Narcissism & Bullying
Our Narcissistic/Codependent Society
In today’s show we discuss some of the less considered aspects of narcissism and bullying. Please follow Our Narcissistic/Codependent Society on the following platforms and help us get a conversation started around this subject:
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Narcissism & Bullying
STEVE: Hi and welcome to our Narcissistic and Codependent Society. In these short podcasts, Kim and I discuss how narcissism & codependence play out in our society.
KIM: Instead of financial debt, Steve and I hope to create a wider conversation around the subject of emotional debt.
STEVE: Because when give and take go wrong, the whole world suffers.
KIM: Today, we are jumping right to the heart of the beast, and we will be discussing narcissism and bullying.
STEVE: And hopefully we can get a discussion going on all of our various platforms. Let’s hope we can do that by early next week, because next week we will be discussing codependence and bullying.
KIM: If you are listening and you have a blog or a YouTube channel of your own, please feel free to repost this information.
STEVE: And please don’t forget to give us a link back to us as the source. We are here throwing pebbles in the pond, and count on all of you to help us create the ripples.
So, narcissism and bullying, Kim. Let’s get this podcast started.
KIM: This is a subject that is very emotional for many of us who may have faced rejection by our peers when we were in school or watched our children face rejection. It’s been really established now that peer rejection is the leading #1 cause, just about 100% cause of teen suicide. So this is a very serious subject, and it’s also a very sad subject.
Unfortunately, if you are bullied at school or you feel rejected — and we will get into the slight differences between those two things in the show, we will hopefully help clarify that, but if you experienced this as a child growing up, unfortunately, it can actually start a cycle of insecurity that can end up continuing on your whole life, and can end up leading you later in your life having trouble at work, associating with workmates. It can also lead you to being in abusive relationships and relationships that don’t function properly. And even being bullied by your children.
STEVE: Yeah, wow. So that’s all stuff that’s on the receiving end, Kim. That’s really the hard stuff that, you know, people who get bullied face. But what about the people that are actually doing the bullying? Isn’t that the narcissistic type? Isn’t that who the bullies are? The narcissists?
KIM: Well, I don’t think it’s really quite that simple. Because really what is described as bullying can cover a whole range of different behavior. And I guess the behavior that is really the most devastating is what I have just mentioned, which is rejection. So I guess that’s why we are talking about this first. But there is also behavior which can be classified as bullying, emotional manipulation, and that is something codependents are really good at doing.
KIM: But first, just dealing with rejection.
Rejection is a tricky one because, you know, where does rejection start and end, and where does bullying start and end. Hopefully we can get into that and help everyone feel a little clearer about that by the end of this show. Because, you know, it’s not our responsibility to befriend every single person on the planet. That isn’t our responsibility. I think it’s easier for people to actually say, “I was bullied as a child”, or “I’ve been bullied by my workmates”, or “I’m bullied by my partner”. I think it’s easier to say that than to actually say the truth of what we might be feeling, which is that we have been rejected by them.
So, if nothing else, I hope we can make that a little bit clearer—what is rejection and what is bullying, and how do we deal with these things.
But really, rejection is something we are hard wired to fear as humans, because being rejected from the community you live in, I guess in primitive societies we would have really amounted to death. And I guess maybe one of the worst imaginable kind of deaths.
STEVE: Yeah, rejection leads to ostracization, which is being left to fend for yourself until you kind of starve or be left to be devoured by a wild animal or something. So deep down, we are probably really frightened of being ostracized or rejected from the crowd.
STEVE: There’s a genuine fear there.
KIM: And I guess even worse in knowing that no one was prepared to reach out and offer a welcoming hand to save you.
I guess, really, this uncaring, narcissistic tendency to reject a person that the crowd sees as a misfit, and offer little or no compassion for them, is something I blame on narcissistic adults in our school system probably more than I blame on the children.
STEVE: Yeah, that’s right. Because children need supervising and instructing from adults — kids really do rely on that. We all know the Lord of the Flies story, and now that ended up for the kids.
KIM: Yeah. And if you put kids in a competitive school environment, where resources and attention from adults is limited, I guess it’s only natural they are going to compete for that adult attention. And I guess the kids learn very quickly in that kind of environment to be brutal.
I think teachers are often also people who maybe were popular at school and that’s why they decided to become teachers. They wanted to hang around in that school environment, and I know a lot of them from conversations I have had with other teachers that are more caring, from teacher’s aides, and from many people over the years — I know there are a lot of teachers in the school system who are very hard on kids that are not popular. They will make judgements on the kids who don’t have a lot of friends, saying they will never amount to anything. When really, the world outside of school is very different from the school system. You know, most of us, if we have two or three or four close friends, we are doing very well. Really, statistically, it’s the popular kids that have a lot of trouble when they leave school because they discover that the world isn’t really the stage they thought it was. Even though they had 1,000 friends on Facebook, that really isn’t going to help them cut it when it comes to surviving in the real world.
STEVE: Yeah, so there is a bit of a bad system going on in our school system, which we don’t expect someone to come in and magically fix straight away. But it is very important that we are aware of it, Kim. And it’s very important that the unfortunate casualties of that bad system get a voice at the end of it, and we get to figure it out. I think, Kim, I had an experience with our son, who was being terribly bullied at school.
STEVE: He didn’t have the personal or emotional resources to deal with it, and he was quite young at the time. Nearly two years, I took seven school semesters off with him and taught him at home, because he just couldn’t cope with the system — and neither could we, quite frankly.
STEVE: We didn’t see that there was an easy fix for it. And he just did need those couple of years away from that peer-attached environment to really come to know himself a little bit better.
STEVE: And for us to just monitor him. And for him to learn from us as adults. He got to learn — I mean, it was very difficult, I have to admit, teaching him his school lessons, because I’m not a teacher, and I salute the teachers that know how to do that very well. But he actually got to learn a lot about how we run our business and how we run our household. And he got to learn a lot of other skills that the other kids didn’t get to learn. But it was a clear case that he was just a casualty of the system — our young son.
KIM: (Laughing.) Well, that was a real credit to you, and my estimation of you went up, like 1,000% for you doing that. And even though academically you probably weren’t the best teacher, I think — well I know, definitely — that he benefitted from that in ways that I know made that investment on your part worth your while. Because at the time when we made the decision to take him out of school, the teachers were saying things to us like, “How is he going to learn social skills at home”. And just very uncaring, very narcissistic attitudes toward the situation he was in. He was in a terrible situation every single day. He was just suffering. He was a target with nowhere to hide.
KIM: And there was just no way we could continue watching that. We really got a lot of criticism from a lot of people for deciding to home school him. We really weren’t even set up to home school him. We signed up for something in Australia called Distance Education. Academically, he probably really did suffer, you know.
STEVE: Yeah sure.
KIM: But at the same time, two years later when he went back to school, it was a completely different story because he had that vertical attachment with us because he had spent that time with us and with his brother and sister. We had really supported him in becoming more socially competent.
We used to have sessions around the table at home where his sister — who is more socially competent than him — would help him figure out ways of dealing with kids who he would say were “annoying him” when he did go back to school. By the time he was in grade 6 in primary school in Australia, he was actually voted school prefect, to the chagrin of a lot of teachers who had predicted nothing would come of him and he was a misfit.
KIM: And, I mean I admit a lot of the kids that voted for him — because it was actually a vote that was by the other kids at the school, a lot of them were actually the kids in kindergarten to grade 3 — not necessarily the kids his own age. Because he had become such a great friend to the younger kids.
But, you know, he decided he was going to do that. He decided he was going to get that, he went for it, and he did it. And now in high school he is actually facing the opposite problem, I guess, of where he is one of the more popular kids. But he is sort of really feeling a lot of the kids around him don’t have as much empathy as he’d like to see, and he is now making the choice to sort of step back from them a little and actually hang out with the math geeks.
STEVE: Yeah, he is. And I think it’s really important that we talk about this, Kim, because we didn’t feel like we had an option with our son, because the system was so stacked against the odds for him. And we did just have to take the plunged and school him at home. Which meant I wasn’t able to work full-time, which was quite difficult for us. So it really did impact on us, but we really didn’t see a way through. But rather than seeing that as a defeat, we really don’t look at it that way. We look back and we think — well, we wish that didn’t have to happen — to be honest and be frank. I don’t think it was ideal. But I do think we were smart enough, we had the emotional capability ourselves as parents to understand that there was a no-win situation we were facing. And to ignore it, or at that stage to just be narcissistic or codependent to say well, we better just go with the crowd, and we better just leave him to the law of the jungle — which that playground was for him — would have been a terrible error.
KIM: Or if we had wrung our hands, cried, complained, and played victim, and said there was nothing we could do about it, it wouldn’t have helped him either.
STEVE: That’s right.
KIM: And even now, he understands it really wasn’t ideal and there was a bit of stigma about him being taken out of school. But he also really does understand that we protected him. And he really does understand that we will protect him.
Anyway, we are always suggesting people read a book called Hold Onto Your Kids by Gordon Neufeld and Gabor Mate. We have recommended that book to so many people over the years. I can’t recommend it highly enough. It’s a very sad book, but it is really important that we protect our children.
KIM: It is really important that we take that role of stepping in, and not let narcissistic and bully teachers tell us that they need to learn to fend for themselves.
STEVE: That’s right.
KIM: And that there is nothing that can be done about it, and all the various things they will say.
But just before we finish, Steve, because I know we are running out of time, I just want to turn this back toward more family relationships maybe between husbands and wives, where the same rejection thing can come up.
Something I really want to add is I often hear it said to me that someone is bullying them or is being abusive toward them when sometimes they are not. Sometimes — this is what I said at the beginning — I want to separate out this thing of what is rejection and what is bulling.
STEVE: Yeah, what is rejection and what is bullying? So if somebody is feeling like their husband, let’s say, is treating them badly — when is it rejection and when is it bullying?
KIM: Well, if somebody is really honestly trying to talk with you about problems they have with you, or behavior, and they are doing that when you are in private, and doing that without calling you names or without blaming you for their own problems too much, and they are really looking for you to acknowledge what they are saying — this isn’t really bullying. I mean, really classic bullying in classic psychology is quite different than what people actually imagine it to be. The classic bully is not somebody who just comes in and attacks the other person, trying to make them subservient to them. That is more a controlling person or a dominating person. A bully is somebody who provokes the other person, and they provoke the other person to the point where the other person finally loses their temper and gets angry. And then they play victim to that.
Really, more typical bullying behavior in a relationship is a partner who will carry on some of that bullying that they learned at school, which is that they will act superior and they will act better than the other person — “I don’t have to really pay attention to you“, “I don’t have to really listen to you“, “I don’t have to acknowledge you when you are speaking“, “I can sort of look down my nose at you“, “I can roll my eyes at things you say“.
KIM: This is actually classic bullying. And even though it’s more subtle than we see the kids who are saying, “Give me your lunch money or I’ll beat you up”, or “Get back to the kitchen or I’ll smack you”, those things are stereotypes where — okay, sometimes they are real, you know — but much less common than what I am talking about here, which is just this arrogant attitude of, “I’m better than you, I am more popular than you, I don’t really need to pay attention to you, I don’t really need to regard what you are saying to me, I really don’t need to pay much attention. Or even into the more extreme forms where the bully may be running a double life, so they are extorting money out of whatever organisation they are in, whether it’s the family organisation, or a corporate organisation, or a government organisation — but they are running some kind of extortion or corruption. So they will start targeting other people and provoking other people, and provoking problems with other people to create sort of a fight, where if the other people start losing their temper or acting in any way unbalanced, they can blame the problem on them.
KIM: And they can use that as a smokescreen…
KIM: . . . for the double life stuff.
And again, sometimes that deserves sympathy as well. Credit cards are handed out all too easily these days to people when they are too young, and we can get ourselves into situations where we don’t know how to deal with things, and when we have been put through a school system that says, “Hey, it’s dog eat dog out there” and the “fittest takes all” even. A lot of us through the school system are really trained that this ruthless attitude through life is what creates winners.
STEVE: Hmm . . . and rewards.
KIM: And rewards. So really until we actually start looking at the narcissism within the school system within our society itself, it’s really going to be hard for this to change at a society level.
STEVE: It’s almost like we have set it all up for the bullies to exist, isn’t it?
STEVE: There is not really enough clarity of purpose why we are teaching children the way we teach them, and how rewards are meted out, what kind of rewards are offered, what kind of kids — because some kids like to be left alone as a reward.
STEVE: And some kids would like to have more attention put on them as a reward. And vice-versa. So we don’t even have a system where we understand what kids need anyway.
STEVE: And kids translates into grownups as well, because we carry that with us. And bullying, we learn it in a school environment. There is certainly no doubt about it. And with our siblings. And with our parents.
KIM: That’s right.
STEVE: So it all ends up in our youth.
KIM: So what we end up seeing is we end up seeing a lot of people in our society in despair. We end up seeing a lot of children in despair. We end up seeing divorce and suicide rates going up. We end up seeing more and more people suffering from depression and anxiety, and really finding themselves in very tragic situations. And I think this whole label that’s put on it is “we just have to stop the bullies” because those bullies are the bad guys, they are what is creating this. That’s a very simplistic approach to something that isn’t a simple problem.
STEVE: Right, right, right.
KIM: And I guess if I did anything for the rest of my life, I would like the opportunity to address that problem. Because there are solutions, and we have proven that in our own family.
STEVE: We have.
Kim, you have written a blog post on the “Myths of Bullying” for anyone who is interested in learning more. You can find that link below.
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