I just read an article in the Huffpost written by a woman who found and contacted the girls who had bullied her in high school.
The bullying was mostly verbal or social. The interactions with the former bullies went well.
Some of the bullies apologised. Some explained what led them to bully her.
The article led me to think of a minor incident of bullying I experienced in an American high school.
I went into the boys locker room after school to fetch my sweaty gym clothes.
A big football player, Ryan B., told me he did not like my face and to get out. I got out.
Later I watched a football game in which he suffered a severe leg injury and screamed in pain on the field.
That was the last I saw of him in high school.
A decade later when I finished teaching a psychology class session at the local university, a male student came up to me and said he knew me from high school.
It was Ryan.
He told me the story of his life after high school.
He had moved to California and become heavily involved in drug use.
He finally quit drugs and worked as a lay drug counsellor.
We never discussed the locker-room incident. I remembered it, but it had no continuing effect on me.
The adult Ryan seemed like a nice guy. Whenever we talked, he called me Dr John.
I was surprised to see that I was taller than him. I had grown physically; he had grown psychologically.
I encountered far worse bullies in my school days. I was threatened, sucker-punched, spat on, karate chopped, choked from behind, and tackled from behind.
It was a different boy each time.
I was glad to go on to university, where I experienced no more attacks.
Do females also cease to experience peer-bullying after they leave high school?
I wonder what happened to the bullies of my youth. I heard that one went to prison for shooting a US marshal.
I imagine the others had hard experiences before and after their days of bullying.
I remember the name of one of my school bullies, Lance C. Shall I try to find him?
If he became a captain of industry, I would be plenty surprised. And pleased.
Life is a great teacher for those interested in learning.
- John Malouff is an Associate Professor at the School of Psychology, University of New England