Bullying knows no bounds. It occurs at all age levels, in all environments, within all races and in all cultures. News and films are full of examples of bullying behavior and most people recognize the role. Arrogant, pompous, and generally violent, bullies impose their sense of superiority on everyone around them. Bullies are socially superior in that they are enforcers. They enforce cultural rules within their social caste. While their techniques can be both physically and emotionally cruel, what they are doing is not unusual for most social animal species. Pecking order, pack rules, herd behavior all describe the fact that social constructs entail a certain hierarchy, setting the stage for who comes first, who is second, and who gets picked last. Targets are nearly always last.
Being the target of bullying can be terrifying at any age. The constant emotional torment and fear of violence wear down the target’s already damaged sense of self. Research has shown that victims of domestic violence repeatedly choose mates who are prone to violence. Victims of multiple rapes have been shown to have a certain walk which triggers rape attacks. It’s almost as though the attacker can read a person’s target state of mind.
Being a target is just that, a state of mind. When a confident person is attacked, they fight back. Even when physically beaten, a confident person simply doesn’t accept the claims made by the bully. They refuse to define themselves in the bully’s terms. Targets are just the opposite. Targets internalize the claims and criticisms of the bully. Targets “buy in” to the bully’s accusations of inferiority, thereby cementing the mind set which makes them a target in the first place.
It might even be said that targets initiate attacks by maintaining their low sense of self. Telling someone with a target role mentality that they should just “fight back” or stand up for themselves trivializes the problem. The only way to eliminate the target state of mind is to help a person change their view of themselves. Rather than accepting the role of target, these individuals need to learn to see themselves as worthy or respect and courtesy.
Creating and scaffolding attainable challenges helps build confidence. Individuals should be encouraged to seek out activities and interests at which they can excel and enjoy. They may never be considered “cool” but they can make changes in their lives that will reduce the likelihood of future attacks.