Understanding Bullying

Bullying is a distinctive pattern of harming and humiliating others, specifically those who are in some way smaller, weaker, younger or in any way more vulnerable than the bully. Bullying is not garden-variety aggression; it is a deliberate and repeated attempt to cause harm to others of lesser power. It's a very durable behavioral style, largely because bullies get what they want—at least at first. Bullies are made, not born, and it happens at an early age, if the normal aggression of 2-year-olds isn't handled well.

Many studies show that bullies lack prosocial behavior, are untroubled by anxiety, and do not understand others' feelings. They typically see themselves quite positively. Those who chronically bully have strained relationships with parents and peers.

Electronic bullying has become a significant problem in the past decade. The ubiquity of hand-held and other devices  affords bullies any-time access to their prey, and harassment can often be carried out anonymously.

Bullies couldn't exist without victims, and they don't pick on just anyone; those singled out lack assertiveness and radiate fear long before they ever encounter a bully. No one likes a bully, but no one likes a victim either. Grown-up bullies wreak havoc in their relationships and in the workplace.

Increasingly, children are growing up without the kinds of experiences that lead to the development of social skills, and free play has been in decline. Yet, it's in playing with peers, without adult monitoring, that children develop the skills that make them well-liked by age-mates and learn how to solve social problems.

Recent posts on Bullying

Psychology in "13 Reasons Why"

The psychology behind Netflix series "13 Reasons Why"
Geralt/Pixabay

How to Respond Gracefully to Destructive Criticism

6 ways to cope with the critics in your life.

The Wall With Mexico: Fear and Loathing

Inspired by kindled fears and prejudice, the U.S. will build an exclusionary wall between itself and Mexico based on irrational reasoning, at enormous expense, and with futility.

Did Trump’s Election Make Men More Aggressive?

Research is finding that overtly sexist, aggressive attitudes and behavior towards women appears to be increasing post-election.

What Is the Difference Between Conflict and Bullying?

Gratuitous references to bullying will create a “boy who cried wolf” phenomenon in which adults no longer act with urgency to protect the children who need them most.

Don Rickles, the Master Roaster, Dies at 90

By Izzy Kalman on April 16, 2017 in Resilience to Bullying
Don Rickles, one of the greatest roasters of all time, died last week. In today's culture, he could easily be considered a bully, but in reality he promotes the antidote.

Interview: Star Trek Psychology and the Hero Coalition

Pop Culture Heroism Coalition discuss why their focus shifted from opposing bullying to promoting heroism and how examples from popular culture can make a difference in real life.

The Emily Houser Hate Party

18 year old Emily Houser reported her boss for sexual harassment. Her co-workers response? A “F*ck Emily Houser” hate party—complete with a sheet cake expressing that sentiment

When Your Boss Is a Ruthless Monster

When Your Boss is a Ruthless Monster How to reduce your daily stress and maintain your sanity

Why Banning Social Media Is Not the Best Answer for Kids

A head-in-the-sand approach ill prepares kids to deal with the world in which they live and creates a fervor to use social media in sneaky, risky ways.

Are We Bullying Our Dogs?

By Jennifer Arnold on March 30, 2017 in Through a Dog’s Eyes
Stop telling your dogs to obey. Start asking them to cooperate!

The Trump Effect Part 1

Since the 2016 presidential campaign, increased bullying incidences in our schools have spread to include violent acts across our nation spurred by the rhetoric of one man.

With Two Sides to Everything It’s Dangerous to Ignore One

By Jeremy E Sherman Ph.D. on March 24, 2017 in Ambigamy
Here's a simple trick for making decisions you won't regret.

Apologies Are for the Weak: How to Crush Your Enemy

New research indicates that real men don't apologize.

What Is the Best Way to Defend Ourselves From a Bully?

By Sheila Kohler on March 15, 2017 in Dreaming for Freud
"I promised not to tell," my sister would say to me, telling me her sad story as though it had happened to someone else.

9 Ways to Respond To Social Identity Threats

Since the presidential election, several sources have indicated that hate crimes and hate speech have increased.

How to Cope With the Trauma of Online Harassment

Have you experienced online harassment? You may be suffering from symptoms of trauma and not even know it.

Revenge Really Is Sweet

By Grant H. Brenner M.D. on March 06, 2017 in ExperiMentations
Revenge is sweet, but causes problems in the long run. Why do we so often turn to retaliation to feel better when it doesn't usually work out to mutual advantage?

How Toxic Bosses Can Make You Toxic

By Ray Williams on February 28, 2017 in Wired for Success
Toxic leaders' influence can become viral in the workplace.

The Elephant in the Room

Concern over Donald Trump's mental health has 26,000 mental health professionals stating that he is unfit to serve as president of the United States. We agree and here's why.

Are We All Haters?

"All my friends in New York define themselves by what they hate,” says Lena Dunham’s character, Hannah Horvath, on Girls.

Uncivil Rights

Violent protests aimed at preventing “hate speech” at Berkeley show how dangerous we become when we can’t tell the difference between vile words and real violence.

How to Spot the Warning Signs of Career Derailment

By Stephen Joseph Ph.D. on February 27, 2017 in What Doesn't Kill Us
Are you in danger of executive derailment? Looking out for the warning signs might help you divert career disaster. New research on workplace bullying, burnout, and PTSD.

Intellectual Bullies: What You Need to Know About Them

By Leon F Seltzer Ph.D. on February 27, 2017 in Evolution of the Self
When we think of childhood bullying, we’re likely to conjure images of a vulnerable child’s being mocked to tears, or having to endure some form of sadistic physical abuse. But...

5 Reasons We Tolerate Bullying Leaders

We have all encountered them at work or seen them in the political arena: Leaders who are essentially bullies. Why do we give bullies such power over us?

How X-Men Helped Me Recover From PTSD

By Janina Scarlet Ph.D. on February 21, 2017 in The Real Superheroes
Have you ever felt depressed or anxious? Have you felt alone in these experiences? Connections with people or fictional characters might help us better.

What Happens When Narcissism Turns Malignant

Narcissism is one of the Dark Triad traits that also include psychopathy and Machiavellianism. New research that sadism brings its own unique contribution to the equation.

I Called the Trump Presidential MO Years Ago

By Stanton Peele on February 20, 2017 in Addiction in Society
Donald Trump practiced his exact method for making the United States a totalitarian state more than five years ago, as I detailed for Psychology Today.

10 Ways to Defuse the Hostility of People Who Are Angry

By Barbara Greenberg Ph.D. on February 12, 2017 in The Teen Doctor
We can all benefit from handling anger without responding in kind.

What Adults Did to Me at Birth: A Baby’s Point of View

By Darcia Narvaez Ph.D. on February 12, 2017 in Moral Landscapes
You civilized people don't know what you are doing to babies. Here's my story.