According to a recent article in the Boston Globe, brain scans of teens who have been repeatedly bullied revealed the same changes as those who have been physically or sexually abused. In some individuals, the negative changes persisted years later.
The study offers concrete data from neuro-science research that bullying, whether on the playground or in the boardroom, has serious consequences and is not a minor issue or a simple interpersonal conflict.
Since I work with people who’ve been bullied, and I was myself bullied as both a child and an adult, I read about this study with mingled sadness and vindication.
It saddens me to think of all the brain “injuries” from the experiences many of us have had. At the same time it validates my own sense of the deep impact being bullied had on how I saw myself, how I navigated the world and how I interpreted later situations.
Obviously, more studies are needed to explore the effects of bullying on the brain. For example, no brain scan studies I’m aware of have been done yet on adults who were bullied. Nonetheless, many folks in education, healthcare, workplace wellness, and other areas have a lot of wisdom to offer about how we can promote healing for those who have been bullied and for our communities in general.
Here are some suggestions:
- We can get training and educate ourselves about bullying and mobbing (mass bullying) prevention and intervention.
- We can support or offer training about bullying for everyone involved with early childhood and K-12 education, such as teachers, counselors, parents, and children and young adults themselves.
- We can promote the necessity of training for Human Resources staff, managers, union representatives, therapists, and everyone in a workplace or organization.
- Those of us who work in conflict resolution as mediators, conflict coaches, organizational conflict analysts, trainers or facilitators can consciously assess in every situation whether it should be viewed as a conflict or bullying and let that question inform our approaches and solutions.
- Those of us who were bullied can work on our own healing and support clients, co-workers, friends and neighbors to get the healing they need.
- We can learn to change our responses so we don’t recreate the same situations as those that traumatized us.
- A variety of techniques such as hypnosis, Eye Movement Desensitization, visualization, emotional freedom triggers, and self-forgiveness work have shown promise.