Bullying takes place when a person, a group of people or an institution tries to cause physical or verbal/emotional harm to you or your loved ones. I know that sentence looks like it's come right out of a text book. But there's no better way of putting it. Almost every other person out there has experienced it in one form or the other. I know I have. And if you haven't, you're lucky. Only someone who has gone through it can truly understand what this kind of negativity is capable of doing to a person. It can cause a sense of grave anger in you. It can make you lose interest in your lessons or work. It can crush your self confidence and surround you in a cloud of pessimism. And worst of all, it can force you to turn against yourself. In some cases, it even gets to the point where it starts affecting your physical health. Whatever be the case, there's only one way to look at the issue: WITH ZERO TOLERANCE. A "no tolerance policy" when it comes to bullying is a must.
Who are your bullies?
The answer to that question is simple. They can be your family, friends or acquaintances. So, simply put, anyone can be a bully. Just because you're close to them doesn't mean that you can trust them to not bully you. Sometimes the bullies are your parents. Sometimes it's a sibling. It could easily be an uncle or an aunt. Many times, it can be a best friend or a group of friends. It could be a teacher that you entrust your child with. It could be a student in a class you teach.
The bottom line is to never confuse bullying with "care" or "affection" or a genuine desire to see you do well in life. If it's any of the above mentioned things, you would know. If a person's behavior is causing you to doubt your own potential and making you feel disrespected and degraded, the first step is to understand what is happening. And of course, it isn't too hard to figure out when the bullying is physical.
Understanding your bully
Understanding always helps. A state of confusion can often be painful. It becomes very easy to victimize oneself. And self-victimization can lead to low self respect. That's when you turn into your own biggest bully.
Understanding a bully can give you the closure you need to move on to the next step. Why do they do the things they do? Why do they try to put you down and say mean things to you? Why do they always try to push you around or destroy your belongings? Some of the reasons could be:
Jealousy: When you possess something that they don't, you are involuntarily posing a threat to them. Jealousy is by far the biggest driving force behind bullies. When people don't know how to handle their incapability to possess something they covet from you, they start feeling threatened by you. Even thinking about you annoys them. Seeing you or talking to you gives them an opportunity. An opportunity to destroy what you possess and make you feel bad about possessing it.
- Good grades in a bright student.
- Interesting toys with a rich kid.
- Better capabilities in a junior.
- Un-attainability of a sexual interest (mostly female when the woman is high-handed and doesn't pay you attention)
- Rival's kid doing better than one's own.
- Sibling settling down before one does.
I could go on. But I'm sure you get the point.
Feeling powerful: When someone can feel worthy and important only by putting others down, instead of becoming a victim, we should sympathize with the real victim. Craving for a sense of feeling powerful can drive people to the point of becoming bullies. It can start at any level.
For example, a child who is mocked at home could try to feel better at school by mocking other kids. A parent who was always insulted could feel better through the successes of his/her own kid, thereby, putting other kids down.
Redirecting problems: Sometimes for some people, the only way to get away from their problems is by redirecting them at others.
For example, having an abusive parent could cause a kid to abuse his/her friends. A difficult teenager could cause a parent to bully a nephew/niece or a neighbor.
Two words: WALK AWAY.
Do not engage your bully. When you know and understand the cause of their problem, the best way to handle it is by not giving them what they want. Which is a reaction, followed by self-doubt. You need to understand what that kind of negativity does to you. And staying away from it is the best solution.
If you can't walk away and are for some reason, stuck with your bully, try to see the humour in the situation. Dispensing their negative comments or even physical abuse with a laugh can dampen their spirits and stop you from becoming an interesting target. Again, when they fail to get what they want from you, you win. Reacting with anger and hurt gives them more incentive to keep going.
The next immediate step in any case is to involve others. If you're young, then it's mandatory to get an adult you trust involved in the situation. Even otherwise, involving neutral people who are against bullying will guarantee a safety net in order prevent the situation from escalating.
We all make the mistake of humoring our bullies instead of seeing the humor in the situation. Most of us also make the mistake of not confiding in others. There is no shame in admitting that you are being bullied. It does not make you a victim because you are taking a step towards stopping it rather than suffering.
Are you a bully?
This is a very important question you should ask yourself. Self examination often helps bullies. Never think that you aren't or haven't been a bully. You could easily be doing it right now without even realizing it. Some things to consider are:
Temper Tantrums: Do you have sudden bursts of uncontrollable temper issues? Are you prone to easily getting angry with people and making it known to them? If yes, then chances are that you are prone to become a bully.
Blaming others: Do you often find yourself at the receiving end, blaming others for everything that seems to be going wrong in your life? Do you feel that multiple people are victimizing you? Do you find it difficult to take responsibility for the things that go wrong in your life? If yes, there is a high chance that you are victimizing yourself and bullying others in the process.
Insecurities: Do you often find yourself comparing yourself to others? Are you curious about other people's lives? Do you compare your successes to others'? Do you feel happy when your competition falls? If the answer to most of those questions was yes, then you're a bully although you're probably not aware of it. Personal insecurities can lead to articulation of defense. And the more verbally defensive you are, the more you're probably being a bully to someone.
The good news is, you can introspect and correct yourself and it's never too late to do so. In the process, you might also want to check for these signs in a spouse, child, parent, friend or acquaintance. If you care enough for these people in your life, stop them from being universally hated as bullies.
Correcting your bully
If you find out that someone you love and care for could be a bully to others, try taking these measures to correct them before it's too late:
Identify the cause: There has to be a very solid, tangible reason gnawing at your loved one. Grasp that reason and understand what is causing them discomfort.
Provide security: To know that you are loved and cared for is important for everyone. Do your part by being there for someone you love and make it known to them. Insecurities can kill their self confidence.You can change that by being supportive.
Get professional help: Never shy away from getting a professional involved if you feel that the situation is starting to get out of hand. Counseling and therapy can bring your loved one back on track.
A bully is not a pariah who needs to be shunned and punished. A bully needs to be understood. A bully needs help. Try to stop hate and anger from overtaking your need to help the person who is bullying you. I hope this article helped you in one way or the other.
For stories with bullying, check out the journals of Marya and Harish.