Empowerment through the experience of being bullied
I have been told that there was a time when bullying was considered a positive experience in life - it helped build our strength and our characters. We now have a massive turnaround in public opin- ion, so much so that in 2010, it has been suggested that just being ‘offended’ by someone can be considered tantamount to bullying.
As a parent, experts tell me that I should not wrap my children up in cotton wool … they need to be able to make mistakes, have accidents, and learn to deal with the difficult situations that life will inevitably bring their way. Some of these difficult situations in life will be bullying or poten- tially of a bullying nature.
So does that mean that those who considered experiencing bullying to be a good thing, were right? Does that suggest bullying should be overlooked, or even encouraged in schools to help build the characters of our future generations? No! Of course not. I can see no way or no reason why we should ever consider that path again. Why? Because bullying is hurt- ful … some people experience bullying so badly that they feel the need to take their own lives.
In 2006 researchers told us that over half of British schoolchildren had been bul- lied. In 2007 that number appeared to go down when a national children’s charity stated that only a third of children in the UK had experienced bullying. This year, in 2010, I read that another organisation was suggesting that over three quarters of British children have been bullied. Sta- tistics eh! How can we ever believe them?
To date, there have been no national, longitudinal, systematic, validated studies in the UK on the prevalence of bullying in schools or of bullying in the workplace. Why not? The truth is that there is no truth in bullying. Indeed, what is bullying?
In a recent paper, I presented 25 different definitions of bullying that I found from prominent researchers all over the world. These definitions ranged from ‘Repeated
aggression, verbal, psychological or physi- cal, conducted by an individual or group against others’. Through to ‘The incivilities that disturb school life’.
It is not only researchers that cannot agree on a definition of bullying. As a community we have many different ideas about bullying, on what bul- lying is, and how it fully affects our lives.
There are also many different solutions to bullying – many different ways suggested at how we are best able deal with it. Hence why we need a wide range of strategies available for us to use. So maybe there is a truth in bullying: we all expe- rience bully- ing in different ways … and therefore how we deal with bullying is probably going to be a bit different for all of us too. What is bullying for one may not be bullying for another! If we experience bullying in different ways, it follows that how we deal with bullying is going to be different for all of us too. Whatever bullying means to us we have a responsibility to take bul- lying seriously and we have a responsibil- ity to deal with it rigorously.
That can be an easy thing to say but if we can’t define it, then how can we possibly deal with it? Just more questions.
There can be a fine line between banter and bullying, or playful rough and tumble and bullying, or even a robust manage- ment style and bullying. Where is this line? Some people suggest that Sir Alex Ferguson is the best football manager ever to come out of Britain. Other people say he is just a big bully! We cannot say that everything is bullying! If we are not careful we could blur the meaning so much or expand the meaning so large
meaning will be completely lost.
Most of my work comes from a creative source. I use the techniques of theatre, film, games, ritual, improvisation, role- play and drama to explore:
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