I suspect bullying has been around since the beginning of time when the first cavemen picked up their clubs and beat others into inferior and humiliating positions, for no apparent reasons other than they were more powerful and they could. Once relegated to that lowly position, a primitive community recognized the scapegoat and allowed no more from him or her than a peripheral relationship, following the group at a distance and occasionally being allowed to sidle up like a maimed animal. As mankind evolved, so has its need to establish a social hierarchy, layer upon layer, with the disenfranchised suppressed at the bottom of the social strata. Not much has changed through the thousands of years we’ve walked the earth. In the human social arena we are sometimes kind and compassionate, and at other times we’re mean and intimidating. Since there are those who bully, subsequently there are those who suffer from its effects.
The question is why, in a highly developed civilization that reaches out to less fortunate nations around the globe in compassion and generosity, does bullying still exist? Not only does it exist, but it seems to be an inherent social behavior. In every species there are those that come into this world less capable, more needy, a little off-kilter, or in a multitude of ways different from the norm. In other words, there are easy targets. Being different can create a feeling of inferiority and/or an inability to be assertive and to stand up for oneself. In others it may stir up a dark side of intolerance, hatred, and the need to dominate. Psychologists state that the bully feels as bad about himself as the victim, and although this may be the case, it is the victim who bears the brunt of both sets of self-loathing.
Dr. Kenneth Jackson, Head of the Counseling Department, at Purdue University-Calumet, specializes in bullying and explains that bullying is a result of two parties suffering from deficiencies. The victim does not have the power to stand up to the aggressor, and the aggressor does not have the social skills to relate in another way. Both are socially inept, and both suffer self-esteem issues. With the aid of the Internet and its social networks bullying has grown to epic proportions and become even more virulent. Cyberbullying enables the aggressor to go viral in tormenting a victim. Devastation to victims and their families is endless and overwhelming. Without an intervention bullying can eventually lead to even lower self-esteem, depression, substance abuse (self-medication), post-traumatic stress syndrome, and even suicide. Once the bullying cycle begins, it will escalate until there is an intervention.
Early intervention is important, and adults significant in the lives of children can make a difference. Parents of victims and bullies need to realize the problem as a serious one and seek help from others such as pediatricians, counselors, and teachers. Once started, this process can help raise self-esteem and develop better social skills for healthier social interactions. In other words, the children involved need to develop the skills to replace destructive behaviors with constructive ones.
What can we do about bullying? Become aware of its presence. Be intolerant of it…just because we’re not directly involved doesn’t make it okay to look the other way. Call it what it is and intervene, or report it to other adults who can intervene, such as parents and teachers. Each of us has the power to initiate a change, but that change has to start within ourselves.