Looking for Belonging

One self-defense strategy against cyber bullying, as I’d suggested in an earlier column, is to learn Choice Theory. That can help someone who feels attacked realize that other people don’t “make” us do things, and therefore choose more effective behaviours.

Great, but what if you’re not the target? For example, Kara’s mom, Louise, is concerned. Kara is often upset when she checks her favorite social media pages. Yet Kara keeps checking, almost obsessively. Is there anything Louise can do?

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You can find the first article in the series here.

This next strategy concerns how we satisfy our basic needs. Reality Therapy defines five basic needs: survival, love and belonging, power, freedom, and fun. The short story is that if we perceive that we are pretty much satisfying those needs, we feel good. If there’s a big gap between our perception of what we need and what we have, though, then we do something to try to reduce that gap.

In his book, “Choice Theory in the Classroom,” Dr. Glasser states, “Any time you see a person doing anything, you can be sure that what she’s doing is her best attempt to satisfy some current need.”

So, why does Kara continuously check what her “friends” are saying about her on-line, even when the comments are hurtful? She’s attempting to satisfy a current need, and that need looks a lot like love and belonging. Maybe this time, finally this time, they’ll say I’m awesome!

We are social creatures. “Social” networking appeals to our need for friends, even if they’re virtual friends whom we’ll never meet.

If Kara (or anyone) measures how she is loved or how well she belongs by the number of “friends” who follow her on-line, then unfortunately she’s put herself in a very vulnerable place.

What is a friend, anyway? Someone who cares, encourages, respects, trusts. Do friends attack, taunt, and put each other down? Not if they want to stay friends! However, virtual “friends,” especially anonymous ones, feel no need to stick to friendly behaviours.

So what can Louise try?

The best defense for a vulnerable person is to have real, loving, caring relationships: the security of knowing that for someone in the world, we are truly special. Having the strong foundation of even one good relationship, be it a best friend or a family member, is a great defense strategy.

We can do so much alone in our technology-filled world. When Kara watches TV or sits at the computer, she doesn’t seem to need other people for entertainment. However, if Kara isn’t satisfying her love and belonging need through contact with real people, she’ll try to fill that gap though virtual ones.

Louise can encourage and support Kara in efforts to build relationships with people—in person. As well, Louise shouldn’t discount the value of her own relationship with Kara. It might seem that a relationship with Mom isn’t important to Kara at this point, but it is. Let Kara know that she is truly special.

No cyber-bulling strategy replaces the roles of police and various authorities. However, effective self-defense comes from many fronts, and it can help if Kara has several defenses. Do you think this one is helpful?

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