Are you being bullied at school? Are you unsure on how you should deal with the bullying? To help understand where bullying stems from and how you can deal with being bullied at school, I have interviewed therapist Marc A. Rappaport.
Tell me a little bit about yourself.
“I received my undergraduate BA in counseling psychology from UC Santa Cruz in 1991. I worked in an inpatient psychiatric hospital for a couple of years before moving up to San Francisco. I graduated with my MA in integral counseling psychology from CIIS in 2001. I became licensed in 2007 after working with dual and triple diagnosed clients, clients with severe and persistent mental illnesses, at risk adolescents and families and adults in acute psychiatric crisis. Currently I am in my private practice.”
Where does bullying typically stem from?
“I believe most bullying stems from insecurity and fear. Bullies often feel so defective and badly about themselves. They often feel the need to achieve and excel above others. Their unsuccessful attempts give them no choice but to act out their internalized sense of shame and inadequacy onto others. Most of the time, this is to prevent being exposed as a fraud: as someone who does not have it all together. Bullies are frequently cowards in every sense of the word. Often they are raised in families in which they either experienced bullying from parents, siblings or other family members. Happy children do not bully other children and do not grow up to bully adults. We, at our most insecure, often persecute and attack that which we do not understand or that which makes us afraid. I strongly believe people that make us afraid do so because of what it brings up in ourselves. This is something we then have to externalize, disown, and attempt to eliminate by any means necessary. It’s easier to bully someone when the person is viewed as an object or less human.”
What type of impact can bullying at school have on the student who is bullied?
“A student who is bullied at school can have a variety of reactions and responses. The more disastrous and dramatic reactions have been seen in the media, i.e. gun-toting middle schoolers, shootings, and, most recently, the rash of suicides resulting from students being persecuted for being gay. Many children who are bullied develop extremely low self-esteem and self-worth and display symptoms of depression, social phobia, drug use and isolation. Some children who are bullied may create an illness just to stay at home. Some children who are bullied sadly often start re-enacting their own bullying out on younger or perceived weaker children at school, home and the community. Anyone can only take so much punishment by another before they start acting out. At school, you may find these students engage in cutting or self-harming behavior, cutting classes, looking extremely downcast or despondent, acting strangely at school, or avoiding school all together. Most horrifically, students who are bullied often feel no other recourse then to act in or out in the most visible and expressive ways possible: attempting or succeeding in suicide or causing violence at school in the Columbine fashion or other situations where fellow students and teachers have been shot and killed.”
What can a student do when other children bully him or her?
“A student who is being bullied has a variety of choices. The first, and perhaps most important, is to tell someone, preferably a trusted adult at the school. This could be a favorite teacher, counselor, security guard, administrator, or custodian. A young person’s thought process and emotions can change from simple annoyance and frustration to any or all of the responses. Young people should tell a parent, sibling, neighbor or babysitter. Tell their priest, rabbi, guru, dentist, doctor, cousin, grandparent or anyone else they trust and who will listen to what they are saying. Though I am not a proponent of violence, in fact I believe violence often begets violence, I think a student who is being bullied might consider exploring a self-defense class, especially martial arts and Krav Maga. Martial arts would give a student discipline and a sense of groundedness. Krav Maga would give the student skills and confidence to face any opponent. Most importantly, students should not face this alone. They should speak out as often as possible to trusted people in their lives. They should know it gets better. They should know that bullies are not bullying them because there is anything wrong with the child being bullied. Bullies bully because they are, at their core, wounded and feeling a profound fear of being exposed as such.”
What type of professional help is available for a student who has been bullied?
“School administrators and private therapists are there to listen to every child being bullied. First is to help develop a trusting, confidential relationship where a child can talk about whatever is going on in their lives. Ideally, I would love if the bullies came to therapy to try and understand and stop their behavior. Mostly it’s the student being bullied who comes to therapy. This is often because the student has come to the attention of teachers, parents, or someone else who believes the student needs help. In therapy, a student can talk about how they feel about school, home, community and themselves in a safe environment. When a child, adolescent or other student talks about being bullied in a therapy or counseling session, it becomes a serious safety concern. Attention MUST be paid and actions should be taken appropriately. Skilled therapists will consider a meeting with school administrators and teachers, conduct an all-student assembly, and even consider involving child protective services, when appropriate. I tell every minor, they have a confidential relationship with me unless I feel they are in danger due to their own behavior or actions by others. Therapists must advocate fiercely for their clients who are being bullied and be vigilant for any signs of potential suicide or harm to others and act on them immediately.”
Thank you Marc for doing the interview on how to deal with being bullied at school. For more information on Marc Rappaport or his work you can check out his website on http://www.marcrappaport-lmft.com
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