This months segment is “X Marks The Bully”. Our goal is to place a mental X mark on characteristics we observe as bullying behavior. The last few months we have talked about some of the often overlooked characteristics of a bully: bullies play the victim; bullies crave superiority; bullies demand loyalty, and bullies discredit those they perceive as a threat.
Placing a mental X mark on bullying behavior is powerful tool. It does more than just identify bullish tendencies, it becomes a flashing sign in your mind designating danger. You would be surprised at the practical value this has in counteracting bullying. One of the main reasons bullying continues is because we have the human proclivity to lose sight that someone is, in fact, a bully. This is because the bullying process manifests similar effects to the Stockholm Syndrome. Stockholm Syndrome is a psychological phenomenon in which hostages display an alliance or empathy for their captors. It is a brainwashing that happens through abuse of power and indoctrination. The name comes from a town in Sweden where a botched bank robbery in 1973 turned into a 6 day hostage situation. Instead of seeing their captors as criminals the victims began to bond in an effort to survive. The psychological dynamics cause an almost spell-like hold. They even defended and became protective of their captors. Although many violent captive situations are facilitated by bullies—thankfully, most bullies are not lawbreaking kidnappers.
Interestingly, studies show that elements of Stockholm Syndrome can overflow into other areas of life where abuse of control and influence are evident (bullying). We can find it in the work place, home, schools, etc. For example a domestic abuse victim chooses to stay in toxic circumstances. Here are similar criteria’s as defined in Stockholm Syndrome: Perceived Threats—a bully convinces a victim that making waves, or challenging the norm could ostracize them (they’d be on the outs). Small Acts of Kindness—a bully (who otherwise discredits) shows small acts of kindness to keep a victim loyal. Isolation From other Perspectives—a bully shuts down any attempt from others to influence those under their control (this is how it’s done, period). Perceived Inability to Escape—a victim feels stuck and tries to make the best of the situation.
It is a captivity of sorts. This is why the mental X mark has value. It keeps the reality in focus that the controlling person is, indeed, a bully. Visualizing a bully’s behavior with an X is an empowering reminder that bullies are master manipulators. It reminds us not to be spell bound by it. It also opens opportunities to connect with others who are gaining awareness that a bullying situation is in progress. People feel enabled when they sense blinders coming off of others. This is key because it changes the “me” to “we” which then neutralizes the Isolation From other Perspectives. Discussions can now take place as to how a particular bully is holding a group or person hostage, so to speak. Collaboration is an effective way to bring unknowns out into the open in order to address avenues of change. This counteracts the Perceived Inability to Escape.
You may have several people in your life that come to mind when thinking about placing a mental X as a bullying reminder. Sometimes it’s people we love and care about. They are in our families, neighborhoods, churches and government. Sometimes it’s us. Kindness and compassion goes along way in redirecting a bully who is open to change. Meanwhile, get your mental pen out and draw a big X on any bullying behavior holding you or others hostage. (Paula Masters)
This moths segment is “Bullies Play The Victim”. Over the last few months we have examined several characteristics of a bully. It’s apparent that dealing with a bully can be both lengthy and complicated process.
One of the biggest complications arises outside the bully themselves—that being the circle or community where the bully holds clout. A collective group can take on a bully’s agenda feeling fully convinced that they are doing a good thing. This stems from the often over looked bullying characteristic of a “Bully Playing The Victim”.
Playing the victim is arguably one of the most powerful strategies a bully can utilize because the emotional charge it generates fuels support. With this maneuver a bully is able to turn the table on their own victim. This happens in the court rooms regularly—lawyers often defend guilty clients by casting them as the victim. When the jury deliberates we see the complications surface. Although they were initially influenced by the client and the lawyer, it’s no longer about just them, it has now grown into a community of people whose emotions have been tampered with. The primary goal all along was to cause the jury doubt towards the real victim by inciting sympathies for the guilty party.
This can manifest itself in all types of real life bullying scenarios. Many times a bully, because of a broken background, actually does feels like a victim. They have a hard time separating out their acts of bullying with feelings that they are being victimized themselves. Especially if on lookers do not show support of their efforts of control. This compels them to heighten their pseudo victim platform. The bully capitalizes on their victim’s emotional expressions to do this. It becomes tactical in that to provoke an emotional response from their victim, will make their victim look foolish. This in turn garners speculations that they themselves are the ones are being mistreated. Bullies manipulate to gain false credibility by these emotional instigations. On top of this they derive a measure of satisfaction in goading their victim into an emotional response—it shows vulnerability, and for a bully exposing vulnerability is empowering.
Dealing with a bully can be extremely tricky, especially when it comes to the community dynamic. If you can answer yes to any of these questions you might be dealing with a bully or a group of people who are under the influence of bully’s “victim mentality”.
1. Is there someone you know who is trying to keep control by using a victim status?
2. Do you sense a growing division or rallying of sympathy for someone who has a history of being bullish?
3. Is a person in your life displaying any of the previous discussed characteristics of a bully: discrediting, demanding loyalty, a need for superiority, or leveraging of a victim mentality?
When helping someone who is being bullied one of the best things we can do is employ logic rather than emotion. No matter how emotionally destabilizing a bully’s actions or remarks can feel, remember they are trying to push the buttons of emotion to build their personal “victim” platforms. If we can identify and recognize this pattern it will help us to replace our emotional reactions with intellectual reason and acumen. (Paula Masters)
Bullying has been part of culture since the dawn of time – whether It is Napoleon, King Henry VIII, or Catherine the Great, Power thirsty leaders want people to be subject to them. They crave superiority. Although the classic bully is typically portrayed as physically intimidating–many times its not size, but intellect, skill sets, resources, or position that intimidates and influences people.
The Bully’s drive to be superior generally comes from deep seated insecurity. Overcompensating for this emotion becomes the means by which they create a world where they can appear superior, not only to others–but to themselves. Often, they are people with winsome personalities which can make this quality hard to uncover.
One of the destructive by-products of a bully’s craving for superiority is the need to protect a persona. To the bully, it is less about the person bullied (which may be you or someone you care about) and more about managing their own image. The bullied recipient is simply a casualty of the bully’s sense of superiority being challenged. This is why a bully will pick a certain person to constantly berate, primarily in public to demonstrate their dominance to others. Bullied victims often don’t realize they have just stepped on a hornets nest when they question, resist, or challenge a bully. But you can be sure that the response by the bully will always be double in intensity. For instance, a person might think they’re suggesting or recommending something reasonable or helpful when fire-hose of berating is opened up on them at full blast. The intimidating tactic of superiority is always in the back pocket of a bully ready to fire, and they use it proactively.
If you can answer yes to any of these questions you might be dealing with a bully:
1. Have you tried to reason with someone whose response surprises you in intensity?
2. Has the response intimated you or undermined your credibility?
3. Does the intimidating person calm down as long as you fall in-line?
Recognizing the characteristics of superiority in a bully is key to helping others who are being bullied. When we see a person responding in exaggerated intensity towards someone—do not jump on the band wagon. Ruining someone else’s reputation is a classic way bullies build their superior posture. Joining in a bully’s defamation contributes to their continued building project of superiority. Staying out of it, or jumping off the bandwagon always helps the person being bullied to regain their balance. (Paula Masters)