Wednesday, 16 August 2017


I don’t know whether this social phenomenon has ever been documented, but I’ve noticed it happen in playgrounds, in families, in work places, in clubs, even in churches.

It usually involves a controlling personality, let's call him or her Person 'A', and is often triggered by a minor, often insignificant error or omission by Person ‘A’, which causes another person, Person ‘B’ to be inconvenienced, upset or just confused.

Instead of just acknowledging or admitting the minor error, Person ‘A’ becomes aggressive towards Person ‘B’, displays anger, makes counter accusations and generally implies that Person ‘B’ has no right to be in the slightest bit inconvenienced or upset. Person ‘A’ might even claim that Person ‘B’ had, by action or omission, caused or contributed to the error.

Obviously, this causes Person ‘B’ to be more upset or disturbed.

What usually happens is a third person, Person ‘C’, will attempt to calm the situation. Almost always, Person ‘A’ will resent the intervention. With Person 'C' around, Person ‘A’ can no longer bully or subdue Person ‘B’.

Now Person ‘A’ knows he or she can’t bully Person ‘C’, so instead, in this hypothetical but frequently occurring situation, Person ‘A’ will openly denigrate Person ‘C’ to other classmates, friends, family or congregation members and in doing so, Person ‘A’ effectively persuades others that Person ‘C’ is responsible for escalating the minor problem into a major crisis.

To my way of thinking, the only way to resolve a situation like this is when Persons ‘A’, ‘B’ and ‘C’ work together on restoring friendships, relationships and trust at the earliest opportunity but that only happens in fairy tales, because in real life, Person 'A' wants to retain his or her dominance over Person 'B' and can't achieve that while Person 'C' is prepared to intervene.

Instead, Person 'A' works towards an understanding or reconciliation with Person 'B', but ensures Person 'C' is excluded from the process. In some (but not all) cases, Person 'B' is persuaded by Person 'A' to abandon the association with  Person 'C', which effectively increases Person 'C's isolation.

Having reached this reconciliation with Person ‘B’, Person ‘A’ switches his or her attention rebuilding a relationship with Person ‘C’.

This puts Person ‘C’ in a dilemma. On the one hand, Person ‘C’ wants to restore harmony in the playground, family, workplace etc so now Person ‘C’ has to choose whether stand aside and accept whatever tactic Person ‘A’ employs to regain his or her control over Person ‘B’, or to walk away, find another corner in the playground, resign from work, join another church congregation.
In all the times I’ve witnessed this social phenomenon, I’ve never encountered a Person ‘A’ type who makes any attempt whatsoever to reverse his or her denigration of Person ‘C’, thus Person ‘C’ is still ostracised or shunned by those he or she once counted as friends. Whatever the outcome, the relationship between ‘C’ and everyone else involved is damaged, tarnished and sometimes destroyed.

Such is the damage to these relationships, the ‘C’ type persons will sometimes change schools, resign from jobs, even leave the clubs or church. 

Every dictator or bully in history has succeeded through isolating the stronger while dominating the vulnerable, so this situation is nothing new.

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