Are Some Humans Born to Bully? Born to Be Victims? Can It Be Changed?

Image via Flickr Creative Commons, courtesy of Anamorphic Mike.

Image via Flickr Creative Commons, courtesy of Anamorphic Mike.

One of the reasons I am SO HAPPY you guys take the time to comment and share your thoughts is your insights often highlight areas I might not have thought to address.  A commenter Mr. Dandylion replied to my publishing predictions for 2014 with darker thoughts, which included this phrase:

“A new author will commit suicide after a sustained online bullying campaign, most likely stemming from Goodreads; it will cause major headlines and public anger.”

Those words hit home and made me think. Granted, as a writer, I’ve experienced my share of trolls and (gratefully) only two LOONIES. But I have too many author friends (including NYTBSAs) who’ve been victimized by flash mobs of cyber-bullies. I’ve also had blogger friends who wrote on very innocent topics randomly victimized by gangs of trolls for seemingly no reason.

Oddly, when I tried to research bullying and bullying resources for yesterday’s post, I was taken aback at how most of the tips were for kids, teens and parents. The problem is that (as MANY commenters shared yesterday) bullies don’t go away. They grow older and often more vicious.

Often these creeps are on-line, in church, in critique groups, clubs and in the workplace. After six years in Rotary, I left because of bullies. They had stolen all my joy for public service…so I took my passion for helps elsewhere.

Their "future boss." Image via Flickr Creative Commons, courtesy of Thomas Ricker.

Their “future boss.” Image via Flickr Creative Commons, courtesy of Thomas Ricker.

Another commenter, Lloyd Lofthousel was thoughtful enough to share this link in the comments; a NY Times article about the study of aggression and how the actual makeup of the brains of aggressive teens is vastly different from those of non-aggressive teens. Aggressive teens demonstrated heightened activity in the pleasure centers of the brain when shown images/films of acts of violence and cruelty (images that would have repulsed the rest of us).

Granted, this is a very small study but it, again gave me food for thought. This study made me think of a recent article in Discover by Dan Hurley; Grandma’s Experiences Leave a Mark on Your Genes (which I highly recommend you read in full).

Is DNA REALLY at Fault?

Before we go too far, I am not in the camp of “Blame DNA or Blame Mom.” We are humans not holly bushes and we have the power of choice. But neuroscience and genetics might offer insights and tools for how we as a culture can feed the good and starve the bad, so to speak.

According to the article, Moshe Szyf, a molecular biologist and geneticist at McGill University in Montreal and Michael Meaney, a McGill neurobiologist married their theories and work and pioneered a new area of study, which came to be known as epigenics.

These two scientists posited that nature and nurture were highly integrated and also that humans might carry genetic memory through generations. I confess I am no scientist and this is a Spark’s Notes for discussion, but it is fascinating. As a blog, this IS immensely reductive, so forgive me. But the theory is interesting for debate.

Image via Flickr Creative Commons, courtesy of Andrea Laurel

Image via Flickr Creative Commons, courtesy of Andrea Laurel

According to this new research, we all have DNA (duh), but what Szyf and McGill noticed was our spools of DNA required something “extra” to activate certain genes. One of these extra elements is the methyl group, which, “works like a placeholder in a cookbook, attaching to the DNA within each cell to select only those recipes — er, genes — necessary for that particular cell’s proteins. Because methyl groups are attached to the genes, residing beside but separate from the double-helix DNA code, the field was dubbed epigenetics, from the prefix epi (Greek for over, outer, above).” Discover, Hurley

In English, right?

Originally, epigenetic changes were assumed to happen only during fetal development. But Szyf and McGill wanted to probe further. Could grandad’s experience as a POW during Vietnam affect a grandson’s DNA?

“According to the new insights of behavioral epigenetics, traumatic experiences in our past, or in our recent ancestors’ past, leave molecular scars adhering to our DNA. Jews whose great-grandparents were chased from their Russian shtetls; Chinese whose grandparents lived through the ravages of the Cultural Revolution; young immigrants from Africa whose parents survived massacres; adults of every ethnicity who grew up with alcoholic or abusive parents — all carry with them more than just memories.” Discover, Hurley 

Of course, what was really interesting about this article is it gives us good reasons to believe we aren’t at the mercy of DNA or methyl groups. Methylation apparently can be changed. Just like a diet of fried Twinkies can activate cancer genes, growing up in a stressful, neglectful household can similarly activate traits for suicide, depression, aggression, etc. by methylating those parts of the DNA.

This, I feel, is how we can see either generational traits continue or cease. In my own experience, I grew up in a Jerry Springer household. Fighting, yelling, abuse was the norm. I remember visiting friends’ houses and being blown away that there wasn’t non-stop crackling tension and arguing.

Thus, when I grew up to become a parent, I made it a point to maintain peace and consistency.

Whereas I was a high-strung, neurotic, fearful child, who suffered night terrors and sleep issues for years, The Spawn is happy, calm, gentle and can sleep anywhere. Yet, as parents, we have ZERO tolerance for people who want to infuse stress and chaos into our lives. This has meant terminating old friendships and even avoiding contact with certain family members.

Is Our Society Birthing Bullies by Tolerating and Ignoring Them?

I probably love watching Discovery ID more than is healthy (hey, I AM a writer). But one common theme does emerge when studying criminals and, specifically, serial rapists and killers. They often begin small. If they aren’t caught or properly counseled/punished early in the cycle, they grow increasingly emboldened.

This lack of consequences fuels a growing narcissism that “they can get away with anything” (generally until they are finally apprehended or grow bored and turn themselves in so they can write books from prison and be rewarded for being psychos).

BTK Killer Dennis Rader. Image via Wikimedia.

BTK Killer Dennis Rader. Image via Wikimedia.

I feel when we don’t stand up to bullies, when we give children advice like “ignore them and they will go away” this feeds the rush bullies so enjoy (and crave). The rush then only bathes the DNA in more of these methyl groups because the bully has been able to create chaos and upset and get away with it.

***NOTE: I feel we aren’t teaching children how to properly ignore bullies. We need to guide children how to remain peaceful, happy and continue life, not hide in a library and stop participating in school out of terror. This only FEEDS more intense bullying.***

I am making this arm-chair assertion based off the article, but according to this research, those who have a proclivity for violence—when subjected to (or allowed to create) stressful, chaotic and aggressive atmospheres—only get worse. The negative environment increases the methyl bath that continues to activate certain negative genetic traits.

To extend the logic, when major blogs allow trolls to rant and throw furniture in the comments without censure, it’s gasoline on the fire of what’s fueling them to begin with. When bullies can make someone retreat from the Internet, stop blogging, hide, they WIN…and grow even MORE emboldened and continue searching out even more targets to terrorize to feed the rush.

When the office bully can attack someone at the copy machine and not be fired? This emboldens the bully and, like any addiction, it generally requires larger doses for the same high.

I think this is why ignoring trolls in the comments, deleting them and refusing to feed them does often work. They aren’t getting the desired response that gives them the dopamine rush of “winning.” It’s also why I believe they disappear when faced with a wall of loving, caring people who support the victim. Their positive energy disrupts the chaos and fear the bully craves.

It is also why arguing or fighting with an on-line bully generates the opposite effect—it makes trolls CRAZIER, because we’ve chosen the wrong form of confrontation. When we “fight back” we give them the negativity they need.

Not all confrontation has to be aggressive ;).

The Counterpoint—Can Victims Be Healed?

Image via Flickr Creative Commons, courtesy of Ben Swing.

Image via Flickr Creative Commons, courtesy of Ben Swing.

Methy groups (according to the research) don’t only affect those who are aggressive. Methylation can also activate depression, anxiety, codependency, etc. Often dysfunctional families are made up of aggressors and victims (I know that was my case growing up).

For every family bully, there are passive members dancing around trying to appease The Great Volcano from erupting. Clean the house a certain way, don’t have an opinion, be invisible and cater to every need Mt. Volcano has and he/she won’t blow.

Which is crap, btw, and for another blog.

Yet, one of the interesting observations I’ve made as the WANA Mama is that many shy, frightened, even victimized writers have found tremendous healing by being part of a large group that focuses on love, support and service. They’ve become brave enough to blog, to post, to write, to publish, to *gasp* have FUN because there is a different kind of family offering a very different type of energy.

WANAs at play at Huntington Beach...

WANAs at play at Huntington Beach…

When authors have life beating them up? They have a safe place. When an author’s family, spouse or friends are being cruel or critical? They can come to us. When a troll mob is on the attack? The WANAs can step in and diffuse the hate. Darkness can’t help but retreat when faced with light. Love is more powerful than fear.

What Can We DO?

Regarding this discussion on neuroscience, I believe we can change behaviors. Deny the hateful the chaos they seek and provide the love and tranquility for those who need it. Changes in environment can make the aggressive more empathetic and the cowed more confident.

But how?

Rethink Cyberspace

I feel there are many areas of life where certain behaviors are simply NOT tolerated. As I mentioned on Facebook yesterday, Amazon, Goodreads, Huffington, Yahoo, etc. are on-line, but they ARE places of business—not a free-for-all-forum where anything is permitted.

Amazon sells, well…everything. But major blogs count on ads to thrive and grow. If people grow fearful or weary of trolls? They’ll move on to blogs where they aren’t afraid to comment. This means the site will have lower hits and no one will want to advertise…and then the site goes away.

We all have rights. But my RIGHT to swing my fist STOPS where your nose begins.

I have the right to complain. I DO NOT have the right to scream, yell, shout obscenities, and stalk and abuse the staff. If I went to a restaurant, I have the right to complain about the food or the service. But, if I screamed obscenities and attacked everyone in range verbally, do you guys think the manager would say, “Oh just ignore her”? NO. He’d toss me out on my butt and call the cops if I refused to behave or leave.

And if I gathered all my hateful friends to mob-attack the restaurant, would I be allowed to continue with this behavior? NO. I’d be sitting with my jerk friends in jail.

Take Charge of Our Blogs—Moderation is Paramount

I think as bloggers, we can be diligent to not allow abuse on our blogs. I guest-posted for a big author one time and a commenter was just INSANE and going for my throat…and the author allowed it because of “freedom of speech.” I never blogged there again.

Big blogs like Huffington, etc. need to increase moderation and have a Code of Conduct for commenting AND STICK TO IT. People can disagree, but they cannot act in any way that would land them a ticket or in JAIL if this was in person. If these blogs don’t take moderation more seriously, businesses won’t want to advertise there because the clientele (readers/commenters) has been sacred off.

Strength in Loving Community

Those of us who want to enjoy the Internet need to find a community of friends and support. WANA is of course an option, but there are surely others. Start your own. Be the light ;).

Positive Confrontation

Boundaries are crucial for any healthy relationship. Refuse to tolerate hateful comments on social media. I delete people who are offensive or out of control. I then politely message them and tell them I am happy to leave their comment if they can rephrase respectfully. If they refuse to stop peeing on the digital furniture? I report and block them or unfriend.

Be Professional

We cannot please everyone. Art is very subjective. We can never write a book everyone loves. Bad reviews happen, and, as professionals, we need to put on our Big Writer Pants. We cannot endure, let alone succeed in this business if we have the skin of a grape.

Yes, writers need to feel safe to publish, but reviewers also need to feel safe to review. Just because they don’t like a book doesn’t automatically make them a bully or troll. If we get too many bad (but thoughtful and respectful) reviews? We might have jumped the gun and published too soon. Maybe we need to pull the book and rerelease with better editing. Or try again.

Image via Flickr Creative Commons, courtesy of Mark Roy.

Image via Flickr Creative Commons, courtesy of Mark Roy.

I know as an editor I’ve had writers go NUTS because I didn’t say every word was unicorn glitter. This is a profession not a playpen. When I was a neophyte, I got a lot of bloody noses in critique (but they were right). Honest feedback is what helped me get rhino-skin and become a better writer. It happens. We grow.

We can’t grow if we aren’t open to critique. Also, there comes a point when we have to brush things off. People have the right to an opinion (and they aren’t always correct). We don’t have to listen to and follow every opinion or we will end up with crappy books-by-committee.

So what are your thoughts? I don’t think we are at the mercy of nature or nurture. I believe we still have choice. But do you think we can change the future, no matter our genetic predispositions? Do you think we as a society or greater community could help drive that positive change? That maybe we could deflate bullies and rehabilitate the abused? What are for thoughts on nature-nurture? Were you from a crazy family too and yet managed to break free with your own kids? I like to think we can change the world, but blind optimism is my superpower :D…

I LOVE hearing from you!

To prove it and show my love, for the month of January, everyone who leaves a comment I will put your name in a hat. If you comment and link back to my blog on your blog, you get your name in the hat twice. What do you win? The unvarnished truth from yours truly. I will pick a winner once a month and it will be a critique of the first 20 pages of your novelor your query letter, or your synopsis (5 pages or less)

Will announce December’s winners Monday. I have a lot to go through. Good problem :D.

I hope you guys will check out my latest book Rise of the Machines–Human Authors in a Digital World and get prepared for 2014!!!!


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  1. I saw this recently. Powerful — no solutions, but this takes it out of the realm of kids being kids.

  2. And there are these —

    (Please, no need to enter my name. I’m commenting to help.)

    1. Thanks for the suggestions! ((HUGS))

  3. I think that one way to help stop the bullying pandemic that is sweeping American society is to help instill a stronger sense of community, which is what you are doing with WANA. Having a strong voice to lead the way is one of the key factors. Otherwise, all of us who have ever been a victim will go back into hiding instead of standing tall and saying “I survived. I am strong. And no one can take that strength for me.”
    Then those who have found their inner strength and voice need to take that strength and say to another, “Let me be your shield today. Let me lift you up so that you can see the truth.” The focus needs to be on empowering people and lifting them higher than they every thought possible.

  4. Child abuse was shown to alter DNA.

    1. Yes, but what was neat about this study is it could be repaired by changing the environment and altering the gene triggers. That gives me a lot of hope when sometimes it feels easier to run, LOL.

      1. 🙂 That would take time and much repair. I wonder how many people that are alone will get that help. And how many will be able to afford it?

        1. WANA offers it freely. We are a very loving community of support and I have witnessed great change in people who were hurting and wounded when we met. I think professional psychotherapy has a place, but a warm, welcoming refuge of people is a great start ;).

      2. Hi Kristen 😀

        Great (but scary) post, that there are people in the world, as ADULTS, who live to treat others like their servants and punching bags.

        I used to be bullied, but I’ve turned that around over time. Now, if I need to do something, or say something about…whatever, I do it. Nicely at first, and then aggressive if worse comes to worst. I don’t put up with crap anymore.

        I don’t know that it’s a gene thing, because I don’t have the healthiest gene pool when it comes to constructive behavior, but I’m not a bully. Personally, I think it’s more of a home structure thing. If a kid sees that bullying gets the bullier what they want, the kids might tend to try that route. Or, they are the one who gets bullied because they don’t like the bullying. But there is a ‘happy medium.’ We can Stand up for ourselves without taking the “My way or the Highway” approach.

        I’m just totally amazed that there are writers on sites being PICKED ON, as ADULTS! The mind BOGGLES! Why are adults bullying adults? And how are kids supposed to behave any better when the adults are acting like they should be getting a ‘time out.’? 😮

        1. I’ve had writers who completely left blogging then writing because of bullying. I hate that because then the bullies win 🙁 .

          1. That is just SAD :'( :'( For me, I just block the creeps. I’m very hard headed about things. If I wanna do something, and you try to stop me, I’ll find a way NOT to listen and move on.

            I remember one troll I had on facebook. No matter what I said or who I was talking to, this moron would trash it. So, I blocked him and kept right on talking.

            Depending on the issue, I might be willing to give in to keep the peace. Other times, I’ll fight. A songwriter friend taught me how to do that. Pick your battles. Fight the ones worth fighting. And freedom of speech is a cause worth fighting for! 😀

          2. I just had an encounter with a Youtube bully, and, as per recommendation, I reported her. Crazy! It was over an OPINION about the movie “I can Make You Love Me” with Richard Thomas and Brooke Shields. (Drama about a woman who was being stalked by a co-worker).

            Anyway, I wasn’t even talking to this person, and she goes off, insulting me and swearing like a long shoreman. I wasn’t gonna put up with that kinda garbage. Why can’t people disagree without acting like crazoes!? 🙁

  5. Great post Kristen. I believe we all have the power to change. I grew up in a house where yelling was the norm. I became a yeller myself as a mom. Only to find my headaches getting worse and my kids just ignoring and not listening. My stress made me yell and it became a cycle. Once I recognized the cycle. I changed. It wasn’t easy and took time but now I rarely yell. If I have a point I tell them calmly and respectfully. I also don’t allow them to yell back at me. It makes for a much more peaceful existence. We still laugh very loudly and carry on a lot, but it is more respectful and productive all around. We all can change. Hopefully even bullies can change!

    1. I did the same in both directions. Tolerated bullying and then became a controller at the same time. I had to learn healthy boundaries and PEACE was paramount and that toxic people are literally POISON. Get away!

    2. You are so right! We all can change. There were two people who bullied one of my daughters at school. Years later, they both found her on facebook and contacted her to apologize! True, it was after they were adults, but better late than never.


  6. I’m back today with another comment. This topic gets under my skin. I was bullied as a kid as well, but not to the extent you were. I don’t think there is a place anywhere for bullying. My Mom taught me to treat others as I wanted to be treated, to say please and thank-you, and that if I didn’t have anything nice to say to say nothing at all. The Good Book not only backs that up, but also teaches us to love one another. I think these teachings go a long way, but since they took God out of the school system, things seem to have gotten worse. God help us. When I get a nasty comment or bad review, I don’t respond. Response only fuels the bully’s fire and gives them their 10 seconds of cyber-fame. I refuse to engage in it. I don’t have the answers, but I agree that bullying should not be tolerated.

    1. But being a Christian as well, I think that is why there is so much biblical emphasis on remaining peaceful in the storm, brushing the dust off our feet when rejected, etc. I think it’s because bullies have always been here and always will be. We can only control how we respond.

      1. So true! And the Biblical reminder that in the end only one opinion matters – and it’s not that of some puerile misanthrope spewing vitriol across cyberspace.

  7. The biggest thing that society as a whole can do to address the rise of narcissism and aggression as well as a lack of empathy is to look where it all begins: the early years. Neuroscience is telling us that the development for empathy and stress regulation happens in the first couple of years of life. The infant needs to be under the care of a loving, stable and nurturing care taker for such developments to occur. But what happens to most kids these days? They get sent to childcare as young as the age of three months. Have a look at books by M. Sunderland, O James and S Gerhardt that offer thought provoking insight into how much the environment of a child’s early years affect them later on in life. In fact, James’s book, ‘They f**k you up.’ convinced me that staying at home to look after my child would be the best route to take. I acknowledge that not everyone can afford to do this and for some families a double income provides shelter and food on the table. The fact that a double income is needed and the horrendous lack of maternity leave in the U.S. is another topic altogether! But something needs to be done for the babes if we are to build a predominantly empathic society. My opinion: nurture over nature. Rant over.

  8. Nurture or nature-we must be proactive. The ignore it, don’t get involved, sweep it under the rug mentality doesn’t work. It takes awareness and education. Thank you for the excellent blogs that do both. Now let’s keep the discussion going, repost, share, and start discussions within local communites, and take action. We must not allow bully’s work escape consequences. Nurture or nature, both bully and victim need help.

    1. Both are hurting, only differently. I agree and will do my part ((HUGS)).

  9. I so much agree with this: blogs (and other sites like Goodreads) “need to increase moderation and have a Code of Conduct for commenting AND STICK TO IT. People can disagree, but they cannot act in any way that would land them a ticket or in JAIL if this was in person. If these blogs don’t take moderation more seriously, businesses won’t want to advertise there because the clientele (readers/commenters) has been sacred off.”

    And although I agree absolutely that writers should never confuse sincere negative reviews with bullying, I’ve found it’s not always true that a bunch of bad reviews mean there’s anything wrong with your book. Almost all comic fiction gets tons of negative reviews, because humor is so subjective. Many people read literally and don’t have the brain capacity to understand irony or satire. A quick glance at the humor bestseller list on Amazon shows a huge assortment of amazingly clueless one star reviews. I think some of the negative responses you’ve had to this blog come from people who simply don’t have the right brain chemistry to understand your humor. I’ve certainly run into it on my own blog.

    And I’m one of the people who’s been bullied for innocuous blogposts. One thing I’ve learned the hard way is that you’re soooo right about deleting troll comments immediately. “Freedom of speech” means people can’t be arrested for saying awful things in a public place, but it doesn’t mean anybody has to put up with bad behavior on our private property (or blog.)

    1. That’s why I used the word “consider” they might be right. If I get 52 reviews that my formatting is so bad it gave them seizures? Or too many typos? Or too many POVs? Probably a good time to pull the book and try again. Also not every opinion is valid which is why we need rhino skin. Someone commented that she received a 1 or 2 star review because of her book’s Christian content, when it was listed as a CHRISTIAN BOOK. Those times? We just roll our eyes and move on.

    2. I myself run into negative comments about my new fiction book series i’m working on cause it does have a great deal of satire in it and I agree, I often think that perhaps people just dont understand where the humor is coming from.

      It is my first couple books and I try to remember the first few are never your best but some times – especially on good reads I agree wholeheartedly it becomes very discouraging and depressing when you never seem to see the end of poor mannered individuals who dont seem to care that some of us are trying to start a career.

  10. bullies work in the space we aren’t prepared or don’t know how to defend.

    I remember how once a single kid stood up to a bully and freed an entire school.

  11. Hey Kristen!

    Long time follower, but this is only my second comment. I have long embraced your willingness to be vulnerable before us, your audience. We love you for it.

    This article hit me very hard. Firstly, your research was amazing. Great info, excellent recommendations for further reading. I enjoyed the discussion of the science, and I found that you “lay-manned” it very well.

    The reason I really wanted to comment today: My baby sister is studying this very topic (the effects of experience on DNA, and what that means for moral responsibility) for her PhD thesis, and I’ve sent her a copy of your blog as an excellent example of what pop culture is saying about her topic. She studies this topic for the same personal reasons I was moved to comment. We grew up under circumstances similar to yours. She and I are both frustrated with the lack of discussion regarding the effects of experience on human neurophysiology, and thus personality. “Will-power” has far less to do with our choices than does the “treaded, dreaded, and inescapable” path our thoughts travel. If an impulse that starts at synapse A ALWAYS travels to synapse X, it will take more than “will power” to divert that dumb, electrical impulse from it’s practiced course. Only an intervention–through medication or brain training (commonly called therapy)–can create a divergence to break the neurological cycle. IMHO. That was a purposeful oversimplification, so I hope you will forgive me.

    I know this aspect of the subject is aside from the aspect you were discussing, and I hope you’ll forgive my aside. But your article makes me smile (geez, that sounds so weird!) because I want more people to engage with each other about the tough topics–like why bullies bully and what can be done about it.

    Keep inspiring. We’ll keep reading.


    1. I think we end up in two inadequate camps–“It’s DNA and they can’t help it. Drug them.” Or, “It’s bad parenting, they can’t help it. Drug them.” But what both these do is absolve us of a greater community responsibility and that WE CAN HELP. Yes, genetics matters and YES parenting matters but why do people from bad genes and bad families turn around? Put the locus of focus somewhere we can be proactive.

      Happy you found my armchair science agreeable, LOL. I hate to simplify so much but none of would understand it if I didn’t ha ha ha ha ha ha.

  12. I know it’s bad manners to include a link to one of my blog posts but your topic of bullying in the adult (and cyber) world really hit home. In my work with nonprofits, there has been occasion when otherwise very smart and capable people would allow themselves to be sentenced to the library so as to not incur the fury and wrath of the bully. But as you said, appeasement only yields more bullying. It’s hard as hell to stand up to a bully — as a kid or adult — but nothing changes if nothing changes. Here’s the link to “The T-Rex, the Woodchuck, and the Wildebeest.” I had a short-lived phase of writing little fables.. 🙂 :

    1. I allow it if it fits the context of what we are talking about. My blog, my discretion ;).

  13. I think we have allowed the current state to evolve by not teaching respect, discipline, and control. Learned attributes can be unlearned by exposure to corrective behaviors. I agree with you that we have the ability to affect the trolls with positive actions. Just my opinion.

  14. I think the most eye-opening thing I saw in one of my college psychology classes was a video about bystanders. I think we need to promote a society that disdains bystanders as much as the actual aggressors. If you aren’t part of the solution, you could very well be part of the problem.
    A victim has a hard time standing up to a bully alone. Ignoring isn’t the same as avoiding. How can we promote a sense of community where people refuse to stand by and watch others murdered (that’s what happened in the video) afraid to even testify? I agree that banding together is the solution. Don’t be a bystander. You might get hurt. It will definitely push you out of your “comfort zone” but if we want change we must BE the CHANGE.
    Thanks for these posts which are helpful in a much broader scope than just life as a writer.


  15. I think many trolls don’t understand that although a person’s blog is public, it’s still that person’s space and “freedom of speech” doesn’t mean “freedom to abuse.” These folks get upset and cry “censorship” when they aren’t allowed to, say, use slurs or make threats.

    1. They need the chaos and want a free pass to bully and we need to stop being cowed bystanders and set firm boundaries. Disagree but do it with respect. Personal attacks get you a ticket or a trip to jail in person. It isn’t acceptable on-line.

  16. Very interesting and awesome post here! I am interested in DNA and this latest development of the possibility of the trauma being passed down in the DNA. I watch a little too much crime TV myself, and I feel drawn to it in a psychic way, but other reasons as well. I wonder why we are all here and if some of us are here now, in this lifetime, for a specific reason. Maybe there’a a yin and a yang in there somewhere in all the bloodshed. Maybe, as a group of humans, we have to go through some crazy stuff before we can see the light and start treating each other better.

    I believe in the golden rule and karma and have found that I almost get an instant karma if I am bad to someone or if I lie to someone. It keeps me honest. I have to ask myself what I am willing to pay before I attempt to wrong someone. Sometimes it is necessary for the greater cause to lie to someone or whatever.

    I have been pretty lucky in my blog life as far as trolling goes or bullies, but I have a few trolls in my non-digital life and one in particular is trying to get me fired from my job. It’s ridiculous and I saw it coming and I warned my boss beforehand, but bothersome all the same. I don’t know why she wants to hurt me and this has certainly caused me great anxiety. I try to remind myself of the retaliation if I address her attempt with an attempt of my own. So I wait, as if we are playing a game of chess. Bullies are no fun! But some certainly seem predisposed to this behavior. My bully from the story above – her parents were both very much bullies themselves. I see a lot of her father’s behavior in the way she acts now.

    1. I wish they would start taking bullying seriously in the workplace. Bullies don’t dissolve with the power of a high school diploma *rolls eyes*

      1. They certainly do not! My boss was actually very cool about it and told me that we would take care of it. I have had bosses in my recent past that might try to join the bully and take me out.

  17. We didn’t talk a lot about epigenetics when I was getting my bio degree. There was I think one chapter in our Genetics book about it, if even that. So I think that it is an intriguing yet emerging field. I’ll confess that I don’t fully understand how it works, haha. I liked your explanation. It’s a kind of confusing topic, and you made it relatable.

    There’s another emerging field you might want to look into on this topic It’s the concept of neuroplasticty. It is the idea that the brain is, well, plastic. Pliable. It can make all sorts of new connections all throughout a person’s life. It is amazing how the brain can work around massive physical trauma. I should think that also applies to non-physical trauma and aggressive traits. We read a book called The Brain That Changes Itself by Norman Doidge for one of my classes on the topic. I don’t recall it talking about bullying, but it is heartening to see that there is at least a chance for change.

    1. I think changing how we interact with the abusive and how we support the abused feeds into the epigenics which then translates that genetic data into remapping the brain–ergo, neuroplasticity. If the methyl bath is removed and the genes go dormant, the DNA structure changes and, consequently, so does the brain structure. Granted this is VERY oversimplified, but makes sense to me. If diet can make certain genes go dormant and cancer go away or never surface, why is the brain any different? And I KNOW about neuroplasticity. I had a terrible head trauma in a boat accident. For the next year, I suffered debilitating anomia and agnosia but the brain corrected and formed new pathways and those issues eventually went away. It really is an amazing organ and full of infinite mysteries. Thanks for the thoughtful comment and book recommendation! ((HUGS))

  18. What a fascinating post! I actually shyed away from blogging for awhile, afraid of those cyber bullies. I blog about a variety of topics – some being writing, books, homeschooling and food… The food one is where I suspect, after some time, I may be a target… I’ve only just started – haven’t really gotten into depth yet… but my food story is also linked to depression as you wrote about above. My family has actually cured illness (bipolar depression included) simply with eating real food vs. the standard American diet – not something a lot of people would accept and cyber bullies beware…. so far I haven’t gotten any except one anonymous letter in the mail – yep- in the snail mail….so it’s someone I KNOW!! It disturbed me but hasn’t swayed me… yet

  19. Oh…and I just did a post on epigenetics a couple weeks ago! What a coincidence!

  20. Wanted to pop in to say I LOVE that picture of us partying in Huntington Beach. That was the inaugural event for Tameri’s pink wig. 🙂

    Now I’m off to keep spreading WANA love throughout the land…

    • Anna Erishkigal on January 3, 2014 at 4:41 pm
    • Reply

    PBS Scientific American did a great tv segment on epigenetics. You can view the episode HERE:

  21. Great post! I’m inclined to agree. I fear that bullying, in fact, is an integral part of the human condition – alas! One that isn’t properly kept under control. I think certain occupations tend to attract people who do it, writing is one of them, and I think bullying also takes on many guises. One of the reasons is that people tend to attach their sense of self-worth to what they write; it validates them, and when somebody else writes in that field, it becomes an attack on self-worth that has to be avenged in kind. I have seen it many times here in New Zealand among historians, both professional academics and self-appointed enthusiasts. The answer? Abstraction. Authors are not what they write, and that writing shouldn’t become a mechanism for self-validation.

  22. Reblogged this on Passionate Dreaming and commented:
    I’ve never been one to assume that my genes can have any type of affect on the abuses I have allow to continually happen to me throughout my life. I am determined to break the cycle. I want my daughter to have a better life than mine. Wow. Just wow.

  23. Nice one. I heard about the genetics thing recently, myself but I haven’t quite got my head round it yet. There was a study of various families over a couple of generations and they discovered there were perpetuated behaviours… There is that idea that abuse begets abuse but I’ve always wondered if that’s just a simple case of people who bully often being damaged in some way themselves.

    I loved your parallel with the restaurant. If you make a reasonable complaint, the chef is out of order to come out of the kitchen throwing knives at you, if you complain in abusive way, he’s within his rights to call the cops and chuck you out, whether or not you actually have a point.

    I think a lot of the problem is moderation. Amazon is not moderated by humans.



  24. Reblogged this on Lloyd Lofthouse and commented:
    Food for thought when it comes to bullies of any kind.

  25. I know we are not at the mercy of our unique DNA. We can overcome any genetic triggers we inherited if we decide to fight back and consciously make changes for the better. In other words, take charge of your own body and mind. Don’t just be a knee jerk reaction person.

    But to do this and succeed, we must be aware at all times of what we are doing everyday, and be willing to make corrections in our lifestyles, thinking and actions on an ongoing basis. We have to be our own judge, jury and executioner who attacks their own bad traits to change poor behaviors. Of course, this is easier to say than do.

    For instance, there are people who:

    1. live to eat

    2. eat to live

    What I mean:

    Some people live to eat and unconsciously or subconsciously eat food that isn’t good for them because they refuse to take charge. For example: someone who binge eats chocolate by the pound or cake.

    They let the taste-good feeling sweep over them and control huge elements of their lifestyles and use the excuse “boys will be boys” or “girls will be girls”, etc.

    Then there are those who eat to live and say no to lots of really great tasting food because saying no leads to a healthier life with less pain. These people do not use the excuse of “boys will be boys”.

    Bullies who are addicted to bullying because of the rush of pleasure they feel when causing mental anguish and pain in others are “live to eat” people. Without an outside force, I doubt that these types are going to make any effort to change a negative behavior pattern. They will keep eating chocolate cake by the ton.

    But, your suggestion that we surround ourselves with others who offer a positive, loving support to drive away the bullies will probably work for us—-but not for the “live to eat” person who will sneak off and go somewhere else.

    How do we deal with this issue as a culture? Do we let the “live to eat” bullies exist by driving them away to find other victims or do we bring about changes in the culture so we have a way to identify these people and provide interventions that bring about change or a padded cell.

    I suspect that most of the wars through history were started by “live to eat” people who were also bullies.

    Hitler was a bully
    Stalin was a bully
    The Japanese who started World War II in the Pacific were bullies

    Was Alexander the Great or Genghis Khan bullies too? How about Napoleon?

    King George of the British Empire was a bully and if he hadn’t been a bully, I’m sure there would be no Untied States—as we know it—today, because there would have been no rebellion.

    So, if enough of us really want world peace, then creating interventions to identify potential bullies might be a very good idea. I bet, though, that bullies will fight back because they are junkies addicted to victimizing others. They are no better than an alcoholic who can’t resist their next drink or the cocaine addict who has to snort another ounce up their nose.

    For an individual to change, they have to want it enough to make it happen and the odds of that are very small, I think.

    1. It is a multi-layered issue for sure and (on that has plagued humanity since the cave days). And, in Western culture, which encourages Type A, willing-to-do-anything for results people and glorifies people like Steve jobs (granted, a genius, but a BULLY), we have a challenge for sure and no simple answers.

  26. Fascinating science article. I was just reading the bit about baby rats being calmer with more physical contact and am disturbed about the way society is going with regards this. Obviously we need to be on our guard against sexual abuse, but one of the effects of this is how it is no longer appropriate for someone caring for a child to hug, or even touch them (unless they’re related).

    What can be done when the government is the bully? Here in the UK they are taking benefits from the vulnerable poor and disabled, using the press to vilify them so ordinary people accept it. A grass roots movement of making such behaviour unacceptable and providing a respectful alternative might be a good place to start. Our society is so broken I am not sure if it can even be fixed, but that is no reason to give up. I think it would also help if we managed to find a way to disallow sociopaths from government. Or maybe the drugs might stop people having sociopathic tendencies – that would be great!

    • Anna Erishkigal on January 3, 2014 at 6:26 pm
    • Reply

    BTW … have people seen this French ad depicting the bullying in school as if it was happening to adults at the office? It’s very poignant, sad, and hard-hitting. Here’s the link, Kristen. I think it might hit that place you’re feeling right now about bullying:

    • Janette on January 3, 2014 at 6:53 pm
    • Reply

    I have also left my 12 year career because of lack of joy in the workplace because of bullying. It is just not worth it to me anymore. The profession I worked for is brutal–I have decided it is their loss not mine and now will pursue a life long dream that I have suppressed for nearly 40 years because of fear. Inspired by your inspirational blog–writing with a purpose. Face to face bullying -I believe is much more difficult to overcome. I believe it causes the most emotional trauma. One boy on a bus going to school tormented everyone who got on the bus everyday–the cost several lives–one my sister who never quite got over the emotional pain she carried for years. Do I think he would care–No, I don’t think he would even have remorse for all the lives he destroyed. Bullying has a face–it stings for years. Trying to get over and past it takes a tremendous amount of work for the victim and sometimes they just don’t get over it.

  27. Reblogged this on latebloomlisa and commented:
    A case of mistaken identity has brought me lots of problems…

  28. Kristen, I am another who is the product of a home with a bullying parent, my mom. I believe that the environment we live in impacts on who we become and are. Example: In the last year of my mom’s life, I had to move her 2200 miles from TN to OR (story too long to share here). I dreaded the renewed opportunity she was being given to once more attempt to control and bully me, even though I was in my 50s. Interestingly enough, through a physician friend, I came to the realization as to why she was a bully. At age 11 she had been taken out of school to stay home and care for younger siblings. Her only method of parenting, as she’d never been taught to parent, was to frighten by bullying and this gave her control.

    My ability at that time to see her in a life that gave her few, if any, choices changed my attitude about who she had been, had become and was in my life. That didn’t necessarily forgive her treatment of me, but allowed me to see her through different lenses. During the time she lived near us in a nursing facility, an amazing change took place in her, even at age 88. This ungracious woman became gracious. My domineering, controlling mother became more docile in her interactions with people around her. It was a transformation, not only for her but for me for I had come very close to becoming like her.

    I believe you’ve hit the proverbial nail on the head in your post yesterday and today, and I stand behind you in your effort to bring this topic to the top of online discussion. I don’t know what we can do to effect change immediately in the groups where we writers find ourselves, but I do know I’d like to be instrumental in doing something.

  29. I am going to say something that will probably be unpopular. Sometimes victims invite bullies. (no this is not the same as saying the girl wearing the miniskirt is inviting rape, please hear me out).

    I will use my daughter as an example. She would come home and tell me that kids on the bus were making fun of her and calling her names, some even threatened to beat her up. Now, before I called the school board, I dug a little deeper. It turned out, she was being a now-it-all (she is smart, outgoing and a perfectionist) and she was in everyone’s face. I explained to her that she didn’t need to tell everyone they were wrong, or be bus monitor or safety patrol when she wasn’t appointed that position. People are allowed to be wrong, it was not her job to point it out to them.

    Did that give them the right to “bully” her? NO, not at all, but once she stopped telling everyone they were wrong about whatever opinion they had, they stopped hassling her. I also explained to her that some people have never had people be nice to them and sometimes they need to be shown HOW to be nice. (this works with some people, not with all, but our un-returned kindness NEVER negates the kindness itself).

    If we see patterns in our lives we have to acknowledge it may be something we are putting out in the world.

    When we moved to Texas we had a similar experience. Girls were being very mean or “bullying” my daughter. One of them was pure weird jealous girl-stuff and my daughter did nothing to provoke, she was a TRUE victim. The other however was not. She was being so bossy in Honor’s Choir, (she has a very high standard and was trying to get the other girls to meet her standard by telling them they were off key or off tempo etc), and this turned into a few girls talking behind her back, making rude comments etc.

    Again, this does NOT excuse the rude behavior, but I told my daughter she had to take responsibility for HER actions and those REACTIONS she got.

    I will give you another example, I have a friend who constantly feels like she’s been bullied, adult over forty, by a group of people on a local FB page. And for certain, these individuals HAVE acted badly, rudely and inappropriately, there is NOTHING to excuse there behavior, but over the course of a year the victimized woman who felt she was being bullied, had continually posted Christian-bashing posts, Anti-Republican posts and lots of general negative outrage to whatever opinion was opposite hers. She did not see HER comments as bullying, but I can tell you a Christian woman in my book group was sorely offended.

    So when this “Christian Group” (which I put in quotes because their actions do not evoke Christianity to me), attacked her, which they did savagely about ANYTHING she posted, she felt completely victimized. She could not see her year of bashing their ideals and their beliefs and their likes was at all related to their treatment of her.

    I do not believe that ANY kind of bullying should be tolerated or accepted, but I also no not believe in being a VICTIM.

    There are instances where the big/popular/mean kid/group/organization uses their power to bully, but I have seen and heard this world “bully” thrown around so much recently and so many playing victim and unwilling to examine their own behavior. We cannot control or change others, we can only change, control ourselves and empower ourselves. We can not do this if we consider ourselves victims.

    So it’s important to delete, stand strong, stand united against all bullying, but it’s important to self-check are actions to see what seeds we are sewing.

    1. Thanks for saying this. You’re right, bullying is never acceptable, and we need to make sure we aren’t unintentionally bullying others first.

      1. Exactly, I see it a lot on the playground and on FB. Seriously, adults are the worst because they are so committed to their point of view, they cannot see that they are bullying and feel when someone “counter attacks” it’s out of the blue. This is not true of ALL bullying cases, but I see it a lot in adults and children. I don’t believe in attacked back.I believe in showing the behavior you want to receive, “Be the change.” Is there another word besides bullying we can use?

    2. Coming in late to the party, but *please* be cognizant of the messages you may be sending to your daughter. Is she truly “bossy” or is she just acting outside “acceptable girl norms”? Oftentimes, girls can be bullied for the behavior that would be just fine for boys. I’m sorry she was bullied.

  30. I’ll add something that probably isn’t popular, either:

    The best way to deal with a bully is to hit them harder and faster than they can hit you.

    I was bullied all through elementary school. It pretty much stopped cold during the last years of junior high – when I started fighting back.

    The teacher left the room and the kids came after me? I picked up a yardstick and gave as good as I got.

    Kid leaning over the bus seat and waggling his fingers in my face? My fist connecting with his forehead left a large lump there. And lo, but he never did that again.

    The kids who used to chase me up the hill from the bus stop to my house stopped COLD one day. That was the day I turned in my driveway, faced the first one coming on at me, slammed the heel of my palm into his nose, grabbed his shoulders, brought my knee into his belly, took him down to the ground, pinned him there, and (having NO idea what to do then!) shoved a fistful of mud and grass into his mouth.

    These bullies were all bigger than me. I was a year ahead in school, so they were all bigger AND older. I wasn’t athletic, so they were more fit. I had no special martial arts training (although I did start martial arts, years later).

    There’s a cool line from the Avengers film, where Agent Coulson talks to Loki:

    Agent Phil Coulson: You’re gonna lose.
    Loki: Am I?
    Agent Phil Coulson: It’s in your nature.
    Loki: Your heroes are scattered, your floating fortress falls from the sky… where is my disadvantage?
    Agent Phil Coulson: You lack conviction.
    Loki: I don’t think I…
    [Coulson shoots Loki with his BFG, causing Loki to be blown through the wall behind him]

    Fundamentally, bullies hurt people because they feel small. They do it because they have low self esteem. They do it because they are weak.

    Because they lack conviction.

    Bullies are Loki.

    (Why do you think that movie was so darned popular? It’s about standing up to the classic bully.)

    THAT is how you stop bullies. And…it’s really the only way that works. The only way that has ever worked. You go do what the Hulk did.

    Or at least you try. You fight back.

    And if you do it with conviction, while they have none…you will probably surprise yourself.

    1. That often works with guys but girls are sneaky and psychological. I had a female bully only one time throw a punch at me. Only fight I have EVER been in in MY LIFE outside of a martial arts competition. She kept shoving me and shoving me and I backed up until I was across the street and wouldn’t fight. But when she threw the first punch? GAME ON. I gave her a lesson why it isn’t nice to hit. She never tried that crap again. But females rarely go for those tactics, they get in your head. And you are SO RIGHT. Bullies lack conviction.

  31. Dr. Caroline Leaf has been pushing forward the field of neuroplasticity for over 20 years. I highly recommend her 21-Day Brain Detox program and her books. Yes, we get junk dumped on us, sometimes through no fault of our own. We, however, can change, can overcome that evil with good. I think that when we heal from those old wounds and live at peace with ourselves, we can meet the bullies squarely and tell them “NO.”

    I think I’ve bullied myself more than any other person has bullied me. I have very high expectations of myself, and I don’t forgive myself easily for failing. I took the comments of actual bullies, edited them for maximum impact, put them into hi-res, and hit “repeat playlist.”

    I find it interesting that science has discovered what we’ve known all along: the wrongs of the parents revisit the children to the fourth and fifth generation. I didn’t know about many problems in my ancestors’ lives until I was an adult, and I can see how those long-ago actions affect me. I’m being vigilant with myself, calling myself out when I feed my internal troll. I’m finding that I have greater strength to refuse the external trolls now.

    Thanks for sharing, Kristen!

  32. Reblogged this on DV Berkom Books and commented:
    Interesting piece by Kristen Lamb on the source of bullying. Could it be in our DNA?

  33. Thanks for another great article.

    I must admit I’ve been tempted to pull the plug on my fledgling writing career a few times this last year, but the support I’ve received from the other authors signed with The Writer’s Coffee Shop has been amazing and helped me to keep things in perspective. After having to give up my career due to a neurological disorder, my hobby – writing for fan fiction – has given me both solace and, at least, some chance of replacing the income I have lost. I’d only intended to publish my original novel, the first in a series, but made the decision to P2P (pull to publish) my most popular fan fiction story when TWCS said they were interested in publishing it also. Little did I know what I was getting myself into with the P2P haters! Being bombarded with one star reviews before the ARC was even released, by people who knew nothing about me or my circumstances, was a nightmare. I had some serious moments of regret and anxiety over it all, but now that my book is released, the positive reviews and support has far outweighed the negative.

    I appreciate that not everyone approves of P2P, and I certainly don’t expect everyone to like my stories. But it is frustrating when people who haven’t even read them can have such an impact on the rating they receive.

    Thanks so much for your terrific, thought provoking articles. I’m sharing them with the other indie author’s I know. 🙂

  34. Fabulous article with excellent points to heed.

    @Elise – Don’t you dare stop! Ignore ’em. As Kristen says, unfriend, delete, block, and report the bullies.

  35. In nature there is always an equal and opposite, so if there are chemicals that feed negative impacts, there must be chemicals that feed positive ones too. I think we are not just the sum of our genetic parts – if that was true, we’d just be carbon copies of our parents and all who came before. We are our own individuals with our own feelings and thoughts and I think we all have the capacity to become more than we came from. And I think the reason why people don’t do this, why they don’t rise above their difficulties and problems is because of a lack of love and positive friendships to give confidence and a lack of education (or a combination of both). Yet, even this is simplifying things, because there are people who do amazing things with their lives who have a lack of both and yet rise above it and those who have both and end up being horrible human beings. But this, once again, shows that it is not just nature or nurture that affects us, but something else deeper that perhaps can only be described as the essence of a person. Once again, this is all very simplistic, but I think anyone can be a better person if that’s what they decide they want to do. Thats what I try to do because that’s what I saw my parents do and that’s what I try to teach my kids.

  36. Scary thought . . . I grew up in the same kind of family as yours and developed that rhino skin, but it breaks my heart when I saw so many of my writing friends down in the dumps in 2013 b/c of mean reviews. I never thought about them committing suicide, but I will definitely due my best to be more encouraging whenever I can. Personally, if I can’t give a book 4 or 5 stars, I don’t leave a review. Writers pour too much blood, sweat, and tears into their work. And if you don’t have anything nice to say, then be quiet! I’ve always told my own girls to ‘kill ’em with kindness’ when it comes to bullies, but your blog makes me think I need a better strategy. Thankfully, they are very secure, confident young ladies and really don’t care what others say about them. Maybe they inherited my rhino skin? 🙂 Anyway, another great blog post!

  37. A fascinating post. I find it interesting as well that kids who were bullied relentlessly in childhood became bullies as well. Just about every school shooter fits the profile. I should have looked up a study about that. Another thing I’ve noticed is that these people also suffered from psychological problems. I wonder if the psychological problems stemmed from the bullying or the bullying stemmed from psychological problems. I think I have research to do.

  38. Fantastic insights! I am a first time blogger and would appreciate any constructive criticism. I have a background in music education and I always made it my practice to first state the positive aspects of a performance first (no matter how little there was) then address the other person in a manner I would want to be spoken to when receiving constructive criticism.

    1. There is a difference in critique and criticism. Criticism offers nothing useful. I’ve been called a “meanie” and a “bully” but it was because I cut through fluff, pointed out problems, but then ALWAYS offered a variety of ways to FIX the problem.

      1. I love this and think it’s important to differentiate. Unfortunately, therein a part of the problem lies, someone might call you a bully or feel bullied by you. That’s part of what I was talking about, but perhaps didn’t articulate. There is constructive criticism but many can take it as bullying, should we walk on eggshells? I agree with REAL bullying. How do you think the victimized can tell the difference? I ask because as a teacher I see this a lot.

        1. “How do you think the victimized can tell the difference?

          I think the victim can tell the difference by learning what logical fallacies are through the the acceptable structure of argument.

          For instance: the ad hominem attack

          Ad Hominem Argument: Also, “personal attack,” “poisoning the well.” The fallacy of attempting to refute an argument by attacking the opposition’s personal character or reputation, using a corrupted negative argument from ethos. E.g., “He’s so evil that you can’t believe anything he says.” See also Guilt by Association. Also applies to cases where potential opposing arguments are brushed aside without comment or consideration, as simply not worth arguing about.

          Here’s a list of logical fallacies with definitions and examples from the University of Texas at El Paso:

          In addition, Professor deLaplante [he is the chair of the department of philosophy and religious studies at Iowa State University] has an account on YouTube where he posts videos on the topic:

          1. Thank you. I will look at this and see how I can apply to children. I’m not sure how to help fix adults at all. They are very committed to their perceptions.

          2. From my experience teaching children and teens, it’s best to keep the concept simple with examples that demonstrate how a logical fallacy works.

            That might include the ad hominem, the red herring, the straw man, appeal to the popular, and begging the question—just my opinion that these are probably the ones used most by bullies.

            I’d plan a short lesson to cover each one, one day at a time for no longer than 15 to 20 minutes and then move on to five more sessions where the kids role play.

            If I were the teacher, I’d divide my classes into five small groups with each group planning a presentation for their logical fallacy.

            And each group would split with half taking one side of an issue, etc. The kids would actually plan the use of logical fallacies alongside logical argument methods.

            This could also be a great opportunity to introduce hot button issues like the right to own firearms, abortion, animal cruelty, gay rights, global warming, etc.

            Each group gets one logical fallacy and one of the issues to debate in front of the class while the other students who are watching have to identify when the logical fallacies are in play.

            It could be lots of fun and would probably really keep the kids engaged. Sort of like a Price is Right game where the first kid to raise their hand to identify a logical fallacy in play earns extra credit.

            It was always my experience that kids love extra credit and pay close attention to get a chance to earn some.

  39. I wrote paragraphs about cyber bullies…one in particular, and then I deleted them all. Why? This bully doesn’t deserve the fame.

    1. Yep. Don’t feed the Trolls ;).

      1. May I add to “Don’t feed the Trolls”?

        Don’t feed the Trolls on the battle field of their choosing.

        Instead, if you must reply because you can’t sleep, ignore them on other Blogs, sites and forums and write about it only on your own Blog.

        For instance, if you have a WordPress Blog, you control the comments and anyone who leaves a comment also leaves their IP address. Cyber bullies tend to hate being exposed in any way and usually shy away from leaving comments on a victim’s site/Blog.

        They may still wage the battle on their turf but most of their sites have no search engine rank and few people other than other trolls and victims read what they post there.

        It’s not easy to gather a large following when all you are spewing is hate and accusations.

        However, an active author who does not stoop to the use of logical fallacies [often used by bullies] usually is building a wide spread virtual platform and community that is much larger than the smaller tribes of trolls who usually can’t drum up enough support to gain the search engine rank an author might build.

        Using my own platform for an example, the tribe of cyber trolls who attacked me and my work back in early 2013 probably had no idea that I had been building a virtual platform for several years with several Blogs and Websites that all outranked their own sites when it came to search engines. That way if a curious person comes along and sees what a Troll writes about a victim, that person can also easily find what the victim has to say on their Blogs.

        The key here, I think, is to not turn your Blog/s into a battlefield. In other words resist getting down in the mud and resorting to the use of logical fallacies such as the ad hominem attack that bullies often resort to.

        If an author/victim must respond on their site keep it as impartial as possible and stick to the facts—no name calling.

        If you must engage, take the high road and let the bullies stay alone on the low road that is mired in the mud of their own making.

        And never, never resort to the same tactics they use.

        1. Amen. Son’t engage or engage in a way that defeats the argument. I have no problem saying, “Ok, you win.” How do they continue? Hard to. Most of the time I try to keep comments troll-free. Just because someone disagrees with a point I make doesn’t (in my book) make that person a troll. I will often engage so as to ensure there isn’t confusion. For instance, whenever I blog that new writers NEED to understand three-act structure, inevitably I will get ten comments from literary folks who argue that 3-Act structure is base and many famous works broke the rules. I am there to point out that WE MUST UNDERSTAND THE RULES TO BREAK THE RULES but it often doesn’t stop the pontificating. There comes a point when ur like, “Whatever. Go you!”

  40. Thanks for such an interesting post, Kirsten. I’m currently writing a novel in which one of the main characters was bullied as a child, and this has helped with research and given me additional food for thought. I was brought up in a passive aggressive household, and it took me years to understand that this horrid atmosphere was bullying. Bullying isn’t always overt. Mine was full of snide remarks and put-downs. No shouting. Nobody ever shouted! I can so fully relate to your experience about going to someone’s home and finding the atmosphere so different and loving. For me that happened at age 14, I was shocked.

    As for cyber bullying, yes, I’ve had a little. Again mine came quietly, furtively, a reflection of passive aggressive behaviour. I was 1 starred on Kobo for a novel that I had yet to sell one copy of. I took issue and the official line was ‘everyone is allowed their opinion, even if they have not purchased or read your book.’ A friend then informed me about what they called the ‘Amazon Mafia’ that go around downgrading material they disapprove of. How does one deal with this type of insidious bullying? There doesn’t appear to be any recourse when the publisher allows it.

    From my experience Bullies are mainly fearful individuals. They fear losing love, control, position etc. and feel they need to lash out first, to put you down in order to stay in control. The only way I’ve ever been able to deal with them is to stay strong, and then smile. The bullies I’ve encountered have been really perplexed when I’ve said, ‘hello,’ and smiled as if they are the nicest person on the planet. In time they’ve backed down. Amazing what happens when you bomb someone with happy vibes. (even if you’re terrified of them!)

  41. Hello Kristen, I followed this thread from DV Berkom’s blog; the title sucked me in and I found the article very interesting. In my first book, ‘Surviving the Battleground of Childhood’, I visited this subject quite intimately. I am familiar with the bullying concepts and believe that just as one can be particularly susceptible to certain cancers or heart disease et cetera, one can be susceptible to bullying (receiving or delivering) but in the end I believe it comes down to choice, and choice can most certainly be effected by education.

    However having said that, and although bullies and victims come in many shapes and sizes, there are those who are extremely difficult to educate. I have personally found a lack of empathy, a sociopathic indicator, to be a key determining factor in the bully or potential bully. Sometimes, when there is such a general lack of empathy that person might boarder on psychopathic, no amount of education will compensate.

    This is a subject that has been around since forever and in my humble opinion will be around for at least as long again. We must however, as a matter of principle, stand against it in whatever form it manifests; there is enough evidence, constantly coming to the fore, that left alone it can develop into catastrophic consequences.

    Thank you, Kristen, for airing this very germane subject.

    1. I do think some bullies likely are sociopaths or psychopaths, but even they can be rehabilitated. There is a great book, “The Sociopath Next Door” which addresses this.

  42. Oh my gosh! I grew up with a Great Volcano, too. It makes a person hyper sensitive to others, waiting for them to erupt because that’s what you know.

    Before he died, the Great Volcano did happen to tell me that not everything was about me. He meant it in a “you don’t matter” way, but it was actually great advice. Those tacky and subjective one star reviews say far more about the person typing them than they ever will about the work itself. For me, I can’t focus on people like that and their problems. Don’t have the time. I have a book to write that needs to be better than the one before it. 😀

  43. “I remember visiting friends’ houses and being blown away that there wasn’t non-stop crackling tension and arguing.”
    Wow, that sentence stuck with me! I hope I’ll be able to create a loving home in the future like you did. I fear becoming one of those nagging women that there are so many of in my family.
    Or Mt. Volcano, my sister! Do you have any advice for facing a person who absolutely ignores logic, throws care to the wind and gives other people the fault, is self-righteous to the point of ridiculousness and will start cursing at people the minute they stand up for themselves? She’s a nice person under all that. I wish she’d just stay nice all the time.

    This is incredibly interesting research and I’ll have to read the full article. Where/how in the world do you find these awesome articles?!

    1. Gry, ZERO Tolerance. Refuse to interact unless they behave. I had a Mt Volcano family member. We threw a big birthday party for her and, of course, she isn’t there five minutes and BLOWS over something relatively small. In the past, we would have danced around and tried to smooth things out. This time? I said, “Look, I know you are upset. You have a right to be upset. I know you need a moment to gather yourself, so take five minutes. But, if you don’t calm down and come enjoy what we’ve put together, then my family needs to go home. I would prefer you calm down and have fun, but the choice is up to you.” She took the five minutes, we had a great time and this behavior eventually all but disappeared because as a united family, we refused to feed/reward it.

      1. This is a surprisingly frightening thing to do! I usually leave the room when my sister gets to be too much but I’m not sure how I would “cut her out”. She and my parents already had a cold war like that once and I fear it might be enough to push her over the edge – she’s living in the other end of the country (relatively close since it’s Denmark, but still) so we already don’t see her that much.
        The problem is that we see her so much at once when we do 😛
        Thank you for your advice. I will mull this over for the next time I see her.

    2. I have a friend who had the gall to “thank” me for letting her vent after she’d spent a couple hours screaming at me and telling me what a horrible person I was. Telling her I wouldn’t put up with this behavior made no difference. Staying calm and refusing to engage didn’t work. Telling her she needed to calm down and we’d talk about it later made no difference.

      It eventually gets to the point where you have to lay down the law and stick to it. “I am leaving. I’ll be back in ten minutes. If you’ve calmed down at that point, we can talk about it.” And then leave.

      Repeat, ad infinitum.

      Just like a child, specific consequences for the behaviors work best, but only if you follow through.

      Do not let her bully you into giving in. A sobbing phone call that she’ll never do it again is a pressure tactic. Screaming after you that you’ll never see her again is also a pressure tactic.

      If nothing else works, say “I’m sorry you feel that way,” and use the escape hatch.

      1. AMEN. If I have a family member out of control? “I’m sorry. We can talk later when you’ve had time to calm down.” Refuse to engage. It only feeds the bad.

  44. I think for every victim of a bully the potential of a new bully is born. I once lost my best friend and after she ignored me fore a year I messaged her some pretty terrible things. I was feeling lonely and out of control because my only friend had left me for the popular kids who used to bully me.
    That’s no excuse. And as I found out later she was in the rough, too – entering a new class with scary, manipulative people. She didn’t want to be viewed as “the chick who’s friends with the dork from the younger classes.”
    Which is totally understandable.

  45. Yes I believe we can change however it’s become such an epidemic and it gets worse each day. Why?

    1. As people become more disconnected, there is a lack of solid community (unless we step in and create them). Often others become bystanders because they don’t have a community, either and trolls DO. They run in packs. As I addressed in my new book, the Digital Age is here and we can allow it to make us increasingly alone or bind us together globally as a family…but we have to make the effort.

  46. Excellent post and of course I was thrilled to see that you’re onto the very topic that I’ve been fascinated with for years: nature vs. nurture, plus all the latest findings in epigenetics, mesmerising stuff. Of course, I believe there’s a bit of both, we do have freedom of choice! I wrote a whole trilogy about it, and worked on it for years and years (the first book was published in…Italian – I live in Italy – back in 2007, now I’ve just re-released a new edition called Luna Rising)

    In that book I used a metaphor which (I believe!) is pretty apt: a game of cards. Think of our genetic inheritance as a game of cards. They are a given. But how we play the cards make all the difference!

    All the best with your excellent blog and writing, happy 2014!


  47. Excellent article. I especially liked your comment, “When the office bully can attack someone at the copy machine and not be fired? This emboldens the bully and, like any addiction, it generally requires larger doses for the same high.”

    The fact that we allow and excuse bad behaviors, not just bullying, is why we have no high ground of integrity anymore; in business, entertainment, sports, government and social interaction.

    I agree with the results of the scientific studies and found similar facts about nature and nurture when I was doing research for my book on school violence. We do have markers that can predispose us to certain behaviors, but through the right nurturing and counseling we do not have to act on those.

  48. Great topic. Thanks for tackling it. This is a complicated issue. Thankfully, I’ve yet to experience cyber bullying, my blog must be too new. But I’ve had lots of experience with other bullying, including being accused of bullying for responding to verbal abuse. I agree with the zero tolerance policy. I’ve taught Conflict-Resolution techniques as a teacher and a parent. I’ve seen early signs of bully/victim behavior in infants and toddlers. I chose to home school in part because I saw early signs of victim behavior in my first born preschooler. And was surprised by the aggressiveness of subsequent children. Fortunately, I believe my intervention succeeded in all cases. But parents and teachers have a responsibility to educate themselves and act to intervene. Some cases need professional help even before abusive events complicate them, and certainly after. But communication is key, not permissiveness. By all means delete bullies negative comments, but tell them they are being abusive, advise them to seek help. Often they don’t even realize what they are doing or need to hear it many times before they believe it of themselves.

    • nightsmusic on January 4, 2014 at 10:50 am
    • Reply

    About a year ago, my daughter was being bullied at work by another woman who was openly discussing my daughter’s non-existent sex life with several of the male drivers they both worked with. The very bad part of this is that no one, including the males pinpointed, bothered to say anything to this woman and after a couple times of laughing it off, ignored her. So she continued because she knew it bothered my daughter so much. When my daughter told us, we told her to go to her supervisor. She did, the super took it up a level to the person in charge of the entire program and HE chose to ignore the complaint. When a week went by with no action and the bullying starting to escalate, we told her to take it to Human Resources and file a sexual harassment claim. She did, they took it seriously and the woman was told to not come back.

    The problems that happened with this whole thing though was the entitlement this bully obviously felt because no one from the get go took any action against her. Neither the others involved in the attacks, the big boss or ironically, the woman’s supervisor since she was a contract employee with a supervisor on site who had also been told of the bullying. As a contract employee, this woman should have at the least, been told to leave and not return at the outset of the complaint.

    When we do nothing, when we watch passively while others are hurt, what we’re doing is giving the bully the empowerment and entitlement they are seeking to continue. Then what does that make us?

    “All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing” Edmund Burke

    1. As one of my brilliant commenters pointed out, us being “passive bystanders” is a HUGE part of the problem. We need to step in and speak up and there need to be consequences.

  49. I so appreciate you highlighting that there are genetics, environment, and choice involved in our decisions. Sometimes we forget that last one in our nature vs. nurture debates. That said, it’s a big challenge when both genetics and environment encourage bad behavior; there’s no motivation to choose differently. So when bullies get positive reinforcement for their vicious behaviors, they just keep going. I have also learned that a blog is MY space, and I will protect it so that visitors feel welcome and not afraid to comment and engage.

    One more thing from a faith angle (hope you don’t mind). Sometimes we Christians mistakenly assume that being a “peacemaker” involves letting others get away with bullying behavior without raising a hand. But I don’t believe that’s making peace. Indeed, it can have the opposite effect of creating more aggression and chaos for ourselves and others around us. The best way to make peace is often to stand up to a bully and shut them down — not viciously, not unlovingly, but firmly. I’ve seen it done well, and it works to disarm the bully and protect people in his midst. It can deliver true peace.

    1. That’s why I love the meme I posted on your page. Tried it here but doesn’t work 🙁

    2. Ned Flander’s Syndrome. Being a “good Christian” means being a spineless doormat. WRONG.

    • johnrailtime on January 4, 2014 at 2:09 pm
    • Reply

    You talk about the victim in your blog, victims of bullying. Look closely at bullies and you may find a victim stance as a justification for their behavior. Bullies so often want pity and feel inadequate so they take the posture of bravado. The other thing in bulling is manipulation, a very covert form of bullying. It is something I see lots of females use.

    In story plots look at how manipulation us used. It is a very thrilling way for suspense stories, yet, is the manipulator a bully?

    Then there are the coping methods of the bullied, that sometimes leads to becoming a bully. Look at an old classic, “Grapes of Wrath,” how many bullies are in that story? How many did Shakespeare write about? Was, “Taming of the Shrew,” a story about bullying?.

    1. They can justify it. Doesn’t mean we need to permit and reward it. And I agree that bullies often begin as victims themselves, but part of changing that person is to stop rewarding negative behavior and reward positive.

        • johnrailtime on January 4, 2014 at 6:12 pm
        • Reply

        Any abhorrent behavior has excuses and one should look at their justification. An alcoholic is a good example full of excuses. One who accepts excuses becomes an enabler. There is a large cycle and one cog change only alters the cycle.

        Yet rewarding this behavior is what we do at election time, Heh heh.

  50. I’m a substitute teacher so I regularly observe bullying behavior. I’ve gotten into the habit of simply identifying it. When Bobby calls Susie annoying–a favorite term of the middle school crowd–I say, in my most neutral voice, “Calling her annoying is calling her a name. Calling people names is a form of bullying. It’s not allowed in this classroom.” Kids occasionally argue with me (“But she’s *annoying*” they’ll whine) so I repeat the statement. I do the same for uninvited staring, shoving, gossip, and overt shunning. Sadly, I do it many, many times a day. I’m tempted to do it in public when I see adults doing the same things.

    1. If only it worked with adults.

    • Poodlepal on January 4, 2014 at 10:35 pm
    • Reply

    Excellent article. I don’t know if I believe the thesis of that book, but it is interesting and I’ll look into it.

    How is bullying an author different than just writing a negative review? Are personal messages sent to the author? Do they get a bunch of friends together to all write bad reviews? Or is it just carrying on about how a book is bad without any clarification or reasons given. I’ve written some bad reviews on amazon, and once I was told off by a friend of the author. (The book was about writers in the Midwest and how terrible it was that they were surrounded by people less artsy/liberal than themselves. Many of the scenarios were farfetched, but apparently the characters were all based on real people, which I was too stupid to realize, apparently).

    Anyway, I would never want to bully anybody, but I also think that if a book really stinks, I should warn people!

    1. It’s all in tone. Some of the reviewers, it’s clear they haven’t even read the book. Or they go for the ad hominem attack. Feel free to not like my book, but when you start calling me names? Uh, that’s a still into Trollville.

  51. Thanks for your research and comments regarding bullies and cyberbullies. Of course, they are one and the same, the only difference is that cyberbullies I find to be more cowardly, cloaking themselves in monikers and the invisibility of the internet. Both require enablers. People that ignore them, people that kowtow to their mean and viscous rants.

    Growing up as the oldest in a large family, I quickly learned that I could either get my butt kicked or figure out how to diffuse a bully.

    This is what worked for me, learned working with large animals like horses and cattle. Project a “big” aura. Project that you are the alpha leader. Think it, be it, live it. You will be surprised at how something this simple will work in any situation with any bully (except maybe a serial killer….). By doing this you are not becoming a bully, you are simply asserting yourself, protecting your space. Be confident, stand up for yourself.

  52. This is so right on. Don’t feed the trolls. Be positive and professional. Give support to those being victimized.

    These bullies have had some positive influences on me. For one, I know what kind of person I don’t want to be. For another, they’ve inspired some great heroes and villians in my writings. Who doesn’t love a story where the heroes win and the villians get justice? Justice doesn’t always mean the hero has to dish it out. Oftentimes, the villian is his or her own undoing. One thing to remember about bullies is even though it might seem like they are winning when they successfully terrorize someone, they are actually losing. This terrorizing that gives they a high only lasts for a short time. The rest of their lives are probably full of unfulfilled desires, hate, and anger. They reap what they sow. So long as we remain positive and surround ourselves with positive people, their misery can’t rub off on us.

    BTW, I read one of your commentors concerned about writing a negative review. I think reviews of all kinds are necessary. But there is a right way and a wrong way to write a negative review. If you feel the need to write a negative review, put yourself on the receiving end. If you wrote something that was really no good, what is the best way someone can tell you so you are receptive to the criticism and learn from it?

  53. Kristen, I love your blog. Always interesting and informative, and this one was exceptional. The comments were as good as the blog, and I admire you for your interaction in this community. I try to do the same on my blog.

    I’m starting a new blog, a political blog, with several collaborators and trolls have been a hot topic. On my personal blog I’ve only had to remove a few comments over almost 4 years. It was a homeschooling post that went off the chart. People who are passionate about a topic can believe it is ‘there way or the highway’, which can lead to cyber bullying, IMO.

    I grew up in chaos and fear, much of the time, and when I read comments from trolls, (even if not on my blog), the hair on my neck rises and my stomach churns. I do not want anyone to experience that on my blog.

    The science you bring to this subject is remarkable. Thank you for sharing such valuable information. I’ll be sharing this all over the place.

    1. Someone on Facebook shared the article and though I’ve been a long-time subscriber of Discovery, Science, Popular Science, I hadn’t read anything so remarkable. For some reason, I KNEW I’d use it so I kept it. So strange it would dovetail into explaining bullies, LOL. I am not brave enough to do a politicized blog. As a Christian, I’ve often thought about blogging on faith, but some “Christians” can be the worst bullies (worse than the atheists sometimes), so I’ve abstained. I live the “Show Don’t Tell” rule. Love people. Be the light. Evangelize, yet use words only when absolutely necessary ;).

    • Rachel Thompson on January 5, 2014 at 3:04 pm
    • Reply

    I’ve studied this a lot. There is book called ” The Sociopath Next Door” you may find enlightening. I forget the author’s name. The best defense is to identify who they are, understand their various types, ways and means so that you can stay out of the cross hairs and not buy into their manipulations. Knowing your enemy goes a long way in self protection. Sociopaths are the enemy of all mankind. Understanding what makes them trick is important.

    1. I always try to understand anyone who gives me grief. I find its helpful in understanding the reasoning for it and even more-so in finding a way to undo them.

  54. Kristen,
    I took your 7/11 blog class and was blogging on a regular basis–for a while. Somehow I fell out of the habit, and kept trying to get back into it. I saw my classmates (and the next class) doing well with their writng careers and was thrilled for them! I also knew my career was lagging. I wasn’t where I wanted to be, but could not force myself to get back to blogging. I was just frustrated, until I read this blog. Then it hit me: I’m scared. I’m afraid I won’t do somethng “right” or that I’ll upset people. (See lighbulb over my head).

    Is this because of being bullied in the past? Yes. By different people at different times in my life. Now I know. I’m going to WANA and participate. From there I’ll work on getting back to blogging.

    Thank you, Kristen! You are one amazing resource and mentor. 🙂

  55. Wow. This post really moved me and unearthed some of the childhood/young adult memories I’ve squashed into a dark closet and shut the door. I’ve thought about this a little– what makes bullies bully and if victims can be healed or what resources they have access to for relief. I think we don’t notice, support and celebrate small, steady, daily courage, daily, mundane acts of bravery. Everyone has a battle to fight, and it is these small acts of courage that, when supported and noticed, makes the victim stronger, begins to see compassion and kindness triumph over sadism and cruelty. But the workplace and the “real world” celebrates competitiveness, big, visible victories and triumphs over others in zero-sum games (wars, sports, winning a contract bid, etc.), celebrates loudness, bigness, selling yourself, branding yourself, being better. History favours the winners, even if the winners are air-punching a fistful of severed heads by the hair. Cultures in the world exist where kindness is seen as weakness and vulnerability as exploitability; power and money are the most important things. These are difficult times to stand up to bullies. It is an uphill battle as long as we accept as normal that the way of the world is a bullying and cruel one. The popular definitions of weak and strong are very narrow, but they dictate the narrative we grow up with. Hey, it takes a village, right?

    That’s why I LOVE your suggestions for dealing with and managing bullying behaviour. 🙂 It’s the kind of thing that needs to become mainstream thinking, because all of it– starving bullies of reinforcement and fodder by ignoring them, positive confrontation, professionalism, etc….– send a signal, and if more and more people learn the skills and approaches that you outline, then collectively, we will slowly and gradually change the norm of what is acceptable and unacceptable behaviour, both online and face-to-face. It’s funny, though, I keep getting the image of adults teaching unruly, badly-behaved children to stop being spoilt and acting out and teaching them emotional management skills. *amused grin* I know it’s probably not a helpful image (patronizing, sanctimonious, etc.), but bullies needs to be “managed”, and anyone who needs that much constant and consistent “management” is like… a child. It’s like collective parenting.

    Incidentally, one of the reasons I began blogging this year is that I was trolled and bullied out of cyberspace when I was much younger and less confident, and it made me extremely reticent when it came to sharing my opinions in any sphere from then on. It is to confront a fear. 🙂 So on a personal note, thank you for those strategies, because I know I’ll eventually need them!

    1. History has proven society CAN be changed. Jut enough people have to stand up and refuse to accept the “old norms” and institute new and hopefully better ones. Thank you for such a thoughtful comment. I really appreciate it.

      1. Yes, it can be, I totally agree. 🙂 The abolition of slavery, universal suffrage, human rights laws, the struggle to sustainably manage finite resources, anti-racism laws…. these are examples of big normative shifts. I believe it.

      2. Kristen,

        Right on.

        Even what we know of as so-called freedom of expression is defined by what the people accept as freedom of expression. That’s why there are libel and bully laws on the books today and the cyber bully laws are only getting tougher.

        The 1st Amendment only protects citizens against the government. It doesn’t give bullies a license to victimize others. And when a large number of citizens do not approve of cyber bully behavior, then laws will be passed that limit the bullies and punish them when they cross the line a majority of the people demanded be carved in stone.

  56. Reblogged this on Embakasi Reloaded.

  57. I was bullied as a child. I was bullied until I pushed back. The moment I pushed back, I was left alone.

    1. Pushing back works best in the real world. In the cyber world, it’s difficult to push back against a bully who hides behind a fake name and does all they can to avoid being identified. In the cyber world, most bullies are ghosts and demons. They are like fog.

      The first and best tactic for the cyber world is to ignore the bullies. The second choice—if you must engage—is to select the battle field of your choice and that usually means your own Blog and avoiding every other forum.

  58. Kristen, I, too, know what it’s like to be the victim of bullying. My experiences also started in childhood where I had an older brother who took his frustrations out on me (we had an abusive, narcissistic mother) by often grabbing me by the throat and trying to throttle me. Until one day I hauled off and kicked him in the shins – hard! He never laid a hand on me since. (I still laugh when I think of that day: EMPOWERMENT!) Since then, though, I suppose I’ve been lucky in not encountering bullies in the various employment situations I’ve been in, not really, or at least, not much. Thank you so much for sharing your own experiences with us and giving us such great support. I know it’s not easy to relive painful incidents, except that one where I kicked my brother. I should have aimed a little higher. LOL

  59. What an interesting post and subsequent thread this has become. Like so many others who have posted a comment I have been bullied, both at school for three years and at times at work by one or two managers. As such it might be expected that I would condone bullying, and say that,at all times it is wrong. Yet despite the fact that it robbed me of my teenage years, that it led to me only knowing what a friend after 26 years, and finally that it resulted in three major breakdowns and a suicide attempt, I cannot say, in all honesty, that such an action is wrong.

    It is vile, it can lead to long term devastating consequences, including past neurosis and fears hitting some unconnected with the event. That is all true, and I in no way minimise any experiences or nay damage caused, but part of me says that it is also natural, and that it is almost an essential part of nature. After all we can admire the bears fishing for salmon at the height of the salmon run, or step back in awe as we see an eagle soaring down from the sky, but how often do we think of the prey that, is in effect being bullied by a much stronger foe. We may call it natural law, so as to assuage our conscience, but is it not bullying all the same?

    As regards whether we can rise above such a behavioral mode, well, yes we can, technically, as we have a magnificent brain, and cognitive abilities to do so many times over, but who is to say that natural law should be held down in favour of man made morality.and principles. That has always proved a dangerous option, and though temporary relief can be gained, nature, in the long term, often re-emerges in the raw?

    So overall, I hate to say so, but I think bullying, however destructive and loathing it may be is here to stay. An unpleasant thought to the new years, but that’s life, and that’s how nature goes?

    1. I agree.

      I think bullies may be part of the process of growing up. As children, bullies pressure other children to either break or grow stronger. For instance, my wife and I recently watched Lady Gaga’s DVD for The Monster Ball and during the concert Gaga mentions more than once that she was bullied as a child.

      If she hadn’t been bullied, would she be Lady Gaga today?

      And my wife was bullied as child in China by teenage bullies who belonged to the Red Guard during Mao’s Cultural Revolution. If that had not happened, would she have immigrated to the United States and become a successful world class author who gained that success by writing about that time in her life when she was bullied in China during the Cultural Revolution [Red Azalea] and then again later in the United States as she struggled to survive there [The Cooked Seed].

      More food for thought comes from the TV series, “Dexter”. I’m watching the final season now and psychiatrist behind the creation of “Dexter” believes that psychopaths have a roll to play in culture. That if we got rid of them, in the long run it would cause more problems.

      Cruel, yes, but life in the wild has always been cruel. Ask any deer trying to avoid being eaten by a wolf, cougar or fox.

      In addition, a study of IQ’s by race revealed that the highest average IQ in the world is found among the Jews who survived more than a thousand years of persecution from Christians and Muslims; the Holocaust

      And the second highest average IQ may be found among the Chinese who survived a century of madness due to the Opium Wars; the Taiping Rebellion; the civil war between the communists and nationalist; World War II and Mao’s Cultural Revolution.

      Meanwhile, the same study found that the longer a culture or society is at peace the lower the average IQ becomes over time.

  60. Great articles on bullying! I think you’d appreciate the works of Dr Bruce Lipton, Dr Rupert Sheldrake and Dr Candace Pert. The implications of their findings are mind boggling!

  61. A most excellent article Kristen! It is hard to say what makes these bullies tick but I am inclined to think if it isn’t a medical issue (such as depression, hatred instilled, manic) it quite possibly has to do with their upbringing. It doesn’t necessarily mean they came from a violent home, although it’s always possible, but could also mean they felt neglected or jealous, or anything really. Like you, I came from lots of family dysfunct (I wrote a book about), and when I saw my way clearly, I was fortunate enough to realize that I had 2 choices: Become a product of my environment or do a 180. I am grateful I chose the 180 and so I chose to write about it. I don’t like discord and can’t function in it (perhaps my past) and I shy away from nasty people when I can. I have yet to encounter any ‘trollism’ but I did encounter my first rude tweeter last week. Someone who wasn’t a follower, someone who had 10 followers, happened to see a tweet of mine using short form abbreviation (duh twitter limited characters), and this person (her picture looked like she was 18 if that was her), tweeted to me that I didn’t know how to spell. As a writer and author I immediately felt so taken aback as though I can’t spell and although I considered the source, it was still insulting. I did just what you suggest…NOTHING. I moved on.

    1. I find myself in the same situation as you. Dissonance in my life causes me severe dysfunction. I came from similar backgrounds and admittedly have become a product of it in my past. I had to go through councilling to re-wire my workings and get out of the nasty downward spiral which cost me a relationship. The relationship was abusive to begin with and unhealthy but my wiring to “strike” – often literally – back at someone that bullied me did not help the situation.

      I am happy to say i have been well on the road of recovery for over 6 years now and have chose healthier more constructive ways of dealing with trolls and abusive people. Though sometimes i still get the urge when someone is down right rude to me or others.

      1. I commend you Lilly, as I am also not a person who tolerates rudeness, yet I avoid confrontation. Sometimes it takes every ounce to stand back and zip it, but it is very true, the more you fuel these people the more we will stir the pot. It may not always feel good just to ignore but in the long run you are angering back those people because they are surely waiting for signs that they have tormented and we must just refuse to feed them.

        1. Thank you I appreciate that really.

          1. You are very welcome! 😉

  62. Just saw a deft handling of a troll by a blooger– the troll asked a question that looked ok to me, although agressive, but the blogger picked up on it right away, and said the comment was inappropriate. Sure enough the guy came back with a reply that was outright mean. The blogger responded: you are a troll and I am blocking you. That was that.

    So much fascinating stuff coming out about neurobiology & physiology. Thanks for this synopsis from the writer’s perspective.

  63. Kristen,

    I read this last Monday, and it brought tears to my eyes. So much of what you wrote, I could have written.

    Anyway, this got all tangled up in some other things I’ve been thinking and feeling, and a blog post emerged…

    What can happen between siblings when parents bully their children is another cost of this type of volatility. It’s hard to get along when no one has learned conflict resolution skills, or even how to feel and express emotion without reactivity.

    It hasn’t been an easy road, learning to be peaceful and stop being a victim. It has been the most rewarding exertion of my life. I only wish the cost of peace wasn’t someone I cherish.

    Thank you for this post, and all that you do to help others find their voices. Mine has grown stronger, because of you, WANA Mama!

  64. Maybe a little late, but Kristen, if you only found bullying resources directed to kids, parents, and teachers, try a broader search about being a woman on the Internet. Prominent female bloggers, journalists, and technology authorities face *daily* harassment that is downright violent and hateful in nature, frequently featuring detailed rape and death threats. And the authorities and establishment response? “Sorry, sucks to be you.” That right there is what bullying looks like in the grownup schoolyard.

  65. I see comments about pushing back, but if I’d pushed back as a child I would have been accused of being the aggressor and I would have been the one in trouble.

    In schools today it’s the same thing–speak out, you’re a tattle tale. Let a teacher intervene, you’ll be mobbed where the teachers can’t see. Push back, you’re suspended from school.

    The only way to stop it would have been to become one of them, which I refused to do. I refused to fade. I was different, I am different, and I celebrate that difference because it means I didn’t become a powerless leech with nothing better to do than attack others. i.e., troll.

  66. Thanks for your insights and for offering a non-violent solution to cyber-bullying. I haven’t experienced it myself (so far, fingers crossed), but I was involved in a group project that lovingly supported a children’s author who was being hazed online by an unprofessional “artist” who refused to understand that you can’t copyright an idea, just your execution of it, and set his fans on her like rabid dogs. It’s scary to think of how nasty people can be, and even words on a screen can have an impact. Stopping bullies by shutting them down and offering support to the person on the receiving end of that vitriol is a good solution.

  67. Reblogged this on Linda Williams Stirling and commented:
    Bullying is a continuing problem in our society. Why has it gotten worse? What happens when a bully grows up? How do we deal with it? These are some of the questions Kristen Lamb takes on in this important post. No one likes being bullied, but it happens everywhere: school, church, work, online. Kristen offers some great insights and ideas.

  68. I would like to thank you for your frank, open expressions and excellent research on this difficult topic. I also experienced hurtful taunting from children in my youth, which is one of the reasons I am addressing it in my first novel that I am currently working hard to finish and polish. I worked with children for 15 years at an agency, training them in acting and modeling, but strove to make it much bigger; having humanity. I’m in the throws of preparing my new blog which I have had plans of approaching this subject and will certainly link to you in the future. Again, thank you Kristen, for a great and inspiring blog!

  69. Very interesting article. I wonder if you have read any of Izzy Kalman’s work (Bullies 2 Buddies)? As a mom, and having been the target of much attempted and some “successful” bullying as a child, his work resonated with me.
    He focuses on training kids to be “bully proof” by giving them very specific tools to counteract a bully’s manipulative gambit, and advises adults to focus on equiping and empowering the kids, rather than wading into every situation to mete out perceived “justice”. (Ignoring is one tool, but not the only one).
    His POV is that bullying situations are often more complex than they appear from the outside, that bullies prefer to work in situations where there is no authority figure to witness it, and that misguided attempts to control or correct the dynamic from outside can do more harm than good.

  70. “In my own experience, I grew up in a Jerry Springer household. Fighting, yelling, abuse was the norm. I remember visiting friends’ houses and being blown away that there wasn’t non-stop crackling tension and arguing.”

    This was also my childhood. It has affected me deeply, certainly in the way I deal with confrontation i.e. I don’t. I make a conscious effort not to be like either of my parents and think before doing or saying anything that could be hurtful to someone or that I might regret. We still tip toe around my father to avoid setting him off which in retrospect has probably not been the wisest way to deal with him, we should have drawn the line long ago. I fear that one day he’s going to go too far and either my sister or I are going to end up raining decades of pent up anger upon him doing irreparable damage.

    I have experienced a minor amount of trouble on the internet from my boyfriend’s ex who was a complete fruit loop. When we removed the facility for her to comment anonymously she would log in as her brother but as soon as we outed her she deleted the account. There were other vain attempts to get at us but by that point it had just got boring so we ignored her and she went away.

    Goodreads does sound like a bit of a minefield, I haven’t been on there as yet and admit that I’m not relishing the prospect. Even so, I’m not intending to let a bunch of bullies scare me away from using what could be a good resource. I’m not averse to criticism as long as it’s constructive and put civilly. I know that not everyone is going to love what I write and I’m sure that I’ll receive my fair share of unpleasant opinions. I’m no good at confrontation and would be more than happy to press delete and block on a troll rather than retaliate and get embroiled in a futile argument. On Facebook what concerns me almost as much as the bullying is the amount of young people who don’t use the delete and block facilities not to mention why they have added their tormentors to their friends list in the first place. I’m not a teenager in today’s world which is probably why it doesn’t make a whole lot of sense to me. I just wish social networks were more proactive in dealing with this issue.

  71. I don’t want to be entered for a critique. I just wanted to thank you for these two thoughtful blogs on bullying. The more dialogue there is on the subject, the more chance there is for a meaningful change.

    • Patti on January 14, 2014 at 12:04 am
    • Reply

    What a beautiful example of kids who are not tolerating bullying and how they stopped it! Love this!

  1. […] Great article about bullies and writing and life. Click here for: Are Some Humans Born to Bully? Bor…. […]

  2. […] a well written and researched article on the subject? Check out Kristen Lamb’s blog, here!  And pour yourself a cup of coffee. It might make you a better human. After all, it’s done […]

  3. […] post is in response to a wonderful article entitled “Are Some Humans Born to Bully? Born to be Victims? Can it be Changed?“ by Kristen Lamb.  If you’ve ever been bullied and/or have ever done the bullying, […]

  4. […] charming soul has been regurgitating an article I read at bedtime, via the Kristen Lamb blog post on bullying, about how we can be affected by the experiences of our grandparents. I don’t pretend to […]

  5. […] Are Some Humans Born to Bully? Born to Be Victims? Can It Be Changed?. By Kristen Lamb. […]