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About the Author
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In order to understand bullying, we must define it. If you have experienced any of the traits or definitions I list, then consider yourself a victim of bullying. Obviously, the more frequently you have experienced bullying, the more severe your case. Additionally, even having anxiety caused by just feeling you might get harassed makes you a victim of bullying.
The definition of child or adolescent bullying is as follows: "Unwanted, aggressive behavior among school aged children that involves a real or perceived power imbalance. The behavior repeats, or has the potential to repeat, over time. Children who are bullied and who bully others may have serious, lasting problems."
Normally, bullying occurs when two or more children get involved against another student. Bullying rarely takes place one-on-one. Some incidents of bullying include the following.
Calling people names, such as fat, ugly, stupid, idiot, and jerk
Whispering in another person's ear and looking at someone and talking or pointing
Laughing at another person when that person is not a part of a conversation
Making fun of one's clothes, shoes, hair, or hygiene
The definition of adult bullying is as follows: "The use of force, threat, or coercion to abuse, intimidate, or aggressively dominate others. The behavior is often repeated and habitual." Because this definition includes "repeated and habitual" behavior, this definition describes bullying that occurs in the workplace. This type of bullying does not just happen at mall clothing stores but also in offices, businesses, and any establishment with fierce competition.
The definition of boss bullying is as follows: "Using superior strength or influence to intimidate (someone), typically to force him or her to do what one wants." An essential condition is the perception by the bully or by others of an imbalance of social or physical power, which distinguishes bullying from conflict. In other words, bullying is misuse of power by an individual to get what he or she wants or to feel a sense of importance.
Feeling or getting bullied leaves you with a sense of powerlessness, uselessness, worthlessness, and sometimes even hopelessness to the point of not wanting to live. I am here to tell you that I want you to live. You are important, worthwhile, and valuable. You are not an accident! You are here for a reason, and we need to find out what makes you unique!
Bullying and the Beast
Mirror, mirror, in my heart, who is beautiful, kind, and smart? Me!
I didn't always know I was born to teach. It took me awhile to get there. Once I did, though, I was unstoppable. I began teaching at the age of seventeen at a Catholic school near my house. I became a cheerleading coach. Not until recently did I realize I was an influential person in many girls' lives and more than just a coach — I was a teacher. I did that job for five years, until a new principal came along (hm ... I just realized I have always had problems with principals) and told me I could no longer coach the cheerleaders because the activity wasn't open to all students. By that, she meant not all students could afford to pay for their uniforms, and therefore, cheerleading wasn't open to all students equally. Huh?
That was it. Just done and gone forever. The job that I loved most in the world just got ripped out from under me. The ironic thing about that situation was that I got paid nothing to coach. I had taken on this endeavor and done it for five years for free! Certainly, if I had known the parameters of the situation, I would have gladly offered to pay for or donate any uniforms that those who made the team could not afford. However, the school never gave me that option. It was just over.
I was so young at that time, and I did not fully understand why God was so cruel. I mean, this principal was a nun, for crying out loud. Wasn't she supposed to show compassion? Did she not realize that she stripped away my dignity by taking away my passion, drive, and love? I had worked so diligently to make my team the best among all the Catholic schools in the county, and it just wasn't good enough. That feeling turned into an affirmation, called "I'm not good enough."
Looking back, I know now that it was all political. Someone had obviously complained. Maybe his or her kid didn't make the team. Maybe that parent didn't like me. Maybe I had the wrong hair color. Who knows? The point is that life just isn't fair sometimes, and what matters most is how you respond to life's injustices. She would be only the first of many principals who would end up treating me in that same fashion. It has taken me twenty-five years to reflect on that moment in my life, and maybe, just maybe, I have finally learned the lesson.
You see, when you don't get it (that is, the lesson you must learn), it just keeps coming back up in your life — similar issues but with different people. That first time I got fired, I spent many hours, days, weeks, and even years feeling angry. I resented the world's injustices and restated over and over how, once again, the world had wronged me.
I began a new job at a record store that paid real money, but it probably wasn't the ideal situation for me. I loved that job; however, it brought me into contact with people who loved to party and hang out in Hollywood and who had no real ambition other than to get drunk and check out the latest Mötley Crüe of people. I took a fast track into drugs and alcohol, which manifested in a downward spiral of shame, doubt, and despair. Though I had the time of my life, other more important goals fell by the wayside, including school and my true purpose for living.
Eventually, the demon that simmered within me for a long while reared its ugly face as bulimarexia (a combination of bulimia and anorexia nervosa), which was a direct manifestation of what I felt: humiliation, worthlessness, and discouragement. I spent the next year in intense therapy for eating disorders at a hospital. I spent fifteen years after that trapped and chained to that disease.
How long will you allow your bully to control your life? Despite having gone through intense therapy for many years, Miste allowed her anger toward that nun to consume her through her regular use of starvation, bingeing, and purging.
Reflect. Miste expressed that she felt humiliation, worthlessness, and discouragement. On the lines provided, tell Miste in three to five sentences why she should feel proud instead of humiliated, worthy instead of worthless, and positive instead of discouraged.
The time has come to transfer what you told Miste onto yourself. For each of the following questions, write down one or more comments about you.
Write down one or more reasons why you should feel proud of yourself right now.
Write down one or more reasons why you should feel worthwhile right now.
Write down one or more reasons why you should feel positive about your life right now.
Summer's Story: Part I (As Retold by Her Mother)
Always alive with smiles and joy, Summer was every parent's dream. I have always felt proud of Summer and her caring soul. Summer maintained confidence as a young child, as she was well rounded in academics, sports, and acting. Wherever she went, people were attracted to her sparkling personality. She was a shining star in her grade school, and she had the world in her hands.
Because of her success, we never worried about her smooth transition into middle school. As in grade school, Summer's teachers easily liked her, she had many friends, and the boys admired her. So what went wrong exactly? As the hormones of middle school kicked in and popularity became the name of the game, the pressure to stay at the top became overwhelming.
The bullying began here. The transition from being liked to being hated happened subtly, but the intensity brewed to boiling over time. Summer's all-around success did not please certain girls. When she complained to us about their rude comments, insults, and dirty looks, her father and I, both well-educated people, grappled with how to best help Summer with her peer pressure and bullying. We mostly took the approach of suggesting that she ignore and stay away from the girls who were "just jealous" of her.
As a compliant child and student, she did what she was told. Every day soon after became a terrible tale of how poorly others treated her. Knowing how highly sensitive Summer was and not wanting her to repeat my mistakes, I began to demand that Summer stay strong, firm, and even aggressive in defending herself. This worked only temporarily; Summer soon became a different person as a result of always having to fight to keep her dignity. Eventually, Summer began to wither away emotionally because she did not act as her authentic self.
Just before spring break of eighth grade, Summer tried to kill herself by taking a bottle of sleeping pills stashed away in the back of the cupboard underneath the bathroom sink from many years before. We had all but forgotten them. Her dad and I were home, but nothing stirred us awake to the brutality Summer engaged in only a door away. By the grace of God, Summer told her friend Tori over the phone what she had done. Blessedly, Summer conceded to Tori's pleading, and she began to vomit up all the pills she ingested. Still with all the chaos going on, we remained asleep, oblivious to the suffering our youngest child endured.
Not until two days later would we discover that our beloved daughter tried to end her life. As a teacher nearby, I received a phone call from the middle school, explaining what Summer had confided to the school psychologist. Frantically, her dad and I sped to her school, completely unprepared for what would transpire.
By law, the school had to report what Summer had stated because she was a minor. She was submitted to a psychiatric facility under Section 5150. California Welfare and Institutions Code, Section 5150, authorizes a qualified officer or clinician to involuntarily confine people when they are in danger of hurting themselves or others for a period of seventy-two hours. Needless to say we found the experience of leaving a young twelve-year-old in a facility unbearable.
Summer pleaded through her tears for us not to leave her at that seemingly frightful place, where people wandered aimlessly around like nomads. Panic set in with my sister and me as we tried vehemently to get her transferred to a more stable facility. It seemed hopeless, and after several hours, the arguments to move Summer fell on deaf ears. It was no use; our realization of the situation began to seep into our veins like poison. We no longer had control, and the circumstances we faced were a frenzy of confusion, terror, and disaster. We failed as parents to protect our daughter from the depths of hell called bullying.
How did it come to that? Where had it all gone wrong? How did this beautiful, bright ball of sunshine end up in such a dark, deep turmoil of degradation?
Reflect. Take some time to reflect here on your feelings on this story. Do you identify with Summer? Do you identify with Summer's parents? Would you have done something different? What would you tell Summer and her parents? Respond as honestly as possible. You need to understand that you are not alone and that all of us are one when dealing with specific types of bullying.
Summer's Story: Part II (As Retold by Her Mother)
After a successful freshman year in high school, relief and joy filled us because Summer had finally transitioned back to complete, whole personhood. She once again thrived academically, made varsity cross-country and junior varsity soccer, and participated and did well in many marathons. She continued to play club soccer, where she had developed strong friendships over the course of several years. An abundance of new friends, awards, and all-around happiness filled the year.
Unfortunately, the beginning of her sophomore year, things began to slowly crumble. All the male companions who doted on her, encouraged her, and treated her like the loving little sister they never had moved on to college, as they were all seniors. The chemistry and atmosphere her soccer team once had, became oddly different, which made summer camp practice challenging. Getting up at 6:00 a.m. six times a week no longer fulfilled Summer, nor did she have any sense of enthusiasm. Soccer also became more competitive within the team, and although Summer had a great relationship with the coach (her coach from club soccer as a grade schooler), she felt intimidated to disclose to her coach and others her true feelings about how the girls treated her.
All of a sudden, the situation completely collapsed. Soon into the new school year, the cross-country team was notified via email that the cross-country coach and assistants had left the program to pursue "other goals." We all knew that was a crock of shit and he had really been fired. Coach K was a team staple, and his strong discipline and demeanor led to the program's success. Summer viewed him as the sturdy grandpa she never had, and those last occurrences devastated her. Not only did she lose her devoted male friends, she lost her leader as well.
The school had to scramble to find a replacement and, through no fault of their own, hired a teacher to coach the team. The team soon disintegrated, as nobody ran the routes, and shortly after that, people cut practices altogether. The team had new female members who quickly formed cliques that excluded Summer. Although Summer remained on the team, she rarely, if ever, went to Saturday morning practices. To our distress, the constant complaining that Summer had once engaged in during middle school began again. Fear once again engulfed me when I picked Summer up from school, never knowing if she would be laughing or crying.
Unlike before, we did not remain quiet. We tried our best to reach out to the athletic director, principal, and others to try to reinstate Coach K. They argued that he left the team of his own volition, so no way could they reinstate him. We all knew that they had made a political move to get him out, and our outcries went unnoticed. Cross-country came and left, with Summer attending few events, including missing the awards night banquet. She no longer wanted any part of that team, which had become a repeat of all the eighth-grade antics.
Thankfully, soccer season arrived. Summer had always led and thrived in soccer. She had started playing at the age of four and had enjoyed the time with her teammates as well as the competition of play. Summer's former soccer coach was fond of her and did well to encourage her when she began to feel anxiety at the high school level. Without going into too much detail, it became evident that Summer did not enjoy her time on that team, and even though it won the league division back-to-back times, it did not keep her happy.
We found out midseason that her own teammates bullied her and two other girls who were considered "white girls," who were also very talented, very pretty, and very popular with the boys. One of the girls even went so far as to get annoyed with Summer and grab her hair, twist it around her hand, and pull it. We went to her coach and explained, without whining or complaining, that issues on the team fell along the lines of bullying. He, as a very young coach, disagreed and felt his team had great chemistry and high comradery among the girls. He did not know his team at all. Much of the bullying happened outside his presence, of course, and because he was a bit gullible, he just did not see it.
At that point, Summer's grades began to suffer. I stayed busy working on my doctorate at that time and felt satisfied that as long as Summer told me everything was fine, then it was. Wrong! Two months later, we went right back to square one. I got a call from the school stating that Summer was hiding and crying in the bathroom and her grades were not up to par. Soon after, Summer again attempted suicide.
Although the Individualized Education Program gave Summer more time to complete her work and a quiet place to retreat to where she could finish her assignments, it did not help. Later, Summer would disclose to her therapist and me that peers shouted out hurtful words throughout campus, such as crazy, weird, and freak.
Excerpted from "Breaking Free of Bullying"
Copyright © 2017 Dr. Bria Bliss.
Excerpted by permission of Balboa Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of Contents
Chapter 1: Bullying, 1,
Chapter 2: Bullying and the Beast, 4,
Chapter 3: The Moral of the Story, 23,
Chapter 4: Emotions and Brain Activity, 36,
Chapter 5: Mindfulness Education, 42,
Chapter 6: Breaking Free, 52,
Chapter 7: Spiritual Awakenings, 69,
Chapter 8: Happily Ever After?, 77,
References and Resources, 87,