Thursday, 23 October 2008

Bullying: diagnostics (provisional)

Putting a finger on the problem. Since our discussion earlier this year about clergy bullying (sometimes of, sometimes by), I have been trying to work out how I, as a bishop, can respond operationally. What are I and my colleagues supposed to seek? What defines what’s going on? As a working toolbox, about which I would love further correction and enlightenment, examine four I’s?
  1. Information. Most methods for protecting vulnerable people involve secure protocols about communicating information out of the war zone into places it can be processed and acted upon, like Childline. Entirely protected anonymous squawk procedures are necessary but wide open to abuse. The only way to protect against abuse of the reporting system is to make the open protected communication easily available, but have rigorous protocols about weighing information. Assume nothing; believe everything initially, but test it carefully. Check the infromation on which you act is evidence and possible (ultimately) to put in a form which natural justice requires vis-a-vis everyone involved, including (eventually) the alleged perpetrator. The more reporters take responsibility for their feelings, the further we are from the danger that all we are getting is one half of a scenario within which both sides are actually exhibiting traits of bullying behaviour towards each other.

  2. Insecurity. What goes on in bullies? Why do they do it? Fear and personal insecurity have to be in there somewhere, surely. These will probably be evidenced in other areas of life that have nothing to do with the victim, as well as in the bullying behaviour — “probably” not “necessarily,” as the temporary relief provided by victimizing a vulnerable person may act as a lightning conductor and diminish symptoms of fear and insecurity elsewhere.

  3. Insincerity. One personal trait that will pretty much always express itself in bullying behaviour is a (technically) psychopathic personality. The technical term “psychopathic personality” is unhelpful because of its loaded popular associations. All I mean (from prison experience) is a person who would score high on a Hare PCL-R test. Signs include a strong selection of these traits:

    a. People who may have many faults, but ever being wrong ain’t one of them: superficial, sometimes grandiose

    b. ...with an immense capacity to charm but also to manipulate — deceitful; economical with the truth

    c. ...where everything that happens to them is all about them, because they have a weak capacity to empathise with or even accept others are autonomous individuals, let alone feel accountability towards them

    d. ...where everything that goes wrong is someone else’s fault, ammo for blame, and everything that goes right is focussed on themselves and used to vindicate themselves in the face of a hostile or uncomprehending world; prone to blame the ref for the goals they let in,

    e. ... with a tendency to “them and us” thinking, to demonise perceived opponents and glamorize perceived allies, arising from a low-accountability world view in which I can only ever win if you lose

    f. ... bigger about threats and boasting than results and delivery

    g. ...with a preference for passive aggression and revenge as a dish taken cold. Watch out for grudges.

    I would expect some if not all of these traits to be evidenced in a true bully, pretty much every time.

  4. Intentions. There are two sides to victimizing — victimizing others and victimizing oneself. We can’t play the one off against the other, and everybody remains responsible for their intentnions and actions, but anyone assessing what is going on has to make the distinction in their own mind.
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Anonymous said...

I see Samuel L. Jackson as a Christ figure. He got the motherf*cking snakes off the motherf*cking plane.



revruth said...

I agree with your analysis and well done for taking the time to contemplate this tricky subject. But the most important question is:
What are you and your fellow colleague bishops going to do about it?
Knowing that it happens and knowing why it happens is all well and good. But the most important thing is stopping it happening. I know of clergy who are not believed, who are too embarrassed to speak up for fear of losing their jobs, and ultimately who get ill or leave the priesthood altogether. None of this solves the problem. Only bishops can stop it. So what are you going to do?

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