Bullying and the Long-term Effects of Being Bullied
Recently I came across an article about the recovery period for childhood bullying. This was based on a study by UCL and the conclusion was that although the bullied may suffer anxiety, depression, hyperactivity and behavioural problems the recovery period seemed to be about five years.
Let me add that there was certainly no doubt expressed that bullying is unacceptable and that it damages mental health.
Five years is a long time…
As a proportion of life, to me five years is a very long time for a child or young adult, especially if that five-year period overlaps with a time when a child is already stressed by the challenges of firstly simply growing up and finding their place in the world and secondly studying for and taking exams which will affect their future prospects.
I am left wondering if there is enough early intervention to help young people deal effectively with the trauma so that they are not haunted by their experience any longer than absolutely necessary. In this context five years seems an intolerably long time. They also need to build up their reserves of confidence and self-belief so that they can go forward with a more psychologically strong and positive attitude and outlook.
The long-term effect of bullying
What most concerns me is that we may not really know how that period of bullying is internalised and whether there are risks for problems at a later stage in life, even perhaps after decades.
Dealing with a work place bully is difficult enough but, in some cases I have dealt with, the effect of bullying will be compounded if the client has been bullied earlier in life. It is as if this bullying experience resurrects the emotional impact of the previous episode so that the client is suffering a double dose of the feelings of anxiety and stress that can accompany being bullied. So as a therapist, even though the client had thought they were ‘over’ their childhood experience, I have found we need to resolve the old episode as well as help with the current situation.
Not only can early bullying deepen the problem of being bullied as an adult but also it can affect other areas of life. I worked with one mature client who wanted to get fitter but hated sport. It turned out that they had been bullied by a sports teacher as a fourteen-year old.
Another client was concerned because they so easily became incredibly angry with their young children. As a teenager they had been bullied in their first job. So what was the connection? It was about lack of control. They had no idea what that boss would do or say, and when. They had nowhere to express their anger and frustration with the situation. Toddlers tend to be noisy, demanding and unpredictable and that unresolved anger and frustration had resurfaced. A few sessions of hypnotherapy turned this parent around. As a result family relationships improved dramatically.
How can Hypnotherapy help with the effects of bullying?
If I have a client who has been bullied I will aim to help with the following:
Response - In hypnosis your mind can think of more creative ways to deal with the problem than the automatic black and white fight or flight response.
Resolution – The emotional impact of old traumatic episodes seems to cling to us like Velcro. Properly letting go leaves the event and its impact firmly back in your past where it belongs.
Resources and resolve – If you have been bullied you need to build up your reserves of confidence, self-esteem and resilience so that you feel free to go forward again. This will also help you in the future should you come across bullying situations again.
And what about the bully?
If you recognise that you have a tendency to bully, in many cases it will be the result of events in your experience and the way you have been treated. If you can take steps to change your internal outlook which leads to bullying behaviour you will feel so much better in yourself and your relationships will improve.