Deconstructing the Bully

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Deconstructing the Bully

People who had bullied others had a greater likelihood of having experienced a traumatic event in their lives / Photo by Getty Images


Many a classic high school movie or TV show gives us the typical trope of a bully who makes the protagonist’s life much difficult. Such characters become much-hated by the audience.

Of course, nobody wants to be the person everyone hates. But what is it that compels real people to become cruel to their peers?


Experiencing Bullying

It’s been found that 1 out of every 2 people said they had experienced bullying before their 20th birthday. Many people believe that they are bullied due to what makes them different, such as their social class, sexual orientation, religion, weight, or even political views.

However, bullies are not much different from your regular person. They aren’t some scheming villain with an underground lair whose only goal in life is to make a person miserable. Research has shown that bullying isn’t something that someone just chooses to do. In fact, there is increasing evidence that bullying behaviors begin in the early pre-school and even the toddler stage of one’s life. When the behavior continues to go uncorrected, this is when it is carried over to elementary and high school.

Upbringing at Home

While this may be difficult to bring up, scientists have found that parents have an incredibly large part to play in the formation of their children’s bullying behavior. They themselves may have used strict and disciplinary parenting styles that include excessive threats and physical harm to control their children’s actions. Unknowingly, the parents will have ingrained in them that in order to get what they want from others in social interactions, they would need to be aggressive and dominating.

It has also been found, according to A Platform for Good, that parents of bullies may have shirked their children’s emotions during their toddler years when emotional volatility was at its peak. They may have been silenced from expressing their feelings or were commanded on how to deal with them. Scientists found that open and free play coupled with communication with other children allowed a growing child to learn how to confront their feelings and control them.


Internal Turmoil

Though this may seem impossible, most bullies tend to believe that they are actually well-liked by their peers, and they are unaware of the strife that they cause others. However, the reason they may not be aware of their behavior being undesirable is that others will tend not to speak up about their behavior, and their fear-based manipulation makes people interact with them whether they want to or not. About 66% of the people who admitted to bullying were male. Men are often taught to “man up” if they begin to show emotion, which makes them more susceptible to resorting to violence or aggression to solve their problems. It is a learned behavior that should be discouraged in society.

Parents of bullies may have shirked their children’s emotions during their toddler years when emotional volatility was at its peak / Photo by Getty Images


Deep within them, it is found that they have low self-esteem, and feel that they are constantly under threat of being hurt by others. This causes them to lash out in defense, as they believe that everyone is out to get them through insults and threats. In order to solidify their own superiority, they look for weaker individuals whom they can assert their dominance over.


Life Experiences

It was found that people who had bullied others had a greater likelihood of having experienced a traumatic event in their lives within the past five years. This may be anything from parents separating to a family member’s death. Bullies are often found to have tumultuous upbringings where several factors continued to change without their input. About 1 out of 3 of bullies said they felt that home life and relationships were unsatisfactory. These people were also more likely to come from large families, or who were not living with biological parents. Thus, they lacked the love and attention they would usually get from their parents

In order to feel like they have control over their lives, they try to assert control over others as a coping mechanism. By having control over someone’s day, they can cope with not having control over their own. They also project their frustrations onto others.

The Vicious Cycle

A bully will often focus on something that is different about a person to make it easier to create a sense of insecurity. People then become hyper-critical of themselves, and they attempt to mask these characteristics in order to avoid being targeted. However, it turns out that people who have been bullied are twice as likely to bully other people in the future. Some people may believe that being a bully themselves will make them immune to being bullied.

It is often quite difficult to reform a bully, and even if they are able to talk about their feelings properly, the years of neglect that they’ve experienced have often damaged them enough that the behavior could be difficult to correct. However, this is only in very serious cases.

In order to change a bully, one must give them the chance to change.



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