Saturday, April 30, 2011

Bullying: Reclaiming Your Journey

When I was 16 and in high school, I had a boyfriend come to my door and tell me he was going to run away and commit suicide.  After he left, my parents woke up and found me panicking and made me call the police. Soon after that the police pulled me out of class to talk to me.  It was then that I found out he was a chronic runaway who was heavily abused....and that he wasn't going to kill himself.  So they wanted his whereabouts.

Because of what I did, I became a pariah amongst my friends.  I was ostracized and gossiped about.  And it reached its pinnacle one day at lunch right by the main office of the school.  A group of about 20 students from the crowd I hung out with came up to me simply to tell me what a piece of crap I was.

I stood there, with one friend by my side, while these people verbally ripped me to shreds.  And the only thing I can say is that I never once let them see me cry, even though it crushed me like nothing else had up until that time.  I stood my ground and only let loose a torrent of tears after they were away from me and couldn't see me shed them.  This was because I wouldn't give them the satisfaction of knowing just how much they had wounded me.

The point of telling you this story is to pinpoint the topic of this discussion which is bullying.  It's something that permeates our society and is definitely not limited just to high school.  It can follow us into adulthood, or be found in our connections with family, friends, lovers, coworkers and even strangers.  And it can leave a person feeling....violated.  I know it did me.

So before we continue this discussion, lets get a few facts out of the way.  What is bullying?  Are there different types of bullying and what are they?  How does bullying effect other people?

A bully can be described as "a person who is habitually cruel or overbearing, especially to smaller or weaker people". Bullying can be defined as "the use of superior strength or influence to intimidate (someone), typically to force him or her to do what one wants". A bully is a person who:

  • has never learnt to accept responsibility for their behavior
  • wants to enjoy the benefits of living in the adult world, but who is unable and unwilling to accept the responsibilities that are a prerequisite for being part of the adult world.
  • abdicates and denies responsibility for their behavior and its consequences (abdication and denial are common features of bullying)
  • is unable and unwilling to recognize the effect of their behavior on others
  • does not want to know of any other way of behaving
  • is unwilling to recognize that there could be better ways of behaving.

  • to avoid facing up to their inadequacy and doing something about it;
  • to avoid accepting responsibility for their behavior and the effect it has on others, and,
  • to reduce their fear of being seen for what they are, namely a weak, inadequate and often incompetent individuals, and,
  • to divert attention away from their inadequacy 

With the understanding of who a bully is, what it means to bully, and why people bully, we come to the question of different types of bullying.  What are they?

Types Of Bullying

1. Physical bullying includes any physical contact that would hurt or injure a person like hitting, kicking, punching, etc. Taking something that belongs to someone else and destroying it would also be considered a type of physical bullying. For example, if someone was walking down the street and someone came up to them and shoved them to the ground, that would be physical bullying. In elementary and middle schools, 30.5% of all bullying is physical.

2. Verbal bullying is name-calling, making offensive remarks, or joking about a person's religion, gender, ethnicity, socioeconomic status, or the way they look. For example, if there was a group of kids who made fun of another kid because he couldn't run as fast as everyone else, it would be an example of verbal bullying. 46.5% of all bullying in schools is the verbal type. Verbal aggression is when a bully teases someone. It can also include a bully making verbal threats of violence or aggression against someone's personal property.

3. Indirect bullying includes spreading rumors or stories about someone, telling others about something that was told to you in private, and excluding others from groups. An example would be if you started a rumor that a boy in your class likes playing with dolls, and if the reason that you made up the story was because you thought it was funny. This would be indirect bullying. Indirect bullying accounts for 18.5% of all bullying.

4. Social alienation is when a bully excludes someone from a group on purpose. It also includes a bully spreading rumors, and also making fun of someone by pointing out their differences.

5. Intimidation is when a bully threatens someone else and frightens that person enough to make him or her do what the bully wants.

6. Cyberbullying is done by sending messages, pictures, or information using electronic media, computers (email & instant messages), or cell phones (text messaging & voicemail). For instance, if you sent a picture of a snake in an email to a person because you know that they are afraid of snakes, that would be an example of cyberbullying. According to a survey done in 2003 only 4% of bullying is listed as "other types" and this would include cyberbullying. Even though this number seems small, the growth of this type of bullying is going up fast because of the spread of technology around the world.

Bullying And The Empath

Recent events on a website I used to belong to and moderate, called The Empath Community, have prompted me to write this blog about bullying because of the new group of moderators on the site.  Their behavior on site has been tantamount to bullying.  In saying this, I do not speak lightly.

After systematically removing any person who was outspoken enough to speak up about the new rules being implemented, which curbed the way members could interact with one another to a very limited way (only in a soft spoken supportive way without opinions that differ from those of the site leadership), they knowingly began allowing members to write slanderous things about me like my writing is plagiarized, I poison people's minds, or that I was a cruel and manipulative person.  All of these things amount to nothing more than bullying.

The sad part is, it wasn't limited to just me.  Many others have suffered the same as I have.  And while it might sound silly to care what people say about you on a website, I mean its just a website after all, it was a place I spent a great deal of time (3 yrs) living and working.  It was like a second home to me...and to many others.  So it left many people feeling violated.

From the experiences I've shared with you, and many others not mentioned, I've felt the shame and degradation, the anger and resentment, and the abject fear and sadness that it would continue.  And it has ripped me apart many times over.

But this blog isn't just about me.  It's also about you.  It's about all those who have been bullied at one time in their lives or another.  It's about those who spoke out against it or were to afraid to speak.  It's about those who were bullied verbally or physically and were forced to wear a brand of shame because of it.

And this blog is a reminder that each and everyone of you...that no matter what  people say about you or to you, or what how the perceive you and treat you, you are not alone.  And they, those bullies who suffer from their own inadequacies, do not set your worth simply because they want to make themselves look better to others and feel better about themselves.

You are special and unique, despite those things.  And you are precious...just for existing.  That is something bullies can not rob you of.  They can only make you believe they have, if you let them.  And they only have power over you so long as you give them that power out of fear.

Remember that because bullying can strike at any time.  And it can devalue you before you even realize what is happening. And only you,above anyone else, can remind yourself of just how special you truly are.  And always are loved because you are not alone in these feelings.  Most, if not everyone, has felt this way at least once in their lives.

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