Trolls and trolling are the online version of bullying. This article looks at the issue and suggests some ways of dealing with it if it is affecting you directly.
I am not a doctor, psychologist, trained counsellor or even proclaim to have any professional training in the area.
I have however personal experience in the area and this article is me sharing what I’ve learnt in dealing with trolls.
Before there were trolls or even people who are toxic, there were bullies.
I have found that understanding and rationalisation is the best way to deal with trolling.
- Why you’re reading this
- The Brain
- All Trolls and no Bridges
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Why you’re reading this
You are not alone
Sometimes music and lyrics can get to you far faster than words in a blog. Personally when it gets bad I listen to this track. It’s a permanent feature of my playlist.
Whilst the video of the original is a powerful story sometimes just listening to the words and applying them to yourself is more important. That’s why I use the lyrics version on YouTube rather than original.
- I’m tellin’ you that it’s never that bad
- And take it from someone who’s been where your at
- You’re laid out on the floor and you’re not sure
- You can take this anymore
- So just give it one more try
- With a lullaby
- And turn this up on the radio
- If you can hear me now
- I’m reachin’ out to let you know
- That you’re not alone
If it’s hurting accept it hurts but recognise in yourself that if you’re reading this you want to make it better for yourself. You’re already winning. You’re beat up and hurting but it ain’t over.
As the expression goes you only lose when you quit therefore if you haven’t lost you’re still in the game. All we need to do is figure out how to get our feet back under us and get back to winning.
Your biggest enemy more often than not is yourself. We can be our own worst trolls. Put a mirror in front of yourself and look at the face staring back. Is that person telling you good things or bad things?
A very wise woman by the name of Josephine told me a tale to apply to myself.
“You’re in your life and imagine all the people around you family, supporters, your neighbours, work colleagues, class mates, everyone. You then have to imagine there is a five year old there as well. This five year old can only hear you and no one else. It’s the 5 year old version of you. Only you can take care of the 5 year old you, no one else can. What does the 5 year old need?”
You’re the only one who can chat and look after this 5 year old. What would you do for this innocent kid?
The world hasn’t tainted them yet so what are you going to say? What are you going to do?
OK, now you have an easy choice. Your eyes burn from the tears, the body hurts, everything seems confused and messed up where do you find your way out.
Do the following
- Write on a piece of paper a story describing what’s happening as if describing someone else’s life.
- Once done you need to make a very important list which is described below.
If you still need help then talk to someone. It’s important to your brain even if you don’t know why yet.
Do note that family and friends may do more harm than good.
Often friends and family have good intentions but lacking objectivity and the skills to help you understand yourself.
- Talk to friends and family if you have them not all of us are lucky enough.
- Chat to a professional, a counsellor, psychologist or psychiatrist if friends and family can’t help.
Keeping it simple
Your brain has an area called a reward centre. It’s really really important and everyone has one trolls and you alike.
It’s techy name is the ventral temental area or VTA.
When you do stuff like eat when you’re hungry your brain releases some drugs that make you feel good, specifically dopamine.
Over time you learn to keep your reward center happy. I want to feel happy, so I do something to get the drugs to release naturally.
You can cheat the system with alcohol and drugs. The problem is that artificial drugs mess with the system to the point where the natural systems no longer work.
This system is very sensitive and you can cause it to go off with food, intimacy and winning. I deliberately use the word winning vaguely.
Imagine the conversation “I’ll trade you, if you do this for me, I’ll give you some drugs.” This is where motivation comes from. That force inside you that makes you do things. You are having a conversation with your VTA. When you need to feel happy you’ll do something to bribe your VTA.
It is possible to retrain / direct the conversation so that your VTA responds when you do something difficult like exercise. It needs training.
The hug drug
Dopemine isn’t the only good drug up there. There is another one called oxytocin which is affectionately called the hug drug.
It’s released when you get a hug and this is why hugs feel good. A build up of oxytocin can bring down stress but can take a while to build up.
Remember that not everyone loves hugs so bear this in mind.
A hug is a very generous thing to give as it requires both parties to allow it happen.
This exercise is vital to help your VTA not only now but for the rest of your days.
You need a pen and a piece of paper. This is an exercise that uses your hands, your eyes and your VTA.
Create a list of things you have start with the following as a guideline (you may or may not have all these)
- I can see
- 10 fingers and 10 toes
- I can hear
- A working brain
- I’m alive and whilst alive I can change things
- My brain allows me understand the abstract concepts such as up, down, above and below
- I understand English
- My body responds… when I want my leg to move it moves
Add as much and as many of things that genuinely amaze you about your body
Next write down the things you’re most proud of having done.
- I can play a song on a musical instrument or I can sing that song I like
- These are the awards I’ve won
- The following books I’ve read
- I’ve memorised the poems or quotes
- I may understand more than one language
Brain chemistry and the list
Using your memory you’re looking for things that trigger in your memory a good feeling. Why do some photos give you a specific feeling?
As you do this list your brain will naturally release dopamine. You can’t help it. It might not feel like much but its happening in your brain. These are wins. The Winner Effect is what we’re going for.
Your eyes are connected into your brain. They send signals such as you love this or you hate this. You are managing the chemistry of your brain.
When you see a trolls comments they’re having the same chemical effect on your brain in a negative way, that the list above will have a positive effect.
The reason you wrote it out is so that you can read it whenever you need it. If you need a lift this is an instant brain pick me up.
Your friend might not be around to tell you how great you are but your list will always be there written by someone you trust… you! Your list won’t lie to you.
If you fill out your win list from when you’re a child you’ll be surprised how full it gets.
How the bad guys win
So we are all out to get a drug release and we need to learn to work with our bodies not against them. So dopamine makes us happy which is an emotion. How do we get more of that emotion?
Unfortunately some people get confused and link big drug releases with negative actions such as violence.
For some trolls, trolling is a way of venting their frustration at life. The act of venting gives them some release. Who they vent at doesn’t matter, sometimes you are just the unfortunate bystander.
Others want to beat you, be better than you or prove a point because they’re frustrated so they will try to take it out on you. Online is a very safe format for trolls as it is unlikely you will physically ever meet the other person.
Face to face stops being trolling and becomes bullying and a whole other set of dynamics kicks in, physical prowess, aggression, etc.
Stopping the negativity
All of these very negative approaches have one thing in common… trolls need you to make the drug release better.
You can’t win a race if you’re the only person in the race. As I mentioned in “opportunity to chat” the easiest way of removing their victory is quite simply don’t be in the same race with them. This isn’t cowardice, running away or being lilly-livered it’s managing yours and the troll’s chemical reaction.
Replying or validate their position you’re going to make them feel better and help them feel like they have won.
Trolls don’t work if you turn the computer or phone off. Turn it off until you have your feet back under you. Use your list to build yourself up and then motivate yourself.
Getting your feet under you again
So now that we have managed your brain chemistry we stem the negative drugs temporarily. We have changed your state albeit temporarily.
We need to build up positivity again which can be called motivation. When you address your motivation you can do something which gives you your drug release.
Tony Robbins sums up his approach into human needs (12:30 into the video) and all of these result in the release of dopamine.
And if you don’t feel it or think you can’t “fake it till you make it”.
All Trolls and no Bridges
The main place trolls come from is Norse and Scandinavian folklore and
The Old Norse nouns troll and tröll mean fiend, demon or werewolf.
Allegories are stories that are there to teach a lesson furthermore one of the more famous stories is that of the three billy goats gruff from 1841
The plot is available on Wikipedia To try sum it up very quickly. Three brother goats want to cross a bridge which is controlled by troll. The first two bypass the troll leaving the troll to the largest third brother. The third brother knocks the troll off the bridge with his horns leaving the bridge open for the brothers for the rest of time.
Trolls according to the legends dwell in isolated rocks, mountains, or caves, live together in small family units and are rarely helpful to human beings. Wikipedia have the history available here.
So trolling in modern terms is used for people on the internet who use social media to berate or ridicule other people. As a bully would insult you in person, a troll is someone who does it online.
When a person trolls there is a level of toxicity to their comments. People bring their comments to the point of it becoming a criminal offence which leads to the term “toxic” describing them.
Wired did a review of the toxicity of trolling in America in August 2017
Compartmentalization is a subconscious psychological defense mechanism used to avoid cognitive dissonance, or the mental discomfort and anxiety caused by a person’s having conflicting values, cognitions, emotions, beliefs, etc. within themselves. Compartmentalization allows these conflicting ideas to co-exist by inhibiting direct or explicit acknowledgement and interaction between separate compartmentalized self states
This trick rocks and is worth learning in my opinion. It ain’t perfect for everything but it can help you in dealing with stuff you’re just not ready or able to deal with at the moment.
Let’s say you’re feeling angry and you have homework to do and you have to clean your room. Trying to concentrate and be angry at the same time doing homework means neither gets the attention they deserve. Instead feel angry and clean your room at the same time. When the room is done come back to your homework. You’re giving dedicated time to things and by focusing on one thing it gets done more effectively. Do something until it’s done.
You can’t keep doing this but it can help you get over your worst moments when you feel you don’t have the strength.
This is not something easy I learnt over night, it has taken years and even more as an adult have I found the psychological term which helped me describe it. It is an ongoing balancing act.
There are professionals available… use them. I am not qualified to help everyone but I’m happy to share what I’ve learned so that you might find a grain of helpfulness in it for your own life.
The Samaritans Ireland are available 24 x 7 on (01) 671 0071. You can text them on 087 260 9090 or visit them online at https://www.samaritans.org
However if there is something I could answer or help with you can get me here on or on social media.
For me, the best way to deal with trolls is to ignore them. They are just not worth our time and attention. Or we could also fight back with facts. It won’t matter to them but it will for other people.