I have been preparing some work for the delivery of training for a group of youth workers and as the theme is safeguarding and protecting children, bullying will be mentioned. It is a scourge that has blighted so many of our childhoods, either because we couldn’t find a way to escape or because we in turn, became the bully.
I would imagine most people have been bullied at some time in their lives, either within the family, during school years or at work. There certainly seems to be a psychological need for any group to identify one of its members as the focus for abuse, derision or blame. This happens in families, in work situations and childhood groups.
“In terms of scapegoating at the small group level of analysis, it is a common observation of family therapists that the identified patient or client in a family system is typically the family scapegoat who unconsciously colludes with other family members to suffer openly the emotional stresses and strains of the family, so that the system of social relationships can appear as if it was otherwise emotionally stable and healthy” (Napier and Whitaker 1978).
Let’s Find Another One.
The strange thing is that if and when that victim leaves the group, another scapegoat is unanimously and covertly elected. It seems that human nature is as bizarre as we have always thought.
The Many Facets of Bullying
Bullying presents itself in many guises, from the overly friendly but insidiously vicious ‘good natured’ banter of male and female friendship groups in adulthood to the blatant isolation of a child or young person by the family or peer group at school.
We now have other forms of this abuse by the use of technology; we can text-bully, or cyber-bully our victims. It can go to such lengths that social networking sites now have to police themselves to prevent this from getting out of hand. I have heard stories where someone’s name and address was placed on one of these sites so that anyone and everyone could see where they lived and therefore make them vulnerable to more atrocious behaviour.
A Personal Experience
I remember my childhood being scarred by bullies – much older girls who took a dislike to me because my father was a policeman. They called me names, which is rather hard to tolerate with dignity at the age of eight. On one occasion they did not allow me to get off the bus at my stop and I had to walk home. I did tell my parents, and sometimes it was a positive to have a parent in the police force, especially when he visited their homes and informed their parents in no uncertain terms what would happen if their behaviour did not change.
Is there a Solution?
The problem with being bullied is that the experience can make some individuals more vulnerable to a different set of bullies. It is almost as if there is no armour to protect your soul. Fortunately that did not happen to me but it continues to happen to thousands of young and elderly people. The flip side of being bullied is that it can produce bullies. Some individuals feel that their only recourse is to do the same to someone else, so that it cannot happen to them again. Alongside the feeling of power that this must provide, there is the tingle of shame and humiliation that this is the only way to feel strong, by putting another person down.
We have all heard of bullying victims who felt that their lives had no purpose and killed themselves. What pain they must have suffered to feel so worthless and hopeless that this was their only perceived avenue of escape.
Whilst we can all benefit from more education and information about bullying and how to stop it, it would be very useful to identify why it starts in the first place.