Bullying! When you hear that word, what comes to mind? Well, as a Sexagenarian, for years, my first thought was schoolyard boys picking on a more vulnerable girl or boy. For those of us where Lord of The Flies was required reading, you know what I mean. I have seen people impacted as adults from childhood bullying, which is not always physical, but when it is, especially in the 21st century, it is not limited to boys. Palpable scars are often the residual effects, and therapy or other corrective experiences may be the balm to provide relief.
A Whole New Animal
Bullying has become a whole new animal with the rise of the Internet.
We know that social media and texting has many benefits, which is another topic for another time, but the dark side of it has incredibly malevolent effects. Sometimes the abuse is stealth and initially noticed only by the oppressed recipient. Other times, the damage morphs into mob psychology with others joining the choir.
The Harmful Effect of Virtual Bullying
There is a form of bullying that is not physically harmful but can be mildly hurtful or extremely destructive. On many occasions, I have heard about both. Sadly, many adolescents have been receivers of this. Recently, I saw a young adult who, as an adolescent, was the victim of such harsh cyberbullying that the police had to get involved. My clients who are parents often share their angst watching their children experience this, especially their daughters. These budding females pull up Instagram and view pictures of their exclusion as their pals have a grand old time. I emphasize daughters because females, for the most part, connect on a very emotional level with their friends. When they are left out, the feeling of betrayal is quite excruciating.
Across The Life Cycle
Shunning, in this form, is not reserved for children. Although more harmful to our young ones because they lack the developmental resources fortifying against this behavior, adults through the life cycle may fall prey to this. Education and age do not shield them from the hurt incurred as they bear witness to these actions. Also, those who do the ostracizing may be quite educated.
Not long ago, one of my clients experienced this kind of behavior. A relative thought she would do their bidding for them on a specific topic. My client said, ”No.” Consequently, when she commented on social media, the relative ”liked” everyone else’s comments but hers. I supported the stance she took, which was for self-preservation. I went on to remind her there may be more of this behavior to pressure her into succumbing to their demands. Painfully, this very generous woman is aware of the possibility of more negative ramifications.
Another client also revealed similar but more innocuous behavior because the players involved do not influence her. This client disagreed with someone on social media. She was meticulous, and few people would have known to whom or what she was referring to unless they searched and carefully read the reference. Over the next few days and weeks, it became clear that the opposing party rallied her supporters as all of them ignored my client’s posts.
At the suggestion of another, my client reached out to try and clear the air, promoting the ”agree to disagree” mantra. The response was crickets. Thus, my client quickly withdrew the invitation. She is gritting her teeth but has decided to take the high road by giving limited but supportive engagement. My client decided she will not acquiesce to the drumbeat of petulance and recognizes in the long haul that this is life. Sadly whether they be young or old, many will not defend themselves or others to avoid upsetting the apple cart. As I indicated to this client, in the short run, you risk this kind of behavior when you buck the trend, but in the long term to be what I refer to as your platinum-style authentic self, of which I devote a chapter in my book Stop Depriving The World of You, there is nothing more liberating.
What About You?
Have you ever been bullied in any form? What has helped you overcome and be the best you can be despite this? Has tenacity or the better word, grit, been the main ingredient?