What bullies used to do before schools started punishing the bullied for fighting back was to tease, shove and hit. That was fairly easy to deal with because the anger and helplessness felt by the bullied child could quickly result in the fight or flight response. The bullied then could run or hit the bully back and effectively stop the bullying process. Feelings of helplessness were key because helplessness creates an enormous energy that can spark rage and rage could cause the bullied child to fight back. In those days, fighting back was respected by teachers and the bullied child would not be expelled.


What bullies do nowadays is different because shoving and hitting can get a child expelled, even if he were the bullied child fighting back. Today’s bully has a low self-esteem and cowardly nature as yesterday’s bully, but instead of only playing to an audience, often gets the audience to join in the torment of another child. Bullies today tell the victim “You smell”, “You’re stupid”, “Nobody likes you”, “Nobody would miss you if you killed yourself”, “Here’s a rope. Go hang yourself.” Bullies today post texts or videos on the Internet or pass the info from phone to phone in Cyberbullying, to humiliate the victim in front of more peers. Sometimes, the bullies convince the victim to strip. The greatest difference in today’s victim compared to yesterday’s is the behavior of the victim.


The behavior of the victim is different, not because he or she cannot fight back–but precisely because he or she cannot fight back. The emotional dynamics are very different in today’s bullied vs yesterday’s bullied. Fear, anger and rage do not serve the bullied today, so helplessness is not the key emotion. Energy is detrimental. So hopelessness becomes the key ingredient and thus the victim has no energy to feel fear, anger, rage, helplessness and there is no choice of flight or fight. The victim can do nothing but accept the torment–and the bullied will usually feel that he or she deserved it. This is the main reason the bullied will repeat the accusation as if he or she believes it or will strip naked in public and be taunted, humiliated, hit, kicked or spat on without an effort to run or protect the self.


I have had years of experience treating patients who were products of what I call the “Hopeless Syndrome”. I welcome your questions and concerns about your children and teens whom you might think are affected by hopelessness and complacency.


Lane A. Stokes, L.P.C., S.M.H.C., M.Div., M.S., C.P.E.

Counseling Services Atlanta Group LLC

11285 Elkins Road, Roswell GA 30076