Some thoughts on the Nature of Bullying

Creon: “An enemy is still an enemy. Dead or alive.”Antigone: “No, I was born with love enough to share: no hate for anyone.” From Antigone by Sophocles

If someone is acting in a bullying manner, we can be sure of one thing alone; that this tells us very little about ourselves but a lot about the psychological state of the person caught in the bullying mindset.

If you are on the receiving end of any kind of abuse some action is required and common sense informs us that it is a far from ideal situation to be in. Bullying of any kind is clearly wrong, but it is not really the root of the problem. Clearly if someone is suffering from the results of abuse it is important to seek help or for the individual to remove themselves from the situation, even if it be temporarily.

However, taking a closer look at bullying from the inside we get a clearer understanding of what is going on. There is one simple fact that we could keep in mind; no one who is feeling secure, happy and good about themselves is ever likely to bully another person, and this makes perfect sense to most people. What we can conclude from this is that bullying comes from feeling insecure, unhappy and a certain sense of personal dissatisfaction with oneself or one’s situation.

Perhaps the question we could ask is: what is the cause of someone falling into this state of unhappiness and bullying mentality in the first place? And more importantly, to ask how some people are not affected by the low mood level and general demeanour of a person in the habit of bullying others?

Firstly, all psychological states arise in dependence upon the power of thought, in other words, to get into any mind-set or emotional state, we must first have thinking to create that state of mind. Individuals that are suffering from unhappiness can sometimes get caught up in a bullying mind-set. Additionally, it is important to recognise that all of us have the capacity to fall into states of unhappiness and we can also innocently create a victim mentality for ourselves (albeit most of the time either state is only a temporary one). As a consequence of this we habitually either feel justified in our assault upon another or we feel as if we are being picked on by the world.

However, invariably a bully is someone who is suffering, and this suffering is innocently coming from personal thought and as a response to this self created suffering they bully others. Sometimes this is an attempt to give back to others what life seems to be dealing them, or has done so in the past! If we could see that suffering itself is a natural part of personal, in-the-moment thinking gone astray, it would make it easier to recognise how we can all innocently create our own suffering via the power of thought. This in turn would give rise to us recognising that lower moods are a natural part of being human; everyone has them and that they always pass. This helps us to have more empathy with the bully as we begin to see their psychological innocence that they just like us are doing the best they can with their current thinking. As we see this more clearly in us, we begin to see it in others too, and it helps us to feel more relaxed about being low ourselves.

I am not suggesting that we condone bullying in any way, simply that we see that the cause of bullying is an innocently created psychological state the bully has produced and how it is their thinking that informs and guides their antisocial behaviours.

Thus it is not that we forgive the antisocial behaviour of the bully, but that we see the suffering person behind the behaviour and recognise how we all fall into low moods from time to time. When we begin to see the world through these new eyes we start to give ourselves an easier time when we are not feeling so good; we start realising that we are not victims of our circumstances anymore, but temporary sufferers of our own low level personal thinking. Awareness of this fact is the key, it may not help recover our good feelings at that time, but at least we know it is both natural and fleeting, and it will soon pass. Additionally, and importantly we see the bully is just like us, they innocently create their own suffering too, but this time we have a clearer picture as to why it is they are being internally but innocently driven to bully others.

I would like to make one final point about those people out there in the world who seem unaffected and impervious in the face of bullying. To most they may seem like an exception to the rule or some kind of anomaly that is special in some way and beyond reach of most people. However, these are the folk that in the moment of abuse still feel secure, self confident and happy enough in their world to not be upset by the, would-be bully. Interestingly we can all experience this from time to time; when we feel good about ourselves we are much less likely to take the world and what it has to say about us seriously or personally. This is a very freeing state to be in and one that most people would love to experience, and we all can, quiet simply.

How is this state possible we may ask? The answer is simple, and we all have it within us; we just need to relax and allow ourselves to realise that we make or break our day dependent upon how we see the world in that moment via the power our thought. Sometimes we may get caught up in mindsets from our past, but this is not really a problem either if we see that all our psychological states of being arise in dependence upon the content of our thinking. So if we can stop and relax just for a moment, are awareness can rise up, like the hidden sun from behind the clouds and this can be enough to unlock all the good feeling anyone is likely to want to experience in this life, and if we are not feeling those good feeling that is okay too, because this too will pass.

*Note for children, parents and teachers: when a child sees this clearly for themselves they realise that it is not an issue of ‘grassing’ or ‘dobbing’ someone in, but more a case of reporting the bully out of kindness and compassion, seeing that the bully is also in need of help. This is very freeing for a child and helps them move away from the more subtle forms of bullying i.e. peer pressure to keep quiet (and it is not just children that are subject to this).

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