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Bullying

Bullying has three main features; deliberate aggression, unequal power and pain or distress. It usually involves repetitive intimidation by a person in a more powerful position to cause distress. Bullying is not restricted to the playground, and operates at... 

Bullying has three main features; deliberate aggression, unequal power and pain or distress. It usually involves repetitive intimidation by a person in a more powerful position to cause distress.

Bullying is not restricted to the playground, and operates at all levels of society and within all age groups. It is endemic in many workplaces and families. Within families, where bullying often originates,

Who gets bullied?

It is estimated that half the population were bullied as children. Although many recover from the experience and develop skills to protect themselves many adults report that childhood bullying has blighted their later lives; jobs, relationships and mental health can all suffer from early conditioning. This is often the case when either the family or the school condones bullying and there is only the option to bully or be bullied. Increased awareness and openness about the prevalence of bullying in any organisation is relatively recent. Many schools have a policy on bullying and offer realistic strategies to tackle it. Some workplaces can promote the idea of aggression as part of the formula for commercial success, but this is often short-sighted.

Types of bullying

Bullying can be difficult to tackle as it is often a complicated pattern of behaviours – many of them subtle which draws in the passive, active and chronic victim as well as the bully and the bystander. It can be physical, verbal, emotional, racial or sexual.

Physical bullying includes pushing, hitting, slapping or punching. Verbal bullying includes personal attacks, put-downs, gossip or teasing. Emotional bullying includes tormenting or excluding people, often in subtle ways. Other forms of bullying include racist or sexist behaviour where one set of values are debased by those of another group. Cyber-bullying involves using technology to intimidate and attack others by mobile phone or website.

According to Professor Dan Olweus of Bergen University, bullying is “Repeated intimidation of a victim that is intentionally carried out by a more powerful person or group in order to cause physical and/or emotional hurt”.

Signs a person is a victim of bullying

  • fear or loss of interest in activities
  • isolation and withdrawal
  • powerlessness and passivity
  • loss of confidence
  • secrecy
  • increased stress
  • symptoms of anxiety
  • depression
  • nightmares or panic attacks
  • aggressive behaviour
  • appearance of bruises or money going missing (common in children).

Why does bullying occur?

Bullying cultures can develop in workplaces and educational establishments but it often originates in early family patterns of handling power. Bullying involves two or three parties; the bully, the victim and possibly the bystander/s. It can start in a mild form and escalate.

Many bullies are former victims who operate on a bully/victim/bystander triangle. Lack of boundaries, inadequate parenting and violence can foster such a culture.

Sometimes bullying is referred to as a ‘game’ in which the participants join and seem unable to stop. Secrecy is a major component of the game, with bystanders colluding with the bully and dismissing the effects. Bullies often prey instinctively on victims who may unconsciously reveal their passivity and compliance through body language or through their isolation.

Bully characteristics 

  • is often aggressive, feels his/her needs are more important than those of other people
  • may have been a victim of bullying
  • may belong to a family where bullying is normal
  • may feel insecure or inadequate.

Victim characteristics

  • is often passive, insecure or withdrawn
  • may have low self-esteem and little confidence
  • may find bullying familiar and reassuring
  • may find it difficult to ask for help.

Bullying behaviour can be illlicited by extreme victim behaviour, often witnessed in the workplace even to the surprise of the emerging bully. The victim position is not a powerless one by any means.

How can counselling help with bullying?

When bullying starts to affect life or work or health it may be time to consider the pattern with professional help. A chance to examine how one feels drawn into it and one’s own investment in it can allow healthy new patterns to emerge. Stress reactions, depression or anxiety might draw the attention of others to the effects of bullying when a person feels no sense of entitlement to complain. So the GP or occupational health advisor may helpfully track the origin of the symptoms to some form of bullying when it might be addressed as unacceptable and harmful.

A formal complaint at work, the ending of a relationship or new knowledge may inform the bully who has been unaware of the effects of their own behaviour. It may be the first time that either bully or victim understands the pattern they are trapped in. This can allow the problem to be considered from a new perspective. But maintaining the changes and finding new patterns may require support and understanding to be long-standing.

The trauma of early bullying can be dealt with safely with skilled help so that new ways of relating might be considered as an alternative future pattern. These may need to be reinforced and practised in safety in a counselling environment until confidence is increased.

The ability to feel assertive rather than passive or aggressive is a way to overcome bullying, but this may be difficult if you grew up in a family of bullies and victims. Acknowledging the problem and being able to talk about it is often the first step to a healthier way of relating. Family bullying is known as Domestic Violence.

A trained counsellor may help a victim or bully to understand their relationships and to look at issues of anger and passivity. Issues of low self-esteem, trust and confidence can also be addressed. Relationship Counselling may be useful to establish more positive patterns of thinking and to examine some unhealthy beliefs.

A person may find him/herself repeatedly bullied and wish to look at the personal investment in this process in a non-judgemental environment.

There are specific skills which are useful in bullying; transactional analysis and assertiveness techniques and cognitive behavioural therapy can all be helpful.

Bullying in early life can fix a person into an unhealthy way of relating which permeates their life at every level and limits their potential.

  • Wednesday, 01 August 2012

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Website is very informative :)

Super User Super User 29. July, 2012 |