Conquering intimidation

Unpleasant but a reality, intimidation takes many forms. How can youth deal with it?

“I was scared of my class teacher. Hence I messed up my speech.” “Her loudness always silenced me.” “For some reason, I wasn’t comfortable around him.”

Does this sound familiar to you? Bullying, ragging or peer pressure often leads to intimidation. Saras Bhaskar, counselling psychologist, Bloom Mind and Body Care, defines it as “a form of behaviour in which someone intentionally and repeatedly causes another person injury or discomfort. There is a thin line between intimidation and bullying. It can be verbal or non-verbal and can also take a physical form.” The surrounding peer and work pressure is what gives birth to this emotion. Khadija, a second-year psychology student, says, “Speaking in front of a gathering intimidates me. Hence, I’ve taken an initiative to participate in more public speaking events. This will help me overcome my fear of crowds and relieve me of stress.” Factors like one’s outward appearance, academic excellence, popularity, bullying, favouritism by college management, insults from friends and faculty and extra-curricular activities can trigger this emotion.

The challenge

Dr. Vasuki Mathivanan, counselling psychologist, says, “For college students, humiliation and ridiculing by seniors is a major factor behind their losing confidence. Students find facing it a challenge. Usually, the victims of intimidation are first and second-year students. It can be in the form of verbal and emotional abuse which is not visible. This affects them psychologically and they always live in fear.” Intimidation usually starts to stem from these factors and finds its way into a varying range of situations.

“I have witnessed cases of intimidation in class. This usually happens when peers of a student become a bit too assertive. This causes him/her to lose self-confidence and self-esteem,” she adds. The ill effects start to manifest in their work capability and demeanour, which stymies their progress and performance in college.

Choice factors

Sometimes, students are intimidated by the course they are pursuing. This could be because they were pressured into it or because initially, they took it willingly but later realised that it was not their cup of tea. Choosing a course one is not adept at puts him/her at a major disadvantage. Also, something as simple as being casually reprimanded in class by a faculty or losing out on a competition could threaten a student’s self-esteem and cause intimidation.

It is not wrong to feel intimidated, but constantly succumbing to this emotion is a cause for concern. If not tackled promptly, it can have several harmful effects on students. It can cause depression, strain in their interpersonal relationship, get them involved in harmful habits, lead them to think they lack skills or knowledge, render them socially inept, and, sometimes, lead to extreme measures like suicide attempts. A tall person, a tattooed arm or loud tone of a dominating speech is all it takes to cause a sliver of intimidation. Fortunately, this emotion can be tackled with ease sans psychologists or councillors. Talking to close friends or faculty about the issues bothering you might prove to be the start to recovery. A person who feels intimidated should never take the things said to him personally and must always try facing the intimidator with confidence. Students can involve themselves in dramatics or theatre. This is a great form of recuperation for one’s pent-up frustration and stress. Also, being on stage and performing will work as a tailwind to the student’s self-esteem and confidence. This is applicable to other forms of art such as music and dance, too.

Find a mirror

Another way of responding to intimidation is to identify the trait you find intimidating in the person causing it and try deciphering or exploring it within yourself, in your own unique way. This will help you re-identify with the person who intimidates you.

Saravanan AK, Practising psychologist at Tranzend Hypnotherapy Service, says, “Intimidation is something that develops at an age as early as one or two years when a child goes to school and sees people towering over him. It is something that’s directly or indirectly innate in every being. It’s up to us to channelise it in a healthy way.”

If you can take things in your stride, then intimidation can be channelled into a positive force as well.

It has been found that intimidation can make a person grow cognitively and emotionally.

When people feel threatened, they start to work harder in order to deal with cut-throat competition. It acts as a source of motivation for them too. Shreyas, an engineering student, says, “The fact that someone is better than me at something I love doing intimidates me. When at times I knew I could’ve done better, I make sure I work harder and do a better job next time.”

Feeling intimidated has nothing to do with the intimidator, it’s just how we perceive and respond to the oncoming wave of emotions.

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