I remember while growing up in the 60’s that I was a constant target of bullying. I was small and just wanted to be a kid like everyone else, but there were always those people who had to try to control and victimize. It was not something that I wanted, but the day I became frustrated enough about being bullied and decided that I was not going to be pushed anymore, that was the day that I began to quit being a victim. Unfortunately, that was not the last bully that I faced, I have discovered that they are there everywhere that you go. The tragedy is that people in the workplace, in families, churches, and social relationships are being bullied everyday: they have accepted that as a way of life that they feel no escape from. The best thing that you can arm yourself with is not a gun or knife, not even a body-guard, but with understanding about the behaviors of bullies and how people are trapped into victimization.
They Are Abusers
The violence (not only physical) committed by a serial bully is almost entirely psychological, for psychological violence leaves no scars and no physical evidence. Most commonly, the violence takes the form of verbal abuse and emotional abuse including trivial nit-picking criticism, constant fault-finding combined with simultaneous refusal to recognize, value, acknowledge and praise. Manipulation, isolation and exclusion are other favorite tactics, as is feigning victim-hood or persecution, especially when held accountable.
They Are Controllers
The objectives of serial bullies are Power, Control, Domination and Subjugation. These are achieved by a number of means including emotional dis-empowerment, stimulating excessive levels of fear, shame, embarrassment and guilt, manipulation (especially of emotions and perception), ritual humiliation, and constant denial. When you live with someone who is constantly denying what they said or did a day ago, or an hour ago, or even a minute ago, it drives you crazy. When the symptoms of injury to health start to become apparent, the bully will tell others you have a “mental health problem” and try to make you feel guilt about your response. However, you may be mad, but this is not mad-insane, this is mad angry.
Control is a common indicator of the serial bully. Control of finances, control of movements, control over choice of friends, control of the right to work, control over what to think, and so on is the central motivation of bullies. Consequently, all efforts to control are designed to dis-empower the victim and empower the bully.
They Are Dividers
A favorite tactic of the bully in the family is to set people against each other. The benefits to the bully are that:
- The bully gains a great deal of gratification (a perverse form of satisfaction) from encouraging and provoking argument, quarreling and hostility, and then from watching others engage in adversarial interaction and destructive conflict.
- The ensuing conflict ensures that people’s attention is distracted and diverted away from the cause of the conflict.
Bullies within the family, especially female bullies, are masters (mistresses) of manipulation and are fond of manipulating people through their emotions (e.g. guilt) and through their beliefs, attitudes and perceptions. Bullies see any form of vulnerability as an opportunity for manipulation, and are especially prone to exploiting those who are most emotionally needy. Elderly relatives, those with infirmity, illness, those with the greatest vulnerability, or those who are emotionally needy or behaviorally immature family members are likely to be favorite targets for exploitation.
The family bully encourages and manipulates family members and others to lie, act dishonorably and dishonestly, withhold information, spread misinformation, and to punish the target for alleged infractions, i.e., the family members become the bully’s unwitting (and sometimes witting) instruments of harassment.
They Are Manipulators
Bullies are adept at distorting peoples’ perceptions with intent to engender a negative view of their target in the minds of family members, neighbors, friends and people in positions of leadership and authority; this is achieved through undermining, the creation of doubts and suspicions, and the sharing of false concerns, etc. This intentional poisoning of people’s minds is difficult to counter; however, explaining the game in a calm articulate manner helps people to see through the mask of deceit and to understand how and why they are being used as pawns.
They Are Deceivers Who Want To Be Your Confidant
The bully may try to establish an exclusive relationship (based on apparent trust and confidence) with one family member, such that, they (the bully) are seen as the sole reliable source of information. This may be achieved by portraying the target (and certain other family members) as irresponsible, unstable, undependable, uncaring, unreliable, and untrustworthy. Perhaps by the constant highlighting, using distortion and fabrication, reminders of alleged failures, breaches of trust, and lack of reliability, etc. This process is reinforced by inclusion of the occasional piece of juicy gossip about the target’s alleged misdemeanors or untrustworthiness in respect of relationships and communication with people. Mostly, this is psychological projection of the bullies failures and inadequecies.
The objective is to manipulate the family member’s perceptions and create a dependency, so that the family member comes to rely exclusively on the bully and see, the bully, as the sole source of reliable information whilst distrusting everyone else. Any person who is capable of exposing and breaking the dependency is targeted with venom and will find their name blackened at every opportunity.
They Are Attention Seekers and You Are Their Audience
When close to being outwitted and exposed, the bully feigns victim hood and turns the focus on themselves. This is another example of manipulating people through their emotion by invoking guilt, i.e., sympathy, feeling sorry, etc. Female serial bullies are especially partial to making themselves the center of attention by claiming to be the injured party whilst portraying their target as the villain of the alleged event. When the target tries to explain the game, they are immediately labeled “paranoid”. Therefore, attention-seeking behavior is common with emotionally immature people trying to control others to feed their low sense of self worth by controlling their audience.
They Are Easy To Spot, but Usually Missed
The serial bully is easy to spot once you know what you are looking for: a Jekyll and Hyde nature, compulsive lying, manipulation (of emotions, perceptions, beliefs, etc), unpredictability, deception, denial, arrogance, narcissism, attention-seeking, etc., whilst always charming and plausible, especially when impressionable witnesses are present.
Serial bullies can be male or female –the main difference is that female bullies are more devious, more manipulative, more cunning, more sly, more psychological, more subtle, leave less evidence and will often bully with a smile. Female bullies will often manipulate a male into committing their violence for them. Male bullies tend to be less subtle, have a tendency towards physical aggression, and are generally less clever than female bullies.
The best response to a bully is to avoid conflict if you can, but arm yourself with information and then you can take your life back and quit living like a victim.