One of the issues that we’ve been helping clients with at Beachwood Integrative Equine Therapy, especially after the disruptions of COVID-19, is how to prevent and disrupt bullying.
When we experience bullying as children, as young adults, and as adults, it feels awful, overwhelming, and can shatter our trust in human relationships.
“If You are Experiencing Bullying, Please Reach Out for Help”
The first thing we want to share with you is this: if you are experiencing bullying, please, please, please reach out to someone for help and support. It could be a trusted adult, a trusted friend, a parent, or a colleague.
Please reach out now.
The feeling of being isolated magnifies the effects of the bullying. Beachwood clients discover that relief begins when we realize we are not alone.
Connecting with someone who is supportive is the first step to stopping the bullying, dealing with the experience, and helping us prevent it from happening again.
The Most FAQ Questions at Beachwood about Bullying: Why Do People Bully and How Do People Know How To Bully?
Bullying is about power.
It usually begins when someone feels “less than.”
Bullies often bully because they think it will make them feel better. It’s a way of dealing with the pain of feeling less powerful, less worthy, less loved, less needed, less important, or less noticed.
Bullies use their words, their voice, their action, and their knowledge of human power dynamics to try to assert power over their world.
Bullies may feel satisfaction—“power-over” someone or something—in the moment, but the underlying feeling of being less than never gets addressed, so they bully again.
Bullying is also far more common that we might like to believe across all demographics. As researchers at The Trevor Project reported, among LGBTQ youth 65% of junior high school students reported experiencing bullying—in person or cyberbullying, and 49% of high school students experienced in person or cyberbullying.
If you are reading this and know that you bully other people, take a deep breath, and ask yourself: where does the feeling of powerlessness come from? Who can help you understand it and heal it? When you feel powerless, it is possible to make a different choice. We understand that’s really difficult, and you might need help. You are part of the solution, and we are happy to help.
If You Are Experiencing Bullying: This Is Not Your Fault
If you are reading this and you are experiencing bullying, I really hope you noticed that NOTHING about that description of why people bully includes you. It is not about you, it is not your fault, you don’t deserve to be bullied.
Bullying is not about something you’ve done, and it is not about something you could have done to make it not happen. Bullying is not about you; it is about the bully.
We help people at Beachwood understand bullying behavior, how power over is a reaction to trauma, the trauma of being bullied, why we feel anxiety and depression after experiencing bullying, and how to build connections with people we can trust so that bu
What Happens to Me When I Experience Bullying? Why Do I React Like This?
The primary reactions that happen when we are bullied are fight, flight, or freeze. They are a result of being flooded with the hormones adrenaline and cortisol that are designed to get us through an experience that feels unsafe.
Bullying—exerting “power-over” us in a way intended to hurt or wound—can be so overwhelming at the moment it happens that it triggers our most primal survival mechanisms.
In the moment that we feel threatened, the only thing we are aware of is how to survive. As Dr. Martha Beck writes in her blog “Instantly, you become hyper-alert, your senses sharp, your muscles primed for action. You also stop thinking logically.”
Our survival instinct–the fight, flight, or freeze reaction–comes from our sympathetic nervous system, and those neurons only have access to information that we knew the first time we experienced that reaction.
Sometimes everything gets very loud, or very quiet.
Often, the only voice we can hear and the only thing we are aware of is the bully.
Because we are feeling threatened, we hyper-focus on the threat, and surviving the threat. Not surprisingly, we then get disconnected from our support networks.
When we Experience Bullying, We Need to Reach Out for Support as Soon as Possible
Focusing, trying to survive, trying to get through the moment is usually so overwhelming at the time, we lose all sense of proportion in response to this one overwhelming experience.
Because bullying is a form of “power-over,” the one who is bullied feels like it’s their fault. Bullying targets the shame in us, and that is very very painful. It also makes us feel we must isolate.
So, the first and most powerful thing we can do for ourselves afterwards is turn towards others to disrupt the experience of shame and isolation. Dr. Brené Brown’s pioneering TED Talk is a great place to start understanding shame and how it can underpin our behavior including trying to hide away after a traumatic experience.
When we reach out to a trusted ally, friend, coach, mentor, parent, trainer, we are taking back our power by disrupting the bullying experience. The University of California’s Anti-Bullying for school children study shows that connecting with allies is the most successful intervention for preventing and stopping bullying. When we connect, we change the power dynamic and give ourselves a chance to re-connect with a source of rational understanding, stability, and comfort. We also help our adrenal system to calm and reset.
Helping to Heal from Anxiety, Depression, Trauma, and Stress
May is Mental Health Awareness Month and The National Bullying Prevention Month is coming in October but there is no need to wait to get help.
If you are experiencing bullying, whether is in person bullying at work, at school, in, please reach out as soon as you can. It might take you a few minutes, a day, a week or a month. You may not be able to feel or unfreeze from a sudden attack for quite a while afterwards and that can add to our sense of isolation and shame.
The more times you experience bullying, the more the impact it has because we can start to believe what’s being said or done to us is deserved.
Bullying is never deserved.
As the very effective Swedish anti-bullying program KiVa recommends: connection is key. The best way to change the power dynamic, change your experience, and be able to understand what’s really going on is with help.
Our best chance of realizing that it had nothing to do with you is with people who can help you through this.
Beachwood’s horses and Integrative Equine Therapists can help if you’ve experienced bullying. Please reach out for help.