How “The Horns Effect” Plays a Part in Bullying (Part 2)

 

(Continued from Part One…)

With the Horns Effect, teachers are less patient with a bullied student who asks questions in class or for help with an assignment. Thus the target of bullying won’t learn as much, won’t work hard, and won’t make very high grades, which will only activate the teacher’s confirmation bias and reinforce her opinion of the poor kid, that the kid is lazy, good for nothing and a crappy student.

If you’re a target of your peers and under the thumb of the Horns Effect, others in your school, workplace, or community begin to see you as a terrible person and block any opportunities for friendships, relationships, and success as word travels quickly.

Anytime you’re bullied and feel you can’t do anything right by anyone, you can bet that you’re on the receiving end of The Horns Effect.

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It doesn’t matter whether or not people’s hatred of you is deserved. The Horns Effect mars everyone’s interactions with you, and you feel like you’re banging your head against a brick wall in trying to get anywhere with people.

And because the target, who has been mistreated, is unhappy, miserable, depressed and angry (and who wouldn’t be under those circumstances?), everyone who already hates the target feels justified in their hatred.

Sadly, once the Horn Effect takes hold and people form an image of the target, it’s almost impossible to change. No matter what or how many good deeds she does, or how kind she is to others, her good actions will only be seen as a ploy to kiss-up to, fool and manipulate people.

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Understand that The Horns Effect is what bullies count on. And once the bullies complete their agenda of destroying you and your reputation, The Horns Affect will automatically come into play.

(The Horns Effect- the tendency to see one bad thing in a person and believe that everything about that person is bad).

It’s tough to get others to change their first impressions of you. It can be done but it takes a truckload of patience and consistency. It also takes a certain amount of pointing out your good qualities, hard work and successes to people, which can backfire if you aren’t careful. People will only think you’re an arrogant blowhard.

Realize that any effort to effect change may do no good or make the situation worse. Because people naturally base their decisions and behavior on deeply hidden feelings, and their actions toward you are subconscious.

Most people are either too lazy or too full-of-themselves to do any critical thinking. When they hate you, they will rationalize any hateful behavior and search for clues in you to confirm that their attitude, feelings and subsequent actions and behavior toward you are justified.

Teachers will often grade student’s papers based on their biases. In other words, they rank a student’s essay based on how they perceive that student. If a teacher sees a student be a low performer and lazy, they’ll grade that paper through the lens of expectation of a lazy, no good student who does poorly.

People don’t judge you from what’s actually there; they judge you from what they expect to be there. If people expect trouble to come from a particular place, then that’s where they’re going to look, which brings me back to the subject. If people don’t like one thing about you, the chances are that they won’t like anything else about you, good or bad.

Most ideas don’t stand on their own merits. People judge ideas based on who they came from.

The Horns and Halo Effects have a way of clouding people’s judgment of a person. People will make irrational beliefs because they believe that the existence of one bad trait means that there’s a presence of another bad quality.

Any time you are under the shadow of The Horns Effect, anything you say, accomplish, create or do is automatically dismissed without consideration of whether it’s genuine.

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No matter who said it or did it, it’s either genuine or it isn’t, based on its own merit. It is what it is, no matter who it came from. A good idea is a good idea, even if it comes from the town whore. A bad idea is a bad idea, even if it came from a pastor’s wife.

Unfortunately, you have little control over other’s perceptions and opinions of you. However, there are a few things you can do, which is to take care of yourself and do the things you love most and that fulfill your soul. Also, lean on and draw closer to the people who love you.

This is  how you keep the spell of The Horns Effect from trashing your self-esteem.

Bullying and Gossip

Gossip is purely judgmental and includes hasty generalizations about the target’s character and private life, which has nothing to do with the school, community, or workplace. The purpose of gossip is to control the target’s status by demoting the target on the social hierarchy.

Another purpose of gossip is to justify the target’s punishment by promoting a collective view that she doesn’t deserve respect, dignity, or humanity, but only abuse and hostility.

 And once a target is viewed to deserve abuse, others will always escalate it!

Gossip has another benefit. It tightens group connections, gives higher status to the people who are privy to the negative information, and sets expectations and norms in the group as to how they should treat the target.

Through gossip, the group establishes, maintains, or changes social infrastructures. Gossip promotes unity and shared negative perceptions of the target. With the use of it, the group will foster justification for hostility. Therefore, no one in the group considers their actions as bullying. They will only say that the target “deserves it” and say they were reacting to “an evil enemy.”

People tell others to keep it secret, but they also ask them to inform the group of any new information and updates that concern their target.

Realize that it serves to provide bullies reaffirmations that their perceptions of the target are correct, that the target deserves abuse.

Gossipers will often cover their bad behavior with a slight confession of guilt by beginning their sentences with things like,

“I know I shouldn’t say this, but…”

“Poor thing…”

“Bless her heart…”

 They will acknowledge that the target is a human being, but only because this gives them the green light to talk and helps them feel less like creeps.

It’s true that reputation doesn’t equal character. But understand that though the rumors may be false, and there may be zero credible evidence to back them up, if  pure speculation will best fit the bullies’ goals, that’s what they’ll go along with.

In the late stages of gossip, all bystanders will become willing co-conspirators. Gossip brings scandal, which means to assassinate the target’s character, integrity, mental fitness, and worth as a student, worker, neighbor, and human being.

Anyone who questions or disbelieves the lies will immediately become an object of bullying as well. Nobody wants to be isolated, so this forces others to stay in line with the running narrative.

And if the target attempts to defend himself or speak out against the abuse, it will be used against him.

Unfortunately, at this stage, the only way for the target to ensure his safety and escape the abuse is to leave the toxic environment and go to a new place where he can start anew, establish new connections, and reinvent himself.

Remember the character, Chris Chambers, in the movie “Stand by Me.” Although he was a great kid, he was considered a rogue and a thief. Remember the scene where he was crying to his friend, Gordy, telling him about how he got his bad name, and wishing he could go somewhere where no one knew him.

And sadly, in most cases, targets must leave the school, company, or community to heal and rebuild their lives.

When People Lump You into A Category Based on The Bad Behavior of Someone Close to You

I hear these stories all the time from people who have a ne’er do well brother, an uncle who’s the town drunk, or a sister who’s notorious for being promiscuous. But whether your dad did a stint in prison, or your mom is perceived by others to be the town nut-job, know that these are things you have no control over and therefore, are not your responsibility. You aren’t defined by the lousy choices or unfortunate circumstances of a few relatives.

Yes, I know that the judgement people heap on top of you hurts and hurts terribly, but I want you to know that you’re an innocent person in all of it. You’re an individual and you shouldn’t feel ashamed of anything because you’ve done nothing wrong. Realize that humans have a bad habit of lumping people into categories, whether justly or unjustly. And they’re wrong for painting you with the same brush based on bad choices a few of your family members made.

People also do this with different races and ethnic groups as well. It seems that many automatically think that all Blacks are thugs, all Whites are racist, all Native Americans are savages, all Hispanics are illegal aliens and so forth.

Yes, I’ve heard all the above statements throughout high school, in a few workplaces, even in the news media and it’s all garbage! We should all know that none of it is true. There are some of the greatest, loving, and most tenderhearted people in every race and there are many who don’t live up to the ignorant stereotypes that society likes to hoist upon them.

Therefore, I want you to know that anyone who puts you in a category with a few evil bad apples, or people who’ve simply made bad choices, doesn’t know the individual you. They do not know your heart nor your inner reality. And they don’t know what you think and feel.

Nobody can possibly know these things but you and God. And if they claim they do know, they’re only playing God by claiming to know the unknowable. Realize that when people perceive you to be someone you aren’t, their thoughts and opinions aren’t worthy of even being considered and you shouldn’t place any value to them.

In fact, you should kick these people to the curb because they aren’t worth your time nor energy. You deserve people in your life who get you- who love you for you and the good you bring to this world.

So, know that you deserve better and that you are not the labels others stick to you.

You Must Define Yourself or Bullies Will Do It for You

Bullies may think they know you, and they may attempt to define who you are, but only you know the definition of who you are. By having the audacity to tell us who we are, not only to bullies attempt to force us to replace our thoughts of ourselves with theirs, they also try to play God.

In doing this, bullies also want to force us to deny our beliefs and convictions, and ultimately, deny ourselves. They want us to tell ourselves that what they did to us was all in our minds and only make-believe when it is they who are in a world of make-believe.

Understand that to accept someone else’s definition of you; you must discard your own. When we allow bullies to dictate our inner reality, we lose bits and pieces of ourselves. Also, little by little, we lose awareness of our emotions each time we allow them to do it and eventually grow numb.

For example, when we cry about a legitimate hurt that cuts us to the core, bullies will often invalidate the pain we feel and replace it with their perceptions of it.

They do it by making these biting statements:

“It isn’t that serious!”

“You’re too sensitive!”

“Oh, boo-friggin-hoo! You’re just a little cry baby trying to get attention!”

 “Grow up!”

 “Put your big-girl panties on!”

“Get over it!”

Understand that when you feel sadness, you feel sadness, and when you’re angry, you’re angry, and you should allow yourself and be allowed to feel those emotions. No one has a right to tell you how to feel. Ever!

Motivational inspirational be your own hero

In making these types of statements and accusations, bullies cause many targets to feel guilty for being a human being- for being a person. But realize that bullies don’t see you as a person with thoughts, feelings, beliefs, and convictions of your own. They see you as an abject- a robot they can control.

Bullies don’t see you as an independent and separate being. They see you as a subject who’s only here for their purpose, pleasure, and entertainment. In their minds, your sole purpose on earth is to make them feel powerful. Nothing more. So, instead of allowing you to own your truth, bullies will tell you what your truth is- or should be. And they’ll force-feed it to you and cram it down your throat.

Therefore, this is the kind of response you should expect from bullies.

And if you’re not careful, you’ll allow their statements to overtake you and, in that, allow their perceptions to replace yours. You’ll begin to see yourself through their eyes until you let them blind you to your true nature. You’ll slowly lose sight of yourself until you don’t know who you are anymore.

Even worse, you’ll lose the intuition that they’re abusing you and will no longer know when to protect yourself- you’ll grow numb to the abuse. Realize that this is how bullies and abusers train you not to defend yourself, and once they succeed, they then have you right where they want you- this is how bullies slowly and subtly take the fight out of targets and render them pacifists.

Understand that you must muster the strength to withstand your bullies’ attacks, do all you can to maintain your sense of self, and refuse to accept your bullies’ opinions and definitions of you. Never allow others to trick you into believing that they know you better than you know yourself. The truth is that you know yourself better than anyone else in the entire world because you’re the only one other than God who lives inside you.

Realize that bullies are persistent, so targets must maintain their sense of self and their clarity of who they are. Your beliefs, convictions, likes, dislikes, preferences, authenticity, autonomy, and your ability to decide when something doesn’t feel good add up to equal your definition and your truth.

Your self-definition, sense of self, self-belief, autonomy, confidence, self-esteem are like precious gems, and you must guard them against thieves who wish to take them.

Targets, Bullies Don’t Know Why They Hate You. They Just Do.

It’s true. If you’re a target of bullying, your bullies more than likely don’t consciously know why they hate you. So, what do they do? They make up reasons.

And the reasons they make up arise from confabulations and hasty generalizations. The reasons also come from long-standing rumors that turn into myths.  These myths may have been around for years- even decades. When a myth or generalization has been the narrative long enough, it goes unquestioned and takes on a life of its own. It’s “just the way it is.” As a result, people become “biased” against the target.

When bullies and others are biased against a person, they accept any myth as truth, and this bias keeps bullies wound up and ready to hurt the target. Bias blinds people and claims to know the truth about a person or group of people without concrete evidence or firsthand knowledge.

People support biases with stereotypes, which are only lies and opinions repeated so often and for so long until society accepts them as the truth.

But know this. If you’re a target of bullies, although others may tag you with labels that don’t apply to you, you don’t have to accept them nor let them define who you are. Only you can define yourself. Nobody else can do it for you. Understand that nobody knows the inner you but you.

Know that you have the power to accept or reject labels. Use that power. Reject your bullies’ definitions of you. Bullies may have a degree of control over your surroundings and, yes, even your physical well-being. They may also control how others view you.

But they can never control what you think of yourself. Bullies can’t control your mind and thoughts without your permission. That power belongs to you and you alone.

A Deeper Reason Why Self-Acceptance is A Must

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Today, we live in a world that consistently judges us. It seems that people feel they have carte blanche to point a finger at someone else and announce their flaws and weaknesses. Sadly, this seems to be the norm.

Everyone is trying to be (or look) better than the next person and lord it over them. You see it in the media, you see celebrities calling out other celebrities in the Twitterverse and you see everyday people doing it on the street, in the supermarket, workplace, and at school.

What bullies don’t realize is that in pointing a finger at someone else, they only reverse it back on themselves. Because they’ve got to be pretty darned insecure with their own life to feel the need to disparage another person.

Anytime you come at another person without provocation, it either shows that you’re trying to hide or distract attention from your own shortcomings by trying to redirect the negative attention to someone else. In short, it’s only proof of your own lack of self-acceptance.

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Self-acceptance has always been a must-have but nowadays, it’s even more essential than ever before.

This is not to say that we shouldn’t be self-aware because we should. But too much self-awareness isn’t good because, when we’re hyper-aware, we focus too much on our weaknesses and not enough on our strengths. Sadly, this is what targets of bullying are conditioned to do after so long.

There are two extremes to everything but there’s also that happy middle that we should stay in.

We must work on changing the way we see ourselves and begin loving ourselves more because only then will we be able to love others.

If you can’t accept yourself, you won’t be able to accept others either. Being a bully doesn’t score any points and it doesn’t make you feel any better in the long run. It only makes you look like an insecure little coward.

As the old saying goes, “You do you and let me do me.”

Bullying in Oakley During the ’80s: A Man Called “Smiley”

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If you’re an ‘80’s teenager, you probably remember certain people in your neighborhood who didn’t fit in- the village idiot, the town whore, the ne’er do well family, the spinster, the drug-addict, the wino- anyone others saw as different, or an oddball.

Maybe the person was the childless woman, the lifelong bachelor, or the quiet guy who didn’t speak much. The unlucky individual might have had a mental disability- a Vietnam combat veteran who suffered PTSD, perhaps.

Whatever it was about the person, they had ways about them, which seemed “off.”
Although people nowadays don’t pay as much attention to any oddities in certain people, back in the eighties, it was a big deal, especially in a rural, Southern town like Oakley, Tennessee.

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For instance, if you had a gay couple living next door back then, it would cause a huge stink in town, whereas today, it’s accepted. And a person thought to be mentally imbalanced was frowned upon worse than if he’d been a rapist or murderer.

I remember a guy everyone referred to as “Smiley.” He was a poor, widowed, older man who we’d see out early every morning with a trash bag in his hand, picking up tin cans. He always had a smile on his face. But because he always looked bedraggled, people looked down on him.

They would conjure up wild stories about the man only because he was so poor that he couldn’t afford any decent clothes and wore old, dirty attire full of holes. Kids and teens would misinterpret a genuine smile and wave from Smiley as a flirt and that he was trying to come on to them.

Business man not listening to nonsense

Businessman not listening to nonsense

Young boys would run around telling everyone who would listen that the man was gay, and the girls would accuse him of being a perv.

Some would spread rumors that Smiley was some crazy released from the state mental hospital or a serial killer who’d gotten out of prison. Other tales went around about the man as well, one which was that he had AIDS because he was so frail and skinny.

He was a freak
He stank
He was just plain gross
He was a pervert
He looked nasty
He didn’t take baths

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Those were things I’d often hear. People didn’t accept Smiley nor want him around. It was heartbreaking.

These rumors would spread to the parents and other adults in the neighborhood, and they’d tell their children to keep away from him. Some of the adults would see him walking up the street and come outside, screaming obscenities at the poor guy.
The adults would also ask around about Smiley- Had anyone “seen anything suspicious or peculiar out of him?”

People like Smiley were prime targets for vandalism and physical assault. People would throw rocks through their windows, key their cars, or spray-paint the word “FREAK” in big black letters on the side of their houses. Eventually, people like him got severely beaten or worse. Or maybe they’d have no choice but to move away.

We’d like to think that eventually, bullies grow up and get lives of their own, but the reality is that most of them only get worse as they get older.

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Sadly, the same stuff happens today. Innocent people- good people are accused of some of the most unspeakable deeds- all because they’re different somehow. And most of the time, there’s no truth in any of it.

If the rumors are proven to be false, many people will still hold negative views of the person and reject any evidence that he’s innocent- even if the evidence is undeniable.Understand that most bullies (and most people) will believe what’s most familiar to them and what feels right to them. And no amount of evidence to the contrary will change their minds.

If you ever find yourself a target of such people and such rumors, lies, and gossip (mainly for several years), you must focus on taking care of yourself. Focus on you! That’s what Smiley did.

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He didn’t worry about what others were saying. Smiley looked out for himself. He focused on his wants, his needs, his goals, and the few people in town who treated him well. Eventually, he moved away to be near his five children, who loved and took care of him until the day he died.

So, do what’s best for you. And sometimes, what’s best is to get out of the environment altogether. If you have to pack up and move, do it! Go where you can be happy, be yourself, and be free of such negativity.

Your safety, peace, and happiness should be top priority!