I will be attending an anti-bullying symposium the week of this writing, and I am feeling great appreciation to the pioneering individuals and groups that are finally bringing this horrific practice out for closer public scrutiny. I am beyond grateful to those people who are on the front line in directly helping those on both sides of these abusive patterns. Not that bullying is in anyway new. Yet in an age of high speed internet connection and massive social media it has taken on a sometimes lethal velocity. We are seeing myriad reports of youthful males and females ending their own lives as a direct result of physical, emotional, sexual, societal, gender-based, orientation, and socio-economical bullying and harassment. Even more unreported suicides are occurring and have occurred that are unfortunately then placed into the “troubled teen” anemic category. Because bullying has been a part of childhood and adolescent development for generations in no way lessens the need for its cessation. I am attending this symposium with the intention to discover additional ways that I may directly influence the ending of such needless trauma. I say additional ways because my first line of “non-defense” is always to bring a prayerful attention to the issue and to those I know who are dealing directly with it. I am not in a sphere that includes many or sometimes any youth that are dealing intimately with this painful issue. I do not have children and am not exposed to a lot of kids outside of media reporting. I do also recognize however that bullying isn’t limited to youth, and it also isn’t something that is always occurring from the outside. And that reveals a primary way in which I can directly affect a change to this massive social problem.
It doesn’t take a lot of imagination for those who personally know me to suspect that I myself was a constant target of youthful bullying from about the ages of six to sixteen or seventeen. I was certainly a recipient of further harassment and marginalization beyond those years, but it was perhaps most intense and damaging in my earlier formative ages. I recall vividly the four or five particular school bullies who made me their frequent target. I can still kinesthetically re-experience the dread of the recess or ending school bell when I knew I would have to face my oppressors. I was often terrified walking to and from school, just certain I would cross paths with one or even a group of the guys’ intent on making my life a living hell. I would sit in church on most particularly Sunday evenings and pray with my eyes squeezed shut that Monday would be the day they would finally stop the terrifying treatment. And yet Monday would bring another barrage of jeers, jabs, and humiliations. I was doomed it seemed to be the school sissy, and there were many times I thought I would rather die than face another day of terror.
It took me many years and countless tears to recognize that only deeply terrified people terrify others. Only emotionally abused people turn to the abuse of others. Only those who at some level have been bullied themselves will resort to bullying others. This in no way condones the behavior. But it did lead me to a causal awareness that helped me see my perpetrators in a different light. It also brought me to the rather jarring recognition that though the four or five school yard bullies tormented me for several of my pre/teen years, there was a bigger bully that abused and berated me for a much greater length of time. In a most profound and practical way, I was the biggest bully I ever encountered. I was the one bully that I couldn’t escape on week-ends or summer vacations. My own internal dialogue was berating and abusive for sure. I would have a natural emotional reaction about something that was occurring and immediately go into why I shouldn’t be feeling what I was feeling. I have gone into fearful withdraw more times than I can remember, and have only recently stopped mentally punishing myself for my “ silly and needless” fears. I have internally beaten myself up more than my detractors ever did. I have diminished myself with far greater frequency than any outer opponent. I have judged, criticized, labeled, picked at and generally made my internal atmosphere a living hell. I had an enormous “aha” several years ago when I realized that I often wouldn’t take a risk at something new or challenging because I was so fearful of my own subsequent diminishing critique. It really wasn’t so much others reaction I was afraid of. It was my own.
Our unconsciousness and subsequent unskillfulness is always a result of early childhood wounding. Our grief, fearfulness, anger, and shame all well up from the unintegrated emotional trauma of our early precognitive years. When we then berate the adult version of this unhealed inner child we are indeed bullying the little girl/boy within. By realizing this and committing to making my own inner atmosphere an unconditional safe zone, I directly contribute to a world where bullying will be a bad but distant memory. When I stop trying to kill off parts of my own traumatized self, I subtract energy from the dynamic of self abuse and even suicide. My prayer and my own self healing are powerful ways to help put an end to these painful, traumatic, and tragic occurrences. And right now symposiums and education are indeed also critical. Intervention is crucial. And in addition the bullying has stopped in here. My heart is a safe zone for all of the parts of me- the inner sissy included. And creating a safe zone for me extends as safety for everyone else I interact with. Healing the inner bully means there is no bully to harass or abuse you. My inner world is a playground that is now safe for all and what is within is destined to become an outer reality.