Books & Curriculums
on Healthy Feelings!
Talk, Trust & Feel

Dr. Lynne Namka
Licensed Psychologist


Why Did Johnny Kill?
School Violence Explained

The Dynamics of Rejection, Isolation, Bullying,
Shame, Anger and Acting Out in Rage in Children

A Summary of the
Interim Secret Service Report on School Violence

page 18

© Lynne Namka, Ed. D.


Lynne 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.

School Violence Explained: Table of Contents

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Permission is provided for the use of the materials in this Report,
provided appropriate acknowledgment
and Dr. Namka's web site,, is given.


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Lynne Namka