Abusers, tyrants, the big bad bullies.
We’ve all had the unpleasant experience of coming across them at one point or another. Whether its in school, work or just life in general, there’s no way to avoid them.
It’s not necessarily us that have been the target of bullying (though, many have), but we’ve at the very least witnessed someone else being the target of abuse. Nobody wants to be in that position.
That’s the topic of this article. How to identify a bully, their tactics and ultimately what are the ways deal with them.
Let’s get down to business:
Who’s The Bully?
“To know your Enemy, you must become your Enemy.”Sun Tzu
To Identify a bully you must first understand them.
If you’ve never been a bully yourself, it may be difficult to try and get into their head, but it is a necessary step to take in order to know them.
I’ve been both a bully as well as one of the bullied. Multiple times in fact. I know how this works, and it’s less complicated than what it may appear to be at first.
But before we go on describing where a bully may be coming from, we must also figure out the kind of bullies we’re discussing in this article, namely psychopaths, sociopaths and the “regular” bullies.
About sociopaths and psychopaths in particular: generally speaking, you need not worry about these people, as they will only bully others if they deem it is worth it for them to do so – and usually it isn’t worth the effort.
This is because sociopaths are smart and selfish; hurting others will usually bite them back in one way or another. They are aware of this, which is why sociopaths calculate their moves well in advance. This is not what bullies usually do. If a sociopath is to be a bully, it is to gain a power position (or just power) – and if they do it they are certain that they will succeed.
Psychopaths can be violent (not always the case), but they are also aware of the laws and rules that surround them. They are not stupid or crazy… most of the time. If you’re the target of a psychopath, they want to destroy you, not nibble at you like a bully would.
The real advantage of sociopaths and psychopaths is that they are unable to feel human emotions, or those feelings are at the very least greatly suppressed. This means that they are able to think objectively (from their point of view) about any given situation and ignore the possible consequences (emotional or otherwise) that may result from their actions. The end justifies the means.
This simply means that the vast majority of bullies are what I like to call “regular” bullies. Bullies that for one reason or another decide that they bully others in order to gain back the power that they once lost.
Yes, that’s right, most bullies do what they do is because they (feel that they) lost their power and control, or gave it away, and are using what ever means necessary to gain some of it back.
How does that make any sense? Let me explain.
Think of a school bully. Why do you think most of them bully others? There are many reasons, of course, like attempting to gain popularity or they may seek revenge from the time they were bullied themselves. Some also do it for pleasure, but this is rather rare.
Most of the time it all starts at home. Whether it is an absent, too permissive or perhaps a violent parent (or a sibling), it always leads to the child feeling a loss of power and control. They then try and take back control at school, because it is the only way they know how to do it.
Other rather prevalent reason is the lack of self-esteem an individual may have. A proud and confident person rarely feels the need to bully others, where as people who are unsure of themselves often do.
People who lack self-esteem often fall under peer pressure as well. They join the side of the bully in order to not fall out of a group of a clique. They also do not want to be the target of bullying themselves. They are afraid which is why they choose to “join the dark side.” On the other hand, they may not join in on the bullying itself, but they certainly won’t take the side of the one being bullied. In this case, they are still part of the problem. There’s another word for these kind of people: coward.
Then there are the most pathetic and dangerous bullies. The ones who are so out of their minds that they will bully others just because someone above them (an authority figure) told them to do so – even if they themselves know it to be wrong. They relinquish all of their power and restraint in order to please a person (or because of greed), and then hurt others in the process. Only a mentally weak individual would fall under this category. To these people I’d like to send this message: grow a spine.
Later, with time, I learned that although all men are capable of good and evil, the worst among them are those who, when they commit evil, do so by shielding themselves in the authority of others, in their subordination, or in the excuse of following orders. And even worse are those who believe they are justified by their God.Arturo Pérez-Reverte
Unfortunately enough, too many people willingly fall into this category. The Milgram Experiment proves this. Make sure you are not one of them; “I was just following orders” is not an excuse.
“If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor. If an elephant has its foot on the tail of a mouse, and you say that you are neutral, the mouse will not appreciate your neutrality.”Desmond Tutu
Now we more or less understand who’s the bully: it is all about power. The lack of power and control, and the willingness to do anything it takes to gain it (back).
Let’s move on.
The Bully Tactics
“People who love themselves, don’t hurt other people. The more we hate ourselves, the more we want others to suffer.”Dan Pearce
Next we will discover the tactics bullies use.
In order to do this, we need to first pay attention to the usual targets of bullying.
More often than not, the targets of bullying are: loners, popular people, “rising stars” and groups.
Loners: people who for one reason or another spend most of their time alone. They may have disabilities, they may be weird or they may just like to be left alone because that’s who they are. Bullies target these people because, since they are alone, they more than likely do not have friends who will protect them from the bully. This is the most common target for a bully.
Popular people: This may seem a little counter intuitive target for a bully to go after, but it makes sense when you understand what its about: envy. The bully envies the popular person, so they will try and knock them down a peg or two. To the popular people: do not wrestle with a pig.
Rising star: This is a person who is gaining popularity. Generally speaking, the bully will in this case be the popular person themselves and they do not like competition.
Groups: Sometimes its easy to lump people into groups. “Us versus them” is an attitude I don’t fully understand myself, but this type of bullying (that is latent with prejudice) happens to be quite common. Bullies target groups largely because they don’t understand the other side, but there are also cases where an authority figure determines one group to be undesirable.
Once you understand the main targets and the reason behind bullying (power), you can already start to see what the tactics generally are.
Usually the first thing that bullies do is they isolate the target (or group). Isolation is a useful tool, because not only does it make the target easier to control, but it also reduces the chances of a counter-attack.
Isolation is also a strong psychological tool. In prisons, one of the harshest punishments an in-mate can experience is being sent to isolation chamber. While your regular bully may not be aware of it, people in power positions are well aware of the effects that isolation can have in an individual.
This is what NIH says about isolation:
“Research has linked social isolation and loneliness to higher risks for a variety of physical and mental conditions: high blood pressure, heart disease, obesity, a weakened immune system, anxiety, depression, cognitive decline, Alzheimer’s disease, and even death.
People who find themselves unexpectedly alone due to the death of a spouse or partner, separation from friends or family, retirement, loss of mobility, and lack of transportation are at particular risk.”
Isolation is the foundation upon which everything else is built upon, but how do bullies carry out the isolation?
In terms of the loner, well, he’s already alone, which simply means he’s the perfect target for a bully.
Popular people and rising stars, on the other hand, are subject to much more devious tactics. Bullies these people usually either infiltrate or are already part of the friend group with these people (this isn’t a necessary step, but it helps with the isolation part).
The bullies understand that the rising stars and popular people are (usually) not loners, so they must turn the friends against the target through the spreading of rumours and ridicule. It’s a rather long process and it may fail multiple times before it works, if it works at all. This is particularly common among girl groups, as the competition between females can be rather fierce. The psychological damage caused by this type of bullying may persist for years after the events.
In terms of group bullying, it can be caused by prejudice (hatred of skin colour or race for example), but the more common reason for it is because an authority figure decided it to be so. Red vs. blue, my team vs. your team. Country vs. another country. It’s mostly irrational nonsense. The only reason group bullying exists is because of group think. If an individual thinks for him or herself and questions authority, he or she will soon leave the bullying group altogether.
That being said, the isolation of a group usually happens over a longer period of time through demonization of a particular group through repeated messaging and propaganda. Jews during the Second World War is a perfect example of this.
“People try to say suicide is the most cowardly act a man could ever commit. I don’t think that’s true at all. What’s cowardly is treating a man so badly that he wants to commit suicide.”Tommy Tran
What happens once the isolation process is complete?
You need to understand that the isolation process itself is the major part of bullying. It can contain the spreading of rumours, name calling, humiliation and occasionally even violence. Bullies will often even try and turn your friends against you if they are able to get away with it.
Once the isolation process is complete and the bully has you where he or she wants you, then you only need to understand what the whole situation is about: power, and nothing else. The bully is living in a small box and the goal of bullying is to get you to be in an even smaller box, obeying every command the bully has.
Once the process is complete, the bully will continue grinding the target down using the same tactics they used before, but this time while also making demands. They will use threats of further isolation and even violence in order to make the target obey. It doesn’t matter whether these threats are real or not; what matters is that the target surrenders his or her power to the bully.
Once the target of bullying has suffered the abuse for long enough one of two things will happen: a complete breakdown, or they become affectionate towards their abuser because of Stockholm syndrome.
I guess it’s needless to say, but most of the time bullying stops before the isolation reaches its conclusion, but for the rare cases where it doesn’t: it means the abused has completely surrendered him/herself to the abuser.
In the case of complete breakdown, the person stops living his/her life and becomes recluse. This may prevent them from attending school or going to work. It may also cause them to stop eating. In some cases, it can lead to suicide. In other words, the isolation process ends in depression.
The other option is that the abused person mentally accepts the situation as a survival mechanism. This is often referred to as Stockholm syndrome, and its quite common in abusive relationships.
According to Webmd, Stockholm syndrome can be caused by:
- Being in an emotionally charged situation for a long time
- Being in a shared space with abuser with poor conditions
- When abused are dependent on the abuser for basic needs
- When threats to life are not carried out (e.g. mock executions)
- When abused haven’t been dehumanized
The site talks about hostage situations (such as bank robberies), but similar events happen in abusive relationships as well as schoolyard bully situations.
Once you’ve been isolated and the bully becomes the only person in your world, you become dependant on his/hers attention and “care.” Humans are social creatures after all.
From all of this we can gather that bullying tactics are varied. Violence is actually not the main tool in bullies arsenal, although it may seem like it at times. This is because bullying is all about power, or the lack of it from the bully’s side. It’s mostly about psychological abuse in attempt to isolate the target. That being said, the threat of violence is an excellent tool of control.
Now that we understand the tactics bullies use, next we will learn how to deal with bullies:
How To Deal With A Bully
“One’s dignity may be assaulted, vandalized and cruelly mocked, but it can never be taken away unless it is surrendered.”Michael J. Fox
We have learned that bullying is all about power. Bullies are always either powerless or in the process of becoming less powerful. The truly powerful people do not need to resort to bullying.
Bullies are often also people who hate themselves or the situation that they are in. They can’t control their own situation so they try and regain control through controlling others.
What does this mean?
It means that bullies do not have power. They may huff and puff, talk and act tough, but inside they are screaming; pleading for someone to help them.
This means that the individual is in the driver’s seat. You have the power until you give it away. Only by surrendering your power to the bully can they continue with their abuse.
“Life is like an ocean. To enjoy them, we need to learn to ride the waves, not control them or we can get swallowed by them.”Sushil Rungta
Bullies are not happy people, and they’d much prefer if you weren’t either. Why would you want to associate yourself with them by joining them or being their target?
There is no reason for you to be bothered by their actions. This, however, is easier said than done.
That’s why I’ve come up with actionable steps you can take to avoid being bullied:
Understand when you are being bullied.
If someone or something is trying to isolate you using ridicule, threats (of violence or otherwise), rumours or just making fun of you, understand that you are being bullied.
Same applies if someone is trying to make you do things you wouldn’t normally do.
If you’re feeling pressured, you need to understand the situation you are in: you are being bullied.
Ignore the bully.
This is the first step you can try and take. Unfortunately, it doesn’t always work, but its best to try it anyway.
Once you feel that someone is attempting to bully you, simply ignore them. Pay them no mind – no matter what they do. This may require nerves of steel, depending on how persistent the bully is. And like said, it may not work at all.
Confront the bully verbally.
The next step to take if ignoring them doesn’t work, is to simply tell them to stop.
Tell them to stop or say no.
“Stop doing that.”
“I’m not interested.”
They may ask why, as bullies sometimes do, to which you can then answer:
“Because I don’t like it.”
“Because I don’t want to.”
These are just examples. The point is: be upfront about how you feel about it.
You may also threaten legal action if the situation calls for it.
Remove yourself from the situation.
You know what? The bullies don’t always listen. Shocker, I know.
In this case, the best thing to do is to simply remove yourself from the situation altogether. Pick up your bags and leave.
Confront the bully physically.
If nothing else works, and you can’t remove yourself from the situation, then you are unfortunately left with the final option of confronting the bully physically.
This should always be the last resort and only be done in self-defence.
What I’m trying to say here is that you are allowed and you should defend yourself if you are in situation that calls for action. In fact, you must defend yourself, or the bully will never leave you alone.
This is also a call to get in shape. Something you should be doing anyway.
If the bully is the persistent type who won’t use violence, do not engage in violence yourself.
To young people for whom removing yourself from the situation may not be an option and you might need to endure what you’re going through, just remember this:
“A young outcast will often feel that there is something wrong with himself, but as he gets older, grows more confident in who he is, he will adapt, he will begin to feel that there is something wrong with everyone else.”Criss Jami
Don’t be afraid to be yourself. There very well might be something wrong with you, but who cares? Everyone has something they don’t like about themselves. Don’t let bullies gain power from pointing it out and you getting upset about it.
Learning to live with any possible faults one may have is just part of life. Its your strengths that you should be focused on.
The bullies hate themselves or their situation. You need to do the opposite. Be happy to be you, and be happy about the things you have rather than the things you lack.
But be understanding towards the bullies as well. There’s always a reason behind someone’s actions. It’s not normal to bully others, so there’s something seriously wrong with a bully’s life. It’s tragic. We better hope they are able to figure things out for themselves.
Finally, a message to the bullies:
“What if the kid you bullied at school, grew up, and turned out to be the only surgeon who could save your life?”Lynette Mather
We fix the situation by not participating in it. Time to focus on ourselves.