Bullying in Childhood
The term is often used to describe when a child repeatedly and deliberately says or does things that causes distress to another child, or when a child attempts to force another child to do something against their will by using threats, violence or intimidation. This is something that you may have experienced as a child which may likely still be affecting you.
Indeed victims of childhood bullying had higher rates of depression and psychological distress at ages 23 and 50 than those who were never bullied. The effects of childhood bullying on adults’ mental health remained even after taking into consideration related factors such as family social class, parenting and behavioural problems. https://learning.closer.ac.uk/researchcasestudies/long-term-effects-of-childhood-bullying/
As children, we can’t distinguish our feelings and our “self.” We think we are our feelings. If our feelings aren’t treated as acceptable in a certain situation, we may decide that we aren’t acceptable. To heal from childhood trauma, we have to complete the process that should have begun in the past. Using Mindfulness (a practical way to notice thoughts, physical sensations, sights, sounds, smells - anything we might not normally notice) is one way of processing these ordeals or traumas. The skills are simple, but because it is so different to how our minds normally behave, it takes a lot of practice.
Processing Negative Past Experiences
Focus on your body in the here and now. Find a quiet place where you won’t be disturbed. Sit comfortably with your eyes closed, and take several breaths, bringing your awareness to the breath and into your body, and engage with your senses.
Think of a situation that you’ve been upset about recently. Find something that triggered an emotional reaction, imagine yourself back in that time and place and experience it all again with your senses. When emotions begin to arise, go to Step 3.
Notice the feelings, and what it feels like.
Name the emotion:
- What is it?
- What word best describes what you are feeling…Angry, sad, anxious, irritated, scared, frustrated…
- Accept the emotion. It’s a normal body reaction. It can be helpful to understand how it came about – what it was, what contributed to you feeling this way.
- Don’t condone or judge the emotion. Simply let it move through you without resisting it, struggling against it, or encouraging it.
- Investigate the emotion:
- How intensely do you feel it?
- How are you breathing?
- What are you feeling in your body?
- Where do you feel it?
- What’s your posture like when you feel this emotion?
- Where do you notice muscle tension?
- What’s your facial expression?
- What does your face feel like?
- Is anything changing? (nature, position, intensity)
What thoughts or judgements do you notice? Just notice those thoughts. Allow them to come into your mind, and allow them to pass. Any time you find that you’re engaging with the thoughts – judging them or yourself for having them, believing them, struggling against them, just notice, and bring your attention back to your breathing, and to the physical sensations of the emotion.
Do the sensations or emotions you’re experiencing right now connect with one or more experiences in your past? Do they give you any insight into the root of the trauma or a negative belief about yourself?
If you still have trouble, do some free writing. Journal about what the feeling means, for a full 10 minutes without stopping, until you think you’ve heard all the messages your emotions are sending you. Maybe look into writing therapy as another means also of processing what has happened to you - https://www.getselfhelp.co.uk/docs/WritingTherapy.pdf
For another perspective on what happened see ‘School of Life, Why are People so Nasty? https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8Qjy-ydl9QE
Let it go
Visualise the energy your trauma took up inside you leaving your body, or perform a symbolic release, like (safely) burning a letter you’ve written to the person who hurt you, or writing the experience down, screwing it up and throwing it away, or white light healing: https://tinybuddha.com/blog/40-ways-to-let-go-and-feel-less-pain/
The energy we currently spend on trauma can be released, and the space inside ourselves that trauma took up can instead be filled with new, more positive energy that can help us build a life that we will love. https://www.psychologytoday.com/gb/blog/mindful-anger/201804/9-steps-healing-childhood-trauma-adult
Reclaiming Control and Going Forward
Feelings of powerlessness and helplessness can carry over into adulthood. As a result, you run the risk of living your life as a perpetual victim. Realise that while you cannot control what happened to you, you can control your reaction. Start your recovery by taking control of your thoughts, emotions, and actions. It is also important to own your reactions and realise that you can choose to make healthy choices. You have a choice on how to live your life. https://www.actionforhappiness.org/
Acknowledge the Bullying You Experienced
Victims of bullying often spend years minimising the bullying, dismissing it or pretending it didn’t happen. Or, they succumb to feelings of guilt, shame, or self-blame, believing if they had been different or tried harder the bullying would not have happened. The only way to begin the healing process is to recognize that the bullying occurred but that you were not responsible for it.
Recognise Your Value and Worth
Bullying often causes people to lose confidence and self esteem because it contains lies about your worth as a person. Reject the lies that the bully said about you and replace them with the truth about who you are. https://www.getselfhelp.co.uk/docs/PositiveDataLog3.pdf
Avoid Isolating Yourself
A big part of recovery from bullying is maintaining contact with supportive friends and family. Many times, victims of bullying isolate themselves and try to deal with the consequences of bullying on their own. Maintain contact and make time to be with family, friends, colleagues, and neighbours. Connect with others at home or work and in your local community. See https://www.actionforhappiness.org/ and https://www.mind.org.uk/information-support/tips-for-everyday-living/loneliness/tips-to-manage-loneliness/#MakeNewConnections
Sometimes healing from a childhood trauma like bullying requires professional help and support, contact your GP about this. A therapist may help you process and make sense of what happened to you and help you to identify and work through unhealthy coping mechanisms.
Focus on Personal Growth
Identify areas where you need to grow or heal. Make a list of areas where you want to improve or change, if you are having trouble identifying your weaknesses, ask a close friend or family member what they see. https://www.lifehack.org/articles/lifestyle/42-practical-ways-to-improve-yourself.html
Change Your Thought Processes
Many times, people who are healing from childhood bullying ruminate about what they experienced or become obsessed with not experiencing that pain again. Avoid focusing all your time and energy on your past pain and your current recovery, set time aside to deal with the issues but do not allow it to consume you.
Stop being critical of yourself
Bullying usually communicates all sorts of negative messages about who you are. The bully wants you to believe that something is wrong with you. But there isn’t. Don’t agree with the bully by being critical of yourself and focusing on things you wish were different. Learn skills of self compassion and self care to help with this: https://www.getselfhelp.co.uk/docs/CompassionTRS.pdf