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Bullying yourself

Hannah Smith committed suicide after a longer period of bullying. Media focus on the last sprint of cyber bullying on a web site where you can anonymously ask someone any question. Questions and answers are public. After an internal investigation, the company concluded that Hanna Smith was doing most of the bullying herself.

A lector at the national centre for learning environment and behavioural science in Norway comments to Norwegian TV 2 that he has never heard of anyone sending bullying messages to themselves before. I quickly wrote to him, because I have heard of someone who did that before: myself. So if anyone is ever in doubt over this being a possibility, allow me to explain how this works.

Assuming you are already a victim of long term bullying, you build an image of yourself with no value, where people will find something they don't like about you, and when they do, they will make sure you know how much they don't like you. It's a line of thought that sits deep within you. It's a long line of assumptions based on how you have experienced years and years of bullying.

Even if you think you have come away from all the bullying, it takes only one comment about one specific thing you hate about yourself to set off a feeling of self hate. And when you hate yourself, you have no respect for yourself.

When this happens in a public forum, something more happens: Not only has this other person shown (or painted a lie) that you're flawed and therefore worthless, but everyone has seen it! On the one side, you want to defend yourself. On the other side, you feel flawed and worthless and perhaps the other guy is right. And so you fall for the temptation of all temptations: To become your own bully. To publicly make it look as one or more anonymous bullies are coming down hard on you.

In your self hate, you already are your own bully, because you doubt yourself. You have no respect for yourself. You keep telling yourself how worthless you are. You really need and want someone else to prove you wrong, to tell you that you ARE worth something. But who is going to do this, when you've locked yourself into your room and stare at a computer screen? Well, there's always "the audience".

So the idea of bullying yourself is to take the view that the bully expresses and turn up the notch. Show how ridiculous it is. Ridiculous accusation times ten. Times a hundred. Times a thousand. How far do you have to go before someone steps in and says "this is ridiculous?"

Truth is, "the audience" doesn't want to get involved. There is no response. There is noone monitoring the stream of accusations real time, stepping in, saying "Stop! You're a wonderful person! We love you!" Nobody does it because they're either not online, or they are surfing another website, or they are one of the bullies who have no idea how to step in when someone takes over their game, or they just don't want to get involved.

The involvement comes afterwards. When it is too late.

This logic doesn't hit you while you're at it. You're in a form of deep depression, you're focused on this one task of proving to yourself that the bully is right, or proving that the bully is not right, something is flawed, it's so hard to think straight, it just feels so bad, and you can put words on all these opinions that make you feel bad, because they have been repeated over and over again by others, and you can't think of anything that is good about yourself, and if there is anything, then it is worthless, because nobody else can see these things. Indeed, you want to be the victim, because then someone can feel sorry for you, but you don't feel sorry for yourself, because you understand how the bully somehow must be right. You become the bully and the victim at the same time, and can not see your way out of it.

I didn't commit suicide, I quit the club whose forum I was a member of. I never heard from the other members ever again, other than one of them telling me they had had a big clean up after I left, and anonymous posting was no longer possible.

There is no reason to believe that the last month of cyber bullying was the full reason for Hannah Smith's suicide. Something had been going on for a much longer time, during which she had completely lost touch with reality. She was then pushed over the edge, into a downward spiral so deep, she didn't find her way back out.

Victims of bullying become masters of hiding their desperation. Hannah Smith's empty reservoir of self love went unnoticed. The remedy lies in the continuing compassion and expressed love for those around you, because you never know who needs it the most.

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