me kay cooke

What is Bullying?

unrealised potential

I work with bullies and bullied.

Take a recent example of a teenager who was being publically humiliated on social media after posting a live singing performance at a local talent competition.

The mum removed said post from social media citing ‘thumbs down and online judgements/jibes’ as evidence of bullying.


What happens inside your mind when you hear the word ‘bullied’. What assumptions do you make and what is your default emotional reaction?


I think the word ‘bully’ is a powerful metaphor that instantly shifts the words and pictures inside our minds (NLP calls these submodalities). The word becomes a weapon of mass toxicity, since it is widely accepted as an identity (he is… she is… they are …), long before reason allows us to unpack the component parts of values, beliefs, capabilities, behaviours, and environments.


I believe we have a responsibility to tune up our engine ears and stay out of the social narrative.


My first position when working with the theme of bullying is to build a map of the ‘whole system’ that supports both bullies and bullied.


In the example of the teenager experiencing online contempt for her performance we can map this:


From the perspective of the Mum:
Mum has recognised her own ability/responsibility to ‘manage’ public perspective (remove a certain video). She perceives this as an irritating but manageable detail within the bigger picture (staying focused on building her daughter’s performance career).

IMO this is a smart PR move regardless of the ‘reasons’ (bullies, trolls) given. We can understand this move intuitively as we’ve all removed a post or two from social media, haven’t we?


From the perspective of teenager:

Teen ‘wants’ to express her vocal artform, this is a powerful (towards) emotional motivational. She also recognises that in order to play the system in which she operates, she will need to cultivate and harness public opinion, which can feel both a powerful (towards) emotional motivational, and a powerful (away from) emotional motivation.


From the perspective of public performance industry/system:
Our global celebrity culture is vast, seductive (especially to teenagers) and ruthless. Talent streaming is big business that invests heavily in free-for-all social commentary, which confuses opinion and fact.

Every single player, ever, is disposable.

Every and any story with emotional content will be used to drive attention and manipulate the masses. This is not personal, it’s a cash cow.

Some ‘systems’ are more honest about these structures than others and some with integrity even ‘coach’ their players.


From the perspective of the fans:

Fans operate within a ‘thrive’ brain pattern.

Celebrating the successes of your tribe member feels great. Oxytocin and serotonin are just two of the ‘sameness-filter’ chemicals that are released. Fans engage in dream/desire imaginations and look/hear/feel personal and social benefits of their behaviours that when further endorsed by other tribe members, boosts a nice dose of (feel good) dopamine.


From the perspective of the haters:

This is a ‘survive’ brain pattern.

This brain pattern locks out logic, reason and ‘thinking’ and locks in primitive survival behaviours and emotional responses. Objecting to threatening ‘differences’ of other people reminds the hater that they are important. Cortisol and adrenaline are just two of the ‘difference-filter’ power chemicals that are released. Expressing anger, jealousy and bitterness gets attention and also boosts (feel good) dopamine.


Helping the bullied:

We have to extinguish the fire that the bullied person is experiencing. There are many, many resilience strengthening techniques we can use, and strategies we can teach; only limited by our inattention to the client’s reality.


Helping the bullies:

Then we reverse engineer the sausage machine to find out at which level, ‘all’ behaviours are ‘positively intended’.


The bigger picture:

We cannot expect our children (and therefore society) to ‘thrive’ if the most primitive survival reaction is engaged. Therefore we have to educate the next generation and their support structures to learn to drive their thrive brains, and as an application of NLP our Happy Brain work is powerful in doing this.


Personal commentary:

I find social norms of bully-victimhood (cause- effect) and ‘meaning’ (complex equivalences) are destructives in the world of resilience.

What one unhappy person calls bullying, another unhappy might call human behaviour.

One unhappy person may blame another person/group/culture and another person may blame themselves.

Generalising this theme does not help those who really need support. And many really do need help – both bullies and bullied.


Happy Brain as an application of NLP provides training, coaching and programmes that include the science behind our most primitive of all positive intentions – survival of the species. Did you see the news story last week where a missionary was shot dead by the arrows of a remote primitive tribe…



One thought on “What is Bullying?”

  1. Really interesting article which is very illuminating about language and perceptions, especially useful in this context of placing yourself in the spotlight of social media and receiving feedback.
    The making sense of the positive and not so positive feedback.

    Taking the emotions out of the situation and focusing on the facts.

    Thank you


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