Bullying is a form of repetitive physical or emotional behaviour that is used to intimidate or hurt somebody. In general behaviour is classed as bullying when it results in the victim feeling belittled or worthless.
Bullying can take many forms including:
Bullying behaviours can develop at a very young age in social settings, families and schools. The Australian Covert Bullying Prevalence Study (ACBPS) study showed 27% of students reported being the victim of bullying. It also showed that in as many as 87% of cases there were others present who did not intervene.
Cyber bullying is a major issue in today’s society. It can be very frightening for children as many do not understand the behaviour or know what to do about it.
Studies have shown many children who bully others online often also do so in ‘real’ life. Conversely many cyber bullying victims are also the target of bulling behaviour offline.
Adults can experience cyber bullying too. It can happen via emails, text messages, chat rooms, gaming sites, hacking and social media. Bullying in this manner might include sending inappropriate images, posting abusive comments or threatening family and friends.
Unfortunately, negative behaviour patterns often continue into adulthood both for bullies and their victims. In many workplaces, bullying is still a ‘silent’ problem as people are afraid of losing their jobs or being further victimised if they speak up.
Sometimes bullying is disguised as teasing or assertiveness but in reality, it is still about fear, power and control. Ongoing harassment is also a form of bullying.
It is horrific to hear of elderly people being bullied but sadly it does happen especially if the person can no longer communicate effectively. The bullies could be paid carers but also family members. Money or possessions might be taken without consent or the person may be intimidated or physically abused.
Bullying can occur between couples, within families or in any other type of relationship. It can be a form of domestic abuse and may involve threats, harassment, violence, intimidation or sexual abuse.
Bullies usually have very poor self-esteem. They need to put others down in order to show themselves as superior, stronger or more capable. Often they feel threatened in some way so they pounce first in an attempt to maintain control.
Children can pick up behaviours from their peers. Some become bullies because they want to be socially accepted themselves.
Young bullies are often influenced by parents or other adult role-models. When parents bully their own children or fail to show kindness the children may believe such behaviour is normal. In some cases, early-childhood bullying is a cry for attention as children lack the ability to vocalise their needs, fears and frustrations. Also seeing parents being bullied by others can influence behavioural development.
Sometimes we dismiss bullying behaviour as being minor or incidental. However, once it starts to have a negative effect on your own thoughts and actions then it needs to be stopped. You have a right to feel safe at all times and the longer you allow the bullying to continue, the harder it will be for you to take action against it.
Acknowledging the problem is the first step. Depending on the situation you could confront the person directly and tell them how their behaviour affects you. They may not have even been aware they were doing it. If used early enough, this approach may allow you to talk through the issues together.
Unfortunately, the direct approach is not always possible. You may lack the confidence, a cyber bully may be hard to pin down or confrontation may put you in potential danger. That does not mean that you have to put up with bullying behaviour. There are many options available to you including:
Doing nothing rarely changes the situation. If the behaviour is allowed to continue it can lead to physical harm or mental health issues such as anxiety, depression and even suicide.
People are not born bullies. You may have become a bully as a result of childhood experiences beyond your control. Even once you are aware of the affect your behaviour has on others you may have no idea how to alter it. If you genuinely want to change you can benefit greatly from professional help.
As a colleague or fellow student, it is important to speak up if you see instances of bullying. Supporting the victim will help their confidence and potentially give the bully less power. Telling others may also help them to believe the victim’s story.
If you help to run the organisation in some way you can ensure that zero-tolerances practices are in place and adhered to. You can also lead by example by being a positive role model and encouraging inclusive traits such as kindness and empathy.
Seeing a counsellor can help you deal with bullying has multiple benefits. Sometimes just talking to someone impartial is a huge relief. You can discuss past or current events and reflect on your response to them.
Whether you are the bully or victim, you may suffer from low self-esteem. Your counsellor could help you find ways to express yourself in a more positive and constructive manner. You can also learn to see the bigger picture and see why others behave the way they do.
By examining the thoughts and beliefs behind negative behaviour patterns you can discover ways to avoid or change them. Creating new, healthier strategies will help you overcome the effects of bullying and prevent it happening again.
Couples counselling, family counselling or separation counselling may also help you with your relationship issues.
Our directory lists hundreds of psychotherapists, psychologists, counsellors and other therapists from around Australia. These mental health experts offer counselling over the phone and online in addition to one-on-one consultations. Many also offer workshops and seminars.
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