Shame is the most potent and concerning emotion related to bullying and the centerpiece of the emotional system that drives the three actions of bullying:

• taking Advantage of power
• using Aggression
• and Accepting mistreatment

Shame places people at risk both for being targeted and for engaging in bullying. And according to psychiatrist James Gilligan: “Shame is the primary or ultimate cause of all violence”. According to Gilligan: “What is most needed is a non-violent means to protect or restore self-esteem.”

Institutional environments like prison (and public schools) are massively shaming. …


Shame is the centerpiece of the emotional system that drives bullying. It is the most common, and most powerful of the related emotions. It flows from, and also reinforces the greatest number of other emotions driving the three actions of bullying behavior:

  • using Aggression
  • and Accepting mistreatment

Shame places people at risk for being targeted and also for bullying.

It is important to understand what we mean by shame — something far past embarrassment or guilt. Shame is beyond DOING a wrong thing; it is the state of BEING wrong.


It’s time to understand Bullying and the role of sadness and how that emotion activates the three actions of the bullying system:

  • using Aggression
  • and Accepting mistreatment

It might seem that sadness would only influence the third action of bullying — acceptance of mistreatment. But, according to the Motivational Literacy™ model, shame and surrender both tend to lead into sadness.

That model also asks us to notice anger is a common exit from sadness.


Welcome (back?). Last time, I promised to disclose why some surrender to being bullied, and how that choice can lead to shame, sadness, and depression — even becoming a life-long narrative of victimization — or even harm to self or others.

Motivational Literacy considers surrender as an emotion — that of giving up or accepting defeat. In the context of bullying, this is the third action of the bullying system: Accepting mistreatment.

Surrender is the most common navigation from frustration by American youth — and the second-most-common by American adults. …


Welcome (back?). This installment is about Angry Kids — or really about the function of anger and the role it plays in the bullying dynamic.

The change you want to see is waiting — for you to make it happen.

All that’s left is to gain an understanding of bullying and the emotions that run it — and apply that understanding in your daily modeling and communicating with young people.

Let’s look at the emotion of ANGER, and how it works with other emotions to encourage the three actions of the bullying system:

  • using Aggression
  • and…

If you’ve been following the series, you may remember how action-and-results-focused other installments have been. I’ve mentioned how things like reporting (statistics), judging (labeling), postering (kitschy sayings), and punishing don’t create real and useful change.

Anything that doesn’t build coping skills or shift culture isn’t going to make real change.

To achieve real change, we must understand the mechanics, and then commit to doing things differently. Adults must come to talk differently, to act differently, and to expect different behavior from our own children. That’s the definition of “shifting culture”. …


Most of what I find written about bullying falls into four categories:

  • Labels and value judgments
  • Posters and Platitudes
  • Punitive actions

Statistical reports help us notice that bullying is universal across time and human culture, but provide no suggestions for useful strategies.

Labels and value judgments make us feel better, and allow us to create a frame to imagine our name-calling is somehow different than what bullies do on the playground, despite the fact that the empathy-destroying effect is the same. Like statistics, labels are not that helpful for finding a path forward.

Posters and Platitudes are well-meaning…


Last time, I shared the idea that the three A’s of bullying behavior — taking Advantage of power, using Aggression, and Accepting mistreatment — can be found more often at the upper and lower extremes of ranking systems like physical size, intellectual ability, popularity, etc.

I invited you to look at your own experience with bullies and bullying to notice how often that rings true. I wonder what you discovered…

That’s why it’s time to reveal the specific emotions adults should be looking for in the context of bullying. …


Credible studies argue about the percentage of children targeted by bullying behavior, with study numbers ranging from as low as 20% to nearly 90% — and for children engaging in bullying tactics from as low as 15% to as high as nearly 50%. Regardless of which numbers are “more accurate”, even the low-ball numbers suggest two of every ten children are being “put in their (social) place” by despotic means.

How can we predict which children are at greatest risk — both for being targeted and for being bullies?

Risk Factors for Bullying:

According to the National Institutes of Health, “children who are at…


Adults feel a strong urge to protect their young. Many are aware of a need to balance that urge with the developmental needs of children. And, bullying is an especially sticky context for that balancing of protectiveness against the need to grow through challenges.

In May of 2012, University of Michigan’s National Poll on Children’s Health asked adult opinions about when Schools should intervene in bullying situations. Here’s what they found:

• 95% if a student makes another student afraid for his/her physical safety.
• 81% if a student embarrasses or humiliates another student.
• 76% if a student spreads…

John Bailey

Live life at 100 smiles per hour!

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