When a person is knocked to the floor or slammed up against the wall, we recognize the harm done and takes steps to prevent it from happening again. The act of physical harm is commonly frowned upon. Even if the target of harm is a member of an unpopular sub-culture, the violence involved will trigger alarm. Physical violence is a crime in any sense of the word.
If somebody has been hit, slapped, stuffed in a locker or kicked, there is no way to deny that someone’s physical and personal space is violated. A line is crossed. The term for this lind of behavior is “criminal action.” It is an expected norm for wild, lower animals to attack one another or even human beings. It’s part of their job. We don’t think anything strange about signs at the zoo that read “Stay out of the lion cage.”
Human beings are not lions. It would be smart to assume that act of violence by a person is indicative of psychiatric struggle. Look in the DSM-IV-TR under Conduct Disorder or AntiSocial Personality. Physical violence of any kind is part of the symptom criteria clusters. When bullying progresses from repeated social mind games to any sort of physical harm, stop calling it “bullying” and start calling it “criminal action.”
Have you ever noticed that a bully and target relationship consists of peer-support on the side of the bully? There may not be the matter of in-your-face cajoling from people surrounding the target, but harassment or intimidation continues permitted. It’s a social game based on self-preservation for everyone involved. If co-workers or underlings in the workplace are letting inappropriate treatment slide, then you can rest assure that none of them want to be targeted themselves.
The object of threat in this case is temporary. Bullying only has its strength in the targeted person’s belief of who has the real power. And this can be changed in an instant. The reversal in power happens, when the target responds to the bully’s shaming remarks, with a word or phrase that requires a further explanation. For example, when someone tells you “your too quiet” and the response to this is “explain”, the person who made such a statement has to come up with his reasons. Lets say that the bully does start listing what he believes are valid reasons for saying this. How about “Well you don’t talk much.” And you repeat the word “explain.” And then he says “Well I don’t hear anything from you when everyone else is talking.” This guy has made you the most powerful person in the workplace or classroom. And he has included everyone else in his obsession of your every action. What makes your behavior so powerful?
As you are effortlessly making him work for his justification in the bullying actions, everyone else can see strangeness in such behavior. Now, there is more focus on the bully’s struggle to defend the reason for such a weird action. Who wants to follow “weird?”
Some of the written devices I design and pass around, are based on my work with kids who are targets of bullying.
One of the last things I want to do is tell the kid “Oh you poor thing. That really sucks.” and then try to help him or her feel better.
What does happen in my sessions, is the fact-checking and hard-nosed process of what role he/ she plays in this situation (target of bullying). And I use a certain analogy to help myself get in there and act fast. A target of bullying does not typically see a light at the end of the tunnel. The child or adolescent has most likely been in this type of relationship for some time. The role of accepting harsh words and humiliating actions becomes routine. It is obviously not something enjoyed. Otherwise there would not be the target and no sense would come of labeling someone a bully.
I start to point out what the targeted person is willing to accept and take to heart from the other person, or people day after day. I ask about how much time is being spent feeling consumed by fear and anxiety and letting the bully have all the power. I make sure there is a conversation about how far this person has to go to avoid triggering extra attention or torrents of humiliation from the bully. It works to have all this stuff spelled out and made into awareness. The analogy which clearly describes what is going on has visibly made the lights come on. And I’m not afraid to use it.
Okay. If you could imagine someone coming up to you with a platter full of horse-dung sandwiches and saying “Eat these.” Would you eat them?
This is what’s happening every time you let someone’s words or actions rule your life. DWP