Buzz word alert: “Bully.” We’ve come a long way from Teddy Roosevelt using the word as a synonym for “good” or “well done.” When I was a child the things that are called bullying today were called “teasing” or “hazing” and it was part of growing up. I was small (until 10th grade) when I was younger. I had a quiet disposition but a sardonic sense of humor. My mother called me an habitual “smart-mouth” and would always tell me that my mouth was going to get me into trouble one day, to be sure that wasn’t the case I spoke softly. My clever little jibs often fuelled a few of the ruffians to get aggressive with me. I had to learn to be quicker and more witty than my opponent and try to do it without resorting to “foul” language. My mother believed, as I do, that foul language was because the person wasn’t smart enough to use better choices. I could usually talk my way out the same way I got in. Joking and playing until the offensive was diverted into laughing the tension off. But today’s Bullies are not teasers, ribbers or ruffians. Today’s bullies are mean-spirited, short-sighted and weak. The victims can no longer talk their way out of conflict because bullies are unrelenting and often their tactics are not carried out face to face. Their actions cause more damage to children, inside and outside, than the bullies of my time ever thought possible. And sadly the retribution from being so aggressive has been diluted to the point where no justice at all is rendered, sometimes the consequences even make the offense easier. Yes, the times have changed.
Bullies and bullying are frequent topics of discussion with anyone who works with children. Parents ask if we see bullying happen and what we would do, if we did. We hear stories that are terrible and stories that are triumphant. So over the next few posts I want to share a few thoughts, and the thoughts of some friends.
First off, what is considered bullying? These aggressive (or passive-aggressive) actions almost always have these few things in common: they promote the bully’s self interest, they demonstrate a dominance, there is a willingness to get results immediately without thoughts of long-term repercussions and the actions almost always come from the bully’s own insecurity. Bullies are almost also sociopathic. a sociopath never recognize the rights of others and see their self-serving behaviors as permissible. They see their victim as merely an instrument to be used. They feel entitled to act this way because of an over-inflated sense of self, they show no remorse for their actions and are so shallowly invested in others emotions that they feel that no one likes them and to gain favor they must show dominance. Angela Wurtzel, MA, MFT, CEDS, a psychotherapists says that bullies often lack the ability to care about other’s feelings. “I think that the roots of bullying, among teenagers in particular, have to do with early exposure to intimidation and victimization. Often times a bully has been abused or is a victim of bullying, and the abuse occurs because these people aren’t able to regulate their own feelings and use actions to calm themselves down.”
Next time we’ll look at what makes a bully and what makes a victim.