I can relate to bullies. When I feel mistreated or I’m not getting what I want, it can be upsetting. Maybe you can relate, too.
Feeling powerless can lead to many forms of acting out: overt violence (physical), abusive language (verbal), or more covert bullying, like starting rumours, exclusion, and gaslighting (social/psychological). Yesterday, I unfortunately witnessed all of the above from a grown adult at the skate park—something which is pretty rare these days, but still happens. I tried to remind myself that people who act this way are hurting inside, and have not developed the skills to deal with their emotions, so they fight that insecurity by trying to make others feel bad.
I will admit that it hooked me for a moment, and I wanted to return in kind—this was directed to a minor; the immature and insecure parts of me wanted to make the person feel the same hurt they were trying to inflict on others. However, I’m beyond grateful that I’ve learned how to regulate those emotions and step back. I have had some incredible mentors and role models show me that there is a bigger picture, and that I ought not lose sight of it.
With covert bullying, it’s easy for the perpetrator to deny or excuse their behaviour. Typically when people show this pattern, they are especially effective at making the other party feel as though they themselves are the ones who have caused the harm. The bully will act like the victim, while continuing their toxic behaviour. This is called gaslighting, and it can be extremely damaging to everyone involved.
I think the most important thing to do is talk about it, and shed light on the fact that we all feel this way sometimes, as victims or perpetrators (whether or not we act on those feelings). Can you think of a time you’ve experienced bullying? How did it feel? What did you do? Have you ever found yourself as the perpetrator of bullying? We're always here if you want to talk. Reach out.