TRIGGER WARNING! Please don’t read this if you eat chicken but don’t like to think about a chicken having to die for your supper – the rest of this article will make you profoundly uncomfortable.
There is only 1 reason why someone is a bully. And there are only 2 ways to not get bullied.
Bullying experts, social psychologists and school counsellors will give you books and books to read to help you understand bullying and why people become bullies. According to Rory Miller, there is actually only one reason why someone becomes a bully. Experts will give you thousands, but Miller has managed to simplify the psychology of bullying to 1 thing. And, as usual, he’s right.
Miller’s article on bullying is, as always, simple and direct.
Why do people bully?
People want to have an effect on the world around them (I’m talking everyone here). John Holt writes about watching a young kid run up and kick a ball, making a big explosion noise every time he kicked it. He guessed that if the kid could actually kick it hard, he wouldn’t feel the need to make the explosion noise any more.
People like to exert power on the world. Everybody likes to see that they have an effect on their surroundings. Some people paint and make music to do this, some people do it in unhealthy ways, like making someone else cry.
Some kids (and adults) come from shitty backgrounds. They were abused or bullied or were powerless within their homes. There are roughly a bazillion reasons why someone might chose bullying as a way of exerting power on the world around them, but all those causes boil down to one effect of they want to see that they affect the world. They need to see an effect. No effect means they’re not exerting power, they’re not changing anything.
This leads us to …
How To Not Get Bullied Technique # 1
Don’t be interesting enough to target
If you cry when someone teases you, or get really upset and mad – then you’re reacting. The bully has made somebody do something. He has had an effect. This means game on. Now, every time the bully’s had a shitty day, he can “improve” it by making you dance to his tune.
If the kid at school comes up and teases you, and you calmly look at him like he’s being weird, then turn back to your friends with an “oookaay” and go on like nothing happened, then you haven’t had all that much of a reaction.
So I must ignore the bully and he’ll go away?
No. Common advice is “ignore the bully and he’ll leave you alone”. I think what the common advice is aiming for is “don’t show a negative reaction”. Somebody walks up and gives you shit and you don’t look at him, act like you haven’t heard him, and probably tense up – then that’s a reaction in itself.
The bully, like everyone else, has to weigh up risks and rewards. Your reaction is the reward side of the equation for him.
And let’s face it, if a bully is coming up to give you shit, it’s probably not the first time, and he knows that he just has to keep it going long enough and you’ll wear down and react like he wants you to.
How would the popular kid in school act in the same situation? That’s how you want to act. But once the bullying has started, it’s probably too late to just act “normal”.
This brings us to what to do if the bullying is already going on …
How To Not Get Bullied Technique # 2
As Miller would put it – be an expensive victim. This is the risk side of the equation for the bully.
Young kids don’t have a conscience. They are living, walking, breathing examples of the pure desires to experiment and have an effect on the world. They’re not being assholes when they pour their juice on the floor – they just genuinely want to know what happens if they turn the cup a certain way.
Because of this need to experiment, kids inevitably torture cats. Cats are playful, you step on their tails and they make all kinds of funny noises and act crazy with their legs going in all kids of directions trying to get away. This is funny stuff for a young kid (if your kid’s 15 though and still doing this, you might want to worry). This is fun for a kid to see. So why don’t kids torture cats to death? Why do they learn to stop pulling kitty’s tail?
The cat has claws.
Kids learn right quick that cats have claws and teeth. And also that the cat usually doesn’t hesitate to use them.
For our purposes, a cat is characterised by a low tolerance for bullshit and abuse, and quickly resorting to painful violence to stop the abuse.
Your kid is bigger and stronger than the cat. By a lot. Your kid could easily kill the cat. And sometimes it takes a good few times of getting scratched for pulling the cat’s tail, but eventually children learn that the fun from messing with kitty isn’t worth the pain that they feel every time they pull kitty’s tail.
I was scared of the 6 week old kittens
I once had to catch some young feral kittens, 6 weeks old. And I couldn’t bring myself to just grab them with my hands. I waited till I had a jacket to throw over them. Sure I could’ve absorbed the pain of being scratched if I’d just picked them up with my hands – but I knew what was in store for me. I just saw the hissing and spitting and clawing at the air (in that furious way only a baby kitten can do), and I stopped in my tracks. I knew it was going to hurt and that stopped me.
Does this mean I just have to act all tough and mean to the bully and I’ll get left alone?
No. The reason why the kitten’s posturing made me stop was that I’ve had past experience with similar situations. It wasn’t a threat of pain from the kitten, it was a promise.
I wasn’t scared of the kittens, I was scared of the pain they brought.
A bully has no experience of pain from you as his victim. In fact he has the exact opposite. So he has to be conditioned to associate bullying you with pain.
Here’s the crappy truth
If you’ve been bullied for a while – it probably won’t work the first time. You’ll probably lose the fight. Then you’ll probably lose the next. In fact you’ll probably never “win” a fight. But here’s the thing about fighting – even if you win it still hurts.
At some point when he thinks about bullying you, the bully will remember something. That every time he starts up with you it leads to pain. He’s learnt that it wasn’t just the once you actually hit him back, but every time. And while he can easily win – it still hurts.
But your mom doesn’t want to hear this. She wants some fairy tale where there’s a happy ending. A combination of magic words and clicking heels that ends all the pain and suffering and brings rainbows and unicorns.
Remember these immortal words:
It’s going to get worse before it gets better.
It’s going to get worse.
It’s going to get better.
Is there a magic bullet to stop bad shit? No. And nobody can solve things for you.
In the words of Jack Spirko of The Survival Podcast – You are your only solution.
School bullying programs are about one thing
Protecting the school.
Nobody would ever dream of implementing an anti-bullying program at a school where they advise the victims to fight back. It’s much safer for the school if the bullies are subtle and the victims accept things quietly. No bureaucrat wants a stink raised about anything, ever.
2 kids fighting draws a crowd and makes a noise. But people look away from a skinny kid getting bullied. It’s insidious and makes people uncomfortable. So it’s easier to look away and ignore it – no noise, no crowds. No paperwork.
So as long as the Jews don’t complain too loudly about getting on the train, and the Nazi’s don’t publish footage of them putting the Jews on the trains, then the government officials around the world get to ignore it.
Am I telling you to beat up your bully? No – someone might try get me arrested for inciting violence. I’m just telling you what works.
The first thing that a school teacher or principle does when somebody comes to them about bullying, is to inwardly sigh. Think about what that means.