Today I will be exploring one of the more darker and sinister sides of human behaviour.
Ever since we formed civilisations and communities; bullying has existed.
If bullying is relentless and consistent it acts as a brainwashing technique and after a while, the person on the receiving end believe this behaviour toward them is justified. This gives the bully more control and the power to enforce intimidation and abuse, which crumbles the person’s sense of self-worth.
Bullies will also employ other people to antagonise the person, to strengthen their ‘power’ and to convince the person they deserve this nasty treatment.
We will be exploring why people bully? What behaviours can be classified as bullying? And what we can do to put an end to this horrific behaviour?
In recent years we have identified the different forms of bullying. It was once thought that bullying remained in the playground and consisted of stealing lunch money and name calling. But we’ve now realised that adults can be broken down and bullied in many of the same ways.
Bullying can occur pretty much wherever there is human interaction such as work, relationships, friendships and even by strangers. The reason I say strangers is because in this new age of social media there has been a new level of malice called ‘Cyber Bullying’.
People in the public eye seem to be one of the main targets of cyberbullying. It’s easier than ever to have direct contact with high profile people minus the Managers and PR people that normally protect them. This leaves the person exposed to the wrath of the general public. It’s a snowball effect. It often starts with one person sending a critical or even downright evil message to the person in question and then another person sees this and gets involved and then another and another. This is called the ‘Pack Mentality’ or ‘Herd Mentality’. Some people base their opinions and actions on what other people think and do. The targeted person tries to defend themselves but the overwhelming pack mentality can be relentless and bombard the person until breaking point. It’s one thing taking on one person but taking on a group can be almost impossible.
Bullies will often recruit others to do their dirty work. They don’t always reveal themselves as a bolshy, nasty people surrounded by a posse. Sometimes they can come in the form of your best friend or even your partner.
This type of Bullying goes unnoticed for long periods of time as it relies on subtlety. The person on the receiving end of the abuse no longer trusts their own instincts, their self- esteem crumbles and they become a shell of the person they used to be.
That friend who always serves you a barbed wire compliment or the boyfriend who isolates you from your friends or criticises what clothes you wear are all bullies. It’s hard to spot because it doesn’t come in the stereotypical ‘form’ of what we imagine bullying to look like. We all know the classic ‘Frenemy’! Bullies often have a preoccupation with you, watching your every move, it’s weird.
My experience of Bullying:
I have experienced bullying in many different forms. It started not long after I lost my Mum, in middle school instigated by someone I used to be best friends with. The girls who did it were blonde, confident and nasty (well to me anyway). I was geeky and unsure of myself and obviously, my demeanour encouraged them to mock me, put me down and generally all round feel bad about myself. I was also probably quite damaged from the recent bereavement and I guess they picked up on that. I would stick up for myself, but again when you’re taking on a gaggle of girls it’s difficult not to start believing them.
My next encounter was in High School. Again I was that lanky, awkward girl who had braces, dyed black hair and to be honest was not the most popular person in the world. This time the bullies were male… no matter what I did or said it was ‘wrong’ or ‘stupid’. They often found it funny when I got angry or upset, one time I remember one of them stuffing leaves down my top which really hurt. It makes me sad to think about what I went through at that age as I felt people were telling me there was something wrong with me from all angles.
I went to South Africa to see family one Christmas and when I came back I was tanned, blonde and had a new attitude. The bullying stopped, but only for a short time. It was a superficial way to make the mocking stop.
When I moved to London at 16 years old; the years of being told I was crap burned inside me and ignited my ambition or ‘need’ to show people I wasn’t what they said I was. Through work, I gained success and admiration. Finally, I’d shown them that I wasn’t this geeky awkward girl, but inside that still how I felt about myself.
Even though people from my past seemed to back off and have even graciously even gone as far as to throw me a few compliments here and there, the scars were still there. I seemed to attract the same types of personalities but with different faces, which often happens when you’re subconscious is running the show. I’ve realised I encourage processing trauma and tackling the critical voice but actually, I’ve neglected the other side healing which is building confidence and discovering goals and qualities about the self we like.
Bullies are not happy people. When people envision insecurity people often think of a person hunched over, unable to look at anyone in the eye. When in fact insecurity can present itself as grandiosity, narcissism, control and bullying. Think about it why do you feel the need to antagonise someone who has done nothing to you? Why do you care? If the only way to feel good about yourself is to victimise other people than you have a problem. I’d compare it to a poisonous codependence.
I saw this case recently where a young girl encouraged her suicidal boyfriend to kill himself, not suggested it, but actually BULLIED him to do it. You can watch the story here. She tried to blame it on her mental illnesses and change of medication but luckily the Judge saw through her Bullsh*t and sentenced her. It really annoys me when people blame mental illness on their evil actions. They have nothing to do with each other! It just breeds stigma and contempt from people who don’t have a strong understanding of mental health.
When we were kids our self-esteem and sense of self-worth is determined by the relationship we have with our parents. When puberty starts the validation seeking switches from parents to peers. It’s paramount we ‘fit in’, and be accepted by other children. We crave independence from our parents and start to form a personal identity that’s not reliant on Mum and Dad. So anything that makes us ‘different’ is a source of shame for the child because it means they are not ‘like everyone else’. For me, it was mainly because I was awkward, tall and had a funny sounding surname. I hated these things about myself and even developed a bit of a hunch to stop attention being brought to my height.
Now I love being tall, its one of best physical features. I love my awkwardness I think it makes creative and think outside the box. And my surname… well I half South African and proud. Go to South Africa and my surname is like ‘Smith’ over there.
During our teens, it’s all about the opposite sex. We care about being attractive and being desired and it really stays that way throughout adulthood. You could say some even look for validation from their children later on down the line. But in general, that’s the natural order of things.
Main Forms of Bullying:
Physical forms of abuse include hitting, scratching, spitting and can even sexual dominance or abuse. This can be seen in school children wearing extra layers to hide the evidence of their attack. Or wives who claim the bruise on their eye was caused by ‘walking into the door’. It can also be used when describing the destruction of one’s property. Ie) Destroying items that the bully know means a lot to the victim.
This is when the bully will use other people to help them make the person’s life a misery. It includes spreading gossip or rumours; otherwise known as character annihilation, encouraging others to socially exclude them, mimicking or playing nasty jokes, sniggering behind someone’s back when you know it will upset them and so on. Through doing this the Bully can hide behind other people, thus not having to take ‘full responsibility’ and the face the consequences when discovered. It also makes the victim feel that it’s not just one person that has such disdain towards them, its everyone.
This is an attack of words which can cut really deep. It chips away at the person self-esteem and worth. The person becomes vulnerable and makes it easier for the malicious words to penetrate. Typical verbal abuse consists of shouting, patronising, insulting, name-calling, abusive remarks about someone’s gender, race, sexual preference etc… making someone the butt of the jokes, humiliation, the list goes on. The old ‘sticks and stones will break my bones, but words will never hurt me’ is an old-fashioned saying, but it holds very little water because words can sometimes be mentally more damaging than physical abuse, especially over long periods of time.
This is a relatively new one. And has reared its ugly head with the rise of social media; ‘trolling’ has become a millennial epidemic. This is a real nasty one as again it relies on the pack mentality. It’s often said that if people were on their own they wouldn’t behave like that, but when they are in a group something happens. The group can attack not only the victim but other people involved in the person’s life like friends/family. The bombardment of internet messages can overwhelm the victim and has even been reported to cause the person to self-harm or even worse take their own life. The internet is so vast that any wrong or malicious information can be escalated by vindictive people who don’t even know you, making it their life mission to spread as much hate as possible. This can also take the form of ‘Revenge Porn’, a scorned ex-lover putting a video of you in your most intimate moments for the world to see… creeps, family and friends…anyone. Its purpose is to cause maximum humiliation; thank God at least that’s now illegal.
Why do people Bully:
I try to be diplomatic when it comes to explaining the reasons behind peoples atrocious behaviour as I believe we are not born ‘bad’. There are normally reasons why people behave the way they do. But when it comes to bullies, I find it challenging.
When it comes to children, I understand they don’t know how to express themselves properly. They may be bullied at home by siblings or adult family members and the only way they know how to deal with this is to make others feel bad about themselves. I understand this, it doesn’t make it right though. I would encourage the school to get involved with not just the victim but the bully as well. I suggest their circumstance ie) home life and mental health are analysed and be sent to see a counsellor.
Or if they are relatively ‘fine’, I’d say we need stricter punishment so the Bully does not carry on acting out into adulthood. Protection of the victim needs to be made an absolute priority as well as the after-effects of the abuse, this goes for adults at work as well.
Adult bullies, however, I have no sympathy for. To continuously hurt someone who is innocent (and I use this word because no one ‘deserves’ abuse) is bordering on Sociopathic. Maybe insecurity is driving it, but it’s what you allow your behaviour to be that really determines who you are as a person. Bullying can be a sign of jealousy, the victim has something the bully wants. In their twisted minds, they think if they pull that person down it will give them power, control and self-esteem. This may work for a short time but as we know it’s impossible to get validation from the external it will always be conditional. After a while, they may even get a kick out of doing it, to me, this is sadistic.
Having said this bullying also exists in the animal world. Obviously, animals aren’t doing it to be a dick. Although I’m sure there are animals out there who can be ‘so and so’s’ but I’m pro-animal so they can’t really do any wrong in my eyes. Any bullying behaviour would come from a place of survival as against nastiness. For example, the Omega Wolf is the lowest ranking member of the pack. The animal may not possess the right qualities to lead the pack and this will be a threat to the pack as a whole, so the Alpha Wolf dominates.
This is not to say the person being bullied is weak, but they may be smaller in stature or in some way vulnerable. Your vulnerability can be your biggest strength, it’s people’s ignorance that they think they can dominate you because you are shy or sensitive is a true sign of the bullies weakness. You are strong you just don’t realise it yet. The amount of bullies who have tried to suck up to me on Social Media since we left school is quite pathetic really. Shows a real defect of character.
What are the signs of bullying?
From what I’ve experienced and researched there are certain signs. They may be subtle or obvious. I’ve experienced bullying even in acting/writing courses that were meant to be fun! Great time that was!
- If you dread going somewhere because certain people will be there. That’s normally a red flag that bullying is occurring.
- It seems to be you vs the rest of the group and you feel singled out. You may feel like you’ve done nothing to encourage this treatment.
- Everything you do is ‘wrong’. Things you say/do. They may question why you did this or that a certain way making you doubt yourself constantly.
- You may hear rumours about yourself. Or some people could be really nice to you and then get involved in the ‘pack mentality’ against you. It’s often people who are malleable who tend to be easily swayed. They are incapable of having their own opinion.
- Someone who criticises you constantly. And then often tells you you’re being paranoid. This is what’s known as ‘Reactive Abuse’. People taunt you or bully you to get a reaction out of you then label you as aggressive or crazy or whatever when in fact you were just reacting to their abuse or defending yourself.
- Your instincts are usually spot on. If someone makes you uncomfortable you don’t have to put up with it just to keep the peace.
- Mocking … again this goes with the last comment if you feel it’s done in a malicious way you are well within your right to call this behaviour out. They may tell you to not be so sensitive but this is also a manipulation tactic in order to make you doubt what you know is wrong.
- When having a disagreement with someone, they use aggressive body language or start trying to dominate you. If someone tries to ‘intellectually dominate’ you watch out for this as it’s a form of bullying.
- If someone who is nice to everyone else but pretends you’re not there then this again is bullying albeit a subtle form. They may exclude you from events that everyone else is going to. Or give you the short straw ie) knowingly overwhelming you with paperwork, and then criticising you for not being able to keep up.
- Laughing can be used as a way to humiliate. So if you feel someone is laughing at you and not with you this is normally a red flag.
- Nitpicking, again this goes with trying to make you feel like ‘everything you do is wrong’.
I don’t suggest fighting fire with fire, try water. I’ve acted aggressively towards the perpetrator in the past and it’s only escalated things. You can fight back from a place of strength and genuine power. You may want to ‘show them’ you are more than what they say. But this will all come in good time, trust me from experience.
Here are some tips:
- Bullies are looking for a reaction. Don’t let them have one. Show their opinion of you is worthless. I know it’s hard, and even if you want to burst out crying right there and then (which you can do when you’re on your own) be strong and know you are taking away the bullies power.
- Tell someone! Tell a person who has your best interests at heart. Sometimes in the workplace, it can be difficult as the bully may be your Boss! There is always someone more senior to tell. If the person is reprimanded then they will normally blame you. Know this is only because they are scared of the consequences in store from them, which they absolutely deserve. Even if you are worried people will think you’re exaggerating, just know bullying is bullying and you don’t have to put up with behaviour on any level.
- Keep evidence. Start building a case against the bully. When you do tell someone they will be able to take stronger action if they have your evidence to back up the story.
- Start building up a support group. I don’t mean a posse, because you’ll find some people don’t want to get ‘involved’. But a support system of friends who can help you and support you day to day whilst this is going on.
- Do your best to realise that this has nothing to do with you. It’s them who have something wrong with them. Not you!
I hope you enjoyed reading this post. Bullying is thankfully now being taken more seriously than it was in the past. It’s important we recognise the detrimental effect this kind of abuse can have on people whether they are a child or an adult.
People are speaking up on a massive international platform and this behaviour is no longer being tolerated. I think sometimes victims of bullying don’t realise the severity of their situation. They think they deserve this treatment or it may be in some way their fault. This is why we need to vocalise the signs and symptoms so people can recognise those insidious traits in the perpetrator, and take action to get out!
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