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Bunnies, Bystanders and Gunholders

Don’t shoot said the rabbit,

It is such a bad habit,

It would not be so funny

If you were the bunny

And I was the man with the gun


A rhyme that my Pop used to say to me.

When I began my journey to be a therapist, I used to see injustice and wanted to help the bunnies of this world, the people who were victimised, harassed, intimidated and abused, whether at work, in the home or at school. I found that many bunnies were often sad and lonely and let the man with the gun (who of course could actually be a woman) stand over them to please the gunholder and feel needed. They were often very emotional people and needed to be liked, so they often tried to please everyone. After a short while, I found that bunnies weren’t the only ones that needed help. I started and continue to work with gunholders, and found that many of them were once bunnies and became gunholders to survive. They live by the beliefs “I’ll get you before you get me!” “I will withhold my love, my time, my money or my sexual favours to punish you before you can hurt me”. Some of the most violent gunholders have had the most violent things happen to them in the past.

As I worked with bunnies and gunholders, I realised there was a lot more going on than simply a person with a gun pointed at a bunny. People were standing on the sidelines watching (bystanders), and they often played a part and affected the outcome between the bunnies and the gunholders. Often bystanders are too close and see only that moment in time when the person is pointing the gun at the bunny. They do not see what happened before, or after, or how they themselves contributed to the roles of bunny and gunholder in the drama playing out in front of them. Bystanders tend to do one of four things that negatively affect the outcome of the interaction between the gunholder and the bunny:

  1. Bystanders can turn away and ignore the intimidation, harassment and abuse, showing both bunnies and gun holders that they are not important to the bystander. Often this results in an escalation of the conflict between the bunnies and the gunholder. Both the other players feel that they are unimportant to the bystander and increase their behaviour to be noticed and feel important. Bystanders feel important and superior when they do this and often say “It is not my problem, it is theirs!”
  2. Bystanders can punish gunholders and protect bunnies. In fact, this is the most common way for bystanders to deal with bunnies and gunholders. This can have negative affects on both gunholder and bunnies. When gunholders are punished they become more defensive and a great deal more angry. They tend to either shoot their guns at anyone within range or they bury their anger and resentment and slyly do things to hurt others. Increased incidence of road rage and unprovoked violence in the community are examples of shooting at anyone within range. The second kind of behaviours are prevalent but not always seen, they include cynicism, sarcasm and accidentally on purpose hurting other people. Many gunholders feel that they are being doubly punished because originally they were bunnies and got punished by someone else with a gun.When bystanders say or imply to the bunny, “You poor little thing, we’ll protect you” the bunny translates this to mean, “You are totally useless and cannot look after yourself, you need someone to look after you”, and feels intimidated and abused by the bystander as well as the gunholder. They either take on the bunny (victim) role for life, or they arm themselves with a gun and become a gunholder, sometimes in the disguise of a bystander.
  3. Bystanders can encourage the gunholder to believe that it is every person’s right to take up guns and hunt bunnies. “The world would be better without bunnies”. Often in this case the bystander is actually a gunholder in a bystander disguise.
  4. Bystanders can take the bunny’s side, and believe that the bunny should have the gun to get ‘even’ with the gunholder, so they give guns to the bunnies. They try to give power back to the bunny. The bunny then becomes another person with a gun. Often in this case the bystander is actually a bunny with a bystander disguise.

To complicate things, it can be hard to distinguish between a bunny, a bystander and a gunholder, because people change roles not just over long periods of time but during a day. Someone may be a bunny at work, a bystander at the local school but a gunholder at home. Even some that seem like bunnies at all times, do things like clean the toilet with the gunholder’s toothbrush, dish up maggotty food or dog food to the gunholder, lose reports or accidentally damage gunholder’s stuff at work.

Is this what we want in our society? Do we need lots of intimidating gunholders, bunnies being victimised, while bystanders feel important by protecting and punishing or ignoring the intimidation, abuse and harassment that goes on in our homes, schools and workplaces? Is there a better outcome?

An outcome that I work towards is that the gun is put down willingly and the person behind the gun emerges. The bunnies take off their bunny suits and the person behind the bunny suit emerges. Bystanders stop handing out guns and bunny suits and they all become what they always were – people. People, with differences who can walk side by side on their journey through life.

Ask yourself. Do you wear a bunny suit? Do you hide behind a gun? Do you give out bunny suits and hand out guns? What roles have you played in your life? Which roles do you now play? Look around your workplace, your home, your schools: who are/were the bunnies? who are/were the gun holders? and who are/were the bystanders? What keeps you playing these roles? And more importantly how can you get out of these roles?

Personally, I have played all those roles in my life – I have worn a bunny suit, hidden behind a gun and handed out guns and bunny suits to other people. But once you throw away your props and recognise them as ways of hiding from yourself there is no going back. People hiding in any of these roles are often not aware of their role – they may have played it all their life and it may have been passed down from a parent or a teacher. Bystanders judge the others as ‘good’ (bunnies) and ‘bad’ (gunholders). The gunholders blame both the bunnies and the bystanders. The bunnies feel sorry for themselves and lean on the bystanders and secretly admire the braveness of the gunholders. I now have enough distance to be able to see that there are no ‘good’ or ‘bad’ people, only people who are ‘stuck’ – emotionally, mentally or spiritually.

I used to think that the people holding the guns would be the hardest to work with, but have since found that people who are pretending to be bystanders but are actually gunholders find it hardest to see their role in these dramas and as such are the hardest to work with. As parents, teachers, workers and people we need to be constantly on the look out for opportunities to speak to the person behind the props. Any one of us can make a difference by doing this.

Written by Roslyn Snyder 2002


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