Bully Nation: Psychological Implications Of The New Mean

We’ve become a nation of bullies. I’m not sure when it happened, but it did. It’s like I woke up one day and civility and neighborliness and smiling passersby were a thing of the past. People bang and bump into you literally and figuratively with no regard for anything other than themselves and their hustle. Even worse is the fact that nobody can agree to disagree. No one can take an insult and just walk away and let things go. Nowadays, not even kids fight fair (spoiler alert: not condoning fighting here, just making a point)!  We’ve let jealousy, envy, and our inability to directly confront negative situations fester into passive-aggression and what is called in ebonics ‘hateration.’ We have become a nation of haters. And passive-aggressive haters become bullies.

In the days of old, a bully was thought of simply as one who, as a normal course of action, intimidated a weaker individual purely for sport. Just because he or she could. But be clear: bullying, like all behavioral characteristics, has evolved. The tactics have become much more sophisticated and are not always enacted against a weaker, defenseless target. Today’s bullies react out of fear and insecurity, or revenge. Therefore, the goal is not simply to intimidate. No. Today’s bullies set out to malign, impugn, and ultimately destroy the reputations, careers and possibly even the lives of their targets. What more powerful an illustration of the psychological unhealth of a society than when its elected officials, (men and women of supposed character and integrity), behave in manners heretofore only reserved for children? When they behave towards the Commander-in-Chief with daily insolence, irreverence, and threats?  When they incite and spur racial disunity, and hatred? Just today, elder statesman and former POW Sen. John McCain issued a threat from the Republican party to block the appointment of any justice to the US Supreme Court if Secretary Clinton wins the US Presidential election. Need more examples?  Lest you think this is yet another political piece, let me get back on track. I think I’ve made my point here amply.

Bullying behavior has diffused into every segment of society.  And bullying has become the norm. Bullying is up in our schools, with 1 in 4 children reporting having been bullied. Bullying is up in the workplace, with nearly half of all American workers having been directly affected as a victim or a witness. Instances of workplace violence, school shootings, and other acts of severe aggression towards others are much more frequent, and psychological postmortems typically reveal some history of victimization from others. And lastly, dare I say, we are facing the nastiest election in US history with political candidates threatening violence, condoning violence (then offering to pay attorney fees for those arrested), and using lies, warped truths and other subversive tactics against the other.

There is a toll to pay, and the price will be high. The question is, what will you do to reduce the bill?  Tune in to Part II of this series on bullying and,

Be well.

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The Good Dr. Nik

Dr. Nicole M. Alford is a Washington, DC-area based clinical psychologist, Life-ologist, healer, author, and compassionate activist. Follow her @theGoodDrNik on Facebook & Twitter, and at http://www.TheGoodDrNik.com.

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