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Why does bullying occur?

Can bullying cause traumatic stress?

What measures can schools take to stop bullying?


943606-bullyThere are several different negative effects of bullying that are observed worldwide, by teachers, parents and counselors. The phenomenon of bullying has been age-old, but today there are a considerable number of psychologists who have proved that there are many negative effects of this phenomenon. And it is time to put a stop to it.

Bullying is a very common phenomena observed all over the world. The two prominent and widely observed classifications of bullying can be, bullying in children and work place bullying. The term bullying can be interpreted in different ways; it can be verbal, physical or merely a demonstration of power and implying negative consequences. Any type of bullying is downright unhealthy and also destroys the constitution and principles of the victim.

The impact of bullying on kids can turn very unpleasant, as most children cannot deal with this phenomenon on their own. If you ask any psychologist about physical signs of bullying, the description that would be put before you is bound to be the same. A victim of bullying is socially withdrawn and is a loner. If you glance at the playground during a recess, then the victims of bullying are usually spotted in the corners. Refusing to participate in anything, that makes them come into contact with a large number of people.

If the victim is a high school student then he or she will engage in something that is silent such as reading, sketching or writing. The victims will act like 383010-school-bullyingchameleons and will try anything possible, so as not to get noticed. Often psychologists attribute this to a loss of confidence and loss of self-esteem. There are negative effects as the victim becomes socially withdrawn, and tends to be under constant fear and stress. The stress is caused as a result of the fright of being hurt and insulted time and again in front of people. As the victims are socially withdrawn their soft skills are not exactly sharp, and as a result of the overall environmental stress, the grades often begin to drop. Victims can often be divided into two types, namely the ones who adopt internalization. These victims become socially withdrawn and loathe any kind of human contact. The second ones depict almost the same symptoms but there is a wild side to the ones who adopt externalization. These victims adopt violence and aim at destroying bullies and their reputation. Often such victims are successful in adopting violence, but it makes the cycle even bitter, as the action always invites back a reaction. Aggression is good in some cases; however an aggressive victim is often beaten up again by the alpha bully. Psychologists term the aggressive victims as ‘rebels’ and the silent ones as ‘constructive’.    Either way, long term impact of bullying tends to hamper the lives of many victims, if proper measures are not taken. At home, some common symptoms of bullying are observed. For example, bed wetting, loss of self-control and a lack of communication with the parents is observed. A common symptom is that the child refuses to attend school. When he comes back, a common sign is silence.

schoolThe phenomenon of workplace bullying is observed by many people, and in many cases also experienced. The first effect is that the victim hates work. This is usually observed when victim is publicly insulted. The second kind of bullying is a threat, quite unnecessary, by a superior. The usual reaction of victim is acceptance of the situation, where the stress goes on building up, and the victim enters an unpleasant era of frustration. In such situations the victim will notice that, he or she is not only being unhappy but is being suffering from deteriorating health and frustration. Workplace harassment causes some problems in one’s social life too. Constant bullying and harassment will result in loss of patience, in personal and professional life. To some extent, it will also affect the victim’s self-esteem and overall confidence. There is a probability of loss of concentration, and overall productiveness is bound to be hampered. The victims’ personal life is at times ruined as a result of the bullying, and often marriages fail. Workplace bullying often, unknowingly, result into some serious problems that can affect society at large.

Though it may seem normal to many, bullying can have some really ugly and long term consequences. If you feel that any of the symptoms of bullying are being observed, then it is time to act, really fast.

Both bullying and traditional forms of abuse are selfish and/or sadistic, destructive, and often violent acts perpetrated upon victims who do not in any way,200181253-001 shape or form deserve to be treated in that manner.    It has been suggested that ring-leader bullies (those who organize bullying) are behaving as though the emotional and physical health of their victims is not important or is at least less important than their own desire for the thrill of aggression and dominance.

Narcissists treat other people as though they were objects either to be used, or discarded, and the bully both uses his victim (for purposes of self-gratification and aggrandizement) and then discards him.

Now, children are fairly narcissistic by their very nature. Children are not born appreciating that other people are actually just like they are with their own needs and independent rights. A long period of development must occur before children grasp that the other people around them have needs and interests just like they do and need to be accommodated and accorded respect. The golden rule of treating others as you would yourself like to be treated makes no sense to a young child who has not yet matured to the point where this basic appreciation of the individuality of every person has been grasped. Instead, children need to be held in line with what amount to incentives (and sometimes punishments) for acting as though other people matter. Adult bullies who have not outgrown their childhood narcissism probably do qualify, but little kids are just going to be that way.

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The experience of being bullied can end up causing lasting damage to victims. This is both self-evident, and also supported by an increasing body of research. It is not necessary to be physically harmed in order to suffer lasting harm. Words and gestures are quite enough. In fact, the old saying, “Sticks and stones may break my bones but names will never harm me” is more or less exactly backwards. For the most part, physical damage sustained in a fist fight heals readily, especially damage that is sustained during the resilient childhood years. What is far more difficult to mend is the primary wound that bullying victims suffer which is damage to their self-concepts; to their identities. Bullying is an attempt to instill fear and self-loathing.  Being the repetitive target of bullying damages your ability to view yourself as a desirable, capable and effective individual.

There are two ugly outcomes that stem from learning to view yourself as a less than desirable, incapable individual. The first ugly outcome is that it becomes more likely that you will become increasingly susceptible to becoming depressed and/or angry and/or bitter. Being bullied teaches you that you are undesirable, that you are not safe in the world, and (when it is dished out by forces that are physically superior to yourself) that you are relatively powerless to defend yourself. When you are forced, again and again, to contemplate your relative lack of control over the bullying process, you are being set up for Learned Helplessness (e.g., where you come to believe that you can’t do anything to change your ugly situation even if that isn’t true), which in turn sets you up for hopelessness and depression.

At the same time, you may be learning that you are helpless and hopeless, you are also learning how you are seen by bullies, which is to say, you are learning that you are seen by others as weak, pathetic, and a loser. And, by virtue of the way that identity tends to work, you are being set up to believe that these things the bullies are saying about you are true.

It would be great if the average person was possessed of unshakable self-confidence, but this just isn’t how identity works. Identity is a social process. Otherbullying-kids people contribute to it. Particularly when people are young and have not yet survived a few of life’s trials; it is difficult for people to know who they are and what they are made of. Much of what passes for identity in the young (and in the older too) is actually a kind of other-confidence, which is to say that many people’s self-confidence is continually shored up by those around them telling them in both overt and subtle ways that they are good, worthy people. This is one of the reasons people like to belong to groups – it helps them to feel good about themselves. Bullying teaches people that they are explicitly not part of groups; that they are outcasts and outsiders. It is hard to doubt the reality of being an outcast and an outsider when you have been beaten or otherwise publicly humiliated. It takes an exceptionally confident (or otherwise well-supported) person to not internalize bullies’ negative messages and begin bullying yourself by holding yourself to the same standards that bullies are applying to you and finding yourself a failure. In other words, it is rather easy for bullying victims to note that they have been beaten up and then to start thinking of themselves as weak, no-good, worthless, pathetic, and incompetent. These are the sorts of thoughts that lead to depression, or, if they are combined with revenge fantasies, to anger and rage feelings.

p013ynsd-2The first ugly outcome of bullying unfolds rather immediately in the form of a wounded self-concept; the second ugly outcome unfolds more slowly over time. Having a wounded self-concept makes it harder for you to believe in yourself, and when you have difficulty believing in yourself, you will tend to have a harder time persevering through difficult situations and challenging circumstances. Deficits in academic performance can easily occur when bullying victims succumb to depression or otherwise become demoralized. They certainly also occur when victims ditch school to avoid bullies. The deficits themselves are not the real issue. The real issue is that if deficits occur for too long or become too pronounced, the affected children can lose out on opportunities for advancement and further study, and ultimately, employment.    Some people have reported leaving school early so as to avoid continued bullying, and, of course, this will have altered and limited the job prospects they have available to them as adults. Leaving school may be a dramatic (if occasionally realistic) example of how early bullying can affect one’s life, but there are surely other ways that anger or depression caused by bullying harms and developmentally delays people’s progress.

Inevitably, it is the sensitive kids who get singled out for teasing; the kids who cry easily; the easy targets. Targeted as they are, many sensitive kids learn tobullying_SS_114356341_081913-617x416 think of their sensitivity as a bad thing and to avoid it, and/or channel it into revenge fantasy and anger. This doesn’t much work when you are a kid (it is difficult to reinvent yourself without actually moving to a new place), and it can have negative consequences in adulthood when the same children, now emotionally avoidant or angry or cynical adults, find themselves having difficulty entering into or maintaining loving and warm intimate relationships.

Bullying needs to be addressed swiftly. The consequences should include recommendation for counseling for the bullies.   Many bullies have themselves faced terrible difficulties of their own. Some of these difficulties may be abuses (physical and verbal), violent episodes at home, chaotic lifestyles, and other disturbing experiences.

Kathy Kiefer


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