Being a bully’s target can be one of the most formative factors in a child’s personal development. Many Baltimore-area children go through each day in a state of constant, pervasive fear. Child suicides in recent months have shed light on this shadowy part of childhood but, judging from Baltimore media articles and local blogs about personal experiences and responsive events such as the January 2011 “Where Art Thou, Bully?” conference in Baltimore, discussions of the matter may raise more questions about responsibility and solutions than they answer.
For those who have never been a childhood bullying victim, there is no way to really understand what it is like. But most people don’t want to understand – they want solutions, and the recommended solutions depend upon who you ask and his or her area of authority or expertise. Speaking in very broad and general terms, the teachers, police and other figures of authority want order, and recommend swift and exemplary discipline and/or punishment; the parents of the victims feel powerless to protect their children and tend to hold the parents of the bullies most accountable; and the bullies themselves, operating from an almost sociopathic self-indulgence and need for power and control, often see the victim as “asking for it” with displays of weakness. The victims don’t care who is held responsible -- they just want the physical, psychological and emotional pain to stop.
All of human life is spiritual. All experience is intended to be instructive in self-knowledge and facilitative of self-actualization. If the problem is spiritual, the solution is spiritual, and external acts and circumstances must be focused on creating an environment for spiritual transformation if these acts and circumstances are to result in lasting change. That means that all involved parties are responsible for addressing this problem, as all parties stand to learn both who they are and how they are from that activity. But because the issue is spiritual, the roles played by the players cannot be generic and are unique to each individual bullying drama.
Spiritual laws command us to consider this premise: the persons with the greatest responsibility for addressing the problem are (gulp) the victim and his or her parental figure(s). Yes, the bully has issues that need to be addressed but, when the spiritual Law of Attraction is applied, one must start from the premise that the victim has attracted the bullying. Therefore the victim has to self-determine – and be supported in self-determining – how he or she is going to resolve the situation.
The resoundingly recommended first step is for the victim to tell his or her parental figure about what is happening, and there is constant pressure to report the behavior to school authorities. “The biggest thing is to seek help,” Dr. Knichole Taylor told attendees of the January 2011 anti-bullying conference. “If you seek help, we’ll stop seeing suicide, depression, stop seeing kids isolate from their friends at school because they’re scared to be around the bullies.”
However, there is parallel evidence from Baltimore Sun reader blogs and other local social networking threads that such reports rarely result in any meaningful action, and that the less-than-meaningful actions taken by authorities – namely punitive action against the bully – can even exacerbate the problem. So what should a targeted child do? Controversially (but most practically), the “best” solution is to learn how to fight back, to learn how to stand up for him- or herself. While authorities and psychologists discourage reciprocal violence, many of the posts on the Baltimore Sun’s blog thread on bullying were adamant about this being the first response.
The blows one receives from being beaten while fighting back are just as painful as the ones received from just being beaten. However, the physical pain of fighting back differs in that it mitigates the psychological and emotional pain that results from simply allowing one’s self to be victimized. This solution can take many forms: a self-defense class or martial arts training -- or just giving way to the feelings that come when you’ve had enough and “wailing away”…fighting back in the most powerful way you know how (short of irreparable or potentially fatal measures).
Contrary to most popular child-rearing and child-psychology trends, fighting back should be proffered and supported by the victim’s parental figure(s) as an appropriate and very viable solution, with everyone involved searching for and finding the strength and will to actualize it. When you examine the phenomenon from the spiritual perspective, this may be the whole point of the bullying experience itself.
Another solution may be retreat and/or seclusion. While probably sub-optimal because of its lasting negative impact upon one’s ability to assert themselves and interact with others, it may be the best thing for targets whose psycho-emotional and/or physical states-of-being preclude “fighting fire with fire.” Retreat can also be a step toward self-actualization -- the list of scientific, artistic and literary achievements born of human souls who retreated into their own gifts and interests because they were abused by their social environment is endless and enviable. Beware the residuals, however – the value and impact of what is closed out will likely be greater than the value and impact of what is shut in.
Reassignment may also be an answer – removing the child from the environment that attacks him or her and finding the most supportive environment. There is a reason the child is being singled out, likely associated with looks, intelligence, achievement, assets or the demonstrated lack of will for self defense. After failure in getting officials to respond to constant bullying, Baltimore native Diane Burley took her 13-year old daughter out of public school and has her being home-schooled by a tutor to support the drive for academic excellence that inspired the abuse. Identifying and placing a child in an environment that either surrounds the child with “similarly afflicted” peers or that transforms these “afflictions” into valuable attributes can be a key to survival.
To determine the best solution, parents should have the kind of relationship with their children that will allow them to discover if their child is either a bully or a victim of bullying – and they must be open to information from others that aids in this discovery. When either discovery is made, parents should deal with the issue from a spiritual perspective, identifying the underlying issue and being uncompromising in their resolve to address it fully and effectively. If they cannot do this themselves, they should seek help in learning to do it or even find someone else to do it. It is also important that parental figures be given the authority to tell the other authorities what must be done in the best interests of his or her child.
The psycho-spiritual development of the human soul is the primary responsibility of parenting, and this process cannot always take place within the boundaries of convention and regulations. Just because breaking a bully’s nose while fighting back may result in assault charges or suspension from school doesn’t mean it isn’t the right thing to do. A strong mind and spirit are the best defense for a body under siege. In terms of the spiritual Law of Attraction, the absences thereof are likely the root reasons for that siege.
Get guidance: www.mariposaeducation.org. They are a partner with Baltimore City Public Schools and the Baltimore chapter of the NAACP on anti-bullying programs; www.creativecreationsconsulting.com, Dr. Tekemia Dorsey, also a Baltimore City partner and organizer of the “Where Art Thou, Bully?” youth conferences
Know Eraka: www.peacefulpower.org
Contact Eraka: firstname.lastname@example.org
Part II of this three-part series will deal with psycho-spiritual bullying through social media.