Bullying occurs when a person or group of people are able to overpower a victim, click causing pain and distress. It is not restricted to schools and operates at all levels of society and within all age groups. It is prevalent in many workplaces and families.

It is estimated that half the UK population were bullied as children. Many adults state that being bullied as a child has caused them problems in later lives; jobs, relationships and mental wellbeing can all suffer.

Bullying can be difficult to deal with as it is often a complicated pattern of behaviour. It can be physical, verbal, emotional, or related to race, religion or gender.

Symptoms indicating that a person is being bullied can include:

  • Not wanting to attend school, college or work
  • Feeling powerless and passive in the face of attack
  • Feeling undermined and losing confidence
  • Keeping secrets about another’s bullying behaviour
  • Experiencing stress and anxiety, becoming more withdrawn
  • Having nightmares or panic attacks
  • Appearance of bruises or money going missing (common in children)

Bullies are characterised by:

  • Need for power and aggression
  • Lack of empathy
  • Need for admiration

Bullying involves two or three parties; the bully, the victim and possibly the bystander/s. It can start in a mild form and escalate.

The Bully:

  • is often aggressive, feels his/her needs are more important than      those of others
  • may have been a victim of bullying
  • may belong to a family where bullying behaviour is normal
  • may feel insecure or inadequate and have low self-esteem

The Victim:

  • is often passive, insecure or withdrawn
  • may have low self-esteem and low-confidence
  • may be familiar with being bullied
  • may find it uncomfortable telling anyone that they are      being bullied

Secrecy is a major factor in bullying, with bystanders colluding with the bully and dismissing the effects. Bullies often prey instinctively on people who may unconsciously reveal their passivity and compliance through body language or through their isolation.

When is the right time to seek help?

  • When a person finds him/herself drawn into one of the roles
  • When she/he feel anxious yet unable to deal with a situation
  • When bullying starts to affect life or work
  • If a person still feels affected years after the event
  • If the trauma of early bullying has never been addressed

How can Counselling help?

The ability to be assertive, rather than passive or aggressive, is a way to overcome bullying, but this may be difficult. If you grew up in a family of bullies and victims it is easy to adopt one of these roles, or move between the two. Acknowledging the problem and being able to talk about it, is often the first step to ending it.

A trained counsellor may help a victim or bully to consider alternative, healthier ways of relating and to look at issues of anger and passivity. Issues of low self-esteem, trust and confidence can also be addressed.

A person may find him/herself repeatedly bullied and wish to look at the personal responsibility in this process in a non-judgemental environment.

There are specific skills which are useful in bullying; transactional analysis and assertiveness techniques and cognitive behavioural therapy can all be helpful.




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