I need advice on how to cope with mobbing. Not mobbing at work or school — community mobbing.
A few years ago I lost my temper and called a bunch of girls in my school “MySpace whores”, meaning people who use MySpace only to have a high friend count and not to actually have friends. I was sick of being bullied while everyone in my school just stood by and pretended it wasn’t happening. I’d have spit balls launched at me, name-calling, pranks, slander, and used for nothing more than lunch money. What’s worse is that everyone was friends with those bullies, so they’d be nice to me until one of their bully-friends was there. I was sick and tired of it all so I protested, in probably the dumbest way possible — made a page on MySpace. One problem though — they seem to think “MySpace whore” and the word “whore” are the same. When I realized that from the messages they sent, I tried to apologize and explain and said some things to try and make them feel better. (Yeah I’m so nice that I am even nice to people I hate — probably why I never got into a fist fight during school.)
They instead took what I said seriously and are now harassing me; some are stalking me, some even moved into houses nearby, although I live in a cheap neighborhood, and they’ve turned everyone against me and got them to harass me. I was fired from two jobs because of them making the work environment hostile, forcing me to just not want to show up. Upper management did nothing to help. I can’t even go outside without some kids or neighbors calling me names and doing “street theatre” nearby. Hell, they even tried harassing me by driving by my house, screaming, calling me names and whistling.
I used to be able to just ignore it, but now I am starting to become filled with rage, like I’ll snap and attack (or kill) the next person who crosses me. I’m even tempted to take some Vicodin from my parents and start self-medicating, but I know that would be just as bad, if not worse, than this harassment.
I need advice. I know what I did was stupid to begin with and that I should probably attend an anger management class or something. It would have to be online though — I don’t trust any of them around here and I can’t move because of college … just one more year.
Mobbing — the bullying of an individual by a group — is indeed a huge problem. As you’ve discovered, it is an insidious form of abuse that is very difficult to stop. It used to be that people believed if you just fought back against bullies or simply ignored them that they would stop harassing you and go away. Those beliefs were quite naïve because, if you look at it from a behavioral perspective, the positive reinforcement from the bullying is not coming from you. Bullies get reinforcement from the others who go along, laugh or somehow encourage their cruel behavior. So, getting them to stop is difficult — but that doesn’t mean it’s impossible.
As you found out, fighting back by calling people names (even if you didn’t intend for them to be misinterpreted) is not helpful. Often it makes things worse, as demonstrated by what happened in your case. It is certainly understandable that you became angry and responded in kind but anger can be reinforcing for bullies in several ways. It shows the bullies that their behavior upsets you. Since that can be part of their fun, it encourages them to do it more. Responding with anger can also be evidence for them that you deserve their bullying. Consequently, as difficult as it may be not to respond to bullies with anger and violence, know that it only exacerbates the problem.
There are several avenues of action that you can take. First, when dealing with bullying behavior, it is extremely important for people to realize that bullying is not their fault. No one, no matter what they do, deserves to be bullied. It is difficult to hear insults and experience ill treatment and not internalize it as something bad about you. However, bullying is something bad about the bully. In other words, keep your head up. Remind yourself of all the good things about yourself.
Second, find people whom you can trust. You described several people who were nice when the bullies were not around but they did not stand up for you and continued to be friends with the bullies. Clearly, people who do not stand up against unfairness and poor treatment are not true friends. Find people who are. This may mean that you need to branch out and go outside of your community to find people worthy of your friendship; but that’s okay. You need to find people who value you and with whom you can talk. This will help with decreasing your feelings of anger.
Third, do not be afraid to ask for help. Talk with professionals like police officers and counselors who deal with bullying to find out more about what you can do. It could be that there are federal, state and local laws and policies that could help you. Many employers and schools have anti-harassment and anti-bullying policies in place. Learn how to utilize these resources.
Finally, I think it is important to not allow the bullies to run your life. Do not let them goad you into behavior that is self-destructive, like taking drugs or acting out. You may not be able to control their behavior but you can control your own. Decide who you are and who you want to be as a person and then act like that. You seemed to dismiss being nice but, from my perspective, we need people who are nice a lot more than we need people who are bullies. Also keep in mind that this is temporary. Once you graduate college and leave the area, you may never have to see these people ever again. Focus on living your life the best way you can. Although trite, it’s also true that living well is the best revenge.
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