Understanding Relationships With People Who Put Others Down: Psychology Of Bullying

By: Mary Elizabeth Dean

Updated July 31, 2020

Medically Reviewed By: Wendy Galyen, LCSW, BC-TMH

As much as we like to categorize people that bully as bad, those who mistreat others rarely do so for no reason. There are a variety of causes for this type of behavior. Many factors make people put others down. Psychology says trauma from childhood, low self-esteem, and insecurity are a few major causes.

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If you want to understand relationships with people who put others down, psychology can help explain the complexity to you. When you are armed with the right knowledge, you will be able to support better those in your life that might struggle with being bullied or being the bully. As always, knowledge is key.

People Who Put Others Down: Psychology Of Bullying

There are many reasons why a person may feel the need to bully. Some of these include:

  • The need to feel superior to others
  • Childhood trauma
  • Low Self-Esteem
  • A poor home life
  • They have been bullied themselves
  • Insecurity
  • Poor Education
  • Lack of Empathy
  • Underlying mental health issues

The Need To Feel Superior To Others

The need to feel superior to others is a major cause for people who put others down. Psychology says those who feel this need bully to knock others down.

By making another person feel small, a person who bullies feels bigger. They may feel superior in that they can assert their dominance over another person. It could also make them feel strong or powerful to beat another person down. This need comes from a lack of stability regarding this person's self-worth, and the bullying is simply a defense mechanism they have developed to shield themselves.

Unfortunately, the effects of this solution to feeling inferior are short. The damage done to others is much longer-lasting. If you are in a relationship with someone who puts others down, consider taking other routes to help them feel good enough. Offering supportive words and affirmations are just a couple of ways that you can implement this easily into your routine.

Childhood Trauma

Childhood trauma has a great effect on how people relate to the world around them as they grow up. Verbal and mental abuse are among the things that most people consider childhood trauma. These are not the only things that cause this type of behavior, though. Sexual abuse, being involved in a natural disaster, or losing a parent could also cause this type of behavior.

The reason childhood trauma causes people to bully others comes from stress and anxiety inflicted as a result of the trauma. For people who put others down, psychology can help. The traumas that have happened to a person don't have to define their futures. You can go on to be a happy person that brings love into the world instead of negativity. With the right guidance and support, anyone can learn how to adopt more positive interactions with others.

Low Self-Esteem

Low self-esteem is a major motivator to bullying. This goes along with needing to feel superior to others in a way, but it also has its own set of causes, as well.

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Having low self-esteem causes people to bully others because this person may feel a need to make others feel bad about themselves, too. This could also be to get the attention that they need to feel valued and loved. The negative attention gained from this type of behavior often makes the person feel worse, further aggravating their need to bully.

This is a vicious cycle for people who put others down. Psychology says with some positive attention and reinforcement, these habits can be changed. To affect this type of change, though, the person who bullies must want to do so.

A Poor Home Life

Most people grow up to be a manifestation of their parents. Whether we realize it or not, the home we grow up in has a lot to do with the way we deal with stress in our lives.

If someone were to grow up in a home where ample amounts of violence occurred, these are the coping mechanisms that will result. Verbal abuse at home begets verbal abuse at school and in life as a child grows.

This is why it is so important to pay attention to the way we talk to our children. Always assume that the words you speak to them are the same ones that they will speak to others. Strive to show love and support to your children to encourage them to show the same to the people in their lives.

They Have Been Bullied

Studies have shown that people who have been bullied are far more likely to bully others.

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The reason for this is simple: it is a defense mechanism. The person that bullies seem to a victim to be strong and unaffected by the thoughts or opinions of others. This behavior is duplicated to escape from the sadness that results from getting bullied.

The best thing you can do if you have a loved one in this situation is to show extra support and love. The emotions we feel when getting put down can drive many people to make many bad decisions. While it may not make sense to you the reasons your loved one has for becoming the bully, understand that they do have their reasons. Try talking to this person to get to the bottom of how they feel. Once you have a good feel for the root cause of the issue, you can work to fix that first, and the rest will follow.

Poor Education

Poor education or the lack of access to quality education is a leading cause of bullying.

Social skills and moral responsibility are among the first things we learn when we are in school. If a person doesn't have access to a good school system with teachers that care and want to guide children, the children are at a disadvantage.

Moving to a new district or enrolling a child into a new school can help with access to better education. If these options aren't available, social programs and community centers offer the opportunity to learn new social skills and avoid bullying altogether. The result will be a happier and more confident child who shows love and kindness to others.

Lack Of Empathy

If a person doesn't understand the way their actions affect others, bullying can result. A lack of empathy means the compass inside that tells us what might hurt people is broken.

If this is the case, the person doing the damage to other people may not even realize they are doing so. They will be ignorant of the fact that their actions and words have any emotional impact on other people. This type of person might be described as having "no filter" or simply not caring about others. The truth is, if they have a lack of empathy, this isn't their fault.

You can't control whether you understand social cues that imply the way another is feeling. What can be controlled, though, are the behaviors one displays. If behavior like bullying is beginning to become more frequent, attention should be called to the problem, and the proper steps should be taken to fix it. If the person bullying others doesn't understand empathy, being a kind person can still be learned. It may take a bit more effort than it would for someone that has it built-in, but it is not impossible.

Underlying Mental Health Issues

Underlying mental health issues such as depression or anxiety are common triggers for people who put others down. Psychology explains that the way a person's brain works has a lot to do with the way they act.

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When you have a condition like depression or anxiety, your brain isn't working the way it should. This can cause irritability, constant anger, and decreased control over emotions. All of these things can lead to an outburst of negativity that brings on bullying.

The good news is, this doesn't have to be the case. Depression and anxiety are not easy to deal with, but they are very treatable. As long as you are willing to get the help needed and dedicate yourself to the programs, this can be in the past. Underlying health issues don't have to be negatively impacting to your life forever. You can overcome it!

When To Get Help

Sometimes, no matter what is done, the negative behavior of bullying can't be solved without a helping hand.

The guidance and advice of a licensed counselor or therapist can be just the thing to help you. The counselors at ReGain are trained and help people in similar situations get through similar problems. The counselors are fully accredited and boast thousands of hours of experience, too.

The best thing about ReGain's platform is that it is completely online. Therapists and counselors are available for access at any time of the day or night with just the click of a button. It has never been easier to reach out and get help - take advantage of the options available to you today!

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

What Can I Do To Get Help For Aggressive Behavior and Bad Behavior?

If you know that you show physical aggression toward others, there are resources to help you find a therapist to stop bullying others. Perhaps you may have an undiagnosed mood disorder or bipolar disorder and not even know that is the cause of your aggression.

Often, when you are a long term victim of bullying as a young child, you become a bully to young people when you are older. If this is the cycle you are living in, you should find a therapist so that you can come up with ways to manage your past and your future.

It is important to find a therapist so that you can find out why you act the way you do. Whether you have an increased risk of violent behaviors due to bipolar disorder or you have a distinct psychological disorder, which puts you at an increased risk of physical aggression towards others, it’s important to find a therapist to help you manage and control your behaviors.

Why Is Social Media a Popular Place for Bullying to Occur?

Boys and girls begin to utilize social media at a younger age than ever before. Most middle schoolers have a cell phone and use different social media apps that open the flood gates towards cyber bullying.

Cyber bullying occurs when one or more young people target a single person or a group of people through social media apps.

Child development experts agree that the internet is a dangerous place when it comes to social skills and bullying behavior. Often times, bullies make a person feel like they are living in social isolation, and there is no way out. Some bullying victims will even drop out of school to get away from bullying tactics.

Often, bullies target those who are different than they are or are least likely to fight back. This is because the bullies can use their power and feel better about themselves. If they went after someone who could easily fight back, it would not be as much fun to them.

Child development clinicians highly recommend that victims of bullying find a therapist. They can provide bullying resources and anti bullying support. When you find a therapist, they can also help you learn the social skills to stand up to a bully and be less of a bullies target.

You can also learn about support groups, which will help you avoid social isolation when you find a therapist. These opportunities are available to people of any age, even those who are just starting to become bullied at an early age.

What Will Happen When I Find a Therapist?

A counselor will ask you questions to understand what is taking place when you first find a therapist. There are simple tests therapy practitioners may administer to see precisely what social skills may be lacking that is prohibiting the victim from fighting back. Experts at the national center for child development agree that increasing the social skills of young people can help reduce the instances of bullying.

What If I Am Bullied About My Weight?

Children and teens can develop eating disorders if they are constantly bullied and harassed about their weight. If you are struggling with your weight and bullying, it is a good idea to find a therapist to help you navigate a health path into adulthood. Eating disorders can become critical if they go on for too long.

What's the word for putting someone down?

There are many words for when people put others down. It could be considered "bullying" or "abuse." When someone puts you down, it's not because you did anything wrong. Family members may engage in this behavior or other people you see at school or work. When you deal with people who use hurtful words and put downs, it can be draining. You may not understand why they're hurting you. The individual may disguise their put downs as jokes. It's not funny to mock someone. Making fun of another person is cruel. The bully, or person abusing you, could assert that they're joking, and "you're sensitive." Making fun of you isn't okay. It's abusive, and you don't have to stand for their put downs. 

Can you put a person down?

You can put a person down with cruel words. What you say can have a significant impact on others. People remember the hurtful words others impart. It may be a fleeting moment for the person saying the put down. But for the individual who is receiving those mean words, it stays with them. People put others down all the time. If they feel insecure about themselves, they might project that onto you. People don't always realize that they're putting you down. They might believe that they're giving you constructive criticism. Maybe the person suggests ways you can "dress better" or "work harder." These things may seem helpful, but they're actually put downs. A good friend wouldn't criticize who you are or how you're living your life. They would try to help you achieve your goals and be supportive. Yes, people put others down. It's an unfortunate truth that happens between human beings. There are many psychological factors that contribute to why people abuse each other. There are a few reasons listed in this article for some of the reasons that people put others down.

Why do people belittle others?

People put others down because they feel bad about themselves. Put downs hurt others. A group of people can also belittle others. A group of people who are bullies can hurt others because of their low self-esteem. It's important to remember that people put others down because of their issues, and not the victim's problems. The bully tries to convince the person they are hurting that it's their fault. Individuals put people down to boost their confidence since they feel inferior. Maybe they're harshly criticized at home. Perhaps they had a critical parent. There are many reasons that a person behaves in a verbally abusive manner. Whatever the reason, it doesn't make it okay. If you think about it, the person who put you down doesn't care about you. They're only doing it, so they don't have to face their feelings about themselves. If you're verbally abused, it's okay to reach out for help. A licensed therapist can help you learn to advocate for yourself and find your voice. You can set boundaries with people who are hurting you and get the support you need in therapy. After they learn to stick up for themselves, people feel empowered. 

What is the opposite of put down?

The opposite of being "put down" is receiving a compliment or being built up. Imagine how being put down feels. You may experience sadness, frustration, or anger. Being built up is the opposite. You feel happy, elated, and excited. Real friends elevate each other, and support one another. True friendship is one where you want the other person to feel good. That's why it's crucial to be mindful of how you treat others and how you're being treated. In a healthy relationship, people feel loved and appreciated. You won't intentionally put people down when you care about them. Of course, everyone makes mistakes and hurts others from time to time. But, in a real friendship, people feel secure with the way they're being treated. It feels great when a friend builds you up. It's essential to think about ways to appreciate your friends and actively tell them these things. Everyone likes to hear nice things about themselves. It's as simple as saying thank you when a friend helps you with a problem. You could say something along the lines of "Thank you so much for being there for me. You're a great friend." That makes the other person feel appreciated. Compliments feel good to give and wonderful for the other person to receive. Don't underestimate how important it is to build others up!

What to say when someone belittles you?

When someone belittles you, you could have many different automatic reactions. When criticized, some people shut down. They may not be able to react because of fear. Perhaps the person is afraid that their abuser will lash out if they try to defend themselves. It's an understandable fear to have. If someone belittles you, you don't have to say anything. You can ignore the mean words. Alternatively, if you feel safe and there's not the threat of physical harm, you could reply "that hurts my feelings," or "please don't talk to me that way. I don't like it." It's your right to set boundaries when others aren't treating you well. If a person belittles you, it's more about them than it is about you. However, it's impacting you because they're directing their mean words in your direction. When you see a therapist, you can work on ways to stick up for yourself. You can practice role-playing where you pretend your therapist is the bully. That way, you're reenacting the scenario in a safe environment. No matter who is hurting you, you don't have to accept that treatment. Therapy is a safe space to speak about emotional issues. Maybe you've been criticized in the past, and you haven't found your voice. The person who is putting you down in the present is triggering you. You're freezing at the moment because of your trauma. That's a natural reaction. When you discuss being belittled or abused in therapy, you can work on coping skills. Setting boundaries is a process, but you can get there with the right mental health professional, helping you along the way.






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