The scourge of Bullying and Harrassment: In all Its Forms, And Its Role in Suffering

By Mertha Mo Nyamande

Bullying and harassment is about when one exerts pressured, unwanted requests or advances onto another, be they social expectations, sexual/romantic advances or demanding payment or services.

The issues of bullying and harassment have been on the rise and still rising in all spheres of life; in communities, schools, at work and on various playgrounds.

These two issues are very closely related hence they have been paired in this article this week. While harassment is more focused on gender, sexual issues and violence, there are other forms of harassment including letters from creditors, demands from landlords or bosses to perform, etc.

Bullying is more personalised to one’s perceived gratification over the suffering of another.

Why this happens goes way deeper than just the observed or described interactions; having a bully in the midst, as bullies only target those that are vulnerable and show signs of weakness from a distance.

While those “stronger” should protect those that are weaker, that responsibility lies elsewhere than in those considered to be stronger. Those with an upper hand may use different or wrong tactics in their quest to challenge and eradicate the displayed vulnerability, thereby the aspect of bullying occurs.

There may also be issues of the bully feeling threatened and thereby act out to protect or hide that vulnerability with aggression, as a learnt behaviour.



Bullying and harassment stems from poor satisfaction at certain stages in development that makes one vulnerable, these stages are particularly in the playing and socialisation with others, experienced in early childhood.

The children that did not have opportunities to play, especially with similar age groups are likely to complain of being bullied due to the lack of social skills that are gained from playing, thereby creating this grievance thinking.

Playing brings about the fun side of life, but it also teaches boundaries among peers.

Children just want to play with other children wherever and whenever they meet.

They may be shy initially to see if the parent will allow them to, but once they get the nod, or the parents don’t seem bothered, before long, they will be chasing each other around, making noise, laughing, and screaming.

These activities are crucial for child development. Problems come when the parents’ step in to protect a child they deem not strong enough, usually because they have always protected that child for one reason or another.

This perpetuates this child’s vulnerability in that they will always rely on the parent to protect them from other kids on the playground and will become pushed and prodded by other kids who want to play, but this child will not have developed adequate social skills to respond in the right manner which then frustrates the other kids to escalate these attempts, thereby becoming less friendly and pushy.



When a child grows up and enters the adult world with perceptions of being picked on by others and thereby the vulnerability, is taken along to the workplace and other adult spaces.

The same playful banter and seduction that happen in the initial stages of boy meeting girl, and girl knowing her boundaries and knowing when and how to respond playfully often becomes challenging whereby that “40-year-old virgin” reports any sexual advances to the boss due to their own inability to navigate, nor assertive enough to the persistent arrogant guy who also not understand boundaries, often for the same reasons.

This makes both the complainant and the perpetrator victims of the same deficiency in their upbringing, typical in patriarchy common in African cultures.

This also leads to blame and victimhood due to poor understanding of responsibility when things go wrong, as such individuals often always feel others around them have more power and influence over them due to their own low self-esteem and poor confidence to express their needs.

As such, there is often always a stark dependency syndrome in how they almost always want someone else to approve their decisions, thereby subconsciously picking overpowering bosses and partners.

The Transactional Analysis book “Games people play” outlines this depiction very well that the boss or partner becomes the perfect excuse for their inadequacies.


Remedies and recommendations

Social spaces like work and play require an understanding of the rules, rules that are taught, and or learnt through playing in childhood. Whilst other life skills and education are important, play is also just as important – all work and no play…. It is therefore crucial for parents to understand the need for balance between such activities in early life, for they have an impact on the rest of life.

It is also highly recommended that children have other children of similar ages to play around with to chase and be chased back without the parents’ intervention to allow them to develop their own resilience and protective skills when away from parents, and in work environments.

Children who grow up playing with their parents or with older siblings do not often have the opportunity to practice these social skills before entering into formal social spaces like nursery or school.

Only children often suffer the same fate unless the parents invest in accessing playcentres where their child will frequent to make friends of similar ages to “play” with, for life is a game won by those who understand the rules.

Where the adults make such complaints, the managers should first explore whether appropriate exchanges have taken place before formal interventions and consider referring for counselling and or therapy for both parties.

Thereby workplaces should have access to such crucial services.


Mental Health: Wellbeing and Happiness Series with MoNya-Mental, by Psychotherapist Mertha Mo Nyamande @












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