Growing up, our father religiously told us to react with positivity in the face of bullying. He would say, “the best way to handle them is to laugh or say thank you, and just walk away.” Now grown up, I know there’s not a one-fits-all solution, and each situation must be dealt with as uniquely as the individuals are themselves unique. Learn about covert bullying now!
“Covert bullying is often harder to recognize and can be carried out behind the bullied person’s back. It is designed to harm someone’s social reputation and/or cause humiliation.” – National Centre Against Bullying
Also known as “Relational Aggression,” there are many facets of covert bullying. Often resulting in ignominy, covert bullying is a serious issue not only in school, but also for adults in everyday life. Identifying the behavior should be paramount for anyone who wishes to diffuse or prevent such situations.
The Four Facets of Covert Bullying:
- Social/Relational Bullying
- Cyber Bullying
- Verbal Bullying
- Power/Perception Bullying
Identifying the types may be tricky, because some attributes could fall under multiple categories. So rather than try to stuff behaviors into each category, we can label the behaviors individually and accept that its category may be either or, perhaps even a multi-faceted one. Categorizing is not as paramount as identifying the behaviors, and can even get in the way of finding a solution. A parent or teacher should be open to adapt or modify solutions to fit each individual situation or circumstance.
- Social or Relational – This type of behavior can be best attributed to “cliques” and popularity competition. Knowing about a theory called “Self-fulfilling prophecy” may help a child, or even adult, overcome or avoid this type of covert bullying. The “Self-fulfilling prophecy” is similar to the more well-known “Law of Attraction.” If one is convinced of an outcome before the attempt is even made toward the goal, the presumption will inhibit their movement toward that goal, as well as taint the end result. Further, whatever one feeds with their energy will grow — good or bad.In example, if a kid is playing alone and doesn’t interact overtly with others, he or she is only feeding energy into their solitude. The others may see that as weakness or weirdness, and if they do not seek to understand why their peer is playing alone, they will tend to react with bias and judge the perceived “loner” for their behavior, which feeds the division between the parties. A less obvious example would be more along the lines of the Law of Attraction; where thoughts go energies flow. Consider the two phrases: “stop the fires!” & “hope for rain to put it out!” They are both intended as a sort of prayer to extinguish the flames, but one is aggressively negative (“stop!”), while the other is assertively positive (“hope!”). Either way, the phrases are feeding energy into an idea or summons, and whichever is fed more will dominate and manifest. Social covert bullying typically involves reputation and communication (or lack thereof), and often divides or isolates one person, or party, from another discriminatorily.
“Something in our nature cries out to be loved by another. Isolation is devastating to the human psyche. That is why solitary confinement is considered the cruelest of punishments.” ~ Gary Chapman
2. Cyber Bullying – In our world of fast-advancing technologies, where communication often takes place more online or via text from a distance than old fashioned word of mouth, body language and eye contact, people are more easily able to keep anonymity and hide in the shadows while they act out the sociopathic tendencies dwelling within each and every one of us. As best described in the book “Dispelling Wetiko” by Paul Levy, this sort of behavior is expressed through us, via our ignorance and carelessness, if we do not capture and contain it within frames of awareness, identifying its nature and properties and learning to avoid falling under the spell of our own Shadow while simultaneously attempting to be aware of it and yet not feed into it with too much or the wrong kind of attention. This electronic form of covert bullying is no less dangerous than any other type. It can be just as destructive, demeaning, and detrimental as if the bullying was taking place in person. Worse, since the culprit feels safe behind a phone or computer screen, this form may also be the most aggressive. Fortunately, since the user has a choice whether or not they access the medium in which this type of bullying takes place, and administrators of the medium have some control over what the aggressor can do, it is also the easiest to avoid or dismantle.
3. Verbal Bullying – The more obvious side of this covert bullying facet revolves around teasing, name-calling, rumoring or gossiping, and narcissistic behavior related to being the spotlight of attention or “king of the hill.” A less obvious example of verbal abuse is what many call impulsive bullying. This person may not realize what they are doing is abusive. Usually spontaneity plays the driving role here, because the sufferer — who would bully unless they’re suffering in some way? — projects their frustration, anger or suffering onto whoever is around, most likely unconsciously, so that they are not suffering alone. That is not always the case, but it is the most dangerous case because the person inflicting the damage won’t realize they are doing so, and thus cannot correct their error unless it is pointed out to them. Or, they lash out because they do not know how to internalize the lesson being presented to them. Sarcasm is often the least-addressed crease in the verbal bullying facet, because many people blindly associate all sarcasm as humorous. They will even tease or ridicule someone if they do not appreciate the sarcasm. Almost all sarcasm has a little truth, and that bit of truth is all it could take to wound the target of the comedic verbal lashing. Then there is the secondary culprit; one who does not initiate the conflict but joins in, usually protected down the road since they did not begin the assault, who may feel bad about what they are doing but is more interested in protecting their own reputation or self-esteem.
4. Power or Perception – Domination has ever been a controversial topic when considering nature and man, including human nature. Some scenarios in this facet could be divvied up between the others, but to disseminate the differences here we will focus on the perception of power. Sometimes this has more to do with greed, control and ego rather than domination equatable to conquest. Power or perception bullying is not always interested in accumulation or spreading seeds to grow root, but rather can be just as happy with a single target to offend over and over again until the target is used up before moving on to another. As best explained by Sam Adettiwar, founder of the Soul Research Institute and author of “The Elements of Soul,” our Ego creates delusion every chance it gets simply because it is an expert at covert bullying tactics against both the self and, often indirectly, against others as well. Whatever the reason, power or perception bullying often is an attempt to compensate for something lacking within the bullier. They must try to control others because they cannot control what is happening within them. They do not like what they see in others, because it is a reflection of what is within themselves. They must try to control situations and acquire some sort of gain, because they mistakenly believe such is the purpose of life. Or they must dominate, because rather than understanding the interconnectedness of everything, they feel dominated or isolated.
First, let’s recap. What is covert bullying? Covert bullying is done in stealth, intended to affect reputations, to corral or manipulate others, and can be done from a distance, even through cyber space, mostly affecting the target mentally, emotionally, or psychologically. The best solution is rather simple: try to understand what the bully suffers from that would cause them to want to use covert bullying tactics, and then use empathy, imagination, creativity and love to diffuse their suffering.
“When it gets down to having to use violence, then you are playing the system’s game. The establishment will irritate you – pull your beard, flick your face – to make you fight. Because once they’ve got you violent, then they know how to handle you. The only thing they don’t know how to handle is non-violence and humor.” ~ John Lennon
The choice is ours. We can feed the fire by fighting it, or choose to see through their eyes and realize they are a reflection of our own candlelight.