Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Evaluating Research on Human Development, Anti-Bullying: Case Studies


My focus is on two anti-bullying programs implemented in educational systems, as well as society: Exploring the Anti-bullying Role of a Befriending Peer Support Programme: A Case Study within the Primary School Setting in Northern Ireland and Pushing Schools Around: New Jersey's Anti-Bullying Bill of Rights Act. 

My argument is (1) To present a basic understanding of bullying and anti-bullying programs.  (2) To present the importance of mental, emotional, spiritual, and physical well-being in addition to legal action and implications in regards to bullying.

“To us, then, laws protecting innocent and defenseless children from dangers like exploitation at work, pornography, neglect, and abuse make sense. It seems inconceivable to us that the protection of innocent children is not a fundamental value in all societies, present and past.”  (David Newman. Sociology: Exploring the Architecture of Everyday Life. Fifth Edition. Chapter 4).

Bullying is the use of predominant strength or influence to terrorize someone. This results in an ongoing destruction of the health and well-being of human beings, beginning in elementary school and progressing into adulthood. Bullying affects the children and families involved, in turn, affecting the community and educational system. Age and gender are not specific in regards to bullying; however, primary school children are by large, targeted. 

A primary school case study in Northern Ireland, Exploring the Anti-bullying Role of a Befriending Peer Support Programme, focuses on the importance of the primary school bullying as being a subjective experience. For example, the importance of the bullied and those bullied addresses the understanding that both are subject to emotional and developmental health issues. There is scientific research cited in this case study that suggests, “Bullying is strongly associated with poorer mental health.” (Hawker & Boulton 2008).  Furthermore, they discovered an increase in suicide, depression and psychosomatic behavior between both the victim and victimizer.

In the Ireland case studies, a most integral aspect debates whether emotional, mental and physical illnesses arise from victimization or precede the onset of bullying. This factor asserts that children that have been bullied are more susceptible to further bullying, hence, carrying into adulthood. For example, some cases involving alcoholism, drug use, abuse, addiction, mental and emotional disorders, violence, and criminal activity can then be associated with low self-esteem as a child due to bullying.

Northern Ireland considered these diverse scientific studies and started an anti-bullying policy by securing a cross-departmental initiative titled, “Northern Ireland Child and Adolescent Mental Health Strategy.”  The Northern Ireland Anti-Bullying Forum, funded by the Department of Education in 2006, placed a statutory duty on all schools to the development and implementation of anti-bullying policies. Since this policy, bullying persevered. This forced Ireland to enact the role of friendships and peer groups to join in the anti-bullying campaign. 

By exploring the social constructs and culture of bullying, in addition to a support network of friends, children were less likely to be isolated. The support system, started at school level by an instructor, involves children that volunteer for training in active listening and empathy. In turn, reducing prejudice by communication on how to deal with conflict constructively.

The scientific studies that resulted from this initiative provided the opportunity to chart progress within the school systems and the communities. This provided a systematic way of tracking events and cases by use of collecting data, analyzing information and reporting results. The scientific approach led to a better understanding of how the implementation of this program served Northern Ireland and reported findings in order to educate and train other school systems in starting this practice. 

The program was effective because children were directly involved, listened to and trained. Their opinions mattered.  In this program, the children are the ones consulted and they actively carry out their decisions on bullying situations. In Northern Ireland, they saw bullying as a systemic problem that needed a systemic solution. As a result, a whole school system involvement led to less bullying.

In September 2010, 18-year-old Rutgers University student Tyler Clementi committed suicide by jumping off the George Washington Bridge after discovering his college roommate used a webcam to observe him during an intimate encounter with another man. (Norgard, Holly. (2014). Pushing Schools Around: New Jersey's Anti-Bullying Bill of Rights Act. Seton Hall Law Review). Tyler’s roommate posted this utterly private information on social media. 

This horrible incident woke the world up to the importance of cyber-bullying. Within weeks, New Jersey’s legislators founded the
New Jersey Anti-Bullying Bill of Rights Act. In addition to legislation, the Tyler Clementi Higher Education Anti-Harassment Act was enacted that involved federal legislation that forced universities to implement stronger policies disallowing bullying and harassment on campus. This incident is a fine example of how bullying carries over into adulthood.

The Tyler Clementi Higher Education Anti-Harassment Act was tough to implement. The federal regulations are stern. This act plays upon universities and colleges receiving federal student financial aid. For example, matriculated students are prohibited by law to harass other students, faculty, and staff regarding race, ethnicity, disability, religion and sexual gender, orientation and identity. In addition, this act demands that colleges submit all anti-harassment policies to students and employees, even non-matriculated students focusing on strict adherence to the prohibition of cyber-bullying. While this looks good on paper, in practice it is difficult to achieve. 

In this instance, legislature was quick to act in passing federal law without addressing the underlying root cause of bullying. This act is referred to the “toughest law in the country” due to the impossibility of every single college and university being able to comply with regulations laid forth by legislation. Six months after this law was put into place, a study of 12 New Jersey schools showed over 1,000 instances of bullying. The numbers of bullying incidents also increased from 2011-2012.

Developmentalists assume that the process of development persists throughout every part of people’s lives, beginning with the moment of conception and continuing until death.” (Robert S. Feldman. Development Across the Lifespan. Chapter 1, Pages 4-5).

One failure of The Tyler Clementi Higher Education Anti-Harassment Act is lack of scientific theory. This is where lifespan development, a field of study that examines growth and behavior over an entire lifespan, needs utilization. With this method, there is immense focus on human development. Lifespan development is about growth and change in people. As seen in the instance between Tyler and his roommate, one can easily deduce that both adults carried into adulthood bullying instances experienced in childhood. Whether each was the victim or victimized, both Tyler and his roommate exhibited patterns of behavior that did not heal. 

Researching the stability of the environments of each student involved is yet another way this act can gain momentum with implementation. An example of this is to study the reported bullying instances only instead of passing law on all schools and affiliates. This way, discovery of root cause is present, specific students and faculty get help; this act will then prove to be sustainable, lessen the impact of all people, and focus on those guilty or involved.

A secondary failure of this act is it does not specifically cover cyber-bullying or any action taken off campus. In this age of technology, anyone anywhere can post, in seconds, anything on several social media sites at once. There is not enough labor or money to begin to monitor such behavior, let alone this sort of monitoring breaking law already present in amendments in the United States Constitution. 

While the two acts, New Jersey's Anti-Bullying Bill of Rights Act, and The Tyler Clementi Higher Education Anti-Harassment Act are necessary, there is no scientific basis behind each act. Legislation simply passed law without understanding bullying or cyber-bullying.

The positive impact of this law is it brought to the forefront, internationally, and defined, gravely, bullying and cyber-bullying. Unfortunately, it took the death of a human being to accomplish this. Furthermore, specifically in New Jersey, numerous deaths and suicides were found after this act passed. 

It causes me to wonder how long people have been bullied, victimized, asked for help and never received it or were too scared to say anything at all. It also makes me wonder how many lives could have been saved if bullying and cyber-bullying were taught earlier to grade schoolchildren, families, community and staff. 

In my own experience in regards to bullying, I have been the victim and the victimizer. As an overweight child with an dark skinned best friend in an all-white Catholic school, every grade school day of our lives was filled with being called “fatty” and “nigger.” There was no inclusion in gym or social activities in and outside of school. The pushing around and name calling was not that bad, it was after repeated instances of my best friend having bubblegum put in her long beautiful black hair until eventually, she had to have it all cut off that she transferred schools. I stayed. 

An interesting turn of events occurred when I became severely ill with scarlet fever in sixth grade that resulted in hospitalization and extreme weight loss. Upon return to the new school year, seventh grade, everyone wanted to be my friend. I absolutely rebelled. I wanted nothing to do with that. It was a scarring experience. The teachers and institution did not care, there was nothing implemented, let alone taught, in school or in community about bullying. You just dealt with it, stood up for yourself the best you could and got on with life. 

The most I was able to do before seventh grade, was tell my older sisters and they showed up at school anytime someone was truly threatening. As a direct result of victimization, my friend and I then victimized others. Nothing as severe as our experiences, briefly explained above, however, we were indeed acting out. That did not progress into adulthood, thankfully, a fleeting experience.

In conclusion, all aspects of bullying, cyber-bullying, regardless of the age of the person doing the bullying, is imperative to be addressed in early childhood.  Whether this is taught in school as a course, in the community as a workshop, or in the home by parents, the importance of knowing if you are being bullied or you are the one doing the bullying, is integral in creating healthy human beings.

It is my belief via research and personal experience, that in our present world, these aspects of development are not sufficiently taught. Education is forefront in eradicating bullying and if needed, legislation can then step in and pass necessary law. As seen with the instances in Northern Ireland, action, education and scientific method came first and was a success. 

In New Jersey, laws passed without education, scientific method, correct action, and failed. We all must be vigilant, with our own children, children we know, as educators, parents, family members and professionals, to be able to recognize, address and educate ourselves and others on how to recognize bullying and properly address it. While laws are necessary, they are not always the answer. Action, education and scientific fact must all be the first and foremost things considered when dealing with victimization.

Further Education:


Monday, September 4, 2017

Shahada: My Second Volume of Poetry

This is now available on Kindle HERE 
In print HERE

I am thrilled to announce my second book of poetry, Shahada

Shahada is a noun meaning, To observe, witness, testify. 

This is a volume of pure stream of consciousness, poetry derived from years of talking with the world, myself, the human condition, based upon existentialism, raw sexuality, passion, the Divine Feminine and Sacred Masculine, Mother Earth, Father Sky, wind, water, wood, metal and fire. 

The art of survival in a time of dying.

These words are a result of years of paying attention to my intuition, to absolute stream of consciousness, to being alive, aware, mindful and grateful for all that is.

This is available Kindle and Print HERE.

Please support me in gifting words from a most open and grateful heart.

I promise you will NOT be disappointed. 

Please check out my Amazon Author page HERE.  

Read Reviews of Shahada HERE 

This book is also a part of --> Kindle Unlimited and the --> Kindle Owners' Lending Library.

Keep the peace people. Support the artists of our world.  

Saturday, August 19, 2017

A Journey Into the Void

"Dawn greeted me as the sky continued to bleed, painting the breasts of birds with its tears. I did not know whether to laugh or cry, I simply stood in awe of the red breasted robin perched on a solitary limb." 

- Susan Marie 

Fall is near, as I write these words to you now, thinking back to the exact moment above when summer was not even close to having its last dance with humankind. You see, it is a most unusual circumstance that has presented itself in my life. For the past year and a half, I have been severely allergic to pollen. Allergic to pollen. Yes, me, allergic to pollen. Not your ordinary hay fever, sinus headache, stuffy nose, itchy eyes either, the "bronchospasm, cannot breathe, holy crow, I think I may be having an anaphylactic reaction" kind of allergic. 

This is of course nothing new, it has just never been pollen. My dear nature, the lovely budding trees, the ones I put my arms around every chance I get, this physical human body now has turned on me, apparently, and recognizes pollen as an invader. There is no cure, no immune disorder present, no medication, no holistic way to get past this. I tried everything.


The only way to avoid having to use an epinephrine pen or albuterol inhaler followed by a visit to the emergency room is to avoid the pollen. That means staying indoors. 

Staying Indoors! What?! I live in a climate on the East Coast where we may get 3 whole months of warm weather and sunshine and even if I move, which I have no desire to do, pollen still travels via air and that does not solve this dilemma. 

My doctors tell me, "Susan, you are indeed a rare human." 

I agree. 

I take that as a compliment. 

However, I must admit, it takes a strong mental attitude to consistently tell yourself that this too shall pass. I have no fear regarding all of these life threatening situations that have plagued me most of my life and specifically, since a solitary yellow-jacket stung me in my sleep at the tail end of 2015. A yellow-jacket. Yes, a single bug kick started this strange phenomenon that no doctor, no holistic healer, not a single specialist can fix. 

I figured out a backdoor on my own.

Through a series of diverse and interesting outdoor adventures, I timed staying outside as long as possible on high pollen days. The moment my physical body began to react, I went indoors, inside a building or vehicle with windows closed. After being indoors for awhile, I am okay and regain my normal physical immune response. I tricked the pollen, or my body, not sure which, maybe both.

If I stay outside ALL DAY on high pollen days, which is all of Spring, tree pollen [April, May, parts of June] and most of August and September, ragweed], I will surely break out in hives, have extreme shortness of breath and chest pain ending in a bronchospasm, epinephrine pen [or two], inhaler and emergency room. 


This made me become grateful for so many others things I was blind to or simply did not recognize before this extreme heightened sensitivity. 

I am an empath, you see, but an ultra extra sensitive highly attuned empath.

Thank goodness such instances are temporary.

The reason I know it is temporary is this is not the first time I have experienced these situations. They are, for me, stages of immense spiritual growth and eventually, whatever issue is occurring finds a way to balance itself out.

In my experience, this has been via prayer, meditation, getting rid of whatever is toxic, changing careers, living quarters/areas, quitting a job/getting a new one, letting go of people I love who no longer hear me, changing diet, the way I operate and the way I think and feel, most importantly, about myself.

Think when you can apply such massive transitions in your own life. I know you can. You will find past habits falling away from you, people you have always known suddenly leaving your side without rhyme or reason, career changes, changes in your habits, the way you perceive everything and a NEED and WANT to KEEP progressing.

These are far from easy times, they are quite difficult and painful but much like child birth, death, surgery, major illness or heartbreak, you get better. Time does not heal anything, you learn to deal with your own emotions, health, body, mind and spirit. 

Today, I went on  a journey. I love to journey, this is nothing new. 

In shamanic traditions, a "journey" is when the soul leaves the body, and may travel to spiritual aspects of places on the Earth, or may go within the Earth, or above it. The map of these common destinations is referred to as a cosmology. Terms such as upper, lower and middle world are used to divide the cosmology, but there are a wide variety of destinations.

Journeying like meditation is a tool for spiritual growth. It is also a tool that can be used for healing, to obtain information, and in working through psychological issues. 

You can read more about that here --> The Shamanic Journey 

I want to share my discovery with you right now.

Michael Stone from --> Well of Light, has an innate ability to educate and guide people regarding shamanic journeys. He is able to bring people to themselves, whether one fully understands or has no idea what any of this means, in a calm and peaceful fashion. 

I journey on my own a lot and go much deeper relating to healing and love for another, for myself, my ancestors, my family and sometimes, I am not 100% sure WHY I am journeying and may allow my guides, animal totems and power animals to take me where I need to go for what I need to see.

It is imperative though to begin with great intent. 

The video below is a simple guided journey.

Into the Void Guided Journey

I relax into my high backed brown leather chair with my feet flat, grounded to the Earth, close my eyes and turn so I am facing my altar, a place I keep my rocks and gems, my horse blanket on the wall. I begin diaphragmatic breathing, in the background I hear the drumming . . . 

I was swimming in a lake full of heavy muck, some sort of thick, black waste like glue that was heavy, laden and most difficult to get through. It kept trying to drag me down and I kept my head above the water and trudged through. After a long while and out of breath, I finally reached land. I stood, naked, covered with the remnants of this black grime. I bent over and violently vomited out nothing but black. 

I stood and to the left of me, I heard a rushing waterfall. I can almost see it, and thought, "this is where I need to go to get this sludge off of me" and looked to my right, to another path, that was a simple not well worn dirt path surrounded by short grass. I looked behind me and all I saw was a dead world, apocalyptic, everything was black and grey and burning as if everything I just came from was bombed, burned to the ground, wasted. I looked again to my right and chose the dirt path instead of the waterfall. 

It was a short path and when I reached the end of it I looked before me and saw an Indian village. I did not recognize the tribe. Everyone was busy with their lives, preparing meals, fires cooking, children running about, and I began to walk forward. This felt right to me, like home. As if I had been here before. I was welcome.

Immediately upon being spotted, a dear friend of mine, River --> L.R.Heartsong, came to greet me on my right. He knew everyone here, this was a place he practiced and learned in, a place of healing and love where he was known. I was put upon a bed made of what I saw as braided rushes. The women were cleaning the black sludge off of my body with water in hand made bowls and medicine men danced around me speaking words I never heard before yet somehow knew what they meant.

River was busy treating me. His hands were scanning my body from top to bottom as the women continued to wash and the men continued to dance. 

I opened my eyes then and I wanted very much to stay there but I could not. This journey had ended for now. I knew exactly what this meant. There was no doubt about the message. I got it. Loud and clear. 

I thanked my ancestors, my guides, the four corners and everyone who watches over me. 

What a beautiful message to receive before the new moon. 

Tell me, what do you see when you close your eyes? 

Words & Photo © Susan Marie

Monday, July 10, 2017

Ducks, Birds, Squirrels and a Shaman

words & photos  © Susan Marie

I have always adored nature. 

When I was a toddler, camping at Allegheny State Park [told to me by my Mother for I do not recall] after playing in nature, my Mother saw I had two fat cheeks just like a chipmunk.  She immediately came to me to see why my cheeks were so big and she found a bunch of rocks in there.


Yep, I put a bunch of rocks in my own mouth. 

Rocks found in the dirt of the forest. I have no idea where I got them from, but I ended up with trench-mouth [who even ever gets that?] and all I can think of now is I hope they tasted good! 

After that, and to this present day, I collect rocks. All kinds of rocks, gemstones, ones found in sand and dirt, collected from streams, given to me as gifts. Rocks. Everywhere. Pull open a drawer looking for tape? Rocks. Checking pockets in the winter for a pair of gloves? Rocks. Pulling out a box to look for paperwork? Rocks.

I simply adore everything of this Earth. I guess that is why I had to have those rocks so close to me as possible, by putting them INTO my mouth. Maybe I tried to eat them, who knows? All I do know is this was not a strange thing to my Mother, me, with a mouth full of rocks.

Which brings me to the other day . . .

Human existence takes us on delirious twists and turns and we often do not understand the ultimate greater objective of anything until later.

This was not one of those days. 

Picture this: 

A beautiful summer afternoon, perfect weather, not too hot or muggy, the kind of day where you just feel the sunshine soaking into your entire being and it feels utterly right, correct, you understand that you are being filled up with something far more intense than what the human mind can comprehend.

Look to the sky, cobalt, royal blue, the clouds just sit there like cotton candy, and from a distance, there is what seems to be a hawk flying towards you. You rush to grab a camera, cell phone, anything, and get outside to capture this rare gift. Standing there, the "hawk" comes closer, flying TO you, directed FOR you and as it gets closer you realize it is a turkey vulture. The wingspan on this bird is astounding. As it draws near, you watch it glide on the wind, as if flying was a simple task and the magnificence of the wings, each feather, the flight, leaves you wide eyed in wonder.

Of course I was recording the entire scene, I have to, I document everything. It is part of what I am here to do.

The moment the vulture started coming right AT me, I lifted my arms up and saw both wings straight out, right above my head, and it zoomed down, then back up and as it did, I saw the underbelly of one of the most beauteous beasts. 

 [video below]

Knowing this is not an ordinary visit because this solitary vulture has made itself apparent to me for the 4th time in 2 weeks, I refer to my knowledge of animal totems:

"Choose paths that support your higher consciousness and your heart. Use your resources combined with past experience to approach problems from a different angle. Allow yourself to use all of your senses to navigate through situations for your highest benefit. Call on all your resources to get the job done. You are fiercely protective of those you feel responsible for but know when to allow others to sink or swim. Recognize the need for higher awareness in all those around you. Use energy powerfully and efficiently. Soar to extraordinary heights. Do not allow things to weigh you down. This is the energy of the Earth, the natural order of things, the power of the Shaman." 

Strong medicine. Point taken.

Then I had to get right out in nature.

I went to one of my beloved parks with my son, one where I often step into other worlds quite seamlessly, a place where unusual things occur and somewhere that I call home. I drive around the bend in the park and see a certain flock of ducks, squirrels and birds that are always on a certain patch of grass that is part of an immense part of the park. The wildlife only stays to the out-most corner though and I always wondered why.

I grab my camera and start walking. I tread slowly, knowing the animals may be leery of me at first but soon as I let them know I am not a threat they start accepting me as one of their own. I snap photos and take video, the animals are now, what it seems, to be posing for me and then I hear a whistle - whoo-hoooo - from behind rows of pine trees.

I look around.

There is an elderly man standing there by a gate. A house I know well yet never pay much attention to. The house is on the corner of a main road in the city, an extremely busy intersection. I have driven and walked past this house most of my life.

Today, I heed the call. I feel absolutely right and safe in doing so. Subconsciously and spiritually, I already know who this man is without knowing.

He speaks in broken English:

I have something to show you both, come here. 

So we do.

My son side-eyes me wondering what this is about. I mumble, do not worry, it is fine, I will explain later, smiling the entire time.

As soon as we pass the gate, we enter another world. There was only the sound of nature, wind, tree branches swaying, birds singing, critters hopping about, ducks quacking and I was unable to hear a single noise that is normally palpable on the city streets right beside this house.

Without speaking much, we followed this weather worn man into his sacred space. He led us to the main garden with a massive water fountain that has four goddesses around it in a circle. Beyond that are various DIY feeders he built for all the animals that stay so close to his land. He introduced himself to us and we, to him and he motioned for us to keep following him. Beneath an immense covering of grape vines, he started focusing on my son.  

He asked him of his studies and what he plans to do with his life. My son answered, mentioning environmental studies and art as his dual majors. This man, ancient of soul, began speaking of the great philosophers, of Socrates and Pilates, of art and nature. Of the sacredness of the words of those that passed before us, of ancient blessed rituals and practices that no longer exist in society. Of the importance of not being typical. He said one thing to my son, looking him dead in the eye:

Do not lead an ordinary life.  

We continued on, through narrow passages that led into majestic gardens, flowerbeds, statues of ancient art and philosophers, into gateways that led to picnic areas and tables, even a nice setting for afternoon tea. This small parcel of property was suddenly 300 acres.  The only sounds, birds and squirrels. 

We were about 10 feet from a busy city street. 

I no longer wondered why wildlife stayed to this one specific corner of the park. They knew where they were most safe, away from the hum-drum drone of everyday everything and people that abuse and kick at them in the park. They knew that at any given moment, they had an escape plan.

Right here, where we were now standing. 

After conversations about nature, wildlife, spirituality, I asked the man where he was originally from because I knew he was an Indian and knew he was a Shaman before we even entered his space.

He looks to my son: 

Do you know where South America is? 

My son answers: Yes, right below North America. 

The man, pleased, nods his head and begins to tell us about Peru, Macchu Piccu and that he is a descendant of the Inca

I knew we were in good hands. 

Did he tell me he was a Shaman? No. Did he say he was anything other than a human being that came to America a long time ago with nothing yet made a good living for himself via hard work? No.

What he did do was speak without having to say a single thing. 

I keep his name private and photos of him with my son and I private to protect his space, to protect wildlife that gather there and to protect this dear man who saw us both crouched low, in reverence in the grass, just like the geese, squirrels and birds.

He told us to come visit anytime . . .

Human existence takes us on delirious twists and turns and we often do not understand the ultimate greater objective of anything until later. 

I am happy that I choose to always take the twists and turns.