THE BEAST WITHIN
“Like sharks in the water, they sense their prey, often those who lack in assertiveness and radiate fear. It’s easy to dislike a bully yet, strangely, it’s equally possible to become ‘tired’ of the victim.”
This week, thanks to the magic of Facebook, I reconnected with a long lost friend. Somebody I used to be good friends with over 2 decades ago, 20 years. Wow, I just had to take a moment there. 20 years is a very long time.
How much has happened to you in the last twenty years? Take a moment to consider that. How many people have come into and left your life? And if you could travel back in time to meet yourself twenty years ago, do you think you’d meet the same person you are now? I’m considering that and I think I can say an emphatic no. I’m a completely different person now. Better, worse, nicer, nastier, tolerant, intolerant, um all of the aforementioned. Like it or not resistance is futile; life, like the hands of a drunken sculpture shapes us.
I had a hard time recognising my old pal at first because he looks so completely different to the memory generated image of the person I had in my head. And that got me thinking; if he looked so completely different then I must also! Like him, my good looks are no longer bolstered by youth but eroded by life.
And there’s me thinking, thanks to the power of mental suggestion, that I hadn’t really drifted that far from my twenties!
So, what if I met my pal now? How different would he be exactly? Would we share the same interests, tastes and beliefs? Would I even still enjoy his company? Similarly, if I met myself twenty years ago, how much would I like that person versus who I am today?
There’s no doubt that, as we grow older, those things that dominated our adolescent world don’t even feature in adulthood thanks to that old fashioned perspective. Work, responsibilities, good and bad experiences; they all influence our thought processes and, as a result, our character and behaviour. If this is true then what is also true that Mr or Mrs goody two shoes of school has a good chance of turning into today’s antisocial whilst in contrast, the bully who used to stalk the playground may well have grown up into today’s good Samaritan.
No? What do you think? Leopard ever change it spots? Do bullies grow up to be bullies or can they change?
Bullying is a global scourge. It takes places in school grounds, offices and factories around the world, often with devastating effect on its victims. It features a distinctive pattern of deliberately harming and humiliating others, and it’s a durable behavioural style because bullies get what they want—at least at first. But bullies are made, not born, and can manifest potential character traits as early as two years old.
Oddly, bullying works a bit like ‘supply and demand’; bullies would not exist without their victims. Like sharks in the water, they sense their prey, often those who lack in assertiveness and radiate fear. It’s easy to dislike a bully yet, strangely, it’s equally possible to become ‘tired’ of the victim.
Okay. Try not to choke into your cereal. Allow me to explain.
Most of us will ‘feel sorry’ for a victim of bullying, primarily because it’s fundamentally wrong; that whole strong picking on the weak thing, especially if it’s somebody we care about, in those cases even more so because we’re often powerless to act, generally because the victim doesn’t want us to for a multitude of emotional reasons, including fear of reprisal. However, make no mistake that many of us will find it difficult to deal with prolonged exposure to a victim. This is not a reflection of your personality but more to do with your programming as a human being. A parent who is consistently subjected to the victimisation of their offspring will instinctively become defensive and from there enraged; party with the bully, partly with the system but also with their child who insists on allowing the bullying to continue either by their own inaction or by binding their parents from taking action thus rendering them powerless. In turn, the continual exposure to victimisation stories becomes continual frustration which either leads to meltdown or denial; not hearing about something is closely related to it actually stopping (providing there isn’t any obvious physical evidence).
Yes, I know some of you are finding that very statement distasteful, and that’s because you are human and as such are compelled to take action when you are affected by something so deeply, such as your loved one being wronged by someone else. You need to be able to take action but if the victim is stopping you from doing so then you have nowhere to turn but denial.
This is all part of life at its most primeval. As youngsters we all become part of the natural selection; the strongest from the weak, the leader from the follower. These are the times that define us as a species because not only are we finding out place in life but we’re also starting to take on those life experiences that shape the person we grow up to be.
Bullies will always continue to thrive as long as their victims provide them with the life support to do so be that by allowing themselves to be victimised or by binding those who care about them from taking action on their behalf.
But I’m not just talking about children here. I’m talking about all human beings of all ages and all walks of life. It’s in our genetic code to dominate or to allow ourselves to be dominated. Conquer or allow ourselves to be conquered. That’s how it’s been for centuries and how it always will be. The only question is, which category do you fall into?
Take a few seconds to consider.
The easiest place to look is to your relationship with your partner. If you’re not in a relationship then look at a previous one or even the one you have with people around you, home or work. Ask yourself. Who is the strongest, most dominant between you? Who lays down the law or tends to get their way the most?
Is it you or the other person?
Now, some smart asses may say “there isn’t a more dominant one between us, we’re both the same”.
Take a closer look.
One of you will more than often take the upper hand and there are two reasons for this. Either that person is naturally the more dominant of the two personalities or because their partner assigned them that role. Often not consciously but subconsciously by becoming the more submissive of the two, all they’re doing is picking up on their cue.
This is not at all uncommon and these days is often happening more and more between men and women; where the woman becomes the more dominant of the sex.
Well, time and time again we talk about how masculinity in men is becoming more diluted with each new generation. The so called chivalry misidentification; there used to be a time when women knew their role in society as the wife of their husband. Then came the push for equality, the so called bra burning and then the battle for equality in the workplace and the smashing of the proverbial glass ceiling. In late 90s, women worked hard to assert themselves as equals among men; they earned their own money, bought their own cars, paid their own bills and went halves on the restaurant bill (and yes, I too am thinking of a Destiny’s child classic from that very era).
In the early part of the noughties, the once aggressive alpha male is a shadow of his former self and happy with it. He no longer has to worry about stigma of not being the main breadwinner nor worry about chivalry, he doesn’t even have to worry about that age old custom of having to go out and woo compatible females be that for the night or for eternity because the girls have got this covered also; they know what they want and they know when they want it.
Wrong. It’s 2013, it’s all change again. You need only take a look at movie scripts to understand that there’s a clear shift afoot. There’s been an exponential surge in the popularity and thus the production of period dramas, both on TV and at the cinema. And the reason for this is because whilst women are enjoying equality with their male counterparts they’re also suffering from a good dose of nostalgia, harking back to the days when men used to be gentlemen, when pleasure was an invite to share food and good conversation in picturesque surroundings and when seduction was a rip in a stocking and not the back alley of some seedy nightclub.
So where on earth does that leave today’s man?
And when you’re confused, the easiest thing to do is to surrender. And this is the very thing that tends to happen with a lot of today’s young couples. The girls set the agenda or (more specifically) the diary and the boys just have to report as ordered. This is the easiest way to co-exist without any major skirmishes.
This doesn’t quite yield the man that many a romantic girl would crave but it’s the next best thing. After all, men can be taught, can’t they?
I guess the answer to that lies with the question of whether or not a philanderer can be taught monogamy.
There is undoubtedly a differing of opinion on the subject. Which brings me right back to the question of whether any of us truly change from the person we used to be many years before.
Does the school ground bully go on to terrorise the office?
Researcher Dan Olweus followed a small group of Norwegian study participants (fifteen victims, fifty-six non-victims, all males, in 1993) and found that being victimised at the ages of 12 and 14 could be linked to greater depression and lower self-esteem at twenty-three years of age.
Olweus also documented a connection between bullying and later criminality showing that 60 percent of those who bullied at age 11 and or 14 had at least one criminal conviction by age 24; 35 to 40 % had three or more convictions (as compared to a group of non-bullying boys).
Another research group here in England asked boys about whether they were bullies at age 14, then 18, and then again at age 32. The findings showed that about one in every five boys who saw himself as “a bit of a bully” at age 14 continued to report being a bully at age 32. A noticeable proportion of these adult bullies at 32 years of age was highly aggressive and had been convicted of violence.
So, there you have it. The study speaks for itself. If we take it at face value then we’d have to resign ourselves to the fact that people don’t really change. If you were a bully at school then there’s a good chance that you’ll seek to become a bully in later life. Note I said there’s a ‘good chance’ because I don’t believe people do not change. I believe they can. What may not change is their tendency to follow a former pattern. The philanderer will attempt to cheat on his significant other whilst the bully will seek to terrorise his workplace but for both of these ‘types’ to thrive in their respective compulsions they need one thing; a victim.
Without victims, bullies wouldn’t exist.
The onus is on you to stand up against those who would seek to hurt you, to value yourself as individual who has the right to live free from the fear of persecution and the long term damage of passive submission.
Similarly, whilst the statistics speak from themselves, bullies and dominators ultimately have the power of free will. The instinct to prey on the weak may well be ingrained deep within however you and only you have the ability to break the cycle. You have a choice; act out on your impulse to dominate or divert that energy constructively to enabling those who may not be a strong as you to be the best that they can be because what you do now will become your legacy.
What do you want yours to be?
Have a liberated Sunday 🙂
“Dignity may be assaulted, vandalised and cruelly mocked, but it can never be taken away unless it is surrendered.” – Michael J Fox
What do I think ? Brilliantly written ,and needed to be People sweep this one under the proverbial carpet especially the Schools and Workplaces .but as stated without Victims equals no Bullies .
which is easier said than done .as a Parent instinctively you want to protect ,but that will not work it is for the victim to try and find the strengh to face up to the Bully.
However when you are younger this is so difficult your mindset is so set to avoiding the person rather than confronting .
Of course who would think themself to be the same Person they were 20 years ago hardly anyone I would imagine ,we change and evolve continuously for better or for worse .Personally I would like to think all Bullies grow into a Fine Citizens and repent their Evil ways ,however that is just wishing on the other Hand a few do reach Adulhood and regret their behaviour.but sadly not enough, so a vicious Cycle ensues and becomes part of life.
Also bring back CHIVALRY it can exist easily alongside an Independent Woman it just needs effort ,personally I think we have gone to far Re Feminism .and I agree no matter how you slice it there is always a Dominant in the Relationship there has to be it is the natural order of things .
Another great article Tony, thank you. I have always believed that a Bully will always be a Bully – The reason I believe this is that to be a Bully you have to chose to be a Bully – A personality trait becomes a permanent habit that will never waver. The main foundations of a personality are there by your teen years I believe, & the rest is created by future experiences & influenced by people whom you are in regular contact with.
A do believe a person changes & develops daily, learning & opening their eyes & ears to different things around them, but as they learn new things about the world & humanity, I think that only good & open hearts will question what they find, & look deeper within their own souls.
I think as we grow older, we can learn to appreciate life more & the people we cherish the most. However to be a good person, the foundation of a personality (a soul) must be open & pure – If this foundation is already cracked or corrupted, I really do think a bad seed will always be a bad seed. A damaged soul will never feel guilty, may not even know what they are like, or may even resent or blame others for becoming who they are!
I very much enjoyed your article The Beast Within. It’s interesting to think about what shapes peoples personalities and how people change over the years. What occurred to me after I read it was that the young bully’s face is quite sullen. I think that bullies themselves are being treated badly, even abused, and then they want to take it out on others. I am no psychologist but it would be interested to look at why people act as bullies, and the cycle that seems to persist, although this would certainly be a different angle and article
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