Every person has certain events that have affected their lives and behaviors in a negative way. People experience negativity throughout the course of their lives. It happens whether by conflicting with others, experiencing grief and loss over the death of a family member, or being faced with overwhelming odds and situations outside of one’s control. These experiences can make a person stronger, but at the same time, they can cause significant issues with physical and mental health. For this reflective analysis, I have chosen an incident that happened during my time in high school. My high school years were plagued by bullying from some of my peers. I chose to resolve this problem with violence. The purpose of this paper is to look back at the event, its causes, participants, and effects on myself, and analyze them through the prism of six dimensions of wellness.
At school, I was a very quiet student. I was good at my studies, and I always presented my homework on time. I had a few friends but remained detached from the rest of my class. Aside from that, I was easily frightened. I never looked people in the eye, thinking it might provoke them.
Before I entered my 7th grade, I never really experienced bullying. It started with the arrival of three new students from a different school. For the sake of identification, let us call them John, Bill, and Harry. They started bullying the rest of my class. When some of my friends were pushed around, I could only watch and be happy that it was not me. However, deep inside, I felt I was a coward. I was supposed to stand up for my friends and to fight for a good cause. I did not.
Eventually, it was my turn. I felt depressed and disconnected. My grades plummeted. At the same time, I could not bring myself to tell the teacher or the school counselor about it. I was afraid the bullies would turn their wrath on me for telling on them. This continued for more than two years, up until my 9th grade. By that time, two of my bullies were transferred to adjacent grades, but they never failed to pay me visits during breaks between classes.
On that fateful day, I decided to bring an MP3 player to school, to listen to music during breaks. There was nobody else in the class except for a few girls who chatted between themselves. John started verbally harassing me. When he came closer to me and said something inappropriate about my mother, however, I could not stand by and watch. Music got me riled up, so I stood up and flung the chair I sat on at John. It hit him, and he ran for the door. The girls who watched the scene were shocked by my sudden display of aggression. I, on the other hand, felt very proud. For the first time in my life, I violently attacked someone who wronged me, and it worked out. I felt strong, stronger than I actually was.
During that week, I found my other two bullies and attacked them on purpose. I found Bill in the restrooms when he was alone, and I hit him in the face with the door. I attacked Harry in class when it was empty, hurling a potted plant at him and ramming him into a wall. In the end, I was brought to the principal’s office for questioning. I got off easy due to having an exemplary student record. Nevertheless, until the end of the 12th grade, I used violence for any perceived slight against me, whether real or imaginary. Eventually, I grew out of it, but the instance when I used violence had a negative effect on my behavior and perceptions of others. This issue I will analyze in the following section.
Six Dimensions of Wellness
Indulging in physical violence as a means of solving my disagreements and problems in school affected me in numerous ways, both in a short-term and long-term perspective. If looking at the situation from the perspective of six dimensions of health, the effects were the following:
- Physical – bruises, lacerations. As it was mentioned at the beginning, my bullies were stronger than I was, and they landed quite a few punches.
- Emotional – despite the bruises, I felt uplifted and at ease. Feelings of guilt and cowardice subsided for a while.
- Spiritual – I felt that what I did was right.
- Intellectual – the experience was detrimental to my willingness to analyze the situation and negotiated with others. I started preferring to use my fists over my mind.
- Environmental – my actions changed the environment around me. I was no longer bullied and was allowed to focus on my studies in peace.
- Social – It is hard to determine whether the social effects of violence changed me for better or for worse. On the one hand, I did not feel as much social pressure from others. On the other, many thought of me to be mentally unstable and feared me for it.
The research question for this reflective analysis is whether violence is a good answer to bullying or not. Based on my personal experiences, I was inclined to agree. In my literature research, I discovered that I was not the only one thinking that way. According to a study by Didaskalou, Skrzypiec, Andreou, and Slee (2017), at least 14% of students choose standing up for themselves as a coping strategy against bullying. All interviews cited by the researchers state that as soon as bullies meet violent resistance from their victims, they back off and choose an easier target. However, the same study shows that violence (even in self-defense) lowers other students’ perceptions of school as a safe place. At the same time, utilizing available social resources (teachers, counselors) leads to similar results (Didaskalou et al., 2017).
Menesini and Salmivalli (2017) identify the main reasons for children using violence and abusing power in a school setting. Some of the reasons they mentioned were benefits and lack of social skills. The issue would further exacerbate due to an over-reliance on violence as the primary tool of interaction with peers. These elements were present in my story. I started using violence as a method of interaction and negotiation, as I thought my social skills were ineffective.
Berkowitz (2013), who analyzed student and teacher responses to violence in school, questioned the effectiveness of my chosen coping strategy. She found that both teachers and peers negatively viewed using violence. In addition, the researchers discovered that students using violence suffer from decreased perceptions of positive responses, which correlates with my story as well. I utilized violence for any perceived slight, even when there was none.
The information presented to me in the literature clearly suggests that using preemptive violence is a detrimental externalized strategy. Research finds that confronting bullies in a non-violent manner and involving social resources (teachers, counselors, and friends) is as efficient in stopping bullies as is actual fighting, but without the negative effects on one’s health, emotional state, and social standing.
My initial perspective was that violence, although not a perfect instrument, is effective against bullies. It was the first tool I opted to use against them, as I did not believe that asking teachers or counselors for help would do any good. I used it, and it worked. At the time, any consequences of my behavior were considered secondary.
However, as I discovered from my research and reflection, using violence to solve conflicts affected my health on an emotional and psychological level. At the same time, I never gave peaceful solutions a chance, automatically branding them as inefficient. As the researches show, utilizing non-violent tools against bullies can be as efficient as fighting back.
Thus, it became obvious to me that something has to change. Engaging in violence is not as efficient as I initially thought and carried dangers to my physical and psychological health. An alternative strategy would be to engage teachers, counselors, and friends in confronting bullies.
Analyzing traumatic and negative events from one’s past is a well-known practice in psychology (Genik, Yen, & McMurtry, 2015). It allows consciously identifying health and behavior patterns and altering them to achieve better results. This reflective paper is an example of such analysis. It can be used to analyze similar major events in my life and change my behavior based on scholarly research. Future revisions of my lifestyle will include discovering the connection between family perceptions of studying and personal motivation.
Berkowitz, R. (2013). Student and teacher responses to violence in schools: The divergent views of bullies, victims, and bully-victims. School Psychology International, 35(5), 1-19.
Didaskalou, E., Skrzypiec, G., Andreou, E., & Slee, P. (2017). Taking action against victimisation: Australian middle-school students’ experiences. Journal of Psychologists and Counsellors in Schools, 27(1), 105-122.
Genik, L. M., Yen, J., & McMurtry, C. M. (2015). Historical analysis in pediatric psychology: The influence of societal and professional conditions on two early pediatric psychology articles and the field’s subsequent development. Journal of Pediatric Psychology, 40(2), 167-174.
Menesini, E., & Salmivalli, C. (2017). Bullying in schools: The state of knowledge and effective interventions. Psychology, Health, and Medicine, 22(1), 240-253.