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Bullying

Posted Mar 31 2010 4:48am

I'm going to go a little off topic on here and discuss bullying. It seems like it is everywhere in the news, and it is a growing problem within schools. Yesterday, on NPR's Talk of the Nation, there was an interesting segment on " former bullies share what motivated their behavior". The show began with talking briefly about several children who committed suicide due to bullying. (One family is suing the school where one of the children was) The show asked for callers from people who were bullies or had been a bully in the past. Now, I was thinking who in the heck is actually going to call in and say they are a bully. Surprisingly, people did. Most were reformed bullies and really didn't understood why they bullied but felt remorse. A few had also apologized to the individuals they bullied. The interesting thing is that some of these bullies were good friends with the kids they bullied, and then suddenly flipped a switch. One became a bully after becoming popular, another realized she herself was bullied and then became a bully. 

One caller both intrigued and upset me due to her incredible defensiveness. You can read the transcript and listen to the segment at the link above. (it's too long to post here) Although this woman was being honest about herself, she said how she could not control her bully tactics, despite trying. She said she didn't like being this person but just wasn't able to change. The kicker to all this is that this woman is a psychologist! We don't know the capacity of her work, but if I were her client and heard about this, I'd raise an eyebrow or two. I know I'm not conveying this very well, but it was an interesting show. I think many of us ask that question of "why do people bully?" There's such a myriad of reasons--some make sense while others do not at all. 

Awhile back, I was listening to the Diane Rehm show interviewing Jodee Blanco, author of Please Stop Laughing at Me and Please Stop Laughing at U s a few months ago. I haven't read these books, but they sound very helpful to people who may have been bullied and how parents can help their children who are bullied. There was a quote that Jodee said that really stood out to me:

"Bullying isn't just the mean things you do but it's all the nice things you don't do."

It reminded me of watching all the subtle bullying that went on growing up. People viewed it as just teasing, joking around, but really was it? It's not just the overt beating up of kids (which rarely happened at my school), name calling, but other things like not letting certain people sit at lunch with you, always choosing the same person last for a team, following someone, starting rumors about people, and the list goes on. It just makes me really sad how cruel children can be. Some seriously do not know the difference, but many times they do, and they do it anyway. Some people get past the residual feelings of being bullied, but others do not. And it leads to  PTSD, depression, and other mental illnesses. 

I've always considered myself a bit of a sensitive person and having a great sense of right and wrong from an early age. Whether it was because I was "different" from where I lived--very few Asian lived there or had a physical deformity, I understood being "different" and how each of us were unique individuals. I could grasp the idea of not everything you saw externally was truly was what was internally. When I could, I did try to stand up for those people who were bullied or who didn't have many friends and felt saddened for those I could not.

I don't know the answer to solving bullying, but certainly, I think there could be something like "compassion" classes taught in schools. I think there are some children who are inherently compassionate, but there are others who have to be taught what compassion is. It just seems like it is happening more, and in the age of technology with  facebook and  texting, bullying has become more subtle, deceptive, and secretive. No child should have to feel this way or be tormented because of appearance or for just being different. Because in the end, sticks and stones may never hurt me, but yes, words can indeed hurt. And examples are seen of this by children who have committed suicide or have turned to violence as the answer. 

In relating this all to eating disorders, I am curious were there people you knew who were once overweight, lost weight, and then bullied other overweight people or vice  versa? I've found much of the opposite to be true--that those who have had weight/eating problems were more perceptive of those who never had. And I've also wondered whether there was a real difference between those may have had disordered eating versus a clinical eating disorder and whether bullying was ever a factor. 

Anyway, this is just a topic that has been on my mind lately.

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