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I wanted to share these thoughts about bully/victim coping dynamics.
At the lower end of bullying, a simple way of coping is to view your tormentor as a petty and vindictive child who is beneath your consideration until they can act like a grown up with more tools in their repertoire than being a bully.
But, I see the range of bullying behaviors in a range of contexts:
When required to perform a task that has no value and is not really worth doing; there is no motivation to perform that task to the same standards of a task that has marginal value and is worth doing; never mind achieving the minimal standards for a task with value or worth.
Doing a good enough job should more than suffice for the valueless task.
Being required to complete a valueless task to the same degree as a value task, makes the requirement petty and pedantic – and in a workplace conflict context – vindictive and childish.
Because the Requirer, a manager or supervisor, is not interested in the standard of the work either, but rather, their interest is forcing compliance from the Requiree.
Their requirement for not only complying but also that the Requiree must appear to agree with and even be happy about complying with unnecessary or disproportionate to the task standards – is what validates the perception of the Requirer as being, petty, vindictive and childish. Not only is this overly controlling, but an intrusion into the Requiree’s personal sphere of control – their response, emotions, opinions, basically, their personal sovereignty.
The demand that a Requiree put the interests of the Requirer above their personal sovereignty is the essence of military training. Soldiers are trained to perform unnatural tasks as if they were natural and rational.
The soldiers who are unable to put aside their personal sovereignty, which includes morals, values, are most likely the ones who suffer post traumatic stress disorder. They cannot reconcile what they are required to do – kill people – with the civilian social values – in particular, that murder is not a solution to a conflict – and they experience cognitive dissonance first.
There is a rational process – I’m a soldier, it’s what we do, we are at war, what are we fighting for – but if a solder can’t connect to the purpose of the fight – mentally, emotionally and ultimately physically, we cannot function endlessly in a situation of cognitive dissonance and unrelieved fight or flight. Something has to give, and it’s the soldier.
At any level of magnitude, the combination of cognitive dissonance and a state of constant fight or flight, causes a person to break down if they can’t break out of the situation.
From a child or teen being bullied at school, to an adult bullied in the workplace all the way up to soldiers on a battlefield.
Anyone trapped in an unstable, unfamiliar and threatening environment – especially a continuous or escalating environment – has fewer and fewer options the longer the situation continues without relief or a reduction in cognitive dissonance and fear.
This lack of relief and increased or prolonged stressor, quiet predictably leads to responses anywhere from suicide to taking as many people with you as possible (from school shootings to Ghaddafi in Libya). After all, why should the victim be the only one who pays the price of the bully’s conduct, and worse, why should the bully live free of the consequences of their actions.
To avoid those outcomes, an intervention must occur – the person who is too emeshed in the situation, especially when pleas for help or relief are ignored or denied are soon unable to help themselves.
On an individual level, it means being aware of how you impact other people to avoid driving them into distress or adding stress to an already existing stressful solution.
At the nation level, it means finding diplomatic solutions to conflicts before the point of no return.
So, the question is – does a nation who uses violence to resolve conflict influence the citizens to that same response or, if the civilians find another method than violence to solve conflict, can they change the nation’s future responses?
Looking at the countries in the middle east that are in civil upheavals, it appears that the citizens drive the national response.
The peaceful protests that are challenging dictatorships and changing them to other forms of government, gives a boost to faith in the better nature of people. People can work together in common goals and making change through non-violent means.
If only we could scale that back to individuals, we may well be able to stop bullying and the waste of lives that results in.
Where that starts is not with the bully or the victim – but with the witnesses who turn a blind eye and fail to step in.
The two things that help victims – at least this victim – are:
Hope that it will get better (seeing beyond the immediate circumstances to the future)
Acceptance of claims at face value (don’t read more into statements or actions)
Recognizing that nothing is a matter of “trust”, but rather, what is it that you trust the other person will do. When I trust that my tormentor is a petty and vindictive child, then I can anticipate their actions and better pick and chose my battles with them. When you realize that you still can trust – even if it’s trusting the bad in people – it means you still have trust and are then able to trust the good in other people.
And trusting the good starts with taking statements and actions at face value – and, as the tormentor’s statements and behaviours become less bad or perhaps actually good – you are able to start seeing that everyone is bad and good – including yourself.
We judge other people by their actions and ourselves by our motives.
Seeing other people as complicated emotions, experience and not assuming a sinister motive, allows you to start seeing beyond their actions into motives.
Once you understand motives (ie the person’s interest that is driving their behaviour), you can better manage your responses and relationship with that person.
And the safe concept is, sometimes the only response to a person is complete avoidance. Then, you open up more options in how to deal with them, you are better able to see future possibilities and you regain control of your life and your personal sovereignty.