top of page

Confronting Culture of Bullying

Bullying seems to permeate every aspect of society today. Whether it's on social  media platforms or in everyday interactions, the undertone of unkindness and attacks is evident. Bullying has sadly become a subconscious societal norm in our increasingly polarized world.


As a dark-haired immigrant girl who was the target of bullying during my childhood in Sweden, I have felt the psychological and emotional effects of bullying. Even as a young woman on the path to becoming a doctor, I faced bullying. On the day of the 9/11 tragedy, while I was a medical student in the operating room, my attending physician made a callous and insensitive remark. In front of the entire surgical team, he turned to me and asked, "Oh, is that one of your relatives doing this?" The silence that followed was overwhelming. Despite feeling disgusted and dismayed, I couldn't find the words to respond. It was a moment where I felt racially profiled and bullied.

Bullying continues to show itself in every corner of life. As an adult I have observed the unsettling norm of friends being neglected and disregarded without explanation. As a parent, I witnessed my own children experiencing subtle micro bullying from their peers with the term "ghosting", where you completely avoid and stop communication pretending the person doesn’t exist, never being stamped as a traditional sense of bullying. This normalized behaviour, devoid of kindness and compassion, left me grappling with profound questions about the erosion of empathy versus have lost our ability to communicate our feelings and emotions? 

The notion of self-preservation and avoidance is cited as an explanation for this callous conduct. As human beings, both adults and children, how have we lost our intrinsic capacity to empathize and extend compassion to those around us? Is it because we as adult are not modelling this behaviour anymore ? Or are we neglecting our children to grow up with the influence and constant information and noise from social media? Do we think avoidance and pretending it’s not there will make things okay? 


As I look at the world in the lens of bullying, I see the harsh truth of global atrocities more clearly. Entire populations are subjected to inhumane treatment, deprived of basic human rights such as access to aid, food, and water. The implicit endorsement and rationalization by society at large stand as a testament to the erosion of our collective empathy and unity. When world leaders showcase bullying behaviour running for the free world, are they not implicitly endorsing discrimination against those who differ in appearance, speech, or beliefs?


I find myself wondering: Is our society truly lacking in kindness and compassion? Or are we all unwell? The silence, disregard, and lack of empathy in our daily interactions, regardless of age, profession, or community, must be challenged!

It is crucial we start breaking the silence and confront the culture of bullying, not just as individuals but as our collective responsibility to nurture empathy, understanding, and humanity starting in our own homes. 

We can do all this only if we are truly well; mentally, physically and emotionally, and aware and present to what’s unravelling in front of us. Only through compassion and solidarity can we strive to unravel the pattern of cruelty and neglect that has seeped into the fabric of our society. 

Instead of just showcasing our differences in the name of equity, diversity and inclusion, how about pointing out our commonalities as well? How about teaching the young generation better communication with conflict resolution skills? How about giving  insight on how to calm the mind and nervous system so that we are not constantly in the fight/flight/freeze feeling you need to be protecting yourself from past trauma. Psychological safety is one of the main requirements for the Maslow’s hierarchy of needs and that we need to ensure in our homes, schools, institutions and work places. 

I want to stay hopeful, and want to truly believe that by fostering collective well-being and cultivating compassion in our homes, communities, and society, we can initiate the change needed. 

Be authentic and truthful! Have you or your loved ones experienced bullying? How did you respond? What are you going to do to foster that compassion in your own home? 

It begins with each of us! 

Kind regards, Dr Zeineddin


bottom of page