Many bullies have antisocial personality disorder or are sociopaths (two terms that are generally considered equivalent as described in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 5th Edition, Text Revision (DSM-5-TR). This means that they often have a pattern of aggressive behavior, disregard for the rights of others, deceitfulness (chronic lying), irresponsibility, and lack of remorse.1

As bullies, they also have some additional powers that can really surprise people because they are not looking for them. However, as I describe in my book Our New World of Adult Bullies, these are hidden in plain sight if you know what to look for.

When you think that you are having a discussion about a project or idea, or are trying to resolve a conflict, the bully is focused on how to dominate you—figuring out how to hook you into a win-lose relationship. This isn’t about just winning an argument. It’s about winning in a way that you lose—that you suffer and are dominated by the bully.

You can tell this is happening when the bully starts talking negatively about your intelligence, sanity, morals, or appearance. They may adopt a body stance, facial expression, or tone of voice that triggers a sense of danger in you. Yet if you challenge the bully, he or she says that they weren’t saying anything wrong: “Just being honest” or “Just trying to help.” They make it personal in a way that is easy to deny, yet you feel threatened physically or emotionally. If there are others around, you may feel that your group reputation is in danger. This way they can humiliate you while saying they aren’t humiliating you: “It was nothing.”

Sociopathic bullies feel totally free to lie and make up any story they wish. This is because they lack a conscience and lack remorse, which prevent most people from blatantly lying. Sociopathic bullies create whole stories out of nothing and can be very convincing. Their bully’s stories are based on activating three primitive emotions beneath anyone's conscious awareness:

Fear: Most bully’s stories include telling you that there is a terrible crisis. A family bully who engages in occasional domestic violence and/or child abuse may say that you can’t trust anyone outside the family: “It’s terrible out there! You can’t trust anyone—except me.” A workplace bully may say, “There’s a terrible crisis happening to our company. I can’t pay you right now, but I’m doing everything I can to pay you soon. You’re my top priority.” An online bully or telephone bully may say, “I’m your granddaughter and I’m in terrible trouble. I was in a car crash that I caused and now I’m in jail and need you to send me $10,000.” All of these stories are totally made up.

When people feel anxious, they are more likely to absorb other people’s emotions without even thinking about it.2 Bullies know this, so they often rely on telling stories that will make people truly terrified—so that you will believe them because they feel so true.

Rage: Many bullys' stories include an evil villain or crazy person who is causing the crisis: “You can’t trust your friends—they’re only out to take advantage of you. You can only trust me” or “You’re a complete mess. You should be ashamed of yourself. No one will ever love you like I do. Stick with me and don’t talk to anyone else.” Or: “Those people over there want your job and will do anything to take it from you. They are terrible people.”

Remember, all of these statements are completely untrue. But as part of a story, they can feel true, especially when you are feeling down. By focusing your rage toward others, you are completely distracted from focusing on the bully.

Love/Loyalty: This third part of the story is designed to get you to accept the bully and follow whatever the bully says. The bully will probably express undying love and an inability to live without you. But what they really want is your loyalty so they can treat you badly without you complaining to anyone else. If you are the target of a bully, the people around you may say to get away while you can. However, the target of the bully often says, “But I love him. And he loves me.”

All put together, this bully’s story may feel totally intensely true and can hook your primitive emotions (fear, rage, love/loyalty), which makes it very hard to get away from the bully.

Sociopathic bullies are skilled at projecting and playing the victim because they can totally make up false stories that are the opposite of what is really happening. They may project onto you the behavior that the bully is actually engaged in. “You’re picking on me. You don’t trust me.” The bully may accuse you of having an affair or dealing with another business partner behind your back. They can be quite detailed about their allegations against you because they know the details from what they themselves are doing.

By playing the victim, a bully can get other people to focus on you and your behavior rather than on the bully and their behavior: “She how she treats me! I’m really the victim here. Please help me.” This way they can get therapists, lawyers, and even judges very angry at you when in fact you have done nothing wrong and are the true victim of the bully. Then, anything you say against the bully is dismissed and you may be blamed: “Stop blaming him when you know you are the one who is behaving badly.”

These patterns of sociopathic bullying behavior are rarely recognized, so bullies can often get away with their bullying. I have seen this many times, even in legal disputes, when sociopathic bullies are involved. Recognizing these behaviors can help you avoid getting involved with sociopathic bullies.

References

1. American Psychiatric Association (APA): Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition, Text Revision. Washington, DC, American Psychiatric Association, 2022, 748.

2. Daniel Goleman, Social Intelligence: The New Science of Human Relationships. (Bantam Books, 2006), 39.

QOSHE - 3 Hidden Powers of Sociopathic Bullies - Bill Eddy Lcsw
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3 Hidden Powers of Sociopathic Bullies

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24.06.2024

Many bullies have antisocial personality disorder or are sociopaths (two terms that are generally considered equivalent as described in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 5th Edition, Text Revision (DSM-5-TR). This means that they often have a pattern of aggressive behavior, disregard for the rights of others, deceitfulness (chronic lying), irresponsibility, and lack of remorse.1

As bullies, they also have some additional powers that can really surprise people because they are not looking for them. However, as I describe in my book Our New World of Adult Bullies, these are hidden in plain sight if you know what to look for.

When you think that you are having a discussion about a project or idea, or are trying to resolve a conflict, the bully is focused on how to dominate you—figuring out how to hook you into a win-lose relationship. This isn’t about just winning an argument. It’s about winning in a way that you lose—that you suffer and are dominated by the bully.

You can tell this is happening when the bully starts talking negatively about your intelligence, sanity, morals, or appearance. They may adopt a body stance, facial expression, or tone of voice that triggers a sense of danger in you. Yet if you challenge the bully, he or she says that they weren’t saying anything wrong: “Just being honest” or “Just trying to help.” They make it personal in a way that is easy to deny, yet you feel threatened physically or emotionally.........

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