Breaking the curse of bullying
I was talking to someone yesterday who had just returned from a school reunion. She told me that she had been dreading the evening but didn’t know why. During the event a former classmate approached her. She apologised to the person I was speaking to for calling her names at school and asked for her forgiveness. My friend, was more than a little surprised by this - after all, it was fifty years ago! But apparently, as she drove home, she felt like a weight had been lifted off her shoulders. She told me, “I never realised how much the bullying affected me. I have carried those names and moments with me for over fifty years. I feel like a curse has been broken.”
I don't think we can underestimate the potential impact of bullying. This week in school people are being given the silent treatment, being sniggered at, called names and being physically assaulted. I haven’t even mentioned all the cyber-bullying that takes place. Sadly, it’s not only in schools. We would like to believe that when people grow older the bullying stops but most people know someone who has been the victim of workplace bullying in all its’ different guises. The effects can be just as damaging as the cruel names whispered in the playground.
As someone who suffered at the hands of bullies at school, I have spoken to a lot of children and young people about my experiences. I tell them, “The real problems began, not with the name calling, but when I started to believe that the bullies were right - there really was something wrong with me.”
The real curse of bullying is that the victim can start to believe that there is something fundamentally wrong with them. They can start to believe that they have less value in the world than the person next to them. In other words, a bullying victim’s very sense of self can be shattered by the words and actions of others.
Bullying doesn’t always have such a devastating effect. Some people are able to shake off the words and actions of bullies. However, many others aren’t able to. There can be lots of reasons for this but sometimes bullying can hook into earlier negative experiences and reinforce the idea that there is something wrong with us.
Thankfully, bullying does not need to be a life long curse. Even if, unlike my friend, you never get an apology from your bully, you don’t have to live the rest of your life feeling like a second class citizen. No matter how long ago or how recently you have been bullied, counselling can help. If you have been bullied but aren’t sure if it still affects you, think about these questions:
- If someone was to call you the name(s) you were called when you were bullied, how would you feel?
- Do you feel like there is something wrong with you - but perhaps you’re not sure what?
- If you were to walk into an environment similar to the one where you were bullied or you met someone similar to the person who bullied you - how would you feel?
- Do you avoid certain situations because it will remind you of being bullied or may put you into contact with someone who bullied you?
- How would you feel about telling someone about being bullied?
If you felt a strong reaction to any of the questions, then it may be that you would benefit from seeing a counsellor to look at whether bullying has had a deeper effect on you than you would want it to.
Firstly, a counsellor can help you start to consider how or if the bullying has had a deeper effect on you. Secondly, through counselling you can start to “re-programme” your mind. You can start to build a more positive and realistic view of yourself and the world around you. A good counsellor will be able to help you find the positive qualities in you (and help you believe it!) and also help you to leave any sense of blame where it belongs - with the perpetrator.
Good luck to all the victims of bullying out there. I hope you find the courage to break it’s curse and walk with your head held high.