A few months ago, I asked people for ideas on things they’d like to see me write about. Every person who provided some input mentioned “bullying”. As a very broad topic, there are many different things I could talk about when it comes to this subject. I’m going to narrow it down to three big parts, breaking this up into a three-part series. Part one, posted here: https://kevinwojo.wordpress.com/2012/10/14/bullying-part-1/ defined the different types of bullying; physical, verbal, and social. It happens every day, whether we see it or not. Sometimes, it happens right in front of our face and we fail to notice. Sometimes, we are the bullies and we don’t even recognize it. As part two, this post will attempt to provide a basic understanding as to why it is that people bully.
There are many reasons why people become bullies or do things to hurt people in general. One of the most popular sources of reasoning that I’ve heard all my life is that, in most cases, bullies had once been victims themselves. In order to compensate for their time as a victim, they seek out some sort of vengeance by taking their turn as the creator of havoc. In achieving that balance, they hope to gain some sort of comfort or feelings of fairness. It becomes a vicious cycle of victims turning into bullies, who victimize people who eventually turn into bullies. Research has found that “bullies are more likely than their classmates to suffer from low self-esteem, depression, and behavioral problems from early childhood and through primary school” (http://www.guardian.co.uk/education/2008/aug/29/bullying.schools). There’s more to a bully than what is on the surface. Often, a rough background contributes to their bullying tendencies. So reason #1 for why people bully: To compensate for time spent as a victim.
Reason #2: Power. Perhaps the biggest motivator of all, power is seemingly available to/ present in those who bully. After all, if you are big enough to pick someone up and toss them around, people won’t want to mess with you. If you establish yourself as a force to be reckoned with, you possess quite a bit of power. The wrong kind of power, we may think, but power nonetheless. Not only does it fill the brain of a bully with intoxicating chemicals, a pleasurable feeling from having power, but it influences anyone in the area who may desire to be on that same level. Often times, bullies do not work alone. They have “sidekicks”. Now remember, I’m not just talking about physical bullying; a sidekick holding a victim back while the main bully punches him. This applies for verbal and social bullying as well. I will get to that in just a minute. But to wrap up this reason, it is important to note that many bullies do the things they do or say the things they say in order to possess some sort of power.
Reason #3: Cognitive dissonance. Now we’re talking about group bullying. You may have seen this video on Youtube where a group of middle schoolers verbally taunt a 68 year old bus monitor: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=E12R9fMMtos . One kid made a comment about her weight, providing him with social approval through a few laughs from fellow classmates. Others joined in on the fun and, before long, everyone on the bus had something nasty to say. This is it, folks. Of course people all over the world are being physically abused and bullied every day; of that there is no dispute. But the bullying that most of us see as we go about our day is of the verbal form, such as making a sarcastic mark that puts someone down in order to get some laughs from nearby people. It’s a popular example because almost everyone is guilty of it. Perhaps not to the extent that the kids in the video take it, but when was the last time you took a step back and thought “OK, if I make this joke, I’ll probably get a few laughs and people will think I’m clever, but is it worth hurting this person?” Anyways, I’ve gotten too far away from my main point now; let’s get back to cognitive dissonance.
As Psychology Today explains, cognitive dissonance is “that…need to keep the ego reassured that what is being done is all right and proper and above all consistent.” When a bully begins making cracks at the old woman, he implicitly encourages others to join him. They go ahead and make comments because, to them, it logically makes sense that “I’m a good person, but I am saying these things to them. Therefore, they must be a bad person; deserving of this.” This cognitive dissonance logic is not so much what starts bullying, but what drives people to continue bullying; the logic that makes it all seem ok. This is especially present in groups of people who otherwise would not consider themselves a bully.
So there you have it. Three of the most common factors that motivate people to bully others include compensating for time spent as a former victim, craving a sense of power, and then continuing by convincing themselves that what they’re doing isn’t all that bad. There are other factors, there are different combinations, I am aware of that. But these three tend to be the ones we see most often and the ones that people need to become aware of. Post #1: Bullying is out there and it exists in three main forms. Post #2: Bullying is caused/maintained by three main factors. Now that we have gotten a brief introduction to the “what is bullying” and the “why do people bully”, we can more readily talk about the “What can we do about it?” part, which will be the topic of an upcoming Post #3, the final part of this series. I hope you continue to join me as I attempt to educate you and help you become aware of some things everyone should know about the ever increasing problem of bullying.
Part 3 found here: https://kevinwojo.wordpress.com/2012/10/28/bullying-part-3/