The Mind-Bully Connection
Can mindfulness stop bullying? The idea seems crazy doesn’t it – mindfulness is usually thought of as passive, internal and still vs the brutality of a bully. But if we think about it for a moment, it begins to make sense. If all of us are united in our universal suffering and the need to calm our minds and connect to our essential loving and still natures, then the bully and the bullied already share a common experience of life.
Bullies by nature are afraid and bully to regain or reinforce their personal power – it is their own hurt and fear that triggers their desire to act out on others they perceive to have difference or weakness. Their own experience and damage informs their actions and the knowledge that their power is so fragile is what drives them on. In turn, the bullied too share the experience of fear, of lack, of not being enough, and bullying reinforces their own internalised narratives.
A survey of schools in about 40 countries found that Australian primary schools were among those with the highest reported incidence of bullying in the world (Mullis, Martin, & Foy, 2008). This is across both face to face and digital bullying, a worrying statistic that myriad national programs and awareness raising is not reducing. So how does mindfulness fit in? On a philosophical level, by getting students to practice mindfulness, you are at one level helping them to manage their anxiety and worries through being able to observe their minds and recognise how to intervene when they feel out of control.
On another level, the practice of mindfulness when undertaken regularly, aside from bringing a sense of calm and ease, also brings a heightened awareness of self and other, and seeks to amplify compassion. Mindfulness introduces the idea that peers, parents, teachers and beyond are part of a whole community that the bullies and the bullied belong to, and subtly breaks down the sense of being alone. Having a sense of belonging is integral to community; author and Professor Brene Brown says that is it our crisis of disconnection that is fuelling so many of the fear/anger based behaviours across all levels of society and when people connect and feel part of something, their isolation and rage dramatically reduces.
By working with bullies and the bullied using mindfulness as the intervention, we acknowledge that everyone gets hurt by bullying and that the bully is as much a victim that needs to be seen and heard and their own pain acknowledged. A daily mindfulness practice used in the classroom enables bullies and bullied and those peers who can intervene also, to become more aware. This has been shown in early studies of mindfulness and bullying to helps kids to stop and think before they act and react, and make better decisions, learning how to slow their thoughts, listen, communicate, focus, and become more aware through mindfulness.
Bullying is a problem, and one that is growing. If we address it in a holistic way (like we do in our Support + Thrive Programs) with love and the science of mindfulness practice, we have the opportunity to deal with the root of the problem, sadness and suffering, rather than simply the visible signs.
Something to think about,