This week, I turned on the T.V. to get a brief update on something, and was amazed, in the couple minutes I had to watch, to see in a nutshell before my very eyes . . . something I’ve been talking and writing about for years.
On a CNN program two men involved in sports turned a blind eye to bullying by discounting the contexts in which it occurred. One of the guests said that what was being discussed wasn’t bullying, but rather just “hazing,” which all members of a team experience.
If you really examine ‘hazing,” it is a sanctioned outlet for violence in certain sub-cultures. It’s a permission to veterans and upper classmen and women to abuse new members of a club, a fraternity or sorority, a team, a unit in the military . . . or even a family. It’s done under the guise of tradition or “how things are.” The talk is that it toughens the newbies up, making them immune to it until they become part of the herd and can do it themselves; by making sure each new member becomes a bully, it creates a culture of bullying. And it contributes to the unconscious herd mentality, which is so destructive in our world. We’ve seen it in many destructive events in our world – the Inquisition, Nazi Germany, many of the school bullying tragedies of the past decade. One of the most shocking and consciousness-raising movies that shows this herd mentality and its disastrous consequences is the classic Henry Fonda movie “The Ox-Bow Incident.”
The other guest in the interview said that his daughter told him she didn’t understand why something was being called bullying because she thought bullying was something in elementary school or amongst children her age. In both of these cases, there seemed to be a growing consensus not only between the guests, but among the guests and anchors alike. A consensus to the effect that bullying was just a kids’ thing and hazing was just a bonding experience.
But what was actually occurring was a perfect example of normalizing in society. Something that was actually bullying was made to seem so normal that it soon became excluded from the category of bullying. That way, supposedly nobody had to experience the pain of the bullying.
That way supposedly nobody had to be accountable for the bullying. That way there was a public precedent set for excluding locker room hazing and adult bullying from the vast experience of bullying in our world.
Just as “Boys will be boys” is simply a way to minimize, discount, and normalize violence by males when they abuse others . . . “Bullying is a child’s activity” is a way to dismiss, disregard, and make regular the adult activities that actually are bullying but people don’t want to recognize as such.
Besides, if children bully each other . . . where do they learn it? They learn it from the adults or older children in their lives. And where do the older children learn bullying? From the adults in their lives. The truth is . . . there is bullying in every arena of our world and at every age from the nursery well into our senior years. It is a form of violence that has been normalized in all sorts of ways, feeding violence and causing it to grow until it’s woven into the very fabric of the life of our world.
It can’t just be legislated away. It can’t just be educated away. Although both legislation and education are steps in the process, we all need to recognize bullying – and all forms of violence – when we witness or carry them out. We need to recognize it, name it, hold people accountable for it – ourselves included – and explore the roots of it in our personal lives. Who bullied us when we were children? Who was violent with us in our early years? And how did that create bullying as a viable “weapon” in our own actions and lives?
Why don’t we explore this? A crucial question. We repress our own early experiences. We deny those painful happenings. We defend against going back to those memories . . . all because we do not want to feel the pain from our young lives, the pain still alive within our psyches as adults. But our defense against our own pain ends up creating pain for ourselves and others in our world. It perpetuates the normalization of bullying. It breeds bullying in our inner worlds and our outer worlds alike. People who have been bullied and victimized by violence may act that out in their outer worlds, but they also usually act that out within themselves – sometimes invisibly and inaudibly — bullying and shaming themselves, and sometimes acting violently toward themselves in ways others can witness.
Again, our defense against our own pain feeds the growth of violence in our society. This appears to make violence ok amongst us. It appears to make violence acceptable. It appears to give permission for bullying and violence all over our world. And others, both consciously and unconsciously, take that apparent permission and use it for their own purposes – in the end, to defend themselves against their own pain in the face of bullying and violence . . . not just current but even more long, long ago.
We’re coming up on the first anniversary of the heartbreaking tragedy in Sandy Hook, Connecticut. The number of violent tragedies has grown since that time. Still more people have used bullying and other forms of violence in an attempt to handle their problems and defend against their pain. People both in their private lives – like family – and public lives – like the entertainment and political worlds.
When will we finally have the awareness, the courage, the help, and the commitment to truly heal bullying and violence in our lives and our world? When will we finally find healthy and truly healing ways to feel and work through our pain . . . without harming ourselves, others, and our world?
WHAT YOU CAN DO TO HELP MAKE OUR WORLD SAFE
FROM BULLYING AND VIOLENCE FROM THE INSIDE OUT
We all play a part in normalizing and feeding bullying in our world . . . and we all can take steps to help in its healing. As you go about your daily life . . .
*Recognize bullying when you see it. Don’t normalize it within.
*Name it aloud – don’t be silent about it. Don’t normalize it in the outer world either.
*Hold the person bullying accountable, yourself included. Don’t make it appear it’s acceptable to you, or that you give your active or passive permission for it.
*Do all this in a way that is not bullying and not violent.
*Utilize these steps to help others become aware of bullying in their world. . . and to stop normalize bullying in their world.
*Find the help you need to work through bullying.
*Do your own inner work to find the bullying in your early life . . . and to heal to the root.
As part of my effort to help in the healing of bullying in our world, I offer an in-depth talk on the roots and healing of bullying, live or via teleconference or web conference for any individual, group, or organization that feels called to sponsor this event. If you know of any venue that would welcome this talk, please feel free to email me to learn more.
Together, we can help “un-normalize” bullying and violence in our world . . . and truly heal the violent currents that we often try to deny or ignore in our society.
© Judith Barr, 2013