We All Have Experienced Bullying, In One Way Or Another
"Thank you, Jessica," Maddie said in a way that made it seem like she just won an academy award. I was shocked. Who was I in all this? I was the bully, and Jessica had just stood up for the girl I was bullying.
I don't remember what I had said to Maddie, but a few friends and I were poking fun at her. We were in 5th grade.
The reason we bullied Maddie is because, honestly, she was an easy target. She was different, maybe a little nerdy, and a little socially awkward. Basically, she was everything I didn't want to be (but was, anyway) and since I didn't like myself and was afraid to be myself, it seemed the thing to do was to attempt to separate out the things I didn't like about myself. I did this by finding them in someone else and ridiculing them for it. I was trying to prove that I was different than her, but instead I made myself into something far worse - a hypocrite and a bully. It took a long time to figure out what I was doing and begin to accept and appreciate the pieces of myself that I had made fun of in Maddie.
It all seems pretty cut and dry, but there's more to it than that. Through my work with Janice; I've begun to learn about energy and beliefs. Have you ever been feeling fine, and then you'll get a phone call from someone who is complaining about something they are trying to do and how they can't get it right? Instead of just calmly being able to answer their question or reassure them they can do it, you may begin to feel angry or frustrated with them. You respond with criticism or lash out; telling them that they should know how to do this already or ask them, "how many times are you going to call me with the same stupid thing," etc. What we don't realize is this:
People who feel bad about themselves can draw out anger, frustration, or ridicule with their energy, especially from those closest to them. We can mirror what others feel about themselves without even realizing that is what is happening.
Have you ever been feeling really bad about yourself, like you just can't do it, or you feel like you're a real screw up; and then someone comes along and says something to reinforce this idea?
I'll give you an example: I was running behind one morning and didn't clean up my dishes from breakfast. As I'm walking out the door, I am feeling frustrated, like I just can't get anything right, be on time for anything, and am generally just a disaster. As I am driving to work; I get a message from my roommate "Can you please clean up after yourself!? You always leave things a mess!" it said. I already felt bad about not being able to do my dishes, and I was beating myself up for running late. Then, I get this message and it just reiterates to me that I am a screw up.
It felt awful. But is it real?
My roommate was responding to the way I already felt, and her emotions, fears, and beliefs got mixed in there too.
Bullies and their victims often share similar beliefs. Often, they both feel there is something wrong with them, that they won't be accepted the way they are, that they don't matter, and/or that they can't do anything right. For these reasons, they feel they are different or don't fit in. We often hear in our work that people feel like they just don't really belong, that no one will accept them the way they are and that no one really cares. Underlying all of this, are the feelings that we are "not good enough." The difference is in what people do with it. Some people hide, and hold their energy in close to themselves. They are fearful that others will see their flaws and they try to keep people from seeing them. They don't feel good about themselves and try not to draw attention to themselves. They can feel very victimized by the people around them and the world.
The second type of person is someone whose fear and dislike for themselves is also profound, but instead of turning in; they turn out. The will strike first, draw attention to others, ridicule, can be abusive and mean. By doing this, they feel more powerful. Instead of being the victim they become the victimizer. They use their abusive actions and judgements to make themselves feel better, feel like they matter, and/or are important. They instead choose to focus that dislike outside themselves and blame others.
People are afraid to really be seen, but how we handle it will differ from person to person. A bully and their victim typically have more in common then people really realize. It is a relationship that is built on the beliefs they share about themselves. It is almost more like a dance. One of the ways Janice helps people manage bullies is to teach them about this energy connecting them, and help them to alter or change it so that the bully isn't drawn so much towards the would-be victim. She also emphasizes the need for the group to stand up against bullies. Many people are afraid that they'll be next if they stand up to a bully, but typically a person who doesn't feel bad about themselves already can stand up to a bully and avoid becoming a victim. Even if the bully says something mean; it won't affect them because they feel good about themselves.
Bullying is a real problem, and one of the biggest issues with it is that a lot of adults actually bully. It may seem different, or that we have a good reason for the way we treat others. The judgement, the hate, and the fear may feel different than when we were children. We may have grown up but we, most of us anyway, have not grown out of our own insecurities that we felt as children. We are the role models for our children and what we teach them, whether we know it or not, is very much the same cycle as what we learned. It is possible to change this, but it must change from a standpoint of awareness, not blame. Most of us don't go around hurting others on purpose, and if we do it is because we feel we have been hurt.
Bullying isn't a child thing, it's a people thing and a world epidemic.
That's why we call our program Bullying Exposed. We are working on getting to the root causes of bullying: which are our feelings of low self worth and self esteem, and our feelings of not being good enough. We try so hard to be the same or to fit in with the crowd instead of embracing our differences.
Bullies are really people who are just afraid of their own insecurities. When kids, adults, organizations, or governments bully; it's because they are afraid. Often, they are trying to make themselves feel better by highlighting the difference between themselves and the people or ideas they are ridiculing.
We have to help people who abuse, try to control, make fun, and cut others down understand what they are actually doing, which is really just hiding behind their fear/anger and not actually dealing with the real problem. They think that by hurting others; they will make themselves feel better. Well, I can tell you from first hand experience that this is not the case. When Jessica stood up for Maddie that day; I felt really bad about what I had done. Here, Jessica was one of the more popular girls in school, and I wasn't. The fact that she would stand up for Maddie, a girl who I considered "below me" really stuck with me, and I realized that what I had done was wrong and I was really mad at myself. I had been punishing myself for a long time for that, believing myself to be a mean or bad person, and treating myself as if I was.
It is worth noting that the teacher was right there, and hadn't said anything to myself or the other girls. It was only Jessica who said something, and then, after the fact, the teacher gave her a pat on the back for sticking up for Maddie. Janice says that this is actually a good thing. The adults shouldn't get involved with the group dynamics of the kids. Children need to learn to band together as a group to stand up against bullies. Otherwise, they will always be looking for an authority figure to protect them or handle their problems. This is all well and good until there isn't one to be found.
As a side note- I really wish that at some point, the teacher had spoken to me about why I bullied Maddie, and helped me understand that the anger and frustration I was feeling was a normal thing to feel at that age, but that I needed to find ways to deal with it other than lashing out. Another options was if she had helped to facilitate a talk with Maddie where we went into bigger depth about what it had made Maddie feel for me to be mean to her, and why I had done it in the first place. It's important to realize that bullies are hurting too. They just are funneling that pain into anger and hate rather than into sadness. I'm not saying it's excusable, especially when people know better, but it is understandable, and what's more, given time, patience, and practice; I do believe it is possible to fix as well. We need to expose the dynamic that creates bullies and we need to help victims to begin to gain self confidence and love for themselves so they don't present as targets so easily.
No one is truly a victim, we all have a choice about how we feel. No one can make us feel anything. They can try. But on some level we have to agree with them. We have a choice how we react to people. Awareness is key.
It's worth mentioning that in my youth; I was bullied, too. I had blocked this out for a long time, but I remembered recently that in 3rd grade, my whole class made fun of me for having a crush on a boy. I think someone had overheard me say something and it began to spread throughout the classroom. Everyone began singing and chanting, "Christine has a crush on Jeremy" and I got really upset, and started to cry because he was sitting there. I didn't go back to school for two weeks. So, maybe that has something to do with why I wouldn't want to feel vulnerable anymore, and made fun of another girl. And that is typically the way it will go. Bullying is a cycle, just like abuse is a cycle. People learn it somewhere, and it's usually because they have been hurt and don't want to let that happen again. I have learned alot just from looking at the ways I have been hurt in my life and how I then changed my behavior to try to protect myself from further hurts. If you've ever had an experience with bullying, whether you are the bullied or the bully; I highly suggest you begin to explore the programs we offer here at Miylana and Bullying Exposed. Janice offers much in the way of workshops and resources to begin to identify the parts in you that were hurt, felt victimized, or lashed out to protect. As Janice says,
"Most people are not trying to hurt you unless they are mentally unsound. If they are hurting you, it's because they themselves are in pain."
Learn more about bullies and ways to use your energy to protect yourself, check out upcoming Energy Affects classes or our Bullying Exposed programs.