The Protective Behaviours of Bullying and Passivity


Bullying and Passivity. Projection and Introjection.   

The defensive or protective behaviour of bullying or acting out behaviour is usually “tackled” as soon as it is noticed as it causes disruption. The child who bullies is projecting how he feels about himself onto another child. He blames others for what happens in his life. The intention is twofold. Firstly, unconsciously he will act out in an effort to protect himself from further hurt, “if I attack then I won’t be attacked”. He may have learned that the only way to be seen is through acting out. Secondly, it is to bring attention to the fact that life is difficult for him in the hope that some informed adult will understand and support him However, what happens is that adults see this behaviour as “bold”  and reprimand the child by punishments such as suspension or detention if at school and grounding  if at home.  An anger management programme may be offered which will deal with the symptoms only and the chances are that the behaviour will re-emerge.

Anger is the feeling from which the child is reacting, however, underlying this anger are the fears, needs, thoughts and feelings of the child. The possible fears are fears of not belonging and not being loved, rejection and abandonment. Thoughts may be thoughts of not being liked, not being popular, not being seen so “I will be seen, and liked at least by some for not showing fear although underneath I am terrified”. Remember that any connection ensures some sense of belonging. It is like hanging from a cliff holding a thin, ragged rope, we will not let go until something else is thrown to us.

The answers lie in the story.

The answers always lie in the story of the person who bullies. The questions that need exploring are, what aspect of his life is he feeling so challenged by that he needs to bully? Is it what has been said to him directly or what has been said indirectly? Has he been compared, comparison is a form of rejection? Has he been criticized, condemned or judged in any of his 8 expressions and made to feel worthless, unlovable and incapable? Whose challenging behaviour is he mirroring?  It is only in reaching inwards that safety will be created for him to express his needs and to reach a place where he feels so solid in himself that no one will demean or lessen his presence again.

The opposite side of the same coin.

The person who is passive is also acting from a place of fear and is introjecting how he feels about himself. He blames himself for what happens in his life either to himself or to others. There is a Fear of being seen because being seen in the past may have resulted in put downs, comparisons and rejections. It became easier to hide away and hide his true expression. On the other hand he may have been ignored and made to feel invisible and thought, “I will be quiet, and become invisible so I will be passed over”. The other intention is the hope that some adult will understand what he is saying metaphorically.  He is the opposite side of the same coin as the person who bullies. Both have low self-esteem which is the lack of a sense of lovability and capability so both need support in realising their worth in the world.

Law of Attraction

The person who bullies unconsciously identifies with the person who is passive and realising the other has low self -esteem will target him as he will not fight back. The Law of Attraction states that we will attract someone into our lives who will challenge us to become whole by reaching a solid sense of self in all our expressions. Is the person who is passive acting as a trigger for the person who bullies as it may be the passive behaviour of someone close to him that has allowed another demean him? For example, in the home, is the aggressive behaviour of one parent towards the child being ignored by the other parent therefore the child is not being championed. The same may be true for the person who is passive. Is the one who is projecting onto him a reminder of someone in his life with whom he introjected and disappeared? It is understandable if faced with an aggressive partner that one might stay quiet for peace sake or not to rock the boat. However, if such fear exists support is needed to find the safety to express needs in an assertive way.

Oh happy conflict! Each challenge is an opportunity to find our inner strength and to stand up for ourselves in an assertive manner by remaining dignified and maintaining the dignity of the other person.

As can be clearly seen both people need support in realising their self-worth and in raising their self -esteem to believe in themselves. They need to see themselves as unique, sacred human beings who have the capability to reach their true potential.

This will only happen when safety is established with a parent, teacher, mentor or therapist so that they can explore their story and free themselves of their past hurts.

On-going support also needs to be in place for those people supporting them.

The people who stand by and allow it all to happen are like the little ridges around the same coin and also need support as they have colluded and out of fear have not championed either person. “It is better to be his friend than his enemy”. “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.” ― Edmund Burke.

Separate The Behaviour From The Person.

You will have noticed that I have used the term “the person who bullies/is passive” as opposed to “the bully” or the “shy/quiet one”.  I am not labelling, I am separating the behaviour from the individual. By doing so, I can see the sacred  individual beneath the behaviour, who is struggling to be seen and heard whether it is by shouting from the roof tops or by being quiet. When I do this I can separate my self from the behaviour I separate the behaviour from the child and then and only then will I understand what he is really saying. By containing my own feelings I act as a container for his.

Ultimately all the behaviours mentioned need to be seen as symptoms of deeper fears and hurts.

What we all need to understand is that everything we say is 100% about ourselves and everything the other person says is 100% about themselves also.

We all need to acknowledge, name, claim and tame our feelings and recognise that they are messengers to us to help us to come back into our solid sense of self. That sense we were born with and which we hid away.  When we can do that for ourselves as adults then we are the mirrors which reflect a way of being that promotes nurturance, care and love of every fellow human being.




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