There is a lot of advice available on recognizing, dealing with, and stopping cyber bullying online – thankfully, as all these issues are very important. It is also as important to find ways to heal after you’ve experienced a cyber bullying episode, both for your own current well being, and so that you can avoid future exposure to online bullying. The following steps are all important for anyone who has been a Cyber Bully’s victim to regain control of their lives:
Realize that no matter what your age, a cyber bullying experience can take its toll. For children and young teens, the experience can be devastating for the emerging sense of self and morale. For older teens and adults, including seniors it can cause an enormous dent in confidence, causing the person to shy away from further online interactions or to trust people again. Whether you’re young, middle aged, or old; your hurt, fear, and disturbance is real and deserving of a caring response.
Let go. This may seem very hard right now, but if you don’t let go of the feelings of anger and hate toward the cyber bully, you let this person continue to hold power over you, directing you in negative ways. Forgiveness can free you from constant thoughts of revenge, hate or anger, which will only consume you completely. Your ultimate victory as a survivor who will go on to thrive is to not let this bully continue to bully your inner thoughts. Remember, bullies are, on the whole, cowardly and insecure – bullying is a way of coping with things in their own lives that aren’t working well for them. Perhaps this person has been the subject of abuse, has lost a loved one, feels dismissed or doesn’t feel that he or she has made a success of life as you have. Maybe this person has a mental illness or lacked sleep and got into a situation from which he or she felt there was no backing down without losing face. Whatever the reason, it’s never an excuse but it is a way of helping you to have greater understanding that people are motivated by very personal reasons that often have nothing more to do with you than that you were in the wrong place at the right time and suffered their lashing out. Your compassion can help you to heal much faster.
Focus on bolstering your own self worth. Read books or go to websites about enhancing self-esteem, praise yourself for the good you contribute to the world, and leave yourself positive notes that remind you why you’re a good, worthy person. Many people who have experienced cyber bullying find therapy, counseling, or spiritual guidance helpful in working through the experience and building self confidence again. Therapy can be especially helpful with restoring your positive inner voice, the one that often gets swamped by “stinking thinking” when a bully constantly berates and harasses you. Couple your reading with books about dealing with anxiety, trauma and depression. These books, provided they’re self-help oriented and have worksheets or exercises to work through, can help you to undo the “stinking thinking” that has probably taken over your life.
Don’t put yourself in harm’s way. Hopefully a fair resolution was reached in your situation that lets you resume the activities you were enjoying online before. If not, or if there are some places where your safety cannot be guaranteed, leave these sites, chat rooms, or forums well alone. It is one thing to stand on principle and say that you shouldn’t have to keep away and let the bully continue to ruin your experience. It’s another to realize that until you’re fully able to dismiss and cope with any future bullying behavior, that you are best helped keeping away from any places where it might occur. With the passage of time, the dynamics of an online place will change and you will also grow stronger through your own courage and reflection, but you must allow yourself this space to heal first.
Keep in touch with someone you trust who knows and acknowledges what you went through. This person can serve as your touchstone if you start having worrying feelings or doubts, or if you think that someone might be trying to bullying you again. Be sure that this person can be contacted quickly and is likely to respond to you within a few hours, to help you stay calm. Your emotions will probably be on high alert and it can take a long time for things to turn steady again within you – while you wait for this person to get back to you when you need his or her help, stay offline or somewhere well away from the matter of concern. You might also like to link with trusted online friends who know what you’ve been through and who continue to support you. Being in their presence when online can serve as both moral support and as potential protection should shielding you be required.
Read all that you can on cyber bullying, to become more acquainted with the issue and the ways in which people experience it. This can help you to heal because it can open the pathway to greater understanding, both of yourself and of the motivations of other people. Learning in greater depth about the challenges and issues surrounding cyber bullying might even lead to life-changing decisions, such as a career change or writing a book about your experiences. By making yourself an expert on the topic, you will feel stronger and more in control when confronted by similar situations in the future. You will also gain the wherewithal to help defend others appropriately.
Enroll in something that relaxes you. When you feel constantly threatened, you are on constant high alert, meaning that it becomes very hard to relax and second nature to remain totally wound up. Instead of staying tightly wound like a spring about to go off, find something that will help you unwind in a peaceful and caring way. Suggestions include yoga, meditation, deep breathing, visualization, color therapy, a night class on a topic you really, really love, swimming, aromatherapy, massage (either having them or learning how to give them), learning a musical instrument, painting, writing, lying under a favorite tree, etc. Anything that takes you into a relaxed place is deserving of your attention.
Get involved in guiding others through the maze of cyber bullying. By spreading awareness and offering your own experience to others, they too can learn more about the impacts of cyber bullying. Many people aren’t aware they’re being bullied until they’re so unhappy and terrified that they don’t know which way to turn. You can help by calling out potentially bullying situations, either openly or privately, depending on the context. Join forces with others on your favorite site to support your anti cyber bullying stance. Share stories and support amongst each other.
Be patient. It can take months and even years to overcome the pain of an especially vile cyber bullying experience. During that time, you will likely continue to experience some real lows amid the steadily increasing confidence you’re regaining and you may not trust people as you did once. By acknowledging your feelings as normal and accepting that you need more time, you allow yourself the slow road to permanent healing and you’ll do it your way. Provided you keep trying and keep respecting yourself as the wonderful person you really are (and you are), you will heal in time, in a way that sustains you for the remainder of your life.