In Bullying Experts, Expert Interviews

Jane Martin on How to Stop Bullying

Jane is a Licensed Professional Counsellor, and a Master’s Level Breath Therapist trained with Carol Lampman in Integration Process Therapy and has been in private practice since 2002. She holds an MA in Psychology from Goddard College, specializing in Child Psychology and Transpersonal Psychology. She is a certified Imago Couples Therapist as well as a trainer in Social Pathways, a bullying prevention program for schools. She has been practising meditation for 40 years. She Talks to Ciaran Connolly on How to Stop Bullying.

The Interview on How to Stop Bullying can also be found here and here.

Below is a transcript of the interview on How to Stop Bullying:

Jane Martin:I’m Jane Martin and I have developed a program called Social Pathways here in United States. We are in New Jersey and it’s a very new program and I am a psychotherapist and I have been working with children and families for about 10 years and I have 3 kids, they are grown. So, I have experienced that end of things too and I also work with a program called Retribe which is a transformation program for teenagers. So, we have retreats for them to do a rite of passage.

Ciaran Connolly:Brilliant, excellent and of course Social Pathways, looking at the website, it does seem very different to I guess a lot of programs. So, could you tell us little bit more about what you do on the courses and in the retreats?

JM: Yes, so, Social Pathways is a community wide program, so, we have developed it to include the parents of the school and the faculty and the kids and outer community too and as we feel like what we are trying to do is create culture change as much as to address the smaller idiots, the tip of the iceberg is the bully itself.

So, we have programs for all of those components and basically, we come from a different sort of axiom, a different way of looking at things. I think that most programs due, the way I describe it is that when I actually was hired by a non-profit in Virginia to read the Social Emotion Learning Curriculum, I don’t know if you have that where you are, the SEL  but it’s sort of this national, conglomeration of Social Emotion Learning which includes anti bullying programs.

So, I read the programs that are available in this country and I noticed, sort of, these 3 approaches to bullying that I categorize these programs into:

The first called wave1, of course wave1, wave2, wave3 so, wave1 programs or lack of programs are basically this sort of attitude that kind of where we come from “It is not a purview, boys will be boys” you know, “Those tools themselves bully.” 22% of the teachers in the south here was… won’t report that bullying, 22% of the teachers have seen other teachers bully or the schools will say “No, you can’t have a, you know, gay-straight alliance” or something like that.

So, sort of that called wave1, wave2 is most of the programs which are basically, behavioral psychology which says let’s… this is sort of the way it works, “let’s figure out who the bad guy is, whose that fault and ostracize them, punish them.” And that fear of the punishment will be the change motivation for the kids to stop doing what they are doing.” It’s basic punishment and reward kind of way of thinking and we… in Social Pathways, we like to kind of think of ourselves as moving to wave3 approach which says “The child who is doing this bullying is trying to meet a need, some human need and he or she is using the bullying as a way of meeting that need and how can we identify the need and help the child to find a new strategy to meet those needs.” And so, it’s a more of moving from punishment thinking to healing.

CC: Very good, very interesting trying to fix the problem, so, trying to stop the bully I guess becoming a bully in adult life and impacting their lives as they grow older, it sounds very interesting and you are right. I have to say most people talk about path2 which is zero tolerance and deal with the bully in that way and in pathway3, do you think the victim gets looked after always in path 2 and 3? Is that what you find?

JM: Yeah, actually I think of wave 1, 2 and 3 are sort of dandelion analogy I use. So, the first one you let dandelion grow, that’s the bullying and wave2, you kind of cut the dandelions off, but wave3, you take your little tool and you dig down to the roots.

So, wave3, well, it sometimes looks like wave1, if you are only thinking of wave1 and wave2 and you are not punishing, people get freaked out because it’s like, You are going… you are just winning, everyone run a mock and it’s gonna be anarchy but actually wave3 takes a lot more time.

So, you are really holding space for the child who is been targeted, the child who is doing the bullying to help them and the children who are involved because anybody else is a bystander, is gonna be affected by what’s going on.

CC: Yeah, very true and that’s exactly a great point, the bystanders often forgotten as well, there are 3 people involved in all bullying cases. So, very interesting, it sounds great and this is a program you on yourself or it is on your state?

JM: Yes, I have 2 other partners in it and then we are now… we are very new. So, now we started to train facilitators to go into the schools.

CC: It’s again I guess it’s [inaudible] opened to this idea or is it, some people are very opened and some are closed as ever.

JM: We just started with two schools and so, they have been going for a year and they are extremely enthusiastic. So, the programs… we just did the programs and like the whole parent body came out and the faculties are going to be a lot more. It’s extremely successful story after story after story.

CC: That’s brilliant, I like to hear that. No, it sounds very good and again I definitely approach to what we normally hear and then thinking of bullying again, the schools that you are in, do you think bullying today is as big as… is as big an issue as it was maybe 5, 10 or 15 years ago?

JM:I think some of it is that the media is taking it up and so, there is a lot more awareness and then, I guess I’m saying yes and no. So, I guess this is more of a no that there is just more awareness where it is always going on and now, you know, the kids will say “She bullied me. She said my knapsack was ugly.”

And now the school has to fill out a report for bullying and yeah. So, that’s an exaggeration but just to get the sense of it that is more in the kids’ awareness. So, those will make the numbers grow up but at the same time, I do think that… actually there is… I don’t know if you saw this study that, The Drop in Empathy Rates, did you see that?

CC: I haven’t but I can imagine because someone else talked to me about this because it is everywhere we look now. We are starting to get numb to the stories.

JM: Yes, so, and just actually the empathy levels, the ability to have empathy, there was a study, the University of Michigan and in… since 2000 there has been an empathy drop of 40%, these are college freshmen. So, when I look at that, I try to look at sort of a bigger picture of society which is kind of what you are saying right now and my answer to that is that, I’m very involved with parenting and have a book going to be coming out [Kids Owner’s Manual] but I’m looking at the way that parents parent now, the changes in parenting methods and ways have sort of taken away certain supports for kids to the development of their highest part of the brain which is the prefrontal cortex.

This sort of executive functions, spiritual part of their brain which is including empathy, that’s where empathy lives and so, I look at the parenting changes and that actually, I think there is a very large increase in dysfunction in the prefrontal cortex which, dysfunction in prefrontal cortex is associated with almost all of the diagnosis and DSM which is Mental Health Disorder Manual.

So, most of the mental health problems are associated with dysfunction here and I associate dysfunction here with a lot of the ways that parenting is happening. That’s not supporting the kids and empathy is a huge part of that.

CC: That’s quite amazing. So, you see parents now would… how we deal with our kids is different to maybe 10 or 20 years ago?

JM: Yes, I think there has been a lot of changes. Just from the very beginning, holding our children. So, touches one, you see babies in those little carrier things and now… they used to carry them all the time and just right there is the beginning of the development of the ego which again is the prefrontal cortex.

There is some research about that with Antonio Damasio, called The Felt Body Sense, Here is the change, having movement, the children are getting into their bodies. Same thing their recesses becoming less and less, our discipline methods are becoming more and more, what I call mayhem parenting.

So, instead of… it might have mayhem parenting or boot camp parenting. So, the people are going to this mayhem way of parenting and the kids are sort of running the show and they don’t get that sort of “No because I love you” warmth plus firmness that they need.

Nutrition is down, this toxin exposure is so big with these kids. It just don’t feel well and no matter they can behave well and what else? Unstructured play is down and that’s really strong coalition with the development of executive function with unstructured play.

So, I have a list of like 12 major parenting changes that have happened in the past couple of decades that I believe is associated with the prefrontal cortex development which then, has kids going into schools unable to do the executive functions focus, attention, empathy, attunement on somebody else, impulse control, emotional regulation, all of those functions are missing in our kids and I think that the bullying epidemic is associated with this dysfunction in the prefrontal cortex.

CC: Quite amazing and do you think technology also plays a part in this? That maybe just seeing kids or less… we are less active than maybe our parents and grandparents were and I think it’s gonna continue looking at technology for future, we wanna get actually less and less active. Things we done more from sitting at a PC or on a mobile, on our phones, do you think technology does play a part?

JM: Oh, yes in many ways, when you are saying about being active especially for young children, also I think, there is something… just think of mirror neurons in your brain. So, when I see you even I’m seeing you here on this Skype, I get a sense of you and so, my brain mimics what’s going on in you. I can feel what you are feeling. So, this is empathy and when… so, like if I… if a kid walked up to somebody and said “You know, you are a big dowdy head.” And then they see the reaction in that child, their brain is gonna have empathy for that other child.

They are gonna feel the effect of what they have done on that child and that connection that will be broken will affect that child. If they are going on Facebook and they say this kid is a dowdy head or you are a dowdy head, they are missing that effect and that’s again the empathy question.

CC: Yeah, of course, exactly, it is very easy to type something even email, it’s easier to send an email with bad news than it is to tell someone face to face and I guess many more people are doing that. I guess we are even seeing people being let go from work by email because I guess it’s more convenient and easier to hide behind the computer screen and deliver bad news than it is to see people face to face. So, no, quite amazing, so, I guess I don’t see any change or do you think that we can actually recover this and recover our empathy and get our kids back on the straight now? Is it something we can do?

JM:Yeah and I think schools are really the place for this to happen that the faculty can be kind of taught these skills. I think they go to school to learn how to educate but if kids are having psychological problems and social and emotional problems, how you can even teach them. Their brains aren’t even gonna be functioning and so, I think more schools are finding that and I think that giving faculty certain skills and understanding is what will create an environment in the schools that will be healthier for the kids.

I’m glad that schools are using programs to address bullying, to protect kids but I think sometimes there is a… I don’t know what, you may call it like the downside to the energy of these programs.

I will give an example. So, they can(use) wave2 programs where we sort of demonize the child who is bullying and I saw on New Jersey network had like a news program and it was showcasing some of these new anti bullying programs and they had elementary school kids drawing a picture of a bully and then putting that picture into a shredder.

So, there are violence, it’s like we are teaching children violence. We are teaching children hate and if you have… like when I’m working in a school, consulting in a school and you know, there is a tiff, whatever and the child who is seen as the “bully” now we have labeled him as a nonhuman and our… the children watch that our way of dealing with someone who is behaving in a way that we don’t like is to ostracize them and call them bad and punish them.

This is what they are watching. We are teaching them violence and so, that’s my problem of what… with the anti bullying programs that are out there and why I started doing Social Pathways is to help teachers learn to see children past their behaviors and so, that’s why I’m saying, the axioms of what we are doing are very different like we would… there is one faculty that… faculty meeting and the whole discussion was, is there such thing as right and wrong and just that kind of attitude, this is right, this is wrong, you are a good kid, you are a bad kid is so damaging and yet that is the way our society thinks and so, Social Pathways comes in with these very deep changes in the way we look at other human beings.

That is not a bully. That is a little boy who is hurting inside, who has been bullied himself and he is trying to protect himself and his friends and he doesn’t know what to do and he is mimicking what was done to him. Instead of telling “You are bad, you are bad” or even the teacher thinking it inside him and that boy sees these eyes that are looking at him as if he is bad.

I help the teachers to see beyond that and think in a new way that this is a little soul and he and everybody involved here needs your love and anybody.

CC:  Of course and needs to be… the problem needs to be fixed long term not just for today because the worst thing, it can happen is that the problem solved and that incident went to adults there but a few days later, a few hours later that the bully continues to do what he was doing or she was doing before. So, for sure we all understand we need to break the cycle and I guess if any parents of teenagers are watching this video or reading the interview notes and they have got a child who is grown up, is it… it is not too late then to try and bring them back to be more in touch with their feelings?

I guess, I’m thinking of parents now who have teenagers who are addicted to social media, internet and all these new games are coming out and TV 24/7 and it’s… we seem to battling or fighting a losing battle because why we can lock way our laptop or phone or does an Ipad or does all… so many other ways to get in touch with the outside world and it’s hard to keep up with what’s happening especially with teenagers and young people obviously who are nearly teens.

It seems to be a challenge for most parents. They can still recover a teenager or that, you think it’s too late? We really need to deal with children when they are very young.

JM: I think, it’s never too late, I’m a Pollyanna. I’m really seeing this. It’s… I would call it an epidemic of our DSM here, our Mental Health Disorders Manual is going to be putting in, the next summer not this summer something called Internet Addiction Disorder.

There is not enough studies on it cause it’s so new for them to put it in this time but it’s already… it’s just huge, kids will be on 8 hours a day on… and actually my son worked at College Counseling Center and the admission…is a pretty high level one and the admission’s person told him that the number one reason for dropouts from this college was World of Warcraft 2, a video game.

Kids are dropping out of a college that I have had kids who will stay up all night texting with their friends. There is a big problem with not getting enough sleep which is, it almost makes them go psychotic a little bit. Just because they have not enough sleep, they are not doing the schoolwork.

This is a really huge problem, Retribe … it’s R-e-t-r-i-b-e, Retribe is the other program that we do for teens there, a rite of passage and that’s a big component of it is, we take all the electronics at the door and we do this process called Adventure Game Theatre. So, it’s almost like a video game except they are in it now and they are costumed up and they have swords and run around the woods and killing.

So, they are being alike but they also have that fantasy element that they are longing for but… and then we do some addictions programming there too because it’s such a big issue. I don’t think that it’s too late. Actually there is a program in Wisconsin, it’s called The Mendota Prison Project which is to me, it opens my heart I guess.

It’s really inspiring for me. It’s a jail, prison and it’s for adolescent boys I believe and what they did, instead of hiring wardens, they hire shrinks. So, it costs the state twice as much money, so, it’s moving from wave2 which is the punishment, this is wave3 prison project, to go for healing rather than punishing.

Cost twice as much money, this is like the dandelion analogy I was saying. Cost more time and money upfront but they did a long term look at the money and the recidivism rate is so low after this prison. For every dollar that they spend on this project, they save 7 dollars and I think if the schools will take it up in that way that let’s write that on elementary schools, let’s put in the time and money to learn how to… the psychology of creating a culture, helping the kids create a culture that’s kind of Not-So- hot, it’s a cool culture. So, when the sparks of bullying come in which they are going to that the environment itself puts it up. That takes a lot more time than the punishment mode, the wave2 programs that are out there but if they would see that, they would see that in the long run going all through high school, they gonna save so much money.

CC: Wow, no, brilliant, it sounds amazing and I will look up more about that for sure and so,  recovering, we can recover our teens, that’s the most important thing is….

JM: Oh yeah and it is a hard thing and I think therapist… I do deep healing. I have to do this thing called Breath Work. So, it’s a body psychotherapy and it’s really intense. We do it at Retribe with the kids, breath work. So, it goes to childhood once and I think you actually said it when you said “Can they get in touch with their feelings?” which means to me that you have an understanding of a child who was bullying.

That the reason they don’t have empathy or can’t get in touch with the feelings of the child that they are harming is because they aren’t ready or able, they are frightened to feel their own feelings.

So, a child who was bullying is actually kind of hardened to their own feelings. Why? Probably because they have this giant bag of pain and in order to heal them, they need to be kind of held in a safe loving environment and a process that allows them to feel those feelings that they are so afraid to feel.

It’s almost kind of saying “If I start crying, I am never stuck.” But that’s actually not true and that anybody not just teenagers but anyone can do that deep psychological healing. Sometimes it’s definitely beyond talk therapy to do which is hard because in my field, in psychology that’s mostly what we do.

CC: Of course and have you ever dealt with bullies directly and tried to help them understand what they are doing is wrong?  Is it a very difficult process?

JM: First, I wouldn’t wanna tell them what they are doing is wrong, cause they may translate it as “I’m a bad person” which then makes the cycle happen. That hurts and then their anger and it just goes round and round but I help them to see that. What they are doing is harming others that I see them as a good person and help them to see themselves that way and then we look at strategies to do it differently.

Mostly with them is pointing at the harm that they are doing and help them to heal their own inner pain. So, sometimes they will have adopted kids where sometimes their pain is so early, it’s not even in the conscious mind, it’s more in their body. The tears that need to come are just on a body level.

CC: Of course and again, I’m thinking today a modern example probably is, on a social network we have someone post something and it’s negative against another child and 20 or 30 other people join in and like the post or retweet it or share it and they are also becoming from bystander to now actually involved in the bullying. Trying to discipline or to take action against all these people is pretty tough but trying to get people to understand that this is wrong and hopefully that they won’t do it again.

I can see, it’s a better solution but do you think is it hard to convince the victims or the targets that wave3 and even parents of people who are victims that wave3 is a better solution than wave2? Because I guess from my feeling, I’m talking to other people who have been bullied, sometimes we are looking for justice and want punishment. Again just it’s our own… our old psyche and how we are being brought up and how we see the world. Is it hard to convince victims and parents of wave3 is better?

JM: Yeah, it’s… because like when I do programs since I do, you know, programs just introducing this whole idea and I start off by doing an exercise where I have them imagine someone they love and they sit at the lunch table and then somebody says “Don’t sit at our table anymore.” And then ask them to feel into their body, what is the first instinct that they have and usually it is anger and revenge and so, when I talk about like yeah, we all have that instinct that’s the first thing we go to and because we love the person, we care, we want to help the situation but I ask them also “What is your goal?” And if the goal is kind of bit larger goal of the society or that culture that their inner, that school’s culture.

Then they can see that is… the question is: is it more effective to do the punishment? Or is it more effective to do the healing? And like in Mendota Project shows, it’s… actually the whole prison system has the 65% recidivism rate, where wave3 program such AS restored of justice have consistently, recidivism rateS half of that.

So, if you are looking at the goal… oh and also there was a mental analytical review in Texas A&M University that pretty much looked at the wave2 programs and says “Their numbers don’t show that they work.” So, when you look at, is your goal to work? and even though your instinct is to do the punishing way, when they look at it, the wave3 actually gets you to your goal.

So, for instance that situation you said about the, you know, there was… here on Facebook, we had that at the last 3 tribes. So, one of the girls told everybody else to “unfriend” another girl and so, the next Retribe, that girl came back and what we did, we didn’t take the first girl and say “That was wrong and bad what you did.” We have the two of them getting together and so, now the first girl saw in the face of this second girl how painful that was for her and by the… so, they… we have them meet.

Where’s what I’m seeing a lot of times in the schools around here, their solution is “Let’s separate the kids.” And so, now the kids learn that when you have a conflict with someone, the way to resolve it is to run away and not… that we can’t resolve it.

Where’s, what we did at Retribe is bring the kids together and we facilitate them and we help them learn how to have a respectful conversation, how to do conflict resolution that focuses on needs and feelings. So, we get that technology from nonviolent communication, you have often heard of that as pretty much a worldwide phenomenon and then they can see like “Oh, we can resolve this.” And those 2 girls, girl 1, girl 2 spent the whole week together completely just like always together. It was wonderful to see them resolve that way.

CC: Brilliant, sounds quite amazing. So, if a parent then is watching this and they are looking for help. Their child is being bullied at the moment, your advice to them is not… and they found out the bully lives 5 doors away, the advice is not to go banging on the door and screaming bloody murder but to have a calm talk with the parents or even if it’s via the school and trying arrange a meeting between the two children and they sit and actually talk about what’s happening as opposed to punishment and screaming and more fighting.

JM: Yeah, I mean, sometimes your child is in danger and you need to protect your child. Sometimes if the schools really don’t have programs or understanding on how to deal effectively with this and your child is being wounded and I, you know, I had one  girl who was my client, I just said “You Know what, this is… the school is not responding in a way that is helping your daughter. She is getting wounded, please bring her to an alternative high school and it is way better.

You know, just the reality of how much you can do. Ideally, would be that… to go through the school because sometimes if you have an entrenched bullying situation, having a face to face meeting with child who’s bullying and the child who’s targeted can make things worse in a lot of ways but if the school has a knowledge of how to handle this entrenched situations, then it can be a growth experience for everybody.

Actually, I would say, conflict is an opportunity for everyone involved to grow. That’s my experience that when we have situations, every time there is something that’s beautiful for everybody involved in it.

Actually, the Chinese have a character. Their character for conflict is comprised of 2 characters, one means danger and one means opportunity. So, conflict can kind of go both ways.

CC: Wow, brilliant, excellent, a great analogy. I guess… have you seen then, long term effects of bullying in people that you meet and students? Have you seen it continue to later life? Do you think that something can impact someone for many years?

JM: I know that for a fact because I’m a psychotherapist. I do Breath Work which is… and I do it with groups. I probably have done about a 1000 sessions in my life so far. So, those really… the most painful experiences that people have, what comes out during Breath Work. So, I have experienced again and again and again grown people who are still carrying the wounds from being bullied. It affects their personality for their life.

CC: Wow, quite amazing and I guess… what if someone want… you spoke about restorative justice in… one of the last times, that’s basically the foundation is in wave3 is actually getting people to sit down and talk. What would happen in a session of that? How does a bully and a victim or target talk together? How would a parent and a teacher get… start the conversation?

JM: Well, we… in Social Pathways, we go into the school and we create a committee. So, you know, eight or ten people faculty and parents working together on a committee and we train them exactly how to have a meeting. So… are you wondering how it would work?

CC: Exactly, what would happen and how would it start? I can imagine two children are a bit sheepish with a few adults standing around them and it feels maybe at the start a forced situation but how would it be managed?

JM: Let’s say, maybe a 4th grade one kid hits another kid, ok. So, the… Social Pathways Committee would get an 8th grade helper who has been trained to calm and be the buddy of the child who was bullying and another person, an 8th grader would be the buddy of the child who is targeted. They have their own meeting together.

So, that would be… we call that a discovery meeting and in the discovery meeting, we do the processes of conflict resolution which basically “I have a little mnemonic. Hadn’t feeling nice with all folks.” They go through this processes of what happened, what were your feelings… and then they identify and this is key, what is the need that was being meant for you, a human need and then what is that you would like to see happen, that kind of thing.

So, now the 8th graders getting a sense of what we are on, the 4th graders having the strength of the 8th grader, if they are shy the 8th grader will speak for them. The 8th grader “Oh, that happened to me when I was in 4th grade.” You know, just… my favorite experience of that was with, we had one 8th grader, we had… was a 3rd grader who was the bully, so called bully, a big guy, you know, bigger than the other kids and he punched somebody in the playground. So, they called me in. I called an 8th grader who I knew when he was a 3rd grade, was in the same boat, right. So, the 8th grader “The big 3rd grader, the big 3rd grader” they don’t talk much these boys, right. So, all of the sudden the 8th grader goes “Dude, you are bigger than all of them right?” and the 3rd grader “Yeah”

so 8th grader like “You can beat them up, right?”

3rd grader “Yeah”

8th grade “And they know that already, right?”

3rd grader “yeah”

8th grader “Well, you don’t actually have to defend it.”

So, the 8th grader was wonderful, I never expressed that to him. So, then you have the two meetings and then there is a larger meeting then, sometimes, sometimes not, sometimes it resolves just with that and sometimes you bring them together and you have them mirror each other, meaning that you make sure that they are understanding the other person and this is the teaching of empathy and then you… we have this bowl where we put their needs and we say “these are the needs in the bowl, let’s all strategize together, everyone here, the 8th graders, the mediator and the kids on how can we find a strategy that meets everybody’s needs.”

That’s the basic crooks of how we working it and then they now, they are working together. Now they are on the same team and then I never had a situation, one of these meetings were they didn’t come out with them arm in arm. It doesn’t continue, it just… they become connected in a human way, it’s wonderful.

CC:Brilliant, sounds excellent and you are actually teaching them life skills because of course sadly, in our life there is no way we can continue without conflict at some stages and actually having those skills to negotiate and find your way out of it and when you resolve a conflict or deal with a uncomfortable situation, you actually do feel better, your will being probably improved as well. So, I can imagine that it really works well.

Well, thank you again for your time today and explaining all about what you do with Social Pathways and the wave1, 2 and 3 was very interesting.

CC: Excellent and we will make sure to have a live link in the notes below this video and I’m sure, we will be talking to you again if you are willing to talk to us but it was very interesting and totally different to exactly a lot of what we have heard, our preconceptions, thoughts and it was very good. So, thank you for taking time out to share with us today, much appreciated.

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