Did Johnny Kill?
School Violence Explained
Dynamics of Rejection, Isolation, Bullying,
Shame, Anger and Acting Out in Rage in
Summary of the
Service Report on School Violence
© Lynne Namka, Ed. D.
WHO ARE TRAUMATIZED BY BULLYING
Namka, Ed. D., © 2001
Trauma in childhood results when the child is exposed to situations
he cannot control or understand such aggression. The child loses
his personal sense of control in his world, his sense of trust
and begins to see the environment as a threatening place.
Repetitive behavior or reenactment of the abuse appears to be
one way a child defends against his anxiety and shame at being
disrespected ("dissed"). Post-traumatic behavior often
centers on the theme of the abuse. Freud, who believed that the
individuals compulsively repeating acts that were indicative of
the intensity of the original trauma, called reenactment of the
trauma the Repetition Compulsion. The child who has been bullied
or sexualized may repeat this pattern with others.
The child may have identified with the aggressor of the trauma
and acts out this role or he may take the position of the victim.
He becomes the bully with taunting and teasing those younger and
weaker than himself. He may switch back and forth playing both
roles of the victim and the aggressor. When the repetitive behavior
occurs again and again, they can become destructive personality
traits that rule the person's life.
Being harassed and threatened by others may cause a child to develop
Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Symptoms of PTSD include
intrusive recollections of the event, flashbacks, nightmares,
efforts to avoid activities associated with the trauma and psychological
distress. Severe stress causes physiological changes in the adrenal
system with high arousal, heart palpitations, a sense of impending
doom and being overly sensitized to threat related stimuli. He
may develop hypervigilance to be able to fight, fright or freeze
when threatened. The child's basic sense of safety is altered
and he may have trouble concentrating, falling or staying asleep
or staying asleep. He may become detached and numb and his ability
to love others may be compromised.
Children who have been traumatized have negative changes in their
outlook on people and life in general. They display a lack of
trust in others and despair. Perception of ambiguous events is
often distorted with the child seeing hostility in situations
where there is none. Abused children sometimes are unable to plan
for the future, as there is the expectation that they will be
hurt again. The lack of control during the traumatizing event
sends them into learned helplessness and they often believe they
do not have control over their life. Children who are disciplined
by coercion or controlled through pain and fear learn, via modeling,
to repeat these aversive behaviors with others in misguided efforts
to feel in control.
Negative affect and anger-related thoughts are common. The child's
negative perceptual distortions of daily situations intensify
the anger that he feels. To keep others from coming close, he
keeps himself caught in states of annoyance, frustration and irritation.
Anger arises often as he hopes to gain back something that he
lost. Intense depression can mask anger.
The connection between being bullied, anger and depression is
the child's mourning the loss of who they used to be. Children
who are tormented feel an intense confusion and internal rage
for the violation. Physical discomfort such as extremes in temperature,
fatigue, or irritation due to noise activates more anger-related
feelings and behavior in the child. The child's unconscious denial
of anger may lead to strong emotions of anxiety, depression, guilt
or helplessness that pulls him away from the anger to substitute
a safer emotion. Rigid family rules about not getting angry affect
the cognitive process of working out the trauma.
The internal rage and shame that was unexpressed at the time of
initial trauma needs to be released. Children need to talk out,
draw out and play out the traumas they have experienced. They
need to express the confusion, anger, and sadness that hide inside
to dispel their overwhelming anxiety and helplessness. They need
strategies and skills to deal with conflict and reassurance that
they will be safe and taken care of. They need nurturance and
stability in their interactions with adults as they relearn that
the world is safe and the shattered trust is regained. A combination
of play therapy, release of bad feelings through imagery and learning
to shield against the negative impact of words and social skills
training will give the child a rounded therapeutic experience.
Talk, Trust and Feel Therapeutics.
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