It has been my experience that people who bully others in a malignant way do poorly in life. Their ability to establish Oneness with their Spiritual Source is often seriously compromised and difficult to repair. Unable to sense Oneness within, they are unable to establish Oneness between themselves and others.
One of the more serious effects of bullying include the fact that the individuals who are bullied are forced to experience the brokenness of the bully’s mind. They are able to establish Oneness within and between but haven’t yet developed the ability to defend themselves from such an attack. Let’s look into this ability and how we can help those who have been bullied recover fully.
A Developing Sense of Self
Every parent, friend, counselor, teacher or coach wants to help those who have been bullied. Often a person is bullied during the critical time of development when we begin to formally develop our sense of self. In elementary school we learn much about the personal skills we carry into this world. Between 9 and 13 years of age our brain matures to the point where we are truly able to sense who we are. Neurons that innervate the inside of our bodies make final connections with our brain that enable us to actually “feel into” who we are, what we feel to be true and where we fit in our world. This might explain some of the awkwardness of this age. We can sense who we are… real time… as we walk around and this is all new for us.
Another set of neurons also begin to make their final connections. They are called our “mirror neurons”. They use the neurons described above to “feel into” the same neurons in others. They do this by actually copying the activity of the other person’s neurons. If you look at someone closely you can literally “feel in your gut” how they are feeling. You then respond to what you sense in another person in a variety of ways. You can ignore it or you can have feelings of your own like pity, sympathy or compassion for the other person.
The ability to feel our feelings is called sense of self. Our ability to sense how others are feeling is called empathy. These are rather automated responses that everyone has. What this means is that we can feel other’s feelings and we can send our feelings into others automatically. We all experience this when someone who is particularly sad or angry looks at you. If this person is surprisingly sad we might allow ourselves to respond to them with compassion. If this person is chronically angry we may have learned “that it is better to ignore them.”
What would happen if you couldn’t ignore them? What if… every time someone was angry, all they had to do was look at you and you were suddenly filled with feelings that made no sense to you. As a young teen this is often the case. Their mind has not developed to the point to “block”, or decide how to respond to, what they sense in another. Often people enjoy teasing a young teen as the they simply can’t stop being affected by the teasing. While this is for the most part benign, what the young teen experiences while being bullied is not.
How the Bully's Mind Works
The person who does the bullying is broken. One way of relieving their feeling of brokenness is to project it onto another, another example of “misery enjoys company.” The bully first does something that breaks the other person’s concentration. This renders their victim’s sense of self neurons vulnerable to direct intrusion. This is usually accomplished by an immediate overwhelming threat. The immediacy gives the victim little time to set up any defense. The bully is then free to pour all of their ugliness into the victim. This is usually a culmination of all the negativity that they have ever felt or experienced in their life.
Effects of Bullying
The effects of bullying are incredibly difficult to deal with. The person who was bullied has no experience with such negative feelings. It’s confusing to have someone else’s feelings inserted into you. First of all, you don’t know that this is what is happening. You simply know that you now feel awful inside…about yourself. Yes, this is the real problem. Worse than that, you don’t only feel bad - you feel broken. There is some expectation of feeling bad when someone is bothering you. But the feelings you increasingly feel inside as the bullying continues goes far beyond what you or anyone else sees or might expect. Worst of all, the more damage the bullying does, the more relief they feel, encouraging it to go on.
This time of our life is a time of expanding awareness of who we are. We test our strengths to see what we can accomplish. We expand our ability to make friends, establish our sense of self and where we fit in our community. The effects of bullying can also be seen when the victim becomes timid, unable to fully express themselves or take risks. As time goes on, they forget who they are and accept a much smaller sense of themselves and place in their world. People around them become accustom to this smaller representation of who they are, and their life runs the risk of being forever affected. Yet another possibility is that they themselves become a bully.
How to Combat the Effects of Bullying
Let’s look at a few suggestions to help the one who has been bullied:
- Of course, stop the bullying. The one who is doing the bullying needs long term help. If this has been going on for any length of time or is severe they need to be removed from the environment as it will be too tempting for them to “relieve themselves” at the expense of others. Also, typical environments are simply ill equipped to deal with all the subtleties involved. The one who has been bullied is thus most assured that the bullying has stopped and is left with a seeming strange sense of “rightness” that the bully is getting the help they need. Remember, they know the bully’s pain although they are not likely aware of where what they are feeling is coming from.
- The person who has been bullied needs to be counseled about where the feelings they have inside come from. As they begin to understand that these feelings have nothing to do with them they become more open to exploring their own feelings.
- Do all you can to help them remember every previous success. Over time review pictures of them making a home run, laughing with friends, having fun, doing normal risks, singing, playing and enjoying life. Also, bring back people in their life that they experienced these successes with. Our memories are based around our relationships and this reconnecting can go a long way to reconnecting internally.
- Gently set them up for success in all areas of life. Encourage gentle risk. Rewards need to be focused around feeling good about the expression of their strengths, learning wisdom to guide their strengths and forming a sense of their world or relationships with their Spiritual Source.
- Offer education early on about how some people who are bullied hold onto the feelings the bully imparted to them. This ultimately leads to either a shrinking of the natural expression of who they are or to bullying others. They will have these feelings. They need to know where they are coming from, why they come up and what they can do with them.
- With timely, thoughtful and effective responses from and for everyone involved, people, families and the system can recover. The person who bullied should be evaluated for abuse and a wide variety of predisposing illnesses. The person who was abused should also be evaluated. At times they may have been abused in the past but more often one finds a problem with their focus and concentration that predates the bullying. A wide variety of prayer/meditation practices can serve to strengthen these predisposing factors.
- Ultimately, as they pull through this, they will have a much greater understanding of sense of self, relationships and the value of their connection with their Spiritual Source.
The Oneness Approach website offers a subscription for those who wish to learn more about how to help others using the Oneness Approach. Please look inside the website for details. Please also add any comments you wish on strategies you have found useful to help someone recover from bullying.