The Smoke Signal

Inside the Mind of a Bully

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ASAP Science

When was the last time you felt as though you had true control over your life? Where you felt more in charge of the situation, in opposed to your situation being in charge of you? When was the last time you felt that power, where you were in the position to be calling the shots of what happened next?

Power is a force that needs an object and the crave for power and control over our lives is far from a new epidemic. We all experience this desire on different levels For some this power is drawn from an academic perspective, trying to have control over one’s grades in order to feel as though they have control over the aspect of their lives involving their educational future and social success at the time. For others, this need for control comes from their drive for materialistic belongings, or in other words, “money is power”. That intense workout regime, the diet, the precise planner, the pathway that leads to a promotion, driving your car 120 mph down a back road, they all revolve around the hope to control something in our lives, even if this is for a limited amount of time or a small aspect, the personal reality one endures. The appeal of power is simply drawn from the idea that we can control our own reality, and even more precisely, the desire to have autonomy.

“Autonomy is the freedom of external control or influence, independence.” (Merriam-Webster Dictionary). Being power hungry is not as corrupt as it is made out to be; once it becomes evident, it is easy to understand that a drive for power and success is part of humaneness.

So if we all have the drive for power, why are we not all powerful? Many situational aspects play into this phenomenon, but on a personal level, this hunger is balanced out by empathy, guilt, and personal consciousness.

The pleasure from power is controlled, but for some people, it is not, and these people are referred to as psychopaths. And at the end of the day, these psychopaths are often charming, lacking traits of empathy,  have disregard social constructs, and a tendency to display violent behaviors. Psychopaths make up 1% of the population, and sociopaths make up 1 in 25 people in the world. These traits can lead these people to be the world’s best and most efficient CEOs, lawyers, and leaders of the world but are also likely to be our serial killers, rapists, and even your high school bullies.

“The most common trait we hear attributed to those who bully is that they lack empathy. They do not ‘feel the pain’ of the victims as they inflict pain upon them, freeing them to act without guilt, shame or hesitation.  Unbound by a social, emotional and/or moral conscious, they can comfortably and easily do things that the rest of us would find unthinkable.””

— Jeffrey Leiken, MA

In a study conducted by the journalist Dr. Mark Harrold, a clinical psychologist, in The Irish Times reads, “There is little doubt that the root cause of the problems described above is the deviant personality of the perpetrator. There is a good chance that they were bullies at school and have carried their deviancy into the work setting. Research indicates that they are likely to come from a dysfunctional family, which is most often the origin of the deviant behavior.

One of the first notable attributes of bullies is their Jekyll and Hyde manner of engaging with others. They are charming and even charismatic in one setting and as ruthless as a hardened criminal in another. They will crush any perceived threat like a fly, by whatever means – lying, cheating, manipulating, undermining and sabotage.”

The city of Ripon holds a growing 13,000 people, meaning statistically Ripon is home to 130 psychopaths and 520 sociopaths; on a smaller scale, Ripon High School would hold approx. 9 sociopaths and 34 sociopaths. In a recent poll by Smoke Signal writer Will Sanford, 65.1% of RHS’ student claim they’ve been bullied, which would mean that 600 kids have been verbally bullied, physically bullied, or cyberbullied. But is it possible for that many people to be impacted by the estimated 9 sociopaths present within RHS’ campus? Yes, but this would only apply if the psychopaths took the more violent harsh route and not the path that lead them to be successful businessmen, lawyers, and leaders of the world.

So while many bullies display psychopathic tendencies, not all bullies are psychopaths and not all psychopaths are bullies. We know bullying is a result of compensation for the lack of power one may feel in their lives, which should ask us to reevaluate our hunger for it on our own. Understanding the mindset of a bully is important and it raises an important question: who are the bullies in Ripon, and do they exist within ourselves?


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Inside the Mind of a Bully