The Bully Personality
Bullies are a problem to be sure. We all have known one or two. You find them in the schoolyard, in the workplace, and sadly, even sometimes in your home. And they can make life a a living hell for their victims.
Like all disturbed and disordered characters, bullies exist along a spectrum. Some bullies are refined, whereas others are boorish brutes. Some are merely annoying, and make life difficult. Others are a virtual nightmare. But a bully is a bully. And for years professionals have speculated about what makes them tick. Sadly many longstanding but misguided notions – notions soundly disproven by research – persist about bullies. So, it seems time to dispell some of these notions once again.
Bullies Are Usually NOT Cowards
I heard a commentator on television just this week assert the old, erroneous notion that bullies “are really cowards, underneath.” While this can indeed sometimes be true, it’s rarely true, especially in our day and time. So, it’s both unwise and potentially quite unsafe to think that bullies act out of cowardness. Assuming such things can put you in significant danger, especially if a bully is hell-bent on domination and senses a loss of control over you.
Bullies Are Usually NOT Insecure
I continue to hear people say that bullies are actually inwardly insecure, and that they brandish bravado to hide their insecurity. Once again, such a thing can indeed be true. But most of the time it’s definitely not true. And, as mentioned earlier, it’s both unwise and unsafe to assume such things. To most bullies, showing what you might see as understanding is a sign of the weakness they detest.
Bullies Are NOT Usually Struggling with Low Self-Esteem
There might be a bully or two around who actually doesn’t think to much of him/herself and is trying to prove their worth. But in most cases, bullies actually think too much of themselves. Their self-esteem is inflated. That’s what makes them feel entitled to do the horrible things they do. Moreover, such ego inflation is not usually an unconscious compensation for inner feelings of low worth. (See also: Why Narcissistic Bullies Really Taunt.)
What Really Makes Bullies Tick
Almost all of the traditional notions about bullies have been debunked. The biggest reason for that is that is the fact that we don’t live in an age of rampant, severe “neurosis.” And theories about neurosis and its underpinnings dominated psychological thought and research for decades, which is how we came by some misguided notions about bullies. But as I point out in all my books, the age of widespread dysfunctional neurosis is past. Ours is the age of character dysfunction. People dysfunction for very different reasons than they did in the Victorian age. So it unnerves me quite a bit when I hear commentators, so-called experts, and even professionals spread notions that have long proven inappropriate for our times. (See also: Anxiety, Neurosis, and Character Disturbance.)
So what makes bullies really tick? It’s really pretty simple: they like demeaning, torturing, belittling, etc. It gives them a feeling of power and a sense of superiority. They derive excitement from doing it, as perverted as that might sound. For them, making others feel small is, well, sadly fun! It’s sordid, sadistic entertainment at the victim’s expense! They don’t need to belittle others to feel big, as a way of compensating for anything. They simply like doing it and persist when it seems to pay off or goes unchecked. There are other reasons, too, that perhaps I’ll cover in another post. But suffice it to say it’s wrong – really wrong – to promote longstanding but erroneous notions about such folks. And it’s always wrong to overgeneralize – to take something that might be true sometimes and cast it as true all or most of the time. (See also: In Sheep’s Clothing and Character Disturbance.)