Bullying and the Innate Fight or Flight Response

dreamstime_s_44766088

Any time a person has been the object of relentless bullying over an extended period of time, that person comes to be in a constant state of high alert. Although useful in short, immediate circumstances, this hyper-vigilance can be unhealthy if the person remains in this state for too long, causing stomach issues, headaches, and fatigue among other many other ailments. Still worse, such a continuous feeling of being under threat can also cause the person to overreact in response to certain occurrences.

Every living creature has an innate and perfectly natural physiological reaction in the event of a threat or attack. Called the Fight or Flight Response, it protects us from harm in dangerous situations in part through the release of adrenaline. When adrenaline is released into the blood, it becomes next to impossible not to do either of two things- fight or flee.

When I was being bullied and abused during school, escape was not an option for me. Usually, I was cornered or surrounded, either backed into a wall or some large object. With flight cut off to me as an option, what did I have left? Fight! I lived on this adrenaline every day, all day long. Just being around my classmates put my body and mind on constant alert. It was a horrible way to live.

It was just plain terrible! Getting on the school bus and walking through the entrance to the school felt like a death march. In the afternoons, I had horrible headaches that triggered violent nausea. For so long, I had managed to keep from vomiting, but eventually my luck ran out. I recall an afternoon in English class when my mouth and eyes began to water. I swallowed hard to control my gag reflexes as I approached the teacher’s desk to ask to be excused to the bathroom.

“What do you want?” Mrs. Caraway asked rudely.
“I don’t feel good.” I replied.

Without a word, she gave me the hall pass and I scurried my way to the girls’ room, barely making it to the first stall before launching a stream of the bitterest, most horrible tasting green liquid into the toilet.

This was followed by a long series of dry heaves which were quite painful. Instead of making me feel better, the vomiting made me feel worse and my headache became next to unbearable.

I’ll never forget the sound of the bathroom door as it flung open and the teacher stormed in, demanding to know why I was taking so long. I began to cry and in between gags and wretches, pleaded with her to let me go to the office and call my grandmother.

She accused me of making myself vomit so I could go home early.

When you’re a bullied kid, even a few teachers, having heard the rumors and falsehoods being spread about you by your bullies, begin to bully you too. It’s a very lonely and heartbreaking position to be in.

As time went on, the fear of going to school and having to face my classmates grew in me. It was like an infected tumor getting bigger and bigger with each passing day. My stomach would draw up every morning when I set foot on that school bus. The next eight hours was like walking through a minefield, never knowing when my next step could mean BOOM! and I would be hit, shoved, kicked, or bombarded with a torrent of taunts, insults and names. It was a situation I saw no end to, and to say that I was afraid would be an understatement. I was petrified.

Most never think of the magnitude of fear the victim must live with or the health consequences of living in that perpetual state of fight or flight. And sadly, although the impact to the physical health of the victim may not show up right away, it may rear its ugly head later in life.

Many bullied victims get into serious trouble when the bullying finally escalates and becomes physical. Everyday, innocent targets are unjustly suspended or expelled from school because they were forced to fight to defend themselves. Bullies have a real flair for charming and seducing teachers and staff, lying very convincingly and making the target look like the aggressor and victims are often severely punished for nothing more than trying to protect themselves, while the bullies are either given a slap on the wrist or escape with complete impunity.

However, teachers and school should know well that, just like all God’s creatures, victims of bullying have the fight or flight instinct.

It’s only natural that if you corner a dog and kick it enough times, sooner or later, you’ll get bit!

Advertisements

Why Targets of Bullying Should be Proactive in Preserving Their Personhood

dreamstime_s_70240805

Being bullied and being stuck with unnecessary labels can very easily cause a person to self-doubt. Not only does it cause one not to believe in his/herself and in one’s own abilities, but it can also enable that person to trust their own innate intuition if they let it. It blinds the target to people who are true as it completely zaps his/her senses of who is for real and who is fake, thus causing the loss of the ability to avoid dangerous people.

Bullying is a form of brainwashing. It is repeated, repetitious, and occurs over a long period of time. It reprograms the victim’s mind and convinces the person that he/she is nothing, blinding him to his own worth as a person, to her own inner and outer beauty, and to her own intelligence. The target comes to that dreadful place where she doesn’t trust her own ability to make good decisions. He fears that anything he does and/or says will be wrong. Therefore, he keeps his talents and gifts hidden from the world for fear of ridicule.

Self-doubt keeps the target paralyzed and they hide their true, awesome self. By trying to hide their authenticity from others for fear of negative judgment, victims unwittingly dumb themselves down and make foolish decisions.

Targets must avoid this at all costs.

Never lose yourself because of a bully. No matter how others may treat you, always take steps to keep your authenticity. If you have any talents or gifts, display them with pride. Do things that you enjoy and spend extra time with those who love you and lift you up. You will be surprised at how great you will feel about yourself. Therefore, bullying will have less of an impact on your self-esteem.

Writing with Feeling

dreamstime_s_18274035

Anytime I write a novel, I make sure to write with feeling. What does this mean? It means getting into the minds of my characters; imagining what it would be like to be in their situations and under their circumstances, putting myself in my characters’ shoes. It means feeling their emotions, imagining their thoughts and reactions and seeing every detail through their eyes because if the author feels his/her characters’ emotions (happiness, anger, sadness, pain, excitement, etc.), the reader is likely to feel them too.

Expressing a characters’ emotions isn’t about just writing,

“So-and-so felt angry when she discovered that her husband of twenty years was cheating on her.”.

No. What it means is describing the jilted wife in terms such as,

“So-and-so’s eyes widened and she took two steps back when she discovered the red, thonged panties hidden in the top drawer of the nightstand on her husband’s side of the bed. Her cheeks flushed, her breath quickened and she begin trembling because she knew the panties did not belong to her! After twenty years of faithfulness, cooking, cleaning, and taking care of children, this was the thanks she received!”

For me, writing with feeling requires great detail and innuendo. It requires leading the reader on. It is a way of ensuring that the reader can relate to the characters and if the reader can somehow relate to the character, especially the protagonist, the more likely they are more likely to like the character(s)and crave more!

Isn’t this what all authors strive for?