David Wilde on Bullying and Harassment

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David Wilde has worked extensively with anger concerns, as he targets his sessions towards understanding why the anger arises. He specializes in working with adolescents with behavioral or relational concerns. He Talks to NoBullying.com’s Founder Ciaran Connolly about Bullying and Harassment.

The interview on Bullying and Harassment can also be found here and here.

Below is a transcript of the Interview on Bullying and Harassment: 

David Wilde: My name is David Wilde and I’m a psychotherapist and a life coach. I work with… both as a therapist and as a life coach. I work with marriage, families including parenting issues as well as life issues, career, job search and… So, I cover the gamut both as a coach as well as a therapist. I have a somewhat unique approach in that I combine coaching into therapy and use basically a coaching model of paradigm to help people deal with emotional issues but also very pragmatic issues; relationships in this case, adolescents, teenagers, preteens, their challenges, the challenges that families face with their kids, bullying being one of them, and all the other things that come with being a young adult.

Ciaran Connolly: Excellent. So, that is actually quite unique because normally coaching is something that is done as a separate specialism or practice. So, you find that patient’s benefit from both practices combined?

DW: Yes, I do. I do absolutely because when you are looking at coaching, it’s a wonderful thing to be able to go to someone to help. You achieve a particular goal whether it’s a career goal or whether it’s a relationship goal, marriage goal, whatever and at the same time, if you have long standing and chronic emotional obstacles for challenges that seem to be pervasive and come up repeatedly, then many life coaches who don’t work with the emotional side of things,  in other words really aren’t as trained as sophisticated and experienced with feeling emotional change that is internal sometimes related to deep trauma, sometimes related to negative belief systems that we all pick up on on our journeys. These things can have a very huge impact in our ability to… it’s sort of like a tree in the middle of our road. We are trying to get from point A to point B.

So, if there are such things, you really fall short if you don’t have the skill to be able to address them emotionally and at the same time, when I’m working as a therapist, so that would be as a life coach of being able to, sort of wear both hats and as a therapist, it’s really valuable. I think the most practical, powerful form of therapy is Solution Focused Therapy.

So, it’s rather solution-driven, results-driven, meaning that not only do we use accountability and homework to deal with emotional issues, but all the same things that we do in coaching. We use those techniques to… I use those techniques to effect change in you know, whatever it is that you are working with on an emotional level and on pragmatic level. It’s a really good combination.

CC: Yes, very interesting. Going back to bullying, do you see bullying today as a big issue in your practice and maybe is it as big an issue today as it has been in the past?

DW: I think that bullying has always been a big issue. I don’t think that we used the word bullying per se. Maybe yes, maybe no. I think we are seeing….I think one of the reasons that it’s more pervasive or that we are talking about it more, and I’m delighted that we are, is because of the effects of bullying that we often times see, sometimes years later for instance all the school shooting,the Newtown massacre in The US http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sandy_Hook_Elementary_School_shooting, all the school shootings not only in the US but in Ireland, in Europe, across the globe. So, we are seeing a lot of violence and I think that we are starting to say “What’s going on here?” and we are looking back and saying, you know, we are looking back into the lives of some of these troubled youth that seem to be filled with rage and often times were the effect of the bullying years prior.

That would be one reason that I think we will…that we know as sort of the phenomenon known as, you know, Anti-Bullying Crusade. I think it has always been around but I think the other fact that is really huge is the growth of the internet and all of the social media that comes with it.

Bullying used to be something that was pretty much, I wouldn’t say limited to but largely taking place in the school, school grounds, maybe the…you know, recess, the school, you know, basically the schoolyard. You know, fights breaking out, people picking on others that were smaller or more vulnerable in one way or another. So, we have always had as humans… we have always… I mean, bullying… another word for bullying is just using one’s perceived power to intimidate someone who, you know, again perceive themselves to be powerless or less powerful.

This used to be primarily physical and it still is largely physical when you talk about class, you know, the class and school system and school grounds and so on…and playgrounds but now, it’s not just physical. It has reached the point where it’s intimidation. It is not limited to the school and it’s also not limited to kids.

So, people have been intimidating each other, meaning, using different strategies to condescend, to hurt, to shame other people. So, we have had this acting as a species. We have been doing it as probably as long as we have been on this planet but I think those two are the largest factors that are creating the focus on it.

CC: Very good. It is a very good comment that I haven’t heard before and the media coverage that bullying and cyber bullying are getting at the moment. Is that helping the situation or is it making it worse do you think?

DW: I certainly, you know, I think, largely it’s not making it worse. I mean, I think that anytime there is a lot of media attention, it can have both positive and negative effects. I think we are more conscious of it and that’s a good thing.

As parents, as teachers, as politicians, as people who are trying to make laws. We have laws in most states of The US. I believe it is 40 something, I think 47 states, maybe more, 49 states plus, maybe 50. I’m not sure. So, conscious. This is a good thing. At the same time…and also conscious is among young people about they are having a word. Having a word to use to say “What is this thing that’s happening when people are picking on me or teasing me or shaming me in front of other kids?”

So, the fact that it’s more conscious is a good thing. I think that there are always going to be some people that take advantage of that, “the bullies”, well if you put that in quotes, they may take advantage of say “Oh, you know, I can get more crap. I can get more notoriety. I can get… I can be more well-known if I’m a bigger bully and now I can use Facebook or I can use Twitter and I can use other things.”

So… but I think largely, if… the more that we know about it, the more we understand it, I think the better it is as a people of this planet, as a world.

CC: Brilliant and you are mentioning some of the social media sites. Do you think, social media, the internet, mobile phones are having a big impact on bullying as a problem?

DW: Absolutely, there are just more venues to bully. You know, simply it’s not just schoolyard and playground and classroom and after school but now it’s when you go home if you’re in high school or elementary school in The States or whatever country you are in, if you go home and you see somebody writing about you on Twitter or posting pictures of you that are inappropriate or videos of you, it is just…there are so many more venues to say things about people, to disdain others on the internet. So, it has just expanded exponentially because of the venues or the avenues for doing this kind of stuff.

CC: And what do you think is the best advice to give someone who is being bullied?

DW: The most direct advice is to get supportive and directive help and by supportive and directive, you know, ideally this should be, and we would hope that this would be, done by the parents. The parents are in the most perfect position to be supportive. Meaning to listen to be available, to lend support, just try to understand what the child is feeling and…but also directive; to help them to know how to respond in a healthy way where they are not… they are taking measures to help themselves.

So, they have somebody understanding, listening but also guiding them. In the cases where we don’t have parents that either have the necessary skills or feel equipped to do that and I think the third person is advisable whether that be a school guidance counselor, a therapist, someone maybe even a clergyman and someone who has some level of objectivity that can be supportive and helpful but ideally, I think it should be, if it can be, I think the most help comes from the parents.

So, I think that, you know, in terms of counseling or coaching around this issue, you know, it’s not just about the child, it’s particularly about the child and it’s about the parents.

CC: So, it’s actually and again going back, it’s about the family. So, I guess my next question would be, are family lives destructed and possibly damaged by bullying?

DW: You know, I kind of want to say that it’s often times, I’m going to say that it’s the other way around. I think that bullying is the…the answer is yes and the answer is also it’s much more than that. Yes, of course it is going to affect families because anybody that has been bullied or that’s a bully is going to be… let me just say this. Let me step back. Whether you are a bully or whether you are being bullied, in other words whether you are the victim or the victimizer, you are dealing with shame.

In other words, both people that are attacking other people whether they are children or whether this is on an adult level, because bullying happens in places not just with kids as we know. I mean, we don’t really often times call it that. We might call it harassment or intimidation but this is really…people who do that usually are not feeling…it’s a way to express power, full power over someone else.

So, the people that are doing it are actually not, at a very profound level, not feeling very good about themselves. Bullies do not have the best self-esteem. People with high self-esteem are not bullies. They are people that don’t have the need to hurt other people.

When you do feel that way, you have some shame in you. In the same way, the people that are being bullied are dealing with shame. The ones that are being victimized are dealing with their own shame for feeling inadequate, feeling that they are being made fun of or taunted or embarrassed or ridiculed. Either way, what I want to go back to is, whether you are the victim or the victimizer, you are more likely to be a victim or a victimizer….let me not say you are more likely. Let me say, if you…let me start with this. If you are bullying others, there is a fairly good chance that there are issues in your family, in your family life, and I’m not saying directly what those are but I’m saying that, it might be something or kind of behavior that you have seen model.

Perhaps your father towards your mother, maybe the mother towards the father, maybe grandparents, uncles, aunts. In other words, it doesn’t have to be in the family but often times if you see this kind of behavior, I don’t know where I read this but it feels at a visceral level very true to me that most bullies probably feel that the male role model in their life would approve. So, I kind of think that the equation is sort of the other way round. The family life is going to be affecting bullying and creating not only bullies, but may also contribute in some cases to kids, strangely enough, being on the other side of the fence; being bullied.

Kids that find themselves, maybe if it is not an isolated event but it’s a chronic kind of thing that people keep bullying them. It might be certain things that they are giving off or certain patterns whether they are playing the subservient sort of the victim role. Again, they may be modeling that from family issues as well.

CC: Very interesting. Very interesting and I haven’t heard that before and do you think there is likely to be long term effects on people who are bullied?

DW: If we go back to the basics, what’s really going on on an emotional level, then we are dealing with shame, we are dealing with people who don’t… these are grounded self-esteem issues.

So, again whether you are the victim or the victimizer, there are self-esteem issues going on and so, the answer to your question is it has the consequences or significance if the issues, underlying issues, are a result but the underlying issue is not the bullying.

The bullying…let me say that in fact bullying may result in issues but I think there is something more fundamental which is what’s giving rise to it. In other words, if you look at the bully as a symptom, utterly from the prospective of the bully-er…If you look at the bully-er as being, that kind of behavior as being something that has to do with far deeper than the behavior, then bullying is a sense of an adequacy and that quality is going to has very serious detrimental effect on his or her life if they are not resolved over time.

Some of the stuff is developmentally appropriate, age appropriate to some degree. When I say “appropriate,” I should qualify that by saying “in many group settings” because of the way the group behavior is and especially developmentally for kids.

If one person starts something and they become popular for doing it and they get attention for doing it and it is unhealthy behavior, other kids tend to emulate it. We do that as adults as well. We do it even more so as kids because of the need for social approval and just the process of developing a social identity.

So, you know, I guess what I’m trying to say is that the things that create the bully-er that need to be resolved for that bully-er not to have other issues in life later, and often times they do resolve overtime but sometimes they do need outside help.

From the perspective of the one that’s being bullied, once again, yes. Absolutely. The bullying can resolve in long term. It’s literally nothing less than traumatic for some. For others, it can be something that they can, you know, like water off a duck’s back. It has a lot to do with the type of person whether they have so called thick skin or thin skin, how sensitive they are, how they deal with stress. You know, what kind of resources that they have to cope but again what’s more important than the act of bullying is how they feel about themselves and how they can actualize the whole event. Did they handle it well? Did they come out of it feeling that they were standing, you know, with their tail between their legs or feeling that they somehow endured it and are able to work through it?

Another word, how they processed it because it’s going to be an important indicator of how they do later in terms of their self-concept or their self-esteem.

CC: And have you come across any severe cases or consequences of bullying?

DW: You know, it’s interesting. Like I said, and I think it’s an answer to maybe your first question, I haven’t…I work with a lot of families, parenting issues, I work with things like attention deficit which is, you know, very probably over diagnosed in adolescents.

A lot of issues like that, you know, sibling issues, parenting issues, marital issues. I don’t tend to hear as much about bullying as I hear about unhappy adolescents later, you know, maybe more late adolescents. Bullying tends to be at its peak in, let’s say, oh I don’t know, between 4th grade and maybe 8th grade, between 8-9 years old and 12-13.

I see more of what kids who have been dealing with shame at 16, 17, 15 not as much with the bullying but kids who are very unhappy and some of which are very aggressive and some of this stuff is the result of bullying years earlier.

For whatever reason, I don’t come across as many cases of people coming to me saying “My child needs help with bullying” but I have had situations. The one that comes to mind right now, and I’m thinking about, you know, a child who’s… I think about 16, blended marriage, what we call in The US blended… I don’t know. It’s a step family and the situation of a child with so much anger and so much that, you know, what we see is a lot of kids who are so angry and a lot of times if you trace back the anger and acting out that kind of behaviors, destructive, like putting fist through the wall, you know, drinking excessively, acting out, being aggressive, threatening, maybe the other parent, in this case was a non-biological parent.

Scary things like a lot of, you know, violence or quasi-violence like violence behavior. You trace it back, you realize that there is a shame in that individual. It’s not always because of bullying. Sometimes it’s because of shame that takes place within the family unit. Maybe bullying contributes.

So, yes. I see much more of that. Sort of the consequences are revealed a little bit later on in kinds that are not peaceful and not happy and so feel that they are not good enough.

CC: And if you don’t mind, I will ask you one last question. Going back to your own practice and your specialism and you mentioned that you help people in the problems and jobs and maybe seeking jobs. Do adults have a problem with bullying? And I think you mentioned the word “harassment.” Do adults have that problem? Does it continue in some form and lives a life into the working environment?

DW: Yes, you don’t really…we don’t talk about bullying with adults. I think the term is generally used within the context of kids. Children at the same time…people… and one of the reasons is because when we are younger, we are not as socially conscious and socially sophisticated. We don’t have as much of an awareness of, or as much as the same skillsets like we develop into early adulthood and later into adolescence into adulthood of what’s appropriate and not appropriate.

So, classrooms and schools, you know, the social rules around classrooms and school tend to be a falsehood in reality and it’s not quite the same in adulthood. There are people that carry this behavior into adulthood and if the right victim is there, somebody who they feel, you know, somehow has victim written all over them or where they can take advantage. This behavior sometimes is a little hard to detect. It’s usually not so obvious and usually in order for a bully to, I shouldn’t say usually but I would often, in order for someone of that kind of mindset who intimidates or threatens others and makes fun of others, to really be doing it, there needs to be often times an audience. At least one or two other people that will, you know, sort of also not be that developed emotionally, still be at an adolescent kind of level where they are still even though they are 25 or they are 30 or maybe are later or maybe their emotional life is very much like they are still 14 or can and so that kind of thinking go on in office environments. It can go on in workplaces, it can go on in other settings. Usually, it’s not as long standing, it’s not as prevalent, it doesn’t last as long and it’s not so obvious and we see it more. We use more terms like, you know, for instance, sexual harassment, a lot of power play sort of, egos that collide, threatening behavior, ridiculing behavior but again we see it the most with kids in that very vulnerable sort of preadolescence into adolescence, you know, age. You know, 8, 9, 10, 14, 15 something like that.

CC: Very interesting and again thank you very much for your time today. It is much appreciated and definitely gave us a better insight into bullying, what’s happening with our young people and through adolescents as well and if anyone wanted to talk to you or to find out more about what services you offer, especially under coaching or the parenting help, how could they reach you?

DW: Well, the… my website is… I will give you my website and I will give you my email address.

My website is www.coachtherapist.net and you can email me from that site or if you want to just email me directly without going to the website, you would email me at [email protected]

Those are the two pathways. If you are in… if you would like to speak to me, and whether you are in The US or abroad, my phone number which is in US is 845 825 0599.

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