A Silent Killer | Teen Ink

A Silent Killer

May 24, 2019
By Anonymous

“Generally, it’s called on as the weapon of choice because it’s powerful and it’s easy to get away with,” “the damage can be both emotional and physiological.” After reading this information you may be thinking of many things “it” could be. However, I doubt what came to mind was the silent treatment. Throughout our whole lives, we have been taught about bullying. Two types that have been specifically highlighted are cyber and physical. Although both of these are terrible, we have worn a blindfold around what has been detailed as “the worst type of bullying known,” by many psychology professors, this type of bullying is the silent treatment. So how can we make this bullying no longer “easy to get away with.”

The first step is education. An extreme reason that this form of bullying is so easy to get away with is that many don’t realize it is happening or fall in line with the bully. They may also brush off the behavior as personal or between the two people, they may think they are staying out of it by doing nothing.

So why should you recognize this form of bullying as such a big issue? According to Eisenberger, Lieberman and Williams, who study psychology and human behavior and who did scientific research on the effect of isolation in relation to the brain, found that the dorsal anterior cingulate, which is a part of the brain that responds to physical pain, was activated when someone was socially isolated.  It was even found that pain medication such as ibuprofen will help relieve the pain of social rejection. These facts simply show one of the serious implications of social rejection, that it is not merely something someone can get over.

To add to the scientific observations of social rejection it has been found that those who experience exclusion often experience low self-esteem, aggression, anxiety and in some cases severe depression. It can also cause someone to be more insecure as well as increase sensitivity to future rejection. As it should be clear, these effects can lead to long term emotional and even physical damage. One study even found that those who experience social rejection have the same expected life span as someone who smokes 15 packs of cigarettes a week.

The reason feeling excluded has such a negative effect on a person comes down to our basic needs for survival. According to Abraham Maslow, an American psychologist, human needs can be broken down into a pyramid, now referred to Maslow's hierarchy of needs. In this pyramid, the third level is love and belonging. It is, therefore, speculated that “all humans, need to be able to give and receive affection to be psychologically healthy,” by Maslow himself. for this reason, it should be clear why there are so many negative effects of social rejections as well as why it should be important to include people and stop this form of bullying. After hearing this you may wonder why a person would do this to someone. You may also be thinking that you would never do that. You would never take part in such a brutal tactic. Right?

Well, the answers to these questions may be slightly more complicated. Kipling Williams who is a professor of psychology at Purdue University explains “Excluding and ignoring people, such as giving them the cold shoulder or silent treatment, is used to punish or manipulate, and people may not realize the emotional or physical harm that is being done.” From this, you should realize that while although the person committing the act may be doing it on purpose and even to slightly hurt the target, they are usually not fully aware of what they are doing to the person's wellbeing, nor are the people around them. This is furthered when it was recognized by an organization that works to stop bullying, bully-free at work, that “Every negative feeling the bully has about others is really a reflection of the negative feelings they have about themselves.” It should be clear from this that the bully is also suffering. This is an important factor to realize because many would correct this problem by ignoring the perpetrator in the same manner or doing some other emotionally or physically damaging action. So, you may ask yourself, “what should I do if this is happening to me or if I see it happening to someone else?”

If you see someone being ignored or shunned form a group or by one person do not confront the bully in an aggressive manner. Instead it can be powerful to not participate and to simply include. If someone who is ignoring someone is unable to get anyone else to join in, they slowly lose that power. However, do not advize someone to “get over it”, or “move on,” because it was shown by the bullying organization that these comments deny that “your feeling are real,”  “the bully is real,” and that “it can be very difficult to just get over being ignored.” Instead, acknowledge what is happening, do not join in, and be there to include them when they are being excluded. Don't underestimate the power of inclusion or even the meaning behind asking if someone is okay. Doing this may help someone more than some could understand.

If you are being ignored things get a little harder. This should never happen to anyone and if it is happening to you, I am sorry. To deal with this situation experts are consistently offering one consistent solution. First is acceptance. You must work to accept that you are being ignored and that it may not change. For most, this is very difficult because it can mean the loss of a friend or friend group. Secondly, you should try your best to find a more supportive loving group of people to surround yourself with. It is recommended to find a group in which you can feel “love, acceptance, kindness, generosity, tenderness, and support.”  Lastly, you must understand sometimes things can't be fixed, but you will always recover. And you can always empower yourself, pull your way up, and find happiness.

I hope that after reading this you have learned a lot. I hope you learned that being ignored and rejected is a serious issue because it can hurt people emotionally and physically. I hope you learned that the best way to stop this is to support through love and inclusion. And I hope you learned that if this is happening to you to find happiness and love yourself because you are important, you matter, and you deserve to be acknowledged.  

Work CIted:

“Abraham Maslow.” Pursuit of Happiness.

Bhatti, Adnan Bashir, and Anwar Ul Haq. “The Pathophysiology of Perceived Social Isolation: Effects on Health and Mortality.” Cureus, Alexander Muacevic, and John R Adler, 24 Jan. 2017.

Cacioppo, John T. “Perceived Social Isolation and Cognition.” Trends in Cognitive Sciences, Elsevier Current Trends, 31 Aug. 2009.



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