Inna Kyryliuk
Veronika Petrova

Abstract: The authors of this article observe the psychological phenomenon of bullying from various perspectives. Age peculiarities and group dynamics of a teenage group that influence the appearance of bullying are discussed. Attention is paid to the Jungian view of the deep roots of this phenomenon as having an archetypal basis. Clinical vigniettes are presented that show how family traumas can influence the formation of a victim position and cause bullying in adolescence.

Kiriliuk Inna Mykolaivna (Kyiv, Ukraine) , PhD in psychology, Jungian analyst and supervisor of the International Association of Analytical Psychology, member of the Eastern and Central European Community of Jungian Analysts (ECECJA), child and adolescence analytical psychologist, sandplay therapist; Vice-president of Ukrainian Jungian Association (UJA), the teacher in educational programs and original author's seminars in analytical psychology and Jungian psychotherapy.

Petrova Veronica Yurievna (Moscow, Russia), MD, analytical psychologist, child and adolescence therapist, teacher and supervisor of Russian-Austrian educational project of child and adolescence psychotherapy, member of the Board of the Institute of Integrative Child Psychotherapy and Practical Psychology (Moscow), the author-presenter of programs for the parents of adolescences and for the specialists working with children.

«Bullying», «bully», «mobbing» - these terms have literally filled the social networks in the recent three – four years; it can be compared with the newspaper headlines. Our attention was attracted by a mass research and the «disclosure» of the negative consequences of this phenomenon: practically every respected child psychologist has consulted or given recommendations on the issue. In a single moment it has become a social issue demanding understanding and counter-action! Perhaps, there are reasons for that.

Bullying as a psychological phenomenon is as old as the world: in childhood we listened to the fairytales about bullying, and we sympathized with the «Ugly Duckling», and when we became older – with the noble Othello, further we identified with the Dummy because we knew the feelings firsthand, and if we go deeper, there come Biblical scenes about Christ walking to Calvary.

I come to a conclusion that there are archetypal roots for this human need «to use force against the week, to stalk in order to finish off, to execute power without mercy», they are in-built in the subsoil of a human soul.

In this article we would like to describe the external causes of the bullying situation in a child group, to define psychological and social causes that can infect the child or adolescent group and bring a bullying situation about, but we will particularly stress the deep inner causes that provoke the position of sustained victimhood.

Wikipedia gives the following definition:

«Bullying – aggressive stalking of one of the members of a group (especially a group of schoolchildren or students) by the other. Bullying is organized by a leader, sometimes with minions, and the majority remain to be observers. During bullying the victim remains unable to protect herself from the attacks and this way bullying is different from conflict where the powers of the parties are relatively equal. Bullying may have both a physical and psychological form. In takes place in all age and social groups».

«Violence at school is always a form of public rage», - saiad Allan Guggenbühl.

This sharp definition widens our field of imagination from the peculiarities of teenage years which are frequently viewed as the defining factor of bullying to a more wide-scale «underground world» of the soul which a growing personality of a teenager encounters. Teenage years do not possess a shaped Persona, and the Ego willpower is not enough to hold back the Shadow, that is why anger and frustration break through and frequently flood the teenager's conscience by the aggression to oneself and to the Other. It is the first individual encounter of a growing-up human being with one's own «underground world» with one's Shadow, which is always nourished by the collective images of fear in front of power at this age. The Shadow is our biggest challenge. And it is possible to cope with it in smaller portions.

If we were to express this idea by an image, teenage gangs are freely floating fears seeking for trouble where they could bring down all terror and shock from encountering their individual responsibility for their primal instinctive aggression. And not all of them cope with this individual developmental task, the collective forms of acting-out (such as bullying in its various shapes) can overwhelm the children's souls. Violence in teenage environment can take totally primitive shapes: bullying, slander, blackmail, threats, sexual assault, incitement, vandalism (property damage), intimidation, stigmatization.

But there is the other side of the problem: open violence, group violence is more visible from the outside, and this way it gives more opportunities to get help for all the participants of this malignant process. Because, as the result, all parties suffer: the bully, the victim and the observers.

My working experience as an analytical psychologist for adolescents suggests that there is an unconscious cry for help in the teenage bullying, directed towards the world of adults. In is an attempt to protect oneself and to cope with the collective energies of the evil which we all bear in our collective unconscious. That is why I agree with the common opinion about bullying stated by the majority of adolescence psychologists of different approaches about the position of the Adult (teacher, psychologist, administration). The «Adult» must take an active position, distinctly call it violence and give it a moral estimation, say a definite «no».

This position strengthens the weak Ego of a child and protects them from unconscious collective impulses.

The change of an adolescent period is the time when healthy children go through a period of transformation. Teenagers are not monsters, they are the children who are going through an intensive personal transformation. If we as adults use this understanding, it will be easier for us to see the first signs of being overwhelmed by the collective processes of bullying. But for that we need ourselves to be in contact with our own strong emotions: passion, anger and rage.


Researchers show that school bullying appears most of the times among the adolescents, namely in the pre-adolescent age of 9-10 years old, but the active phase is shifted towards the age of 11-13 years old.

The characteristics of the age of adolescence are defining for the activation of bullying as a phenomenon in school groups.

  1. A definite need of the age to «be in a pack». Children need to belong to a group, they need a «we», and it becomes a basic need for an adolescent. The demand of psychological development at this stage is to get out of a family group and to be able to join a group of peers. Adaptation as opposition to autonomy. Every teenager dreams of finding their own «swan flock», to find a friend or a company to belong to, and «quietly» or «loudly» suffers in isolation. This very need makes children form some flocks at any price. It feels safer and the rejection and loneliness are not as obvious. Sometimes groups are shaped according to this attribute, and they may have negative leaders or unite «against someone» - it temporarily gives them a calming-down experience of «we are together and we are ok!»

The last nuance: the adherence to «we» takes off the responsibility of saying «I», and thus performing self-reflection and thinking autonomously. A frequent mistake of the adults is that they rely on the self-reflection of an adolescent, on the inner work of the moral qualities, but different laws are at work with the other needs of this age.

  1. The following need is to become aware of «Who am I? Which qualities characterize me?» They can try to become aware of themselves by putting oneself in opposition to the other – it is a primitive mechanism, but it's easier. And the child feels better if they say «I am different», «I am opposite». The most difficult feeling for a teenager is to feel vulnerable, fragile or weak. This inner danger makes the teenager to put oneself in opposition to the «weak» who are being bullied. This need creates the conditions for grouping.

Для підлітків відмінності стають проблемою, і це породжує конфлікти. Конфлікти «тому що ми різні», пов'язані з «інакшістю», є складним випробуванням для підлітка, вони відкривають «власний підземний світ». Вплив конфлікту - це тунельний зір, коли сприйняття звужується, а відмінності набувають особливого значення, часто в таких ситуаціях підлітки відчувають розгубленість та відчай. Мислення стає ірраціональним, і в такі моменти приймаються миттєві рішення, як відчайдушні спроби зберегти свою невинність.

Наступне - це моральні, духовні сімейні установки: вони часто перевіряються підлітками. Тобто те, чому батьки вчили і закладали в дитину: «що є добрим і що є поганим», «як правильно - не правильно», «найцінніше - не цінно» - підліток усе ставить під сумнів, йому важливо отримати власні відповіді на ці питання про цінності та мораль. Ставлення до дорослих стає амбівалентним, дорослі сприймаються як супротивники. У зв'язку з цим підлітки теж можуть відчувати внутрішню невпевненість. Часто можна чути: «Ми не булимо, просто не любимо, просто дражнимо ...», як ніби вони не здатні встановити дистанцію й оцінити свій вчинок. Властивість моральної оцінки ще не до кінця у підлітка сформовано.

Також на цю вікову задачу, а саме, відокремитися від батьківських установок, можна подивитися з аналітичної точки зору, як на несвідому репетицію спонтанності. Підліткові напівхаотичні спільноти надають свободу дій несподіваному, вони вчаться довіряти несподіваному! Будь-яка нормальність (норми, правила, мораль) для них є нестерпною, підлітки люблять божевільні ідеї, іноді й вчинки.

Часто пояснюють цькування з позицій етології та групової ієрархії, обґрунтовуючи «прошитою» позицією альфа-особини і омега-особи, що у свою чергу формує зірок, середнячків та аутсайдерів в груповій ієрархії. Чи включаються закони групової динаміки, де є альфа-особа та омега-особи, тобто лідер, який стверджується і підвищує свій статус за рахунок слабкого.

Але ця теорія не пояснює чому є групи без цькування, чому деякі дитячі колективи виявляються беззахисними перед груповою ієрархією, вшитою від природи, а інші живуть по людськи.

Часта відповідь на це питання буде звучати таким чином: в дитячому, передпідлітковому колективі психологічна атмосфера залежить від авторитетного дорослого, і якщо він не сприймає насильства, то його і не буде. Ми можемо згадати свої приклади з дитинства, де зауваження, глузування чи несхвалення з боку вчителя багато в чому могли стати вирішальними у навішуванні ролі цапа-відбувайла.

Як пише Людмила Петрановська: «Ну, а далі вступає в силу дія системних законів. Після того, як група призначила «цапа-відбувайла» і склалася як дисфункціональна, тобто замішана на насильстві, вона такою і залишиться без сильних причин змінитися.

Спробувавши смак насильства, дитячий колектив зупинитися сам не може. Якщо діти виявляються надані самі собі - справа може далеко зайти. «Повелитель мух» або «Опудало» - там все описано. Плюс загальний високий рівень розлитої агресії - її у повітрі розлито, а вже форма знайдеться »(Петрановська, 2016, стор. 2).

Поглиблюючи це дослідження, важливо описати деякі аналітичні ідеї, які можуть пролити світло на архаїчну потребу, яка на глибинному рівні може пояснювати явище цькування, переслідування, навішування ролі цапа-відбувайла.

Ми можемо уловлювати архетипову підставу для булінгу у розхожому виразі «цап-відбувайло». Він пішов від стародавнього іудейського звичаю раз на рік навішувати на бідну тварину усі свої гріхи та відправляти його у пустелю, на поживу демонам. Дуже зручно. Змінюватися не потрібно, робити нічого не треба, перекинув на цапа і ти вільний. Подібні механізми існували та існують в усіх культурах. Старе як світ. На жаль, підліткова зграя обирає не цапа, а подібних до себе хлопця або дівчину і звалює, «проецює», свої «незручні» почуття, переживання, недоліки на них. Це надає тимчасове полегшення. Примітивні механізми проекції особливо небезпечні для незрілої психіки підлітка, який ще не навчився внутрішньої стійкості.

У ситуації цькування ми зустрічаємося з агресією примітивного рівня, сильної та жорстокої. Це можна порівняти зі злом. Марія-Луїза фон Франц в книзі «Феномени Тіні та зла у чарівних казках» досліджує в казках зло «на примітивному рівні», що на базовому рівні, в ті часи, спочатку людина вважала злом (фон Франц, 2010, с 180). Марія-Луїза фон Франц доходить висновку, що феномен зла у природі має якості надприродного та нуминозного, тому зачаровує й викликає у людини приємне збудження та переляк одночасно. Вона каже: «Це все одно що лавина, або блискавка, або жахливий хижий звір. Існують, наприклад, такі речі: хвороба і смерть, природні духи, чудовиська, велетні, які виявляються настільки ж реальними, як і інші смертоносні явища природи, і нам доводиться мати з ними справу. Якщо сходить лавина, то ви або ставите їй перешкоду, або від неї рятуєтеся; було б нерозумно чинити якось інакше. Якщо річка виходить з берегів, ви або споруджуєте дамбу, або, якщо у вас не вистачає сил складати каміння в купу, відступаєте на більш високе місце на березі, або забираєтеся на гору. Тут немає ніякої етичної проблеми, це просто питання виживання: якщо людина в силах, то вона бореться, а якщо ні, то рятується втечею »(там само, с.182).

Я б хотіла цю глибоку думку екстраполювати на ситуацію цькування. Цькування (булінг) у шкільному середовищі, як лавина для того, на кого її спрямовано, смертельно небезпечна і на примітивному рівні переживається як «зло». І тоді здорова думка рятуватися, бігти, повинні працювати механізми виживання. Тому одна з частих рекомендацій шкільних психологів - зміна школи, як здорова спроба врятуватися від руйнівної сили переслідування.

Хочу навести ще одне дослідження зоолога Конрада Лоренца, який вивчав агресію і називав її внутрішньовидовою. Він виявив прояви агресивних тенденцій в патернах поведінки різних ссавців, птахів, та риб по відношенню до особин того ж виду. Говорячи, про внутрішньовидові ворожнечі, Лоренц має на увазі боротьбу за харчові ресурси та територію, яку ділять між собою найбільш сильні самці. Наприклад, чорний дрізд не звертає уваги на мишу, що оселилася на його території, але проявляє агресію по відношенню до іншого самця чорного дрозда.

«Лоренц припускає, що у людей наддиференційована або надрозвинена тенденція до внутрішньовидової боротьби, і в цьому сенсі людина є аномалією у тваринному світі. Лоренц говорить, що ми повинні краще усвідомлювати цей факт, якщо не хочемо, щоб сталося масове самогубство людства, - і пропонує прості способи порятунку на рівні тваринних інстинктів ... Один з них - це краще пізнати одне одного, бо у тварин, як тільки побратими краще пізнають один одного, внутрішньовидова агресія знижується. Коли одна тварина звикає до запаху іншої тварини, вона вже не може її вбити»(цит: фон Франц, 2010 с.178).

Це дослідження природних інстинктів людини, як представника тваринного світу вказує на корені такої поведінки як насильство, цькування, булінг - це прокидаються інстинктивні тенденції до внутрішньовидової агресії. Ймовірно тому так багато порівнянь підліткового світу з тваринним світом: зграя, клан, шакали і т.д.

На завершення аналітичного дослідження глибинних причин, що підживлюють спалахи цькування та булінгу у підлітковому середовищі, хочу подумати про стародавні ритуали ініціації. Ритуал - це рух в глибину. Джеймс Холліс пише: «Ритуали не вигадують - їх відкривають, знаходять, роблять; вони народжуються при досягненні архетипової глибини ... Сама ідея переходу містить в собі глибинний сенс, бо будь-який перехід розуміє під собою певне завершення, кінець чогось і в той самий час якийсь початок, народження нового»(Холліс, 2016, стор. 24).

Differences become a problem for teenagers, and this bears conflicts. Conflicts «because we are different» connected with the «otherness» are a tough test for a teenager, they open «one's own underground world». The influence of the conflict is a kind of tunnel sight when the perception narrows down and the differences acquire particular meaning, often teenagers feel lost and desperate in such situations. Thinking becomes irrational and immediate decisions are taken at such moments, as well as desperate attempts to keep one's innocence.

Then follow moral, spiritual, family attitudes: they are frequently tried by the teenagers. All the parents have taught the child about «what is good and what is bad», «what is right and what is wrong», «valuable – not valuable» - the teenager puts under a doubt, it is important for them to get their own answers to these questions about values and the moral. The attitude towards the adults becomes ambivalent, the adults are perceived as rivals. As the result, teenagers can also feel inner uncertainty. One can frequently hear: «We are not bullying, we simply dislike, we were teasing…», as if they were not able to make a distance and estimate their actions. The quality of moral estimation is not yet shaped completely in the teenager.

We can also take a look at this age task – to separate from parental attitudes – from the analytical point of view, as at the unconscious rehearsal of spontaneity. Teenage semi-chaotic communities offer freedom of action, they learn to trust the unexpected! Any normality (norm, principles, moral) is unbearable to them, teenagers love crazy ideas, and sometimes actions.

Bullying is frequently explained from the position of ethology and group hierarchy, and the idea of an «in-built» position of an alpha-individual and omega-individual, which in its turn shapes the stars, the «middles» and the outsiders in the group hierarchy. The laws of group dynamics are turned on where there is an alpha-individual and omega-individuals, i.e. the leader who is affirming oneself and increasing one's status at the cost of the weak.

But this theory does not explain why there exist groups without bullying, why some child teams become helpless in front of the group hierarchy inbuilt by the nature, and the others live like humans.

A frequent answer to this question would be as follows: in a child pre-adolescent group the psychological atmosphere depends of the grown-up with the authority, and if they do not tolerate violence, there will be no violence. We can think of examples from our childhood when a remark, a joke or some disapproval from a teacher could become turning points in attributing the role of a scapegoat.

As Liudmila Petranovskaya writes: «Further, the power of system laws comes in. After the group has appointed «the scapegoat», and has shaped itself as dysfunctional, that is implicated in violence, it will remain so without any strong reasons to change. Having tried the taste of violence, the child group cannot stop by itself. If the children are left to themselves – things can go too far. Look at the «Lord of the Flies» or «The Dummy» - everything has been described there. And there is a high level of spilled aggression – it is just spilled in the air, and the shape will find itself» (Petranovskaya, 2016, p. 2).

Deepening this research it is important to describe some analytical ideas that can spill the light over the archaic need which can explain the phenomena of bullying, stalking, scapegoating at the depth level.

We can sense the archetypal basis for bullying in a popular idiom of a «scapegoat». It derives from an ancient Jewish custom to load a poor animal with all people's sins and send it to the desert to be eaten by a demon. It's very convenient. One doesn't have to change or do anything, you throw it on the goat and you're free. Similar mechanisms have existed and still exist in all cultures. It's as old as the world. Unfortunately, a teenage pack chooses an adolescent just like themselves instead of a goat, and loads, «projects» all their «inconvenient» feelings, experiences, drawbacks upon them, and it brings temporary relief. Primitive projection mechanisms are particularly dangerous for an immature psyche of an adolescent who hasn't yet learnt inner stability.

In the situation of bullying we encounter the aggression of a primitive level, strong and ruthless, and it can be compared with the evil. Marie-Louise von Franz in her book «The Shadow and the Evil in Magic Fairytales» researches the evil in fairytales «on the primitive level», what people considered to be evil on the basic level in those times (Von Franz, 2010, p. 180). Marie-Louise von Franz comes to a conclusion that the phenomenon of the evil in nature possesses the qualities of the supernatural and the numinous, that is why it enchants and causes pleasant excitement and fear at the same time. She says: «It is the same as an avalanche, or a thunder-bolt, or a terrible predator. There exist such things, for example, as illness and death, nature spirits, monsters, giants, that appear to be as real as many other deadly natural phenomena, and we have to deal with them. If an avalanche comes down, you either put an obstacle to it, or you save yourself from it; it would be stupid to act in any other way. If a river comes out of its banks you either build a dam or if you are not strong enough to pile rocks, you step back to a higher place on the bank or climb a mountain. There is no ethical problem here, it is just the matter of survival: if a person is strong enough they fight, if not – they save themselves by escape» (as previous, p. 182).

I would like to apply this deep thought to the situation of bullying. Bullying in the middle school is like an avalanche for the one it is directed against, it is deadly and it is experienced like «the evil» on the primitive level. And then it is a healthy idea to save oneself, to escape, because the survival mechanisms should work. This is why a frequent recommendation of school psychologists is to change the school, as a healthy attempt to save oneself from the ruining power of stalking.

I would like to mention another piece of research – by the zoologist Conrad Lorenz, who studied aggression and called it «intraspecific». He discovered aggressive tendencies in behavioral patterns of various mammals, birds and fishes towards the individuals of the same species. Speaking about intraspecific rivalry, Lorenz means the fight for food resources and the territory which is shared among the strongest males. For example the black thrush doesn't notice a mouse settling on his territory, but will show aggression towards another male of the black thrush.

«Lorenz considers that the tendency for intraspecific rivalry is super-differentiated in human beings, and in this sense a human represents an anomaly in the animal world. Lorenz says that we have to be better aware of this fact unless we want the mass suicide of the humanity to take place, - and he suggests the simplest ways of escape on the level of animal instincts… One of them is to get to know each other better, because among the animals, as soon as the individuals get to know each other better the intraspecific aggression goes down. When one of the animals gets used to the smell of the other, it can't kill it anymore» (quot. after: Von Franz, 2010, p. 178).

This research of natural instincts of human beings as a representative of the animal world points to the roots of such behaviour as violence and bullying – instinctive tendencies towards intraspecific aggression. Perhaps this is why there are so many comparisons between the world of teenagers and the animal world: a pack, a clan, jackals, etc.

To finish with the analytical research of the deep reasons fuelling the outbursts of bullying in the teenage environment, I would like to reflect on the ancient initiation rituals. A ritual is the movement towards the depth. James Hollis writes: «Rituals are not invented – they are discovered, found, performed; they are born after reaching the archetypal depth… The very idea of transition contains the depth sense because any transition implies some completion, the end of something and at the same time a kind of beginning, the birth of the new» (Hollis, 2016, p. 24).

Transition rituals have almost disappeared from our culture, but the archaic memory remains. At the unconscious level each teenager seeks to experience initiation. It is the transition from the childhood world to the world of adults. The description of the stages of ancient rituals strikes by their cruelty, they always include physical and psychological pain and certain forms of isolation. James Hollis writes: «… the cruelty of these trials was in fact part of the wise understanding of the fact that the suffering of this kind quickens the awareness. The awareness only comes through suffering; without suffering expressed in this or that form, physical, emotional or spiritual, we are easily satisfied by the former rules, convenient habits and addictions» (Hollis, 2016, p. 28).

Initiation is always connected with the ability to bear suffering, to stay alone face to face with this suffering, to be in one's own limit point, sustain it relying not on the outer forces but on the inner ones, to find the source of one's own power in order to receive the experience – «I am adult», «I have coped», «I can rely on myself». In order to grow up, one needs to give up the idea of returning under the care of the adults, it is important to learn to use one's own resources. Noone will know about the existance of these resources before they have to use them.

To some extent all of us have been in the victim position during adolescence. I don't think that everyone has gone through bullying, because it is a massive, long-term, directed attacking behaviour, but the feeling of being stalked, unaccepted, the experience of loneliness, is a kind of a norm which has to be encountered by every teenager in order to grow up internally. Bullying to some extent falsely imitates this initiation procedure. I have always been surprised why not every teenager seeks help! Perhaps, approaching the transition line, teenagers seek their own «transition» ritual towards the new, grown-up self. Contemporary world does not offer initiation rituals, we can suggest that the outburst of bullying situations is a pseudo-search for the maturing trial. But the main nuance is that the initiation should take place on time.

It is important for us to understand why some of the children cope with conflicts, they find their group, and other fall into the victim role and experience mockery from the group.

Perhaps one of the external reasons why the child is chosen for the role of a victim is the difference of the child by some attribute from the main group of peers. We know that in the nature the animal which is different from the animals of its species can be cast out from the pack, it can be ignored or attacked. The same thing happens in the human environment if the children are not inoculated with a different attitude towards the otherness. The tolerance towards the other race, culture, physical and psychic peculiarities of another person, respect to the personality of the other make us true humans! This is shaped on the basis of the values present in the group, the society and the close environment where the child is growing. And it is not only family, it is also school. At the same time the research (Olweus 1974, 1993; Roland 1980; Lagerspetz 1982) shows that external difference is not the main factor for the child's being chosen for the victim role (Rulani, 2012, pp. 31-42). We, adults, sometimes unconsciously shape the attitude to the other child, different from us or our expectation. But the main thing is that we shape it in our children too, because they are also different from us or our expectations, they are different from what we would like them to be, seen in our fantasies and dreams.

If parents accept the child the way they are, believe in them and respect them, the child develops the feeling of self-respect and «a safe place» inside of themselves. A child like this knows that they have a right to protect themselves – maybe do it verbally, or they are taught some methods of self-defence. A child like this can protect oneself, stop the situation or seek help.

I am going to tell you a story of someone who is already adult. According to his words, he fit the bullying situation very well. First of all, he was born in a multinational family, and when he came to a new school group, he saw that he was different from everyone. Secondly, his parents had divorced quite early and for some time he had been brought up by a single mom, which is frequently considered the lack of well-being. He felt that he was different. But he had a stepfather who was engaged in sports, who took him fishing, went camping together and involved the step-son in his sports activity. Stepfather fostered the sense of importance and male dignity in the boy. That is why, when the group started attacking him, the teenager fought for himself. Once he had the following incident. In a summer camp he was placed to the oldest group with boys older, bigger and stronger than him, who tried to bully him. The boy understood that he could not protect himself neither physically nor morally. But as long as he had the sense of self-respect and the feeling of self-value already shaped in him, he could evaluate the situation soberly and understand that he wasn't going to cope on his own. The teenager didn't feel shy to ask to transfer him to a younger group. There he was the only teenager and this difference already was playing for him, so he became quite popular among other children. And then the children from the elder group began to respect him as they observed him. So the child, comparing his strength to the others, understood that he needed to seek a place where he would be safe. This way he was able to take care of himself. It shows that his inner protector had already been shaped inside him. So if a child gets into a situation of pressure but is able to stand for himself and get out of it, or is able to speak about this situation and ask for help, then it means that there is a good object inside and the child has an experience of being protected.

Why do we speak about families in cases of bullying? We are not born with moral norms and rules. They are shaped inside us, inside the family, the family group, and then gradually inside the school group or any other group the child gets into, so it is always shaped in the child's environment. This is why if bullying is taking place, it is important to understand that something is wrong both in the society and the family. Now we are speaking about those who become the objects of bullying but it is important to note that pursuers are also children who experience the lack of well-being inside, who are far from being happy, who frequently have no other opportunity to express themselves but through violence. One of the most outstanding researchers of mobbing, Olweus, writes that «certain negative family circumstances stimulate aggression, and this personality trait is the major driving force standing behind mobbing directed towards the vulnerable participants» (Olweus, 1980). It is interesting that these children may grow in a family which looks successful at first sight: these families can be well-off, participate in sports, but psychologically they do not receive the due attention they expect to receive, they do not find emotional support and the response to their emotional experience. It means that they do not receive the upbringing where personality is accepted as a value demanding a respectful attitude.


Perhaps, many of us have heard about cases when the child changes the group where they were bullied and again the same situation begins. Why it happens, what is the way of shaping the victim position in the child when they unconsciously seek traumatizing situations?

I would like to give an example from my own practice. A 13-year-old girl came. A wealthy successful family. But her mother had lived in the country where she was a representative of a national minority, she experiences peer pressure and the family was experiencing the pressure from the society, her parents had to be literally surviving in the conditions of severe demands and rules. She as a child had to cope with it on her own. She grew up into a strong, unbending woman (also literally), there was no place for sensitivity, weakness or tears in her world. And even after moving to a more comfortable environment she saved the same rules for her family. She didn't have a chance to get a higher education, but she had created her own business which demanded energy, and it was quite successful.

Her position was that it was impossible to be weak, that the weak do not survive. And she was also bringing up her children in the same hard, demanding manner vested in care, when it was impossible to do anything with a mistake, it was impossible to apply an insufficient effort, impossible to relax or show sensitivity. For example, any hobbies were not allowed to the daughter if she brought bad grades from school. The ban was laid on hobbies till the grades were improved to «A-s» in all subjects. Mother was caring well about her daughter, she provided for her and was giving her a good education, but she didn't sense the needs of her child part. Horst-Eberhard Richter writes about such cases: «The parents inevitably hope that the children will catch up with the opportunities they had once missed. They perceive their child as an improved version of their own selves and they want to compensate for their own failures by the success of the child. In ultimate cases the conflicting tension living within the parents is so strong that they – at least unconsciously – consider themselves obliged to control and regulate the whole life routine of the child as if he or she will always act only as their substitute, choosing either their own happiness or guilt» (Richter, 2019, p. 86).

The girl couldn't express herself, she could not show her fearing part. But this frightened part still existed within her. She couldn't rebel against her parents or show them her dissatisfaction, more than that, she would always tell herself that her parents are very caring, they are so over-caring, especially her mom. But at school the real mobbing started. The girl was trying to inform about it indirectly, but while the victim position was unbearable for her mother, she couldn't hear her daughter's suffering. The girl didn't find the way out and felt very lonely in her calamity. She started to be interested in all possible suicidal groups and found a friend of her kind. Mother found out about it because the girl left a visible clue, unconsciously she wanted to be heard. Mother saw the suicidal groups and recalled what the girl had been telling about being bullied, that she had problems with the teachers, and she moved the girl to a different school. But mother didn't change her demands, and the same story continued. The girl got into the same situation once again. Everything repeated: the bullying, the suicidal thoughts, and once a suicide attempt. Her neighbours accidentally saw the girl trying to get to the roof of the building and stopped her.

When they came to therapy, interestingly, the girl had an idea about her mother as a perfect mom. It seemed to her that all her mother's demands were rightful and that mother wished her good, that is why she prohibited everything that distracted her attention from studying. She considered herself to be ungrateful, as she couldn't refuse from her «incorrect hobbies» - painting, dancing and anime. She was suffering from the impossibility to fit her mother's demands, she didn't believe in her own powers and abilities and considered herself to be miserable and useless. Once, when we were discussing her passion for art, I asked what colours she liked and which she disliked to use. She answered that she couldn't bear the blue colour, that she felt bad from it. I was surprised and I asked her why this colour was so unpleasant to her. She told me that the walls in her mother's room were painted blue. When she comes in, she is bound with fear, she freezes: «I am so afraid of this blue colour that it is just unbearable. Everything begins shaking inside me, I want to hide and shrink».

When the child isn't able to satisfy the too high demands of the parents, anxiety appears inside, the feeling of guilt and the perception of oneself as «I am bad!» as the result of which the unbearable need for self-punishment appears. The child does everything in order to convince their environment about their badness and they demand punishment. The feeling of guilt provokes aggression directed against one's own ego. This way the figures of the pursuer and the victim are shaped inside. And then the situation of bullying allows to bring the inner conflict out, but this way it only increases the suffering of the child. It is one of the aspects of the formation of victim-child, when personal peculiarities of the child do not match the narcissistic expectations of the parents.

But there is another way, when what parents expect from their child is not the fulfilment of their expectations but taking upon oneself the projection of their «negative identity» or the Shadow. Erikson defines negative identity as the kind of identity that has been «perversely based on all those identifications and roles that during the critical stages of their development seemed to be the most undesirable or dangerous and at the same time threateningly close». In such cases the child chooses the role of a scapegoat. Very often parents create situations where their child will show all the reactions for which their parents had once felt guilt or shame. Through reprimands and punishment the parents get rid of the unbearable feelings. But inside the child the image of the «scapegoat» is getting more and more fixed, and it can make them the victim of bullying. As a rule the children inform us this or that way that something is wrong with them, that they are being bullied or treated inadequately. The victim shaped inside the child blocks the energy of development and growth, the aims of all inner forces of any teenager or child.

Psychic trauma or early childhood trauma can be other reasons that can form the basis of the inner victim position.

Wikipedia gives the following definition: «Psychological trauma is the harm caused to psychic health of a human being as the result of intense influence of adverse environmental factors or heavy emotional, stressful influences over their psyche. Frequently it can be connected with physical trauma threatening one's life or damaging the feeling of safety».

Psychic trauma as a transcendent event can break through into the destiny of a child at an early age and damage the «protective shield» of the psychic health of the child. As a rule the latent age is characterised by a relatively calm period of psychic maturing of a child, it means that traumatic experiences will stay in the disguised or capsulated state. But at the age of adolescence the psychic situation changes, the defences weaken and the Personality of a growing-up child is subject to «neurotic repetitions» to a greater extent. It means that the traumatic experiences as if demand the repeated re-experiencing in order to be understood and reflected upon, in the better case. We can observe the appearance of the events on the psychological level that «awaken» the trauma, speaking the Jungian language – they are constellating the complex in order to unpack, to enliven the early psychological trauma. And trauma seeks to be lived through, in order to be taken into the whole psychic system of a human being.


A generalized example from practice: a child was adopted at a very early age, the family created a safe enough environment for growth and development. At the age of adolescence the child goes out from the family womb to the society and can encounter the directed aggression. It is not always clear at first sight what causes the reaction of rage among the peers. Some qualities cause strong irritation among the peers, and this way the psychologically traumatic situation where the child is exposed to the uncontrolled aggression attacks is reconstructed. At the depth level early deprivation and parental ill-being which the child experienced in the early days of life is anchored into a message, «inner sentence»: «Something is wrong with you, you are not right, you do not match us». Teenage environment senses this message and acts out this early situation of stalking. The task of an infant, and further a little child is to adapt in order to survive. And he or she gets adapted first to the child protection and then to the adoptive family, but the pain of being rejected, abandoned is a wormhole which will remain inside, will, figuratively speaking, ripen and grow stronger. And frequently the teenage years are a favourable time when the child can re-live the feelings of being rejected and not needed in order to confirm that really something is wrong with me and I deserve the attitude like this.

This is the vicious magic of trauma.

It is necessary to immediately stop bullying as the external traumatizing factor as we have described earlier, but the depth work at the level of psychotherapy and psychological help is vital.

Psychotherapy may be the chance to live through the early trauma consciously instead of creating an unconscious situation.

This concerns various psychologically traumatic events of the first period of life when something outstandingly wrong might have happened, later the life situation might have been improved but during the teenage period the pain sleeping in the unconscious can be activated once again.


Clinical vignette. The 12-year-old girl was mocked, particularly in a girl group, the group situations of derision, attacks, verbal bullying were organized, vulgar gossip was spread.

In the consulting room I observed a good, trusting relationship between daughter and mother, and I couldn't understand the unconscious reason of the rage of her peers.

Only some time later, when I found out about the story of her birth, the reasons of the situation at school started to open up to me.

It was a very early pregnancy, the mother was at school at that time herself. The mother's parents couldn't take this pregnancy and she was cast out of the family. The description of the situation in which this young mother tried to bear her baby (my client) by its psychological characteristics very much resembled the school atmosphere of bullying. Remarkably, the young mother was stalked by her own mother and sisters. My client was given for upbringing to the grandparents from the father's side. In fact, in the period of her early childhood, the girl was separated from her mother. The father's family, to a large extent out of the feeling of guilt (a dysfunctional son) have all the time been creating a very good, super-caring conditions for the girl.

But as soon as she got to the external environment (kindergarten, the change of school group at primary school) the inner ill-being showed itself, as if the child could feel that things are not that good. As the saying goes, every cloud has a silver lining. The bullying situation activated the family system and the girl with her mother came to psychotherapy. Mother recalled the story of the beginning unexpectedly emotionally, and it was the beginning of her own personal psychotherapy. In our work with the girl we managed to return to this early situation and experience the emotions with more awareness. This abscess was opened.

The child got a chance to shape her own value, increase the self-esteem, get to know the story of her birth and recover «the continuous lifeline», which is going to give her an inner support in the future.


Sometimes in families with three or more children one child is chosen as a scapegoat and he or she is always guilty, bad, attracting all negative emotions. As the result they are beaten, called names and given bad nicknames.

When the child gets such message from the close siblings, it can leave a trauma inside which with the time can be acted out analogically in the adolescent environment.

Another side of psychological trauma can be connected with the situation of a single-time but cruel violence (a drunken fight, a loud scandal or scuffle). The child remains with the experience of inner unsafety, as if they remember that they can be attacked or can suffer. For example mother could break down and beat them up cruelly, or somehow unexpectedly show sharp aggressive behaviour. This way the feeling of unprotectedness can be encapsulated.

It is important to note that the traumatic situations described above can fail to cause the fixation, but the practice shows that at the early age psychic trauma can be a working hypothesis for the research of deeper unconscious reasons in the situation of stalking.

Reflecting on the psychological trauma we as Jungian analysts frequently use the metaphor of «the solid base of the soul».

«One should have a solid base of the soul and a distinct inner coordinate system which coincides with the Universe…. It is just like with the sea bottom. The surface may be disturbed by any waves or storms, but they still do not disturb the stability and perseverance of the bottom as the base. The same happens to the soul» (Chepovoy, 2017, p. 51).

Working with teenagers, our main task is to strengthen this base of personality. Various events in the lives of our patients will happen, just like spontaneous splashes of the water, that is why we together with the client are working upon «the solid base of the soul».


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