Tackling the Bully Epidemic

“A bully is someone who is regularly overbearing. He or she looks to cause humiliation or discomfort to another, particularly if that other is weaker or smaller. This can be physical bullying, emotional bullying or mental discomfort and humiliation.”
 (Bullying Statistics)

Bullying most often is about imbalance of power, has intention to harm and is repetitive. It is usually culturally based. That is, it comes out of a culture, be it in the family, schoolyard, neighborhood or workplace. Therefore it is frequently systemic rather than isolated. Addressing the larger systemic issues of bullying is a much more daunting task, but usually more significant toward affecting solution-oriented change.

It is this larger, more systemic, more societal form of bullying that is particularly alarming. Yes, unfortunately, bullying behavior has always existed. But given the culture of our current leadership, it seems as though there is greater permission, if not direct role-modeling for mean, hate-based behavior.

We see this play out in families all the time. Someone in authority, usually a parent or a grandparent with specific biases like racism, sexism or faith-ism will model or teach those biases toward others directly or indirectly to their children and grandchildren. Those families within certain neighborhoods, ethnics groups, religions will tend to create bully culture in a more widespread fashion, giving that behavior and hate-driven mentality greater credence and room to grow.

Respect needs to come from a place of authenticity and symmetrical balance to have any true validity.

Most of the research literature focuses on school age children and rightly so, in that they are the most vulnerable. School bullies can do the most irrefutable harm, because the psychological impact to a younger brain is potentially so much greater. This is easily evidenced by the sharp rise in teenage suicide in recent years.

School systems have done a very impressive job across this country of designing and implementing anti-bullying programs. Their diligence is paying off, but I’m afraid that we need much more on all levels of our greater society.

The fact remains that bullying exists at every age and social strata, which is ultimately harmful to us all. The current impact and our projected future from what appears to be a growing trend in our society seems to be one of increased anxiety and mistrust among us. Therefore, what effective interventions can we as mental health professionals employ now to help curb this epidemic?

Those of us in the mental health field can certainly make a marked difference. We can help our educators of children interrupt and reverse this paradigm of hatred and harm by introducing, modeling and actively supporting a lifestyle of respect for self and others to each individual, couple and family we serve, thereby creating a healthier environment for us all.

RFT Book Cover


Respect-Focused Therapy (RFT) is a foundation on which all modalities and techniques used in therapy can be strongly grounded, in order to produce sound, effective outcomes. This approach offers clients the opportunity to gain experiential understanding of being respected, possibly for the first time, from the therapeutic relationship and then be able to heal old wounds by creating more respect for self and others in the therapeutic process.

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