of the interrogation, it was my word against theirs, and because they were official authorities and were legally recognized to have more power over me, anyone else could have listened to their words and took what they said over what I was trying to say.

After what seemed like ages (almost an hour, give or take), I was finally released after my friends were individually contacted and were able to verify my story.

At the end of it all, the officer begrudging stamped my passport, flippantly passed it back to me, with a disgruntled “Have a nice day.” without bothering to look at me in the eye.

There was no apology given for the poor treatment and false accusations that took place in that one hour. It almost felt like they could do whatever they wanted to do and get away with it, because they were the official authorities, with power vested by the state.

Aftermath: Reflecting About What Happened

Reflection

After the encounter, I was bumped out. My first day (and first time) in the States, and I was on the receiving end of poor, condescending treatment. I was not even at my destination yet (it was a stopover), and I had sat through a long eight and a half hour flight prior to that. It was definitely not a pleasant situation to be in.

As I hung out at a cafe while waiting for my next flight, I thought over the encounter and tried to make sense of it. I realized that my biggest discomfort with what happened was:

  1. There was an imbalance of power. As the immigration authorities, they had the power to deny me entry, at their discretion. I had no say in the matter.
  2. The power was abused with the repeated threats, false accusations and poor mannered treatment. It didn’t matter what I said or did; it was disregarded. They only wanted to hear me “confess” to X, when the problem was I did not even do X.
  3. My rights as an individual was not respected. They were looking into my private possessions without permission, i.e. my mobile phone, my private messages, and my personal documents. They also searched my luggage, handbags, laptop bag, and wallet without permission.
  4. There was no objective fulcrum I could rely on. The encounter was entirely subjective. It was their insistence against my words. Even objective facts like my proof of  my business registration (which is based in Singapore) and my departure flight (88 days from my point of entry) were disregarded. Nothing I said mattered to them.

It was disappointing. Certainly, there was no need for them to use their authority to bully me? I would have gladly cooperated regardless of what they said – and I was already openly compliant from the very beginning of the exchange.

While I have never been held at the booth at the Singapore Immigration nor do I have any non-Singaporean friends caught in the situation before, I’m very sure the Singapore Immigration Authorities would never render such treatment to a foreigner here. I was extremely disappointed in the US immigrations for the way they had treated me, an eager and first-time tourist, of the country. There was not even anger; just disappointment.

It had been a while since I felt trapped, powerless and helpless the way I did. The last time I felt this way was when I was very young, about six to seven years old, when this boy in my neighborhood would extort candy from me. It eventually ended after a couple of months, when my mom interrupted one of the exchanges, by accident.

Ever since then, I never had to face situations where the other party had power over me. At least, not situations I couldn’t already manage. If I ever encountered such situations, I would either (a) find ways to empower myself over the bully (b) strategically tackle the situation or (c) exit the situation. Obviously it was different in my encounter with the CBP — none of the methods were applicable.

Bullying: How Can We Handle It?

So how can we handle bullying?

Dynamics of Bullying: Understanding the Bully and Target

Bullying is a oppressive situation to be in – one that results in fear, trepidation, anxiety, or even shame.

For the bully, he/she comes from a very low consciousness level. He/she knows he/she has power over the target (whether physical or social), and he/she uses that power to get what he/she wants from the target. It’s a low consciousness act because it relies on force to achieve the outcome. (Force here does not necessarily mean physical force, though it can be. Force refers to any action that’s rooted in fear rather than love.)

For the target, he/she experiences fear due to the encounter. Bullies induce their targets into low consciousness levels such as fear, grief, guilt, or even shame, in order to extract their desired outcome. The tactics they use can include manipulation, coercion, humiliation, or even abuse.

For example in my situation, the CBP threatened to charge me with fraud, deport me back to my home country and permanently bar me from ever entering the States, unless I said what they perceived to be the truth (even though it wasn’t the truth). This is an coercive act, because they were oppressing me to do something via threatening me with an alternative, worse-off scenario they could do by way of their authority. There was no neutral agent to objectify or mediate between either of our claims.

Implications of Bullying

Targets of bullying often face deep rooted trauma from the bullying which lasts long after the bullying incident is over.

This trauma can exist in the conscious state, where the victim lives in fear every day, even though he/she is no longer in any physical danger.

This trauma can also be embedded subconsciously, where the victim is affected by the incident without being aware of it. The emotional trauma may manifest itself from time to time in dreams, sudden flashes, self-debilitating thoughts, or sudden emotional surges.

Addressing Bullying

I’m not sure if there is a perfect solution to tackle bullying, because each situation is different and the dynamics vary a lot across situations. There may well be bullying situations that are impossible to get out of, simply because the bully has physical power over the target.

For example, kidnapping and abuse cases where the victim is locked up with no means to escape. Or in my case, where the bullies in question were government authorities and there was nothing I could do but hold my ground and let the situation play itself out.

These are more exceptions to the rule though. For most bully situations, we do have the power to turn them around, even though it may not seem so at first sight. We can change the outcome of the encounters based on how we react. By not letting ourselves be victims, the bullies will have no power over us.

How To Handle Bullying: An Important Guide

How To Handle Bullying

If you are currently a victim of a bullying situation, I hope you take heed to what I have to share in this guide, and apply them to your situation so you can get out of it. If you aren’t but you know someone who might be, please share this guide with them. If this topic doesn’t apply to you, read it any way, because you never know when the steps may come in handy.

Here goes:

1. Be calm. Don’t panic

The bully gains power by instilling fear in the target. By panicking, you would be giving the bully the power to intimidate you.

While it’s easy to tell others to be calm, how can one actually remain calm in such a situation? 3 things to recognize:

  1. Recognize that despite the social or physical power the bully may have over you, you do have some power over the bully. If you don’t, the bully wouldn’t have picked on you as the target. He/she wouldn’t have to resort to bullying either. The reason why he/she has to bully you is because you have power over him/her, which he wants to acquire.
  2. Panicking is a cue to the bully that he/she is doing something right. Firstly, it tells him/her that you can be intimidated and he/she should continue to bully you. Secondly, it tells him/her that whatever he/she is doing is working, and it encourages him/her to continue the bullying. By panicking, you allow the bullying to perpetuate.
  3. As hard as it is to believe, you can affect the outcome by how you react. Shrinking in fear will cause the situation to turn out dramatically different as compared to if you make strategic interventions during the exchange. Always bear this in mind.

Come think of it, the bullying encounter with CBP resolved itself because I maintained my stand throughout the whole exchange. I did not break a false confession despite the threats; I did not retaliate; neither did I lose my composure. I simply reiterated myself, which was I had no intention to live in the states, I was there mainly as a leisure visit, and I planned to leave before three months was up.

If I had panicked and “confessed” to something I didn’t do just because I was scared of them, the consequences would have been disastrous.

I had a separate encounter with the UK immigration 1 months ago which descended in poor taste because I retaliated in response to the officer’s poor attitude. Since there was a clear power imbalance, whereby he was an authority and I wasn’t, and since he had no qualms about using the authority to assert himself, he began to make intimidating statements, mainly attacking my position as a foreigner and drawing a divide between me and the British. He would respond in jest no matter what I said.

In the end, I figured out that it didn’t matter what I said. So I just kept quiet and stood through his attacks, after which he began to loosen up after about several minutes of poor conduct. That was when I could get through to him and he began to converse with me somewhat normally then.

(Side note: It seems my background and travel history makes me a suspicious traveler at the customs – Being a business owner, able to work anywhere in the world and not needing to be situated at my home country, single, been away from home for an extended length of time, etc. The world is still very much fixated with the notion that one has to have a job that is desk-bound and location-bound, but I believe this will change soon, in the next 3-5 years time, as the internet empowers everyone to pursue what they love to do and do it from anywhere in the world.) 

Other steps to remain calm:

  • Raise your consciousness. As I mentioned above, the bully comes from a low consciousness level, usually fear, guilt or shame. He/she wants to drag you down in your consciousness level. The lower your level, the more likely you are the panic. The higher it is though, the more grounded and more unaffected you will be. Raising your consciousness keeps you out of reach of the low consciousness levels, so you won’t be affected by the fear-based tactics. For a list of useful and constructive tips on how to raise your consciousness, read: 15 Ways To Raise Your Consciousness, one of the exclusive articles in Personal Excellence Book, Volume 1.
  • Ground yourself. Like a tree with deep roots into the ground, no one can shake you if you are well grounded. Read Tip #1 of How To Deal With Energy Vampires on how to ground yourself.
  • Protect yourself in a bubble. Also known as shielding. Read Tip #2 of How To Deal With Energy Vampires on how to shield yourself.
  • Identify the source of fear. At our resting state, we are calm. We panic because there’s a stimulus driving fear in us. If we can drill down to the cause of the fear and unravel that, we can return to our state of calmness. See Tip #10 #below.

2. Size up the situation

The bully is probably picking on you as the target because he/she recognizes he/she has some power over you. Hence, it may not be in your favor to go on the offensive at the start, because it leaves you open and vulnerable. You want to size up the situation first, make an assessment, then consider the best course of action.

Consider:

  1. Who are you dealing with?
  2. What is it that he/she wants from you?
  3. Why is he/she bullying you?
  4. Is there anything you can do about the bullying?
  5. Is there anyone you can seek help from?
The questions help you to break down the situation and get clarity on it. The more you understand the situation, the easier it is to tackle it.

3. Don’t give the bully your power

In Tip #1, I mentioned while the bully has power over you, you do have some power over him/her.

As long as you remain calm (Tip #1) and don’t give your power away to the bully (by not surrendering, showing fear or breaking down), you will continue to own that power.

On the other hand, when you give away your power to the bully, he/she will know that he/she can have his/her way with you. It will encourage him/her to continue the bullying because he/she knows you are a ready target. That’s when things will cross the line (if it hasn’t already been crossed), and you don’t want that.

4. Assert your stand

In line with Tip #3, be clear of your rights and boundaries. Assert your rights. Defend them. No one can make you give in if you don’t want to give in.

In asserting yourself, don’t retaliate with threats because it will agitate the bully further. Rather, approach the discussion in a calm manner.

  1. Let the bully know where you stand. For example, say you are part of a social circle where one of the members keeps making fun of you. Let him/her know: “Look, you have been making fun of me for the past few weeks and I have been tolerating it. But this is becoming too much. I have my rights and I would appreciate it if you can respect it.”
  2. Reiterate the facts to him/her, if you feel he/she is missing the point. For example, in my CBP encounter, the officer kept accusing me of lying over and over again. For every 1 time the officer accused me of having ulterior motives for my US trip, I would repeat my original answer. For every 1 time he threatened to charge me with fraud, I would repeat the same answer as well. In the end, the officer realized he wasn’t getting anywhere, and went to Plan B where he called the people on my list to verify what I said with them. This was when my story was affirmed to be fact, and I was released after their embarrassing hold up.
  3. Inform the bully of the consequences if he/she continues treating you in the same manner. For example, if you’re dealing with a school bully, one thing you can say: “This is not acceptable behavior by the school regulations, and we both know it. If you continue doing this, I’m afraid I have to inform the teacher. If you stop this as of now though, I’m willing to let everything go.”

5. Give the bully what he/she wants (if your safety is at stake)

How To Handle Bullying

If your safety is at stake, then give what the bully wants. Don’t put up a resistance. For example, mugging attempts or extortions, where the bully threatens to physically harm you if you don’t surrender your physical possessions. Usually I would encourage you to find a way out, but where safety is concerned, it’s better to be safe than sorry.

You can always reacquire whatever you forgo to the bully. Loss of phone? Buy a new one. Loss of money? Just earn more money then. Treat it as a charitable donation to less fortunate people who need it more than you. There’s no need to get hung up over it.

There is a problem, however, if the bullying behavior persists beyond a one-off event. If the bully is a recurring figure in your life, and he/she constantly uses bullying to extort things from you, you want to put a stop to it, because it’s not sustainable. Check out the other tips (#3, 4, #6-10) on how to break the bullying.

6. Walk away from the situation

In most bully situations, we can walk away from it, unless it’s an extreme case like kidnapping or where you’re dealing with legal authorities like what I went through. In these cases, walking away potentially opens up a bigger set of risks, so you want to play it safe and maintain within the boundaries.

In most cases though, we can remove ourselves of our accord – we just think we can’t because the bully has created an emotional stronghold over us.

Ask yourself:

  1. Why am I staying in this bullying situation? Is it because there are serious implications otherwise, or because I think there would be serious implications as a result?
  2. What’s the worst thing that will happen if I walk away from this? Will it result in physical danger or any long-term implications?

If your answer to #1 has nothing to do with physical harm, and leaving will not result in any long-term implications, then you should walk away from it.

For example, a relationship partner who coerce you into staying on in the relationship. Your partner does not “own” you – you belong to yourself and you are free to choose whoever you want. You do not have to account to him/her, especially not if this is someone who disrespects your rights and coerce you into doing something against your will.

When I was a small kid, there was a guy in my neighborhood who would extort candy from me (same example I mentioned earlier in the article). I was about 6 or 7, while he was about 9 or 10. He would approach me when I was alone and make me give him all the candy my mom bought for me.

It was all verbal; he never used any physical force on me. I would be shrink in fear whenever he approached me, because he was bigger size and I was afraid he would hurt me. This would happen anywhere from once every couple of weeks to a few times a week.

He told me never to tell anyone about the extortion, and I never did (during the period of extortion). I didn’t dare to tell my mom or (elder) brother about it, even when I was home and theoretically safe from the bully.

Looking back, I should have just walked away from the situation. The only reason why I didn’t walk away was because I thought he would have hurt me, but in retrospect, I seriously doubt he could have done anything to me. There was nothing he had over me, really, other than the fact that he was older and bigger sized. He was nobody to me; I owed him nothing; I had no idea who he was (and come think of it, neither did he actually – he was just always hanging out in the neighborhood and I lived in the area, which was why he could always come up to me) and I had my family to protect me if I ever came into harm’s way.

He had power over me because I gave him that power. Conversely, if I didn’t, he couldn’t have done anything about the situation. (See Tip #3: Don’t give the bully your power)

7. Seek help from others

You may not be able to handle the bully by yourself, and that’s okay, because you don’t have to. You’re not alone in this.

Seek help. One way is to connect with someone who has power over the bully. For example, if you’re in a school bully situation, inform the teachers or the principal. I remember when I was in primary school, there was a male classmate who would often make fun of my dialect name. Other male classmates would do the same too, because he created the space to do so. I subsequently told the teacher about it, who told him off in front of other students. He never tried to do that again. Neither did the other male classmates.

Another example is workplace bullying. Say your colleagues are bullying you because you’re a new member to the team. They pile you with a lot of work, boss you around and refuse to help you out. Obviously, this is not acceptable workplace behavior. You want to connect with your manager, and perhaps their managers, and inform them about it so they can intervene accordingly. You also want to connect yourself with other co-workers and get their support in the workplace.

Another way is to gain strength through numbers. Even if each individual person has no special power over the bully, a group of people gives collective power. For example, if there is someone picking on you in school, then associate yourself with new friends. Make sure you hang out with them, in a group, each time. The bully will realize you are not the “easy” target he/she thinks since you have the support of others, and will soon back off.

8. Appeal to the rationale side of the bully

I like to think that everyone has a conscience. And that no matter what it is they are doing to you now, they have their reasons, even if seemingly unjustified.

See if you can appeal to the rationale side of the bully:

  1. Understand why the bully is doing this: Why are you doing this?
  2. Check if you can help: I’d like to help if I can. Is there anything I can do to help?
  3. Seek a middle ground: I don’t want to this situation to be worse than it already is. Is there an amiable way to resolve this?

9. Use your self-defense weapons (only for worst case scenario)

To be done only for self-defense, and not to inflict harm on others. For the record, I believe at our highest consciousness, all things can be resolved without violence, but if you’re dealing with someone of extreme low consciousness, it may not be possible to rationalize with him/her. If you feel you might be in physical danger, then it’s good to arm yourself.

Pepper sprays and stun guns are non-lethal self-defense tools which are allowed in some countries. Different countries have different regulations, so check with your local authorities on what’s allowable and what’s not. The last thing I want is for you to get charged for possessing dangerous equipment, because of something you read at Personal Excellence!!!

Use the weapons only in the worst case scenario when you are in danger. Apply all other tips first if you can.

10. Understand (and detach yourself from) the source of fear

To defeat fear, first understand it.

When I was in the interrogation booth, I asked myself why my hands and knees were shaking. I realized it was because my upcoming pursuits were at stake. If I were really denied entry, I wouldn’t be able to speak at the conference, visit the different places in US, or make new, meaningful connections. The situation did seem dire.

I then regained my power by identifying an alternate pursuits if they were truly dashed. What could I do if I wasn’t able to enter US? I would have (a) more time to work on my business, since I wouldn’t be traveling (b) get to return home early and see my friends and family (c) be exposed to opportunities in Singapore/elsewhere I wouldn’t get access to if I was in US.

With this, the original concern was resolved.

The next reason why I was shaking was because I was worried I would be charged with a criminal offense, even though I did not commit anything wrong.

In worst case scenario, I would be wrongly incriminated. It was a terrifying thought.

“What would happen though, if I were to get incriminated?” I thought.

I would go to jail. I wouldn’t be able to see my family or friends. I would be cut away from the world. I would be given a mark in the society. I would be made an outcast. I would enter a world I have no clue about. I may be abused in jail. My life would go to waste.

“So what if that were to happen, though?” I thought.

Nothing, really. It may be non-ideal, but they were nothing that would stop me from making a comeback. At most, it would be another obstacle for me to overcome and learn from.

Suddenly, the situation didn’t seem that scary. I’m not saying that I want to be falsely charged with fraud or I’m okay if I were to go to jail (especially not if I didn’t even do anything wrong to begin with), but that the thought of it stopped striking as much fear as it did before. And by loosening the source of fear, it released the hold the bully had over me.

By identifying your fear, understanding the source, and breaking it, you regain your power. When you have nothing to fear, the bully has no hold over you.

Be sure to read: How To Overcome Fear (3-part series).

11. Call the Police (or Relevant Authorities)

If you think the situation is escalating out of control, call the authorities. Call the police (911). Get the authorities involved. Explain the situation in detail, from the beginning to the end, to them, so they can best help you. Offer all the information required.

Don’t be worried about implicating the bully; the bully crossed the line when he picked you as a target. Something needs to be done to put it to a stop.

My situation is unique in that the bully in question is the authority, but it’s an exception than the rule. It’s unlikely that you’ll be caught in such a situation though, so don’t worry about that.

Last Words

If you’re the target of a bully situation, please don’t suffer in silence. Read this guide carefully, multiple times if you need to, and apply the tips.

You are not brought into this world to suffer. You’re brought to this world for a greater purpose than that. Whatever you’re going through is merely something to help you grow, a lesson for you to learn, a test for you to pass. By addressing it duly, and overcoming the problem, you’ll emerge a stronger person, one who is able to take on greater things.

Personal Travel Update

For those who are curious, I’m currently traveling in US. I just finished my engagement with Wharton last week, and I’ll be traveling to Washington DC today, followed by NYC next week. I may stay in NYC for a couple of weeks, depending how things go. I’ll also check out Boston after I’m done with NYC.

My plans after that are open ended at the moment. One option is I will go to the west coast, possibly including but not limited to: Sedona Arizona, Las Vegas, San Francisco (California), Los Angeles (California), and Seattle.

The other option is I will just return home to Singapore. It’s getting cold, and while I’ve gotten accustomed to living in 10+ degree Celsius,  the temperature is in single digits now (Celsius), and I’m freezing my butt off whenever I’m out in the streets! I’m also looking forward to work on my fitness plan when I get back (haven’t exercised much due to my travels and the cold weather), because I want to maintain what I’ve been building since my fast in Feb.

The other, bigger reason is that it’s been already 5 months since I’m away from home. In the past 5 months, I’ve been traveling non-stop, moving from place to place, meeting endless number of new people. Some people feel tired after 2 weeks of travel, so you can imagine this is like traveling on steroids. As of now, I just want to stay put at one spot and enjoy some stability.

I’ve always loved Singapore since the beginning, and the encounters I’ve faced have made me appreciate it even more. While I left Singapore with a potential interest to migrate in the future, I think Singapore is where I want to stay for the time being. The cities I’ve been (London, especially) have been amazing, but all factors in consideration (including difficulty to stay longer beyond allowable length of stay), Singapore is what’s calling out to me for now.

That said, things may change in the future, and I’m open to different possibilities.

For sure, my one encounter with CBP shouldn’t be seen as representative of how life in US is like (I’ve been meeting a lot of great people, Americans included, since my first week in the States), but it definitely suggests how unwelcoming the foreign climate can be toward non-locals, and how difficult it can be to get authorization if I ever want to live in the states in the future.

I don’t rule out coming back to the States in the future or living there next time, but that will only happen if there is a clear, compelling reason (say, work engagement, visiting friends, checking out new sights, and so on). By myself and as the situation stands, there is no reason for me to return for now. I definitely do not relish the thought of getting interrogated in that manner again, for whatever reason, when I’m not violating the law to begin with.

For those who want to be in the loop of my travels and my daily life, follow me on Facebook and Twitter. That’s where all the activity is happening. :)

Update Jan ’12: I’ve since reached Manhattan, New York, and stayed there for 1.5 months. I’m now in west coast (Los Angeles), and will be hanging out in the west coast for my last month in the states. ;)

This is part of the Dealing With People series.

  1. How To Deal With Energy Vampires
  2. 8 Tips to Tackle Naysayers
  3. 8 Helpful Ways To Deal With Critical People
  4. How To Deal With Dishonest People
  5. How to Deal with Rude People (3-part series)
  6. 10 Tips To Make New Friends
  7. How To Handle Bullying: An Important Guide
  • J

    Wow, that’s a pretty rough welcome, Celes. I’m sorry you went through that. But you did a great job in turning it into such a positive post.

  • http://40andnow.com/ cloudio

    Hi Celes,
    first of all you have all my support and solidarity for what happen to you at the immigration.
    Unfortunately this is quite common in some countries and Us immigration is famous for that.

    I think it is not a coincidence this morning, few hours before you were publishing this article, I was recalling my experience in the only country where I was denied access.
    Guess, which one?
    Yes, Singapore.

    It was september 2005, after 3 months traveling in Soutth East Asia, I arrived at the border at sunrise. coming on a night train from Kuala Lumpur.
    Because of the heat, the external cover of my passport, that I was carrying in my pocket, got wet and colors faded.

    Anyway no internal pages were affected. All my personal datas and the stamps for all the countries where I have been were perfectly readable. In fact the same passport was considered no problem the same day in Malasyan border or few days later in Thailand and Italy.

    The officer was extremeley, unnecessarily arrogant and told me I couldn’t get in with the passport in that conditions.
    And when I first reply that the same passport was considered valid in all the previous countries I was travelling, and that I have 2 fly ticket with me: one to leaving Singapore for Bangkok in 2 days, and another from Bangok to Italy the day after, she didn’t even asked me to see them.

    She just screamed at me “These are not good reasons to let you in..no you just go back to Malaysia”, without giving me any other possibility of dialogue.

    At first I wanted to wait until my Embassy was open, to call them then and being at the time a journalist, menacing a dyplomatic case, the I just said: screw Singapore, I have just bought a new laptop in KL, which has dvd reader not working, let’s go back to the shop and change it.

    It was very umiliating though, and I had the clear sensation that the Officer was making his day reaching a quotas of people to refuse their entry. While I was dressed as a backpacker, but I was still coming from a country richer than Singapore, I put me in the shoes of the dozen of people who were with me on the train and were refused entry as well: they were all businessman, impeccably dressed, from various asian countries.

    I know Singapore is a kind of promise land for many asians, but the attitude of people at the Custom was simply unacceptable. Too arrogant, too much abuse of their power.

    At the end of it, the way for me to get over was being truly compassionate with that people: they are really frustrated and unhappy in their life if they need to show their power in that way.

    And while we, as a travellers, I think we have the moral duty to fight for a world with no barriers. I come from a rich country and visiting another country or getting a visa is usually not a difficult process, but most of the people in the world are not so fortunate. And some countries ar a burocracy nightmare for just everyone.

    And please don’t believe this is for your personal security. It has been proved in many ways, that all the system is just for making money and taking away personal freedom.

    Anyway these employees, being them just complying of their system or overzealous, couldn’t take me away all the fantastic experiences of my trips, as the couldn’t take away the one you had and you will have in then next 88(-the ones you already spent) in Usa.

    Enjoy them! ;)

    • http://personalexcellence.co Celes

      Hey cloudio, I’m sorry to hear about your negative experience with the Singapore immigration. I’m surprised to hear that they rendered such poor treatment – hopefully they have upped the training of the staff since then. It’s unfortunate that such misunderstandings have to happen when visitors have no ulterior intentions in their travels.

    • http://love-whisperer.blogspot.com/ Asni

      Hey Cloudio,

      So sorry that that had to happened to you in Singapore. I am surprised and saddened by such incidence.

      It’s unfortunate that you had to meet that particular person then and I assure you not all of us are like that.

      I admire your positive attitude. :clap:

  • Laurel

    Thank you, Celes, for addressing the fact that bullying can come from the authority figures as well. I was bullied somewhat in high-school, not by other students, but by the faculty and security staff.

    Teachers would talk down to us students and not bother to teach, and the school security guards would give even rule-abiding students a difficult time. After a year and a half of it I became severely depressed. I believed I had no chance of a future because that was what the teachers instilled in us.

    After that second year, I followed what you’ve highlighted as step 6 in your article: I got out of there. My parents withdrew me from public school and enrolled my in a charter school, not run by the state. Fortunately, that was a long time ago and I’ve recovered completely, but I haunts me to think that some kids in school don’t have the option to leave, and have to put up with the bullying.

  • http://www.vidyasury.com Vidya Sury

    This is a wonderful guide, Celes, and one that I would bookmark and return to, often. Bullying is something that one goes through in varying degrees at different stages in life – and it depends on our state of mind at the time to be bullied, or not to be bullied.

    Just a couple of months ago, I was browsing online looking for material on how to tackle bullying. My son, now a ninth grader, goes through this in school. Anyway, although there is loads of stuff out there, it is a bit of an information overload to absorb all at once. Then I did what instinct told me – I talked to my son and tried to make him stronger, since we cannot control other peoples’ actions. Obviously, reaction always begets more bullying. Seems to be working, so far :-)

    I really appreciate your patience in putting this guide together.

    • Vanessa

      My dad use to tell me if some kid was bothering me at school that they are rednecks. I believed him and still do. He always made me feel like I was above everyone else. I lost at a young age. As an adult I don’t consider myself better than others or others better than me. When he was alive though he made me feel like I was the best and most important person. We do get a lot of confidence from our parents.

      I have a two year old and when we go to a play area sometimes there is one kid that is not nice. I don’t know what to say to him when he gets his feelings hurt. I don’t want him to lose self esteem at such a young age. I have a friend that is a pediatrician and I am going to ask him what he thinks I should do. I will let you know what he says.

      • Vanessa

        Oh and I need to read this guide Celes put up. Thanks Celes I value what you have to say. I know you have done your research and your tips have been very helpful to me.

        • http://personalexcellence.co Celes

          Hey Vanessa, thanks for your comments. I can’t say that I have “done research” as much as I’m focused on sharing from my personal experience and learnings, which is what I do for all my writings. Hopefully everyone can draw some parallels between my experiences and what they go through and pick out something that works for them.

  • Jennifer Kollert

    Wonderful article Celeste! As always you have provided a wealth of information with your personal experiences included as an example. Thank you for what you do!
    Hopefully you will visit the west coast and stop in Portland, Oregon area. We have some absolutely beautiful places and people here and we’d love to meet you. We could all meet at a local coffee shop for a chat if you are interested. Send me an email and I will reply with a phone number.
    Sincerely,
    Jennifer Kollert

    • http://personalexcellence.co Celes

      Thanks for your invitation, Jennifer. Thanks very sweet of you. Based on my current sentiments, I’ll probably be heading home in a couple of weeks, after NY and Boston. There’s so much that I want to cover if I were to travel to the west coast that I best leave it in a separate trip the next time. I’ll be sure to let all of you know the next time I visit US, though. (Hopefully no more terrorizing experiences with TSA the next time.)

      • http://www.greatlifeblog.wordpress.com Amanda

        I hope not about the TSA! BTW, are you going to hold a meet-up in Singapore? If so I’ll try to persuade my parents to let me go! ;)

        • http://personalexcellence.co Celes

          Hey Amanda! :) Not sure about having meet-ups in Singapore – I don’t get the feeling that the local readers are interested in having a meet-up (at least not that I know of). They probably just enjoy reading the site rather than in-person contact. Also besides, local readers who have been interested to meet me have done so in the past via attending my workshops / speeches (while I didn’t publicize them on the site, they somehow found out about them through other channels) or signing up for my 1-1 coaching when it was available in the past. So it doesn’t feel like there’s much of a reason or incentive to organize a local meet-up.

  • Matt

    Hi Celes. I really like this article. I haven’t experienced any instance of bullying in a long time. Though I was bullied by people I regarded as friends throughout school and even a few years after. I didn’t assert myself at all at the time and looking back I can see how I could have empowered myself by standing my ground, not giving away my power, or removing myself from the situation. I don’t feel any anger or regret looking back on the time I was treated poorly though. I think that if I ever encountered someone with a similar situation I could probably give them advice and help them.

    I think one of the reasons why bullying can happen over and over again for school children is that the victim may think that things will become worse if he/she reports the bully. The child may think that other students will become aware that he “tattled” to a teacher, believe the victim is weak, and thus he may end up inadvertently inviting other kids to bully him. That’s probably not what would actually happen but a child may believe so.

    I have seen many PSAs and news stories about bullying in recent years. Parents, teachers, and students are more aware of what they can do. Because of this I think more and more children will be able to stop any bullying they may experience.

    I’m sorry to hear about your experience with the TSA. I have heard many accounts of their poor treatment of law abiding citizens. I have never been in a situation where I was accused of a crime. If it did ever happen to me I would probably simply tell the police I didn’t want to speak to them. In the United States you are not obligated to answer a police officer’s questions even if you are detained or arrested. This video is a lecture by a defense attorney and a police detective explaining how easily innocent people can incriminate themselves. Both recommend that you refuse to speak to the police if accused of a crime. That’s me personally though. I’m not sure if the TSA would have had the ability to deport you if you had been uncooperative. It seems like you handled the situation just fine. I hope the rest of your trip goes smoothly

    I think this is a great article and I predict this will be very popular. Especially for students.

    • http://personalexcellence.co Celes

      Hey Matt, thanks for the tip. I didn’t know you’re not obligated to answer a police officer’s questions in the states. I’ll have to check out that video. In Singapore at least, you’re encouraged to assist the police as part of being a law abiding citizen.

      I think bullying continues to happen today, even among adults. Some examples I can think of are in relationships, households and among friends. I’ve seen people make fun of others at their expense and the targets don’t always retaliate or fend for themselves. I’m not sure what they feel about it but I personally see that as a form of bullying.

      • Matt

        Yes it’s a very interesting video. I don’t think most US citizens realize they do not have to speak to the police. It’s something I think everyone should watch. It’s very informative on how police investigations can go. Let me know what you think of it.

        Yes bullying can definitely happen today. Probably most common among significant partners or in workplaces. I just associate it more with being very young and being the target of other immature people. That’s just because that’s where my experience comes from.

        A big part of why bullying can happen, sometimes repeatedly perpetrated by the same people to the same target, is because the victim can see themselves as powerless like you pointed out. The victim may feel he/she must deal with the bullying because the bully has some kind of authority, power, is cooler than or more respected.

        I think some people may join in with bullying if the see an outcast being harassed by their peers. People can get sucked into this group mentality and show an ugly side of themselves because “everybody else is doing it.” When I was in the sixth grade I remember a boy who was made fun of by many other children because he smelled bad. He was an outcast and I don’t think he had any friends at all in the school. He was essentially bullied by most of the school including me. I joined in with other students and made fun of him too. I’m sure this poor kid felt powerless against so many other children harassing him. Looking back I feel HORRIBLE about any time I was ever mean to him.

        • http://personalexcellence.co Celes

          Hey Matt, I spoke to my friend in DC about what you mentioned, and it seems like it’s known as the “Miranda Rights”. Basically, it “is a warning that is required to be given by police in the United States to criminal suspects in police custody (or in a custodial interrogation) before they are interrogated to inform them about their constitutional rights”. “The Miranda warning is not a condition of detention, but rather a safeguard against self-incrimination; as a result, if law enforcement officials decline to offer a Miranda warning to an individual in their custody, they may still interrogate that person and act upon the knowledge gained, but may not use that person’s statements to incriminate him or her in a criminal trial.”

          More about it here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Miranda_warning.

          I’m not sure how the TSA operates or if it’s considered part of the police, but they didn’t read the Miranda rights to me prior to the interrogation (if it can be regarded as being kept in custody, which it seemed like it was). For what its worth, overall it didn’t feel like the interrogation followed any set procedure, but was rather subjective and more of a function of the officer’s discretion than anything else.

  • Kamal

    Dear Celes, sorry to hear about your terrible experiece with the immigration autorities in US. I heard about such instances earlier also in the media.

    Obviously that guy seems to be unhappy in his life due to which he tried to bully innocent people like you. He definitely needs a 30DLBL. :twisted:

    You remained calmed and handled the situation peacefully. I appreciate on how you dealt with such a person alone. :) I salute you for all your efforts and wish you the best in life. This article will be a handy guide for not only those who are victim of bullying but also for those who wants to learn how to handle such situations. :)

    • http://personalexcellence.co Celes

      Hey Kamal, thanks a lot for your kind words. :hug: That’d be interesting if he was to go for 30DLBL. :lol:

  • James

    I was very sorry to hear about your treatment by the TSA. Since the attack on the World Trade Center, my country has gone through many changes and not all are for the best. Unfortunately our leaders have forgotten the wisdom of the people who founded this country. It was Benjamin Franklin who said:

    “They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety.”

    • http://personalexcellence.co Celes

      Thanks you, James. :) I appreciate your empathy. I was just talking to my American friends yesterday, and we were wondering if these measures are truly preventing terrorism or just creating anguish for innocent people. In my case, they were clearly barking up the wrong tree and trying to look for evidence to incriminate me when I had no intentions to violate the law to begin with.

      For example, if I truly had the intentions to stay in US for beyond 3 months, and if I was really trying to commit fraud, one can argue that I would have lied and stated that my visit was for a few days / 1-2 weeks, rather than say that I intend to stay for 88 days and create suspicion for myself. It feels like they could exercise some common sense in addition to their interrogation protocol. For sure, I definitely feel like they were the ones terrorizing me during the whole encounter.

  • http://tranquilitynow.blog.com Tina Davis

    This article really hit home for me. I was bullied throughout grade school, middle school, and high school. I had very low self-esteem that allowed bullies to verbally abuse me since they sensed my fear. Fear is a difficult thing to overcome but I must say that it gets easier with age :)

    Celes, I also was to reiterate that I am so sorry about what happned to you. TSA is a nightmare and one of the worse things to come out of 9/11. Your story is one of many awful experiences that I heard about. Please don’t let it affect your opinon of the US. It really is a great country. I hope you’re having a good time since your initial experience. :mrgreen:

  • http://leonardpak.com Leo

    Hi Celes, just wanted to mention that the southern part of the west coast will be mostly above 10 degrees Celcius in December (even up to 14-17 in some cases/areas) during the day. Depending on the location, it can drop down to as low as 2-3 at evening/night (San Francisco, Las Vegas) or as high as 5-10 (Los Angeles, San Diego, etc.). I’d say San Francisco is worth a 2-3 day visit as it is one of the more unique cities in the country. Maybe you can use that as a stopping point before you return to Singapore. If you happen to be in Los Angeles toward the end of December or beginning of January, I’ll be around at the time for winter break and would be glad to help you with your visit

  • http://www.tonycuckson.com Tony Cuckson

    Dear Celes, My heart goes out to you and I hope that you will find it in your heart to forgive the intrusion. I have travelled to the USA many times. My wife was born there. She always has to remind me that I am to keep my mouth shut and say nothing. So whatever is asked of me I try and say nothing other than yes or no. I go into the situation knowing that it will likely be other than pleasent. One is thus in some way pychologically prepared.

    I suspect that this is case for other countries as well. When I travelled overland through Europe, Iran, Pakistan and India all the border guards were quite intimidating. I guess it comes with the job.

    I have an Irish temper and the one thing I abhor is rudeness. I have to say that rudeness seems very routine in going through USA immigaration. I love the states and the people I have met there are like most others the world over. I guess the type of job that immigration officers do attracts those who want to have a sense of power.

    I remember teaching hospitality management students in Leeds in England. The only student I ever had a problem with was a young man who looked for aggrevation wherever he could find it. He ended up joining the police.

    On the postive side you have managed to turn it into a wonderful article (as usual). Remember what you recently wrote about levels of consciousness and empowerment from Power versus Force. You have the ability to alchemise this shadow experience into gold.

    :heart:

  • Meganjudymax

    Our dearest Celes: On behalf of those US authorities, please accept my sincere apology as these US authorities are heartless, fearless, arrogant, s—-d, m—n, and i—t. I am sorry to inform you that I do not agree with your assessment that these people feels powerful over you. Actually, it is the opposite ‘coz they feel threatened of your presence, personality, identity, and your beingness. I would say that please forgive them as they do not know or they have lack of wisdom to know or determine what is right or wrong. In fact, they are harboring a cancer genes in their body because of their ill-behaviour. Unhappy and aggressive people are proven to be on their journey to a disastrous lives leading to illness and death. I feel sorry for them because they allowed themselves to be trained to be aggressive when there is no need to do it. By being aggressive toward you, they are putting themselves (physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually) a huge disaster. I bet everytime, they go home, they will continue to “bark” on their family members, including to their pets, and would have sleepless nights because of guilt. Worst is they have to be reminded of their ill behaviour toward every human being. Remember, what goes around comes around. One day, I assure you, they will either suffer depression due to increase level of stress with guilt, as suddenly, their conscience and their body could not take it. They will just collapse physically, mentally, emotionally, and physically. The more they are going to be angry at their own selves with fear and they will never be at peace. Without peace, they will have a problem eating, sleeping, resting, and relating themselves to their inner self, to others, and above all to GOD. Most of my friends refuse to travel to ASIA with a stop over to US. We were informed how nasty these people are. You have to realize that they are so affected with their downfall of their economy and therefore, they feel threatened of entry. However, I am kind of wondering to the people who had invited you to come to US. As new and a guest in USA, they must arrange someone to be with you travelling or at least must have contacted the US Embassy to arrange your arrival since you are internationally well – known as a lectur

  • meganjudymax

    Celes, I am sorry as my computer shut down prematurely. What I was going to say is…as a lecturer, a counsellor, a philantropist, and a compassionate, and a kind – hearted person, it would be nicer that you travelled with someone to an unknown or unfamiliar country for you. I strongly suggest that they, who had proposed or invited you to be at US conference, had arranged with US Embassy to have someone travel with you. In this kind of world, no place is safe anymore. People in this world are full of aggression. In US, they are so many people, who are miserable because of the downfall of their economy and people like in TSA are pressured to be meaner by their bosses or the upper authorities.
    I say this because this is what exactly had happened to me. I was a highly paid senior RN in Ontario.
    I was working in one of the rehab hospitals in Toronto for over 20 years until I had a motor vehicle accident, as a passenger of a taxi, and at my friends’ car…not only once but three times in consecutive years. In short, my employer (as planned by the nurse manager, HR consultant, OHU Manager, HR Manager and administrator including the hospital CEO) offered an exit package to me, which I declined. because I know my human and labor rights. It was their biggest disappointment because they couldn’t kick me out. I was considered as a menace in their financial budget especially the nurse ey terminated my employment despite that I am on medical leave due to my disability. This manager have this history of bullying “diverse cultural nurses” and to the end, the employer have to shut down the hospital because of court order that each of these nurses get compensated for the damages and for being discriminated. The hospital was accountable for the ill action of this nurse manager. Somehow, the manager and the CEO find their nice niche in another hospital, which happens to be the hospital I was working. They have to find another target because they have this obsession. It is in their mental and in their “system” already because they got away the first time. What they failed to realized that as a disabled employee, I am protected by the Human and the Labour Rights under our Canadian Constitution. My responsibility as a Canadian Citizen is to know my rights as a Canadian resident and this also extends to any individual regardless you are a visitor or a refugee. ole is to know to others except with me. I maintain and stand up for my rights as my former employer had violated my human rights by terminating my employment while I am disabled from a motor vehicle accidents. They had forgotten that here in Canada, we have a Canadian Charter of Rights, Canadian Human Rights Act and Ontario Human Rights Tribunal. Moreover, most of the labor employees are unionized. Why, it has been an ongoing situation that bullying, intimidation, coerce, labeling, false allegations, discrimination, verbal and physical assault is becoming rampant in Canada. Our Canadian and Ontario government and advocates have to keep reviewing the policies because as the culture and population increases and it becomes multiculturally diverse. The need for these changes are imperative to keep our country productive, safe, and peaceful. Through my experience, most discriminated people are the ASIAN people and the most feared people are the Middle Eastern people because of the terrorism history.
    One of the common factors that result to bullying or discrimination is “FEAR” and lack of understanding, respect, communication, care, and compassion.

    As a religious person, my perception of what you experience is “This is your new assignment or mission” by God, in order for you to help the oppressed, the discriminated, the mistreated, and to be our voice in this world that this ill-behaviour needs to be stopped. Since you are internationally known as a lecturer, a world peacekeeper, you have to go through this kind of suffering in order to understand more what others had experienced.

    I am not happy that this happen to you. Nevertheless, you are the right person because I applaud you how you handled these “people”. Because of your experience, you had done an excellent advice and blog with regards to this matter.

    Bullying does not discriminate age, creed, nationality, gender, or anyone at all. It is happening mostly in the younger generation. It is our responsibiltiy to keep our world a better, safer, and peaceful place especially for the children, our future.

    Celes, once again, please accept my apology on behalf of these people. I pray that God be with you and your family always. Keep your journal and journey going by sharing your the talents and the gifts given by God to take care of the humanity. Thank you Celes. Take care and God bless you always.

  • Allen Simpson

    Sorry about your experience with the U.S. police state, it’s so sad that as a civilization the existence of such systems and mistolerances is the best we can do. I certainly hope it hasn’t tainted your view of the U.S. too much, even though there is certainly much to be less-than-thrilled about with the U.S. brand in general at this point in history. While you’re still in the states you can always escape the cold by checking out southern California where it’s often in the 70′s (not sure what that coverts to in Celsius) and sunny throughout the “winter,” and I noticed you mentioned Sedona which is also an extremely beautiful place to visit. I hope the rest of your U.S. adventures have been much, much better than your initial entry experience, and I’m still a big fan of your writing. All the best!

  • Dragos Nicolaescu

    Hi Celestine, I red your guide and it is excellent. I already sent it to different people who may need it. On the other hand, based on my experience with police, keep in mind that bullying in this case is just the usual interogation technique they use when they are powerless (they can’t arrest you or prove anything) and they have a subjective suspicion. What you experienced is nowadays only a common technique to shake the suspect. Your reaction in face of threats it was a kind of test that you are telling the truth. But the guide it is wonderful and very useful. Congratulations.

    • http://personalexcellence.co Celes

      Hey Dragos, thank you for sharing it to others; I appreciate it. :) Regarding the interrogation technique, whether it’s “usual” or not, it’s a violation of personal rights and civility in my book. I think there has to be a better system to govern what technique can be used or not, because as officials with power vested by the people, they need to utilize the power more prudently. Just because they are using it as a means to an end doesn’t justify the means IMO.

  • Netta

    Hello Celestine!
    I had just found your page right before the 21DJC began and actually logged on just to do the exercise before I go to sleep for the night. I live in a small town in Southwest Virginia in the Appalachian Mountains. I can relate with what you were talking about with the cold even though I was born, raised, and still live in the same town. Actually in comparison with other parts of the country, this area is considered to have a nice spring setting, a mildly hot summer, nice fall weather, and a mild winter. I get cold very easily though.
    I am truly sorry to hear about your experience coming into the States. I have had my share of experience with local police and state officers and I don’t agree that it is usual treatment to try to shake someone down. I have had officers that use their authority in an arrogant bullying manner that can intimidate some people. Mostly though I can say I know several local police officers that have a job to do but do not abuse the power of their job even when it comes to non law abiding citizens. I’m not sure about immigration departments or other states but in my state and hometown, we are also taught we do not have to answer any questions without some type of legal attorney present.
    I’m quite sure any immigration department has more power and authority than a local town police officer though. So I am very glad you handled your horrible situation the way you did and used it to share with everyone something positive out of the experience.
    Your travels intrigue me very much. I’m certain anyone would be run down after such travels. In one of my answers to the journal, I put that I have the goal, dream, plans, and desire to travel further west to enjoy the rest of the country. I would absolutely love to see London!!!!! Right now though, I am working on reaching the goal of visiting other states further west in the U.S. Later on a trip out of the states would be amazing. (I hope)
    This was a wonderful thing to read. I have been in abusive relationships, verbally and physically and I removed myself from the situations as soon as possible. It is very draining, and for me it was causing my self esteem to lower and feel bad toward myself and not the bully in question. I had to learn that I deserved better in any relationship and then I taught myself how to demand respect for myself in relationships.
    Wish I had found your writings before now. I just wanted to let you know that my 9 year old daughter read this article with me tonight. I thought she could learn somethings from this because she has a few children at her school that have picked on her because she had to get glasses last year. I have talked to her about this and then to find this article was a blessing. I want her to understand that she is beautiful inside and out and deserves respect no matter what. I also wanted her to see that bullying happens everywhere in the world and it can be overcome.
    Thank you for writing this. Hope you enjoy the rest of your stay in the U.S. and that you don’t have anymore nasty situations like the one you had to face. Take care!!!! :heart:

  • Denise

    Hey,
    You should congratulate yourself on handling it so well. I have heard of others(Australians) being treated like that and some even sent home ( not allowed to enter) and banned from ever entering the country. Probably for the same reasons–young Australians tend to like to go to a place for a long time and really explore it. I’m not sure Americans can get their head around people having the financial liberty to do that. They also seem to suffer from the illusion that everyone in the world would rather live in the US–when really you have to ask, what would the US have to offer a citizen of Australia or Singapore? It’s not like either country is poor or lacking in opportunity.

  • http://love-whisperer.blogspot.com/ Asni

    Thank you for sharing your experience, Celes. You are really so cool and handled it well. :clap:

    I am personally terrified to travel to US or any Western country cause I am a Muslim and covers my head with a “tudung” (scarf). Unfortunately, even here closer to home, my sister who is also wearing a “tudung” was asked to take off her tudung in Bangkok at the immigration counter.

  • Jennifer Kollert

    Celes,
    Did you get the officer’s badge number? I think we should write up a complaint and petition for a few reasons:
    1. The supervisor (and their supervisor) MAY not be aware of the conduct of the officer. Best case scenario, the supervisor realizes how harmful the officers behavior is and how bad of an impression is being given, and will make efforts to educate / retrain or somehow address the situation according to procedure.
    2. Worst case scenario, the supervisor is no different than the officer. This is an all too common dilemma among police officers and police departments in the United States. If this is the case it is important that the supervisor(s) be informed, even though 99% of the time the corruption goes all the way up the ladder, there are those of us who are keeping track for others who are taking action.
    3. Not all people are as spiritually aware as you, and by bringing this issue to the attention of the “proper authorities” (pfft!) you may be able to prevent some terrible situation from happening to someone who isn’t as strong as you?

    What do the rest of ya’ll think?

    • http://personalexcellence.co Celes

      Hey Jennifer, thanks for the suggestion. No I didn’t get the badge number, and I don’t recall seeing one (definitely not a name tag, at least). But I could be wrong.

      The only reason why I don’t recommend doing it is because after having shared my story here on PE and with my American friends, it’s apparent how prevalent this issue is. It appears that the poor conduct by TSA/CBP is often broadcast in the news and many other visitors have faced such poor treatment before. Hence, it’s quite likely that this is how they are taught to treat visitors as part of their training, and an inherent part of their organizational culture.

      The other reason is for a complaint to be taken with weight (in the unlikely example they would look into it), I suspect they probably want a specific example of the scenario, together with the date and time it took place. Given that, it would be easy to trace exactly the visitor involved in the encounter (i.e. me). I suspect my records are already on their file because they were asking me a bunch of questions and keying in a whole bunch of stuff before they released me at the end, and it’s something they’ll refer to the next time I go past immigrations. From what my non-American friends who are currently staying in America for work/study told me, they keep record of the person’s history of entries/departures/encounter details so it’s easy for them to reference for future encounters. The last thing I want is make it harder than it already is for me to enter the country in my next visit (whenever it is) . Where their accusations were groundless the last time, if they were to charge me with causing trouble with TSA/CBP next time, there would be basis behind it. Worse case scenario, the complaint/petition act can even be seen as a act of causing trouble with legal authorities, and I’m not sure if it’s wise to go into that.

      That said, I think it’s very constructive of you to suggest that. :hug: I think the best course of action moving forward is just to focus on our goals and make the best out of them, rather than letting the encounter disrupt our personal agendas. My experience with complaining is it does little to change the situation, because the issues we face problem with are often more deeply embedded than can be changed overnight; also complaining typically creates a lower consciousness atmosphere by continuing to hang on to the original, low conscious act. If it’s a main issue in my life (i.e. if I travel to US every week and get this treatment all the time), I may look into it with more depth, but given that that’s not going to be the case for now, I much rather focus my energy on other things (like upcoming challenges at PE, new plans for the business/site, etc).

  • Mina Nitz

    Dear Celestine,

    I read your Bullying article. I share your trauma and pain. I suffered the same thing from Canadian immigration officials years ago. I know it will repeat when I leave Canada to re-enter the States, my home country. Because of this awful treatment, I would rather not travel anywhere else. I am too sensitive and emotional. I am more likely to cry hard enough that I cannot speak, shake severely, be overstressed, and would rather hide or kill myself than endure such treatment. This world can be far too harsh. *hugs you* I hope this hug helps a little for your recovery form the trauma.

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