Bullies can feel the vulnerability of their victims. This vulnerability may be the main reason they targeted them; they seem easy prey. The victims try to cope by shrinking, or trying to disappear. Bullies try to cope by seeking control through various forms of aggression. I was bullied growing up, so for a long time I thought that bullies were just bad. As I became more conscious, I realized that assigning blame did not end my responsibility, as I believed it had. As you become more consciousness, you are expected to look past the symptoms of issues to find their cause. When I released my judgments, I realized that bullies are not born; they are created. To me, this means that bullies certainly must have experienced being bullied by someone, at some time. Maybe bullies are able to recognize the victim’s vulnerability because they have felt this vulnerability too. It is easier to recognize something with which you are familiar.
I think if we really want to stop bullying, we need to investigate how the bully was created. This can be tricky because the bully may be a family member, which may make it difficult to uncover the bully. Walking through family dynamics is like walking through a minefield. Accusations often just result in denials. Also, the bully has to live with the consequences of outing the family member who bullied them. For those in charge it is easier to punish the bully, and focus on the one that was bullied. However if they do that they are sending a mixed message. They are saying that it is not okay for the bully to bully someone, but it was okay for them to be bullied. I think this will only result in bullies hiding their behavior. If they hide their behavior, then the family member that bullies them can continue to bully them mentally, emotionally, or physically without consequences.
Josh Frey was an 11-year-old boy. Originally, he was happy about going to school. When his mom noticed Josh became sad about going to school, she found out that he had become the target of bullies at school. The cruel words of the bullies upset him so much he refused a kidney transplant. When he talked to his doctor, Rene G. Van De Voorde III about it, his doctor volunteered to go to his school. Dr. Van De Voorde talked to the students at Josh’s school including the bullies, but he did not talk to them about bullying. Instead, he told them what it was like to be Josh. He had Josh stand up in front of his classmates, and pull up his shirt to show the dialysis catheter that stuck out of his abdomen. He also told them what it was like to be stuck with lots of needles, take seven different medicines, and to be hooked up to a dialysis machine when he went to bed each night. Some of the students became queasy, and had to leave the room. By exposing Josh’s classmates to this information, I think the doctor was able to transform the student’s perceptions of Josh, and they started to see him as brave. The result of the doctor’s visit was that the bullies have cut down their acting out, and the principal has monthly assemblies to remind the kids to watch what they say, and to be nice to each other. The doctor’s visit has made a huge difference at Josh’s school.
I am sure that there are many different factors that cause bullying, and I am not suggesting that this is the solution in every case, but putting a human face on those that are bullied is a good start. To prevent bullying, those in charge have to keep watch in the places where the bullying happens: the hallways, cafeterias, recess, before and after school etc. Bullying often happens to those that are different. Dr. Van De Voorde understood that the kids that bullied Josh were concentrating on how he was different, so he went to the school to show the students the reasons Josh seemed so different.
In reality, each of us is different. You could even say, “being different” is normal. Our basic differences arise partly from inherited genetics, but other differences stem from “jumping genes.” Jumping genes are segments of human DNA that can copy and paste itself onto another part of a person’s genome creating additional changes in them. The discovery of jumping genes hints that The Creator’s intention may have been to insure that we each be unique, even identical twins. Perhaps The Creator wanted to insure as much diversity in humanity as in the rest of His creations. You can look at any of His creations, and see, The Creator Loved and Valued diversity. One example is flowers. He could have created one flower, but He created many different varieties with different shapes, different colors, different textures, and even different fragrances. I feel the value of this awesome diversity of life was meant to insure that from so many choices there would be something for each of us to enjoy. We do not give gratitude or appreciation what we like. Instead we keep our attention on what we do not like. Of course, we are not expected to “like” every one of The Creator’s creations, only to treat them with respect. When we hold personal judgments on any of His creations, for example, race, or sexual orientation, we are placing judgments, which devalue what our Creator created. We need to learn to value all of His creations, even if we do no “like” them.
When Dr. Van De Voorde showed why Josh was different, the student’s perceptions shifted from labeling Josh as “other than them” to “like them”. This may seem like a small change, but the result was huge. Humans have specialized cells in their brains that scientist have labeled “mirror neurons”. Without becoming too scientific and boring you, I will tell you that they are neurons that can be triggered by the facial expressions of others. They allow us to connect with what others are feeling by the look on their face.
Mirror neurons are what allow parents to feel the anger or sadness in their child. When mirror neurons are not properly programmed, they create a disconnection between parents and children. This disconnection creates vulnerability to the possibility of parents hurting their children, without the awareness they are doing so. Mirror neurons allow us to share the feeling of victory, or defeat of our favorite team (one of the reasons so many enjoy sports). The Creator actually programmed us with a natural connection to others “like us.” So then, why is it that we empathize with some people, and not with others? This is explained by the two words in the previous sentence, “like us.” When we do not consider someone, “like us” we fail to feel any connection with them, we don’t feel what they feel. This is not a failure of our mirror neurons; it is a change in their programming created by our prejudices, beliefs, and judgments.
This creates a personal bias, which programs our comfort zone, which influences, if and when our mirror neurons become activated. For example, it would be rare to experience empathy for someone we consider an enemy. This is the reason that whenever politicians are preparing to declare war, they resort to propaganda, which labels our enemy as subhuman, or evil. The reason for this is so we are less able to feel compassion for the enemy. Since we do not feel for the enemy, it grants our politicians the freedom to attack them without us stopping it. Our politician’s also combine propaganda with patriotism to incite our soldiers to kill the enemy, which they assure them and us, is necessary to protect us. What we have not yet understood, is what we really need protection from is our politicians. Our need for protection becomes necessary because of the reactions of others to our politician’s un-requested interference in their countries. Once our politicians have seduced us into war, stopping it can seem impossible By the time we free ourselves of their propaganda and fear, it is not very hard for them to continue the war, even when we want it stopped. Whenever you see propaganda that presents the perception of others as subhuman or evil (or terrorists), you can be sure that politicians have already decided to go to war, and they will do whatever is necessary to generate war.
Our unconscious mind inadvertently programs our mirror neurons with our personal bias. If we view someone as “other than us,” our programming excludes him or her, so we don’t feel what he or she is feeling. We do this by including or excluding people, or groups from our comfort zones. We only allow people that we are comfortable with, into our comfort zones. When someone makes us uncomfortable we exclude them from our comfort zone, so if they are in pain, we do not feel his or her pain. Comfort zones explains how we can rush to the rescue of one group while completely being unmoved by the plight of another group in the same situation. This is because our comfort zones are influenced by our prejudices, fears, race and culture bias, and judgments all of which prevent connection to others. When politician’s propaganda convinces us that the enemy is subhuman or evil, it keeps our mirror neurons from being activated, so politicians can attack others without much complaint from us. George W. Bush used our fear to generate a fear of Islamic terrorists, so we allowed him to attack Iraq, even though the truth is most Islamic people value life and peace. He used a small group of fanatics whose beliefs were vastly different to scare us, so we would surrender our power to him even though, on some level, we knew what he was doing was wrong.
We are responsible for the programming of our mirror neurons. If we want to find Peace, we need to enlarge our comfort zones to include everyone. This does not mean we have to agree with, or like everyone, only that we are willing to treat them with respect, and allow them to exist the way they are without needing to change them. The more humans we are able to include in our comfort zones, the more we will respond to the plight of others, and the less likely we are to be manipulated by our politicians into war. If we had included the Rwandans in our comfort zones, we would not have allowed that genocide to take place. We would have insisted our politicians stop it. If we paid attention to what we allow to happen in the world, we can get a glimpse of how small or large our comfort zones are. In order to have Peace, we must learn to deal with all our fears and judgments, and forgive others and ourselves so we can be open to connecting to all of humanity. This will help us to stop separating others by labels, and start seeing ourselves as one race, the Human Race.
We need to be exposed and educated about different cultures, so we are not afraid of those that have different ideas or beliefs. When we divide us into races or cultures, we weaken the effects of our mirror neurons. We also dilute the extraordinary things humans are capable of when we are connected, and act as one. When our attention is on how someone is different, we exclude him or her from our comfort zones. When people are excluded, sooner or later they rise up and try to set any inequities right. We can change that by increasing the size of our comfort zones until it includes all of humanity. If we were able to connect to all of humanity, we would never allow war again.
We can change our discomfort of people’s differences by placing our attention on what we all have in common, while appreciating how our differences make us unique. The first step in accomplishing this is accepting your differences without any self-judgment, and understanding that your differences make you unique. This change in perception is essential to eliminate your discomfort with differences. Think how it would feel to be accepted as you are, without any judgments then do that for yourself. If you can appreciate how your differences make you unique, it becomes easier to perceive the differences in others as their uniqueness. Humanity needs your help. Will you do this work, and change the world?
© 2012 Dan Amato