The V-formation: Wounded warrior
Sometimes the warrior needs help. After an arduous battle of self-defense, self-advocacy, research, and standing up for justice, the warrior needs to retreat and allow a fellow warrior to step forward and champion the cause.
Nature has demonstrated the power of the V-formation and I believe that this natural orientation can be beneficial to survivors of bullying.
In nature, birds fly in a V-shape. After a period of time and/or distance the bird at the helm retreats to the back to rest and another bird steps up to lead the group. The same should be done for survivors of bullying.
Usually, the person who is bullied tries to handle the situation on their own. The survivor may stand-up for themselves and self-advocate before disclosing information to another. Even after connecting with a trusted friend and/or adult, the survivor continues to defend themselves and tries their best to remain unaffected. Eventually, the victim feels run-down and loses steam. Without the support of others, the victim might normalize the behaviour of the bully(ies) and bystanders; believe the words of the bully(ies) and bystanders; or the victim might devalue their life. Prior to the victim losing steam others need to step up and protect the survivor, educate the bully(ies) and work with bystanders. If we operate in a V-formation, we can take care of those who are vulnerable and shift the culture of bullying.
The more we stand for others the more likely it will be that others will stand up for us when we are feeling wounded at the helm.
Bullying seems to be a taboo topic yet majority of us have participated in it, witnessed or experienced it. Why are we reluctant to speak of our experiences?
Bullying is an internal wound which continues to be sensitive years later. Words, looks, and interactions can brush up against the wound causing us to feel vulnerable and nervous. On the surface, emotions are attributed to external events; however, through reflection and supportive relationships, we can explore our past and realize that similar feelings were present when we were tormented.
Garnering insights from our experiences, we can better face-to-face and online interactions for others. Victims, bullies and bystanders need to know that there is hope and help available. They also need to know that survivors of bullying went on to achieve great things.
Take a leap and share your story with another. In sharing your experience(s) you may glean additional insights, deepen a relationship and/or give hope to another. The more we speak of our bullying experiences the more hope and empathy we can share with others.
Suicide and Myths
Suicide is a difficult topic to talk about and community agencies, organizations and institutions take each reference to suicide seriously. Also, professionals are trained to ask difficult questions and to be prepared for responses. There are a number of myths that surround suicide and we will discuss 4 in this article.
1. Attention seeking
For someone to disclose ideations and/or plans takes courage. Also, realizing that the only way to end pain and suffering is to take one’s life is a scary realization. People may hint that they are suicidal to gauge your reaction – will you blame them, talk about your feelings, or will you respect them and talk about their feelings and experiences? Those who disclose want to talk about their situation.
2. Mentally unwell
When someone hints or speaks of suicide, I see/hear a human trying to cope with a lot of emotional, physical, and/or psychological pain. One of the best actions we can take is to connect the person with a community agency or trained professional. Professionals can better support the person in need and your actions highlight that you see a human being not an ailment.
3. I’ll influence them to do it
If you ask someone if they are thinking about suicide they will either say yes or no. In asking, you won’t influence their decision. Instead, you are acknowledging personal feelings and expressing care. Asking this important question takes courage. If you feel uncomfortable asking or do not want to hear the answer, get the person to a safe place and call a community agency and/or professional e.g. police services, family doctor, mental health professional etc.
4. I’ll say the wrong thing
Be honest and listen – this moment is not about you. If you feel uncomfortable tell them that you want to call someone who can help. Be patient and let the other person talk. Focus on the person and listen to what they are saying.
There may be a time when someone close to you reveals that they are suicidal. If this happens, call the appropriate resource. You don’t have to ‘handle the situation’ by yourself. If you would like to help and learn more, there are training programs which you can register for. Training programs vary and can help with recognizing signs, initiating conversations, and connecting a person to services.
Music with meaning
When I was being bullied I turned to family, friends and music for support. I hope the following songs bring comfort and help you through your difficult period(s).
If you have found meaning in music, please list your power anthem(s) below.
“If You Wanna Make The World
A Better Place
Take A Look At Yourself, And
Then Make A Change”
If we want to end bullying, we need to stop bullying each other. If we learn to manage our emotions and engage in respectful dialogue, we will be modeling appropriate behaviour.
“Before you judge me, try hard to love me.
The painful youth I’ve had”
We carry the wounds of our childhood well into adulthood. Rather than criticizing others, what would happen if we tried to love the other and tried to understand their past? This is a tall order and I think humanity is capable of showing compassion.
“Wait a second,
Why should you care, what they think of you
When you’re all alone, by yourself
Do you like you? Do you like you?
Take your make up off
Let your hair down
Take a breath
Look into the mirror, at yourself
Don’t you like you?”
This song (and video) is incredible! In the world of filters, photoshop, and snapchatting, who are we pleasing and impressing? Lets take a breath and get to know ourselves.
“Everybody’s been there,
Everybody’s been stared down by the enemy
Fallen for the fear
And done some disappearing,
Bow down to the mighty
Don’t run, just stop holding your tongue”
For all the bystanders, this song is for you! You have the power to speak-up and potentially establish a new normal.
Speaking-up takes courage and once you come forward, you will be a leader and others will follow you lead.
“If I was gay, I would think hip-hop hates me
Have you read the YouTube comments lately?
“Man, that’s gay” gets dropped on the daily
We become so numb to what we’re saying
A culture founded from oppression
Yet we don’t have acceptance for ’em
Call each other faggots behind the keys of a message board
A word rooted in hate, yet our genre still ignores it
Gay is synonymous with the lesser
It’s human rights for everybody, there is no difference!
Live on and be yourself
When everyone else is more comfortable remaining voiceless
Rather than fighting for humans that have had their rights stolen
I might not be the same, but that’s not important
No freedom ’til we’re equal, damn right I support it
A world so hateful some would rather die than be who they are”
This song has soul and the line, “No freedom ’til we’re equal, damn right I support it” continues to resonate with me.
“And the day that you spin
From your little cocoon
Well, you can’t be prepared
For the beauty you’ll find there
And you will find beauty
In the toughest of places”
Transformations are challenging, gurgling and draining. However, transformations yield beautiful results.
If you pick on others, use your skills to make a positive difference.
If you get picked-on, seek support and embrace who you are.
If you witness an unsavory event, stand-up and empower others to do the same.
Not Afraid – Eminem (song contains graphic language)
“And I just can’t keep living this way
So starting today, I’m breaking out of this cage
I’m standing up, I’ma face my demons
I’m manning up, I’ma hold my ground
I’ve had enough, now I’m so fed up
Time to put my life back together right now!”
Life presents us with choices: we can admit defeat and succumb to the words of another OR we can implement healthy coping mechanisms and take steps to better the situation.
Change is not easy: it is hardwork. If you are bettering yourself, you are investing in your personal growth and in your future.
“Hey, you know they’re all the same.
You know you’re doing better on your own, so don’t buy in.
Live right now, yeah, just be yourself.
It doesn’t matter if it’s good enough for someone else.
Everything, everything will be just fine,
Everything, everything will be alright, alright.”
Life has helped me move from dependence to independence to interdependent. Each stage prepared me for the next so don’t be afraid to be on your own. Take time to discover who you are.