Those who receive pleasure from intimidating others seem to seek innocent, non-aggressive people who pose no threat or retaliation. Domination and exerting one’s power can be addictive as it releases the hormones that Olympians experience in what is referred to as “The Winner Effect," the title of a book due out this fall by Scottish neuropsychologist Ian H. Robertson. Bullies are certainly not winners, but they get hooked on the same "high" experienced by those who climb Mt. Everest. It is why, in sports, Robertson cites research that the red team will win defeat the blue team 62 percent of the time. Other research from 2008 published in "Cyberpsychology & Behavior" found that that in virtual competition red teams win over blue teams 55 percent of the time.
The reason kids are taking on the police and bullying all levels of authority such as a teachers, school bus drivers or monitors is because the experience of power and domination releases more testosterone and other hormones that increase aggression and heighten risk taking. It is why O.J. Simpson could not resist taking risks that eventually sent him behind bars. It is why Hitler and other dictators bring on their own demise. Gamblers playing the slot machines continue to take bigger and bigger risks after each small jackpot for the same reasons — their brains light up!
If our children continue to live in a world without boundaries, limits and respect, no adult, no matter the size or armor, will be safe. Everyone is at risk. Then, too, while consequences and discipline are essential, punishment teaches very few lessons.
Unless our children learn compassion and empathy, hopefully at a very young age, we will continue to be horrified by yet another story of what we believed should never happen. Without compassion, other people, no matter what their age, are seen as "objects." The bonding between a parent and child is an essential experience with a missing link that is crucial to caring and showing empathy.
In my "Bully Proof" programs for teachers, counselors and bus drivers, I emphasize the "5 R's of Respect," which must be an integral part of every bullying intervention program to support a corrective emotional experience and behavioral change.
- Responsibility is mental accountability. Until there is ownership of a problem, there is no “will” to change it. When you mess up, you must "fess" up.
- Repentance is remorse that must involve change. It requires asking for forgiveness and taking on a whole new point of view — the view of those who have been bullied.
- Resolution is the determination to do something. If you are not part of the solution, you are part of the problem.
- Restitution is to fix it. The bully must correct the harm done to another and restore what was damaged to make things good.
- Reconciliation is to heal and restore friendship and harmony. It is where the bully and the bullied come together to respect differences and perhaps even become buddies.
Note that the "5 R's" emphasize action and change. For programs of prevention and intervention to be effective, they cannot be approached as a project, for change is an ever evolving and dynamic process.
Edie Raether, M.S., CSP — "The Bully Buster" — is an international speaker and presented a keynote address at the 2011 STN EXPO Conference. She is also a bestselling author of several books including "Stop Bullying Now" available at www.stopbullyingwithedie.com.