Othello’s Error: Why Targets Take the Blame

William Shakespeare (1564-1616) on engraving from the 1800s. English poet and playwright, widely regarded as the greatest writer in the English language. Published in London by L.Tallis.

Othello’s Error often happens in police interrogation rooms and principal’s offices.

It comes from Shakespeare’s play, “Othello.”  In the play, the main character, Othello, assumes that his wife, Desdemona, is having an affair. The reason he believes this is because of her nervous response when he questions her.

In reality, Desdemona is innocent.

However, Othello  questions her in a aggressive and volatile manner. And this makes the poor wife nervous. Even worse, Othello takes her nervousness as a sign of guilt.

Sadly, his often occurs in real life.

Often, targets become nervous when someone questions them aggressively. The questioner then misreads the response. taking it as a sign that the person is lying or hiding something. It’s how so many people have gotten blamed for something they didn’t do.

Just as nervousness is mistaken for deception, the show of confidence is mistaken for honesty and trustworthiness. As we all know, bullies are well-known for feigned confidence and false bravado.

Targets of bullying are always nervous, and rightfully so. Who wouldn’t be if they were constantly abused, shamed, threatened, and attacked?

People tend to rush to the first possible explanation that fits what they want to see. Should it be any wonder why people blame targets and let bullies go scot-free?

After the abuse goes on for so long, targets learn to expect more of the same. And they usually get it. In other words, the expectation of such treatment brings more of the same. As a result, the target grows more nervous with each occurrence.

As the target grows more nervous, bystanders and authorities grow more and more suspicious of him.

The fact is that nervousness has several reasons, and the mistake often occurs in the decoding of it and not the observation!

With knowledge comes empowerment!

Targets of Bullying and Social Anxiety

After being bullied for so long, targets can develop social anxiety. They withdraw from people because they fear future attacks. The target’s spirit has been beaten down and broken and the person has been abused to the point of losing faith in humanity. Also, they’re reprogrammed to believe the bullies’ lies that they aren’t worthy of love and friendship. They are under the presumption that it’s much safer not to engage in any social interaction.

But what the target doesn’t realize is that in closing himself off from the rest of the world, he unknowingly limits himself in all aspects of life.

Humans were created to socialize and to have relationships. When targets create this invisible fortress around them, it doesn’t ensure their safety but only brings about more bullying. Bullies get their power from our fear. They are like ferocious animals who can smell fear from a mile away and believe me. They take full advantage.

Moreover, targets miss out on relationships that, otherwise, could be and would be fulfilling and rewarding. They unwittingly forego opportunities for friendship, dating, even good jobs that can produce personal success and financial well-being. Because if a person doesn’t believe in themselves, no one else will- that includes potential friends, dates, and company managers and supervisors. No one wants to be friends with, date, or hire someone who isn’t sure of himself unless they have low self-esteem themselves.

People recognize, if only subconsciously, social anxiety when they see it and not only through the more obvious signs, such as quietness, avoidance, trembling, blushing, stuttering or sweaty palms.

Social anxiety can also be more covert, showing itself in less obvious ways:

  1. Excessive laughing and giggling
  2. Appearing normal on the outside but nervous and shaky on the inside
  3. Excessive humor and being overly funny or no sense of humor at all
  4. Excessive sarcasm/having a smart-alicky attitude
  5. Being overly friendly/too nice
  6. Shutting down/freezing up- unable to talk or move
  7. Meanness/rudeness
  8. Fidgeting/can’t sit still
  9. Lack of or too much eye contact
  10. Poor posture/looking down all the time
  11. Having a hard time keeping up with a conversation
  12. Talking too loudly, too fast, too soft, too slow, or not at all
  13. Indifference
  14. Excessive use of foul language
  15. Promiscuity/raciness
  16. Wearing attire that is provocative or super-revealing
  17. A style that is “perceived” as separatist or out of the ordinary (goth, punk-rock, etc.)

The difficult thing is that those covert signs don’t always mean that the person has social anxiety. Many people just have their own sense of style or they may be naturally introverted. They may also have a boisterous personality. If you do not know the person or aren’t close to them, it’s hard to tell.

But one thing that is noticeable is if the person never exhibited this kind of behavior or look before and suddenly, or within a short amount of time transitions into it. And these kinds of changes can only be noticeable to those who are close to the person or have been around the person for years.

Therefore, if you know a person who is showing these signs, instead of pointing a finger and judging them cruelly, ask questions and find out why. You may not realize that person could be a target of bullying or another form of abuse.

And if you are a target of bullying and struggling with social anxiety, I want you to know that you don’t have to live in that invisible prison forever. Bullies do not deserve value and you shouldn’t place any worth to their opinions of you. Understand that you are enough and that your bullies haven’t earned your respect nor your attention.

Only value the opinions or thoughts of the people who love you and whose opinions deserve your consideration, attention, and acknowledgement.

Start loving yourself and practicing self-care. Relax and be yourself. Embrace your flaws and quirks because we all have them whether we admit it or not. Allow yourself to make mistakes and learn from them. I promise you that you’ll be much happier and have more peace of mind when you do.

When People Tell You, “You Can’t Do Anything Right!”

It’s true! When you’re a target of bullying and mobbing, you really can’t do anything right. But understand that bullying does that to targets. It causes them to be extremely nervous and always on edge.

You drop things, trip over stuff, the intense nervousness and fear make you awkward and uncoordinated. It makes you clumsy. The human stress response is, indeed, a tricky little devil!

You become even more afraid, which makes the clumsiness worse- fearful of screwing up, afraid to fail, afraid to be yourself because you know your bullies are watching you closely, and you’re mistakes and failures are precisely what they’re waiting for.

verbal abuse bullying

A bullied girl bakes a cake in Home Economics, only for it to collapse like a souffle. A bullied boy accidentally drops the ball on the basketball court in Physical Education. A company supervisor oversees a project, only for it to fall flat and be ridiculed.

And it seems the harder you try not to screw up, the more you do. You’re confused and don’t know which way to turn, nor which end is up. Making choices is hard and you aren’t sure which decisions are the right ones. No one can think clearly when they don’t feel safe.

bullying victim nervous, walking tight rope

Because when your mind and body are in panic mode- when your brain rewires itself for a hostile environment after people have, for so long, subjugated you to inhumane treatment, the part of your mind that deals with decision-making and emotional regulation automatically shuts down. And you’re at the mercy of your primal instincts!

Again, all this is what bullying does to victims! It’s why most victims of bullying have low grades and performance in school and why their work projects suffer in the workplace. And it’s why they’re looked at by teachers and supervisors as failures and nuisances.

bullying girl physical

But know that you’re not a failure, a loser, or a freak. You must realize that any time you’re bullied, there’s no way to relax and just be. It’s impossible. So, understand that your bullies, in their sadistic abuse, have turned you from a once calm and happy person into one hot mess! Then they’ve taken that and exploited it by calling you things like, “train wreck,” “crazy,” and other such cheap shots.

But there’s hope. When you finally get out of the dangerous environment you’re stuck in, and away from those poisonous people, you’ll be amazed at how quickly the nervousness, clumsiness, and awkwardness will go away!

You will be calm again, finally. You’ll be able just to relax, breathe, and be. And that’s a freedom I can’t describe when I remember how it happened for me.

The relief is such that it’s a feeling of being able to come up for air after having your head held underwater, or of coming home after a long time away. When you’re in a new place and around better people, you can put your best foot forward and start over.

It may be frightening at first because, after all, you just came out of an abusive situation, and you may need time to get used to the new people in your life. You may be afraid of being bullied again. But I promise you that you can make new friends and you can finally enjoy equal treatment.

Because you’ll be a fresh face, and in most cases, everyone loves the new kid because there’s an air of mystery that surrounds them. So, take advantage of that.

And once you’re able to relax and be yourself, you’ll be able to speak and do things more confidently and assuredly. Your actions and movements will be fluid and the clumsiness and confusion will fade away. It happened for me, and it will work for you too!

“You Can’t Do Anything Right!”

bullying girl

It’s true! When you’re a target of bullying and mobbing, you really can’t do anything right. But understand that bullying does that to targets. It causes them to be extremely nervous and always on edge.

You drop things, trip over stuff, the intense nervousness and fear make you awkward and uncoordinated. It makes you clumsy. The human stress response is, indeed, a tricky little devil!

You become even more afraid, which makes the clumsiness worse- fearful of screwing up, afraid to fail, afraid to be yourself because you know your bullies are watching you closely, and you’re mistakes and failure are precisely what they’re waiting for.

A bullied girl bakes a cake in Home Economics, only for it to collapse like a souffle. A bullied boy accidentally drops the ball on the basketball court in Physical Education. A company supervisor oversees a project, only for it to fall flat and be ridiculed.

bullying victim

And it seems the harder you try not to screw up, the more you do. You’re confused and don’t know which way to turn, nor which end is up. Making choices is hard before you aren’t sure which decisions are the right ones. No one can think clearly when they don’t feel safe.

Because when your mind and body are in panic mode- when your brain rewires itself for a hostile environment after people have, for so long, subjugated you to inhumane treatment, the part of your mind that deals with decision-making and emotional regulation automatically shuts down. And you’re at the mercy of your primal instincts!

Again, all this is what bullying does to victims! It’s why most victims of bullying have low grades and performance in school and why their work projects suffer in the workplace. And it’s why they’re looked at by teachers and supervisors as failures and nuisances.

workplace bullying

But know that you’re not a failure, a loser, or a freak. You must realize that any time you’re bullied, there’s no way to relax and just be. It’s impossible. So, understand that your bullies, in their sadistic abuse, have turned you from a once calm and happy person into one hot mess! Then they’ve taken that and exploited it by calling you things like, “train wreck,” “crazy,” and other such cheap shots.

But there’s hope. When you finally get out of the dangerous environment you’re stuck in, and away from those poisonous people, you’ll be amazed at how quickly the nervousness, clumsiness, and awkwardness will go away!

You will be calm again, finally. You’ll be able just to relax, breathe, and be. And that’s a freedom I can’t describe when I remember how it happened for me.

The relief is such that it’s a feeling of being able to come up for air after having your head held underwater, or of coming home after a long time away. When you’re in a new place and around better people, you can put your best foot forward and start over.

Cyber bullying

It may be frightening at first because, after all, you just came out of an abusive situation, and you may need time to get used to the new people in your life. You may be afraid of being bullied again. But I promise you that you can make new friends and you can finally enjoy equal treatment.

Because you’ll be a fresh face, and in most cases, everyone loves the new kid because there’s an air of mystery that surrounds them. So, take advantage of that.

And once you’re able to relax and be yourself, you’ll be able to speak and do things more confidently and assuredly. Your actions and movements will be fluid and the clumsiness and confusion will fade away. It happened for me, and it will work for you too!