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Views & Reviews Personal View

What do you do if your bosses are bullies?

BMJ 2009; 338 doi: (Published 14 January 2009) Cite this as: BMJ 2009;338:a3108


Bullying is a worldwide, mysterious plague that baffles and frustrates society.
Perhaps bullying can be understood by focusing on the autonomic nervous
system which automatically controls such vital, involuntary functions as
temperature, pulse, respiration, blood pressure, and emotional expression.

The autonomic nervous system consists of two opposing branches: the
sympathetic nervous system and the parasympathetic nervous system. The
sympathetic nervous system originates in the chest and abdomen, and
responds to pain with “fight or flight.” The parasympathetic nervous system
originates in the head and pelvis, and responds to pleasure with relaxation,
vulnerability, and creativity.

Ideally, the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems are in
dynamic balance, so that we can function comfortably and appropriately. But
just as pain can overpower pleasure, the sympathetic system can overpower
the parasympathetic system. And prolonged sympathetic dominance can lead
to fear, anger, and hatred.

I propose that bullying is the externalization and projection of the
unconscious hatred felt for one’s own parasympathetic nervous system. In
short, bullying is a projection of the fear and hatred we feel for our own
vulnerability and creativity, which the parasympathetic branch of the
autonomic nervous system provides for us.

Competing interests:
None declared

Competing interests: No competing interests

21 January 2009
Hugh Mann
Eagle Rock, MO 65641 USA