Musings of a Therapist: Treating Bullying
In thinking about bullying, I have thought not of the bullying itself, but how it has hurt the young people who seek my help for counseling. They have lost their sense of self.
“Sometimes the magic works, and sometimes the magic doesn’t work” (from the movie Little Big Man).
When a young person walks into my office with their head hanging down, their shoulders slumped forward, shuffling their feet, I know that they are not bolstered by strong sense of self. That young person sits on my couch or windowsill – creating as much distance from me as they can. I usually compliment them on how creative they are to be able to get so far away in such a small room. Sometimes, in response, the young person will look up at me. I call that Magic Trick #1.
I bring out Magic Trick #2 when I comment that it kind of looks like they don’t want to be there. Often, we chuckle about that together.
Magic Trick #3 – I explain that so many kids who come to see me don’t want to be there – their parents made them come. We both give a slight nod in agreement. I quickly follow by explaining that almost all of these kids are very nice and don’t want to hurt my feelings, but that most kids come in and say, “No offense, Robbie, but I hate therapists.”
By this time we are usually smiling, and lo and behold, the young person who had come in scared and who had sworn not to say a single word, is smiling and laughing and talking and agreeing that that is exactly what they wanted to say. I have just said the
magic words to give them permission to be themselves. We laugh together – a magical connection has begun.
By the way, sometimes the magic doesn’t work – then it’s back to trying again.
My objective is to make the child feel comfortable. Over many hours they relax enough to show me who they really are – sometimes we even sit down on the floor right next to each other. Slowly defenses start to crumble. They start to feel like they have entered a safe space with a safe person.
I’ll tell you what happens next week – will the magic really work? We shall see. After all, a magician never reveals all her secrets.