I understand now that if I allow others to overpower me with their growling anger they become bigger and bigger. Apologies and ownership of blame do not diffuse the situation. They make bullies more aggressive. I must balance energy with energy. If someone comes at me strong and nasty, I must balance the strength with my "no." If someone rises up at me and I shrink, she rises up bigger, but if I rise up to meet her, she recedes. It's a kind of natural law, and I'm grateful to understand it, even if I'm not great at rising up.
I need not get mad. I need not get quiet. I need only speak my truth with a firm voice, and indicate that my boundaries are steadfast and that I am ready and able to protect myself. It's empowering and important work. Being assertive is a gift to myself.
I will not shrink before aggression. I am equal to any bully.