News and films are full of examples of bullying behavior and most people recognize the role. Arrogant, pompous, and generally violent, bullies impose their sense of superiority on everyone around them. While their techniques can be both physically and emotionally cruel, they are doing the same things as many social beings. Pecking order, pack rules, and herd behavior all describe the fact that social constructs entail a certain hierarchy, setting the stage for who comes first, who is second, and who gets picked last. Targets are always last.
Being the target of bullying is terrifying at any age. The constant emotional torment and fear of violence wear down the target’s already damaged sense of self. Research has shown that victims of domestic violence repeatedly choose mates who are prone to violence. Victims possess a state of mind that expresses itself in everything they do. The ways they walk, talk, and interact with others sends a clear message to a bully that they won’t fight back or defend themselves. It’s almost as though the bully can read a person’s target role state of mind.
Being a target is just that, a state of mind. When a confident person is attacked, they fight back. Even when beaten, a confident person simply doesn’t accept the claims made by the bully. They refuse to define themselves in the bully’s terms. Targets are just the opposite. Targets internalize the claims and criticisms of the bully. Targets “buy in” to the bully’s accusations of inferiority, thereby cementing the mind set which makes them take the role of target in the first place.
It might even be said that targets initiate attacks by maintaining their low sense of self. Telling someone with a target role mentality that they should just “fight back” or stand up for themselves trivializes the problem. The only way to withdraw from the target state of mind is to change a person’s view of themselves. Rather than accepting the role of target, these individuals need to learn to see themselves as worthy or respect and courtesy.
Creating attainable challenges helps build the target’s confidence. Most targets prefer their own company and should be encouraged to seek out activities and interests at which they can excel. Targets may never be considered “cool” but they can make changes in their lives that will reduce the likelihood of future attacks by the bullies in their life.