How to Stop Bullying: Identify It
Given the heightened awareness around bullying nowadays, most of us think we know what it looks like. But even experts are sometimes surprised by the way this social scourge manifests, especially among adults.
Susan Wenzel, a relationship counsellor and sex therapist in Winnipeg, recently worked with a common-law couple that had fallen into a destructive pattern: the woman would regularly wake her partner up in the middle of the night to rehash an incident that had upset her. She would fixate on some perceived slight—that he ignored her at a party or that he failed to defend her when his mother voiced a criticism—and berate him.
Wenzel says the woman’s rationale was that “your time is my time, so I can wake you up.” Her haranguing would last several hours, and the relationship turned toxic. Once, the couple argued so fiercely that a neighbour called the police (no charges were laid). This played out over several months, and in addition to being sleep-deprived, the man felt emotionally drained and depressed. At first, says Wenzel, he saw his partner’s nocturnal grievances as a bad, unwanted habit. But eventually, she adds, “He started seeing it as emotional abuse.”
Bullying can come in many forms—from physical intimidation to online harassment to mind games. “It can cross gender lines and often doesn’t follow a predictable pattern. That makes it very hard to label,” says Anna Richards, a conflict coach and counsellor at the Neutral Zone, a counselling agency in Vancouver.
The end result, however, is typically the same in all instances of harassment: harmful relationships and potentially dire effects on the victim’s mental and physical health. Thankfully, there are strategies for dealing with intimidation.