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Section 7
Coping with Peer Victimization

Question 7 | Test | Table of Contents

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In the last section, we discussed three factors of the impact of manipulation on a client within a clique structure.  These three factors are, the emotional toll of manipulation, diminished self-reliance and self-esteem, and entrapment and victimization. 

In this section, we will discuss a technique for desensitizing to clique manipulation tactics.   Six steps involved in the desensitizing technique are, defining terms, recognizing emotional reasoning, creating a tape, relaxation, practice, and desensitization in practice.

As you know, for clients to learn to resist manipulation in a clique structure effectively, they may benefit from learning to tolerate uncomfortable feelings.  Remember Debbie from the last section?  Debbie stated, "I understand the take 5 technique we practiced, but even when I take a few minutes to think, I feel so upset I can’t think properly.  I don’t want to keep trying to buy friends, but as soon as I think about saying no, I get so upset!" 

I stated to Debbie, "Right now, your negative emotions are on a very short fuse.  As soon as the clique girls light your fuse by making a manipulative request, your fuse burns down, and you experience this upset feeling that makes you want to comply right away."

Six Steps for Desensitizing to Clique Manipulation

♦ Step # 1 - Define the Terms
I explained to Debbie that a first step in desensitizing herself to the negative emotions triggered by attempting to resist clique manipulation was to learn to define the terms regarding the negative emotions she might experience.  I stated to Debbie, "Anxiety is an experience of worry or fear without an object being present.  The clique might try to trigger your anxiety by making vague references to something negative that may or may not happen. Another anxiety trigger might be if one of the girls makes a subtle comparison between you and someone she seems to prefer." 

I also explained to Debbie that unlike anxiety, fear is connected to a specific outcome or consequence, such as fear that the clique will abandon you, or fear of isolation, or fear of a fight.    In addition to anxiety and fear, I explained to Debbie that guilt is the feeling excessively responsible for the emotions or experiences of others.  I stated, "If someone is trying to make you feel guilty, she or he may cry, sulk, or pout, or even just keep speaking to you in a hurt tone of voice."

♦ Step # 2 - Recognize Emotional Reasoning
In addition to defining the terms regarding the negative emotions I indicated Debbie might try a second step in the desensitizing technique to recognize her emotional reasoning.

I stated to Debbie, "When you experience these negative feelings of anxiety, fear, or guilt, you may feel a lot of pressure to respond quickly so that these negative feelings go away.  This urgency can produce emotional reasoning.  Emotional reasoning is when you confuse your negative feelings with the thought that something negative or bad is actually happening.   Learning to desensitize yourself towards these negative emotions can help you remind yourself that although you feel guilty because the clique is upset with you, it does not means something terrible is actually happening."

♦ Step # 3 - Creating a Tape
In addition to defining emotional terms and recognizing emotional reasoning, a third step in the clique desensitizing technique is creating a tape.  I stated to Debbie, "To start desensitizing, first make a list of three situations in which you experienced anxiety, fear, or guilt, and felt pressured to comply with a clique member’s desires.  Use examples that are quite vivid in your memory.  Write a description of each example, taking care to describe just what the clique members said or did that resulted in you feeling negative emotions.  Also describe your negative emotional reaction in as much detail as possible." 

After Debbie chose and described her three examples, I asked her to record the examples into a cassette, CD, or mp3 player.  As you are well aware, any embellishments the client can add are beneficial, as the purpose of the tape is to recreate the experience of anxiety, fear, or guilt.

♦ Step # 4 - Relaxation
A fourth step in the clique desensitizing technique is relaxation.  I stated to Debbie, "Lie down on a comfortable bed or sofa.    Have your cassette, CD, or mp3 player by your side.  Begin by breathing deeply through your nose, wait for two second, then exhale fully through your mouth.  Continue breathing slowly and deeply."  I also instructed Debbie in a progressive relaxation technique.  Clearly, any technique for progressive relaxation that you are currently using with your clients can be appropriate. 

♦ Step # 5 - Practice
A fifth step in the desensitizing technique is practice.  I stated to Debbie, "After 2 minutes of relaxation breathing, turn on the recording of your first example.  Continue to breathe and relax as you listen to the scenario.  Imagine the scene in your mind.  Try to experience the same feelings that your example describes. As you allow yourself to feel anxiety, fear, or guilt, observe how you are able to control these feelings through your deep breathing and the relaxation of the body.  As the first recording ends, turn off the recording. 

"Keep the scene clearly in your mind.  Focus again on your rhythmic breathing.  Now say to yourself, ‘I may be feeling anxious or afraid or guilty, but I can tolerate it.  I am ok.’  Repeat the exercise for each scenario you recorded.  Each time, notice how you can counter your discomfort with focusing on your relaxation breathing and muscle relaxation."

♦ Step # 6 - Desensitization in Practice
In addition to defining terms, recognizing emotional reasoning, creating a tape, relaxation, and practice, a sixth step is desensitization in practice.  I encouraged Debbie to practice her recollections and relaxation at least twice each day for a week.  As you know, each time a client practices desensitization, the easier it will be for the client to accomplish pairing negative feelings with feelings of relaxation. 

I stated to Debbie, "In an actual setting of manipulation, desensitization is a quiet but potent tactic of resistance.  When the clique girls ramp up the pressure, try to relax like you have practiced, and tell yourself ‘I am feeling anxiety, but I can tolerate it.  I am ok.’  This can help you resist the urge to quickly comply, even when you know complying is against your best interests."  Think of your Debbie.  Would the desensitization technique help him or her resist clique manipulation?

In this section, we have discussed a technique for desensitizing to clique manipulation tactics.   Six steps involved in the desensitizing technique are, defining terms, recognizing emotional reasoning, creating a tape, relaxation, practice, and desensitization in practice.

Peer-Reviewed Journal Article References:
Mendez, J. J., Bauman, S., Sulkowski, M. L., Davis, S., & Nixon, C. (2016). Racially-focused peer victimization: Prevalence, psychosocial impacts, and the influence of coping strategies. Psychology of Violence, 6(1), 103–111.

Van Ryzin, M. J., & Roseth, C. J. (2018). Cooperative learning in middle school: A means to improve peer relations and reduce victimization, bullying, and related outcomes. Journal of Educational Psychology, 110(8), 1192–1201.

Visconti, K. J., Sechler, C. M., & Kochenderfer-Ladd, B. (2013). Coping with peer victimization: The role of children’s attributions. School Psychology Quarterly, 28(2), 122–140.

What are the Six steps in the clique desensitizing technique?
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Section 8
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