When the Bully Falls
Even before I began training teachers on how to deal with bullying, I was a sort of expert. As a school psychologist for over 30 years I watched the progression of the bully gaining power. More interesting, I watched the dynamic of the bully losing power.
My work brought me into contact with the bully, the victim, the parents and teachers. I did classroom lessons and individual work. Perhaps most instructive was my hours of “yard duty.” It’s not generally the job of the school psychologist, but it was the best place to observe students I was involved with and the best place to intervene. Work in the classrooms was helpful. Kids learned how to support each other, take a stand and how to report. They learned to differentiate between tattling and reporting. They learned to identify what was bullying and what was simply bothersome behavior or the suffering of not getting your own way.
But in spite of a school’s best efforts. there is often a bully with amazing power. The interesting and sad thing is to watch as those who are past or potential targets begin to align themselves with the bully. They laugh at his jokes or at those who are the brunt of his jokes. With girls it often takes the form of going along with one who directs other girls to exclude someone. Then, when some event or input alters the direction, it has been fascinating to watch the pattern change.
A “mean girl” controlled much of the interaction in one classroom. Then a new boy joined the class and questioned her power. Without saying it directly, it was like, “Who made her boss?” Gradually others started asking the same question and soon “the emperor had no clothes”; the retribution began. The other girls, who had been her victims, banded together and excluded her. Some of the mothers tried to be charitable and urged kindness but couldn’t help but feel the justice of the situation.
I’ve watched the same dynamic in the current political situation. The bully was able to bring to his side many without the moral core or moral compass to resist. Fearful and weak they either supported or pretended to accept his validity as a leader.
Now as his power slips away we will watch the reaction. Will his one-time targets now have the courage to speak up? Will those who aligned simply not stand by him or will they try to pretend they didn’t really support him?
Many have been doing arm chair analysis on this president, finding evidence of narcissism, mania, ADD and other syndromes. I only need to look as far as the playground to understand what has gone on. I’m less interested in the syndrome displayed than in the sad dynamic that has taken place as some have aligned themselves with the bully.
Now it seems we will watch as the power the bully once wielded slips away. We will watch as his supporters slip away. Unlike the kind-hearted mothers that I knew years ago, we may watch this process without a charitable heart. We may even find enjoyment in the justice of his tumbling from power and the embarrassment he will experience in the removal of the invisible garment.