Trying to understand the psychology behind bullying is not an easy task. There are a number of factors that can determine bullying. One of the first hurdles to get over is coming to an understanding about the instigators themselves. So, why do people bully in the first place? It is the million-dollar question on so many minds. There’s no one answer to that though. Here are the top eight reasons we found that can contribute to the makings of a bully.
1. Stress & Trauma at Home
It seems like a common issue brought up when trying to discover why someone is bullying someone else. Problems at home can readily affect anyone’s state of mind. As we all can and do respond to stress and traumatic events in different ways, a bully may be someone who does not know how to positively respond to these types of things.
There can be abuse, physical and/or verbal, happening at home. This abuse can be happening to a loved one as with domestic cases, or it can be falling onto the bully themselves. Other stressful situations can include the loss of a loved one, financial struggles, or just anything that can set someone off.
Events such as these can be too much for someone to handle. So, they choose to take their frustrations, fears, and any other feelings out on someone else rather than coping with the real issues going on at home. Bullying this way is sort of an outlet, a welcoming release for them.
2. The Bully Has Been Bullied
Another regrettably common answer as to why there is bullying is that the aggressor was once (or still is) the victim. Those who have been put down by their peers or even relatives can resort to using those techniques on someone who is inferior to them.
It can play out like a defense mechanism. To not think about their trauma from bullying, the bully merely lays into someone else so they feel it instead. This is one of the reasons that unfortunately aids in turning bullying into a relentless cycle.
3. Pack Mentality
Sometimes, a person may turn to bullying simply because their friends are doing it first and they feel compelled to “stay with the pack”. Being in a larger group can also help people feel more secure and safe. As such, they’re comfortable saying and doing things they would not normally do if they were otherwise alone with their victim.
Have you not really noticed any real-life examples of this? Take a look then at some movies and TV shows centered on high school or college-aged individuals. Male or female, have you seen the way some of the labeled “mean kids” always have a handful of friends around laughing and egging them on?
It is a trend that appears to be more common in kids and teens, but adults do still fall victim to the pack mentality. You don’t want to feel like the odd one out of the group, and you may even be afraid that they’ll direct their attention toward you if you don’t go along with it.
4. Relationship Problems
Another interesting reason behind bullying is based on the person’s relationships or even the lack of relationships. Although we just touched on the idea of the pack mentality, there is the opposite end of the spectrum where a bully does not seem to have that many close friends.
A bully may indeed struggle with their relationships. They may have a tough time with friends, relatives, and even romantic attachments. Some bullies feel like they have no one, or that those they do have around them are not as supportive or caring for them as they should be.
This can lead to bullies self-isolating or be purposely isolated by those around them. It can turn to the bully using their victim as a punching bag to work out those feelings.
5. A Lack of Empathy
Although this cannot be said for all bullies, some have scored low on the empathy scales, and others are even noted with the potential to develop more anti-social personality traits. They just simply lack compassion for other people’s misfortune. These types are more interested in their immediate gratification even if it is at the expense of someone else.
Those bullies that seem to lack empathy often do not even see themselves as bullies. They may use the age-old excuse of “it was just a joke” to brush off the seriousness of the situation. Generally, anyone can be a target for these types of people.
Some can even turn the victim into the responsible party as if the victim made the bully do it. It is a way of dehumanizing the victim, a way for the bully to shake off any hint of blame so they look and feel like the better person.
6. The Sense of Accomplishment/Reward
When someone bullies another, the aggressor is often getting something out of it. Students can take lunch money and food. Other bullies, in general, can feel accomplished just by all of the attention they are getting. Their behavior is usually done where their peers can see, so a bully is a type that demands attention. They then can feel rewarded by this attention, something that only encourages their antics.
This can be especially seen amongst younger individuals. Some bullies wait for the right moment to knock someone else down, take something from them, or make fun of the way they look just to illicit a laugh from a group of their peers. This is rewarding as well for them. It’s all about feeling as though they did something good to warrant that kind of attention.
7. That Jealous Monster
Jealousy is such a nasty trait that can manifest itself in various ways. Some are able to swallow it down and move on. Others are not so well at hiding their feelings.
A bully can be readily jealous of their victim. Their victim may have something (or someone) they want and feel they deserve to have. They may have more of something like money and friends, and that has made them a target to the bully who has a hard time controlling those negative emotions.
Some children can become jealous if they have noticed others with a better home life. Jealousy can even spring up within a household, in particular with bullies who have siblings. Those siblings may be getting more attention than them and it has pushed them to a breaking point. This all can tie back to the stress and trauma at home we mentioned first in our list.
If a bully feels a strong sense of resentment, they may get compelled to knock their victim down. This way, they can erase that superiority so that they can begin to feel better.
8. Desire for Total Control
When it comes to the act of bullying itself, a lot of it appears to be about having control and power over someone else. There are those people out there in the world that crave dominance over others. That desire can start young and continue to blossom into adulthood. Regardless of when it springs up, the pursuit of that kind of power can be the driving force behind many bullies.
In a person that already has aggressive and impulsive tendencies, this need for control can be a truly awful combination. They tend to seek out easy victims that will give them a firmer hold of their power over them. These types of bullies usually feel joy in knowing that their victim will do whatever they want them to do.
This also lends itself to ego and arrogance. Someone who knows they are domineering wishes to show-off that control. They can’t find a better way to do it than by breaking someone else down.
There is not just one clear way to answer the question as to why do people bully. You have to tackle numerous of psychological, social, and perhaps even cultural factors that can contribute to the answer. A bully can fall under one, a few, or even all of the above reasons we laid out. Some may have an entirely different reasoning for their actions just as well.
No matter what conclusions we reach, it seems to be clear that no one is just born a bully. There is always some kind of surrounding circumstances that lead to people behaving the way they do. Having a better understanding of these situations is a good step to stopping the heinous act of bullying.