Emotional Education

How Do Bullies Think

This post talks about the thinking pattern of bullies in general. Because there is little difference in the cognitive pattern of different bullies, this post holds true for every bully in general.

Bullies are bad guys who lack empathy and moral values. They are evil souls who find pleasure in hurting others.

You and I both know that the above statements are pieces of utter bullshit.

In reality, every one of us has our own demons to fight with and these demons often overpower us.

For bullies, the incidents when these demons overpower them are just a little more frequent than they should be.

Does this make them any less human?


It just makes them victims of these demons, emotionally unhealthy people. They need a cure for their cognitive processing and their behavioral issues.

There are up to six different emotional and/or behavioral disruptions that shape bullies’ mindset. These disruptions range from shame and guilt, to fear and anger.

Let’s get a peek inside the mindset of a bully. Here, I am mentioning bullies’ mindset with or without regard to sibling bullying. The reason is clear; every bully has a similar mindset irrespective of who is their target.

Before everything else, look at Luke’s story:

Luke’s Story

Look at Luke, a child of a stressed-out family. His family is dealing with serious financial struggles and is heavily indebted. He, on top of his familial issues, has excessively protruding teeth.

His left-door neighbors have an adorable child, John, who is innocent and well-behaved and lies in the same age group as Luke. Once, when that child was experimenting with his new bicycle in his front yard, Luke pushed his bicycle causing him to fall and get hurt. He also made sure that his cycle didn’t look as glossy as it previously was.

That kid, being a loving soul, could not understand the reason behind this aggression. After all, he was always friendly towards Luke. His parents were furious, so were Luke’s parents.

The neighborhood labeled Luke as an anti-social soul who couldn’t bear others’ happiness. But did he deserve this label?

What happened in Luke’s mind which prompted him to become violent? Let’s dive deep:


Looking at John’s bike, he remembered his own worn-out bike that was passed on to him from his cousin.

This comparison made him uncomfortable. And he remembered the humiliation he felt when his cousin bought a new bicycle after giving him this one.

He remembered how he tried to paint the bike with leftover wall paint at his grandparents’ home and how its dents were not going away.

And then he looked at his boots. He remembered his mom saying that she would not get this pair mended next time it had a whole.

He was useless and unable to bring prosperity to himself and his family.

Fear of Humiliation

He couldn’t afford a better bicycle. He saw John’s act of cycling in the open as a way of humiliating him.

He was bound to take revenge for that humiliation; else John would start humiliating him in front of his peers, school fellows, and cousins.


What if he had all the financial means John had? At least he could have better shoes. Or maybe, instead of spending money on this useless item, John’s mother could give the money to Luke for his shoes.

In the end, the resources that went into John’s bicycle weren’t meant to belong to John’s family. It belonged to his family because they worked hard and needed the money badly.


Life was unfair to Luke. He didn’t accept it.

He could not accept it.

Revenge was the only way to move forward. And he desperately wanted to get out of this feeling of emotional suffocation.

Lack of Connection with Self

What did he want to do?

It wasn’t that he never questioned his negative impulses. But whenever he did, he got no answers.

He didn’t know how to break free of all the emotional turmoil which he felt every time someone felt and expressed happiness in front of him.

It wasn’t the case that he never got hold of positive inspirations from his elders or other elders in society. He had role models at his school, in his neighborhood, and within his family. But how could he relate to them when no one ever experienced the same turmoil as him? Plus, they were distant and didn’t communicate much with Luke.

The confusion only increased the hopeless feeling within him.

Behavioral Inadequacies

In the absence of positive, personalized direction, from his social circle, he resorted to those bad boys which had a similar persona like him. They also looked stressed out and poor. They also had fewer material possessions just like him.

If they have found success through aggression then why can’t I?

Moral he learnt: Aggression is the key to success.

Inadequate Empathy

But when he resorted to violence as last resort, he thought of hurting John’s feelings. He might get physically hurt. He will lose his enthusiasm for the new bike.

These thoughts were insufficient in front of Luke’s emotional turmoil.

I also suffer effortlessly day in and day out. Who cares for me? Why should I care for others?

Besides, I have no stamina in caring for others.

So, I should just listen to my instinct which tells me that I deserve good things in life.

And then, … Action!

So, we see that bullying is not a standalone action or behavior.

It happens when emotions keep simmering for too long unattended before they come to boil as behaviors and actions.

And once these emotions have reached the tipping point and have, at last, manifested as emotions, the road to recovery becomes harder. This road becomes impossible for some when external help is unavailable or inadequate.

Did You Catch the Culprit?

I bet you didn’t catch the culprit.

All these emotions, or lack of emotions, I discussed above were common among all people. Most people struggle with one or more of these emotions at one time or another. What is different in the case of bullies is the intensity and combination of these emotions. Bullies, being stressed out individuals, face these emotions more frequently than other humans living in a safe and secure environment.

Another factor that complicates the issue for the bully is their actual or perceived dissociation from healthy individuals. They believe that social norms don’t apply to them because they are living in sub-optimal conditions. This deviation compels them to disregard their inner voice which tries to prevent them from harming other individuals.       

Wrap Up

You can decide to bash the bully. Or you can blame him for all his inadequacies and emotional turmoil.

You can empower the victims against him(/her).

But this bashing, these defense strategies will not help you recover that human being from failure and emotional turmoil. Empathy and help are what they need right now.

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