We are hearing a lot, lately, about the prevention of bullying and the dangerous effects of this new phenomenon called cyber bullying. While much of the conversation is focused on bullying as a childhood challenge, many perceive this challenge as a problem limited to young people. Unfortunately, this is far from reality. The reality is, a lot of people are suffering from Adult Bullying!
Age is no indicator of maturity; thus adult bullying is not only a serious problem, but it is often an undetected problem among adults. As we work hard to ensure safety for children from the effects of bullying, we must turn some of our attention towards a better understanding of bullying amongst adults and how prevention may create more emotionally healthy adults as well.
Sadly enough, adult bullying comes from people that generally were bullies as children (and never matured beyond that) or they were victims of bullying as children, often turning to this destructive pattern as a defence mechanism. Let’s briefly explore how these bullying behaviours are commonly displayed among adults, otherwise known as, Adult Bullying:
- Impulsive: The impulsive adult bully does not tend toward planning out his/her behaviour; instead, the actions seem to be more spontaneous. In other words, the bully feels completely incapable of restraining himself or herself in times of stress. Often, the behaviour can have no relation to the individual being targeted (i.e., something else in life has caused lots of distress, and the bully needs to express those negative thoughts/feelings. The behaviour can be unintentional, but no less painful for the victim, nonetheless).
- Narcissistic: This type of bully appears–at least outwardly–to have a great level of self-esteem. However, the narcissistic bully is actually self-serving and egotistical with very low esteem; thus, he or she needs to put others down in order to build up self.
- Physical: Most adult bullies don’t resort to physical confrontations, but some will. More often, however, the physical bully will stand in the way of the victim, issue threats of harm or steal the victim’s personal property as a way to send the message. A good example of this type of bully is the one who shows up in clubs or other social settings, using their physical threats or looming presence to control the actions of the person being targeted.
- Secondary: Secondary bullying is, essentially, the person who joins in on bullying initiated by another individual or group of people. The secondary bully is less concerned about what’s happening inside the victim and far more concerned with protecting himself or herself from being the target later on down the road.
- Verbal: While a more subtle form of bullying, the verbal abuse can not only create more psychological damage, it can also lead to severe depression. Verbal bullying can run the gamut from the use of demeaning language or sarcasm toward the victim to spreading rumours and openly humiliating the victim. Prevention of verbal bullying is more difficult because, as the initiator understands, it is difficult to document. For victims, those words and feelings can be replayed over and over again in the mind and heart of the victim, causing the person to feel those feelings again and again, creating feelings of helplessness and hopelessness and sometimes resulting in poor work performance and overall depression.