Bullying is a complex and distressing behaviour that affects individuals across different ages, backgrounds, and environments. At the core of a bully’s actions lies a deep-seated sense of shame and humiliation, which they attempt to conceal by attacking others before they can be attacked. Understanding the archetypal nature, we can shed light on their motivations and empower others to effectively confront them.
The bully archetype seems to have a strong presence in today’s society, which is highlighting shadow aspects of our collective psyche. With the rise of technology and social media, cyberbullying has become a prevalent form of bullying as it is easy to do with very little drawbacks. And so, we experience a rise of the bully archetype on these online platforms. This includes using hurtful language, insults, threats, or manipulation to assert power and control over others while the bully is hiding behind a screen. Verbal and emotional abuse can have long-lasting psychological impacts on the victims, eroding their self-confidence and well-being regardless of a face to face encounter with a bully or over a screen.
It is a challenge to face the bully archetype and acknowledge its existence in so many areas of our life. While we find it easy to point out the bully in others it is also important to realise that everyone has the capacity to be a bully. We may have been a bully here and there in our past, which can be a confronting fact to acknowledge. Understanding the underlying motivations and dynamics of bullying is essential in identifying and addressing this behaviour effectively.
The Light and the Shadow Side of the Bully
In every-day language when we refer to a bully, we refer to the negative aspects only, but in archetypal language we refer to both sides. As with all archetypes also the bully archetype encompasses both a shadow and a light side, each revealing different aspects of their behaviour and psyche. As for the light aspect it may be difficult to see at first glance as the shadow side seems to be so dominant.
The shadow side of the bully refers to the seeking of power and control over others as a means of compensating for their own feelings of inadequacy. By exerting dominance, they aim to avoid being exposed and maintain a facade of strength. This need for power and perceived to be powerful by others often arises from personal experiences of shame and humiliation, which a bully projects onto their victims to divert attention away from their own vulnerabilities.
The shadow side of the bully archetype camouflages their underlying cowardice. As such the bully archetype is also a coward archetype and that may even be more challenging to accept. Despite their intimidating and aggressive demeanour, bullies fear being seen as weak or powerless. It is important to understand that they have experienced their own trauma to get to this point. They go to great lengths to avoid any situation that might reveal their fears, as this would dismantle their carefully constructed image of strength. It is this fear of exposure that drives their relentless pursuit of control and intimidation and is a cover up for their inner coward and more precisely their inner trauma. While is it necessary to stand up to a bully to break this circle of behaviour, it is also important to bear in mind that we are dealing with a heavily traumatised person.
The light side of the bully archetype presents an opportunity for individuals to redirect their energy and characteristics associated with bullying toward positive purposes. By utilizing their protective instincts, the bully can defend and advocate for those who are being bullied, creating safer spaces and fostering empathy. By embracing the light side of the bully archetype, individuals can become powerful agents of change and advocates for justice. Their unique experiences and insights enable them to connect with both the victims and the perpetrators of bullying, bridging understanding and fostering empathy.
With their innate assertiveness and ability to command attention, individuals with the bully archetype can become pathfinders and pioneers in various fields. Once they recognize the destructiveness of their actions, they can harness their newfound self-awareness, strength, and courage to undertake challenging tasks and lead the way for others. They can so to speak pave the way for others.
The transformation from a ‘negatively expressed bully to a positive pathfinder or protector requires introspection and a genuine desire for personal growth. Individuals must confront their own shadow side, acknowledge the pain they have caused, and actively work to dismantle the harmful patterns of behaviour associated with bullying. When a person with a bully archetype has achieved this transformation, they still identify with a bully archetype, if this is in their psychological make up, but they are then manifesting the light and empowered side of that archetype. This stands in contrast to our common understanding of bully or no bully.
The Entourage of a Bully
Another common characteristic of bullies is their tendency to surround themselves with an entourage. This entourage serves as a safety wall, bolstering the bully's image and reinforcing their power over others. By gathering followers, the bully creates a more stable sense of validation and protection, further shielding themselves from being exposed and perceived as weak.
The entourage act as loyal followers who also seek their own validation by supporting the bully and receiving acknowledgement through that group. Built upon these shallow foundations once the leading bully has been pushed off their ‘throne’ their entourage will fall apart too and the whole group is dismantled very fast.
Confronting a Bully
To effectively deal with a bully, it is crucial to recognize that they fear of being confronted and found out more than anything else. By standing up for oneself and approaching the bully with intention, individuals can disrupt their sense of power and assert their own autonomy, if this can be done safely. When confronted and exposed, a bully finds it almost impossible to be with their own discomfort of shame and may back off faster than most people expect. The confrontation acts as a mirror, reflecting their own insecurities back to them, and shatters the illusion of their strength. By facing the bully head-on, individuals can disrupt the cycle of aggression and begin to reclaim their own power.
It is important to note that the bully archetype is not inherently evil or irredeemable as will all archetypes there is a light aspect. They are individuals who have developed bullying as a coping mechanism to protect themselves from further shame, humiliation and often severe trauma. Understanding the bully archetype goes beyond mere categorization; it provides insight into the underlying psychological mechanisms that drive bullying behaviour. By intentionally confronting a bully, individuals disrupt their power dynamic and expose their vulnerabilities, allowing for healing and transformation for both parties.