Ever wonder why bullies bully? What’s their problem? That’s exactly the point… they are struggling with a problem. Bullying is an act of violence, and violence is an expression of anger. Bullies have an anger problem. Following Karyn Hall PhD’s thoughts (2012), the bully’s anger serves a few possible purposes: to protect himself, to control, and to connect:
Emotional Shield: Bullies fight hard to protect themselves from feeling powerless. As former victims themselves, they’ve had their share of feeling powerless. Anger is an empowering feeling that pushes them to break that all-too-familiar barrier of paralyzing fear.
Source of Control: Bullies fear to lose their victim as a scapegoat, which they desperately hold on to. Through anger, they can intimidate and manipulate others into submission to play the abuse game by their rules.
Safer Connection: Dr. Hall paraphrases Steven Stosny’s words on core hurts from his book Treating Attachment Abuse (1995): “He identifies core hurts, some of which are feeling ignored, unimportant, accused, guilty, untrustworthy, devalued, rejected, powerless, and unlovable”. These core hurts are the result of serious narcissistic injuries. They give rise to difficult emotions, such as fear, sadness, depression, vulnerability, etc. Anger then becomes a way of connecting with other people without having to deal with those difficult emotions.
Dr. Hall argues further that the anger can sometimes stem from entitlement and not insecurity: “exhibiting a narcissistic anger – she does not feel insecure, she feels entitled” (Hall, 2012). The sense of entitlement is a strong trait of a narcissistic personality disorder (NPD). On that point, I would argue that the bully’s sense of entitlement itself may stem from insecurity as well. The insecurity gets triggered when people don’t respect the narcissist’s sense of entitlement, thus bursting his narcissistic bubble whose sole purpose is to protect him from feeling vulnerable and inferior.
Since bullies tend to have a sense of entitlement in varying degrees, they also have varying degrees of narcissistic rage even though they may not qualify for an NPD diagnosis.
In his book Malignant Self-Love: Narcissism Revisited (2008), Sam Vaknin explains that “narcissists are in a CONSTANT state of rage” (Vaknin, #10, 2008), often controlled with explosions here and there when their poor self-perception is triggered. The narcissistic injury is a trait that narcissists and bullies share that explain the underlying anger to their abusive relationships. This is not to say that bullies are all narcissists. Narcissists do tend to be bullies, though. If he can’t be happy, he would rather see the coveted happiness destroyed (cfr. Hirigoyen, 1998, p.159).
Delisle, Jonathan; https://lighthousecounselling.wordpress.com/2014/09/08/under-the-bullys-mask/
Hall, K. (2012). Understanding Adult Bullies. Psych Central. Retrieved on July 23, 2014, from http://blogs.psychcentral.com/emotionally-sensitive/2012/01/understanding-adult-bullies/
Hirigoyen, M.-F.; Le harcèlement moral : la violence perverse au quotidien; Éditions La Découverte et Syros, Paris, 1998; ISBN :978-2-266-22277-8
Vaknin, S.; Malignant Self-Love: Narcissism Revisited; 1st edition, 8th revised impression, Narcissus Publications, Prague & Skopje, 2007; ISBN: 978-80-238-3384-3
*The views expressed by our authors are personal opinions and do not necessarily reflect the views of the CCPA