Bullying

When I first started therapy, it must have been the third or fourth attempt in over twenty years. On each occasion, I would be confronted by a wall of intense emotion, which always seems too difficult to face up to. The cause of some of it was clear, while other parts remained a complete mystery, until now.

It’s quite a coincidence that Anti-Bullying Awareness is all around us. This comes at a time when therapy has been coughing up hidden memories, of a time when early teenage years were subjected to prolonged and traumatic bullying by older boys in the neighbourhood. I posted about this last week. In “Bullying… the Shame and Humiliation”

The internet is currently awash with all sorts of “new” information regarding the effects of bullying. This is largely based on research carried out by two Universities, one here in the UK, the other in the US.

While I was aware of this information, I should have been more aware of the impact bullying has on someone’s life, from the initial humiliating incidents into adulthood and beyond.

As children, the older we become, the more self-conscious we can be. If we are bullied, there’s a real danger of believing the vile trash the bullies are saying and the entire experience invokes enormous shame and guilt.

We’re ashamed because there’s this internalised belief that if we weren’t so fat, so ugly, had a big nose with too many spots, or if our hair wasn’t so curly or greasy, then the bullies would leave us alone.

If we didn’t have a funny voice, act too effeminate, or be too tall or too short, then we might not draw so much attention to ourselves. We somehow automatically assume that all this is our own fault.

We then start to feel guilty for allowing all this to happen in the first place. If we were tougher, bigger or stronger and more able to stand up for ourselves, then none of this would be happening in the first place.

Unwittingly, adults can reinforce that self-blame process by targeting our soft nature as the reason for the bullying, rather than ostracising the unacceptable behaviour of the bully.

Until last week, I had never admitted to anyone that I was bullied because the shame and embarrassment are incredibly difficult to bear. There have been times, during psychological assessment, when I was specifically asked this question, but the answer was always soaked in denial. I wasn’t intentionally telling lies, but more like fooling myself.

I haven’t really paid too much attention to articles relating to this research, but the bits I did quickly scan, leaves me scratching my head wondering why it would take a survey of thousands of people to conclude with the findings.

Of course a child/teenager who is facing persistent bullying over a prolonged period of time will have issues with confidence and paranoia, which are likely to spill over into adulthood. It’s easy to see why they might avoid the bully-boys by missing school or even running away from home.

If a young person is unable to express their torment, the hurt and anger has the potential to manifest as many types of behavioural problems and easily impact on the ability to build and maintain personal and social relationships. That can easily lead onto various problems with mental health, drug and alcohol addiction and self-destructive behaviours.

As we grow up and our bullies become young adults, their personal attacks usually become improper, but our memories and the effects can be eternal. I used to pretend it wasn’t happening and continued to deny the influence it had on everyday life.

All this came as quite a surprise. It feels a little bit similar to denying an addiction; we’re unable to admit the destruction until we can face up to the problem.

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9 thoughts on “Bullying

  1. Priceless Joy

    This is absolutely true. Great post! I wasn’t bullied at school, I was bullied at home for my entire time with my family. It has had devastating results on me now, and to make matters worse, my family won’t own up to it. To them, it is my fault for not being a “stronger” person. Or this, “it didn’t happen to them so why should they care.”

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  2. mythrider

    So true! I was bullied from 7th grade until 11th grade (I live in the US and I think in UK they call it secondary school). I switched schools. I realized that the bullying was so bad that I had PTSD and couldn’t remember anything of what happened for 3 years. I have flashbacks in my sleep still although they are taken up by new PTSD from domestic violence which now I think I have C-PTSD. I still struggle with the memories of the day they threatened my life. Cyber bullying is real too. It is what led to my mess and I was suicidal back then. Thankfully my best friend knew I was crying and quickly called my mom and I was saved. I want to help those that are bullied. I hope no one ever has to experience the hurtful words and tormenting again!

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    1. Cat Post author

      I’m sorry to read you were also badly affected by heartless bullies. Bullying can come in all shapes and sizes and, unfortunately, that too can include internet. I’m sure being open about your experiences will help many others

      Thank you so much for taking the time to comment

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      1. mythrider

        Thank you. I was also bullied in person, but the internet drew the line and my mom reported it to the police. I now try to advocate for bullying and raises awareness. Hope no one gets bullied again.

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  3. mandy

    I’m so glad you are getting in touch with your past bullying/bullies, Cat. Here we go again–I’m in that place, too! It’s really weird but the way I started “getting” it was, I began to realize that even as a grown-ass woman, I’ve continued to let people bully me. Not in the way it happened when I was a kid– it looks different now that I’m an adult. People-like the therapist I just wrote about who took advantage of my depression: he told me I could never get better BUT I could put a 2nd mortgage on my house so I could afford talk-therapy FOR EVER. Taking advantage is another form of bullying. I’ve had a couple editors of my book take advantage of my being a first time author by doing (what I know now with more experience) an absolutely shitty job. As I get in touch with my early bullies, I can look closer at each interaction I have now and make a better judgement as to what is going on. I knew the remark my mother made to me “You will always ruin everything you ever touch” was a mean, bullying remark. So why do we hang on to these bully remarks, let them define who we are? Don’t worry, Cat. We’re gettin’ it 😉

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    1. Cat Post author

      Lol Mandy, I shouldn’t laugh but that crass comment, “You’ll always ruin everything you touch” is similar to what my Mum would say, “You’ll never amount to much”. Unfortunately, we seem to internalise those cruel ignorant comments, but thankfully we are now seeing through them.

      I think, when we are on the receiving end of such treatment from an early age (especially when it has come from both inside and outside home), there’s a danger of allowing other people to bully us throughout our lives. We might not be aware of it at the time, but perhaps we believed it was all we were good for. All through my life, I’ve been so preoccupied with trying to please and not hurt anyone’s feelings, I didn’t actually notice when they were taking advantage. It’s easy to see it now. Thank God we see it now!

      Yes, I did read your last post and was infuriated by what that AH said. I’m just about to comment on that now. Thank you, Mandy. Hope you’re doing well…

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  4. myspokenheart

    Cat, you are making real progress. Every step, no matter how small it may seem, is huge! I think you are doing amazing. 🙂

    Bullying is a tragic thing that is far too common. Bullying at home is dreadful. Having to live through it on both fronts (home and school) seems unbearable.

    But Cat you are a survivor, and you will make it through, this I know. ((HUGS))

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