What Makes A Person a Bully?

It is extremely disconcerting when you open the newspaper or hear on the television that a child has committed suicide because they were so harassed at school by bullies, or another child took matters into their own hands against bullies and opened fire at their school.

The rise in anti-social behavior and bullying that is going on is sad, and a disgrace. The only way to put an end to it is by educating people as to the signs, the consequences, and where they can go for help.

More research needs to be done as to how the brain is involved in anti-social behavior.

Bullying is nothing new; it has been around for as long as man walked the earth. People who bully come in all sizes, ages and sexes. Children push others on the playground, pants are flown up a flagpole, kids get stuffed in lockers, and teens post something damaging on Facebook in order to humiliate another classmate. Adult bullies become office bullies getting others to do their work for them and not giving credit for work earned. Larger people can bully physically weaker ones through intimidation, assault, threats, or exposing secrets. We are now hearing of smaller children who bully larger ones, a little more unusual, but it does happen because larger children tend to be more embarrassed by their size.

Most bullies have low-esteem, and believe that others will admire them if they can make themselves look better by making others look small and inferior. It’s survival of the strongest — either in mind or body. The saying, however, that “sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me” is so untrue — as evidenced by the number of teen suicides due to bullying, and the number of people who carry emotional scars for a lifetime due to bully abuse.

A bully is exhibiting anti-social behavior, which is unacceptable behavior that goes against what society dictates as “normal.” Bullies do not think about, nor care about, the damage they are doing to their victims. They take out their aggression on those weaker than them, and it is an act of violence.

When a person bullies they think they are in control, at least of some aspect of their life. Often peer pressure, and the desire to be accepted (even though the opposite effect usually happens) is the reason for bullying. Some bullies do grow out of it and develop a conscious, but by then the damage is done.

As children, society accepts anti-social behavior as a normal part of child development (temper tantrums) and the child’s need to show their independence. When they begin school, however, the change in routine and pressure they put upon themselves to fit in results in anxiety – which can lead to aggression. Continued aggression as they get comfortable with socialization can be indicative of antisocial personality disorder, a mental illness. Lying, impulsive behavior, irritability, a lack of remorse, and rationalizing bad behavior are symptoms of the illness.

Researchers believe that anti-social behavior can be due to lost connections to emotions in the brain. The bully is usually a person who is insecure in him or herself, and other areas of their life are out of control. Their bullying set off “reward” hormones in their brain that makes them feel good, so they continue bullying to keep getting their gratification.

Bullies may have some genetic defect due to birth defect, brain damage from an accident, or illness. It also could be the product of environment — someone makes the bully feel low, so they in turn take it out by making someone else feel the same. It could be a combination of both genetics and environment.

Children whose parents are abusive or always angry, and belittle the children, or each other, often take their anger and frustration out on others. In school they are termed “behavior problems.” As adults they often become criminals.

If you are a victim, tell someone. Bullies need an intervention, and often are victims themselves.


About the author:

Ron White is a two-time U.S.A. Memory Champion and memory training expert. As a memory keynote speaker he travels the world to speak before large groups or small company seminars, demonstrating his memory skills and teaching others how to improve their memory, and how important a good memory is in all phases of your life. His CDs and memory products are also available online at BrainAthlete.com.


Psych Central – Stress Effects from Social Isolation Explained, by Rick Nauert PhD: http://psychcentral.com/news/2007/11/15/stress-effects-from-social-isolation-explained/1542.html

Medical News Today – Social Isolation May Have A Negative Effect On Intellectual Abilities: http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/releases/87087.php

Wikipedia — Anti-social behavior: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anti-social_behaviour

WiseGeek — What is Antisocial behavior? http://www.wisegeek.com/what-is-antisocial-behavior.htm

Aggressive Behavior, by Peter K. Smith and Paul Bryan, Goldsmith College, London, England: http://www.des.emory.edu/mfp/302/302BullyingSmithBrain.pdf

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