Say No To Bullying: but how?

Can a social plague like bullying or cyberbullying be eradicated by arresting and incarcerating minors? This is what is happening more and more in Italy. Public opinion appears divided.

If you have ever been bullied or cyberbullied you know what it means to be humiliated. Being mortified on a daily basis, sometimes for years, arouses feelings of anger, extreme anger. It can generate chronic physical and emotional pain. Often, survivors, suffer PTSD (Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder) for the rest of their lives. Sometimes it hurts so much inside, that children and adolescents cannot cope, they give up and decide to end their lives, besides the love and support they may or may not receive.

For a bullying survivor life is a daily struggle. On a rational level we are aware and understand the whys and hows of what happened to us, but subconscious feelings and emotions manifest themselves in other ways. For example: if a bad memory resurfaces, I can use reason and logic to overcome it. However, if I awake suddenly during the night sweating, shaking and with a soaring hearbeat, well, things get more complicated.

When we think of the pain bullies cause, our instincitive and natural reaction is to wish that something or someone could make them feel the same amount of agony we are forced to live with. Personally, when I happen to be struggling more than usual to conquer the serenity I was robbed of after being bullied and harmed by seven girls during my adolescence, I find myself meditating the idea that my persecutors should have gone to jail.

However, once the moment of distress passes and I am able to analize my perceptions with a clear mind, I ask myself: would the outcome of having put those girls in jail been positive? Would bullying no longer exist? Would they have recognized their mistakes? (Maybe, maybe not). Would it have healed the pain and the scars left behind? Or would being in prison merely have turned a group of thirteen year olds into seven adult women with bigger and more difficult problems to solve?

By asking myself these questions, in time, I realized that my desire to see bullies suffer through a punishment, only represented my need for revenge. It had little if nothing at all to do with the concept of justice, because it excluded the idea of collective well-being for society as a whole. Witnessing their punishment might have momentarily alleviated the grief but, in the long run, this negative mindset would have made a cruel person out of me as well.

I’m not sure if I have truly managed to forgive the bullies who tried but failed to ruin my life. There is a reason that makes me think I have. I don’t feel bitter. I search for beauty and in many circumstances I am fortunate enough to find it. It fills my heart with love for my family, friends, and for all those things I feel so passionate about.

As a woman and mother I think  punishment is the wrong route to follow when it comes to bullying, when youth is involved. Bullies are children who need our attention in a different way. In many cases, their issues are the result of the type of communities adults create for them.

In order to begin solving the problem we must look at it as a cultural dilemma. Young generations appear to be afflicted by nihilsm because emotional growth is stunted by today’s lifestyle.

In order to divert youth from nihilsm and propel them toward a rewarding and fulfilling life we must be an example of empathy from the day our children are born. Books, reading, dialogue, foster a sense of inclusion in children. Every time we make time for a child, every time we listen, is a moment spent building a little soul’s self-esteem. When we encourage their dreams and show them that failure is not a fault, we are giving them wings to soar through life with peace of mind.

If bullying and cyberbullying are becoming progressively worse, we have but ourselves to blame. By “ourselves” I mean family, schools, politicians…

Laws should exist to guide and aid in the quest to end bullying and should not be relied upon as the means to resolve the plague. The paradox lies in the fact that a child who is afraid and feels threatened may retaliate by becoming the bully he/she is trying to escape. We need to change mindsets through culture. It takes will and love.

I sincerely believe this to be the best way to protect potential victims and help survivors reconquer faith in humanity.

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