Today is Anti-Bullying Day. And here’s a piece to commemorate it.
Why on earth would anyone bully another? How does bullying benefit the bully? While we struggle to understand questions like these, right now, someone out there is pining beneath the unforgiving blow of the bully.
What is bullying? Various definitions of bullying exist, and most are phrased to delineate that which occurs among children. But it is known to take many forms, and occurs even among adults. Cyberspace has provided yet another arena for the bully to make his presence felt.
Definitions of bullying generally have some core components. The first is “unwanted aggressive behaviour”. Acts of bullying are usually accompanied by some form of aggression which is directed against the victim. Secondly, there is usually an observed or perceived power imbalance. Bullies typically prey on the vulnerable, or a person who is disadvantaged in some way. Finally, concerning bullying behaviour, there is repetition or high likelihood of repetition.
Bullying could be direct, where it is perpetrated by face to face interaction, or indirect, e.g. spreading sensitive or false information behind the back of the victim. It could also be verbal, physical or relational, the latter being an attempt to destroy the relationships of the reputation of the abused.
Research has shown that some persons are more likely to get bullied than others. People who are shy, introverted, nervous, non-assertive and conscientious overpopulate the receiving end of bullying. And this is either because their buttons are easily pressed, and/or because with them, the bully can get away with whatever he or she does. Again, vulnerable groups are more likely to suffer bullying. Characteristics such as race or physical deformity, gender, and very commonly, sexual orientation puts a person at risk for bullying.
The Bully, on the other hand is harder to understand. People generally assume that bullies suffer from low self-esteem, but research has shown the reverse to be commoner in scenarios. Surprisingly, some bullies have an inordinately high opinion of themselves. But since the bully needs to oppress another to feel in charge, this suggests that they feel incomplete or inadequate. The feeling of superiority is therefore a mask for deep-seated inferiority, which even they are not aware of.
Bullies are thought to be antisocial. Being unable to place themselves in the shoes of another, they are lacking in empathy, an important component of pro-social behaviour. They are therefore mostly unaware of the true extent of the damage that results from their behaviour and are lacking in remorse.
“The abused abuse” is a common maxim that applies to some bullies. Having experienced lots of negativity themselves, bullying becomes an outlet for their pent-up anger. Not all bullies have been abused, however. Other factors such as poor and inconsistent parenting in childhood, reward for bullying behaviours, susceptibility to peer pressure, psychopathy and even mental disorder play a role.
People generally focus on the dyad of bullying (bully versus bullied), yet socio-cultural and environmental factors are known to play a prominent role. Bullying occurs in environments that deliberately or inadvertently enable it.
Bullying harms its victims in many ways. Suicidality and suicide is a common consequence of bullying, as well as others such as depression, anxiety, low self-esteem, social withdrawal and reduction in personal achievement. Interestingly, it has been shown that bullies themselves can suffer similar outcomes.
So what can we do about bullying? Are you getting bullied? If yes, there are a few things you need to know. The most important is this: STOP PLAYING THE VICTIM! The bully wants you to play this victim role. When you cry, beg, become afraid, get angry, act all hurt or broken in response to bullying, know that you are giving the bully exactly what he or she wants. This “victim response” is precisely what the bully needs from you and is the only thing they need and get as a reward. Do you want any behaviour to continue? Keep rewarding it and it will. This is a 101 principle of human behaviour.
If you don’t give the bully what he wants, he gets disappointed and loses all his power. Bullying commonly stops in the face of defiance or resistance. This is precisely why the bully preys on the weak. He is careful to choose who is less likely to defy him. Sometimes, what is needed is a firm, verbal response to the bully.
Some bullies (commonly cyber-bullies) specifically want to piss you off. Your screaming and counter-attacks can therefore be a reward too. Instead of getting angry, you can just say “thank you” and disappoint them. Don’t let the bully press your buttons. Stay calm, be firm, display no anger, fear or sadness, stick to the facts, and say a bold NO to bullying. If you must face your bully, be smart about it. Prepare well in advance of the encounter. Rehearse what you intend to say. Take steps to ensure your own safety.
Sometimes you may just need to separate yourself from the bully, if you can. You don’t need all that negativity in your life. Are you suffering cyber-bullying? There is a reason why the block button exists. Use it. It is perfectly okay to do so.
Finally, I should say “Happy Bullying Day” to you. Except that there is nothing happy about today. Many across the globe have committed suicide in response to bullying. Today is therefore a solemn reminder of this evil phenomenon and its consequence. We are reminded to do everything in our power to stop every form of bullying.
Written by Sensei