Not only are victims of bullying not seeking help and support for issues related to being bullied, but the bullies themselves are not seeking any help for their behaviour, according to a recent survey by Counselling Directory. Just 7% of the 1,300 people surveyed admitted to bullying others at some point in their lives and only 17% of those people sought help for their behaviour.
Not many bullies see themselves as bullies, Counselling Director member Peter Ryan said. “One young girl ‘Mary’ who resided at a children’s care refused to be a victim of bullying and used her anger to get bullies off her back. Her aggressive assertiveness help turn the tables on her tormentors. Over time, other less expressive girls gravitated towards Mary. They formed a tight bond and started to get back at the bullies. Mary could not see that her behaviour was in fact, bullying. She saw herself more as a defender than a bully. The closest we ever got to Mary admitting she had bulling qualities was when she said, ‘it is better to be a bully than be bullied’”.
The main reason people who admitted to bullying gave for why they bullied others was peer pressure or following the crowd. However, professional counsellors indicated in the survey that the main reason people bullied others was to feel popular or powerful, with the second-highest rated reason being due to personal problems. Counselling Director member Karen Jones has worked with bullies like this. “I have worked with a young girl who was a bully as a result of peer pressure. She hated what she was doing and felt she had to do it to be accepted in the group”, Karen said.
Peter’s experience counselling those who have bullied others shows yet another perspective. “A young graduate ‘Dean’ working in the banking industry (who lost his position because of bullying staff) could not fully appreciate that his actions were bullying in nature. It took a number of high intensity counselling sessions before he could admit his destructive behaviour”. In Dean’s case, “it soon became evident that my client’s dad had instilled in him many masculine manners that revolved around achieving results. Dean was a witness/victim of domestic violence and in order to earn dad’s approval Dean learnt to hide his feelings, struggles and mistakes” Peter said.
There are many reasons why someone bullies someone else. It could be that they are unhappy with something in their own life and are taking it out on another person. They may feel powerless in other areas of their life, and so bully others to feel in control. In some cases, the bully is being (or has been) bullied themselves.
It may even be that their friends bully and they don’t want to feel left out. Whatever the reason, it’s rarely simple. If you are bullying others, you may be worried about talking to someone for fear of getting in trouble. But there are organisations that offer help to those who bully, as well as the victim. If you need to talk to someone, help is available.