“It may be invisible, but the serious injury caused by bullying on the human brain is unmistakable,” says Dr. Fraser, author of “The Bullied Brain: Heal Your Scars and Restore Your Health.” “My lived experience as a victim of sexual abuse and a mother whose child was bullied at school by adults provided a painful perspective, compelling me to uncover the latest research with the help of leading neuroscientists.”
Far from the traditional playground setting, bullying behaviour is increasingly permeating all levels of society at an alarming rate and with disturbing severity. Headlines regularly capture power and intimidation being exerted in homes, schools, workplaces, boardrooms, locker rooms, religious settings, and the upper echelons of leadership, with few tangible tools to help victims recover, rebuild, and revitalize. Imaging scans offer visual evidence of the impact bullying and abuse can inflict on the brain in the form of physical scars, potentially leading to mental illness, substance abuse or chronic disease.
“Most bullies are blind to the fact their bullying and abusing behaviors are a strong form of progressive, self-inflicted neurological wounding,” says Dr. Michael Merzenich, PhD, Professor Emeritus at the University of California San Francisco (UCSF), Chief Scientific Officer at Posit Science and Founder of the Brain Plasticity Institute. “The plastic negative changes in that bully’s brain grow apace and will be embedded in their personhood for life—unless something is done about it,” he writes in a foreword to The Bullied Brain. “Dr. Fraser helps us understand the myriad of ways we humans can deploy to humiliate one another. While child-on-child bullying is commonplace, so too is adult-to-child and (of course) adult-to-adult abuse.”
In “The Bullied Brain,” her fourth book, Dr. Fraser, a native of Vancouver, alumnae of the University of British Columbia (UBC), who earned a PhD in Comparative Literature at the University of Toronto and taught there and also attended university in Quebec, describes how exposure to bullying can exact both physical and mental trauma over the lifespan, often manifesting as hyper-vigilance, while detracting from learning, problem-solving and creative pursuits.
“Transformative advances in science, coupled with the brain’s remarkable natural ability to heal itself, provide hope for those who have suffered at the hands of a bully,” says Dr. Fraser. “The myth that harsh conduct builds toughness and resilience is simply false and must be replaced by a greater understanding of how the brain’s innate power can repair damaged neural networks. We now have the necessary knowledge and tools to usher in an era of healing, rooted in empathy and trust, in order to undo the impact of abuse.”
Dr. Fraser has taught in high schools, colleges and universities in Ontario and BC. She spent five years researching and writing “The Bullied Brain,” following the suicide of a former student abused by an educator.