Reactive bullying happens when a target has taken so much abuse for so long that when the pressure builds to the boiling point, the targeted person blows up or
‘snaps,’ lashing out at their tormentors.
The target let’s them have it! Many would say that the victim “bullies them back” and I have made the same statement. However, the more I think about that statement, the more it sounds like an oxymoron.
Be that as it may, is blowing up and going off on bullies the wisest thing for targets to do?
Believe me. I get that people can only take so much. I understand that when you’ve had enough, you’ve had enough, and I’m with you. However, make no mistake. An explosive reaction is precisely what the bullies want.
They want you to snap.
They want you to blow up on them so they can then claim victimhood and make you look like the bully.
Understand that bullies are experts at baiting a target into a reaction, then using the justified (and perfectly normal) response as proof that the targeted person is “mentally unstable,” “crazy,” “a dangerous person,” “too sensitive,” or a “drama queen”!
Bullies also use the target’s normal reaction to guilt and convince him/her that it’s all their fault.
Bullies will make statements such as:
“Well? Maybe if you wouldn’t get so overly emotional, you’d have friends!”
“If you didn’t overreact to everything, people would want to be around you more!”
In short, bullies gaslight their targets with statements like these to make excuses for the behavior and deflect the blame back onto the victims. And sadly, it works like a charm, and bystanders and witnesses believe the target is unstable.
Note: A perfect example is a scene in one of the “Home Alone” movies, when the main character, Kevin McAllister’s older brother Buzz makes a fake apology to his family, then sneakily calls Kevin a trout-sniffer during a family meeting after the fiasco at the choir concert. Notice how Buzz baits his younger brother Kevin into a reaction!
If you are a target, I want you to understand that there is a name for this. It’s called gaslighting, and it’s a trick to throw you off balance.
Understand that, if you blow a gasket and tear into your bullies, in no way will your harsh reaction undercut the fact that they initiated it- that your bullies are the ones who asked for it and drove you to get out of character.
Realize that every single human one of us is capable of losing our cool when we’re under that kind of pressure after we’re attacked and subjected to vile treatment for so long.
However, there are many people who do think otherwise and will punish you because they feel you overreacted. There will be those who feel that the punishment outweighed the crime.
This is why teachers, supervisors, and others in authority must learn to distinguish between provocation and a reaction so that they will be able to identify the real bully and victim. And you must also learn to tell the difference between the two so that you can call it out when it happens to you.
Luckily, there are a few sure-fire ways of identifying the real victim who is only reacting to a provocation by a bully.
1. A victim who has only reacted always feels terrible about how they acted once they’ve calmed down and is usually the first to apologize for it. A real victim will also not be afraid to admit they’ve made a mistake.
On the other hand, a bully must always be right and will never admit they’ve done anything wrong. A bully will still blame the victim and be overly critical of the victim and the reaction. Bullies will also use the tiniest screw-up or imperfection and make it bigger than it is. They are also excessively dramatic.
2. A victim will also apologize, sometimes nervously and excessively.
A bully will never apologize. Because a bully is never wrong, even feels that it is their right to mistreat their targets.
Please note that if the bully is a smooth talker, he might even admit to a few minor mistakes or wrongdoings. However, they will always follow that with the claim that the victim is at fault.
So, always look for these signs, and you’ll be able to peel the mask off the bully, layer by layer! Moreover, you’ll be able to protect and care for the victim!
With knowledge comes empowerment!