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When you have been a victim of bullying for a greater part of your childhood or even adulthood, the effects of it can be long-lasting. We often take for granted what we say and do to others; very much such that we ignore how much we have affected their lives. My mum told me her story of when she was very young of maybe not more than 10 years. So she was living with her aunty and cousins and one day her aunty trusted her with some money to go deliver to a teacher in her school, who was also a family member. She was so proud of herself. You know the feeling you get when you are trusted from a crowd and given the honour of delivering an amanah. As young as she was, she felt so confident and she walked into the staff room full of teachers with her head held high. She gave the money as expected but unfortunately, the teacher didn’t count the money when she received it (this again shows the importance of checking and confirming what we receive as soon as we get the amanah). Later on, the teacher reported that she received less money. So mum was summoned and asked why the money was less and she obviously defended herself that she gave it as it was. Three of the family members started interrogating her one after another taking turns. One would ask if she had taken the missing money and beat her up in the process, when he got tired another would come and do the same. They kept beating her and beating her until one of them said, ‘we won’t stop beating you unless you admit you took the money.’ Having no other way out, mum confessed of a crime she hadn’t committed and it was only then that they stopped beating her. Although she was let go, she admits that to date, that is one thing she will never forget in her life. That she was declared a thief and harassed and hurt badly for something she hadn’t done. While growing up, she kept saying that she will never forgive those who did that to her. No I don’t blame her. I have several people that to date I say I will never forgive. It’s not easy as one may presume. One side of me really wants to forgive and forget but there is that bitterness you live with for the rest of your live. You become just so annoyed with people and life. You really can’t wait for karma to get back at them. In fact you wish that when it all happens, you be right there to remind them, ‘remember what you did to me? Now this is karma paying you back.’
In psychology, bullying is a distinctive pattern of deliberately harming and humiliating others. They couldn’t exist without victims and they don’t usually just pick on anyone; they single out people who lack assertiveness and radiate fear far long before they encounter bullying, which is so true. I have built walls as big as the great wall of China around me. Its defensive mechanism on always. You don’t wait to be attacked, you are already keeping guard. Most people think bullying is just the physical; pushes, shoves, hitting, kicking and punching yet there is the verbal one of name calling (which I’ve been a victim of), taunts, threats, ridicule and insults. There is also the psychological/emotional manipulation whereby someone blackmails you emotionally so that they can get what they want, a tactic which is mostly used by girls. They keep you close by, discovering your secrets and weaknesses then pap! using you by that. So girl bullies mostly use intimacy as a medium of control. Oh please don’t ask me what I have had to do because of girl bullies. They sometimes spread vicious rumours, mock you; mock you really badly at your looks, your tribe, race, your name, just anything they can mock you about; openly and secretly but since some girls can barely shut up, word will always get back to you. They tell others to stop liking you, they try to dominate you, look at you like crap, Intimidate you, threaten to withdraw friendship in order to get their way or simply giving you the silent treatment. As for boys, their aggression plays into goals shown to be important to them such as physical dominance, have things or instrumentality.
Something like what happened to mum happened to me too in my primary school. It was a boarding and day school but the rules were so strict that no day scholar should ever share or bring food to the boarders. Well it is an absurd rule but they say it is for ‘health and hygiene’ purposes. So my ‘friends’ yes, in quotes, used to borrow me food nonetheless. And since many know of how it’s hard for me to say no, I still used to buy them food or share the one from home as well. So there is a day the boarders were summoned to name out all the day scholars who offer them food. Majority of the boarders in other classes refused to mention names but apparently that wasn’t really my lucky day. So someone, from among’st the ones I used to give food to, mentioned my name. Don’t ask me how I was punished that day. Ask me what my skin colour was by the time I left the office. I had been caned below the knees and the place had turned greenish black such that my aunty had to come to school and complain about the severe punishment. Then you go to class and someone simply says ‘sorry?’ SORRY?!! Seriously?? No, you are not about to say sorry and expect me to forgive you. Some of you will probably think it’s silly to have not forgotten such a small thing. It may be a small thing to you but for me it wasn’t. It was betrayal. Betrayal that made me unable to walk comfortably for a number of days. You know, when you have been a victim of bullying for a long time, you become submissive, so did I. So yes, I still kept sharing my food with these same ‘friends’. I still kept doing homework for people, still giving out my book for people to copy, still giving and giving out more, still doing so much for people I called ‘friends’.
You know, it is so unfortunate that we come from a society that doesn’t value emotions or at what stage of our emotional make up we are at. All we care about is how far we are in material life and the only other important issue we ask about is why or when you are going to get married. It is so unfortunate because people keep their calm in these issues and be like, ‘who in Africa commits suicide because of bullying? I mean, we are born in a scorching sun continent in a hungry continent in a miserable continent where slavery took place. You have no right to be in pain, hurt or even say what you really feel. You have no right to be suicidal, I mean did you forget that the Maumau fighters died for you to live in this independent country?! You forget that what goes into your stomach is more important than those silly thoughts and complaints you have about everything and everyone? You forget that Mandela was jailed for 27 freaking years in jail confined to a small cell, the floor his bed, a bucket for a toilet, he was forced to do hard labor in a quarry. He was allowed one visitor a year for 30 minutes. For you; people like you; for Africa and Africans, for racism to end!! Grow up kid, grow up!!’ And then after that we are surprised when we see people become monsters. You made them so. You, who keeps being reckless with your words and actions. You who keeps complaining whenever victims talk and write about it. Oh, today, for once I won’t bother what anyone will say about this. Please, if you are in pain, if you feel like your world is crumbling by, if you feel like you are just being used then talk about it. Take a speaker and shout it out if it is what makes you feel better. Write. Write many many paragraphs as you wish. Write because it is the only thing that will make you relieved. Draw, shout. Do whatever you want. Please do it but just don’t kill yourself. Do it because you are the only one who knows how much pain you are in. You are the only one who knows what is your drug and what can make you feel better. Let them call you an attention seeker, they called me that several times but are they any better being egoistic judging you by your pain? NO. So let them call you what they want but do what it takes to make you feel better.
Never underestimate the effects of bullying and manipulation. It is like a ghost haunting you forever and unfortunately for me, it took me so long to realize that my ugly past made me end up to be a door mat in my adulthood. So heal yourself in your own way. I usually take these breaks from the world I call, ‘self discovery/realization breaks’ where I just sit alone and think about my life, how I have been and how to be better. I cut out communication with people and log out of social media. Trust me, it is healthy. People will think you are just being a weakling but again, never mind. They know not what your journey has been or is.
There are several reasons why a bully becomes a bully and why a victim becomes a victim. A bully is someone who hasn’t learned kindness, compassion and respect. They usually don’t need a reason to hurt others, they just want to feel stronger, smarter or better than the person they are bullying. They direct their frustrations, hurt, anger and difficulty to others. They just like to feel tough for most of the times they are more physically built than the victim. Sometimes people engage in bullying simply because they are part of a group and not because it is their behaviour. But since they want to feel part and parcel of the group, they participate in anti social behaviour. Well for those who know Miss Agatha Trunchbull of the Matilda movie, then she is definitely the perfect example of a big bad bully. And as for the victims they usually fall into the bully’s trap probably for being at the wrong place at the wrong time i.e. working in a place where the bully considers you a threat, being competent i.e. successful, innovative , creative…you are just prone to envy. Being popular, having strength in character i.e. honesty, integrity, trustworthy, having vulnerability i.e. low assertiveness, Revenge i.e. sometimes a person responds to bullying with bullying or having raised concerns about bullying, fraud, safety or any matter where the bully feels implicated or at risk as a result.
Most of the times, victims cry and assume defensive postures. Being submissive is one of them. Not only do they not fight back, they hand over their possessions, handsomely rewarding their attackers psychologically and materially; powerfully reinforcing them. Perhaps another worst memory I have of my past as a child was how I sometimes used to really convince and persuade my sister to give out her stuff to ‘my friends’ even when she didn’t want to simply because they liked the thing. It haunts me to date for in turn, it made me a bully to my sister.
Bullies’ ultimate goal is to get a response. When they manipulate you psychologically or emotionally, they want to use you to get something i.e. ‘You know you are my best friend and I have no other friend but you, please help me do this…or give me this thing i really like it’ and when they get physical, it is usually to get to your nerves. They want you to fight back and most importantly, LOSE.
The best way to handle a bully is by avoidance; just know when to walk away. You don’t have to listen to them. Sometimes you can use humour to defuse a bully who may be about to attack i.e. ‘guess who is talking? The one with a D at school wants to give me life lessons’. Well maybe not exactly humour but sarcasm. Trust me, sarcasm has been my number two weapon. Well you will know of the first weapon in my next article where i will write about the door mat personality in shaa Allah. Anyway, another way to handle a bully is being assertive i.e. ‘Just back off please…’ or ‘Get a life’. Also you can recruit a friend. Having a friend is one of the most powerful protective measures. Oh ask me about it. I’ve been hiding behind my best friend in forever and she is just untouchable lol. She is God sent trust me 🙂 Another way, you may seek friendly people to be one of them. It helps when you have people to support you and help you stand up when you fall.
As for parents, you need to ensure your children have assertive behaviour. Ask them how their peers treat them, model good relationships at home because bullies are not born, they are made and it starts from the home they grow up in. Instill in your children empathy and compassion; let them learn how to be humane from a young age. One other important thing we should know and let children know too is that bullying is bad for the bullies themselves more than anyone else. It makes them angry and furious people which later on greatly affects their relationships i.e. they become batterers. They usually make identical cognitive distortions and attribute hostility to others where it doesn’t exist. This misinterpretation gives bullies and batterers alike a way to justify violence. It is the greasy gear with which they typically shift onto others the blame for their own misdeeds. Bullies also tend to have their children becoming bullies for they feed the next generation with a belief that the world is an uncaring place, an excuse for another go at hostility.
This thing is very real. Just because we rarely have suicide cases in Africa for bullying as in Western world doesn’t mean people are not victims. Be careful how you treat people. You may have forgotten something you did to someone which you may as well be taking so lightly or silly but someone out there is so bitter with you and forgiving you is not in their dictionary. As for you my dear who has or is a victim, learn to stand up for yourself, and this message comes back to me for I am in my healing stage; trying to calm down all these demons that have been long hidden. Seek help, talk to people you trust and not just anyone or ‘friend’, write do whatever makes you at ease. This is in the long run your journey and no one else’s. This is your shoe that no one has worn so own it by standing up for your rights, your thoughts and your happiness! And share this, share as much as you can. Let others know it is okay, that you are in a journey, that you are growing, that you are healing. Let others know it is okay to seek help and talk of it. And by help I mean going for therapy to a counselor, psychologist or psychiatrist. Don’t let them swallow pills. Be there for victims and most importantly be understanding. I am going to be forever grateful for all those who stood by me when I was too weak to stand up; my family and close friends. Those who forever encourage my healing. Do the same to someone else please. Make a difference today in someone’s life.