Understanding the Bully – Chapter Sixteen

Understanding the Bully – Chapter Sixteen

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The bully feels like a victim and tries to make a victim of others.

Here is an old rhyme from when I was a kid. ‘sticks and stones may break my bones but words can never hurt me.’

Most verbal bullying comes in the form of disconnecting habits of communication. This is external control psychology as covered by William Glasser. They are, criticizing, complaining, threatening, blaming, nagging, punishing and bribing. The bullies feel disconnected and disempowered in their lives, and attack others to control them. In so doing, feel they have some sense of power. It’s a knife that cuts both ways. It hurts the bully just as much as the one being bullied. This is the ego at its worst but, unlike the sociopath, the bully feels like a victim and tries to make a victim of others.


We take being bullied personally. It isn’t personal. It’s the bully’s problem. They are the ones that feel powerless. If they didn’t feel powerless they wouldn’t need to bully others. If we don’t take it personally we can’t be bullied verbally. We should feel sorry for the bully. They don’t live happy lives, poor things. Sociopaths are effective bullies. This comes from a hidden sense of rage that they have supressed and a lack of guilt or remorse.

The bully lives in fear, stuck in the mind. From the heart we can feel compassion for the poor souls and this frees us. There is another thing about bullies. They have usually been bullied in the past. It takes a bully to create a bully. They have low self-esteem and will usually target the weak to feel strong. The paradox is that they must feel weak to want to feel strong. Because of low self-esteem the ego wants to inflate itself to feel superior to others – again a paradox. You must feel inferior to others to want to feel superior to them and you must feel powerless to want power over others. Bullies often recruit others who feel weak to help them bully. This is often the choice; better to be on the side of the bully than to be bullied by them. Most bullies are cowards who live in fear.

Many parents bully their children without even knowing they are doing it. Many bosses bully staff at work thinking they are just doing their job. Once we realise that the disconnecting habits are our bullying behaviour, we can make amends. We have all been guilty of it at some time or other.

Many parents who were punished as children believe that, if it worked for them, it will work for their children. If we don’t punish our children they won’t learn what they are doing wrong. Punishment is a disconnecting habit. There is a simple tool I teach to clients to avoid using this disconnecting habit. I have the parents sit down with their children and come up with a set of rules they all agree on. The parents then negotiate the consequences of their children breaking these rules. Once a child accepts the negotiated consequence they are taking ownership of the consequence. If they break the rules it isn’t the parent dishing out the punishment. They are punishing themselves. When the parent punishes a child, the child feels as though they are being bullied. If the child has agreed to the consequences of breaking the rules they must understand that they have a choice. Allowing a child to have a choice meets that child’s need for empowerment. No one is trying to take their power away. If a child misbehaves, the parent just needs to point out the consequence that they have mutually chosen. The behaviour eventually stops because there is no battle between the parent’s ego and the child’s.

I find children will test the parent’s resolve in following through with the consequences. The child has chosen the consequences so there is no need for the parent to feel guilty about following through with them. I find that this helps a child understand that there are consequences to all their actions. This is a good lesson to learn at an early age.

The following is an example from a client’s feedback. The lady in question came to me because she was stressed and frustrated with her two young children’s behaviour. She had resorted to shouting at them all the time, and punishing them didn’t seem to work. They had become worse.

I think when some children hear, ‘don’t do that’ from a parent, the ‘don’t’ seems to get deleted. They don’t like to be told what to do. Telling is a disconnecting habit.

The mother sat her children down, a boy six years old and a girl of five. There were some of her children’s behaviours creating problems for her. She wanted to stop these behaviours. They were fighting each other, not getting ready for school on time and her son was jumping on the furniture – and there was more. She had them agree that rules were fair and necessary. She then negotiated the consequences of this behaviour with each of them. The example she gave me was her son jumping on the furniture. The consequence would be the confiscation of his playstation. The boy wanted 1 day loss and she wanted a week. They settled on five days. The next day he was again jumping on the furniture. She didn’t shout at him as she would normally have done. She just asked him if he was choosing to lose his playstation. He jumped off. As soon as her back was turned he jumped back on. She began to pack up his playstation as he protested that it wasn’t fair. She told him she wasn’t punishing him. He had chosen it and was punishing himself. He tried to get it back a few days later but she stayed consistent for the five days. The behaviour stopped shortly after.

The son was clever in the negotiations. He had asked for rules for his mother. He said he didn’t like it when she shouted at him all the time. They agreed that if she shouted at them she would sit in the naughty corner for one hour. This was a chair in the laundry. She was confident that now she had a strategy in place there was no need to shout and so agreed. A few weeks later they were late in getting ready for school in time and she shouted at them, forgetting the consequences she had agreed to. The son quickly pointed this out and the consequence. She agreed to accept the consequence after she picked them up from school. ‘One hour is a long time with two young children sitting cross legged on the floor giggling’, she told me. She also told me she had learned a lesson of her own that day. Sometimes old habits take time to break. Sometimes parents don’t understand the consequences of their own actions, but will eventually pay a price one way or another.

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When we use disconnecting habits we are trying to control others.

When we use disconnecting habits on others. It is bullying. As children we take it personally. As adults we can choose to take it personally. It isn’t personal. It is the other person’s problem so we don’t need to take it personally. Some parents are still bullying their children long after they have grown into adults. Some parents still feel the need to control their children regardless of their age. They love their children but create problems in their relationship by trying to control them.

One of the best words you can use to yourself if someone is using disconnecting habits is – interesting. Interesting places us in the position of the observer. If you find the bully’s comments interesting, you are not taking them personally. Only the ego takes it personally. When I find a bully’s comments interesting, it takes me to a place of wondering what their problem is.

Some bullies have passive-aggressive behaviour. These are the hard ones to pick. They tell you what you want to hear and then do something else. They can’t say it to your face but work behind your back. To your face they never utter an unpleasant word, but, as they are walking out the door, their fiendish minds are working on a plot to bring you down or disrupt your plans, your suggestions or directions. Most passive-aggressive people feel insecure.

Passive-aggressive behaviour is a learned personality trait. Their passive, sometimes obstructionist resistance to following through with expectations in interpersonal or occupational situations can cause many problems. It is a personality trait marked by a pervasive pattern of negative attitudes and passive, usually disavowed, resistance in interpersonal or occupational situations. It can manifest itself as a learned helplessness, procrastination, stubbornness, resentment, sullenness, or deliberate and repeated failure to accomplish requested tasks. The passive-aggressive persons sees themselves as the victim of bullying – but they try to bully others by their actions. Passive-aggressive people like to gossip. It is often a result of a problem with a parent in childhood or bullying, but it is a learned behavior and usually a sad sign of immaturity. Some passive-aggressive behaviours are designed to push your buttons to help to make them feel superior, but to avoid a reaction. One passive-aggressive person I know will often suggest, that people who think a certain way, or act a certain way are idiots. While knowing full well it’s the way I would probably think or act. You know it’s aimed at you but it is a comment designed to hurt and yet avoid conflict. I find it interesting that he needs to try to pull me and others down through generalized judgmental comments to feel good. Like all bullies, he wants to feel superior, but must feel inferior to behave this way. I also find it sad because he is usually a very nice guy. It is designed to inflict pain, and yet avoid conflict. Once a passive-aggressive person decides not to like you, there is not much you can do to change it. They will tell you what you want to hear to your face, but you don’t want to hear what they say behind your back. Their actions or lack of, are designed to frustrate you.

Most bullies are made – not born that way. They were created by circumstance. Cut them some slack and don’t take it personally – It’s their problem, not yours.