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The Problem of Bullying

View from Train

Re-posted from Michelle's Weebly blog

Bullying affects everyone at some point. We can all remember either being bullied by someone, actually being the bully in a situation, or both. This is an issue that requires awareness and action. Silence or ignoring the problem only encourages bullying to continue. The movie that is being released about this issue will hopefully help to educate our global community more about prevention and how to deal with the problem. There are several excellent links at the end of this blog that may be helpful for you if you or someone you know is dealing with a bullying/abuse situation. The one key thing we must all remember about bullies of any age, gender, size...or the type(s) of abusing they do is that inside of every person who is a bully is a broken, hurting individual who has also been abused terribly. Essentially, if you can think of the biggest, scariest bully from your own experience, then imagine that this person, on the inside, is really a crying four year old who just wants someone to hold, love, and comfort him/her...then you have seen the reality of the situation. This is certainly not to downplay the massive amounts of pain and suffering that bullies cause to their victims. But, it does make why they bully more understandable, while also hopefully making them a bit less scary. They are living in a place of feeling powerless, inflating their own ego through victimizing others, while they actually exist in a victim mentality, not dealing with their own pain and making excuses for their poor treatment of others. In lacking the tools, like social skills and healthy coping mechanisms or the ability to ask for help when they need it, bullies instead resort to attempting to feel powerful by hurting and/or controlling others, which merely gives them a temporary high or just a partial escape from their own pain and undoubtedly adding more pain to the viscious cycle of abuse. BULLYING IS A LEARNED BEHAVIOR, like all abuse is. Children learn it from their parents, siblings, other kids, television or even teachers in some circumstances. If it isn't dealt with appropriately and immediately and healed from the inside out, the cycle continues indefinitely and becomes worse and worse as time goes on. This insidious issue should not and CANNOT be ignored or tolerated any longer in our schools or workplaces or anywhere. There is no place for any of this kind of abusive, ignorant behavior in a civil, free society. There are all kinds of bullies and abusers out there. I do not need to describe or label them all, as everyone has experienced a bully, whether through verbal/mental/emotional/spiritual or physical or sexual abuse. In reality, bullies work on two different levels. Of course they work on us physically and emotionally/mentally, but also work on us in a detrimental way energetically/spiritually, breaking down our defenses and literally stealing our vital energy away from us when we allow them to hurt us. In essence, in having lost so much of their own light to the trauma of being abused by others in their lives, they attempt to steal their victims' light, perhaps in the hopes that they can use it to heal themselves out of desperation. But, this is misguided thinking. We cannot keep or use the light or energy of anyone else. So, as part of the cycle, on some level the bully realizes this and moves on to the next victim, hoping it will take away the pain, even though the last victim didn't really help the hurting to stop. The last victim only made the bully feel worse about him/herself in the long run...and so the cycle continues on indefinitely like this, unless and until some kind of intervention and healing happens to stop it. So, how should bullying be dealt with, regardless of whether it is happening in a school or work or home environment? The answer is simple...but putting this into action can be difficult for people, given the fear and rage that most bullies tend to inspire. Initially, prevention is key here. Teaching tolerance, character education, and respect for diversity at home and in schools, while modeling compassionate behavior for growing children and teens is absolutely necessary to prevent bullying issues. Both the individual being bullied/harassed/abused AND at least a few onlookers (if there are any...because with some types of abuse there are, while others do not always have witnesses) MUST be assertive...not abusive/aggressive, but clear and direct in their communication that abuse is not tolerated in this space. It is imperative that the victim not allow him/herself to be victimized and brought down by a bully's abuse. He or she must choose to not become a helpless victim and should clearly state that this is unacceptable and will be reported immediately, regardless of what the bully threatens in words or actions. Also, it is extremely important that any bystanders do not simply stand by and gawk in fear or odd fascination of the bullying incident or that they merely walk by ignoring the scene either. Someone else in the group must care enough to stand up for the one being bullied. Those in authority must also take notice and deal with the situation as soon as possible. Ignoring the problem and making excuses for it sets a negligent tone as a leader that encourages others (like teachers, co-workers, parents, students, employees, etc.) to ignore something that should never be ignored. Rules created out of a sense of tolerance and fairness must be strictly enforced and abusers dealt with to the full extent of the law. But, the situation does not stop there. Aside from parents, teachers, administrators, bosses, employees, etc. being educated about the psycho-social causes and effects of bullying, they must also learn how to deal with the aftermath of a bullying situation, how to report it, whom to report it to, where to find help and additional support. Both the victim(s) and the bully ideally should be in counseling to help the healing process. Additionally, some of the bystanders may also need counseling or more support. The victim should be encouraged to openly discuss his or her experiences and should be educated and empowered after having been on the receiving end of abusive treatment. The victim may struggle with PTSD or depression and anxiety that manifests itself as both emotional and physical symptoms. Surrounding the victim with support, guidance, love, and healing is imperative to stopping the cycle of abuse, thereby preventing future incidents of verbal or physical violence. Victims who don't get help and healing often go on to become bullies later or to withdraw in pain, developing personality disorders, phobias, addictions, and even suicidal tendencies. This is something that must be dealt with immediately, especially in the case of children and teens. A network of support must be made available to the victim so that he or she can heal, forgive, and feel safe again. Victims and bystanders must also be taught about bullies and what causes their disrespectful behavior, learning that inside they are broken, hurting, insecure people who walk around perpetually feeling like helpless victims in life. This understanding can help to foster forgiveness and compassion for others who are in emotional pain down the road. It is also absolutely mandatory to help the bully, as difficult as this may be for some to accept. Who wants to help one portrayed as a monster victimizing innocent people, after all? Again, upon examining the bigger reality, that person is human, too, and is in desperate need of healing. If a bully doesn't get help and healing, he or she may then choose to participate in even more abusive or violent tendencies. That person's life can eventually end up spiraling out of control in other forms of escape from past abuse and trauma. Many bullies, if not put into counseling, go on to abuse drugs and alcohol, to attempt suicide, to abuse others, like their partners, and eventually, even their own children. After confronting the behavior of the bully, the question must be posed about what is hurting inside that individual to create such anger that he or she then turns to hurting others so badly. The bully, while he or she should be dealt with according to school or work policy and made an example of, must then also be treated with compassion and forgiveness in order to stop the cycle of abuse from continuing. The reality is that often times the bully is in desperate need of support, counseling, anger management, and feeling accepted and safe in his or her environment. The one doing the bullying is likely hurting terribly inside and, if confronted by a professional counselor in a respectful and private setting, will almost always break down and share the story of the hurt if he or she knows there won't be judgement or belittling that comes with the sharing. Therapy and education are important for stopping the bully's behavior and thought patterns from continuing. Counseling can help bullies to become more self-aware and to develop healthier coping mechanisms for stress and emotional trauma. So, to re-iterate, some keys to stopping the cycle of bullying are: -prevention, like rules/guidelines/laws prohibiting abusive behaviors from being acceptable and enforcement of those rules/guidelines/laws -education about bullying, what causes it, and how to speak to a bully who is abusing someone along with character/tolerance education -compassion, forgiveness, empowerment and teaching kids and adults to not allow themselve to be afraid of or controlled by bullies -clear and open communication by all involved -an ongoing network of support -a healthy home and school/work environment that encourages individuals to deal with stress and hurt/anger in healthy ways and encourages victims to come forward and report their experiences. It does no one any good at all to keep bullying or abuse a secret. It only encourages the bully to do even worse behaviors and to be more bold in his or her abuse of others. Abusers take your silence to be the "green light" to keep abusing. This is unacceptable in the society we live in and should be treated as such. If you or someone you know is dealing with a bully or abuser, here are a few websites that can help you to find the support, advice, and education that you may need to handle the situation and find healing: This website has a link to anything and everything you could possibly need to deal with a bullying situation. It is a wonderful site that is full of helpful information and tips. This website was created by the mother of a child who was bullied and in so much pain that he was pushed to the extreme act of committing suicide, because enough wasn't being done to help prevent or stop the problem. He was a beautiful child who really should have been given more support, while the bullies in the situation should have been dealt with immediately and also given counseling. His mother is carrying on in love and healing after his death with a legacy of peace and education through her work, which includes this website. A website that is loaded with tips, articles, and advice for bullying prevention and how to deal with a bullying problem after it starts. I recommend it, along with the other resources that the website offers for getting back a sense of empowerment and self-esteem after being abused. Another great resource for parents and teachers for everything relating to bullying and abuse. Organizations that can help with teaching tolerance and in educating kids to prevent bullying: The Peace Abbey educates people about various cultures and ways of life. The underlying message to all of their amazing teaching and programs is to foster respect and peace. They give a "Courage of Consciousness" award each year and have a large library of resources. This is a great place to visit as a family or for a school field trip. I love Facing History and Ourselves for many reasons. They train teachers and administrators to use literature and film to educate students about individual choices and responsibility, using historical events as examples. Their work is well known and is some of the best I know of as a teacher. I was trained by them when I first began teaching and relied heavily on their style of education and supplementary materials and programs throughout my career in public and private education. What they teach works. My old students are proof of that. The Forgiveness Project is helping people all over the world to use healthy conflict resolution and to forgive in order to stop the cycle of abuse from continuing. They do wonderful work and have helped many people of all ages and backgrounds. TeachAde is a terrific resource, especially for teachers and administrators. They have all kinds of helpful articles, links, and groups that are free. Of course, if you have any questions or need support or healing, you can also always feel free to contact us at Harmony Way at any time. We are happy to provide services, education, workshops/programs, and support for individuals, groups, schools, and work environments. If you are being or have been bullied, know that you are not alone and it will get better, especially if you speak up about it and learn to be assertive when dealing with bullies. You do not have to be anyone's victim anymore. There are many groups that can support you and help you through this if you are willing to talk about it. If you have bullied someone, think about how you can help to make the situation better. Would you go to counseling to get healing for the abuse that you have experienced in your life if it meant you could stop hurting others? Can you apologize sincerely for your actions to those you have hurt and stop the cycle? If you want support as part of your own healing process or want to help others, please feel free to share your experiences with being bullied or having bullied others...or just share your advice below in the comment section or on our "Forums" page of this website. You can also feel free to post any additional no-cost resources that you know of from your own experience to deal with/prevent bullying in the comments section below.

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