Jane Shaw’s amazing Interview With A Bully in this month’s King’s Tribune should be compulsory reading for every parent, teacher, school psychologist and publicly-funded replacement for a qualified counsellor (“school chaplain”) in the education system.
“No, it wasn’t the same as the behaviour I had at home, the abuse at home was physical and I was put down a lot, but it wasn’t that snide bitchiness that I became so adept at.
“But I felt so powerless, and then when everyone started following me with tormenting Jennifer, for the first time I got this feeling of power. And I didn’t have the slightest twinge of guilt or compunction about it until I was a good bit older.
“I think I was so focussed on myself there was just no room to see how much I was hurting her. I was so self-centred; I didn’t want to be aware of how I was behaving. I think I felt a bit out of control too.
“And of course it worked. I did become one of the popular girls because of it. Which says something.
“I was so desperate to be liked. And then I was and that felt really good. I was desperate for approval. And it’s horrible, but that’s why it continued for so long, because it worked. If one of that group of girls had turned to me and said ‘What you are doing is revolting. Stop it’, I would have turned on a dime. If popularity had been based on being nice I would have become the world’s kindest, nicest person. But no one was inclined to pull me up at all. Maybe they were afraid I would turn on them.
It’s worth reading the whole thing. It’d be interesting to hear the recollections of a school bully in a boys’ school, too, but I suspect you’d be pushing it to find any with the self-awareness of this woman.
Here’s hoping parents and teachers recognise some of the symptoms described here and are able to save another kid from being damaged by this vicious phenomenon.
Excellent interviewing and writing by Jane, too.
PS An interesting question: should the bully apologise? I would be inclined to appreciate an apology from any bullies who’d harassed me. I’d rather they expressed their remorse and we all moved on than that they remained silent and tormented.