Bullying and the Limbic System
Written by listed counsellor/psychotherapist: Alex Perry. DIP. NCFE. Cruse Accred. MBACP reg. +SARC. Individuals & couples
26th January, 20130 Comments
For anyone that has suffered bullying it can be very useful to know that when we are being bullied, we very often go into our 'limbic state'.
In primitive times the leader of the 'clan', so to speak, had earned the position to be there by being the fastest/smartest/most cunning/strongest. So, when this ‘leader’ said to do this and that, each member of the clan would do it without thinking independently. This was because they were in the ‘submissive role’ (this would be the limbic state of brain function). This was essential, because if everyone started doing their own thing (for instance when out hunting in a group), then all would be chaos and nothing would be achieved.
In times of crisis (for example, if being rescued by a paramedic or fire fighter) we don't tend to argue or think for ourselves; we gratefully put ourselves in their trust at this vulnerable time. Doing this can save our lives.
Bullies have not particularly earned this respect; they assume their authority and use this to control. Once this position of authority over another is established the other person becomes the ‘subordinate’ and goes into his or her ‘limbic system’, unable to think or reason properly at the time. This is when the limbic system doesn’t serve us well; however, it doesn’t mean that we are weak because our bodies are performing a natural function. However, it leads the bullied person or ‘subordinate’ feeling frustrated and powerless.
Realizing this can help us not to be hard on ourselves when it happens. Only once we are aware of the process and who triggers us, can we start the process of changing things.
Related articles from our experts
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Jennifer Gilling BSc., Adv. Dip., Regd MBACP, Chrtrd MCIPD6th September, 2017
- Bullying in the workplace
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- Why am I being bullied?
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