Think of everyone’s child and remember, that’s what we all are.

Elvis – a cautionary tale of depression towards death

In the wee early morning hours of 08/16/77 Elvis and Billy Smith played a game of raquetball. After they finished Elvis sat down at the piano that’s in the raquetball court building and played the piano, and this turned out to be the last song that he would ever sing….in just a few hours he would gone.

 

Circle of Life doesn’t have to be abusive

My Dad explained to me, many years ago that the way life worked was:

Dad gets bullied at work, so comes home and beats up or yells at Mom, who passes the beating onto the oldest child, who sends the beating down the line in descending age order, the kids to the dog to the cat to the birds, who then poop on Dad’s car which starts the cycle over.

We are often told that people who abuse were abused, as if it absolves them or makes their abuses comprehensible. I tend to beleive that people who have been abused are less likely to abuse others, partly because they know what it feels like too well and partly because it’s harder to cast off that victim role. But, to any rule, there’s exceptions and while claiming childhood abuse is a boilerplate defense lawyer tactic, it will on occasion be true. But it’s still not a mitigating factor and should probably be considered an aggravating one.

It makes sense in the same counter intuitive way that men who are politically or religiously powerful are the ones who most likely seek out dominatrix’s to dominate them in the sexual arena or who are caught with regular sex workers or in adulterous and often gay affairs, financial scandals and other activities at odds with their powerful persona. Being powerful or righteous in public leads to submission and participation in what you are publically against in private.

So a person who seeks to bully others at work or school are likely powerless in their private life, at the mercy of another bigger bully; so being bullied on one arena in life results in a power balance restoration of being a bully in another arena of life.

So the real question is, why do some people who are bullied not become bullies in other arenas, and instead, stand up against the bully?

By refusing to allow the bully to diminish or undermine your sense of power, you do not need to seek compensation for its loss by bullying somewhere and someone else – you hold onto your power and face down the bully.

The education and understanding that we need to teach is that bullies should not be feared, if anything, they should be pitied – compassionately if at a young age and less so for adult bullies who have been able to refine their bully tactics for far too long and with much human wreckage in their wake.

Children are less capable actors than adults and being a threatening, intimidating and undermining people is something that any adult is capable of reasoning out is not acceptable behaviour and that they are not children who think they are the centre of the universe and above all mortals and mortal law.

Adults should know better than to feel entitled to impose their will over other people and should know that respect is earned not bestowed, and that the responsibility of any power is to not abuse the trust that comes with power. We have a reason to expect that people put in a position of power, will not use the power for their own ends, but for the group that they are leading.

Too often, managers are hired for financial rather than people skills, and while it’s true that nothing united people like having a common enemy, it does not serve any interests for a workplace team to be united against the manager or any member of the team.

It only serves the individual interests of the one who sets the group against the other, to create a power struggle so they can feel powerful, when they have no power save from the position that they tenuously occupy and have clearly not deserved.

So, if we really want to end bullying in schools at work and in life generally, then each of us has to take the responsibility to stand against bullies and resist the harmonizing urge and become a bully elsewhere.

And, we have to stand against any bullying, whether directed at us or another person – for the hangman or bully can only do what bystanders allow them to do.

And the first thing that we must not allow them to do, is assert dominance and remove the sense of equality between the parties. Abuse has the effect of nullifying the equality between the parties because if people were meaningful equal, then neither has the right or even ability to smack down the other – especially without consequences and worse, to do so from within a systemic framework which protects the abusers rather than those that they abuse.

The abuser does not view their victims as equal to themselves and feels entitled to use whatever means necessary to assert dominance and the trauma of being or reduced – callous and even craven indifference – results in the victim’s being unable to re-assert equality status. Victims reach a point of being so exhausted by fending off, that they can no longer defend themselves, and merely maintaining takes all the effort previously needed for defense.

Which is why a “good defense is a strong offense” is a high cost option.

And that is the cost of fighting the good fight.

Otherwise, all we have is news of people who have taken their lives to escape the endless onslaught of bullies or who have returned to the school or workplace and taken out the bullies and bystanders before taking their own lives or suiciding by cop.

We need to stand together and say no more to bullies of any age and characteristics, no more victims of bullies, intolerance, discrimination, harrassment.

Because with all the legislation about equality and human rights, with all the workplace and school policies, we have only turned bullies into more sophisticated destroyers. Abusers already operate in ways that leave few traces of evidence and rarely occurs in sight of witnesses, so it’s not much harder for bullies to cover their reasons for bullying and making it that much harder for their victims to connect the behavior to discriminatory attitudes against women, gays, ethnicity, beliefs or other prohibited factors while leaving body size, appearance and many other factors not prohibited by human rights legislation.

I can’t help but think that bullying has gone far beyond the merely stronger vs the weaker, but has taken on a new dimension as a backlash against not being publically able to discriminate against groups of people, so intolerance becomes a one on one crusade, one victim at a time.

Bullies can only do what we collectively allow them to do and we have to stop them from driving children, teens and adults to ending their lives as the only means of escaping the bullies.

That’s the only way it can be better, we have to stop the bullies.

________________

Callout to Whereismyreallife for this related video share:

Supporting Your Support

“People Explode. Natural Causes.”
– Repo Man (1984)

If you haven’t seen Repo Man, the quote is from a scene where a person has literally exploded all over the road from exposure to an alien corpse and the line is said by a shadowy government official trying to cover up the alien’s existence.

But in real life people do explode, just not usually literally – well yes, if they are wearing a suicide belt. Then yes, they do literally explode.

But, the belt explosion tends to be the last of a series of many smaller and metaphorical explosions.

There’s a explosion hierarchy of the religious terrorist down to the workplace/school shooters to the lesser considered people who implode – this would include suicides and those who appear determined to self destruct their lives, often through drug/alcohol addiction.

The scenario has become too familiar: a person feels trapped in a situation where they not are being promoted or recognized for their work or other workplace unfairness, they feel demeaned or alienated in the workplace which often results in behavioral changes that are self-fulfilling in that colleagues do end up gossiping and shunning them. Often the harassment spreads and instead of being bullied by one person, the harassment is from many people. It’s called Mobbing in workplace HR/Workplace Health and Safety parlance.

I visualize it as your co-workers are sharks in a frenzy and you’re the chum.

This certainly affects the victim’s productivity and the conspiracy that they feel is against them actually does form, because they have isolated themselves and no one wants to give promotions or good work assignments to creepy, bitter, unproductive or ineffectual employees.

These things apply to students as well. It comes down to a person being in a situation where they feel unfairly trapped and do not see any way out.

While an animal in a leg hold trap will chew off it’s own leg for a chance to survive, people seem to tip over that edge of  “Don’t care if I live as long as I take out my tormentors.”

Maybe the animal understands that it’s better to thwart your captor and escape, since you’re dead either way. Maybe if the animal could reason and calculate that it could live long enough to take out the captor when the person came to check the trap, they would wait to take revenge.

The Gavin de Becker book, The Gift of Fear, reveals that while the person is consistently miserable, the workplace is sort of safe and if corrective actions are taken, the chain of events that leads to workplace violence can be broken without anyone being harmed.

But, that’s only if people recognize the symptoms and act – because it’s when the person is suddenly cheerful that you have to worry. They are cheerful because they have picked the day everything is going to stop, they’ve made a decision that’s going to change everything, make people take them seriously, make them stop being tormentors.

For people who self destruct, the pattern is the similar, that sense of unfairness, being thwarted in their plans, rising frustration and little resilience or perspective to help them get beyond the disappointment or series of disappointments.

The self destructors may simply commit suicide – and again, we see a common pattern of behaviors, that, if disrupted, can take that person off the terminal path.

Or they may slowly dismantle their life, change their behavior to mask their pain and inability to cope, using substances to dull the emotions, engage in risky activities and sports, quit their jobs, their friends and reduce family contact. And eventually wind up dead or possibly street involved.

The current thinking on being bullied and harassed in the workplace has the same symptoms as post traumatic stress disorder.

I have no idea of what makes one person explode outwardly or implode, because  we do not all react the same to stressors; or even to the same stressors.

One person’s friendly banter is another’s sexual harassment.

It’s not always men who explode, there have been some women workplace shooters.

Men and women both suicide, although using different suicide methods. Men tend towards the more dramatic and violent means – using guns, hanging, car crashes; while women tend towards the pain avoidance methods of pills and gas ovens – unless they want to hurt or get back at someone by their death and then it’s the wrist slitting and hanging.

Medical Doctors are the best at suicide, since they know that any one method can fail so they will use 2 methods to ensure success. Plus, they have access to the best drugs.

As an aside, I often wonder about the ethics of discussing or of showing suicides in movies – on one hand you want to be realistic and on the other, not be a how to guide. Just as touchy as risking being a guide on how to commit murder and get away with it, I suppose.

Reading all about these events, thinking about people I have known who have self destructed – and thankfully don’t know anyone who has exploded outwardly.

Although I worked with a guy who was on that path – and when I alerted management to his high score on the de Becker checklist, I was told that I wasn’t an expert and that the at issue employee was “just a character”. Knowing that he considered me to be the bane of his work existence*, I knew that it was management who wasn’t the expert and I changed jobs.

What seems to start the person down either path is their sense of being treated unfairly.

We see this play out in society in non-violent means – litigation. How many people file civil lawsuits to right an injustice for the principle of it? Spending far more money to proceed with the lawsuit than they will ever recover at the end of it. Trying to achieve justice, a fancier word for fairness, we can do much damage to our lives and finances in that single minded pursuit.

And the second factor of what allows the person to travel down that path once “unfairness” puts them firmly on it, is the lack of a support system. Or an ineffective or inattentive or in denial one.

The person has no one to provide – or they reject – emotional support, perspective, a sounding board for solutions and options, they have no one to stay resilient and connected to reality for.

If the problem is in the workplace or school, then committing suicide to teach those people a lesson, ends up mostly hurting your family and friends and not your intended target(s). In fact, if you’re convinced that people intend you harm, then you suiciding is advancing their agenda and not harming them at all.

Another factor is losing your sense of self – replacing your idea and understanding of you and believing what you think other people think of you. This also impacts your resiliency, self-esteem and overall health.

Everyone experiences difficult times during their lives – the loss of pets, family or friends, moving homes or jobs or careers, starting or ending romantic relationships, and sometimes several of these stressful events at once. But you get through them, perhaps not the same as before; our experiences change us.

So, I return to the sense of unfairness as the thing that throws a person who could previously cope into not being able to cope. Unfairness seems to stymie our problem solving abilities, we don’t know how to rectify the situation, and it takes away our sense of power and ability to influence the situation.

We then go down the path of violence or destruction to others or ourselves – partly made okay by the social attitude of shoot now, ask questions later; if you can’t be famous, be infamous; and by the media coverage of the explosion events.

Perhaps the explosion people look at all the attention that other people have gotten for their workplace violence incidents; and then think  “I could do it bigger and better.”  Competitive copycats occur.

Maybe, the implosion people, convinced that nothing they do will matter, just destroy themselves, thinking themselves unworthy to take others with them.

So, if you find yourself in a situation where you feel trapped, treated unfairly and your sense of self and perspective is altering or rapidly skewed – talk to people.

Family, friends, strangers on the street if you have to. Find out if your workplace offers an employee assistance program. Especially talk to your doctor.

If you see someone floundering in that situation, offer support, an ear, an option that they can explore – maybe it’s filing a workplace grievance or changing jobs, maybe it’s reporting the school bully over and over and over for as long as it takes to get someone to listen.

Nothing can start to invigorate a person as much as having an option to get out of the trap. Especially taking the steps to regain control and alter the situation.

Remind them of past events that were difficult and they got through, help them get back their sense of self and resiliency; get them out of their collapsing worldview, increase their perspective and divert them to a better path towards positive action and change.

A last note about unfairness. Our brains can really rationalize being accepting of bad situations or events. Many will stay in a job that’s not a good fit or  that depresses them,  because of the benefits, pension or salary. But, these things don’t really help if it ruins your health, shortens your life and you never collect that pension.

People do explode through predictable and the sadly common social processes of bullying, discrimination and isolation – but what we all need to do is to make those processes uncommon and disrupt the processes in progress enough for ourselves or someone we know to escape the cycle of doom.

Remember, as they say, the life you save may be your own.