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The Female Bully and the Codependent: “A Smelly Turd in a Pretty Package”

Physical/aggressive bullying is easy to identify.  We can all see the broken bones, blood, and bruises. This type of bullying is most often chosen by men.

As a therapist, it is usually pretty easy for me to ask certain questions to get the information that physical abuse is indeed happening. The real work comes when we have to identify the covert bully who may be setting the victim up to receive physical abuse or emotionally abusing someone. Covert bullying is usually chosen by women. Remember, either sex can do either type of bullying, but we are going to discuss the female serial family bully who choses covert bullying in this series.

I am also questioning a connection between codependency and bullying. Many codependents have such a dysfunctional relationship with anger, it begs the question: do some use bullying as a way to express their anger? If I cannot have an honest conversation when I have a different opinion, how can I possibly take a stand, engage in clarifying conversations, debate, acknowledge to myself or anyone else my jealousy and insecurity, or engage in life in a healthy way which includes expressing my anger?

“Blowing out someone else’s candle doesn’t make yours shine any brighter.”

Bullying will occur, for the purpose of this discussion, when there is repeated verbal and psychological aggression toward another. As I said above, female bullies are challenging to identify because they are more covert, manipulative, devious, believable, and may even be smiling while they are bullying. Female bullies will often manipulate a male to do their work for them. And remember, it is all done covertly so it takes skilled questions, awareness, and experience to uncover the abuse and we will probably never know the full extent.

Characteristics of the Serial Female Family Bully

Female bullies who are covertly emotionally abusive will usually deny the abuse, and couch what they are doing in some believable story to the untrained person. Female bullies are masterful at wrapping up a very large, smelly turd in a very beautifully wrapped package with a bow.

Let’s look at some of the characteristics of the serial female family bully:

  • Charming and believable
  • Devious and manipulative
  • Cunning and lying
  • Absence of empathy
  • Chameleon
  • Denial

Let’s look at the ways they bully:

  • Set people against each other
  • Manipulate through emotions e.g. guilt
  • Manipulate through information either withholding or spreading misinformation
  • Harassment and or relentless covert and overt criticism
  • Exclusivity, Exclusivity, Exclusivity- manipulate others to continually exclude the victim for no valid reason
  • Poison people’s minds about the victim with lies
  • Distortion and fabrication of facts about the victim
  • All of the above remember are wrapped up in a very pretty package/story. Trust if you feel badly there is a smelly turd in the package which others won’t recognize. Crazy making but trust yourself.

The targets:

  • People they perceive to be a threat. Jealousy may play a significant role here
  • Kind, authentic, honest people who aren’t competent at bullying
  • People they perceive to be vulnerable
  • People other people respect and like
  • People who might be different
  • People who are not going to go low and play the bully game

The Dynamics of Operation

One dynamic operating may be the female family serial bully often doesn’t know how to process social information correctly.

One important emotional boundary that we all need to have is “we do not know anyone’s intent.” We can only tell people how something was received by us, interpreted by us, or how it triggered us. We don’t know what others intended by their actions.

The female serial bully believes she knows the intent of what someone was doing and, thus, she has to get revenge, subjugate, isolate and or dominate by bullying. One person may be speaking about their life and another may say they are bragging. Speaking about my life is not bragging. Thinking I am better than others because of something I have done is bragging, but you don’t know if I think I am better than others until you ask me if I feel that way. The people who say “she was asking for it by the way she dressed” make the mistake of subscribing intent to someone.

I could write volumes on “don’t tell someone what her intent is, ask her,” but the most important lesson is you don’t know another’s intent. Again, the female serial bully believes she needs to get revenge because she believes the victim is threatening her in some way. Some females say they bully because they are bored, but we are not going to address that here.

The End Game

Following on my former theory that the bully has to tell us her intent, we will discuss what happens to the victim and let the bullies tell us their intent.

  • Domination and Subjugation: The bully is saying I play by different rules which include lying/manipulation/brainwashing, so I will win this game and you will do as I say. When one person starts bullying another in the family, it is only a matter of time before the victim will feel trapped, miserable, and want to leave if possible. This will happen even faster if the family enables the bully. If the bully’s intent is to feel in control and make the victim do as she wants, enablers are a key aspect of this dynamic as are her manipulative ways.
  • Power and Control: The bully ends up ostensibly controlling the situation since she has spread lies, worked to ostracize and turn people against the victim. There is an underlying anger at the victim because people who have no issues with the victim have now joined the bully and enable her negative/angry behavior. Remember, we discussed the female bully often gets a male to do her dirty work. The role of the enabler and mob mentality in this situation is crucial.
  • Isolation: The bully needs the “masses” on her side. She needs everyone to join her in her bullying. This is accomplished by crafty conversations which all sound plausible, however look at the end goal which is the victim has been isolated. All the “bad guys” are on one side and the victim feels alone. Sometimes after setting the victim up to be isolated or not a part of, the bully will make the victim wrong for her isolation.

The Significant Role of an Enabler

The enabler: “someone who allows/encourages/doesn’t stop another’s negative behavior” plays a significant role here. The enabler may be seduced into the bullying unknowingly. The enabler may help isolate the victim at the bully’s direction. The enabler may spread lies, criticism, and propaganda to family members at the covert direction of the female serial bully. The enabler may also join in speaking derogatorily to the victim when he/she doesn’t have any evidence for what he/she is saying. Enabling has no place in the world of the bully/victim, if we want to stop these perpetrators.

We will address in our next article lots of examples, so you can begin to sort out in your own life, whether you are a victim or if you might be the bully. There are those who believe 50% of us are being bullied. If you feel badly inside, particularly at family gatherings, trust your gut.

Hopefully, with knowledge, you will begin to sort out what is happening to you. We will give you tools to help you regain your dignity and surround yourself with like-minded people who don’t need to bully. If you are the bully and want to stop, we will give you tools to do that, as well.

“How people treat other people is a direct reflection of how they feel about themselves.”




Images Courtesy of iStock

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