It is important to understand the emotional impact of Harassment, Intimidation, and Bullying (HIB) on school-aged victims. Students may experience severe and long-term physical symptoms, poor mental health, loss of self-confidence, and impaired development in identity as a result of being bullied. Psycho-Social Discord is the lack of harmony in the blending of one’s social and emotional needs. The following are stages of Psycho-Social Discord among student victims of HIB ages 12 to 18:
1. Acknowledgement vs. Suppression
2. Actual Self vs. Conjectural Self
3. Empowerment vs. Incapacitation
4. Desensitization vs. Challenger
5. Reformer vs. Conjectural Assimilation
Acknowledgement vs. Suppression
The individual is a target of a bullying experience. The individual may experience a level of uncertainty about why the bullying occurred and how he/she should interpret the experience. The bullied individual may choose to either acknowledge or suppress the impact of the experience. By acknowledging the experience, the individual develops a proactive level of awareness that the safety and security of their world can be violated or interrupted by others. As a result of this proactive level of awareness, the bullied individual is more likely to report the bulling behavior and/or attempt to control situations in which bullying experiences may potentially reoccur.
Suppression of the bullying experience results in reactive vulnerability. The bullied not only interpret the safety and security of their world as being violated, they take no steps to prevent the bully takeover. Reactive vulnerability is often communicated as a sign of weakness to a bully.
Actual Self vs. Conjectural Self
The bullied individual experiences a conflict between how they perceive their actual self and the messages being communicated through the bullying experience. They attempt to explore the “Why” of the bullying experience through self-examination. The self-examination focuses on perceived strengths and weaknesses. They compare themselves to others as it relates to characteristics being targeted by the bully.
The goal of this comparison is to identify characteristics of resiliency in themselves that they observe in peers that are less prone to being bullied. The successful ability to identify similar characteristics of resiliency will result in the acceptance of their actual self. Difficulty accomplishing this results in the individual rejecting their actual self and accepting a conjectural image of self. The individual then internalizes negative attitudes concerning aspects of them being promoted by the bully. They see themselves as the bully wishes them to.
Empowerment vs. Incapacitation
Empowerment is obtained through acceptance of the actual self. Empowerment may be demonstrated by criticizing the actions of the bully or communicating non-tolerance through their verbal or nonverbal responses.
The conjectural self becomes incapacitated and begins to cycle through states of emotional collapse. They give credence to the bully as they begin to perceive themselves as set apart from others. Physical and psychological symptoms associated with their perception of being rendered powerless and ineffective begin to occur more frequently.
Desensitized vs. Challenger
The Actual Self attains a level of desensitization resulting from an established system of peer support and group commonality based on similar strengths, weakness, and/or experiences.
During this phase the Conjectural Self has a rejuvenated sense of strength. The individual seeks to challenge beliefs and messages about themselves being projected by the bully. They may attempt to make changes in their attitude, beliefs, or behaviors in order to be more consistent with others. They may develop the philosophy that “If I bully, others will not bully me.” Although the bullied individual demonstrates a sense of strength, they are even more vulnerable during this period. They are in need of a healing experience and for their silent voice to be heard by others. They begin to feel guilt for bugging adults and teachers about being bullied.
Reformer vs. Conjectural Assimilation
Depending on resources and the impact bullying has had on the individual the Actual Self may choose to take on the task of being an agent of change in a culture of school-bullying. They may choose to share their story and become a voice for others.
During this phase the Conjectural Self becomes debilitated and develops a sense of learned helplessness. They begin to believe they have no control over situations in their life. Acts of self-hate become more prevalent and severe. The Conjectural Self gradually begins to mentally sink and disconnect from the value of their existence.