What is the psychology behind bullying? (adult-bullying too)

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What is the psychology behind bullying? (adult-bullying too)

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By forcing people to feel a certain thing, a person feels power and signals that they are powerful.

A person who’s highly motivated to feel powerful and signal being powerful can do so by opposing someone else and winning.

Bullying is a way to force competition, because regardless of people’s differences in goals, almost everyone has the goal of avoiding pain. Hence pain is a solid bet as to a goal you can threaten and a person will oppose you.

That’s one angle of it at least. Feel powerful and signal being powerful.

There are probably others.

However for bullying to continue it needs to avoid becoming a war. That means it’s in the bully’s best interests to stop the target from fighting.

Hence a bully will use demoralizing tactics such as escalating in response to retaliation, attempting to shift a state of war back to a state of abuse.

And finally, that word abuse is important. The simplest way to define bullying is it’s a form of abusive relationship that happens in public. Most abuse is secret but bullying can happen out in the open (if the local culture supports it).

There are likely several different routes to bullying, from learned behaviour, fear, inferiority, competition, opportunism, boredom, malice etc.

In some cases the bully has been a victim of bullying themselves, and they might view it as “bully or get bullied”, so they bully others to avoid getting bullied. It might be the only way of socialising they understand.

When a bully sees someone more successful, smart etc, they feel unsuccessful or stupid. Rather than face the reality of their position they externalise and see their feelings as being caused by the other person. They feel hurt and act out against the person who made them feel that way.

Sex makes us do weird things, and people will behave in antisocial ways in attempts to impress others through displays of dominance.

People may need resources (money, food) and may find that bullying is a successful strategy for obtaining those resources.

And some people are jerks who just like being dicks to people for no especially good reason because they have personality disorders or other psychological problems.

Hurt people hurt people. 99% (or more) of bullies are in some sort of emotional crisis in varying degrees. And they decided to make other people hurt to cope.

Mental issues can cause bullying as well. Which may or may not count as emotional crisis.