Bullying: a perspective

Mike Burckhard


There is so much being talked and written about the harmful effects of child, adolescent, and adult bullying. There are also many good proposals being suggested and programs on character development being implemented across the country to reduce bullying and help mitigate the psychological harmful effects of those being bullied. I would like to offer a psychological perspective as to why bullying occurs in the first place.

I suggest the underlying cause of bullying is rooted in psychological insecurity. Psychological insecurity being rooted in emotional abandonment which occurs during our childhood and adolescent years when emotional nurturing from emotionally secure parents is essential in helping the child outgrow appropriate emotional insecurity. If the child doesn’t receive appropriate emotional nurturing from self nurturing parents, the child reaches adulthood physically and cognitively mature but not psychologically/emotionally secure. Psychological insecurity in adulthood is then manifested behaviorally through fear of abandonment.

Basic emotional neglect by parents to their children (failure to properly emotionally bond) is typically generational in nature and therefore the insecurity is unrecognizable when they become adults. Other children who suffer severe emotional neglect or also experience emotional/psychological abuse, physical abuse or sexual abuse, or whatever combination there of, are all too aware of their insecurity as adults.

I believe this can be best understood by imagining the insecure personality of a child, adolescent, or adult having a passive and aggressive dimension. The passive dimension of the insecure personality having a tendency to be self critical, self neglectful, or self abusive when making mistakes or bad decisions, along with excessive worry about what other people might be thinking or feeling. These individuals are unknowingly bullies unto themselves and in extreme of cumulative negative emotions are at risk for the ultimate of self abuse involving suicide.

The same individuals operating on the aggressive dimension of their personality think and act the opposite of their passive side. Here they take no responsibility for their negative feelings, mistakes, or bad decisions and are quick to blame others. This then leads these individuals to becoming bullies unto others by becoming critical of others directly or through vindictive negative emotions toward others leading to the ultimate physical abuse of homicide.

There are many more aspects to psychological/ emotional insecurity and the toll it takes on the chemistry of the brain and eventually other organs of the body contributing to a wide variety of mental/physical illnesses from chronic emotional stress.