The Truth about Bullies

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.)

3 thoughts on “The Truth about Bullies

  1. Can a person really be so shallow and self-serving without having a deep seated trauma? I believe that we are self-serving in the beginning of life-the way children are. But we learn that just meeting our own needs is not ultimately fulfilling.

    1. The assumption that trauma and other wounding simply must lie at the root of character disturbance has been the doing-in of countless thousands. Can it happen? Yes! Is it always the case? NOOOO!!!! And it’s a dangerous and often self-defeating assumption to make.

      1. Dr. Simon,
        I totally agree with you on that. I’ve been emotionally abused since age 4. First by my mother and that continued even to her death bed. Fortunately, I actually shook my head at her last insult. Water off a ducks back.
        Quite silly to do on your death bed don’t ya think?
        Also, the abuse would continue by my dad as well as 6 siblings. We were raised in the same house for the most part until they divorced.
        Did we all turn out the same? Not an empath in the bunch except for me.
        I’m no contact with them all since 2013, except for one getting through to me for a Christmas invite all of a sudden, that “would be so much fun”???
        They NEVER were fun.
        I have a new phone and he can’t get through now.
        When they’re together they’d make fun of me, when I ran into 2 of them on separate occasions, they hid like the cowards they are.
        There is in my humble opinion something to the group bully mentality.
        I’d like to say I’m happy about it all, but sadly that’s not the case.
        I pray for their repentance regarding their treatment of myself which included my family and hope one day they’ll mail me a card revealing a life turned around!

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