What Can We Do About Bullies?



I am so confused. On one hand, tons of advances have been made to raise awareness of the seriously harmful effects of bullying. Schools have active anti-bullying programs; parents have more tools to intervene effectively. On the other hand, bullies and meaness seem out of control in our society, entering the mainstream of behavior like from a firehose.

Last week students at Rutgers University posted a young man’s most private moments online resulting in his suicide, for what purpose? For their entertainment?!

And Paladino! Geez, really Carl? Is that how we want our leaders to act? Like back street bullies? I don’t care what your politics are, really I don't. I totally respect all views. Just don’t yell at me.

It’s not just about what's in the news. In my office I see up close the meaness that passes for communication between couples. I hear about stangers who scream cuss words at each other like drunken sailors over stupid perceived slights (no offense to drunken sailors). Elementary school age bullies cruelly taunting a child who is 'different'.  A neighbor raged at some children playing nearby, “Get your dog off my lawn or I’ll shoot it!”

No joke. I’m beginning to feel like we are all in a very bad 'Jersey Shore' episode. This disinhibited rage has become deadly. It has got to stop.

Which is exactly what I tell my patients with anger management problems. Zero tolerance is all that’s acceptable, like the treatment for alcoholism – abstinence. Not abstinence from anger, please do not misunderstand me. Abstinence from hurtful, angry explosions.

Anger management is like treating an eating disorder. You can’t stop feeling angry any more than you can stop eating. Anger is not the problem, it is the unrestrained expression of anger that needs fixing. See #8 on the Myth Buster Quiz Page.

As a society we need to stop tolerating this thoughtless nuclear zero-sum game, winner-takes-all, if-I-scream-louder-than-you-do-I-win behavior. That way kills relationships, self-esteem and ultimately leads to war and death.

What can we do about bullies? Let's start by teaching ourselves and our children the civil expression of anger and the power of kindness.

Related articles and links:

Mad as Hell: Managing Anger

Bullying Needs to Stop Nationwide

Raising Sensitive Kids

Responding to the Bullycides & Cyberbullying

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