Bully-Proofing From the Inside Out
Once there was a man who was very frustrated by the trials and challenges of the world. He found that anger and stress dominated his life and prevented him from experiencing much joy. He felt deeply that the only way he would overcome his misery was to enter a monastery and experience total seclusion and silence. He spent twenty years there, rarely making eye contact with the other monks while upholding his vow not to speak. He meditated and prayed night and day. There were no unpleasant interactions because there were no interactions at all! When he felt he had attained total peace of mind, he returned to society. The next day, he found him- self in a New York City traffic jam, where he immediately threw himself into a blustery rage.
The moral? Our lives don’t change significantly by changing the outside world; they change when we truly learn how to change our inside realm.
“The true journey of discovery lies not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes.” Unknown
In the wake of the Columbine tragedy and many teen suicides as a result of bullying, attention has turned to the prevention of bullying in the schools. Schools are striving to “bully-proof” themselves. The end desire, of course, is to deter violence and aggression, and protect young self esteems from being wounded. I believe that every step made in the direction of creating more loving and compassionate educational institutions is of tremendous value.
However, we will fall short of success if we don’t realize that changing the external world has its limitations. Educators would like to create a perfect world and prohibit all cruel acts or apprehend all perpetrators. This is noble, but not realistic. How will they control what happens outside of school, at the mall, at sporting events, at parties, etc.? Why wasn’t the monk at peace in the traffic jam? How can he learn to develop the skills to handle a traffic jam if he never encounters any?
Unless we change how kids use their minds, it’s unlikely that these bully-proofing efforts will be totally successful. However, the power of the human mind is boundless. It can alter our experiences internally and permanently! We can teach students how to change their responses and reactions to difficult situations. We can teach them how to view the world and themselves in a more loving way. We can teach them that they have the power to choose their perspective in any situation. They can learn to translate what others say so that it doesn’t wound them. They can be taught that it’s possible to choose to not be angry, hurt, or vindictive. We can help them develop a shield through which no cruel barbs can pass, and they can take this shield with them wherever they go! We can teach them practical skills and ways of thinking which will bully-proof them for life. We can create the monk who retains his peace of mind in the traffic jam!
The wonderful thing about this, too, is that when a child learns how to not be a good target for a bully, the bully does not get his needs met. If every child learned how to do be a poor target, the bully would not be effective! Bullying simply wouldn’t work! And that’s how we really bully-proof our schools.
“It isn’t the world that makes you unhappy, or the way people are in the world. It’s how you process the people and events of our world.” Wayne Dyer, “Staying on the Path”
One example of how we can teach children to use their minds powerfully is to remind students that when bullies or taunters do unkind things to others, they don’t feel good about themselves. Most kids already know this on some level.
There is real power in understanding why people are critical of others, because then the recipient of the put down or power struggle can translate what the other is really saying. The person being put down may not know exactly what is going on with the other guy, but at least he can translate it to: “Hey, he’s not doing too well right now! Wonder what’s up with him?” It isn’t important to know the root cause of the other guy’s pain or upset. It is important to know that for some reason, he is not as loving to himself as he could be, and consequently, not loving to you. It is vital not to judge or criticize the other person, because if you do, then you are committing the same error he is! Compassion is the answer. Just feel sad for him that he isn’t doing too well at the moment.
The ability to translate can allow kids to adjust their thinking in order to preserve their self esteems while not getting entangled in inappropriate or nasty interactions. This ability can create a shield which can protect kids even in the toughest situations and allow them to retain their peace of mind and belief in themselves throughout their lives.