A couple of years ago my husband and I made the difficult decision to quit our jobs, sell our house, and move lock, stock, and barrel from one end of the country to the other. One of the biggest reasons for this monumental event was our concern for my husband’s health and well-being. You see, even though he is a guy, and therefore by definition is supposed to be tough and indifferent to the harsh veracities of the world, he was not. In fact most days after coming home from work he would be upset, angry, and miserable because of the never-ending goading and provoking he had to endure from a few not-so-nice fellow workers. Add to that his belief in the complete lack of concern for the situation from the hierarchy in management and his work life had become a very unhealthy place.
Although our financial situation was such that it would have made more sense to work at least another five years before even considering such a move, we felt that we did not have five weeks, let alone another five years. So with much trepidation we pulled up stakes and fled. And although our lifestyle has gone through some serious adjusting, along with our finances, my husband is a happier and healthier human being.
In my experience bullying is not restricted to just the big, tough, aggressive males beating up the little people for their lunch money. It can be done by anyone, in any position, to any person, anywhere. I find that most people have this idea that bullying can only be done by someone who is in a position of power over a timid little peon. Nothing is further from the truth. I have witnessed a situation where the lowliest little clerk has ridden roughshod over an entire office, including upper management, and using her reign of terror made life a living hell for her specially chosen victims. Her targeted quarries typically suffered in silence as she systematically destroyed their self-confidence and any feelings of self-worth through months, or years, of unrelenting attacks. Most of her victims ended up leaving the workplace even if it meant taking a giant step back in their careers. One poor woman was so abused that she had to take maternity leave early in order to prevent herself from losing her baby because of the stress, and by the time she returned to work she found that her reputation was in shambles, and her career was almost ruined because the attacks on her character had gone on even while she was away from the office. I cannot even imagine what cost the company has had to pay over the years in personnel and money because of this one evil little bad apple.
Bullying is a narcissistic act. Bullies usually spend their time and energy carrying out their nefarious campaigns in order to make themselves feel better, or to look better in the eyes of others. Without a doubt bullying is a form of abuse as sadistic, hurtful, and often brutal acts are perpetrated upon victims who in no way deserve to be treated in such a manner. Oftentimes these people do not act alone; they become ring-leaders, goading others into doing their dirty work, or at least having people aid in the action. They do not care about the emotional or physical health of their victims as nothing is more important than their own desire for the delight of damage and dominance. Bullies treat others as though they were objects to be used for purposes of self-gratification; then they throw them away as so much flotsam when no longer useful.
Most people assume that the victims of bullies are the shy, sensitive outsiders who cannot stand up for themselves. The reality is that the targets of adult bullies are typically the outgoing, gregarious overachievers who everyone likes in the office. But because the bully cannot be like this person they feel that taking this person down will make them look that much better. How sad is that.
But bullying is not restricted to the school yard and office. How many of you have had your parenting techniques questioned by another parent in the play group? How about the woman in line at the grocery store making disparaging remarks about your purchases? Who hasn’t had someone comment about your clothes, your hair, your home, your cooking, your car, your choice of music, the colour of your shoelaces, your religion, or lack thereof? Bullying is ubiquitous to the human condition; our lives are rife with its overtones and it colours everything we do.
My feeling is that the campaigns against teen bullying of today are only the first steps; in order to remove this inherent malevolence that infects the human species we should be starting with the youngest members of our society and finishing with those in senior care. I believe that only through education and enlightenment will we have the capacity to eradicate this chronic disease.
Photo by Phillie Casablanca. Creative Commons Flickr. Some rights reserved.