What is Bullying?
Bullying is one or more verbal, physical or psychological attacks on a person or persons, with the intention of causing harm or terror. Reasons for the aggression may not be given, or seem obscure, irrational and petty.
Bullying is based on fear. The bully or bullies are afraid, and transfer that fear to the victim or target, usually ongoing over days, weeks, even years, using aggressive behavior and psychological manipulation to terrorize the victim. For example, the bully may show up in a place the victim thinks is “safe”, so the bullied person feels tormented everywhere, and can never relax; or, the bully may walk past the victim and mutter threats or obscenities only the victim hears; or, the bully involves other people in his vicious game through lies, rumors, false allegations, who then join in to terrorize the victim. There are as many ways to bully a person as there are people, though bullying tactics are more common than others.
It is ironic that often in these cases, the victim is accused of bullying behaviour. For example, the bully may nag, follow and intimidate a person, and when that person reacts, the bully points his finger as if to say “See! That person is yelling at me for no reason!”
Bullying is most famous for taking place in schools, and is a major cause of child suicide. Nonetheless, bullying can happen to anyone at anytime, anywhere, regardless of age, race or gender. It happens in the workplace, in the family, in an apartment building, anywhere people live and function together.
Who is a Target or Victim of Bullying?
Most targets of bullying are pacifists who prefer not to make waves. Those people prone to bullying seem to sense the potential of a person to become their victim, but bullies often find victims through trial and error. Bullied schoolchildren often grow into bullied adults because, even if they leave the scene of the terrorism, they often find themselves in similar situations as they get older.
- tend to be shy or self-conscious
- have a serious or sensitive personality
- are often physically smaller and weaker than the bully or bullies
- generally feel awkward socially, although some bullied people, especially those who are attacked due to the jealousy of others, may be well adapted in social circles but become increasingly awkward due to the effects of bullying, which isolates and alienates the victim
- tend to be different in some way – through race, gender, language, lifestyle, clothing, physical or mental health, appearance, habits, personal preferences etc
- are pacifists – prefer to settle disputes through discussion and mediation
- appear isolated, alone or defenseless
- cause the bully to feel threatened, even through no intended or specific action
Who is a Bully?
Bullies, in theory, are much maligned for their aggression and cruelty toward their victims. Stories abound of brutal attacks recorded on video by the bullies and put on video sites. Email bullying and harrasment are common in school, work and other settings. Bullies make the lives of their victims miserable and can cause unspeakable trauma. A bully or bullies may:
- feel threatened by the target or victim
- feel he or she has something to prove by molesting or harassing the victim
- use one of many tactics to terrorize the target including physical, psychological and/or verbal means to acheive their goals
- take advantage of opportunities to increase the victim’s vulnerability
- find insidious ways to torment or harrass the victim until he or she cries, yells back or responds physically – trying to “fight back” or even throw something at the bully – which gives the bully more fodder for further attacks.
- involve others in their bullying by spreading rumours and lies about the victim – unknown to the victim, who is completely puzzled as to why other people have started attacking or avoiding her.
- be physically, mentally or verbally abused at home as kids, are abused as adults, or feel abused by others
- be dealing with ongoing issues of anger, poor communication, jealousy, insecurity and low self-esteem
- blame others for their problems or situation
- feel the victim deserves to be abused
Signs and Symptoms of Bullying
It is very difficult for non-bullied people to identify bullying, and even harder for a bullying victim to get help. A major reason is because bullies tend to group together and involve others through hatemongering and spreading of lies. They can convince other people that the bullied person is out to get them or has done or said something against them. A victim of bullying may:
- become reclusive and withdrawn
- suffer ongoing depression and anxiety
- change her behaviour, hide her face or wear concealing clothing, avoid social situations or places where she was once happy and comfortable
- show major performance slumps at work or school; have more than usual sick days or absences
- suffer worsening physical health
- develop hypervigilance or exaggerated startle reflex, overreacting to common noises or movements
- turn to alcohol or drugs to assuage feelings of desparation, frustration and alone-ness
- lose her temper, become explosive or aggressive toward others
- cry, yell at people to “LEAVE ME ALONE”
- lose appetite or develop eating disorders
- become unsually fearful and / or overly defensive
A bullied person suffers severe humiliation. In addition, she may be threatened by the bullies and afraid to come forward or point out her abusers. She may be brainwashed by the bullies to the point that she thinks she deserves it too.
Authority figures, especially those who have never been bullied, have trouble understanding a situation of bullying. Because the bullied victim is often falsely blamed by the bullies for instigating fights or attacking the bullies without provocation, authority figures such as police called to an incident receive conflicting stories about the situation. If they receive the same story from several people, contrary to one story from the bullying victim, who are they more likely to believe? Similary, the victim finds no help from other authority figures such as teachers, landlords, police or supervisors.
Victims of bullying may develop a vast realm of mental disorders including post traumatic stress syndrome, antisocial behavior, suicidal tendencies, panic attacks and other anxiety-related problems, chronic depression. The bullying victim may develop a “thousand yard stare” gazing emotionlessly into the distance for long periods of time, possibly accompanied by a catatonic-like refusal to respond to questions or comments of others.
When I was bullied as a kid, I was forced to drop out of school. Before that I had tried countless tactics to avoid the bullies and their abuse, including intentionally missing the school bus – we lived out in the country, and it was a three hour walk to school. But I liked school, so I did it. My mother and stepfather were less than understanding, and instead of help, I got yelled at and severely punished. I remember feeling so utterly helpless and alone and more than once tried to commit suicide – but chickened out at the last minute.
In the end, I ran away from home and dealt with the repercussions, including alcoholism, ongoing anxiety and suicidal depression and other problems for many long years of my life. Many victims of bullying suffer through abusive relationships. Some live shadow lives, falling through the cracks of the law, health system or even basic rationale. The experience haunts them forever and they exist only as survivors, focussed on surviving safely day by day, even long after the initial traumatic events are past.
My Story – Bullied out of my Apartment 2017
Once a bullying victim, always a bullying victim? As a loner who lacks any social graces, who is often stricken by varying degrees of anxiety, and prefers being around animals than people, I am a pretty good example of a bully victim in the making. And, it was only this summer that I came to the realization that, although I have learned a lot since the horrors of school bullying, I was now in a similar, frustration position of being bullied by other tenants in my apartment building.
I live in an old house redesigned to accommodate five apartments. Mine is a one-bedroom with an extra room, nice space, but I have misophonia (a serious condition of noise and sound with possible neurological origins – some noises seem to cause actual physical pain, as well as strong emotional response) so I cannot use the room nearest the street; nor can I sit outside when certain noises are present, for example screaming of kids, perfectly normal to others but a horror show of relentless stabbing noises for me. Misophonia is also very poorly understood and not at all by the medical system of the province in which I live, so I have to deal with it by myself.
I have lived in this apartment for about ten years. Living on the second floor, I have a balcony at front and am supposed to share a back balcony. I am entitled to a parking space, my own part of the communal shed to store stuff, and I have a right to sit outside in the backyard. This is what has caused unbelievable trouble!
The rent is reasonable because the place is, admittedly, a dump. I am an artist, ergo I am poor 🙂 I do not even have a phone because I cannot afford both phone AND hydro … but, I pay the rent on time every month, have never caused any trouble to my knowledge – certainly not on purpose – quit alcohol eleven years ago, don’t smoke cigarettes and have always been civil to my neighbors and helpful and accommodating to the landlord. However, because I have been busy dealing with my own demons, and didn’t want to make waves when I moved in, I never complained about the yelling, fighting, hoarding and control-freakishness of other tenants, three of whom drink voraciously.
Recently, I have been getting treatment for my depression and other issues. I am trying to live a normal life. I asked the landlord to define my parking space, which she should have done when she bought the house (she is the 2nd owner since I’ve been there). The parking spot allegedly mine is occupied by a junk vehicle which has been sinking into the earth there for the past several years. I told her I didn’t care where it was, but I did need to have the parking spot defined. I had already incurred wrath from other tenants by inquiring about this. It wasn’t til later that I realized how much these territorial folks were threatened and offended by that simple act.
So, when the landlord gave me a spot right in the middle of an area to the back of the house, an area which another tenant actually believes he owns, all hell broke loose. I do not have a car but I know people who do – and they are afraid to park in my space because of the guy at the back.
The person in the apartment next to him, downstairs, is a hoarder. He is the only one in the house who has been there longer than I have, and considers himself the boss of this sad little slumhole. He was acquainted with the previous owner and is resentful that the owner had not left him the house when he died (there was no reason why he should). The angry tenant was especially upset about the parking space because he had lied to me and told me 1) that my parking spot was in another location on the property, a place not even big enough to hold an average sized vehicle; and 2) then changed his mind and told me I didn’t have a parking space because I myself didn’t have a car. I went over his head, and thus became his dire enemy.
As mentioned, I also have shed space in communal outbuilding. When I moved in I had decided, temporarily, not to claim the shed space because of constant fighting regarding those spaces. The hoarder had stuff crammed in most of them, and a friend of the family who then owned the house would come over screaming and hollering to load up his truck with the hoarder’s generally worthless items. I tried using a shed for a while but was always nervous about leaving anything in it due to the fighting and throwing of things that happened on a regular basis, and for my peace of mind gave the little place up. Immediately afterward the hoarder had it crammed full of his stuff again.
So, getting my shed back was very hard. I asked the hoarder nicely and in front of witnesses to vacate my shed by the end of the month (a week’s time) – in fact, I even gave him a choice of sheds to vacate. His response was to throw his arms in the air and start screaming about his stuff. OK. He did not clear out any sheds. First of the month, I picked the one I had told him I was going to use, and wrote my apartment number on it. By the tenth he had still not moved anything, so I got in there and with some solid elbow grease pulled everything out, only to have him show up when I was almost done, complaining that I was throwing away his valuable pieces of wood (which were all rotten and cracked) so I let him finish. He was of course very upset that I had thrown some of the stuff away. However I had given him plenty of notice and was well within my rights – at that point it is an abandoned shed.
So, I got my parking spot, in a spot no one wants to park, and a shed to store some of MY stuff, finally! after having to stand up for my rights numerous times. But then, something even worse happened to this poor innocent angry hoarder. Not only did I take the shed, but I requisitioned the space in front of it too! What nerve!
And what horrible thing did I do? I got rid of the weeds, the broken glass, the cigarette butts, the rusted equipment, tools, wires and whatever, and turned the tiny space into a garden – since all I have is a balcony garden, and plants like it so much more in the big earth! I brought in nutritional earth and planted flowers and herbs. I painted the door a nice warm welcoming pale peach and added brass hardware. It stuck out like a sore thumb among the broken machinery, tools, pieces of wood, broken bottles, beer cans, rusty things, useless things (like a computer printer stuck in a lidless bin and soaked by repetetive rainstorms – maybe it is useful to somebody, what do I know…? Just another hoarded item among piles of more).
And then, after I committed the awful sin of making a small garden in front of my shed, I then insisted on making a small spot for myself, just big enough for a table and chair and a little shelf unit, so I could sit in the back when the front of the place is too noisy with screaming and drunks. This turns out to be unforgivable behavior on my part.
So, because I am doing nothing but claiming my rights, I am currently being bullied, harassed, sworn at, threatened almost every time I go outside. Even a sorry piece of furniture I put outside was broken by the hoarder’s temper tantrum at my exterior insolence. Knowing the mentality, I didn’t put anything outside that I couldn’t live without.
The three drunkateers, as I call them, have now banded together in territorial aggression EVEN THOUGH they have been told by firefighters (whom they called twice), police (whom I had to call) and the landlord, that I was not doing anything wrong and was perfectly within my rights – including the small garden I built beside the chainlink fence dividing our property from that of a large loud neighbour, who has already shown himself to be a major control freak, even dictating to the persons occupying our house where they may or may not put their garbage cans! This person, because I mistakenly left a small amount of earth on his prize asphalt while gardening, came suddenly stomping up my stairs and into my residence screaming and yelling and calling me a bitch. What??
The reason I mistakenly left the earth on his drive was, ironically, because I had to call police, as another of the residents was yelling and cursing at me due the fact I was gardening in what he considers his right-of-way. Unfortunately this person cannot understand that the driveway is the right-of-way, and the blockage is not me, but his friend the hoarder, who is storing one of his rusty vans in the driveway, thus blocking not only my appointed parking space and the entire right-of-way, but also my view of the bit of earth on the neighbour’s precious asphalt. I had already mentioned this to the landlord. She told the hoarder to move the vehicle. He did. When she was gone, he moved it back.
Despite her responsibilities here, the landlord would rather not be bothered. She just wants to collect the money. Nonetheless I thought that she might help me deal with the aggression of the hoarder and his cronies. They are bringing the property value down, after all. But, no. After speaking to the drunkateers, she decided to believe them, and that I was the one making trouble for them.
Most recently I had been harassed and screamed at by the person at the back of the building because he had a leak in his pipe and blamed it on me. For two days he wouldn’t leave me alone. Then he called a couple of firefighters. They were cute! They checked around, even pulled out the fridge and saw nothing leaking at my place. That night, the guy came banging on my door drunk at 4 am. I let him in, very short of temper at this point, and told him to show me the leak he kept insisting was my fault. Naturally, he could not find it because it was not there. This, however, did not stop him. The next day he called more firefighters, who again came to my place to inspect (they were super cute). They also found nothing. I asked them to tell this twit to stop harassing me, which they assured me they would do.
Believe it or not, this guy still didn’t stop. Anything he could find in his small beer-addled mind to yell and curse at me about, he did. At this point I don’t know why the landlord did not respond – the guy had been calling her for days – she should have been here to deal with this. Eventually she did arrive, with her plumber, and the leak was identified as issuing from the residence of the same person who was harassing me.
So I thought maybe now this jerk and his friends would leave me alone. The problem here is that the guy is a person of very little brain and not the ringmaster here – he is just easily manipulated by the head bully, the hoarder, who cannot afford to have any more trouble with police, who know him.
Anyway, the deranged tenant still would not stop. Again he started yelling at me for gardening in what he considered his right of way, and this time I called police. What happened is typical in a bullying situation. The drunkateers all have the same story, that I am causing trouble, although there is no evidence of this. The cop was young and for all I know it was his first case – he definitely had no experience with bullying and kept telling me it was a civic problem. While it is true that territory is a civic problem, bullying and harassment are criminal offenses – however the bullies had convinced the cop that “whatever” was all my fault, and I was aggressive and nasty.
Damn … sometimes I just wish I was.
Anyway, the cop did explain to the drunkateers that they have to learn to share the yard. He also told the hoarder, the harasser et al that he cannot see anything wrong with what I’m doing, I am perfectly within my rights, and told them to leave me alone. For heaven’s sake.
The cop’s visit did no good. Less than half an hour after he left, the freak with the prize asphalt came screaming up my steps. Later that day, the aggressive guy at the back of the house, despite being told by police, firefighters and landlord to LEAVE ME ALONE, still did not stop. As I crossed though a public right of way behind the house, which he had decided he owned, he yelled and swore at me again, then in a huff blocked off the little path (which is actually against fire regulations, but at this point I cease to care. I just want to sit out back and relax, or do a bit of work, without being attacked).
Meanwhile, my upstairs neighbours are also surly and resentful because I asked the landlord to ask them (nicely) to put their garbage in cans instead of leaving it scattered all over the back balcony festering in the sun. It stinks and is abuzz with flies, all transferred to my living room when I open the door. I have to open the door, as I have only one small window to light two rooms! besides it gets very hot and humid without a through draft. We are supposed to share – for the sake of peace I tried putting their garbage in cans, picking it up from the balcony, etc, even though I was pretty sure it wouldn’t do any good. I put a small privacy screen up between my door and their garbage – they kept shoving the screen against my door so I couldn’t get out without some effort. The landlord spoke to them twice but it did no good. I now have closed off my back door, can no longer use that balcony, and now must pay more in hydro because of air conditioning due to humidity, and lights because it is dark with that door closed even in broad daylight.
I was hoping to have a decent talk with the landlord about the bullying by the three drunkateers, their drinking buddies and associated control freak friends, but sadly for me, the bullies got to her first. By the time I got to talk to her she was convinced I’m the one causing all kinds of trouble and harassing the other tenants. Meanwhile, I am doing everything I can to keep the peace. I am anxious all the time, losing sleep, cannot eat. This a typical situation of blaming the victim, which is very very common in bullying.
So, there is nothing I can do. I am a bullying victim because I am different. I am an artist and writer. I would rather live in an area of grass and flowers than broken bottles and garbage. I don’t drink alcohol therefore I am a suspicious character right away (funny how that happens). From what I gather these allegedly adult bullies are afraid, because they seem to think I am threatening their pretend authority and their sad pathetic ways of life. As they are picking fights, swearing at me and running away (blaming language barrier because they speak Québec french and I speak English, French and German, but not Québec french very well), refusing to communicate in a calm and rational manner, accusing me of dozens of things I haven’t done, spreading hate and hostility … it is not worth my while, and I have finally just given up.
After I realized the landlord not only doesn’t care, she actually believes the drunks, I destroyed my gardens and threw away most of the flowers. I put the cigarette butts and broken glass and garbage back in front of my shed space so it would blend better with the rest of the surroundings. I took down my tiny table and chair and shelf, which had offended so many just by being there. I overpainted my shed door, shoddily with grey paint, so it would look less warm and cheerful. This is not a place where good things grow, or where nurturing things happen.
My landlord absolutely refuses to help. She is responsible for designating the public and private areas of the building for the tenants, but has not done so. She just wants to collect the money. The backyard is full of garbage and junk and the hoarder now has three vehicles, only one of which is road-worthy. The police cannot help because there is no way to make them understand the situation. The firefighters cannot help (even though they are cute). I could call the city and make a fuss. There are so many bylaws being broken on this property is it mind-boggling. But why should I bother? I’m just “making trouble”, which makes me more of a target for the bullies. I could nag the landlord to lay down the territorial rules of the place. But why? No one cares.
Fortunately, I do have a boyfriend, who has been a wonderful help through it all. He is also a pacifist and has some understanding of the nature of bullies. He has now moved in for a while, so I am not alone. I hope to get a phone within the next couple of months, too, which will make me feel safer. I’m tired of wearing dark glasses and prop headphones just so these schmucks are less likely to approach and yell and swear at me. I’m tired of avoiding the Outside when any of those people are out there, and adapting my life around their activities. I’m tired of being snapped at and disbelieved by so-called authority figures as if I have done something wrong. I haven’t. And, it’s a good thing that cop had beautiful eyes. He wasn’t any actual help but at least it’s better than a kick in the teeth.
So now that I have removed my outdoor presence, stupid as it sounds to have to resort to such nonsense, I can pretend to hope that the bullies will let up. But it never, ever stops. Now they see this type of thing as a victory – they have won. Never mind that I am not interested in their freakish control games, just in living my own life. But, that’s the way it is. Really, the only thing I can do is what I should have done long ago – depart the premises and go live among a better class of people. Cheap rent be damned. For me, it is not worth the hassle.
Bullying Prevention – is it possible?
I’m an optimist. I’d like to think it possible for everyone to live in peace.
Browse Cat at Night Cards & Gifts
Unfortunately, it’s a difficult situation with deep-reaching, confused emotional causes and effects. One cannot rationalize with bullies because they do not operate on a rational level. Sometimes, bullies recognize their own behaviour. Sometimes they are not bad people, just going along a bad track in life. A few do realize how petty and small minded bullying is, and that people who bully and lack respect for authority figures or others are essentially revealing lack of respect for themselves. So, some bullies do change their ways, once they realize how despicable they become when they use tactics such as passive-aggressive terrorist-style attacks on people who provoked them simply by being peaceful or happy.
Being happy is a sure way to attract the attention of bullies. People who are not happy highly resent people who are, and will do their best to sabotage the happiness of others. Since I was happy working around my part of the house, singing, keeping myself busy making neat little (in my opinion) improvements, I was immediately resented by people who where not happy or content.
So how to prevent bullying, when even the people who are supposed to help have no power? Gee, I guess you could just stay inside. Close your doors and windows. Don’t make waves. Don’t let anyone hear you. Hide in a little hole, maybe your bed or couch, in a dark corner. Don’t answer your door. Jump with an exaggerated startle reflex whenever the phone rings, the doorbell rings or you hear anything banging or slamming in other rooms. Maybe that will keep you from being bullied. In exchange it creates worsening emotional and physical problems for you. Hiding is a really bad coping mechanism.
So is facing the bullies. They refuse to have a civil conversation, and will never be satisfied until they succeed in bringing you down to their level … and then they are satisfied only for a short time. It seems to me that bullying NEVER stops.
Education in schools may have some impact but, unfortunately, not very much. When I was in school there was no bullying education, in fact I’m not sure I ever heard the word “bullying” … it was “the kids are picking on me”, which sounds really pathetic, and is also a reason bullying victims often don’t speak up. Besides, they know from experience it does little to no good, usually results in repercussions from the bullies, and they may be under threat from said miscreants to shut up about it Or Else.
Bullying is domination, it is territorial, it is irrational and it is at its core fear-based. Maybe if the bullies felt better about themselves, they would not see the need to “pick on” people who are different from them and have done no harm. But bullying has been around since the dawn of time. It is not likely to go away.
In my case, I am moving as soon as I find a better place. I honestly never liked the apartment – I’m only here due to a housing crunch – and I’m actually happy not to have to pretend to like the drunkateers and their cronies. Signs of hard drugs are now making their way into a couple of the other apartments so it’s a good time to go bye-bye … wherever that shall be. I think I would find better company in a slab of maggoty meat.
Company is one thing that deters bullies. Bullied people are often quiet, often uncomfortable socially and may be loners by choice. Nothing wrong with that – a lot of artists, writers and entrepreneurs are loners and it works perfectly for them. However, it can put a person at a disadvantage when it comes to bullying. Bullies tend to back away if the bullied person is in a group or with someone else (hence I’m hoping my boyfriend’s presence will deter any more aggression). But, if the bullies see the group or other person as weak, they have no qualms attacking.
Sad to say, I am not sure bullying can be prevented at all. I think it is up to the bullied person to come to terms with it in a calm and rational way, not ruled by fear or anxiety. Remember that the bullies are weak unhappy people. Also, they will not be there forever. You may have to make some concessions, but being aware of logistics of the situation gives you some personal power. In fact you have more power than all the bullies combined.
That is why they are afraid of you. That is why they bully you. And that is why, if you are being bullied and cannot be helped by those who are supposed to help you, the only thing you can do is elevate yourself above their small-minded hysterics and petty tactics. You are better than that … and that is why you will overcome, you will succeed, while these poor pathetic bullies are still wallowing in their diseased little worlds of lies and self-sabotage.
There is no winning and losing. If you think that way, you are playing their game. If you are being bullied, it can help to get counselling so you can express yourself to a non-judgmental person. Talk to a social worker or psychologist. They will have suggestions. Write about your experiences. Let other people know that they are not alone. Or, take a self-defense course for personal health and confidence.
When I was in school the smallest boy in one of my classes was a prime bullying target – until he joined the school wrestling team, and learned moves that earned him some respect. Other people try responding with comedy. It doesn’t always work … but, many many famous comedians and actors were once bullying victims.
Even if you find there is little you can do about the bullies, remember that the situation will not last forever. You will move on eventually, whether graduating school, moving to a better place, finding a better workplace. Do not be frustrated and bring yourself to their level, and NEVER, EVER BLAME YOURSELF. If you are bullied, it is not your fault. Always remember you have something that they don’t, and that is self-respect.
Love yourself. You are lovable. You are strong. You are capable. Remember the words of Eleanor Roosevelt (who was, in fact, a shy and quiet introvert) –
“No one can make you feel inferior without your permission”.
Run with it.