Monday, February 13, 2012

Victim response to the bully

Zbig asks about possible responses to bullying

The bottom line in the victim dealing with the bully really has nothing to do with the bully at all. People will become involved in relationships (of some duration and importance) that support their life position. People will use such relationships to reconfirm over and over what they decided about themselves and life in general as a child.

If they decided ‘I’m OK’, they will become involved in relationships which support that view of self. On the other hand if they decided ‘I’m not OK’, they will become involved in relationships which will reconfirm that for them over and over. If therapy can assist the person to see self as more OK then the relationship with the bully just wont happen. The two people wont fit in the relationship. Of course this is easier said than done

Snow house

Many potential victims of bullying simply use the avoidance technique. I have heard numerous clients tell me over the years how they would spend many a school lunchtime break in the library and the like simply to avoid the bully. This can be easily done when the victim has the choice but at places like school or work or in the family it becomes much harder as the person is forced to be in a particular environment. However if they can reasonably easily avoid the bully then that seems to be a sensible approach at least to take in the interim.

My personal view is that in the final analysis it is necessary for the victim in some form to stand his/her ground against the bully. To behaviorally make the statement - ‘I’m OK and will not accept the abuse”. This however is a vexed point and there are some who would definitely disagree with it. They say it is incumbent on the ‘organization’ to protect the victims from bullies and furthermore may make the point that standing up to the bully directly only encourages more violence and conflict.

I am all in favor of schools and the like having bullying policies and organizational strategies which children can use to assist them in dealing with the bully. I think they are a very good idea. I would want any child of mine to tell me if they were being bullied and then I would take some kind of action to assist.

Wet man

However it seems to me it is important for an individual in the final analysis to make a stand for them self. Having others assist is a great idea but at some point one must stand up for self as that breeds self respect and a belief in self. If one uses an organization to try and stop the bully often the bullying simply becomes more subtle and sooner or later there are going to be circumstances where there is not an organization there to assist.

As to the idea that pushing the bully back breeding more violence and conflict one needs to look at the degree. If a child is being beaten up that is not bullying, it is criminal assault and needs to be dealt with by the police. Bullying at school with males usually involves shoving, verbal abuse, maybe a few punches, taunts and so forth. I agree that ignoring it to see if it goes away is a good first strategy. If it does not go away then pushing back is needed. As I said before there will be those who disagree with me on this matter. I understand their argument but it does not ring true to me. When the bully realizes the person is not going to take the position of victim the trouble stops. It does not cause an escalation of violence.


I understand this is also very easy to say and can be very hard for a child or teenager to do if they feel intimidated, lack confidence and a belief in self. So it may not happen over night but I would see it as a potential goal to look toward.



  1. thank you for this entry :)
    I am most interested in bullying in the context of "how to prepare my kids against it."

    I have an impression that nowadays it's worse than it used to be back in the 80's when I was a teenager but I also realize every generation has had this impression since the first scriptures that had been found (bad grammar I know!)

    So from your entry I reckon I should better foster their "okayness" and hope it'll work out fine. Cool for now :)

  2. Yes Zbig,

    If a child of yours has a basic sense of OKness then it is very unlikely they will become involved in the bullying relationship for any length of time. Encourage them to speak their mind - to say what they want and what they do not want. If they feel free to say these things out loud they are unlikely to be bullied.