Bullies are Narcissistic
The dominant thinking about bullies has dramatically changed. We used to think bullies were inwardly insecure and cowardly. And we thought they were driven to belittle others to feel better about themselves. But we now know differently. Bullies are narcissists, although not all narcissists are bullies. And they have the “grandiose” type of narcissism. That means, they really believe themselves superior. Feeling that way “entitles” them to prey on the inferior.
Bullies often taunt their victims. And they sometimes provoke in a manner that seems nonsensical. So, why do they do it? The old thinking said they do it to “prove” they’re not the cowards they really are. Or, they do it to overcome low self-esteem. But the new thinking says something quite different. And the Accam’s Razor rule also applies. That is, the simplest explanation usually fits best. They do it because it feels good. And they get plenty out of it. They experience an adrenaline rush. And they find fighting itself invigorating. So, they provoke fights. Moreover, as narcissists, they lack empathy. So, they don’t care about hurting anyone. Nor do they care about the possible collateral casualties of their fights.
A True and Telling Story
Early in my career I witnessed an event I’ll never forget. I was observing a group session in an adolescent treatment facility. A young man was flicking his finger at the earlobe of someone seated in front of him. The person toyed with often turned to express his displeasure. He sent many nonverbal messages for the taunter to stop. But the young man just kept on.
I brought this event to the attention of the treatment team. I felt it bespoke a pattern of conduct. And I felt it said a lot about the young man’s character. I remember well all the conjectures my colleagues made. “He struggles with unresolved anger issues,” said one. “His underlying depression is making him act-out,” another offered. But the young man had a much simpler explanation when we dared to ask him. “It’s fun,” he said, and with a big smile. He felt he had a perfect right to amuse himself at another’s expense. That day, I learned a great lesson about the nature of predatory aggression.
Research has confirmed what experience taught me about predatory aggressors. And in In Sheep’s Clothing and Character Disturbance I explain their true motives. There are those among us who simply don’t care enough about others. Consequently, they’re forever gratifying themselves at someone else’s expense.
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