The Victim/Bully complex

The Victim/Bully is a well-known figure in politics, in the office, in the church and in the home.

They can appear to be two different people.

First there is the entitled, bullying, angry, validation-seeking behaviour, famously modelled in the public arena by Donald Trump in the US, Boris Johnson in the UK and Vladimir Putin in Russia.

They may even be presenting as heroes in some way. They tend to need this, with the self-validation it brings.

In response, people will tip-toe around them on eggshells. Rage creates fear, which suits the victim/bully. Johnson’s rage festivals are well documented. 

But if these people are challenged, another, and very different, figure appears – the sulking, petulant, ‘why me?’ victim.

It’s the ultimate sleight of hand, a master-class in shape-shifting, from grandiose to vulnerable, executed in a moment: ‘I was only trying to help you lot. Why do you always target me? It’s unfair! It’s a witch hunt!’

And now, entangled in a hopeless trauma bond, people may try to appease them, forgetting their earlier behaviour, as if that was someone else.

It wasn’t.

Three year-old children need consequences for behaviour. It’s healthy.

But the narcissist – for the victim/bully is one and the same – avoids consequences by going straight into victim mode.

The bullying is towards power, domination and validation.

The victim play ensures that it’s power without accountability, without consequences.

Sometimes the bully, in defence for things said, will claim: ‘It was just a joke!’ and then embark on some mild gas lighting manoeuvres. ‘Honestly! You shouldn’t take everything so seriously!’

But if you continue to pose a threat, they will come for you. In every victim/bully sits congealed shame, the buried message that they are not good.

(Shame is the springboard for all narcissistic behaviour.)

And if you call them out on that, if you awaken their shame, their ego-injury will be significant, and they may come for you with frightening force.

But whether in politics, the office or the home, what’s good for a three-year-old is good for a fifty year old.

Behaviour must have consequences.

To this end, wherever we meet the victim/bully – and we surely have and will, they’re all over the place – appeasement of either persona is ill-advised.

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