Bullying occurs when a person or group is able to overpower a victim, causing pain and distress. It is not restricted to the playground, and operates at all levels of society and within all age groups. It is endemic in many workplaces and families. Within families, where bullying often originates, it is known as domestic violence.

It is estimated that half the population were bullied as children. Many adults report that childhood bullying has blighted their later lives; jobs, relationships and mental health can all suffer.

Bullying can be difficult to tackle as it is often a complicated pattern of behaviour. It can be physical, verbal, emotional, racial or sexual.

Physical bullying includes pushing, hitting, slapping or punching. Verbal bullying includes personal attacks, put-downs, gossip or teasing. Emotional bullying includes tormenting or excluding people, often in subtle ways. Other forms of bullying include racist, sexist or abusive behaviour. Cyberbullying involves using technology to intimidate and attack others by mobile phone or website.

According to Professor Dan Olweus bullying is “Repeated intimidation of a victim that is intentionally carried out by a more powerful person or group in order to cause physical and/or emotional hurt”.

Symptoms indicating that a person is being bullied can include:

  • Not wanting to attend school, college or work
  • Feeling powerless and passive in the face of attack
  • Feeling undermined and losing confidence
  • Maintaining secrecy about another’s behaviour
  • Experiencing stress and anxiety, becoming more withdrawn
  • Having nightmares or panic attacks
  • Appearance of bruises or money going missing (common in children)

Bullies are characterised by:

  • Addiction to power and aggression
  • Lack of empathy
  • Need for admiration

Bullying involves two or three parties; the bully, the victim and possibly the bystander/s. It can start in a mild form and escalate.

The Bully:

  • is often aggressive, feels his/her needs are more important than those of other people
  • may have been a victim of bullying
  • may belong to a family where bullying is normal
  • may feel insecure or inadequate

The Victim:

  • is often passive, insecure or withdrawn
  • may have low self-esteem and little confidence
  • may find bullying familiar and reassuring
  • may find it difficult to tell anyone about the problem

Sometimes bullying is referred to as a ‘game’ in which the participants join and seem unable to stop. Secrecy is a major component of the game, with bystanders colluding with the bully and dismissing the effects. Bullies often prey instinctively on victims who may unconsciously reveal their passivity and compliance through body language or through their isolation.

When is the right time to seek help?

  • When a person finds him/herself drawn into one of the roles
  • When she/he feel anxious yet unable to deal with a situation
  • When bullying starts to affect life or work
  • If a person still feels affected years after the event
  • If the trauma of early bullying has never been addressed

How can Counselling help?

The ability to feel assertive, rather than passive or aggressive, is a way to overcome bullying, but this may be difficult. If you grew up in a family of bullies and victims it is easy to adopt one of these roles, or move between the two. Acknowledging the problem and being able to talk about it, is often the first step to ending any collusion.

Family bullying is known as Domestic Violence.

A trained counsellor may help a victim or bully to consider healthier ways of relating and to look at issues of anger and passivity. Issues of low self esteem  trust and confidence can also be addressed. Relationship Counselling may be useful to establish more positive patterns of thinking and to examine some unhealthy beliefs.

A person may find him/herself repeatedly bullied and wish to look at the personal investment in this process in a non-judgemental environment.

There are specific skills which are useful in bullying; transactional analysis and assertiveness techniques and cognitive behavioural therapy can all be helpful.

Bullying in early life can fix a person into an unhealthy way of relating which permeates their life at every level and limits their potential.

Further Info & Advice

Contact: Francis – Email : careers1@eircom.net or 0861074445

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