Inside a Bully’s Head

This post in our bullying series owes its inspiration & expertise to “An Interview with a Former Bully,” by writer Donna Smith.

A bully often has a tough parent, usually a dad. The dad may not be abusive, but he projects an aggressive demeanor. A bully may also be the youngest child in the family who gets picked on by older siblings. When a youngster suffers this kind of treatment repeatedly, he begins to lose self-respect.

Singles out weaker people

In order to regain self-respect, a bully singles out other people who are weaker or different and pushes them around. His victims allow themselves to be bullied. They also have little self-respect and, thus, are easy and vulnerable targets. Often a bully will not pick on anyone who is like him/herself. If the bully is an athlete, he most likely won’t pick on other athletes. If he is nerdy, he will leave other nerds alone.

More emotional than physical

A bully believes bullying is cool. He or she often bullies in front of an audience, which he mistakenly thinks gains him respect. Some of the bullying is physical, but much of it is also psychological. Usually the latter comes first. When a victim has had enough, he or she will finally strike back. Frequently that gesture of self-defense simply feeds the bully’s desire to become meaner and more vicious. The adrenaline kicks in and fuels the bully’s need to dominate.

The bully sideshow

Interestingly enough, a bully can become a sideshow for others to watch. Other people begin to set the bully up, daring him to face off with someone else. The bully becomes a pawn. He is too blind to see how he is being manipulated by his so-called friends. For them, watching him square off with someone else is entertainment. It makes good video. For him, his latest victim is yet another mountain to conquer, another chance to prove how tough he is.

Alone and friendless

Finally, however, the bully finds himself torn between having to fight and not wanting to fight. As he matures, he begins to realize that he has few real friends. Others are either afraid of him and don’t want to be around him or they detest him because he thinks he is God’s gift to the world. A bully is always lonely.

He only begins to feel better about himself and more accepted when he steps back from a fight. He begins to see people in a different light. As a bully gets older, he looks back with regret and realizes the damage he has inflicted on others—in some cases, permanent emotional damage. Some of his past victims dropped out of school or moved away or became reclusive. In extreme cases, the bully may feel some responsibility for a person’s suicide.

The bully looks back at his own family life and realizes that his tough dad was a mean man who hated his own life and took it out on everyone else. He may see how his older brothers treat their wives as objects of ridicule. He now understands that he is only beginning to become a real man.

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