Lack of freedom is probably one of the most prominent issues for each person experiencing a daily bully-target relationship. You want things to be different. You want to the one who makes a statement that burns the tormenter and has him publicly dying in shame. You’re intent is to break free of the usual sense of gravity and submissiveness which is felt around the person who has all the words to say against your character. His actions have always struck silence in your voice and mind. The very statement which could be a game-changer and the key to freedom fails to roll from your lips, day after day. But this day, you want to make a difference. You want to be at work and feel like other people. You want to laugh and talk without having to think and be afraid of the repercussions. “Will he find some way to publicly twist my words and humiliate me?”
The bully hones in on the target. It is a living role that embodies a set of predictable dynamics. The person who occupies the role of “target”will start the chain of reaction from the bully by saying or doing just about anything. The person of “bully” status has to make sure that no deed from the target goes unpunished. The targeted person’s mere presence is punishable by the terms of this relationship. A sniffle or question is all it takes to trigger the harassment. It’s like feeding an insatiable appetite. The bully has an appetite for power and a satisfaction of his own maintenance of self-perception. He has to keep up the defense against a personal threat of shame and low self-esteem. In a world full of people who could possibly reveal his own faults and secret of weakness, his need for power in front of others fluctuates. And the need is satisfied by his punishment of the target. It is a blind strategy that he has learned to use against those people who permit it without standing up for themselves. So the continuation of events which this relationship is composed of does not stop because someone says it has to.
Freedom for the person who lives the role of target will not be granted just because the very nature of it (bullying) causes problems or is thought of to be “uncool.” The act of bullying will not be stopped because teachers, parents and the human resources departments deem it as unacceptable. With human beings, there will always be these types of relationships. If you live, you have wants and needs. You have to step out the door and work or go to school alongside other human beings. Everyone included has their own path and life which is driven a person style of decision-making, thinking, wants, needs and the degree to which each of us is influenced by past or present circumstances and decisions. Any person’s aim in life at the moment may depend on a certain way for things to happen. My current purpose may be to get through the day and just be left alone. I don’t want any undue attention. It’s almost like my baggage of shame or secrecy is visible to the whole world as soon as I have to speak. Or maybe if I get other people’s attention redirected towards someone else, I can be safe.
The intention of harm is blind and powerful. To target someone and make easy fun out of orchestrating a campaign of“pick on Johnny the quiet guy” is not something that the bully just thinks about. It comes from a need to find relief from his or her personal torture of emotions and thinking. A person in the workplace or at school who is vulnerable and not quite sure of himself can be spotted easily. His behaviors and manner of interaction with the world communicate (in the bully’s eyes) an invitation to shitty treatment from others. To ask questions with a quivering voice can bring on heat from the nearest office or schoolroom predator. There is something to point out in front of others. To let someone cut in line gives a more assertive person the go signal for harassment and parading of the “timid” way of doing things. A bully simply turns the one nice gesture from the innocent classmate or co-worker into a long and miserable train ride of dragging your characteristics through the public mud.
Anyone who can identify with the target will tell about the momentary inability to exercise assertiveness at the time of harassment or confrontation (especially in front of others). There is an inflated sense of credit given to the bully’s position on what to make fun of. Somehow he or she gets to set the standard on what is acceptable. This is of course granted by those persons who operate with the distorted belief of what is valuable. How do you feel justified in turning the tables on the bully when the information on what is right is so confusing? Maybe working silently is a sign of weakness. Maybe letting someone cut in line is an irreprehensible crime to be judged as deserving punishment in the form of loud, obnoxious persecution. Sounds ludicrous right? If your line of thinking depends on the fiction that supports a muddled sense of self, then how could you tell?
In order to for there to be any clear plan for stopping the influence of a bully, there has to be an examination of what the real facts are. This includes both an exploration and awareness of personal strengths and what is actually happening during bully and target types of exchanges. The process of role-play and isolating key situations through talk with a supportive professional (in counseling) can help to separate fact from fiction. And the outlining and declaration of personal boundaries can help someone to clarify what really is acceptable to tolerate from people in general. This will likely include the task of disputing current beliefs which have been learned and integrated to the point of automatic thought.