Bully Incident: – The Sewer (1974)

This is the second in my repeats of stories past as I have been writing my novel. I think many kids feared sewers, particularly after Stephen King released “IT”, certainly a book that tied to the fear of sewers. Since writing this story many years ago, I realize that things like feeling trapped or claustrophobic are common place feelings for people with C-PTSD damage from bullying or abuse. It is the idea of not being able to escape. To help confront this, I would force myself to sit in the middle at movie theaters, go to the barber and try not to panic in the barber chair and go to crowded places. Even though I wanted to run away at the height of my anxiety, I forced myself to stay through the panic attack and eventually, I stopped having them. There is only one way to go with anxiety, and that is confront it head on and go through it. Just as the kids who become adults do in Stephen King’s novel, IT. ~Alan Eisenberg

I have mentioned before how our brains have a tendency to put certain memories in the far backs of our heads. They are forgotten there, until sometimes a trigger can bring them forward.

Pretty much all of my stories I have told on this blog are from my days in Lexington, MA. But, something triggered me to remember the earliest incident I can recall the other day. I’ll call this the Sewer Incident. It’s more of a minor story, but still was an early bullying in my life. I don’t know why I had forgotten it, because when I recalled it, I realized how scary it was when I was only 6 years old in 1974.

We were living in Bowie, MD at the time. I was in 1st grade and took a long bus ride to school. I recall only fleeting memories of what happened, but my older sister was with me to help me recall more.

ITThe bus stop was at a sewer. I was a pretty small kid and, of course, there were kindergarten to 6th grade kids at the bus. One of the older kids had taken the sewer cap off the sewer. Of course these were very heavy metal things.

For some reason they chose me that day. They put me down in the sewer. I can’t recall if it was a bet or just a forced concept, but they made me climb down there. Then they put the lid back on it.

It was dark. I yelled for them to let me up. Instead they sat on it and taunted me from below. I recall just crying and being quite scared. Years later, the author Stephen King made me realize I was not alone in my fears of the dark sewer in his book “IT”.

My sister was yelling for them to stop and let me up. When they didn’t, she started running home and told them she was going to get my parents to come down. Once they heard that, they changed their minds and let me out.

OK, not the worst story and probably more of a joke to them than true bullying, but still something that scared a small 6 year old. I recall years later being offered the chance to go down the sewers at my college for what was billed as a fun night of sewer running by my college friends. I respectfully declined the invitation.

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Bullying Incident: The Dunes (1973)


As I work on my book and given that it has been seven+ years, since these were originally published here, I am going to republish my personal bullying stories, this time in the chronological order they happened. I hope for new readers, this will give you a glimpse of why I started this site and shared my stories. Here is my first story in 1973, when I was five years old and the first time I recall bullying intimidation. I also want to add a lesson that I have now learned. One of the important aspects that I have learned since originally sharing my stories years ago is the importance of letting go of the past and learning from it to move on.

What I learned from this incident is that, in your life, you will meet wonderful people who are the majority of us and that do care about us. But you will also meet people who will use intimidation and just plain cruelty as well. The important lesson is this:

Always keep the wonderful people as close to you in your life and learn to let go and walk away from those that don’t make you feel good. You don’t need them in your life and they will only bring you down. ~ Alan Eisenberg

Originally posted on Bullying Stories:

There was really a point where I thought that I was done telling the personal bullying stories from my youth. Memory is a very funny thing and how memories return to you that are stuck in the recesses of the brain still fascinates me.

Sometimes it makes me wonder if memories get lost over time, only to be found at a trigger moment. The other thing it makes me wonder is if these lost memories are always true memories at all. This one came back to me recently. I think it stayed back in the lost area of my mind, because it wasn’t as dramatic or have the full affect on me as the kids bullying me in school did. This was quite a different situation, where an adult was the one bullying and I was a very young child, no more than five.

The Dunes

I was living in Bowie, Maryland…

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2015 – Hold On It’s Going to Be a Bumpy Ride

Hello dear reader. I am so glad that you are here. If you are a new reader, WELCOME.

If you have been following my journey of self discovery after the long-term effects of bullying for these last 8 years that my Blog/Website has existed, thank you for staying with me. I OWE YOU MUCH!

So, it is at this time of year that I always reflect back, as do many of us, on what 2014 looked like and what progress was made in the long battle with the bullying issue. I still believe we are seeing more press, more rules and laws, and less acceptance of bullying in the schools and communities.

Types of Bullying ReportedThat said, here are some sobering statistics. In 2014*:

  1. 20% of United States students in grades 9-12 have reported bullying experience.
  2. 28% of students in grade 6-12 report that they have been bullied.
  3. 70.6% of teens have seen bullying in their schools.
  4. 30% of young people admit to bullying others.
  5. 57% of bullying stops if a young person intervenes within 10 seconds.
  6. 160,000 teens skip school each day because they are bullied
  7. 1 in 10 teens drop out of school due to repeated bullying
  8. 75% of school shootings have been linked to harassment and bullying against the shooter
  9. 55.2% of students with special needs report being bullied.
  10. For youth between the ages of 10 and 24, suicide is the third leading cause of death or about 4,600 lives lost each year.
  11. Kids who are bullied are more than twice as likely to consider suicide according to the American Journal of Medicine.

So, that’s a downer isn’t it. But it is the statistics of the last year and we cannot deny any longer that the effects of long-term bullying are real. I wish it wasn’t the downer it appears to be, but it is not the worst case scenario and we are doing good work to try to improve these things.

That said, 2014 was an interesting year for me. It was the year of my own journey of self discovery about my own long-term effects, anxiety, depression, and finally recovery from the bullying that happened to me. Little did I know two years ago, when my problems first appeared that this would happen to me. But I have truly let go and forgiven the past. If you read this year’s posts, I hope you would see what I mean.

It was WORK. It was a FIGHT against my own brain that wanted to tell me things that were not true. It was a journey of self discovery, from who I was, to who I am, to who I hope to be in the future. I took several friends and family members along for my ride and it wasn’t fun for them, I know.

But, I am glad that, now that I have been there, I know what it feels like and hope I can help others. On that note, this little site that could that I started 8 years ago will continue. But it will continue this year with some reposts of my stories and any stories you wish to submit. This is because I am taking a new journey this year that I hope will be something I can share. You are the first to know.

BooksI am writing a book about my experiences and sharing my journey to self-acceptance from the bullying that affected me. I am dedicating my little free time to that. In the meantime, I will repost the best posts here from the last eight years and also share any new stories you wish to send me.

I am looking forward to long-form writing and know it will be a very tough journey ahead. But I am finally in a place from both my heart and head to do this job that I have wanted to do for so long.

2014 was certainly a better year for me than 2013 and 2012 for that matter. I hope through our continued mutual efforts we can all make a difference to lower the statistical numbers for 2015, but only time will tell. Until then, I wish you happiness, health, and the ability to stay positive in the face of adversity and fight your demons head on. Be strong and I look forward to continuing to share with you in the future. I hope once my book is completed, you will continue to support me and my efforts by sharing the book with others. More to come as the year continues on. I hope this is a peaceful and good year for you.

~ Alan Eisenberg

* http://www.americanspcc.org/bullying/facts-teen-suicide/
* http://nobullying.com/bullying-statistics-2014/

Creating Hate

Creating HateI recently received the opportunity to interview the author of the new book “Creating Hate: How It Is Done. How to Destroy It. A Practical Handbook”, which takes a deep look at the root of how hate is created and perpetrated by others. Much like many things in bullying, hatred and resentment are feelings that both the victim and the bully can have. These issues can work themselves into the psyche of the person and then continue for their life. Author Nancy Omeara takes readers on a journey to the origins of hate and how we might better deal with it in the future. I learned much from my interview with her as I hope you will reading it.

Q: Why do you think there is so much apathy today in the world? Do you believe we are more apathetic today or empathetic?

Ms. Omera: It might be because today people can see bad things happening “live” from anywhere in the world, so think they can’t do anything about it themselves.  This isn’t true.  Just by looking around – including at websites like yours – one can see that individuals make a difference every day.  Even small changes, collectively, make a big difference.

Q.: Why do you think people struggle with race relations so much? What do you believe is the cause of hatred among different races?

Ms. Omera: In my experience it is mostly ignorance reinforced by lies or information that is partly true, but is slanted to lower the opinion of another race.  Truths – like the facts that DNA, blood tests, brain scans, x-rays, IQ tests, driving exams, etc. don’t show any difference in races – are not pushed. Truthfully “race” is about skin pigmentation – with northern races needing less pigment because the sun’s rays are weaker.

I once read about a white boy living in Africa whose local friends felt sorry for him because of his lack of color – thus easily sunburned skin.

Q:  You talk of the use of Generalities as a hate issue? This has been going on for centuries, whether race or religion. Why do you believe this still continues today and how can it be stopped? Even today, people use terms such as “they tried to jew me down” to talk about someone negotiating. Do you think people even know what they are saying anymore? Are they really hateful or ignorant?

Ms. Omera: People haven’t been taught that hurtful generalities can breed hate and ill-will. Words like they, them, everyone, all can be used as destructive propaganda. As can, of course, words that put a whole class of people in a negative light.

We have to look at individuals – how they behave, how they treat others, what they do in life.  Where they came from, their parentage they had no control over.

Q: Do you believe that, as in your book, leaders perpetrate lies in order to create hate? It seems true more in the 20th and 21st centuries. Why has this become part of accepted culture?

Ms. Omera: Yes, leaders of groups like the KKK, anti-gay organizations, some political group organizations, and even some religious leaders push the faults of what they oppose, rather than promoting better ideas from their own group. Maybe it’s accepted because we want to believe it.

I don’t think most people really believe everything they hear from their leaders.  Too many have been proven wrong in hindsight.   I think the average person is a lot more discerning than their leaders realize.  (Which might be why leaders change so often in so many groups.)

Q: You talk in your book about religious intolerance or religious hatred. Why do you think it is so easy to use religion as a way to create hate? How can this be stopped?

Ms. Omera: Most of us really know very little about other religions.  It is not studied in public school (separation of Church and State), nor usually in religious-based schools (like Catholic schools).  So unless we actually meet, talk to in-depth, delve, and ask deeper questions, we might know the surface differences between religions.

In fact, it doesn’t take much digging to learn that most religions (in their actual writings, maybe not some interpretations) teach about caring for one’s fellow man, respecting all people, the importance of family.  Universal similarities at the most basic level.

Q: How guilty do you believe the mainstream media is today in helping continue the spread of hate? For example, why do you think the media focuses more on negative stories than helping promote more positive items the world, to include political rhetoric?

Mainstream media has an agenda – they run stories based on harm, sex, big money, big names and controversy. A story is considered “sexy” the more of these items it contains.  You can prove this to yourself by looking up the information on who wins Nobel Prizes – for immensely important contributions to science and culture.  Nobel Prize Winners might get a 2-inch square on a front page in complete opposition to the contribution their work has for the future of mankind.

I’ve spoken to many media people and have rarely found them deeply interested in the truth.  Instead they want a “story” – with as much controversy as possible.

Q: The book talks of trying to push non-violence, a feeling I also share. How do you think the world can start to think more in that manner? Is it a matter of education or continued ignorance on the part of parts of the world?

Non-violence requires education and rational heads.  When violence breaks out everyone and anyone who can make their voice heard needs to do so.  We can’t just leave it to the police. Ministers, school principals, teachers, Scout leaders, parent groups have to take action. History is filled with the excellent results of people standing strong for peaceful, non-violent change and for redress of wrongs in a non-violent way. I don’t know that these examples are given enough importance in our study of history.

Q: Finally, my website deals with the long-term effects of bullying. How do you think bullying fits in with early learning of hatred and how can we change the thinking of that younger bully to learn to be more non-violent? On that note, do you think hate is a natural trait or a taught trait?

Children have to be taught to respect others.  It should be done by parents but we know that doesn’t always happen. So it has to be taught in school.

Children are actually greatly affected by those around them.  If children won’t let other children bully, it can be stopped. Children can be taught to stand up, not violently, but by telling a bully to stop, telling them it’s not OK.  Kids can be quite strong. They can stand up against bullying and that can stop the minority of children who do bully.

I was rarely bullied myself as I could use the threat of my two older brothers to scare off other children. So in my experience bullies are cowards.  They attack from a position of weakness. I’d like to see the “good kids” ganging up, speaking out against and stopping bullying.

One final comment is that a better measure of any person, rather than religion, race, sexual preference, is whether they are living a productive, contributive life.  I.e. Are they adding to the world – from web-designers to fireman, teachers to counselors – people whether a person is giving or taking (as in criminals, in jail, using your hard-earned money to live on) should be the measure.  Schools seem to teach facts and figures.  Parents, siblings, groups like Scouts and 4H, Church groups, these seem to teach values.  The more values and the more ability to think for oneself – the better.

You can get Nancy Omeara’s new book “Creating Hate: How It Is Done. How to Destroy It. A Practical Handbook” at bookstores and on Amazon.com to learn more about this subject and about how Ms. Omeara approaches stopping hate.

NANCY OMEARA volunteered on a national religious tolerance hotline for over five years , personally answering more than 5,000 calls and helping people resolve all kinds of situations involving deep belief differences. Nancy has lived in seven different countries, and visited a dozen others, interacting with people of diverse religions, backgrounds and values. The concepts in this book stem from her personal experiences. (Biography courtesy of Amazon.com)

Creating Hate Book Jacket

Todd Rosenthal’s Playground Playbook

Todd Rosenthal

Todd Rosenthal

I had an opportunity to interview Todd Rosenthal and review The Playground Playbook by former minor league ballplayer Todd Rosenthal. Mr. Rosenthal takes and interesting coaching approach in his book to help children who struggle with playground bullies and getting involved in the games. During his interview, Mr. Rosenthal brings up some interesting points about how to get your child involved in the playground to try to overcome bullying. ~ Alan Eisenberg

Q: Where did the inspiration for you to write The Playground Playbook come from for you. Was it your past or something you experienced or saw?

Todd Rosenthal: It was a combination of a few things. I spend a majority of my time in three ways. Playing music, working with children through sports, and for recreation by playing pick up basketball in New York City. I saw many of the same themes crossing over in all of those areas and wondered if there was a “basics” type of guide written for kids in terms of joining groups in the same impromptu playground settings.

Q: What do you think the long-term effects of children ostracize other children on the playground can cause?

Todd Rosenthal: I think for the ones ostracized, it can cause a lack of confidence that can be habit-forming which can lead to less than optimal performances in and away from sports. That self-doubt that says “they don’t like me” or “they don’t believe in me” can be harder to overcome if one is constantly being excluded at a young age.

The ones doing the excluding are not maximizing their own skills as people either because great players should strive to improve too and become leaders: those who play well yet can make others around them better and more comfortable too. Leaders are able to include and work alongside teammates with various levels of skill.

In the elementary school playgrounds, those same leaders shouldn’t always have to win by loading their team up. They can sense a newcomer or a shy kid and welcome the challenge to include him or her to the team.

Playground PlaybookQ:  In the book, you discuss the child wanting others to ask to play. How do you see this issue as part of the overall bullying problem. Such as they not only say no, but also tease the child? What do you think the child should do in those cases, such as your reference to the “you stink” issue?

Todd Rosenthal: It never a good feeling being rejected by a playing group and feels even worse if it comes with lines attached like “you stink.” The best way I have found for kids to overcome that stigma is to prove the playing group wrong. Be tough! keep asking to play each day until the group finally needs an extra body one day and go out there and make an impact in the game.

If not, you can always just showcase your skills in the neighboring field or court where the ostracize group can see you. One thing the excluded child cannot do however, is back down and quit. Never to play with anyone else at all.

Q: Do you think that “veteran” players are easily identified? If so, how do you see their role in helping a child be able to join and play as well?

Todd Rosenthal: Veterans probably seem more relaxed to the rookie than they themselves feel so, yes. Vets probably are more relaxed too, after all they have been through it before. That is the essence of a veteran. They’ve been in all sorts of games. Blowouts, close games, high scoring ones, low scoring ones. They’ve made plays and have made mistakes. They’ve been the hero and the goat. All of which combine to give them a sense of stature and calm in the games.

Veterans know not only the intricacies of a sport’s rules, they may also know how their particular playground works. How sides are chosen. Which of the groups players acts as the leaders picking the sides most often. A veteran can offer advice in many areas and can be helpful to a “rookie” in terms of knowing who to ask as far as joining the game. Rookies have to speak up and ask vets their questions though, because not all of them are thinking about how to be helpful to those less experienced.

Q: Why do you think bullying on the playground is so prevalent? Do you have any suggestions further than the ones in the book on dealing with the bully at the time they are bullying you?

Todd Rosenthal: Bullying is prevalent because it is a basic microcosm of power, it can corrupt some people who go unchallenged. In my experience as a player in street ball, the best way to deal with physical or verbal abuse is to not back down. Play well, and be ready to stand up for one’s self if it comes to that. Most of the players I’ve run into on the courts in streetball who go to excessive lengths to scare or talk smack are hiding something. Like their own inability to shoot, or dribble well. Keep that in mind the next time you are being bullied, and work hard to not let a little extra shoving or smack talk derail you from playing your game. It’s harder to bully a player who doesn’t seem affected than one who plays less aggressively as a result.

Q: What tips do you have to help children build a tougher skin when playing games on a playground? Certainly some complain, but how can children develop coping mechanisms to better deal with those situations?

Todd Rosenthal: First understand where blame from the team within comes from. Those who try to assign blame on a teammate for a previous mistake do so to build collateral against their own gaffes or seek to camouflage them by pointing the finger elsewhere, since nobody is perfect. Know that as a player. This way the “why did you do that?!!” nonsense you may get from a teammate won’t bother you as much.

As far as handling winning and losing, and the smack talk that comes from all directions, just play more. Experience it over and over. Then the whole nature of game playing becomes easier. Like riding a bike. You have to practice to take the fear of falling out.

Q: Would you like to share a bullying story here with my readers that you experienced? How did you handle your own issues with bullying in your youth?

Todd Rosenthal: I was verbally bullied pretty hard after a pickup game in a park as an adult years ago. This after the man I was guarding scored the game winning basket in a high intensity game that was tied, and the next basket was to be the winner. The loss, as it does in pickup hoops if others are waiting, forced my team off the court. It was jam-packed that day. Many other five man teams had called “next.”

I didn’t know anybody in the park at all and my reward for being the face of the defeat, was abuse for an hour from my now “ex teammates.” Things like “thanks a lot, you suck” or “how’d you let that happen? and of course “Don’t ever come back here.” Two players in particular who were furious with me, now that they had to wait until their “next” was called one plus hour from the time we lost or hope that another team would pick them up to play before.

The more I watched the rest of that day though, the more I realized that EVERYONE who lost on other teams that followed the game I was in, were blamed by their teammates that day. So it was not just me. It wasn’t necessarily personal either. My team didn’t dislike ME. They disliked losing and losing the court.

By continuing to show up at the park and not attach too much weight should any game result in a loss and or finger-pointing, I became part of that extended group of players at the park. Emotionally capable of “taking some heat” so to speak, so rewarded with the opportunity to play by being picked by others forming teams that year as the summer developed.

Q: Where can people get “The Playground Playbook“?

Todd Rosenthal: It’s available on Amazon both as a soft cover copy and as a digital download.

A Look Toward The Future of Battling the Bully Problem

What new technologies are coming in the future? Well it’s certainly unpredictable. But guest blogger Paul Rothbein has some ideas and I believe he might be on to something. Below are a few of his thoughts as well as a new perspective to the age old problem of bullying. ~Alan Eisenberg

Karen Klein CheckIn 2012, 32,251 people donated over $700,000 worth of money to a charitable project within 30 days. All these individuals donated $700,000 for Karen Klein to go on vacation. Who is Karen Klein and why would anyone donate money for someone to go on vacation? Karen Klein was a 68 year old woman who was videotaped being bullied on a bus by middle-school children.

Her daughter Amanda created a crowdfunding campaign to raise $5,000 for her to experience relief after this traumatic experience. The video went viral and she received the support from as over 32,000+ donors and 14,000% more money than the original funding goal. This is the direct opposite of cyber-bullying.

Unfortunately, most of the donors if not all the donors were not middle school children but adults. Children are normally not sensitive towards bullying like adults are. Soon, there might be apps in 2016 that encourage cyber bullying. Right now Facebook and other major social networks don’t have any policies to ban cyber bullying. With obesity on the rise among young children there will probably be more students being bullied for being overweight.

What we learned from the Karen Klein story is that the internet has as great ability to counter bullying as it can to inspire bullying. The story of Karen Klein also represents the power of video. How could a low budget movie like Gasland could prevent the world’s largest industry (oil and gas) the ability to drill for natural gas in New York, in France, in South Africa, and across the world? The low budget film Blackfish has significantly hurt SeaWorld’s stock after raising concerns about how Orcas are bullied by being raised in captivity.

Will there be a movie or video released somewhere in 2015 – 2020 that will inspire the same change on the issue of bullying? It is possible. However, adults must be the ones to step up. We need something in the near future about something that does not only raise awareness on the issue of bullying. We need something that creates a sense of urgency to tackle the issue of bullying. ~Paul Rothbein

Paul Rothbein is a future enthusiast and the founder of The Perspective 2020 Directory to Everything, and the Perspective 2020 Almanac To Everything: A Decade In Review. Both are due to be released in early 2015, with a Kickstarter campaign set for December 1. More details can be found on perspectivethemag.com.

Why I Wear Contacts (A Personal Story)

glassesWhen I was in high school, a friend of mine thought my wearing contacts was a sign of vanity. He thought I wore them because I thought glasses were nerdy or uncool. Clearly there were many things wrong with this friendship; but even after I rid myself of him, I couldn’t rid myself of the nagging feeling that maybe he was right– until I was reminded why he was wrong.

I have been wearing contacts since the summer before 8th grade, which was approximately 20 years ago (give or take). Before that, I’d worn glasses since 3rd grade. Both of my parents have terrible eye sight, and the genetic lottery dealt me the same hand.

My parents knew my eyesight was bad when I started getting frequent headaches, which is a common symptom of both nearsightedness and farsightedness in children. Our family eye doctor confirmed my nearsightedness and walked me to the eye-glass center at the other end of his office. There, I picked out the most righteous pair of huge, pale pink glasses you’ve ever seen (kind of like these, but definitely not Givenchy).

So I wore bulky, plastic glasses for 5 years, but the headaches didn’t seem to fade. When I turned 13, the eye doctor suggested contacts. He explained that the blurriness in my peripheral vision, where my glasses lenses didn’t reach, could be causing the headaches. So I got contacts and my world was changed.
I didn’t get headaches all the time and glasses no longer slide down my nose. I didn’t freak out during PE when a ball came flying at me, worried my glasses would break. I could wear sunglasses and not the kind that clipped onto my frames. I became more confident because people could see me, rather than a face half-obscured by glasses.

Fast forward many, many years and I found myself in my early 30s and I had tried every kind of contact—daily, monthly, yearly, and color tinted. Then I moved to Austin, where pollen allergies make you wish you didn’t have mucus ducts. My eyes got so red, dry, itchy, and irritated, that I couldn’t fathom putting anything in those bright bring orbs. So I had to give up my contacts in favor of glasses. And guess what? The headaches came back.

With some natural remedies and some medical ones, as well, I finally got my allergies under control enough to wear my contacts again. And when I was ready to pop those contacts back in, I thought of my very judgmental friend and smirked. I can’t express how grateful I am that I chose to drop him, rather than my contacts.

~Amanda Ronan