Almost all of us have experienced bullying in our lives, in the workplace, at home, or at school. The other side of the coin, perhaps harder to own, is the fact that most of us have also been a bully at some stage in our lives too. Even if it has only taken the form of unkind words expelled in a moment of red mist. It is really important that offers of help like therapy and counselling are made to attempt to remedy both aspects.
Bullying no longer only takes place when we are with other people at school, home, or in the workplace. The internet and social media now mean there are very few, if any, safe spaces. Vulnerability, although arguably highest in childhood, can exist throughout life. How can we tell how much of a negative influence other people are having on us? Perhaps a good place to start is to ask ourselves am I OK with this? Do I feel safe? Is this making me happy? If the answer to any of these questions is uncertain then that’s an indicator it's time to talk to someone else about it too. Begin with friends, trusted family members, and then if you remain uncertain, or unsafe, or in a particularly big muddle then consider external help via some of the contacts below.
Role of parents
Therapists work a lot with aspects of bullying in clinical practice. Many parents feel a huge level of guilt when they hear their child has been bullied outside of the home. They wonder why they weren’t told in the early stages amongst other things. We also meet many children for whom the family home is the location for the bullying, perhaps from parents and siblings. Mums, dads, and children really do need to be heard and encouraged to speak out or seek help as the first step to some kind of recovery. Parents can help children by tuning into them and noticing anything unusual in their day to day behaviours such as sleeping, eating and general mood. It’s a difficult balance between under and over-involvement as they get older but well worth a try even with your stroppy teenager!
The bullied and the bullies: Both need to be helped
The hurt and the trauma of being bullied can last for decades. Memories can be reawakened at any time and old wounds can reopen. What may have been boxed up can easily spring back out in unhealthy ways. Again I would urge people not to face these things alone. There is an understanding that bullies may previously have been the bullied and are as much in need of help; beneath their aggression will lie vulnerability.
What to do and where to find help
If bullying has affected or is affecting you or your child’s life then please seek help. Find a safe space with a safe person. When the time is right and everyone is safe, therapy/counselling can significantly help a complex situation and reduce the damage of being on either side of the bully coin.
0808 2000 247 - National domestic abuse helpline
0800 111 - Childline