How to Not Let Bullies Get What They Want
In this chapter I am going to present what I think is the root cause of bullying. It is a learned behaviour which a child picks up very young that can stay unseen below the surface throughout someone’s life and the person might never know this learned behaviour is the very reason they get bullied by everyone.
This learned behaviour, I think, has far reaching, devastating consequences, particularly because it is learned in a person so young that it is unlikely they would have any recollection of the first time they displayed the behaviour. It is a response to something happening within a toddler’s environment that they are instinctively trying to change or sort out before they have the power of speech.
Here is a scene to depict my theory. Little Burt hears raised voices in the living room and toddles through to see his parents arguing. (If you are a parent and are thinking ‘oh so arguing with my partner is the cause of all my children’s problems is it?’ get over yourself!). Burt feels tension in the room and wants to dissipate it.
Therefore he does a silly little dance, knocks something off a table or perhaps relieves himself on the floor. If the arguing parents are distracted by Little Burt, which would probably happen, they could well still be angry but distracted by the pool of pee on the carpet, broken ornament or to attend to the child’s needs. The tension between the two people will be dispersed and the child will have learned how to remove tension.
This is what I call the release valve theory and I thought this up when I was being bullied in the office I worked in, in 2006. Ironically, although perhaps typically if you consider what I was saying about the power of language earlier, I was working on careers magazines for disabled graduates and I had just discovered I had Dyspraxia with maybe Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder or maybe a bit of Aspergers. Then I found I was being bullied about it or certainly the way I was being treated and spoken to was not very pleasant.
I noticed the following patterns:
What did I learn from this?
I didn’t know that subconsciously I disliked tension in the air so much that I would lend myself as an emotional punch-bag. However, by observing the dynamic in the room and the same pattern occur a few times, I could see that what I was doing was creating the dynamic.
This gave me power over the situation. I had a choice, which was to either to not react to the tension by diving straight into my work or if it was too uncomfortable to leave. I resigned but did seriously consider putting a lawyer on them. However, what was of more use to me was the discovery that I had a learned behaviour which made me a regular target for bullies. Priceless.
You don’t get anything from blaming other people for things that don’t work in your life. If other people are to blame, what can you do? Nothing. Therefore, forget blame and focus on responsibility. Notice the word ‘response’ in responsibility.
The word blame is not in there. Someone who is always a victim of misfortune is not great fun to hang around with. However, we all face genuine bad luck and misfortune sometimes and are the cause of things going wrong at other times. The best place to be is where you can identify times when your own speech and actions create patterns in the reactions you get from various sorts of people ranging from strangers to family. It’s like doing a jigsaw. You wouldn’t start with the middle pieces of just blue sky to solve a puzzle depicting a sunny Cornish beach scene would you?
As a rule, experiences you have before you are 18, or while adults are still responsible for you, are not always in your control. That does not mean that you can spend your life saying ‘because my mum did that to me’ or ‘I say that because my dad lost his job at a crucial time in my life’.
You would be the loser if you did that. When you are in control of what happens to you, it is time to start removing the negative effects or feelings of blame you might have accumulated when things happened to you when adults had control over your life.
It worth accepting that it is inevitable that parents are going to be annoyed, frustrated, thwarted or aggravated in some way and it may as well be said here that they might in some way, at some time bully the children who are dependent on them. As more people become aware that alternative avenues of behaviour are open to them, the less this will happen. However, you are the person who can make your life the best it can by learning from experiences you have had how to be someone who cannot be bullied.
I must say here, that it is very difficult for people to progress personally in a satisfactory way, who are not given autonomy when they are 18 years old. This book is aimed to assist people who have experienced extended chauvinist, dictatorial, boarding school upbringings. If you recognise yourself in this and can get benefit from this information, then I think everyone can gain from it.
Continued control over someone who has all their correct faculties happens sometimes to females from traditional English backgrounds because the accepted “wisdom” which has its roots deeply seated in out-moded social structures, marital and family law in the United Kingdom. A type of Georgian England persists behind the doors of England’s better off families, never sniffed around by social services.
I must add here that the United Kingdom is in no way alone with its deeply rooted social protocols which occur more frequently in social classes that believe themselves to be on display or important.
Humility is a way out of being bullied
We all have an ego. However your ego can get in the way when you are being bullied. Imagine hearing whatever a bully said and thinking to yourself ‘so what?’. This phrase shows indifferent to however you are being treated or spoken to and is very difficult to respond to. It is no good, of course, when a bully is holding you by the neck against the wall to look at your toes and squeak out a faintly audible ‘’so what?”
That is why I suggest thinking it first. Tell your mind that everything being said or done to you doesn’t mean anything. It’s not personal. When you can really feel it respond to the bully with a bold ‘So what?’ and see what their reaction is. If you are facing cyber-bullying, this would also be a useful response, to whatever is being said to you. In fact the word ‘whatever’ works pretty well too. Think of Katherine Tate’s character Lauren and how she tries far too hard to persuade everyone that ‘she’s not bothered and how unconvincing she is.
The following idea might be fun. Observe what people who bully do that makes you feel worst or particularly pushes your buttons and ask yourself what you don’t like about what they said or did. OK, the fun bit is yet to come. Has anyone ever replied to you with ‘whatever’? How did it make you feel about what you just said to them?
Whatever is one of the arch-bishops of sarcasm, in my opinion. How easy did you find it to think of something to say next? Here’s the fun bit. Notice what your bully does that you most dislike and say it to them instead of trying to reason with them or say anything else.
The exchange will probably end when you have just started to enjoy it! I don’t suggest imitating them as that tends to make people look a bit silly. If you are an executive director of a large firm, school playground behaviour won’t serve you well (am indulging in a comedy tangent here as I know you don’t need to be told this).
Particularly where work hierarchies are involved, the above suggestion would probably be unsuitable for a professional environment. I will look at workplace bullying in a later chapter as it’s not pleasant spending all that time in work with people who are nasty to be around, so you might need to consider wider options rather than just your response.